Sunday, October 04, 2015


Tracks left along an ancient shore by a man, a woman, and a child on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia may be the oldest known human footprints in North America. A dozen prints, in three distinct sizes, were discovered by researchers working on Calvert Island, a coastal isle in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest that has yielded other evidence of human activity dating to the end of the last Ice Age.

The first of the footprints was found last year, filled with black sand and traces of charcoal, a sample of which was radiocarbon-dated to 13,200 years ago. The find adds to evidence that the first people didn't arrive in the Americas via an ice-free corridor east of the Rockies about 12,000 years ago, but down the Pacific Coast much earlier. In recent years, archeologists have steadily been pushing back the date of the earliest human presence on the Pacific Coast

Dr Duncan McLaren, of the University of Victoria said: "We were specifically looking for archaeological deposits dating between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago" - artifacts such as stone tools and bones. Based on our sea-level history work, we know that the shoreline was a few meters below the present shoreline during this period. So we began testing in the intertidal zone in front of [the] archaeological site ... to see if we could find any intact deposits beneath the beach

The discoveries will likely provide insights into the earliest settlement of British Columbia, and perhaps the peopling of the Americas. "The oldest dated archaeological assemblage known before this is from Haida Gwaii, where a spear point was found in amongst bear bones in a cave, dating to around 12,500 years before present," McLaren reveals. "As far as I know, archaeological deposits from the ice-free corridor are not known before 12,500 years ago."

Edited from The Globe and Mail (22 June 2015), Western Digs (26 June 2016)
[1 image]
[4 images]


Anthropologists at Yamagata University have discovered 24 examples of the mysterious Nazca Lines in the arid region of southern Peru. The team began investigating the northern slopes of the urban areas of Nazca, Peru, from autumn 2013 and discovered 17 geoglyphs depicting llamas. This season they discovered five new examples near the area where they found geoglyphs the previous season, and 19 more on the slopes of a nearby mountain.

Discovered in the 1920s, the geoglyphs and line drawings of Nazca and Pampas de Jumana are designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. They are etched into the dusty soil and cover some 450 square kilometers.

The 24 newly discovered geoglyphs range from 5 to 20 meters in length, and are believed to date to around 400 BCE to 200 BCE, making them older than the iconic Nazca Line drawing known as the hummingbird. Most of the lines are heavily eroded, making them difficult to see with the naked eye. The researchers used equipment including a 3-D scanner to sketch out the patterns. Most of the drawings seem to depict llamas.

According to Masato Sakai, a professor of cultural anthropology at the university who is also the deputy director of the university's Nazca research institute: "There are no other areas concentrated with this many examples. Yet with both urban areas and farmland encroaching on the drawings, they are under the threat of being destroyed without being recognized as geoglyphs." The university plans to provide information to the Peruvian government's Culture Ministry, with which it is partnered, along with the city government of Nazca in the hopes of preserving the geoglyphs.

Edited from The Asashi Shimbun (8 July 2015)


A team led by Brian Redmond of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is excavating a 4,000-year-old site in northeastern Ohio. So far, they have uncovered a 75-millimetre-thick floor made from layers of yellow clay that was carried to the site. A basin was built into the floor, along with cooking pits and storage holes that held hickory nuts. Post holes show where hickory saplings were placed and then tied together to create a framework covered with cat-tail (marsh reed) mats.

Redmond thinks people migrated to the area from the southeast to spend the autumn and winter for a period of some 200 to 300 years. "There's nothing like this anywhere in Ohio. It's very significant, a much more significant site than we previously thought. These are house structures. This was like a village site."

The builders lived in what archaeologists classify as the Late Archaic period in North America, so far back that they don't have a tribal name. "We have no idea what they called themselves or what language they spoke," Redmond says. "The only reason we know anything about them is archaeology."

They were hunters and gatherers who lived before the advent of pottery or farming, and 2,000 years before mound-building. They ate fish from the nearby Black River and Lake Erie, small game such as squirrels and muskrat, and they specialized in deer. "We find a lot of butchered deer bones," Redmond reveals.

