Sunday, September 21, 2014


A 2,000-year-old story of terror and devastation has been brought to light during renovation work at an English department store, revealing one of the finest collections of Roman jewelry as well as human remains of people who were slaughtered at the site. The jewelry had been undisturbed since 61 A.D. in Colchester, some 50 miles northeast of London. It was found in a wooden box and bags under a department store in the town’s high street.

The small treasure includes three gold armlets, a silver chain necklace, two silver bracelets, a silver armlet, a small bag of coins and a small jewelry box containing two sets of gold earrings and four gold finger-rings. According to Philip Crummy, the director of Colchester Archaeological Trust who excavated the area, the jewelry belonged to a wealthy Roman woman who may not have survived to recover her treasure.

“The find is a particularly poignant one because of its historical context,” Crummy said in a statement. “It seems likely that the owner or perhaps one of her slaves buried the jewelry inside her house for safe-keeping during the early stages of the Boudican Revolt, when prospects looked bleak,” he added. The revolt against the Roman rule was led from 60-61 A.D. by the warrior Queen Boudicca of the Iceni, a British tribe. In her unsuccessful attempt to defeat the Romans, Boudicca, also known as Boadicea, managed to burn to the ground three towns. Colchester was her first target.

“The inhabitants knew a large British army was marching towards them and they knew that they were practically defenseless with only a small force of soldiers on hand and no town defenses,” Crummy said. “Imagine their panic and desperation when they learned of the massacre of a large part of the Roman Ninth Legion on its way to relieve them,” he added. Terrified, the Roman woman hastily hid her valuable jewelry in a small pit dug in the floor of her house, hoping to come back and recover her belongings. But after a two day siege, the fate of her home was sealed.

Near the jewelry, Crummy and his team found vivid evidence of the last dramatic moments in the house. Foodstuff including dates, figs, wheat, peas and grain lay burnt black on the floor with a collapsed wooden shelf. The ingredients were carbonized by the heat of the fire so their shapes were preserved perfectly. In the thick red and black debris layer left by the revolt, the archaeologists also found human remains which include part of a jaw and shin bone. They appear to have been cut by a sword.

As reported by the ancient historian Dio Cassius, during the sacking of Colchester the “noblest” of the women were taken to sacred groves where they were killed in a horrific way. “The quality of the jewelry suggests that the owner would have been in this category, although there is no direct evidence to indicate that she ended up in a sacred grove,” the statement said.

As the excavation continues, the archaeologists expect to find more artifacts.


As the author of Stonehenge with Caroline Malone (Oxford University Press) new facts astound me!!

The earliest known smiley face may lie under Stonehenge, according to a high tech survey of the enigmatic circle of giant stones and its surroundings. The unusual feature emerged as archaeologists from Birmingham and Bradford universities and from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna scanned over a 7.4-square-mile area around Stonehenge.
The four-year project, which is the largest geophysical survey ever undertaken, used advanced geophysical technologies such as powerful ground-penetrating radar, which can detect buried features to a depth of up to 13 feet.

The survey was able to reveal in minute details 17 unknown henge-like religious monuments, some 20 enigmatic pits which appear to form astronomic alignments, and hundred of archaeological features around the Wiltshire monument.
The smiley-face-like feature dates to about the same period when Stonehenge achieved its iconic shape, between 3,000 and 2,500 B.C. It’s among some new types of monument never seen before at Stonehenge. According to archaeologists, the Stonehenge smiley is a prehistoric ring ditch with internal or earlier features. “The area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology,” project leader Vincent Gaffney, chair in Landscape Archaeology and Geomatics at the University of Birmingham, said.

The new findings show the enigmatic stone circle wasn’t standing in splendid isolation on the edge of Salisbury Plain. On the contrary, it was the center of a rich ceremonial landscape that expanded over time. “You’ve got Stonehenge which is clearly a very large ritual structure which is attracting people from large parts of the country. But around it people are creating their own shrines and temples. We can see the whole landscape is being used in very complex ways,” Gaffney was reported as saying at the British Science Festival. In some cases, such as with the Stonehenge smiley, the magnetic data images revealed patterns of circles, spirals and lines. The images basically showed ancient ditches and post holes, all relatively small monuments between 32 and 65 ft across.

But the high tech survey also revealed much larger features. One of the most significant findings was made a short distance from Stonehenge at the Durrington Walls “superhenge,” the largest ritual monument of its type with a circumference of 0.93 miles. The survey showed this “superhenge” was originally flanked with a row of massive posts or stones, perhaps up to 10 feet high and up to 60 in number.“Some may still survive beneath the massive banks surrounding the monument,” the archaeologists said.

One of the most intriguing feature to emerge from the geophysical survey was a 108-foot-long burial mound. Dating to before Stonehenge, it contained a massive wooden building which was probably a house of the dead. The site housed bizarre burial rituals which included exposure of the dead bodies and defleshing on a large court. “New monuments have been revealed, as well as new types of monument that have previously never been seen by archaeologists. All of this information has been placed within a single digital map, which will guide how Stonehenge and its landscape are studied in the future,” Gaffney said.

“Stonehenge may never be the same again,” he concluded.


The situation might not have been pretty, but Neanderthals and Homo sapiens were both living in Europe at the same time for around 5,400 years, according to a new study that has many other implications. For starters, it’s now possible that Neanderthals and our species mated and otherwise interacted for some 20,000 years.

“Significant interbreeding between Neanderthals and early modern humans had probably already occurred in Asia more than 50,000 years ago, so the dating evidence now indicates that the two populations could have been in some kind of contact with each other for up to 20,000 years, first in Asia then later in Europe,” Chris Stringer, research leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum in London, explained. “This may support the idea that some of the changes in Neanderthal and early modern human technology after 60,000 years ago can be attributed to a process of acculturation between these two human groups,” Stringer said.

For the study, published in the latest issue of the journal Nature, project leader Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford and his colleagues obtained new radiocarbon dates for around 200 samples of bone, charcoal and shell from 40 key European archaeological sites ranging from Russia in the east to Spain in the west. The sites were either previously linked to the Neanderthal tool-making industry, known as Mousterian, or were so-called “transitional” sites containing stone tools associated with either our species or Neanderthals. The results showed that both human groups overlapped for a significant period, giving what Higham and his team say was “ample time” for interaction and interbreeding.

Stringer said, “Neanderthals are our closest-known relatives, and research has recently shown that nearly all humans alive today have a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes. This interbreeding probably occurred soon after small groups of early modern humans began to leave their African homeland about 60,000 years ago.” The “small percentage” isn’t necessarily because so few interbred. Also, other studies have concluded that one-fifth (and possibly more) of the Neanderthal genome survives in modern humans and influences skin color, hair color and texture, and other traits.

As for what happened to the Neanderthals afterward, researchers still aren’t entirely sure. The new chronology established by the paper suggests that Neanderthals may have survived in dwindling populations in pockets of Europe before they became extinct. “Extinct” is also somewhat of a loaded term, because Neanderthals and their culture were absorbed into the modern human population. Their distinctiveness as a separate species, however, bit the evolutionary dust. As Stringer said, “Neanderthals had largely, and perhaps entirely, vanished from their known range by 39,000 years ago.” He mentioned that this point in time intriguingly coincides with a long spell of miserable weather — cold and dry conditions — throughout much of Europe. The climactic event, he said, might have “delivered the coup de grâce to a Neanderthal population that was already low in numbers and genetic diversity, and trying to cope with economic competition from incoming groups of Homo sapiens.”


