Tuesday, June 16, 2020


Aubrey Burl, who has died aged 93, was an unusual archaeologist for our times. The enthusiast’s megalithic expert, he combined the advantages of experience as a university lecturer and excavator, a redundancy package and a literary fluency to build an independent career as a successful writer. He published around 30 books about prehistoric standing stones of north-west Europe. In his 70s he turned to subjects of historical mystery, launching his last book – on Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady”, who he identified as the self-centred wife of John Florio – at the age of 88.

Megaliths are one of the distinguishing features of prehistoric Britain and Ireland – Burl listed around 1,300 stone circles alone. Long attracting public interest, they were often ignored by professional archaeologists, sniffy about mystics and sceptical that standing stones had much to tell about the past. Burl found a balanced path between academic indifference and naive obsession, no more so than in his discussions of ley lines and archaeoastronomy, bringing rare archaeological sense when the latter discipline most needed it. His writing appealed to many archaeologists but also to fans of the pot-smoking John Michell or the unbounded enthusiast Julian Cope – no mean feat.

In 1970, the year Burl obtained his MA at Leicester University with a thesis on stone circles, he became principal lecturer in archaeology at Kingston upon Hull College of Education. There for a little over a decade, he continued to research neolithic and bronze age ritual monuments. He directed five excavations, at stone circles in Northumberland, Moray, Aberdeenshire and the Isle of Arran, and he established a reputation as a readable and informed writer, producing some of his key books.

The first of these, The Stone Circles of the British Isles (1976), launched an enduring partnership with Yale University Press. Prehistoric Avebury (1979) was a fond analysis that mixed antiquarian and his personal observations of the then little-researched monuments in north Wiltshire. He wrote Rings of Stone (1979) to accompany photographs by Edward Piper, and Megalithic Rings (1980) for detailed surveys – many of which he had a part in – by the Thoms, father and son, who had contrived a “megalithic yard”, supposedly an ancient unit of measurement.

Finally, Rites of the Gods (1981) set out his distinctive vision of prehistoric Britain as a place of primitive religion and bleak living (“There is little sense of time or change,” complained one academic reviewer. “The approach is literary, not analytical”). He also fitted in lecturing, guiding and broadcasting, though, as a quiet man who preferred the company of friends and enthusiasts over a pint of beer or a glass of Laphroaig to the limelight of cameras, he was not destined to become a television personality.

Born in London, Aubrey was the son of Harry Burl, an engineer, and his wife, Lily (nee Wright). Called up in 1944, he joined the Royal Navy, where he became a sub-lieutenant. After studying at the University of London, he taught history and archaeology at Leicester University before moving to Hull. He was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and an honorary fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

He married first Olwen Hughes, a teacher and artist, with whom he had a son, Christopher; then Margaret O’Neil, a lecturer, with whom he had a son, Geoffrey; and finally Judith Lawson, an administrator at the University of Birmingham. She survives him.

• Harry Aubrey Woodruff Burl, writer and archaeologist, born 24 September 1926; died 8 April 2020


A Cortez man has been sentenced to federal prison for damaging an archaeological resource, an ancestral Puebloan site, in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Shadrick Winbourn, 57, was sentenced to 12 months and one day for violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado.

Winbourn made several trips into a section of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, near Cortez, in May and June 2017, where he located an ancestral Puebloan ceremonial site with a large dance plaza, a likely subterranean kiva, and multiple human burials. “Winbourn illegally excavated, removed, damaged and altered the site,” the news release said. He was arrested June 4, 2017, on an unrelated warrant, and a Bureau of Land Management ranger found pottery shards in Winbourn’s pockets and additional artifacts in a backpack.

In all, investigators found 64 items from the protected site in his possession, including jewelry, an axe head, and other tools, the release said. Archaeologists have restored the site and curated the stolen objects.

“Archaeological resources at the Canyons of the Ancients are irreplaceable cultural artifacts that have been entrusted to the common good,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn in the release. “Anyone who seeks to destroy or profit off of these resources will face prosecution and serious consequences.”

The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is 176,000 acres of public land administered by the BLM. It contains more than 6,355 recorded archaeological sites rich with well-preserved artifacts of native cultures.