Farmers ploughed up arrowheads and other artefacts on the land over the years, and smaller digs explored the site as far back as 1971.

Edited from, Archaeology Magazine (14 July 2015)
[15 images, 1 video]
[1 image]


Bronze Age Greek city found underwater

A team of Greek and Swiss archaeologists have discovered what appears to be a significant coastal settlement now covered by the Mediterranean Sea and within sight of the nearby Lambayanna beach, in Kiladha Bay, on the Peloponnese Peninsula south of Athens. The remnants of an ancient Greek village of the 3rd millennium BCE were found by divers just under the surface of the bay that forms part of the Argolic Gulf of southern Greece.

Professor Julien Beck of the University of Geneva says, "The importance of our discovery is partly due to the large size of the establishment: at least 1.2 hectares were preserved," adding that the discovery is important also because of the quantity and quality of the artifacts.

The team of underwater archaeologists discovered stone defensive structures that are of a "massive nature, unknown in Greece until now," says Beck. The walls precede by one thousand years the first great Greek civilisation, the Mycenaean (1650-1100 BCE).

The buildings are characteristic of the Greek Bronze Age, which tend to be built on a rectilinear plan and circular or elliptical in shape. Paved surfaces, which could be streets or the remains of structures, were also found. Connected to the exterior fortifications were three significant stone structures - probably towers. Structures of this sort are unknown elsewhere in Greece. The team also found tools, including obsidian blades dating to the Helladic period (3200 to 2050 BCE). A map and drawings of the newly discovered village have yet to be drafted because of the sheer size of the find.
Along the shore near the site, archaeologists have found more than 6,000 objects, including fragments of the red ceramics that are characteristic of the area. Based on the style of the pottery, researchers believe that the site dates to the Early Helladic II phase, contemporaneous with the building of the famous Egyptian pyramids. Beck called the area an "archaeologist's paradise."

Edited from Spero News (27 August 2015)
[8 images]


An international team of researchers has sequenced the first complete genome of an Iberian farmer, which is also the first from the Mediterranean. This opens a window on understanding the distinctive genetic changes that map Neolithic migration in southern Europe, which possibly led to the abandonment of the hunter-gatherer way of life.

So far, only genomic data of various individuals belonging to the inland route have been available. This is partly due to the climatic conditions in southern Europe, which hinder the conservation of genetic material.

The team, led by Carles Lalueza-Fox from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, has sequenced the complete genome of a Neolithic woman from a tooth dated to 7400 years ago, recovered from the Cardial levels of the Cova Bonica cave in Vallirana, near Barcelona (Spain). Thanks to this, researchers have been able to determine that farmers from both Mediterranean and inland routes are very homogeneous, and clearly derive from a common ancestral population, that most likely were the first farmers who entered Europe through Anatolia.

Analysis of the genome from Cova Bonica has made it possible to determine the appearance of these pioneer farmers, who had light skin and dark eyes and hair. Modern Iberians mostly derive from those farmers, with Sardinians and Basques preserving the farming genetic component to the largest extent. This contrasts with previous Mesolithic hunters who had blue eyes and a darker skin than current Europeans.
According to Carles Lalueza-Fox: "the Iberian Peninsula is crucial to understanding the final impact of population movements such as the Neolithic, or the later steppe migrations that entered Europe from the East."

Edited from Popular Archaeology (3 September 2015)
[2 images


Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a massive stone monument buried under a thick, grassy bank only 3 kilometers from Stonehenge (Wiltshire, England). The hidden arrangement of up to 90 huge standing stones formed part of a C-shaped Neolithic arena that bordered a dry valley facing directly towards the river Avon.

"What we are starting to see is the largest surviving stone monument, preserved underneath a bank, that has ever been discovered in Britain and possibly in Europe," said Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist at Bradford University who leads the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project.

The stones are thought to have been hauled into position more than 4,500 years ago to form the southern edge of a ritual arena centered on a natural depression. The stones appear to have joined up with a chalk ridge that had been cut into, to accentuate the natural border.

Gaffney believes the stones were pushed over when the site was redeveloped by Neolithic builders. The recumbent stones became lost beneath a huge bank and were incorporated as a somewhat clumsy linear southern border to the otherwise circular "super-henge" known as Durrington Walls.

