Tuesday, August 15, 2017


A man in California holds a book in his hand. It contains a personal dedication from his former school teacher. The elderly man was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. Beyond a family photo and one item of clothing, the book is the only thing that he has from his former home country. He has tears in his eyes. The book was recently returned to him, its rightful owner. "Such moments are truly filled with happiness, because we see that all of our work is really worth it," says Uwe Hartmann, head of provenance research at the German Lost Art Foundation in Magdeburg.

The Lost Art Foundation has organized a program called "Initial Check" in order to enable the search for stolen books in smaller German libraries: The program has tasked three experienced provenance researchers to scour libraries in Saxony-Anhalt, and look for suspicious items. Their aim is to find out whether such inventory items are in fact looted goods.

Elena Kiesel is conducting research related to the Magdeburg City Library. The historian knows exactly which Jewish families or political parties in the region were dispossessed. "She has the lists compiled during earlier studies," says librarian Cornelia Poenicke, referring to inventories put together after German reunification. In the early 1990s, researchers were looking at a completely different chapter in Germany's history of confiscations - namely those of estate owners in the early stages of East Germany's nascent communist era. "In the end, she will go through the library's shelves and look through the books, at least part of them," adds Poenicke. "She won't make it through all 80,000 volumes but she will make random samples."

Finding looted books in small and medium-sized libraries is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. In Magdeburg, researchers are not even certain that there are any needles to be found. But larger finds have indeed been made in other libraries. For instance, the library of Jewish department store owners Hermann and Oskar Tietz - whose company Herman Tietz & Co. was rebranded as Hertie after the Nazis took possession of it - had been thought lost forever until just two years ago. Then 500 volumes from the collection were found in the city of Bautzen.

Uwe Hartmann says that books from Jewish collections started making their way into public libraries after compulsory expropriation began in the wake of the November 1938 Reichspogromnacht - also referred to in English as the Night of Broken Glass. But also when those fortunate enough to be able to emigrate were forced to sell off everything they owned in order to pay the obligatory Reich Flight Tax. Additionally, looting increased in areas occupied by the Nazis as the war went on. The persecution of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany was characterized by its perfidious systematization. But that is exactly what makes it possible to identify once stolen items today. One source of information is the inventory of the Reichstauschstelle, which functioned as an exchange for those interested in restocking libraries destroyed during the course of the war. Many of those exchanges were documented.

Unlike looted artworks, the Nazis were not necessarily interested in the financial value of individual books, but rather, at times, in their value in terms of "ideological counter research." The National Socialists and their leading ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, were keenly invested in collecting intellectual arguments against Judaism.

Since 2014, the German Lost Art Foundation has been spending some four million euros ($4.7 million) annually for provenance research in German libraries and museums. The financing, which comes from Germany's federal government, is a direct result of the 1998 Washington Principles agreement: In the agreement, signatory states pledged to find the prewar owners of looted property and find "fair and just solutions" for how to deal with such items.

The German Lost Art Foundation publishes descriptions of found books along with photos and stamp marks in its lostart.de databank when it cannot locate rightful owners or their heirs. This provides those owners or heirs the opportunity to contact the foundation. Although it is impossible to know what such research will bring, Maik Hattenhorst of the Magdeburg City Library says that he hopes to be able to point to positive discoveries by the time the library celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2025.

"We look at Bautzen and now the five libraries in Saxony-Anhalt as examples," says Uwe Hartmann. "Six thousand libraries across Germany are stocked with historical books. That is why I always tell my students: Not even the next generation of museum and library staff will be able to finish what you have started."


Mosaics in the city of Jerash lie where they were left more than 1,200 years ago when the settlement was abandoned. A devastating earthquake struck the city in the year 749 CE, after which the surviving inhabitants of the town never returned. Now a house where mosaics were made has been discovered in the city, offering a snapshot in time of an artisan's studio when the disaster struck.

Jerash has been studied and gradually excavated for more than 100 years, but archaeologists are still revealing new aspects of the city at the time of the earthquake. Recent investigation has revealed several mosaics from the Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.
One building discovered in 2015 stood out as something unusual, described in a study published in the journal Antiquity and found in the north-west quarter of the city.

"This area, covering approximately 3,000 square metres, might almost be termed the 'Pompeii of the East', displaying frozen moments in time," write study authors Achim Lichtenberger of the University of Münster, Germany, and Rubina Raja of Aarhus University, Denmark.

The building was centered around a rectangular room with an arch, opening onto a courtyard. It was well maintained with layers of plaster showing suggesting that it was in the process of renovation when the earthquake hit. It's thought that the building was a work space rather than someone's house. A trough full of perfect tesserae – or small cubes of stone for making mosaics – was found at the site.

"The trough served for the storage of tesserae; it was completely filled with thousands of pristine unused white tesserae," the authors write. "No similar installation for tesserae storage had ever been found before. In this case it is clear that the tesserae were unused and therefore part of the preparation for mosaic production."

There has been much debate about how mosaicists worked in this period. Until now there had been relatively little evidence to determine whether they worked in a mobile, traveling fashion or had permanent bases. The discovery of the 'House of the Tesserae' suggests the latter scenario is the more likely.

"The trough in the house at Jerash clearly suggests a kind of storage intended for more than just short-term construction. It could be claimed, therefore, that we do indeed have a studio of a workshop with a tesserae storage facility in the room where craftsmen worked."


Kira Westaway of Macquarie University and her colleagues have found evidence of the presence of Homo sapiens on the Indonesian island of Sumatra dated to between 63,000 and 73,000 years ago, according to a report in New Scientist. “This is a significant finding because it supports emerging ideas that modern humans left Africa and reached Australia much earlier than we thought,” said Michelle Langley of Griffith University.