An engraving carved into dolomite stone more than 39,000 years old in a seaside Gibraltar cave suggests that Neanderthals were capable of symbolic thinking—once thought unique to modern humans, researchers reported recently.
Neanderthals, extinct human cousins who left genetic traces in modern people, seem to have vanished from Europe around 40,000 years ago. That was around the time early modern humans arrived.

Among the advantages that may have allowed those new arrivals to out-compete the Neanderthals were symbolic thought and language. But the cross-hatched cave carving, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, points to art and symbolic thought among Neanderthals as well.

"Originally, we could not quite believe what we had found and had to convince ourselves it was real," says Gibraltar Museum director Clive Finlayson, who headed the study team. "Is it art? Is it a doodle? I don't know, but it is clearly an abstract design." When Neanderthals lived inside what is now Gorham's Cave, the site of the discovery, the region was rich with prey, mostly deer, but also predators such as hyenas. The researchers discovered the engraving in excavations on a small ledge nearly 330 feet (100 meters) into the cave.

"We can definitely say it is more than 39,000 years old, a time when there were no modern humans near Gibraltar," Finlayson says. A soil layer above the bedrock ledge contains Neanderthal tools, the team reports, and chemical Analysis of the carving's patina points to its age. "I think that this will stir up an extremely lively controversy, and people will no doubt argue," says paleoanthropologist Gilliane Monnier of the University of Minnesota, an expert on ancient stone tools. She thinks it's likely that the engraving is the work of Neanderthals, and agrees it dates to their era.

Early modern people made cave art throughout Europe and traded shell beads as far back as 75,000 years ago in Africa. Neanderthals didn't leave much behind in the way of decoration, in contrast, although they did care for their infirm and bury their dead. What evidence exists for Neanderthal symbolic thought is much disputed—hints of ocher pigments seen at burial sites, for example, may have been left over from tanning hides. And debate has simmered for decades oover whether hand stencils and carvings from about 40,800 years ago in Spain's El Castillo cave were made by Neanderthals or early modern humans. No bones or tools remain at the site to help settle the dispute.

But now, underneath a layer of Neanderthal "rubbish" at Gorham's Cave, says Finlayson, the study team found the cross-hatched carving of lines roughly six inches (15 centimeters) long. "These are abstract, almost geometric shapes," he says. Tests with copies of Neanderthal stone points show that the carving was made by stone points being dragged across the ledge's hard dolomite at least 54 times. Experiments also show that cutting skins against the dolomite would not have produced the pointed grooves of the engraving.

The team suggests the ledge at the rear of the cave is where Neanderthals rested, protected behind fires at night from Europe's long-ago predators: lions, hyenas, and wolves. "It was a perfect place to rest and carve something," Finlayson says. No evidence exists that modern humans were in this region of Europe more than 39,000 years ago, which leaves only Neanderthals to explain the engraving.


The skull of an ancient human ancestor fails to show evidence of the type of brain expansion typically seen in modern human infants, according to a new study. The "Taung child" fossil is known as the first and best example of early brain evolution in hominins, the group containing humans and their extinct relatives.

A recent study had suggested that features of the specimen allowed the Taung child's brain to grow well into infancy, as occurs in modern human children. But new brain scans of the Taung fossil show it lacks these features, suggesting the postnatal brain growth seen in modern humans may not have evolved until the rise of the Homo species, states a new study published today (Aug. 25) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Homo species evolved about 2.5 million years ago. [Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]

Australian anthropologist Raymond Dart, who worked at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, unearthed the Taung specimen in Taung, South Africa in 1924. The fossil, which is thought to be roughly 3 million to 4 million years old, is a well-preserved cast of the inside of the cranium, known as an endocast. It was the first known fossil of Australopithecus africanus, an extinct close hominid relative of humans. It's unusual to find such a well-preserved endocast, and juveniles are very rare in the hominin fossil record, so the Taung child remains a hot subject of study, Carlson told Live Science.

In the new study, Kristian Carlson (an anthropologist at the U. of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg) and his colleagues took the first computerized tomography, or CT, scans of the Taung fossil. The scans failed to find any sign of these human-infant skull features. What's more, the researchers say these features may not even result in the evolutionary benefits they supposedly confer, Carlson said. The researchers suggest other hominin fossils should be re-examined using the same scanning technology. "We've demonstrated the misdiagnosis in Taung, and we believe it would be prudent to assess whether the presence of these features — unfused metopic sutures and open anterior fontanelles — may have been misdiagnosed in the additional specimens," Carlson said.

The findings may be controversial, though Carlson suspects they will confirm what many people in the field already think. "But hopefully there will still be a lively debate to advance the science aspects forward," he said.

Friday, September 19, 2014


Nick Bellantoni, the Connecticut State Archaeologist, who recently stepped down after over 30 years of digging up the past across the Nutmeg state, was in town last night for a talk at the Bruce Museum on his participation in the exhumation, forensic work, and final repatriation of a Lakota Sioux Indian to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

According to Nancy Bernard, of the Archaeological Associates of Greenwich, the group that hosted him, Bellantoni’s talk was “fabulous.”

Before Bellantoni’s talk there was a moment to ask him a question begging to be asked. With all the deep digging that goes on in Greenwich, both for housing and for commercial sites, what if old relics or historic objects are found? What is the law of the land? Are these items routinely delivered over to Town authorities? What is his experience in this area?

“I’m called in only if human remains are found at construction sites,” he says. Other countries like England and France, etc, he says, stop construction when any relics or bones or pottery chards are uncovered.

The modus operandi in Connecticut towns Bellantoni says is if there’s any expectation a site will deliver important artifacts or early habitation, the Planning and Zoning is to be notified before any digging is done.

Bellantoni reported he will continue to teach – this semester he’ll be at the University of Connecticut teaching an introductory course in anthropology. But he’ll doubtfully not put more miles on his Chevy 10 truck which had accumulated 223,000 miles in his exploratory work across the state.

Reporter: Anne Semmes of the Greenwich Time.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Evidence that the outer stone circle at Stonehenge was once complete has been found - parch marks in the grass, in an area that had not been watered, have revealed places where two 'missing' huge sarsen stones may once have stood. Previous scientific techniques such as geophysics failed to find any evidence.

Historians have long debated whether Stonehenge was a full or incomplete circle, with some arguing a lack of stones in the south-west quadrant is proof it was never complete. A scientific paper which adds weight to the 'complete' theory has been published in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity. The parch marks - areas where the grass does not grow as strongly as in other areas during hot, dry weather - were first noticed in July last year.

Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said the discovery seemed to indicate the positions of missing stones. "If these stone holes actually held upright stones then we've got a complete circle," she said. "A lot of people assume we've excavated the entire site and everything we're ever going to know about the monument is known. But actually there's quite a lot we still don't know and there's quite a lot that can be discovered just through non-excavation methods," Ms Greaney added.