Paul Garwood, an archaeologist and lead historian on the project at the University of Birmingham, said the the new discoveries at Durrington Walls changed fundamentally how researchers understood Stonehenge and the world around it. "Everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be rewritten," he said.

Edited from BBC News, The Guardian (7 September 2015)
[2 videos, 2 images]
[2 videos, 1 image, 1 map]

Monday, August 24, 2015


The news that a prominent Syrian scholar has been brutally murdered by Islamic State militants has hit the arts community hard -- and has been condemned by Syria's antiquities chief, Maamoun Abdul Karim, as a "cowardly and criminal act of appalling brutality."

But the beheading of the 82-year-old Khaled Asaad, an archaeologist and researcher who for half a century has served as guardian of the exquisite ancient ruins at Palmyra, also demonstrates the great uncertainty facing the famed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Asaad's death is not a good omen for the future of this singular ancient city, an important Silk Road hub that bears Greco-Roman, Persian, Indian, Chinese and other influences -- some of which date back more than two millennia. Scholars around the world have been on edge about its future since May, when Islamic State militants invaded the area, killing hundreds of local residents. The militants are known as much for their violence against humans as for their destruction of historic sites -- from pre-Islamic pagan temples to Muslim shrines -- under the pretense that they are idolatrous.

While the militants largely left the ruins alone in the weeks following the invasion, by July, they had gotten around to destroying some of its statuary, including an important 2,000-year-old statue of a lion. At the time, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova described the destruction as being on an "industrial scale."

If the ruins at Palmyra were to be destroyed, the loss wouldn't just be a Syrian one. Palmyra was a place where East met West -- tied as much to Classical European civilizations as it was to the cultures of the Middle East and Asia. According to UNESCO, their destruction would be "an enormous loss to humanity."

The death of Asaad, in the meantime, represents the silencing of one of the ruins' most vaunted defenders. Asaad, who was born in Palmyra, had been director of the UNESCO heritage site for 50 years, from 1963 to 2003. Even after his retirement, he still worked as an expert with the antiquities and museum department.

Asaad had helped with the removal of many of the on-site museum's greatest treasures in anticipation of the invasion by Islamic State, and some experts theorize that is why he was killed. One Syrian source told the Guardian that the archaeologist had been interrogated by militants for about a month before his murder, likely about the location of Palmyra's treasures. But Asaad had refused to cooperate. His death is a tremendous loss. Asaad was intimately identified with Palmyra -- having been responsible for some of its most significant finds, including an intact third-century mosaic depicting a battle between human beings and mythical animals. Moreover, he had written countless texts on the history of the site.

"It's like you can't talk about Egyptology without talking about Howard Carter," one Syrian antiquities expert told the Guardian, in reference to the archaeologist who discovered Tutankhamun's tomb. "You can't write about Palmyra's history or anything to do with Palmyrian work without mentioning Khaled Asaad."

Asaad had refused to leave the city when Islamic State militants invaded this spring. As Abdul Karim recounted to the Daily Mail: "He told us, 'I am from Palmyra and I will stay here even if they kill me.'"

Sadly, that has now come to pass.


Khaled Asaad, 82, is beheaded by militants outside the museum where he worked for more than 50 years looking after the city's ancient artifacts. Isis militants tortured and executed the antiquities chief of the ancient city of Palmyra, according to Syrian officials and activists.

A graphic image posted online by Isis-affiliated social media accounts purported to show the decapitated body of 82-year-old Khaled Asaad, his distinctive glasses still placed on his head on the ground.

The head of Syria's department of antiquities said that militants later took Mr Asaad's body from the square where he was executed and hung it from a Roman column in one of the ruins he had dedicated more than 50 years of his life to restoring.

A placard attached to the remains pictured online reportedly claimed Mr Asaad had been killed for overseeing "idols" in the ancient city, attending "infidel" conferences as Syrian representative, and for staying in touch with his brother and with palace officials in the wake of Isis's takeover.