The evidence came in the form of two teeth, discovered by Dutch archaeologist Eugene Dubois in a cave on Sumatra in the late nineteenth century. The researchers confirmed the teeth belonged to Homo sapiens by comparing them to orangutan fossils found near the cave, and then dated them with electron spin resonance dating. Scientists could now look for traces of early human habitation in the rain forest, such as evidence of cooking and stone tool use. But, Langley notes, “It’s possible they were just passing through.”

Monday, August 07, 2017


Not long after Dan Arnit made the biggest archaeological find of his career, he had to go build a parking lot.

The news of his discovery—3,000-year-old footprints made by a family walking through ancient fields—had made it up the chain at the Pima County government in Arizona, which wanted to show off the oldest footprints ever found in the Southwest. But the archaeological site was a mess. Arnit was his team’s backhoe operator when he found the footprints, so he and his tractor got a new job: Build a parking lot for hundreds of eager visitors.

Arnit doesn’t usually build parking lots anymore. He specializes in the delicate work of using heavy machinery to dig trenches at archaeological sites. With custom equipment made in his own machine shop, Arnit can shave off as little as one millimeter of dirt at a time with a backhoe. “He is by far the most knowledgeable operator I know,” said Mary Prasciunas, an archaeologist at Pima Community College. Prasciunas has worked with Arnit on digs throughout Arizona as well as a mammoth site in Wyoming. Archaeologists frequently rely on heavy machine operators like Arnit—“artists with a backhoe,” as one archaeologist called them—to dig delicately but quickly through the earth.


In an eight-minute skit, the students reenacted a fictional segment of a Fox News program in which ancient Roman leader Julius Caesar and his adopted son, Emperor Augustus, give advice to President Donald Trump about governance.

“President Trump, you have done a great job at getting some of the people to love you, but in doing so, you’re actually dividing the country,” said the student portraying Julius Caesar. “If you truly want to make America great, you need to unite the nation under a common identity. It’s the stuff of the Romans’ genius – their ability to integrate the people they conquered.”

The skit was part of the final project for students who took the institute’s new class on ancient Rome. The institute offers a three-week intensive program for high school sophomores and juniors every summer. The program’s courses, taught by Stanford faculty, offer deep immersion in history, philosophy and literature, and expose students to the life of a humanities scholar.

The new class, Ancient Rome and Its Legacies, examined the rise and fall of the influential civilization and how its legacies have shaped the European colonization of the Americas and the development of the United States. The class, co-taught by history Professor Caroline Winterer and Associate Professor of classics Christopher Krebs, compared similarities and differences between the worlds of ancient Rome and America.

Students attended lectures and question-and-answer sessions with professors, discussed reading materials in small groups with Stanford graduate students, examined Stanford University Libraries’ rich collection of early modern books about ancient Rome and spent an afternoon in the Cantor Arts Center exploring Roman artifacts and neoclassical painting and sculpture.

“We wanted to offer a course that showed why the classical past is still so important for us to understand today,” Winterer said. “Ancient Rome isn’t dead – it’s alive and well and continues to shape the way we think about our world today, often in subtle ways that we don’t see unless we know how and where to look.”

Many modern societies have borrowed some aspect of ancient Roman thought, but its shaping influence on the United States has been especially profound. The framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated Roman ideas about the separation of powers and the need for a senate. The fluted white columns decorating the neoclassical facades of many antebellum American plantation mansions mimic those on Roman temples.

The class also focused on slavery, another similarity between ancient Rome and America. Both were slave societies, holding a significant proportion of their populations in legal bondage. “For most of human history, slavery was not seen as morally problematic,” Winterer said during the lecture on the rise of anti-slavery ideas in the United States before the Civil War. “That shift in human consciousness and understanding was so great that it’s difficult for us to put ourselves in a moment before that time.”


Construction of a luxury hotel is continuing in Sofia despite the discovery that the site covers part of an ancient Roman necropolis.
While numerous machines laid concrete and strengthened the foundations of the future 190-room five-star hotel, a team of archaeologists with an excavator was carefully digging a rare find out of the ground. They recently discovered an ancient Roman tomb – part of the eastern side of the necropolis of the Roman city of Serdica, which lies under Bulgaria’s capital – which could soon be buried under the luxury new hotel.

The same fate has already befallen six other tombs discovered at the construction site in April. “We have researched almost eight tombs, all of them with half-cylindrical arches, with different sizes, containing over 112 single graves,” Polina Stoyanova co-leader of the archaeological salvation team, told BIRN. She explained that all of the remains were damaged when the former Serdica cinema was built in the 1950s. It was demolished in July, opening up the space for the Hyatt Regency hotel, which is set to open in 2018.

“All the tombs we have discovered were flattened to the level needed for the construction of the cinema, so none of the arches were completely preserved,” Stoyanova added. The archaeologist explained that the Ministry of Culture, which holds the rights to determine the fate of excavations, as state public property, issued a conservation order for one of the tombs.

Large parts of the center of Bulgaria’s capital lie above the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Ulpia Serdica, which flourished between the 1st and 6th centuries AD. Parts of the ancient city have been revealed. In 2016, the second government of current Prime Minister Boyko Borissov opened the Ancient Serdica complex in the heart of the city, which forms the largest open-air museum in Bulgaria.

Among the most important attractions of ancient Serdica are Decumanus Maximus, the main road of the Roman city, as well as the amphitheatre, one of the largest in the Eastern Roman Empire. The amphitheatre was discovered by accident in 2004 during the construction of another high-end hotel in central Sofia, which is currently named Arena di Serdica and has parts of the archaeological remains exposed in its lobby.
The necropolis of Serdica occupies large parts of Sofia’s downtown, including the space under the building the National Assembly and the area of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral and Sofia University.