A treasure chest full of gold, jewels and other valuables worth more than $1m (£790,000) is said to have been found in the Rocky Mountains.

Antiquities collector Forrest Fenn says he hid the bronze chest more than a decade ago, creating a treasure hunt for people to find it.

Thousands of people searched for it, many quitting their jobs and using up their savings. Four people died.

Now, Mr Fenn says, a man from "back East" has finally tracked it down.

"It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago," Mr Fenn, an 89-year-old millionaire from New Mexico, said in a statement.


Two people have been charged in relation to a vineyard built at Wairau Bar, an archaeological site, in Blenheim.

The charges were filed in the Blenheim District Court last week, on 3 June, by Heritage New Zealand following its investigation late last year into whether a vineyard at Wairau Bar modified or destroyed archaeological sites.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga chief executive Andrew Coleman said the Wairau Bar was well-known, and is believed to be one of the earliest Māori settlements.

"It's got urupā, it's got burial ground, there are lots of other archaeological features right across the Wairau Bar," Coleman said.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020


Whatever it was, after peeking inside with an X-ray machine, officers opened the trunks and found themselves gazing upon what at first appeared to be a treasure trove of Mesopotamian antiquities, protected by cardboard and bubble wrap. Most likely looted from archaeological sites in Iraq, they had been dispatched to a private address in the UK.

The lucrative business of supplying unscrupulous private collectors around the world with the looted heritage of the nations, that now straddle the lost empires of the ancient world, began in earnest in the chaos that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In recent years, however, thanks to increased stability and security in Iraq and the on-the-ground support of the British Museum and other overseas institutions, the situation has improved.

So much so, in fact, that when experts at the British Museum examined the contents of the two trunks, they discovered that the Border Force had intercepted not stolen artifacts worth tens of thousands of pounds, but a collection of worthless fake antiquities. To Dr. Simpson’s expert eye, the items were obviously very bad fakes. “All it took was one look, really,” he said. “It’s far better that there are fakes out there than real trafficked antiquities.”

Comparison of these original artifacts with the seized haul of fakes shows what the forgers were aiming for — and how badly they missed their target. Unlike looting, which deprives an entire nation of its heritage, faking artifacts has only one direct victim — an unscrupulous wealthy individual blessed, perhaps, with rather more money than sense.

Among the seized items were 190 fake clay tablets covered in cuneiform script; the early form of writing invented by the Sumerians some 6,000 years ago. The forgers had gone to the trouble of mastering the technique of creating the script by pressing a cut-reed or wooden stylus into damp clay — the word cuneiform comes from the Latin word for a wedge. “It’s actually quite a lot of effort to produce these things,” says Simpson, but it was all in vain. Much of what they had written was “gibberish.” Many of the inscriptions were an incoherent jumble of signs, some invented, while others were upside-down. If this had not been enough to give the game away, it was obvious that the clay tablets, quite apart from having been made from the wrong sort of clay, had all been fired to a high temperature in a modern kiln, whereas the real items would have been dried by the heat of the sun.

Even more suspicious, concluded the British Museum, was the fact that “the collection seemed to represent a virtually complete range of basic types known from ancient Mesopotamia.” It included cushion-shaped school texts designed to be held in one hand and written on one side only; inscribed cylinders designed for burial; administrative texts; a royal inscription referring to the late-Assyrian king, Adadnirari, a mathematical tablet; and an amulet clearly copied from a unique example excavated at the Assyrian capital of Nimrud.

It was, said the museum, “as if the whole genre of ancient Mesopotamian writing was represented in one shipment: An entire collection ready for a single, uninformed buyer.” Faking, added Simpson, “is an emerging trend. There is still looting going on in certain parts of the world — in parts of Syria there has been very bad looting. But the supply of fakes is on the increase. We see examples brought to us by law enforcement all the time, and this applies to mosaics, glass, metal, carved stone sculptures and clay tablets, like these.”

Looting in Iraq is now largely under control, said Simpson, who last year visited one site in the south of the country that had been seriously damaged by looters in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion. “That was a really bad case of organized looting of an early second millennium BC site, where all the prominent areas of ancient
It was, he said, in effect “a massive crime scene.”