Maamoun Abdulkarim, based in Damascus, said Mr Asaad's family told him the scholar had been held and interrogated by Isis for at least the past month. He said Isis had tried to get information about the city's "treasures" from the expert, without success.


Excavations at the Central Anatolian province of Çorum’s Alacahöyük site, one of the significant centers of the ancient Hittite civilization and Turkey’s first national excavation field, have unearthed various artifacts in a 3,700 year-old mine factory.

Professor Aykut Çınaroğlu, the head of the excavations that are carried out by Ankara University, said work had been continuing since 2009 and this year they discovered two copper bullions, proving the existence of the mine factory.

Çınaroğlu said the bullions were used for the production of various artifacts, adding that the remains dated back to 3,700 years ago.

“At this factory, we work in new rooms and new sections every year. This year we have been working for some 20 days and found the walls of the factory. Although this place is a third-degree earthquake area, we were surprised at the smoothness and durableness of these walls. We will keep them as they are without doing any restoration,” he said, adding that excavations at the site are ongoing.


Cut marks on two 3.4-million-year-old animal bones from Ethiopia were thought to be evidence that the beasts had been trampled by other animals long ago, but new research suggests that's not the case.

The new results debunk one theory for how the bones got their marks, and support — but do not, on their own, definitively prove — the alternative hypothesis that ancient human ancestors cut the bones. If that latter hypothesis turns out to be true, it would mean hominins — the group of species that consists of humans and their relatives after the split from the chimpanzee lineage — were butchering animals 800,000 years earlier than scientists had previously thought.

Combined with recent evidence that human predecessors used stone tools about 3.3 million years ago, the new study could help change the picture of human ancestors of the genus Australopithecus, whose members include the famous "Lucy" skeleton. [In Photos: 'Little Foot' Human Ancestor Walked With Lucy]

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Assessing the Destruction at Hatra
by Christopher Jones July 27, 2015 Culture, Education, Photos0 Comments
Last month reports swept through the global media that ISIS had used bulldozers to level the ancient city of Hatra. ISIS has already destroyed a number of irreplaceable sculptures from Hatra in the Mosul Museum, lending immediate credibility to reports from Iraqi antiquities officials that ISIS fighters had destroyed Hatra itself as well.

However, no videos or other confirmation surfaced for a month afterwards and there was no way to assess the extent of the damage. The story gradually faded from the media. Given the massive size of Hatra, and its location in the middle of the desert, in a region of no strategic significance, over fifty kilometers from inhabited areas, some grew skeptical that ISIS had mounted a major operation to demolish Hatra.

On Saturday video surfaced on YouTube and other websites which showed ISIS fighters destroying sculptures at Hatra. The voice-overs from several ISIS fighters contained the standard spiel about shirk, idolatry, and Muhammad destroying the idols of the Kaaba. The video was quickly removed, but I took some screenshots that will suffice illustrate the items which have been destroyed while leaving out the majority propaganda elements.

The good news is that the damage to Hatra is not as extensive was was first feared. The bad news is that more irreplaceable and unique Hatrene art has been damaged, threatening to further erase an already under-studied field.

At the beginning of the video there is an aerial shot of the ruins of Hatra which seems to have been shot from a blimp or drone. A graphic then highlights the Great Iwans and the Temple of the Triad with a label which reads “idols and statues.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015


A recently published study reveals that stone tools found almost by accident on the shore of Lake Turkana, in Kenya, in 2011, are by far the oldest known. The discovery challenges the notion that the things that made humans unique among primates all evolved around the same time, and suggests that other, more distant relatives knew how to fashion their own tools out of stone at least 3.3 million years ago.

Lead study author Sonia Harmand, of Stony Brook University and the Universite Paris Ouest Nanterre, says: "Our discovery instantly pushed back the beginning of the archaeological record by 700,000 years, or over a quarter of humanity's previously known material cultural history."

Many primates use items like sticks as tools, and other species even use rocks as tools, but actually making a tool was thought to be something exclusive to members of the genus Homo, which is believed to have appeared roughly 2.8 million years ago, and includes modern humans. The traditional view was that stone tool making, along with other key human traits such as language and meat-eating, evolved at that time.