Remains of the ancient burial area can be seen exposed in the St Sofia Basilica.

The remains discovered at the Hyatt construction site are located at the further eastern periphery of this necropolis, formed between the second and third centuries AD, where the tombs are of a lower density, Simeonova explained.


Forty-six sites containing artifacts, mainly stone tools, have been discovered beside the remains of ancient lakes in the western Nefud desert in Saudi Arabia.

Some of the tools, left by early humans, date to the Lower Paleolithic period, from 1.8 million to 250,000 years ago, the researchers said in a new study describing the findings. Animal fossils, including fossils from now-extinct forms of jaguar and elephant, were also discovered at some of the sites.

The discoveries shed light on so-called Green Arabia, periods when the climate in Arabia — the area spanning modern-day Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and other Gulf States — was wetter and supported more vegetation and wildlife than it does today. Green Arabia was also home to early humans.

"These repeated wet phases, called 'Green Arabia' events, affected much of Arabia and were driven by periodic variations in the Earth's orbit and axis, causing the monsoons to move north into Arabia — and into the Sahara," said Paul Breeze, a landscape archaeologist and research associate at King's College London. "Between these times, Arabia was as arid as it is today."

Breeze is part of the Palaeodeserts Project, which aims to better understand Saudi Arabia's environmental and human history. The project brings together researchers from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, the Saudi Geological Survey, Saudi Aramco and scientists from all over the world.

In their research Breeze and his colleagues searched for lakes that may have existed in ancient times by examining high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery, as well as geological maps. They found that many of these so-called paleolakes might have been located in basins between sand dunes.

The researchers traveled to as many possible paleolakes as they could, using 4 x 4 vehicles or helicopters to reach these locations. They focused on a section of the western Nefud desert.

Once the team reached a site, they examined paleolake sediments, confirming the existence of the ancient lake. Then, they excavated any human artifacts and animal fossils they could find.

From early humans to the future

The discoveries revealed how life changed in the western Nefud desert.

"Lower Palaeolithic hominins in particular could, at times, have experienced widespread favorable environmental conditions," the team wrote in their study, published online in the June 2017 issue of the journal Archaeological Research in Asia. Early human sites that date to the Lower Paleolithic "appear concentrated close to raw material sources near the Nefud fringe, despite the presence of freshwater and fauna deeper in the dune field," the team wrote.

Previously reported research suggested that around 200,000 years ago, after the Lower Paleolithic, modern humans(Homo sapiens) might have used Arabia as a corridor to migrate out of Africa. The new findings suggest that, at that time, humans (whether Homo sapiens or other human species) appear to have been venturing deeper into the western Nefud desert and were no longer sticking to the fringes. [In Photos: Oldest Homo Sapiens Fossils Ever Found]

The researchers did not find any archaeological sites that dated to the Upper Paleolithic or Epipaleolithic time periods, between roughly 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. This may be a sign that the western Nefud had become more arid and less capable of supporting life by that time, the researchers said.

Sunday, August 06, 2017


A team of researchers, has found and dated artifacts in northern Australia that indicate humans arrived there about 65,000 years ago — more than 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. A paper published in the journal Nature describes dating techniques and artifact finds at Madjedbebe, a longtime site of archaeological research, that could inform other theories about the emergence of early humans and their coexistence with wildlife on the Australian continent.

The new date makes a difference, co-author and University of Washington associate professor of anthropology Ben Marwick said. Against the backdrop of theories that place humans in Australia anywhere between 47,000 and 60,000 years ago, the concept of earlier settlement calls into question the argument that humans caused the extinction of unique megafauna such as giant kangaroos, wombats and tortoises more than 45,000 years ago.

“Previously it was thought that humans arrived and hunted them out or disturbed their habits, leading to extinction, but these dates confirm that people arrived so far before that they wouldn’t be the central cause of the death of megafauna,” Marwick said. “It shifts the idea of humans charging into the landscape and killing off the megafauna. It moves toward a vision of humans moving in and coexisting, which is quite a different view of human evolution.”

Since 1973, digs at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Australia’s Northern Territory, have unearthed more than 10,000 stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones. Following the more recent excavations in 2012 and 2015, a University of Queensland-led research team, which included the UW, evaluated artifacts found in various layers of settlement using radiocarbon dating and optical stimulated luminescence (OSL).

The new research involved extensive cooperation with the local Aboriginal community, Marwick added. The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Mirarr people, joined much of the excavation and reviewed the findings, Marwick said. Researchers had both a memorandum of understanding and a contract with the community, which gave control to the Mirarr as senior custodians, oversight of the excavation and curation of the finds. The Mirarr were interested in supporting new research into the age of the site and in knowing more about the early human occupants, particularly given environmental threats posed by nearby modern-day mining activities.

Noteworthy among the artifacts found were ochre “crayons” and other pigments, what are believed to be the world’s oldest edge-ground hatchets, and evidence that these early humans ground seeds and processed plants. The pigments indicate the use of paint for symbolic and artistic expression, while the tools may have been used to cut bark or food from trees.

Labs in Australia used OSL to identify the age range, Marwick explained. Radiocarbon dating, which requires a certain level of carbon in a substance, can analyze organic materials up to about 45,000 or 50,000 years old. But OSL is used on minerals to date, say, the last time a sand grain was exposed to sunlight — helpful in determining when an artifact was buried — up to 100,000 years ago or more. That process measured thousands of sand grains individually so as to establish more precise ages.

The UW researchers worked in the geoarchaeology lab on the Seattle campus, testing sediment samples that Marwick helped excavate at Madjedbebe. One graduate student and six undergraduate students studied the properties of hundreds of dirt samples to try to picture the time in which the ancient Australian humans lived.