The seized fakes will now be used for teaching and training purposes and a selection will go on display for a short period at the British Museum when it reopens.

Two mysteries continue to surround the consignment seized by the UK Border Force. The news about the seizure has emerged only now, almost a year after the discovery, for legal reasons, yet despite extensive investigations no arrests have been made in the UK.
The source of the fakes also remains unknown. Exactly where the forgers’ workshops are based “is difficult to say at the moment,” said Simpson. “We believe they are probably somewhere within the Middle East, but we have seen evidence of metalwork purporting to be from Iran or the Islamic world actually being made in the Far East. There is a global market.


One of the most important articles ever published by a 19th-century newspaper called The Baltimore Patriot & Evening Advertiser didn’t even make the front page. It appeared on Page 2.

The article was about a new song, “The Defence of Fort M’Henry.” The title was anything but catchy or enduring, but the newspaper said the song itself was “destined long to outlast the occasion, and outlive the impulse, which produced it.”

For once, a prediction in a newspaper proved correct. The song caught on, and its author, Francis Scott Key, became famous for it after it was retitled “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Still, that issue of The Patriot took on historical significance, because it was the first printing of Key’s lyrics with a date — Sept. 20, 1814, three days after Key had completed the lines he had begun scribbling on the back of a letter he was carrying.

The issue was important enough to end up in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, which concentrates on 18th- and 19th-century documents and memorabilia, especially newspapers. Its goal is to have one copy of every newspaper printed between 1640 and 1876 in the American colonies or, after the Declaration of Independence, the United States. It has two million newspapers on hand.


Excavations have revealed a unique Second Temple period subterranean system hewn in the bedrock beneath an impressive 1400-year-old

Archaeologists have begun to ponder about a new mystery near the Western Wall: Why did people invest such huge efforts and resources in hewing such an impressive subterranean system 2,000 years ago, while life was going on in the homes above-ground?

This system, the first of its kind uncovered in the area of the Western Wall Plaza and Tunnels, was exposed in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the “Beit Straus” complex, beneath the entrance lobby to the Western Wall Tunnels. The excavations at the site, renewed about a year ago, are being conducted as part of the work to prepare for a new and fascinating tour in addition to the classic Western Wall Tunnels tour run by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. Researchers suppose that the complex was used by Jerusalem residents during the Early Roman period, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. The system was sealed beneath the floor of a large and impressive structure from the Byzantine period, waiting for some 2,000 years to be discovered.

The discovery was made by students of a pre-military preparatory program in Jerusalem. The students have been integrated in archaeological digs as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s educational policy, wishing to connect youth with their past. The system they discovered is composed of an open courtyard and two rooms arranged in three levels one above the other and connected by hewn staircases.

Neanderthal gene amazing associated with European women

Karolinska Institute
One in three women in Europe inherited the receptor for progesterone from Neanderthals -- a gene variant associated with increased fertility, fewer bleedings during early pregnancy and fewer miscarriages, according to new research.

Friday, May 29, 2020


US prosecutors are seeking to confiscate a rare ancient tablet from a Christian museum co-founded by the president of retailer Hobby Lobby. The 3,500-year-old artifact, from what is now Iraq, bears text from the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world's oldest works of literature. Prosecutors allege that an auction house deliberately withheld information about its origins. Hobby Lobby said it was co-operating with government investigations.

It bought the tablet from the auction house in a private sale in 2014 for $1.67m (£1.36m) for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington. The office of the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York says the tablet was illegally imported into the US.
Prosecutors did not name the auction house in their public statement, but on Tuesday Lobby House filed a lawsuit against Christie's in relation to the tablet.

Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, the artifact features sections of a Sumerian poem - parts of the epic mirror stories from the Old Testament, such as the Garden of Eden. According to a civil suit filed by US prosecutors on Monday, the tablet was originally purchased by an antiques dealer in 2003 in London. In 2007, the dealer sold it to another buyer for $50,000 and allegedly included a fake document claiming it had been obtained at an auction in the US in 1981.

Three years later, when the museum's curator asked for clarity about the tablet's origins, the auction house allegedly withheld information about its origins, including the fake letter which it knew "would not withstand scrutiny", the prosecutors said.