Ms Greaney said a high resolution geophysical survey conducted a few years ago had failed to pick up evidence of the holes. "It's great that people who know the site really well and look at it every day were able to spot these parch marks and recognize them for what they were. We maintain the grass with watering when it's very dry in the summer, but our hosepipe doesn't reach to the other side of the stone circle. If we'd had a longer hosepipe we might not have been able to see them," she concluded.

Tim Daw, the English Heritage steward who spotted the parch marks, said: "I was standing on the public path looking at the grass near the stones and thinking that we needed to find a longer hosepipe to get the parched patches to green up. A sudden light bulb moment in my head, and I remembered that the marks were where archaeologists had looked without success for signs that there had been stone holes, and that parch marks can signify them. Not being archaeologists we called in the professionals to evaluate them. I am still amazed and very pleased that simply really looking at something, that tens of thousands of people had unwittingly seen, can reveal secrets that sophisticated machinery can't."

Edited from BBC News (30 August 2014)
[2 images, 1 drawing]


The story of the inter-action and inter-breeding of Modern Man with Neanderthals is an ever changing one. As analytical techniques become more sophisticated and accurate then the picture becomes clearer. The latest technique to be applied uses ultra-filtering of samples, to eliminate any form of contamination, thus making the subsequent analysis more accurate.

Using this technique on analysis of samples of bone and charcoal from several Russian sites seems to shift the evidence to show that Neanderthals were actually starting to die out, before they inter-acted with Modern Man, who was not therefore, on this evidence, the cause of their extinction.

The decline started between 41,000 and 39,000 years ago, with Modern Man appearing on the scene only 35,000 years ago. there was an overlapping period of about 2,500 years when both species co-existed and inter-bred. It is now hoped to widen the research to eastern Europe and Eurasia, to corroborate these findings.

Edited from LiveScience (20 August 2014)
[2 images]


The Central great Plains is a semi-arid Eco region of North America, covering large parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. A team from the University of Kansas, lead by Professor Rolfe Mandel, have been excavating in an area of Kansas, within this Eco region, to try ad find evidence of settlements by Clovis, and even Pre Clovis peoples.

The excavations are part of a project run by the University to give their undergraduates and graduates field experience. The team has concentrated its efforts in an area known as Tuttle Creek and several artifacts have been discovered, including projectiles and drills, The team is currently awaiting the results of the analysis of the sediment the artifacts were buried in. They are hoping that the official results will confirm their belief that these artifacts could be older than 13,500 years, which would make them the earliest finds so far within the Central Great Plains area.

Professor Mandel is quite excited by his team's finds and is quoted as saying "We all have inherent interest in history, so this tells us something about the early occupants of the Great Plains and this part of the Great Plains. It will tell us a lot about the history of the peopling of the Americas and in particular the peopling of the Great Plains, where it's been pretty much a black hole in terms of unraveling that story".

Edited from PhysOrg (29 August 2014)
[2 images, 1 video]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


The Bureau of Land Management is offering up to $500 for information leading to the arrest/conviction of vandals responsible for defacing rock near rock art thousands of years old. The vandalism happened July 25-31, 2014.
Vandals spray-painted more than a dozen silhouette targets on rocks near Native American rock art at Utah County's Lake Mountain and then engaged in practice shooting with a large-caliber firearm.

The BLM said similar vandalism happened in 2011, prompting the federal agency to go to great lengths to remove the paint to prevent any more damage to the rock art.Native American rock art sites are protected under federal law by the Archaeological Resource Protection Act of 1976. Violators causing damage to cultural resources on federal lands can face severe penalties including fines and jail time.

In May, a vandal etched initials and a date into the dark patina next to the prehistoric image known as the Pregnant Buffalo on a rock panel in Nine Mile Canyon.An investigation subsequently revealed that two youths from the Salt Lake City area were responsible for the Memorial Day weekend incident. A payment from the vandals for $1,500 helped to mitigate the damage, according to the BLM.

Anyone with information on this latest incident should call BLM ranger Randy Griffin at 801-977-4314.


Nobody would mistake the municipality of Savsjo for the borough of the Bronx.

Savsjo, surrounded by dense forests in southern Sweden between Stockholm and Malmo, has about 5,000 inhabitants (about one-tenth as many as the Co-op City section of the borough alone, but about 10 times as many as the number of Bronxites who claim Swedish heritage). Its medieval churches date to the 12th century (the oldest existing house in the Bronx was built in 1748). Savsjo’s best-known sports team plays handball, not baseball.

And yet the two localities share one largely forgotten favorite son, whose Swedish heritage has only recently been confirmed: Jonas Bronck. Bronck was born in 1600 just outside Savsjo (pronounced SEV-sho) in the hamlet of Komstad. He emigrated to Denmark, where he became a mariner, and then to the Netherlands, where he married a local woman. In 1639, after the local economy was roiled by a boom-and-bust mania for tulip bulbs, the couple sailed on the Fire of Troy for New Amsterdam.

The Broncks built a stone house they named Emmaus (after a site where Jesus appeared after his resurrection) at what would become East 132nd Street and Lincoln Avenue, on a bluff overlooking what would become a 680-acre farm flanked by the Harlem River, the Bronx Kill, which separates the borough from Randalls Island, and the Aquahung, which later became known as Bronck’s River.

The 375th anniversary of Bronck’s arrival and settlement as the first European in the Bronx will be celebrated this weekend in Savsjo by his descendants and dignitaries from both countries. (This year is also the centennial of Bronx County, New York State’s youngest.) “The invisible hand of the Almighty Father,” Bronck wrote to a friend in Amsterdam, “surely guided me to this beautiful country, a land covered with virgin forest and unlimited opportunities. It is a veritable paradise and needs but the industrious hand of man to make it the finest and most beautiful region in all the world.”

Bronck died childless at age 43 of unknown causes. His widow remarried and moved to what would be called upstate New York. Several descendants of his nephew or cousin Pieter, whose stone house in Coxsackie is now the headquarters of the Greene County Historical Society, plan to attend the commemoration.

“We have always been very proud of the fact that you do not go to Bronx but to the Bronx, meaning to visit that family or what remains of it,” said Audrey Bronk of Pinehurst, N.C., whose husband, Charles, 85, born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey, a former salesman for a plumbing and heating company, is a 10th-generation descendant of Pieter. (The name, which gained an X from the Dutch, lost a C in English.)

The celebration was largely conceived by Brian G. Andersson, a Bronxite of Swedish ancestry. He is the former commissioner of records for New York City and a founding director of the Jonas Bronck Center in Savsjo, which is hosting the commemoration.

“The story behind Jonas Bronck will serve as a model and be the power behind Jonas Bronck Center’s goal — to make the cultural and historical treasure in Smaland and Savsjo, the focal point of tourism in this part of Sweden,” said Curt Wrigfors, the chairman of the center, which is also conducting historical and genealogical research. The center, a former hotel, also houses a Vietnamese restaurant and a tattoo parlor.

Until recently, when it has begun a modest rebound, the Bronx has been famous for the Yankees, the zoo and the New York Botanical Garden, but also disparaged for the Bronx cheer and Ogden Nash’s ultimate contumely (later retracted) “The Bronx? No thonx,” and mocked at home as a national symbol of urban blight (Howard Cosell: “The Bronx is burning;” Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities”).