Using a scanning electron microscope, the students examined the composition of the sediment layers, the size of the grains of dirt and any microscopic plant matter. For another test, the students baked soil samples at various temperatures, then measured the mass of each sample, said UW doctoral student Gayoung Park, another author on the paper. Because organic matter turns into gases at high heat, a loss of mass indicated how much matter was in a given sample. This helped create a picture of the environments across the sedimentary layers of the site. The team found that when these human ancestors arrived, northern Australia was wetter and colder.


During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia.

But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking membes of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.


A monumental tomb with a long funerary epigraph describing the life of the deceased has been discovered in Porta Stabia, according to a report in ANSAmed. The inscription is missing the man’s name, but it says he was a duoviro, or Pompeii city magistrate, and describes his coming of age, his wedding, and his sponsorship of banquets and games.

The inscription also contains information about an armed brawl at a gladiator show in Pompeii in 59 A.D., in which the tomb’s occupant may have been killed. We know from an account left by the Roman historian Tacitus that after a Senate investigation into the brawl, ordered by Emperor Nero, that the residents of Pompeii were forbidden to hold gladiator games for ten years, and those who organized the games and incited the clash were exiled.

Pompeii’s general director, Massimo Osanna, said the newly found inscription complements the account left by Tacitus and mentions that some of the city’s magistrates were also exiled.


The structure housed the horses of the Knights Templar during the Crusades. We have found many horseshoe nails, arrowheads, coins, and bits of armor from the Crusader period.

On the stones in the piers that hold up the vaulted ceiling of the structure, you can see the draft margin from the Herodian period. The other sides imitate this poorly, so we know these stones are in secondary use, originating from the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount platform. The structure was constructed in the Early Islamic Period.

As reconstruction, earthquakes, or other building happened on the Temple Mount over the last millennium, the debris would be removed to the Eastern side of the Temple Mount. Therefore, the material we are sifting is not necessarily specific to this corner of the Mount. Rather it is a sample of many different sites across the Temple Mount and shows us bits and pieces of the whole history of the Temple Mount.

There is possibly another structure beneath Solomon’s Stables because the walls of the Temple Mount platform could not hold so much soil without further support and the bedrock is very low.

The Destruction:
1.In 1996, renovation began in Solomon’s Stables in order to convert it into a usable mosque (Al-Marwani Mosque). The wall between the Triple Gate and Solomon’s Stables was breached to create an entrance to the new mosque. Dirt heaps were removed from within the structure.

2.In 1999, a new monumental (huge) entrance way was opened. This was done by bulldozer and without archaeological supervision. This was initiated by the Northern Flank of the Islamic Movement in Israel in coordination with the Waqf. Prime Minister Barak gave oral permission for this new entrance as well on a smaller scale. Legally in Israel, any construction must first complete a salvage excavation to record any archaeology in the proposed construction zone. Especially in a place as sensitive and historic as the Temple Mount, this excavation is not only necessary legally but also ethically. No such excavation took place.


According to a report in The Jerusalem Post, Rebecca Biton of Hebrew University has found evidence that hominins hunted freshwater turtles in the northern Jordan Valley some 60,000 years ago.

“In Israel, at every archaeological site you will find some evidence of the exploitation of tortoises, which do not have much meat, but were consumed,” she said. The discovery of Western Caspian turtle remains, which live in fresh water, suggests that humans were also exploiting animals from Hula Lake and the surrounding swamps. “They took the turtle and smashed the shell and cooked whatever meat they could extract,” she said. The meat was carefully removed with a flint knife, she added. For more, go to “Let a Turtle Be Your Psychopomp.”

Friday, July 28, 2017


A crew working on a rehabilitation project of the historic Main Ranch House on Santa Rosa Island have discovered an ancient Native American site beneath the building. Santa Rosa is the second-largest of California's Channel Islands, about 100 kilometers west of Los Angeles. It is part of the Channel Islands National Park.

The house was constructed sometime after 1869 and served as a sheep and cattle ranch for more than 150 years. It had been lifted to allow construction of a foundation. Within a few days of tunneling, the archaeological monitor found stone flakes, and work was suspended while an archeological team conducted an investigation in consultation with elders of the local Chumash tribe, who call the island Wima, meaning 'driftwood'.

Gary Brown, National Park Service archaeologist, says: "there are intact paleocoastal deposits from the south end of the house to the opposite end on the north." He and his team first found a distinctive stone called a Channel Islands barbed point, and later a crescent - two types of stone tools made from local chert. Both likely would have been used to hunt and fish, and represent a sophisticated technology of early tool making on the islands. They are between 8,000 and 16,000 years old.

Speaking about the tools, Jon Erlandson, University of Oregon Archeologist and leading expert on Paleocoastal archeology, reveals: "Usually, when we find the two of them together, the site is at least 10,000 years old and could be 12,000 years old or older." Erlandson says the Chumash people and their ancestors have been on the islands for thousands of years. "That suggests that these were some of the very earliest peoples along the Pacific Coast. We know now that they were on the islands as early as they were practically anywhere in the new world. The Channel Islands, especially the northern islands, are emerging as one of the central places in understanding the peopling of the new world."

Santa Rosa Island is also where the "Arlington Man" was discovered - the oldest known human remains found in North America, dating back about 13,000 years. The team hopes to find clues about the prey being hunted then.

Edited from Ventura County Star (5 June 2017), Keyt.com (6 June 2017)
[8 images, 1 video]


New dates for two massive circular wooden enclosures built at West Kennet, close to Avebury (Wiltshire, England), show they predate the first stones erected at nearby Stonehenge by about 800 years. Archaeologists think they were used for only a short time about 5,300 years ago, then purposely burned.