The tablet was seized from the museum in September last year; Monday's legal move was a formal attempt to take possession. Iraq's ministry of antiquities told US broadcaster NPR that it was working to find out if the tablet was one of thousands of items stolen from its museum in 1991. At least nine of the country's 13 regional museums were looted that year when Saddam Hussein's regime lost control of certain areas of the country, soon after his invasion of Kuwait.

The civil suit comes after Hobby Lobby was fined $3m and forced to hand over thousands of smuggled ancient artifacts from Iraq which it had bought for the Bible museum.

In March, the museum's board chairman, Steve Green, also disclosed that it had discovered another 5,000 papyrus fragments and 6,500 clay objects in its collection with insufficient provenance. He said the artifacts would be returned to Egypt and Iraq.


An Italian woman has won a painting by Pablo Picasso, worth about €1m (£900,000; $1.1m), in a raffle after being given the ticket as a gift. The winning ticket was pulled out during a live draw at Christie's auction house in Paris.

The event, which was fundraising for Care charity, had been postponed twice - first to sell more tickets, and then because of coronavirus restrictions.

The prize painting, Nature Morte, is a still life from 1921. It is a relatively small artwork - measuring 9in by 18in (23cm by 46cm) - which shows a glass of absinthe and a newspaper on a table.


The tomb of a woman dating back about 2700 years has been uncovered by archaeologists in France.

The woman, who is believed to have lived at the start of the Iron Age in the eighth century BC, was found adorned with jewelry which had been preserved over millennia.

"Inside the coffin, the deceased, a middle-aged woman, was laid on her back, arms beside her body, dressed and adorned with her jewelry," the archaeologists wrote in a statement about the discovery.

The tomb is 2.85 metres long and 1.1 metres wide and featured pottery placed next to the woman's head. (Inrap)
"An entire pottery vase was placed near and to the right of her head." The body of the woman was found wearing a bracelet on each wrist and a belt around her hips – something not seen in other burials at the site.

The adornments are blue and blue-green in color and made of glass beads and decorated with light-colored threads, alternating with a series of copper alloy beads

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Two huge international police and customs operations targeting the trade in stolen artworks and archaeological artifacts have led to the arrest of 101 people and the recovery of more than 19,000 items, including a pre-Columbian gold mask, a carved Roman lion and thousands of ancient coins.

The joint initiatives – which involved officers from Interpol, Europol, the World Customs Organization and many national police forces – focused on the criminal networks that steal from museums, plunder archaeological sites and take advantage of the chaos in war-afflicted countries to loot their cultural treasures.

Details of the two concurrent investigations carried out last autumn are emerging only now for operational reasons. Police officers in Spain recovered several rare pre-Columbian objects at Madrid’s Barajas airport, including a unique Tumaco gold mask, gold figurines and pieces of ancient jewellery. All had been illegally acquired by looting in Colombia. Three traffickers were arrested in Spain, while Colombian police carried out a series of searches in Bogotá, resulting in the confiscation of a further 242 pre-Columbian objects – the largest such seizure in the country’s history.

Spain’s Guardia Civil police force said nine people were arrested in the country during the crackdown, and a Roman lion carved in limestone was recovered, as well as a frieze and three Roman columns. Argentinian federal police seized 2,500 ancient coins, Latvian state police a further 1,375 coins, and Afghan customs officials at Kabul confiscated 971 cultural objects bound for Istanbul. Other items recovered during the operations included fossils, paintings, ceramics and historical weapons.

Europol said law enforcement agencies across the world needed to combat what it termed a “global phenomenon” that went well beyond the trade in looted artefacts, and that was closely related to other kinds of widespread criminal activity.

“Organised crime has many faces,” said its executive director, Catherine de Bolle. “The trafficking of cultural goods is one of them: it is not a glamorous business run by flamboyant gentlemen forgers, but by international criminal networks. You cannot look at it separately from combating trafficking in drugs and weapons: we know that the same groups are engaged, because it generates big money.”


A haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure dating back 1,500 years which was found buried on farmland six decades ago is expected to fetch £30,000 at auction. The ancient items - which shed light on life in medieval England - were hailed as one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century when they were uncovered between 1962 and 1979.