It remains unknown what species made these stone tools. They could have been created by an undiscovered extinct human species, or by Australopithecus, which is currently the leading contender for the ancestor of the human lineage, or by Kenyanthropus, a 3.3-million-year-old skull of which was discovered in 1999 about 1 kilometre from where the tools were later found.

Replicating the toolmaking process, the researchers conclude the techniques used may represent a stage between the pounding used by earlier hominins and the knapping of later toolmakers. This discovery also has implications for understanding the evolution of the human brain. Scientists are now looking at the surfaces and edges of the tools and studying the sediment in which they were found to try to reconstruct how they were used.

Edited from LiveScience (20 May 2015), CNBC (21 May 2015)
[1 image]


A cave on the shore of Utah's Great Salt Lake is giving archaeologists a rare glimpse into prehistoric gambling. Cave 1 has proven to hold a profusion of artifacts, most of which date to a span of just 20 to 40 years in the late 13th century CE, belonging to members of an obscure culture known as the Promontory. Researchers believe the Promontory people migrated from the Canadian Subarctic to the American Southwest.

Heaps of animal remains and children's footwear unearthed in the cave suggest this group was thriving in the late 1200s, when cultures like the nearby Fremont, who lived just a few kilometers away, had given up farming and were struggling to forage during a time of drought. "The numbers and diversity of gaming artifacts that we see in the Promontory record are unparalleled in western North America," said Dr John Ives, an archaeologist who has been researching the cave complex for years.

Most of the game pieces are dice, made from split pieces of cane, one side decorated with cut or burned lines, the other side plain. Many were discovered near the entrance of the cave, around a large central hearth. According to Alberta doctoral student Gabriel Yanicki, who is collaborating on the research, dice games were typically played only by women, for small stakes, or to allocate tasks like cooking.

Based on historical accounts, the pieces may have been used in a game in which three to eight dice were thrown to score points based on how many of the marked sides fell face-up, won by the first player to reach a predetermined score. While men usually didn't take part in dice games themselves, they often bet on the results.

The greatest significance of Cave 1's game pieces may not just be in how they were used, but in where they came from. The artifacts include gambling tools from nearly every part of the ancient American West. The cane dice are similar to those found throughout much of the Southwest, but not elsewhere in the Great Basin.

Researchers also discovered a die made from a beaver tooth wrapped in sinew, of a type used by the Klamath culture on the Oregon coast, 1400 kilometers to the west. "A spiral-incised stick looks similar to objects used in a guessing game played by a number of peoples in northern British Columbia," Yanicki says. A small sinew-netted hoop and feathered dart are indicative of gambling traditions from the Great Plains to the Colorado Plateau.

Edited from Western Digs (18 May 2015)
[4 images]


Researchers in Peru have discovered a trio of statuettes they believe were created by the ancient Caral civilization some 3,800 years ago. The mud statuettes were found inside a reed basket in a building at the ancient city of Vichama in northern Peru, which is today an important archaeological site. The Caral civilization emerged some 5,000 years ago and lived in Peru's Supe Valley, leaving behind impressive architecture including pyramids and sunken amphitheaters.

The newly found statuettes were probably used in religious rituals performed before breaking ground on a new building. Two of the figures, a naked man and woman painted in white, black and red, are believed to represent political authorities. The third, a woman with 28 fingers and red dots on her white face, is believed to represent a priestess.

The research team, led by archaeologist Ruth Shady, also unearthed two mud figurines of women's faces wrapped in cloth and covered with yellow, blue and orange feathers.

Edited from PhysOrg (9 June 2015)
[1 image]


New archaeological research is revealing that south-west Britain was the scene of a prehistoric gold rush. Geological estimates now indicate that up to 200 kilos of gold was extracted in the Early Bronze Age from Cornwall and West Devon's rivers - mainly between the 22nd and 17th centuries BCE.

New archaeological and metallurgical research suggests that substantial amounts were exported to Ireland, with smaller quantities probably also going to France. It also suggests that the elites of Stonehenge almost certainly likewise obtained their gold from the south-west peninsula, as may the rulers of north-west Wales, who took to wearing capes made of solid gold.