Study co-author Alex Bayliss, a statistical archaeologist with Historic England, says: "It's completely unlike anything we've ever found in the British prehistory."

The area around Stonehenge is saturated with ancient sites. Bones found near Stonehenge suggest that the area was a wild-auroch hunting ground long before the monument was built. Avebury has its own henge monument. Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric artificial chalk mound, stands nearby. The remains of a Neolithic settlement called Durrington Walls shows signs of ancient feasting, and may have been where the builders of Stonehenge lived while working there.

The wooden circles at West Kennet were discovered when a pipeline was being laid in the 1960s and 70s. In the late 80s and early 90s, Cardiff University archaeologist Alasdair Whittle led a small excavation which found charred remains, and deduced that two immense circles had been built side-by-side with only a small gap between them. One was a single ring about 250 meters in diameter, the other a concentric double ring about 200 meters in diameter.

The enclosures were probably built by digging ditches and placing oak posts into sockets in the ground creating a huge palisade. The posts were very closely set; around 4,000 trees would have been needed.

Whittle's team originally carbon-dated a shard of pottery found in one of the post holes to around 2500 BCE. Improved techniques available to Bayliss' team push the dates for charred remains from post holes, animal bones, and fragments of pottery back a further 800 years to 3,300 BCE - a period for which relatively little archaeological evidence exists.

Her team suspects the two enclosures were used as a gathering place, but not for long; few other remains of human occupation dating to the period were found.

Edited from BBC News, LiveScience (8 June 2017)
[3 images, 1 map]
[1 image]


Archaeologists from Northampton discovered what they believe to be the oldest artifact ever found within Massachusetts (USA). Investigations have focused on how this artifact could provide information for a broader study of prehistoric life in the valley.

Richard Gamly, an archaeologist from North Andover and leader of the team of research, said that "This is just the very beginning of what will probably prove to be a very important archaeological site." The research began in 2015 following the discovery of a supposed Clovis point arrowhead that could be more than 12,800 years old, referring to a specific Native American culture known for its stonework.

The arrowhead was found by Jason Lovett of Vermont, special educator and amateur archaeologist, during metal detecting. Lovett immediately knew what he had found and met with Gramly who returned the find to the farm's owner, who then allowed further search of his fields.

Gramly has noted that "While no more arrowheads have been found, the team has discovered items suggesting that native peoples hunted here in prehistoric times." The most recent trip to field revealed not only quartz flakes but also Hudson River Valley flint, known to be the material used for Clovis tools.

The historic utility is revealed by the shape of the rock, according to Barbara L. Calogero, being shaped to optimize the piercing effects of the arrowhead. "The fluting that was found is very diagnostic of folks who were here 12,000 years ago," According to Calogero. The amount of flakes discovered point to the area being used as a springtime hunting ground, the riverbanks providing natural sustenance for humans for thousands of years.

Due to the constant agricultural activity in the area, finds are constantly being pulled to the surface.

Edited from Daily Hampshire Gazette (25 May 2017)
[5 images]


A small, ancient, and rectangular copper mask was found in the southern Andes in Argentina, and dated to be about 3,000 years old. According to archaeologists, it has been determined to be among the oldest human made objects from South America, challenging the consensus that metalworking started in Peru.

The mask has been dated to about 1,000 BCE and was found in an area commonly associated with the burial of women and children. The mask is marked with holes for the eye and mouth, as well as openings for attaching the mask.

A local copper ore source lies within 44 miles (70 kilometers) of where the mask was uncovered, suggesting a local production. This makes it likely that metal production in Peru was contemporary with the production in Argentina.

The mask was uncovered due to a summer rainy season, which also uncovered a collection of human bones in a tomb near the La Quebrada village in Northwestern Argentina. The total amount of bodies is estimated to about 14 with the bones being mixed and the mask lying in one corner.
The mask measures about 7 inches long and 6 inches wide (18 centimeters x 15 centimeters). It is at least 99% pure copper and would have been cold hammered and then reheated. Due to the mask's shape and the age of the object, it strongly suggests a much older metal production than previously thought.

"Proof of copper smelting and annealing [a process of cooling metal slowly to make it stronger] further highlights the northwest Argentinian valleys and northern Chile as early centers in the production of copper," the researchers wrote, adding that "This data is essential to any narrative that seeks to understand the emergence of Andean metallurgy."

Edited from LiveScience (6 June 2017)
[1 image]

Monday, July 03, 2017


A site discovered in Peru at 12,500 feet above sea level suggests that hunter-gatherers lived all-year-round at very high altitudes beginning at least 7,000 years ago.

USA TODAY reports that archaeologists uncovered the remains of 16 individuals at the site of Soro Mik'aya Patjxa in the Andean Highlands, as well as stone points, animal bones—likely of the vicuña, a relative of the llama—and evidence of wild tubers.

According to the researchers, several factors point to the group's permanent residence in upper altitudes, including the lack of any imported materials found at the site, the great distance to lower elevations in the area, and the results of stable isotope analysis on their bone material, which yielded low oxygen and high carbon isotope ratios, indicating a life spent in thin air and dizzying heights.


The UNESCO World Heritage Site, cared for by the National Trust, was built over several hundred years in the third millennium BC and contains three stone circles – including the largest stone circle in Europe which is 330m across and originally comprised around 100 huge standing stones.

Dr Mark Gillings, Academic Director and Reader in Archaeology at the University of Leicester, said: "Our research has revealed previously unknown megaliths inside the world-famous Avebury stone circle. We have detected and mapped a series of prehistoric standing stones that were subsequently hidden and buried, along with the positions of others likely destroyed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Together, these reveal a striking and apparently unique square megalithic monument within the Avebury circles that has the potential to be one of the very earliest structures on this remarkable site."