An Anglo-Saxon amber beaded necklace with semi-precious stones was among items found More and more items, dating back to 425-600 AD, were gradually unearthed from 72, mainly female, graves including rare brooches, pots, knives and spearheads. Silver pendants, using characters from the early Teutonic alphabet, were also discovered at the site during excavations led by Mr Taylor almost 60 years ago.

It also includes tweezers, scissors, jewellery, amber and pottery beads and a girdle-hanger, which resembled keys and symbolised women controlling the home. Mr Taylor, of Cleethorpes, died in 2017 at the age of 88 and left his collection to his wife Muriel, who now wants the collection to end up in a museum.


Archaeologists have found a large ancient tortoise statue during an excavation at Srah Srang temple standing on an island in the middle of Srah Srang reservoir in the complex of the famed Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia, a spokesman said on Thursday.

Long Kosal, communications director and spokesman for the Apsara National Authority, which manages the park, said the tortoise statue was unearthed on Wednesday by a group of the Apsara National Authority archaeologists during the excavation.

“The large tortoise statue was made of sandstone,” he told Xinhua, adding that it is unclear yet how big or heavy the tortoise is.


-- Chinese archaeologists announced significant achievements at the Shuanghuaishu site in central China's Henan Province, providing key proof of the origin of the over 5,000-year-long Chinese civilization. -- With an area of 1.17 million square meters, the Shuanghuaishu site, dating back to around 5,300 years, is located on the south bank of the Yellow River in the township of Heluo, Gongyi City, and was proposed to be named "Heluo kingdom."

-- A large number of relics of the Yangshao Culture dating back 5,000 to 7,000 years have been discovered at the site.

With an area of 1.17 million square meters, the Shuanghuaishu site is located on the south bank of the Yellow River in the township of Heluo, Gongyi City. The ancient city relic dating back to around 5,300 years ago was proposed by Chinese archaeologists to be named "Heluo kingdom" after its location in the center of the Heluo area, where the Yellow River (known as He in ancient China) and the Luohe River meet.

"The Shuanghuaishu site is the highest-standard cluster with the nature of a capital city discovered so far in the Yellow River basin in the middle and late stage of Yangshao Culture, the early stage of the formation of Chinese civilization," said Li Boqian, a professor at Peking University, at a press conference on major archaeological discoveries at Shuanghuaishu site held Thursday in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital.


Archaeologists have unearthed a massive structure in Lolland that is believed to have been used to ward off an attacking army back in the Roman Iron Age. So far, 770 metres of the structure has been detected, but Museum Lolland-Falster estimates it could stretch to twice that.

“This is a really big structure. It’s taken a lot of work to build,” Bjørnar Måge, an archaeologist and curator from Museum Lolland-Falster, told TV2 News. “We believe the structure was built around a kilometre from the coast between two impenetrable wetland areas – in a bid to stop attacking foe from entering Lolland.”



Even more confounding was the discovery of another burial near the chieftain's remains, that of an older man buried in a seated position, according to Foundations Archaeology, a British-based archaeological consultancy. The older man was buried with one head and hoof offering and nothing else, said Andy Hood, an archaeologist with Foundations Archaeology, who helped excavate the site.

"One of the mysteries is, what was the relationship between those two men?" Hood told Live Science. The two likely had some type of social bond, but it's unclear why they were buried so close to each other, he said.

Archaeologists found the burials in 2017, ahead of the construction of a skate park in Lechlade-on-Thames, a town in the southwestern county of Gloucestershire, England. Radiocarbon dating revealed that the two men lived in about 2200 B.C.

The chieftain's burial held the skulls and hooves from four different cattle, Hood said. Head and hoof burial offerings were practiced in Europe during the Bronze Age, but were less common in Britain. "In fact, all previous examples here [in the U.K.] have been single cattle burials, so the Lechlade burial is unique in this regard," because it had four, Hood said.

The age and style of the burials, as well as artifacts found near the chieftain, suggest that these men were part of the Beaker culture, named for its beaker-like ceramic pots. According to recent DNA studies, the people in this culture arrived from mainland Europe around 2400 B.C. They were an impressive lot who might have been the first to use copper and bronze in Britain, "so we think that their arrival is a fairly important moment in prehistory," Hood said.