So New Yorkers may be surprised that Jonas Bronck himself has been claimed as a native of Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and the Frisian and Faroe Islands. His Swedish roots were established only in the last few decades by Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx borough historian, and further authenticated by an Irish historian and Mr. Andersson.


Faint as the Avenue was, Vince Gaffney hustled along as if it were illuminated by runway lights. A short, sprightly archaeologist of 56, from Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England, he knows this landscape as well as anyone alive: has walked it, breathed it, studied it for uncounted hours. He has not lost his sense of wonder. Stopping to fix the monument in his eyeline, and reaching out toward the stones on the horizon, he said, “Look, it becomes cathedralesque.”

Gaffney’s latest research effort, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, is a four-year collaboration between a British team and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria that has produced the first detailed underground survey of the area surrounding Stonehenge, totaling more than four square miles.

The results are astonishing. The researchers have found buried evidence of more than 15 previously unknown or poorly understood late Neolithic monuments: henges, barrows, segmented ditches, pits. To Gaffney, these findings suggest a scale of activity around Stonehenge far beyond what was previously suspected. “There was sort of this idea that Stonehenge sat in the middle and around it was effectively an area where people were probably excluded,” Gaffney told me, “a ring of the dead around a special area—to which few people might ever have been admitted....Perhaps there were priests, big men, whatever they were, inside Stonehenge having processions up the Avenue, doing...something extremely mysterious. Of course that sort of analysis depends on not knowing what’s actually in the area around Stonehenge itself. It was terra incognita, really.”

The huge bluestones each weigh between four and eight tons and were brought to the site from North Wales, 170 miles away. The Stonehenge landscape, the new evidence suggests, guided the movement of great crowds. The heelstone aligns with the rising sun on the summer solstice as seen from the stone circle, about 80 yards away. It is one of “an excessive number” of such features in the Stonehenge landscape. The massive stone monument rising from Salisbury Plain must have been an impressive sight to ancient visitors.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project used ground-penetrating radars and GPS-guided magnetometers (right) to produce what amounts to a 3-D map of a four-square-mile area. Nighttime only enhances the mystery of Stonehenge. Was it a temple? A graveyard? A healing place? Scholars believe the first stones were erected at Stonehenge around 2600 B.C. and that construction continued on the site for a millennia.

Nobody has yet put a spade in the ground to verify the new findings, which were painstakingly gathered by geophysicists and others wielding magnetometers and ground-penetrating radars that scan the ground to detect structures and objects several yards below the surface. But Gaffney has no doubt of the work’s value. “This is among the most important landscapes, and probably the most studied landscape, in the world,” he says. “And the area has been absolutely transformed by this survey. Won’t be the same again.”

Take the big question: Was Stonehenge predominantly a temple, a parliament or a graveyard? Was it a healing ground? We don’t know, for sure. We know that people were buried there, and that the stones are aligned in astronomically important ways. We also understand, because of the chemical composition of animal bones found nearby and the provenance of the stones, that people traveled hundreds of miles to visit Stonehenge. But we cannot say, with certainty, why.

See the wonderful photos in Smithsonian Magazine. Interested in a young adult book on Stonehenge? Caroline Malone and Nancy Bernard 's Stonehenge is still available through Amazon.

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Escargot is more than just a modern delicacy: Ancient humans who lived 30,000 years ago ate the mollusks too, a new archaeological excavation has revealed. Archaeologists recently uncovered evidence of a fireplace and snail shells with evidence of burning in a rock shelter in Spain. The find, which dates to 30,000 years ago, suggests humans ate snails during the Paleolithic period.

Hundreds of burnt snail shells were found near fireplaces along with tools and other animal remains in rock shelters along a cliff in Spain. The finding suggests Paleolithic people on the Iberian Peninsula ate snails more than 10,000 years earlier than those who lived in the neighboring Mediterranean region.

The snails probably didn't make up a calorically significant part of these Paleolithic people's diet, but may have provided key vitamins and nutrients, said study lead author Javier Fernández-López de Pablo, an archaeologist at the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social in Spain

Monday, August 25, 2014


A monster mouth doorway, ruined pyramid temples and palace remains emerged from the Mexican jungle as archaeologists unearthed two ancient Mayan cities. Found in the southeastern part of the Mexican state of Campeche, in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula, the cities were hidden in thick vegetation and hardly accessible. "Aerial photographs helped us in locating the sites," expedition leader Ivan Sprajc, of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), said.

Sprajc and his team found the massive remains as they further explored the area around Chactun, a large Maya city discovered by the Slovenian archaeologist in 2013. No other site has so far been located in this area, which extends over some 1800 square miles, between the so-called Rio Bec and Chenes regions, both known for their characteristic architectural styles fashioned during the Late and Terminal Classic periods, around 600 - 1000 A.D. One of the cities featured an extraordinary facade with an entrance representing the open jaws of an earth monster.

The site was actually visited in the 1970s by the American archaeologist Eric Von Euw, who documented the facade and other stone monuments with yet unpublished drawings. However, the exact location of the city, referred to as Lagunita by Von Euw, remained lost. All the attempts at relocating it failed. "The information about Lagunita were vague and totally useless," Sprajc told Discovery News. "In the jungle you can be as little as 600 feet from a large site and do not even suspect it might be there; small mounds are all over the place, but they give you no idea about where an urban center might be," he added. Laguinita was identified only after the archaeologists compared the newly
found facade and monuments with Von Euw's drawings.

The monster-mouth facade turned to be one of the best preserved examples of this type of doorways, which are common in the Late-Terminal Classic Rio Bec architectural style, in the nearby region to the south. "It represents a Maya earth deity related with fertility. These doorways symbolize the entrance to a cave and, in general, to the watery underworld, place of mythological origin of maize and abode of ancestors," Sprajc said. He also found remains of a number of massive palace-like buildings arranged around four major plazas. A ball court and a temple pyramid almost 65 ft high also stood in the city, while 10 stelae (tall sculpted stone shafts) and three altars (low circular stones) featured well-preserved reliefs and hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Similar imposing was the other city unearthed by Sprajc. Previously unknown, the city was named Tamchen, which means "deep well" in Yucatec Maya. Indeed, more than 30 chultuns were found at the site. These are bottle-shaped underground chambers, largely intended for collecting rainwater. "Several chultuns were unusually deep, going down as far as 13 meters," Sprajc said.

Like in Laguinita, plazas were surrounded by large buildings. These include the remains of an acropolis supporting a courtyard with three temples on its sides. A pyramid temple with a rather well preserved sanctuary on top and a stela and an altar at its base was also unearthed. Tamchen appears to have been contemporaneous with Lagunita, although there is evidence for its settlement history going back to the Late Preclassic, between 300 B.C. and 250 A.D.

"Both cities open new questions about the diversity of Maya culture, the role of that largely unexplored area in the lowland Maya history, and its relations with other polities," Sprajc said.


Archaeologists in Greece have uncovered the entrance to a vast ancient tomb guarded by two sphinxes, adorned with frescoed walls, and surrounded by a nearly 500-meter long wall carved from marble, according to a news release
in the Greek Reporter. The unique burial monument, which dates from 325 to 300 BC, is the largest ancient tomb ever discovered in Greece and is believed to belong to a very important figure in history. Plans are to enter the tomb next month, when hopefully the identity of the tomb owner will be revealed.