Avebury has been the subject of considerable archaeological interest since the 17th century. The discovery of new megaliths inside the monument was therefore a great surprise, pointing to the need for further archaeological investigations of this kind at the site.

The survey took place inside the Southern Inner Circle, contained within the bank and ditch, and colossal Outer Stone Circle of the Avebury henge. Excavations here by the archaeologist and marmalade magnate Alexander Keiller in 1939 demonstrated the existence of a curious angular setting of small standing stones set close to a single huge upright known since the 18th century as the Obelisk. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war left this feature only partially investigated.

Dr Joshua Pollard, from the University of Southampton, said: "Our careful program of geophysical survey has finally completed the work begun by Keiller. It has shown the line of stones he identified was one side of a square of megaliths about 30m across and enclosing the Obelisk. Also visible are short lines of former standing stones radiating from this square and connecting with the Southern Inner Circle. Megalithic circles are well known from the time when Avebury was built during the late Neolithic (3rd millennium BC), but square megalithic settings of this kind are highly unusual."

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist at Avebury, said: "This discovery has been almost 80 years in the making but it's been well worth waiting for. The completion of the work first started by Keiller in the 1930s has revealed an entirely new type of monument at the heart of the world's largest prehistoric stone circle, using techniques he never dreamed of. And goes to show how much more is still to be revealed at Avebury if we ask the right questions."

The archaeologists who undertook the work think the construction of the square megalithic setting might have commemorated and monumentalized the location of an early Neolithic house – perhaps part of a founding settlement – subsequently used as the center point of the Southern Inner Circle. At the time of excavation in 1939 the house was erroneously considered by Keiller to be a medieval cart shed.

If proved correct, it may help understand the beginnings of the remarkable Avebury monument complex, and help explain why it was built where it was.


(Courtesy Italy’s Ministry of Culture)

Construction of Rome’s new metro Line C has uncovered traces of buildings dating to the third century A.D., according to a report in The Local, Italy.

The buildings were found more than 30 feet below ground level on the Caelian Hill, near the Aurelian Walls, which were also built during the third century to surround the ancient city.

A fire on the site preserved wood from the structures. The excavation also uncovered plaster fragments and frescoes, pieces of furniture, sculptures, windows, and the skeleton of a dog, which was found on the building’s doorstep. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology will try to determine whether seismic activity could have ignited the fire.


Iraq’s security directorate has revealed that ISIS has destroyed about 360 historical sites in Nineveh since its occupation by the terrorist group in 2014.

According to sources speaking to Al Arabiya, around 300 historical mosques and many churches were amongst the vandalized structures.

Sources have confirmed that the most prominent areas destroyed by ISIS include the Grand Mosque, Manara Mosque in al-Hadbba, prophet Yunus’s shrine and Saint Elijah's monastery, one of Iraq’s and the city of al-Hadar’s oldest churches.

The same sources added that the goal behind ISIS’s vandalizing attacks is to cover up its smuggling activities of other antiquities.


The large archaeological site Palmyra in Syria was severely damaged by the Islamic State (ISIS) but not pulverized and can be almost entirely rebuilt, said Paolo Matthiae.

The archaeologist, a prominent international expert, said that most of the ruins can be restored using traditional methods. Speaking at the presentation of the exhibition 'I Volti di Palmira' ('The Faces of Palmyra') in Aquileia, which will run from July 2 until October 3 at the National Archaeological Museum of the Friuli city, the discoverer of Ebla said that the Syrian authorities had begun to carefully study the parts that have collapsed and that an initial analysis had shown that many of the stones can be restored.

A French company was tasked with the initial assessment but Italy's Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro has restored two damaged sculptures currently at an exhibition at the Colosseum, after which they will be given back to Syrian.

The archaeological site of Palmyra is a vast field of ruins and only 20-30% of it is seriously damaged. Unfortunately these included important parts, such as the Temple of Bel, while the Arc of Triumph can be rebuilt,' he said. In any case, by using both traditional methods and advanced technologies, it might be possible to restore 98% of the site.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Human remains more than 13,000 years old in the earliest middens and fishhooks in North America, the Channel Islands National Park off the California coast, are a treasure trove of information about early North American people. Recently, when national park workers began to restore a more recent piece of history on one of the islands, they uncovered a taste of something ancient: a prehistoric Native American site buried underneath the site of a ranch.

National Parks Traveler reports the unexpected trove was discovered on Santa Rosa Island. Workers found the site when they began rehabilitating a 19th-century house on what used to be a cattle ranch on the island. When they lifted it up to build a new foundation, they found stone tools that would have been used by Native Americans to hunt and fish on the island thousands of years ago. According to the Ventura County Star’s Cheri Carlson, the site's tools are representative of those made 8,000 to 13,000 years ago.

The Chumash, whose ancestors lived all over California’s coast and who relied on hunting, gathering and fishing for food, were the island’s original inhabitants.

When Spanish settlers reached the Channel Islands, disease wiped out many native inhabitants. Those who survived were forced to move to the mainland, where they lived in missions and were “loaned out to soldiers and settlers, any return for their labor going to the mission,” writes Campbell Grant in his book, Rock Paintings of the Chumash.

Carlson reports that Chumash representatives will rebury most of the artifacts, but will allow some pieces to be studied.

Will the newfound site disrupt the cultural preservation that was originally scheduled to take place on top of it? Not according to the National Park Service. “Our goal is to preserve both of these important and irreplaceable cultural


Live Science reports that a monument in Avebury, England, located about 23 miles away from Stonehenge, may be 800 years older than had been previously thought. The monument, which resembled a pair of eyeglasses outlined with tall, wooden posts, was first dated to 2500 B.C., or about the time that Stonehenge was built.