The archaeologist who has carried out the metallurgical research, Dr Chris Standish of Southampton University, believes that although Cornwall's prehistoric gold production was of considerable cultural and potentially political significance, it was, for the most part, merely a by-product of an even more important industry - tin extraction. "The available evidence strongly suggests that in Bronze Age Cornwall and West Devon, tin wasn't obtained through mining, but was instead extracted from the areas' rivers, probably through panning or sophisticated damming and sluicing systems," said Dr Standish. "But, as well as finding tin in the sand and gravels of the streams and rivers, they also found gold," he added.

Indeed, fine woolly sheepskins may well have been used to 'catch' the tiny grains of both tin and gold - in a technique similar to that which, in ancient Greek mythology, probably gave rise to the concept of the Golden Fleece. Cornish tin was crucial to the development of the Bronze Age in Western Europe, Britain and Ireland - because in order to make bronze, the prehistoric metalworkers had to combine copper with tin.

Like much of the Cornish gold, some of the tin was almost certainly 'exported' to Ireland where it was mixed with Irish copper to make bronze. As the Bronze Age progressed, large quantities of tin were also exported to the great North Welsh copper mining area near Llandudno where it was used to make even greater quantities of bronze, especially bronze axes.

Although estimates suggest that up to 200 kilos of gold were extracted from the south-west peninsula during the Early Bronze Age, only around 270 gold artifacts from that period, totaling some eight kilos, have ever been found and recorded in Britain and Ireland. Much of the gold was beaten into thin sheets that were then cut into crescent-shaped 'breast plates'. Recent research suggests that they may have been used as part of sun worship rituals. Unlike many Bronze Age treasures, they were not normally used as grave goods for the dead - but were instead buried in peat bogs and other places as votive offerings to the gods.

Sadly, the great majority of gold artifacts originally manufactured during that era were almost certainly repeatedly melted down over the centuries to manufacture later artifacts.

Edited from The Independent (4 June 2015)
[15 images]


Archaeologists are embarking on a three-year series of excavations in the Vale of Pewsey, between the prehistoric monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury - a little explored archaeological region of international importance.

The project will investigate Marden Henge, built around 2400 BCE - the largest henge in the country, and one of Britain's most important but least understood prehistoric monuments. Excavation within the Henge will focus on the surface of a Neolithic building revealed during earlier excavations. The people who used this building may also have helped to build Stonehenge.

According to Dr Jim Leary, Director of the University of Reading Archaeology Field School: "This excavation is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Stonehenge and its surrounds. Using the latest survey, excavation and scientific techniques, the project will reveal priceless insight into the lives of those who witnessed its construction."

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, adds: "Bigger than Avebury, ten times the size of Stonehenge and half way between the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, comparatively little is known about this fascinating and ancient landscape. The work will help Historic England focus on identifying sites for protection and improved management, as well as adding a new dimension to our understanding of this important archaeological environment."

Edited from University of Reading PR (15 June 2015)


Archaeologists have returned to the sprawling Cardiff site where a series of discoveries were made in 2014, revealing that the hillfort was occupied from the Stone Age through the Roman era and beyond.

Following last year's emergence of five large roundhouses, a roadway, a decorated bead and extensive assemblages of pottery from the Iron Age, around 200 members of the public are expected to help Cardiff University experts at Caerau Hillfort - a 'significant' yet largely unknown prehistoric settlement. Neolithic flint tools and weapons dated to around 3,600 BCE, and Roman pottery remains were also found among impressive ramparts in the suburbs of the Welsh capital.

"Given that the site is five hectares in size, we're hopeful that the best is yet to come," says Dr Dave Wyatt, co-director of the CAER heritage project which has been supported by more than 2,000 local people since 2013. "Last year some mind-blowing discoveries were made which pushed back the origins of Cardiff deep into time. But we believe we're still just scratching the surface of this incredible site, so who knows what will be uncovered this year."

Edited from Culture24 (26 June 2015)
[1 image]

Monday, June 22, 2015


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015


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

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

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

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

Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to K.M.F. (email:

Published in Scientific Reports: 21 May 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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