Excavations on the massive burial mound, which is located on Kasta Hill, Amphipolis, in the country's Macedonian region about 100km northeast of Thessaloniki, first started in 2012, and have focused on uncovering the impressive marble wall surrounding the tomb. More recently, the archaeologists discovered a wide path leading to a tomb where the entrance is guarded by two statues of sphinxes carved from marble.

Experts believe a five-meter-tall lion sculpture, known as the Lion of Amphipolis, previously discovered nearby once stood atop the tomb. The famous lion monument, which was found in 1912 by the Greek Army in the Strymonas River, is one of the best preserved monuments from 4th century BC. Archaeologists believe that it once stood at the highest and most central point of the Kasta Hill mound. It now stands next to the old bridge over Strymónas River, on the street Amphipolis-Serraiki Akti.

Local media have been quick to speculate on the owner of the tomb, with Alexander the Great being the prime candidate. Alexander the Great died in 323 BC under mysterious circumstances and the location of his tomb is one of
the great mysteries of antiquity. However, a Culture Ministry official said there was no evidence to suggest a link to Alexander the Great. It could be possible that the tomb belongs to a Macedonian royal. Amphopolis was also the birthplace of three famous admirals from the Macedonian period - Nearchus, Androsthenes of Thasos, and Laomedon (a close friend of Alexander the Great).!bEWsqV


A six-year-old's discovery of a flint tool in a Neolithic ditch was the first of a "significant number" of thrilling finds at a Cardiff hill fort. Archaeologists hoping to discover Roman and Iron Age finds at a Welsh hillfort were shocked to unearth pottery and arrowheads predating their predicted finds by 4,000 years at the home of a powerful Iron Age community, including flint tools and weapons from 3,600 BC.

Caerau, an Iron Age residency on the outskirts of Cardiff, would have been a battleground more than 5,000 years ago according to the arrowheads, awls, scrapers and polished stone axe fragments found during the surprising excavation.

"Quite frankly, we were amazed," says Dr Dave Wyatt, the co-director of the dig, from Cardiff University. "Nobody predicted this. Our previous excavation [in 2013] yielded pottery and a mass of finds, including five large Roundhouses, showing Iron Age occupation, and there's evidence of Roman and medieval activity. "But no-one realized the site had been occupied as far back as the Neolithic - predating the construction of the Iron Age hillfort by several thousand years."

Oliver Davis, Dr Wyatt's colleague on the CAER project, says the ditches date from the early Neolithic period when communities first settled and farmed the landscape. "The location and number of Neolithic finds indicate that we have discovered a causewayed enclosure - a special place where small communities gathered together at certain important times of the year to celebrate, feast, exchange things and possibly find marriage partners," he believes. "Such sites are very rare in Wales with only five other known examples, mostly situated in the south.

"What's fascinating is that a number of the flint arrowheads we have found have been broken as a result of impact - this suggests some form of conflict occurred at this meeting place over 5,000 years ago." More than 250 community volunteers assisted an excavation visited by more than 1,200 people. "What's really great about this story is that we've made the Neolithic discoveries with the help of local people," says Dr Wyatt. Experts plan to use the finds and soil samples to draw conclusions about the occupation of the site and the stories of the people who lived there.


The ancient Egyptians began mummifying bodies as far back as 6,000 years ago, analysis of Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic funerary wrappings has revealed. The finding predates the origins of mummification in ancient Egypt by 1,500 years, indicating that resin-soaked textiles used in the prehistoric period (c. 4500 - 3350 B.C.) are the true antecedents of Egyptian mummification.

Experts have long assumed that in the 5th and 4th millennia B.C. preservation of soft tissues was due to natural processes, since buried bodies were naturally desiccated in the hot, dry desert sand.

The start of true Egyptian mummification is generally dated to the Old Kingdom (2500 B.C.), although the use of preservative resinous recipes became evident centuries later during the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000 - 1600 B.C.). Detailing their finding in the current issue of PLOS ONE journal, researchers from the Universities of York, Macquarie and Oxford report that complex embalming agents were soaked in linen wrappings covering bodies from Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic period tombs at Badari and Mostagedda in Upper Egypt. "In 2002, I examined samples of funerary textiles from these sites that had been sent to various museums in the United Kingdom through the 1930s from Egypt," Jana Jones of Macquarie University, Sydney, said.

Preliminary microscopic analysis by Jones revealed resins were likely to have been used. After a number of aborted attempts by other experts, Stephen Buckley, a Research Fellow at the University of York, was able to carry
successful biochemical analysis. Using a combination of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and sequential
thermal desorption-pyrolysis, Buckley examined 23 samples of wrappings from Mostagedda. Radiocarbon dating at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit confirmed the Late Neolithic and predynastic dating of the textiles, with the oldest wrappings dating between 4316-3986 B.C. Buckley identified a pine resin, an aromatic plant extract, a plant
gum/sugar, a natural petroleum source, and a plant oil/animal fat in the wrappings. "These are embalming agents," Buckley told Discovery News.

"Ingredients were brought from the North East Mediterranean. For example, the pine resin must have come from what is now south eastern Turkey," Buckley said. According to Buckley, the mixtures, which had antibacterial properties, show
the same ingredients used in approximately the same proportions in mummies from the pharaonic period some 3000 years later, when mummification was at its zenith. Buckley says there is no doubt prehistoric Egyptians experimented with
artificial mummification. Experts have previously described resin-impregnated linen being used to mold the shape of the bodies around 2800 B.C. as a forerunner to a more complex process, yet this research suggests the use of embalming agents in this way started over a millennia earlier.

He believes the resinous recipes probably started as something symbolic. Then, through observation and subsequent experimentation, the preservative qualities of the recipes would have appeared as vital for the body and the spirit in the afterlife. "The process evolved, by trial and error, rather than emerging from nowhere fully formed," Buckley said.


A Neolithic ditch which became a huge funerary monument when it was enlarged with an outer ring during the Bronze Age has been found on housing development grounds in Kent. Archaeologists suspect a "sacred way" could have led to a henge 6,000 years ago at Iwade Meadows, to the west of the Kent industrial town of Sittingbourne.

Positioned on a north-west slope, the 30-metre diameter structure is one of several prehistoric monuments on a north-west slope above the Ridham fleet stream running through the center of the site. "Its purpose is not known," says Dr Paul Wilkinson, of excavators SWAT Archaeology. "But it may be that the monument was reused as an enclosure for stock management at this time or could formally have been used as a 'sacred way' leading to the Neolithic 'henge'.
"The monuments are in a location that would have formerly had extensive views to the Swale Estuary and the Island of Sheppey beyond.

"The archaeological evidence suggests that the outer ditch may have originated in the Neolithic and been later transformed in the Bronze Age into a funerary monument with the addition of the inner ring." Archaeologists now hope to determine the exact date, phasing and character of the monuments. "The outer ring has an entrance facing north-east suggesting that it may have originated as a henge-type monument - a ceremonial gathering place of which Stonehenge is our most well known example," says Dr Wilkinson. "The inner ring appears to be later and is an unbroken circuit. This may be associated with a Bronze Age burial, as a barrow, though no burials have yet been found. "A second smaller monument lies close to the larger rings and may be a secondary barrow dating to the Bronze Age.