Researchers recently employed new radiocarbon-dating techniques on pottery, animal bones, and charred remains of posts found in the monument’s post holes to arrive at the new, older date.

“It’s much too large to be a stock enclosure; it’s got to be a ceremonial enclosure,” explained statistical archaeologist Alex Bayliss of Historic England. He thinks one enclosure may have been for men, and the other for women. Both were burned to the ground in what Bayliss called an “amazing spectacle.”

Few remains of human occupation from the time have been found in the area, but later, Neolithic housing has been uncovered, suggesting that people returned to the site after the fire. They may even have been involved with the construction of the nearby chalk mound known as Silbury Hill. For more, go to “Quarrying Stonehenge.”


One of the many tragedies that have unfolded in the wake of the Islamic State (IS) is their smashing of statues and the destruction of ancient archaeological sites. Indeed, the rapid and terrifying advance of the IS has proved fatal for much invaluable heritage.

They toppled priceless statues at the Mosul Museum in northern Iraq. They used sledgehammers and power tools to deface giant winged-bull statues at Nineveh on the outskirts of Mosul. At Nimrud, IS detonated explosives, turning the site into a giant, brown, mushroom cloud. They used assault rifles and pickaxes to destroy invaluable carvings at Hatra; and at Palmyra in Syria they blew up the 2,000-year-old temples dedicated to the pagan gods Baal Shamin and Bel.

It’s difficult to interpret the unprecedented scale of this heritage destruction. The global media and politicians have tended to frame these events as random casualties of wanton terror or as moments of unrestrained barbarism.

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director General Irina Bokova, for instance, reacted to the destruction of Nimrud by arguing that such attacks were underpinned by “propaganda and hatred”. There is, she said, “absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage”.

However, in an article published recently in the International Journal of Heritage Studies, we argue that the acts of heritage destruction undertaken by IS are much more than mere moments of propaganda devoid of political or religious justification.We found that the heritage destruction wrought by IS was not only very deliberate and carefully staged, but underpinned by three specific and clearly articulated frameworks.


Firstly, the IS have gone to great theological (if selective) lengths to justify their iconoclasm. For example, an Al-Hayat film documenting the destruction at the Mosul Museum and Nineveh.


Secondly, the IS make frequent reference to key historical figures to justify their iconoclasm. These include the Prophet Abraham’s destruction of idols and the Prophet Muhammad’s iconoclasm at the Ka’ba, the centerpiece of Mecca’s mosque.


Finally, and often overlooked, the IS have used political reasoning to justify the destruction. Such brash assertions made by IS clearly demonstrate that their heritage destruction cannot be dismissed as being simple propaganda. Instead, as we have shown, the heritage destruction undertaken by the IS are not only very carefully planned and executed, but also couched within a broader religious, historical and political framework that seeks to justify their violent iconoclasm.

Understanding the complex layers that drive such iconoclasm are a step towards developing better responses to the destruction of our shared cultural heritage.


According to a report in The Times of Israel, a Neanderthal upper molar and Neanderthal lower limb bones have been found at a 60,000-year-old open-air site in northern Israel by an international team of scientists led by Ella Been of Ono Academic College and Erella Hovers of Hebrew University.

The lower limb bones were found in a layer that also contained flint tools, animal bones, marine shells, pigments, and deer antlers. It had been previously thought that Neanderthals lived primarily in caves, since that is where their remains are usually recovered. But the study suggests that Neanderthals repeatedly visited the open-air site, known as Ein Qashish, and thus had adapted to living in diverse environments by the time Homo sapiens arrived in the Near East.


This summer, the State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program—or SCRAP—will host a field school, in which volunteers can take up shovels and brushes to help uncover artifacts at two different dig sites. New Hampshire State Archaeologist Richard Boisvert will be directing field work this summer, and he spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello about SCRAP.

Describe for us these two archaeological sites that you’ll be digging into.

They’re quite different. The one in Jefferson, in the North Country, is a 12,000-year-old campsite that was used by people hunting caribou. What they left behind was small bits of stone, some arrangements of rocks for a fireplace or something like that, and it’s a rather subtle presence. It’s in the backyard of a bed and breakfast, and if you didn’t know the site was there, you wouldn’t have a clue.

The other project is in Livermore Falls, a state-owned forest. It’s located in the towns of Plymouth, Holderness, and Campton. This was an active place for industrial purposes for almost two hundred years. Because of the waterfalls there, it was used as a source of energy. One after another, mills would come in, they would thrive, they would go out of business in one way or another—some of them burned, some of the mills failed because of the economy and so forth—and eventually it went back to a near-natural state.

You can still see foundations of the mills and houses out there. It’s a history that we know in part, but there’s a lot that we don’t know.

In that first site, what kinds of things might you expect to find there?

We always hope to find the tools, particularly the spear points and the scrapers and so forth. We do routinely find them, but not in huge numbers.

This would be 12,000 years ago. They were ancestral to the Native Americans of the Northeast, including the Abenaki and all the other tribes. Because of the passage of time and groups moving in and out, they weren’t the sole ancestors of the Abenaki, but they were the first people to live on the landscape after the glacier left.

Archaeologists have uncovered rare 5,000-year old tools in Moscow during the city’s ongoing construction project to renovate pedestrian zones, the mayor’s office said recently.

The scientists discovered a silicic cutter from the Neolithic era or New Stone Age (5,000-3,000 BC) on Sretenka Street and a fragment of a scraper of the Mesolithic era or Middle Stone Age (7,000 BC) on Pokrovsky Boulevard.