Satire by Dagny Carlsson on May 4, 2020

It is little known that the University’s stated objective, “to qualify students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life” formerly included the phrase “through both mental and physical education.” This emphasis on physical education was slowly forgotten, as Stanford failed to require physical education classes. But this year, the University will honor the Stanfords’ original wishes by adding a new course offering.

Beginning in winter 2021, the course CLASSICS 8L: “How to be a Gladiator” will be open for enrollment. However, the enrollment process for the class will be slightly different: It is expected that students will be required to sign waivers acknowledging that Stanford is not liable for any injuries sustained during the course. “In addition to custom weapons, the instructors will require the students to wear their own armor designs. Therefore, if a student is injured, the scar will help them to remember to improve their armor quality in the future,” Brubaker-Cole added.

“It would be a fantastic location,” noted classics professor David Parker. “In case of injury, students are slightly closer to Vaden, and the slope would ensure that students would be forced to fight. This is important, as instead of a final, we are planning a class-wide brawl. Hopefully, we will be allowed to open the event to the entire University so as to convey a more realistic colosseum experience. Perhaps this can be a Cardinal Nights event.”

“If the course is successful, the classics department plans to partner with the physics department to plan CLASSICS 9L: ‘Chariot Racing.’ I anticipate the logistics for that course would be easier, as we have plenty of good bike paths to use around campus.”

Unfortunately, CLASSICS 8L is expected to replace the course Social Dance 1, which will no longer be offered.
Editor’s Note: This article is purely satirical and fictitious. All attributions in this article are not genuine and this story should be read in the context of pure entertainment only.


Culture Minister Lina Medoni said visitor limits would be imposed at most of the reopened sites, including open-air cinemas, which will start operating on June 1 and will keep about half the available seats empty.

Seating changes, she said, will also be introduced at the ancient theaters of Epidaurus, in southern Greece, and Herodes Atticus in Athens where open-air concerts and performances are held each summer.“In each case, special measures will be taken to protect staff and the public,” Medoni said.

She did however clarify that the smooth running of cultural events and activities this summer depends almost entirely on the latest epidemiological data and as such all are open to changes.

Visitors in archeological sites should keep a 1.5 meters distance to the next person - 2 meters at museums. In museums, restrictions will apply to how many can enter within an hour, while priority will be given to electronic ticket holders.

With its vital tourism industry heavily affected by the pandemic, Greece is expected to sink back into deep recession in 2020 and is hoping to salvage some of the holiday season with an expected tourism boost.

Monday, May 11, 2020


vidence continues to mount that the Neandertals, who lived in Europe and Asia until about 40,000 years ago, were more sophisticated people than once thought. A new study from UC Davis shows that Neandertals chose to use bones from specific animals to make a tool for specific purpose: working hides into leather.

The results show that the bones used to make lissoirs mostly came from animals in the cattle family, such as bison or aurochs (a wild relative of modern cattle that is now extinct). But other animal bones from the same deposit show that reindeer were much more common and frequently hunted for food. So the Neandertals were choosing to use only ribs from certain types of animals to make these tools.

“I think this shows that Neandertals really knew what they were doing,” Martisius said. “They were deliberately picking up these larger ribs when they happened to come across these animals while hunting and they may have even kept these rib tools for a long time, like we would with a favorite wrench or screwdriver.” Bovine ribs are bigger and more rigid than deer ribs, making them better suited for the hard work of rubbing skins without wearing out or breaking.

“Neandertals knew that for a specific task, they needed a very particular tool. They found what worked best and sought it out when it was available,” Martisius said.

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Our Roman forebears were flipping burgers as early as 1,500 years ago. Try your hand at making a tasty homemade burger using this authentic historic recipe

The burgers, known by the Romans as isicia omentata, were an early example of fast food.
The hamburger is often thought of as a relatively recent innovation – a treat associated with summer barbecues, football terraces or a late-night visit to the Golden Arches.

However, historical evidence suggests that our forebears were flipping burgers as early as 1,500 years ago. Inside the ancient Roman cookbook Apicius, compiled by an anonymous author in the fourth or fifth century AD, you’ll find a dish named isicia omentata, which sounds remarkably similar to a recipe for a slightly-upmarket beef burger.