"The importance of the location in the Neolithic period is reinforced by the rare findings of a series of pits close to the monuments that may indicate the area was being used before the construction of the monument or represents activity associated with it."


Scientists at the Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) announced Tuesday they had found a 6,500-year-old skeleton in the museum basement. The bones belonged to a once well-muscled, 5'9" man estimated to be at least 50 years old. His remains had been lying in a coffin-like box for 85 years with no identifying documents. Since he likely outlived a great flood that, millennia later would be a precursor to the Biblical story, some are referring to the skeleton as "Noah."

Records revealed the complete skeleton was unearthed at the site of Ur, an ancient city near modern-day Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, in 1929-30. At that time, a joint Penn Museum/British Museum excavation team led by Sir Leonard Woolley excavated 48 graves in a floodplain, all dating to the Ubaid period. This was a culture characterized by large village settlements that originated on the alluvial plains of southern Mesopotamia around 5500 B.C. and lasted until roughly 4000 B.C.

Of all the bones found, only one skeleton was in good enough condition to recover. Buried with arms at his sides and hands over his abdomen, with pottery vessels at the feet, the skeleton is 2,000 years older than the famous Mesopotamian "royal tombs" that Woolley found in the same Ur location.

After Woolley discovered the Royal Cemetery, he kept digging. Around 40 feet down, he reached a layer of clean, water-lain silt. Digging further, he found graves cut into the silt and eventually another silt layer. This "flood layer" was more than 10 feet deep. Reaching below sea level, Woolley concluded that Ur had originally been a small island in a surrounding marsh. Then a great flood washed away the land. The burial that produced the Penn Museum skeleton was one of those cut into the deep silt. This indicates the man, as well as other people in Ur, had lived after the flood.

Archaeologists believe the disaster likely inspired stories of an epic flood which are the historic precursors of the biblical story written millennia later. As such, Penn researchers named the rediscovered skeleton "Noah." Though, since the skeleton is much older than the Bible, "Utnapishtim" would have been more appropriate. "He was named in the Gilgamesh epic as the man who survived the great flood," William Hafford, Ur Digitization Project Manager at Penn.

Hafford was able to reconstruct how the skeleton reached the museum. Woolley himself painstakingly removed the intact skeleton, covered it in wax, fastened it onto a piece of wood, and lifted it out with the surrounding dirt using a burlap sling. He shipped the remains to London for examination, and then on to Philadelphia. There, the skeleton rested in a wooden box with no catalog card, or identifying number, for 85 years -- one of 150,000 bone specimens
in the museums possession.

Complete skeletons from the Ubaid period are extremely rare. According to archaeologists, the re-discovered skeleton may open up new research possibilities. "Today's scientific techniques, unavailable in Woolley's time, may provide
new information about diet, ancestral origins, trauma, stress, and diseases of this poorly understood population," the Penn Museum said.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Archaeologists carrying out excavations in Arequipa in southern Peru were stunned to find a large geoglyph which resembles the famous Nazca lines, according to a report in Peru21. The massive geoglyph is the first of its kind discovered in the region. It has been linked to the pre-Inca Wari culture (1200-1300 AD), although it is not clear how the researchers reached this conclusion.

The geoglyph, which measures 60 meters by 40 meters, was discovered during archaeological investigations being carried out ahead of an irrigation project in the province of Caylloma. It consists of a large rectangular image with geometric shapes and lines within it and is similar to many of the geoglyphs found in Nazca.

The Nazca geoglyphs cover an incredible 450 km2 and are among archaeology's greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity. The geoglyphs depict living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary beings, as
well as geometric figures several kilometers long. The startling feature of the Nazca geoglyphs is that they can only really be appreciated from the air, raising questions about how and why they were created.

While the Nazca geoglyphs date back to between 200 BC to 500 AD, to a time when a people referred to as the Nazca inhabited the region, archaeologists have dated the latest discovery in Arequipa to the later part of Wari culture (1200 - 1300 AD). However, no explanation has yet been given about why the geoglyph has been associated with the Wari and how it was dated.

The Wari (Spanish: Huari) civilization flourished from about 600 AD in the Andean highlands and forged a complex society widely regarded today as ancient Peru's first empire. Their Andean capital, Huari, became one of the world's great cities of the time. Relatively little is known about the Wari because no written record remains, although thousands of archaeological sites reveal much about their lives. If indeed the newly-discovered geoglyph was created by the Wari, the finding serves to shed new light on Wari cultural practices, which could have been influenced by the Nazca people.

Much to the annoyance of Consorcio Angostura-Siguas, the agroindustrial company executing the irrigation project, the finding now jeopardizes the continuity of the plan.

By April Holloway!bummJW


Archaeologists in Peru made a remarkable discovery when they found what they believe is a stone altar containing ancient petroglyphs dating back to 3,500 to 4,000 years ago, according to a news report in Andina. Researchers said
the engravings were used to track stars and therefore to forecast rain fall.

The discovery was made at the archaeological complex of Licurnique, located four hours from Olmos district in Peru's northern region of Lambayeque. The Lambayeque region is known for its archaeological finds and rich Moche and Chimú historical past. The name Lambayeque is a Spanish derivation of the god Yampellec, said to have been worshiped by the first Lambayeque king, Naymlap.

According to ancient legend, a great float of balsa rafts arrived at the beaches of the existing San José cove. Formed by a brilliant cortège of nine foreign warriors, this float was led by a man of great talent and courage, named Naymlap, the mythical founder of the first northwest civilization. Among the descendants of Naymlap were the Moche, the Wari', and the Chimú peoples.

Researchers Juan Martinez and Manuel Curo explained that the Licurnique archaeological site is unique because it combines prehistoric, Hispanic, and Andean influences. According to the report in Andina: "archaeologists found a petroglyph that consists of a lithic altar, an expression of religious superposition. It details and provides an understanding of Licurnique's inhabitants."

Although the archaeologists have not detailed the method they used to date the petroglyphs to the 4th millennium BC, they said that the astronomical functions that were engraved on the rock has successfully stood the test of time.

Featured image: Peruvian archaeologists found carvings that depict the stars and have lasted thousands of years. Photo: Silvia Depaz/Andina

By April Holloway!bummzk


A groundbreaking excavation of a prehistoric temple complex on the Scottish island of Orkney has revealed that the Neolithic inhabitants of the island were far more advanced than initially realized, according to a news release in The Scotsman. As well as a large collection of ancient artifacts that reflect a complex and culturally-rich society, archaeologists also discovered that the three major monumental structures on the island - the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stennes, and the Maes Howe tomb - were "inextricably linked in some grand theme".

The archaeological site, known as the Ness of Brodgar, covers an area of over 6 acres and consists of the remains of housing, remnants of slate roofs, paved walkways, colored facades, decorated stone slabs, a massive stone wall with foundations, and a large building described as a Neolithic 'cathedra' or 'palace', inhabited from at least 3,500 BC to the close of the Neolithic period more than a millennium and a half later.