Like their modern descendants, these patties would have been sold at fast food establishments across the Roman empire known as thermopolia, perhaps as a lunchtime treat.

This particular take on the recipe will make a total of four burgers. There’s also the option of wrapping each patty in caul fat for an extra meaty flavour.

minced beef 500g
pine kernels 60g
garum (or other fish-based sauce) 3 tsp
Juniper berries handful
Ground pepper
Fresh coriander handful
Caul fat optional
Flat bread buns to serve

Grind up the pine kernels and then mix in a bowl with the minced beef and all other ingredients.


Shape the mixture into four individual burger patties and wrap each one in caul fat if preferred.


Fry the patties with oil in a pan on a medium heat for 10 minutes, turning regularly, before serving plain or in a bun.


Newcastle University
The human language pathway in the brain has been identified by scientists as being at least 25 million years old -- 20 million years older than previously thought.

Monday, April 20, 2020


A new report published in Science Advances on the emergence of agriculture in highland Papua New Guinea shows advancements often associated with a later Neolithic period occurred about 1000 years' earlier than previously thought.

University of Otago Archaeology Programme Professor and report co-author Glenn Summerhayes says findings in Emergence of a Neolithic in highland New Guinea by 5000 to 4000 years ago, provide insights into when and how the highlands were first occupied; the role of economic plants in this process; the development of trade routes which led to the translocation of plants and technologies; and an associated record of landscape, environment and climate change through time.

The report details the earliest figurative stone carving and formally manufactured pestles in Oceania, dating to 5050 to 4200 years ago, which were found at a dig site in Waim. Also found were the earliest planilateral axe-adzes uncovered in New Guinea to date, and the first evidence for fibrecraft and interisland obsidian transfer from neighbouring islands over distances of at least 800km.

The combination of symbolic social systems, complex technologies, and highland agricultural intensification supports an independent emergence of a Neolithic around 1000 years before the arrival of Neolithic migrants, the Lapita, from Southeast Asia. When considered together with a growing corpus of studies indicating expansion and intensification of agricultural practices, these combined cultural elements represent the development of a regionally distinct Neolithic.

The research establishes dating for other finds at the site, including a fire lighting tool, postholes, and a fibrecraft tool with ochre, possibly used for colouring string fibre.

The report suggests increased population pressure on the uneven distribution of natural resources likely drove this process, which is further inferred by language and genetic divergence.

"This project is a follow-on where we wanted to construct a chronology of human presence in the Simbai/Kaironk Valley of Papua New Guinea by systematic archaeological survey with subsequent excavation and analysis of a select number of sites.


A team of researchers from the Innlandet County Council and NTNU University Museum in Norway and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. has found a large quantity of Viking-era artifacts in a long-lost mountain pass in Southern Norway. In their paper published in the journal Antiquity, the group describes the location of the pass, explains why it is suddenly revealing artifacts, and outlines what has been found thus far.

The pass was found back in 2011 on Lomseggen Ridge near a receding patch at Lendbreen glacier. Prior research suggested the reason the artifacts were emerging was because the glacier has been shrinking due to global warming. The team canvased the area over the years 2011 to 2015.

The search resulted in the discovery of a host of artifacts, 60 of which have been dated to between the years 300 AD to 1000. Analysis of the artifacts suggested there were two kinds of travelers through the pass—locals and long-distance trekkers. The researchers suggest locals used the pass to travel between summer and winter homes. Some of the artifacts also suggested that the pass was used mostly during the times when it was covered with snow—the very rocky terrain would have made walking or riding horses difficult. Snow would have smoothed the trail, making traversal less difficult.

The researchers found items such as tunics and mittens, along with horse fittings such as shoes and bits. They also found remnants of sleds, and in one case, the remains of a dog with a collar and leash. Thus far, no human remains have been found in the area and such findings appear unlikely due to the short distance of the pass—it is just 700 meters long.

The researchers also found multiple cairns along the pass—rocks piled in such a way as to provide a guidepost, helping travelers navigate the easiest path through. They even found a small shelter, likely for travelers who found themselves in the midst of a sudden snowstorm.

The researchers suggest the pass fell into disuse as economic conditions changed amid colder winters in the 14th century, and then as the bubonic plague led to restricted travel.