"Their workmanship was impeccable. The imposing walls they built would have done credit to the Roman centurions who, some 30 centuries later, would erect Hadrian's Wall in another part of Britain. Cloistered within those walls were dozens of buildings, among them one of the largest roofed structures built in prehistoric northern Europe. It was more than 80ft long and 60ft wide, with walls 13ft thick," said Roff Smith, author of an article on the Ness of Brodgar to be released in the August edition of National Geographic.

The archaeological excavation, which has so far only unearthed around 10 per cent of the original site, has yielded thousands of incredible artifacts including ceremonial mace heads, polished stone axes, flint knives, a human
figurine, miniature thumb pots, beautifully crafted stone spatulas, highly-refined colored pottery, and more than 650 pieces of Neolithic art, by far the largest collection ever found in Britain.

The monumental sites of the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness, and the Maes Howe tomb, all located within several miles of the Ness, used to be seen as isolated monuments with separate histories, but as excavations at the Ness have progressed, archaeologists have come to believe that the megalithic sites in the surrounding region were all connected in some way with the Ness of Brodgar, although its purpose remains unknown.

"What the Ness is telling us is that this was a much more integrated landscape than anyone ever suspected," said archaeologist Nick Card, excavation director with the Archaeology Institute at the University of the Highlands and Islands. "All these monuments are inextricably linked in some grand theme we can only guess at. The people who built all this were a far more complex and capable society than has usually been portrayed."

"Stand at the Ness today and several iconic Stone Age structures are within easy view, forming the core of a World Heritage site called the Heart of Neolithic Orkney," said Smith. "The Ness of Brodgar appears to be the anchor piece - the showpiece, if you will - that links these other great monuments into one great monumental landscape of a sort nobody had dreamed existed. And to have had it ­lying underfoot, unsuspected, for so many centuries only adds to the sense of wonder surrounding its discovery.

By April Holloway!bumltI


An archaeological team assigned to reconstruct the 5,200-year-old Burnt City, a recently listed World Heritage Site in Iran, have unearthed a series of unusual burials depicting ritualistic funerary practices, according to a report in the Tehran Times.

Located near Zabol in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, the ancient site of Shahr-i Sokhta ("Burnt City") is one of the largest and richest Bronze Age sites in Iran and the Middle East, and is believed by some to have been the capital of an ancient civilization that flourished on the banks of the Helmand River in around 3,200 BC.

Spanning more than 300,000 hectares, the Burnt City was once a trade center for merchants from Mesopotamia, Indus Valley and Central Asia and represents the emergence of the first complex societies in eastern Iran. Four civilizations lived Shahr-I Sokhata, which was burnt down three times and not rebuilt after the last fire in around 1800 BC. Despite the excavations and studies carried out at the site, the reasons for the unexpected rise and fall of the Burnt City still seem to remain a mystery.

In the last 40 years, archaeologists have uncovered more than 1,200 graves, some of which have revealed some amazing finds, such as the well-preserved remains of a woman in her late 20s who died between 2900 and 2800 B.C. She was buried with an ornate bronze mirror and what researchers believe is an artificial eyeball made of bitumen paste and gold that was once held in place with fine thread. Microscopic examination showed that the artificial eyeball left an imprint in her eye socket, a sign that it was there for a long period of time before her death.

In the latest excavations, researchers found the remains of a middle-aged man in the center of a circle-shaped grave with the skulls of two dogs placed above his head. In addition, 12 human skulls were located on the north side of the grave.

Due to the structure of the grave, and the fact that no other similar burials have been found like it, Team Director Seyyed Mansur Sajjadi believes the grave belongs to the people who migrated from Central Asia to the Iranian Plateau. "This kind of burial indicates strong relations between the people of the region and Central Asia," he said.

Another unique burial contained the remains of a young man whose head was separated from his body and placed at his lower right side, along with two daggers. The archaeologists surmise that the man was beheaded with the cutting tools.
Finally, grave 609 was found to contain six skulls with a large number of long human bones.

"All these burials raise a number of questions: Why were the men buried in such styles during the third millennium? Were the men buried in these styles by accident or on purpose? Were the men buried in such ways to save ground in the graveyard? Or are there other reasons behind these burial styles and we are unaware of them," Sajjadi asked.

Thousands of artifacts have been discovered among the ruins of the Burnt City in the course of 22 seasons of archaeological excavations, and it is hoped that further research will continue to shed light on the life and customs of the inhabitants of this ancient city.

By April Holloway!bumpAi


Archaeologists from the University of Tübingen have found an ancient fragment of ivory belonging to a 40,000 year old animal figurine. Both pieces were found in the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, which has yielded a number of remarkable works of art dating to the Ice Age. The mammoth ivory figurine depicting a lion was discovered during excavations around eighty years ago. The new fragment makes up one side of the figurine's head, and the sculpture may be viewed at the Tübingen University Museum from 30 July,2014

"The figurine depicts a lion," says Professor Nicholas Conard of Tübingen University's Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology, and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment Tübingen. "It is one of the most famous Ice Age works of art, and until now, we thought it was a relief, unique among these finds dating to the dawn of figurative art. The reconstructed figurine clearly is a three dimensional sculpture."

Vogelherd Cave, which covers an area of 170 square meters, is the richest of four caves in the region to have produced examples of the world's earliest figurative art, dating back to the time when the first modern humans settled in Europe. The faunal assemblages suggest that the cave was used over tens of thousands of years for butchering, processing and consuming game resources. It was first discovered when Stone Age artifacts turned up from a badger's burrow leading to a thorough exploration conducted by Gustav Riek in 1931.

The new fragment was discovered when today's archaeologists revisited the work of their predecessors from the 1930s. "We have been carrying out renewed excavations and analysis at Vogelherd Cave for nearly ten years," says Conard. "The site has yielded a wealth of objects that illuminate the development of early symbolic artifacts dating to the period when modern humans arrived in Europe and displaced the indigenous Neanderthals." He points out that the Vogelherd Cave has provided evidence of the world's earliest art and music and is a key element in the push to make the caves of the Swabian Jura a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Overall, Vogelherd Cave has yielded more than two dozen figurines and fragments of figurines made from mammoth ivory, including wild horse, bison, reindeer, rhinoceros, mammoth, snow leopard, and human statuette. According to archaeologist Nicholas J. Conard from the University of Tübingen, the figurines are "among the oldest and most impressive examples of figurative artworks from the Ice Age". They are in fact the oldest known pieces of art
and are currently considered key elements in definitions for modern human behavour and early cultural innovation.

By April Holloway!bumk7X


Excavations at an archaeological site at Kathu in the Northern Cape province of South Africa have produced tens of thousands of Earlier Stone Age artifacts, including hand axes and other tools. These discoveries were made by archaeologists from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa and the University of Toronto (U of T), in collaboration with the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa.

The archaeologists' research on the Kathu Townlands site, one of the richest early prehistoric archaeological sites in South Africa, was published in the journal, PLOS ONE, on 24 July 2014. It is estimated that the site is between 700,000 and one million years old.

Steven James Walker from the Department of Archaeology at UCT, lead author of the journal paper, says: "The site is amazing and it is threatened. We've been working well with developers as well as the South African Heritage
Resources Agency to preserve it, but the town of Kathu is rapidly expanding around the site. It might get cut off on all sides by development and this would be regrettable."

Today, Kathu is a major iron mining center. Walker adds that the fact that such an extensive prehistoric site is located in the middle of a zone of intensive development poses a unique challenge for archaeologists and developers to find strategies to work cooperatively.

The Kathu Townlands site is one component of a grouping of prehistoric sites known as the Kathu Complex. Other sites in the complex include Kathu Pan 1 which has produced fossils of animals such as elephants and hippos, as well as the earliest known evidence of tools used as spears from a level dated to half a million years ago.

"We need to imagine a landscape around Kathu that supported large populations of human ancestors, as well as large animals like hippos. All indications suggest that Kathu was much wetter, maybe more like the Okavango than the Kalahari. There is no question that the Kathu Complex presents unique opportunities to investigate the evolution of human ancestors in Southern Africa."

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto.

Journal Reference:
Steven J. H. Walker, Vasa Lukich, Michael Chazan. Kathu Townlands: A High
Density Earlier Stone Age Locality in the Interior of South Africa. , July
24, 2014 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103436

Sunday, July 20, 2014


An archeological dig has revealed artifacts of early human occupation in Australia. The discovery of the artifacts of animal bone and charcoal at the Ganga Maya Cave (meaning 'house on the hill') in the Pilbara region of Western Australia are the subject of a scientific paper not yet submitted to archaeological journals. The items analyzed through carbon-dating techniques indicate first use of the cave from more than 45,000 years ago.

The cave, close to an active iron ore mine, is of even more significance because it is believed to have been settled continuously and right through the Ice Age up until about 1700 years ago. Kate Morse, Director of Archaeology at Fremantle heritage consultancy Big Island Research remains cautious about making claims for the site's significance because so far only a one-metre square area, 139 cms deep, has been excavated.

Asked if the cave could be the site of the earliest human settlement in Australia, she said: "We have only got the one date and I would prefer to get other dates before I make those kind of claims. It is certainly a very old site. I think it is an area that people have traveled into to start exploring Australia. They have come from SE Asia across the water and arrived in northern Australia and made their way around the coast following river systems inland."

She added: "It's a very exciting find. The archaeological sequence is great because a lot of sites have been patchily occupied and ours is occupied on and off but repeatedly including during the Ice Age 18-22,000 years ago and it looks like people were visiting the site then. We have found charcoal, stone artifacts and animal bone. We have analyzed the bone to see if it is food remains or animals that have died in the cave. We think we have got some material that is burnt so it suggests it has possibly been used for food."

The discovery has, however, caused some division within the community with one elder, Eddy McPhee, saying he believes the mining company, Atlas, and Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) representing Njamal traditional owners were planning to destroy sacred sites and accompanying Dreaming tracks. But Big Island says it has worked closely with the traditional owners and YMAC on the project and says it has been well supported by Atlas. It says further excavation is planned in the near future.


An ancient burial containing chariots, gold artifacts and possible human sacrifices has been discovered by archaeologists in the country of Georgia, in the south Caucasus. The burial site, which would've been intended for a chief, dates back over 4,000 years - the Early Bronze Age, said Zurab Makharadze, head of the Center of Archaeology at the Georgian National Museum.

Archaeologists discovered the timber burial chamber within a 39-foot-high (12 meters) mound called a kurgan. When the archaeologists reached the chamber they found an assortment of treasures, including two chariots, each with four wooden wheels. The team discovered ornamented clay and wooden vessels, flint and obsidian arrowheads, leather and textile artifacts, a unique wooden armchair, carnelian and amber beads and 23 golden artifacts, including rare and artistic crafted jewelry, wrote Makharadze in his study recently presented at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, held at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

While the human remains had been disturbed by a robbery, which probably occurred in ancient times, and were in a disordered position, the archaeologists found that seven people were buried in the chamber. "One of them was a chief and others should be the members of his family, sacrificed slaves or servants," Makharadze said. The burial dates back to a time before domesticated horses appeared in the area, Makharadze said. While no animals were found buried with the chariots, he said, oxen would have pulled them. The newly discovered armchair symbolizes the power that individuals like the chief had. "The purpose of the wooden armchair was the indication to power, and it was put in the kurgan as a symbol of power," Makharadze concluded.

Edited from Live Science (25 June 2014)
[2 images]


A 4,200-year-old necklace made of alternating black and white disc-shaped beads has helped British researchers devise a new method for the identification of shell species in archaeological artifacts.

Mollusc shells appear to have been among the first durable materials used for personal ornaments and building tools, but their often degraded condition makes it hard to identify the species with traditional analysis. York University's Beatrice Demarchi, Julie Wilson, and their colleagues used statistical pattern recognition methods and amino acid analysis to distinguish shells taxonomically.

The new approach was tested on a necklace that has intrigued archaeologists ever since its discovery in 2009 at an early Bronze Age site near Suffolk in eastern England, in the grave of a young adult woman, radiocarbon-dated to around 2200 BCE. The necklace consisted of strings of tiny disc beads of shells and black jet, possibly carved out of the fossils of monkey puzzle trees from Whitby, 260 kilometers to the north.

Alison Sheridan, principal curator of Early Prehistory at National Museums in Scotland, says "The necklace had not been worn on the body, but was found near the head. Beads of jet and shell alternated in a zebra design. Interspersed with these - and I am currently trying to work out exactly how the arrangement worked - were a number of amber beads, some perforated straight through, some with cross-shaped perforations The necklace design is unique, although a lot of Early Bronze Age jet jewelery, and some amber jewelery, is known," Sheridan adds, "However, the use of sea shells for jewelery during the Early Bronze Age in Britain is incredibly rare."

It appears that Bronze Age craftspeople used local shells like dog whelk and tusk shells to make the necklace. Conical, curved and open at both ends, tusk shells resemble miniature elephant tusks, hence the name. Dog whelks are predatory, carnivorous sea snails often found on rocky shores. While dog whelks are abundant around the Suffolk coast today, tusk shells are less widespread, but present along the southern coast.

Edited from Discovery News (19 June 2014)
[6 images]


This summer, archaeologists are welcoming tourists to explore an ancient British hillfort full of prehistoric artifacts, as the researchers wrap up an excavation at the site. The fort, called Burrough Hill, was carved into the side of a 690-foot (210 meters) mound in the modern-day English county of Leicestershire during the Iron Age, around 500 BCE, and was used until the third or fourth century CE of the Roman period.

A five-year excavation of the site yielded bones, jewelry, pottery and even game pieces. Archaeologists opened the hillfort to visitors on June 29, hosting guided tours that allow people to touch some of the artifacts, and offering Iron Age combat lessons before the dig comes to a close at the end of the summer. Last year, the team discovered a collection of stone tools and pottery that dates back to 2800 BCE. In the final stage of the excavation, archaeologists will investigate what they believe could be a second entrance into the fort.

The whole fort system discovered at Borough Hill spans 523,000 square feet (48,600 square meters) and includes several ramparts that stand 10 feet (3 m) tall. After the Iron Age, the fort was abandoned as a defense post and then used as a farmstead. Later, it hosted a large medieval festival. The team of archaeologists hopes the discovery of artifacts, such as pottery and quern stones used for grinding corn, will shed light on the lives of humans living in the Iron Age and help historians better understand the transition from the Iron Age into the Roman period.

Edited from Live Science (24 June 2014)
[1 image]