"This ancient finding is very important for archaeologists. It confirms our theory that these territories had been developed as far back as pre-historic times. We understand that this area was inhabited by ancient peoples long before any streets and houses were built here," Head of Moscow’s Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov said.

The scientists believe the artifacts could have penetrated the much older cultural layers 400 or 500 years ago during digging efforts. Now specialists are studying the finding, which may be later handed over to a museum to be featured in exhibitions devoted to Moscow’s archaeology.


he J. Paul Getty Museum announced its intention to voluntarily return to Italy a marble statuette dating to the 1st century BC.The “Statue of Zeus Enthroned” is a 29-inch-high piece thought to have been Greek in origin. Getty Museum Director Timothy Potts said the Italian government came into possession of a fragment that it believed joined the sculpture at the Getty. Italian officials tested their theory on a visit to the museum in 2014.

“The fragment gave every indication that it was a part of the sculpture we had,” Potts said in an interview. “It came from the general region of Naples, so it meant this object had come from there.” This, coupled with the fact that there was no documentation of export, led to the decision to repatriate the statuette.

The sculpture is thought to have originally been housed in the private shrine of a rich Greek or Roman home. It appears to have spent a good deal of time in the ocean, as it is partially covered with marine incrustations.

The Getty purchased “Zeus Enthroned” from Americans Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman in 1992. The Times’ 1997 obituary for Lawrence Fleischman noted that the couple agreed to donate the bulk of their collection, valued at $60 million, to the Getty in 1996. The museum agreed to purchase another portion of the collection.

At that time “Zeus Enthroned” was acquired, the museum’s senior antiquities curator was Marion True, who was later indicted by the Italian government for conspiracy to traffic in illegal antiquities. True resigned from the museum in 2005, and in 2007 then-director Michael Brand announced the museum would return a number of disputed objects to Italy. Dozens have been repatriated to Italy and Greece, while prosecutors did not pursue the case against True.

The Getty’s policy is that when a foreign government submits compelling evidence that an object in its collection was put on the antiquities market illegally, the museum will seek to return the object.


The SCTH will organize the three-day event in cooperation with the King Abdul Aziz Research Center (Darah), the ministries of municipal and rural affairs, culture and information, and education, and other government agencies. The forum will be under the umbrella of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Program for Care of Cultural Heritage.SCTH President Prince Sultan bin Salman said the event comes in the framework of care given by the king to all efforts related to national heritage.

It will involve local and foreign archeologists, workshops, initiatives and projects related to antiquities, Prince Sultan added.
The forum aims to raise public awareness of the importance of antiquities, to familiarize attendees with Saudi history, civilization and documentation of archeological work, and to make antiquities a community responsibility.

Papers will be presented spanning the pre-historic era up to the end of the 20th century. Workshops will address topics such as modern technologies in dealing with antiquities, the role of the media in awareness campaigns, antiquity protection and counterfeiting. There will also be specialized books and documentaries on antiquities


The International Business Times reports that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens may have crossed paths some 40,000 years ago in the Moravia region of the Czech Republic.

Duncan Wright of Australian National University said that he and his team recovered more than 20,000 artifacts from Pod Hradem Cave. The oldest layers of the cave, dating back to 50,000 years ago, contained artifacts made from local stone, but in the layer dating to about 40,000 years ago, they found a bead made from a mammal bone. Wright said the bead could signal the arrival of modern humans, who are thought to have entered Europe about 45,000 years ago.

Some of the artifacts in the cave dated to between 40,000 and 48,000 years ago were made of materials obtained more than 50 miles away. Could they have been crafted by Homo sapiens who had been exploring a new environment? Sediments from the cave will be tested for information about how the climate changed over time and for traces of Neanderthal and modern human DNA.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported in early June, 2017, a finding that rewrites the story of mankind’s origins and suggests that our species evolved in multiple locations across the African continent.

“We did not evolve from a single ‘cradle of mankind’ somewhere in East Africa,” said Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and a co-author of two new studies on the fossils, published in the journal Nature. “We evolved on the African continent.” See the full story in Nature.

Until now, the oldest known fossils of our species dated back just 195,000 years. The Moroccan fossils, by contrast, are roughly 300,000 years old. Remarkably, they indicate that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways.

Today, the closest living relatives to Homo sapiens are chimpanzees and bonobos, with whom we share a common ancestor that lived over six million years ago. After the split from this ancestor, our ancient forebears evolved into many different species, known as hominins.

In 1961, miners in Morocco dug up a few pieces of a skull at a site called Jebel Irhoud. Later digs revealed a few more bones, along with flint blades. Using crude techniques, researchers estimated the remains to be 40,000 years old. In the 1980s, however, a paleoanthropologist named Jean-Jacques Hublin took a closer look at one jawbone.

The teeth bore some resemblance to those of living humans, but the shape seemed strangely primitive. “It did not make sense,” Dr. Hublin, now at the Max Planck Institute, recalled in an interview.

Since 2004, Dr. Hublin and his colleagues have been working through layers of rocks on a desert hillside at Jebel Irhoud. They have found a wealth of fossils, including skull bones from five individuals who all died around the same time. Just as important, the scientists discovered flint blades in the same sedimentary layer as the skulls. The people of Jebel Irhoud most likely made them for many purposes, putting some on wooden handles to fashion spears. Many of the flint blades showed signs of having been burned. The people at Jebel Irhoud probably lit fires to cook food, heating discarded blades buried in the ground below. This accident of history made it possible to use the flints as historical clocks.

Dr. Hublin and his colleagues used a method called thermoluminescence to calculate how much time had passed since the blades were burned. They estimated that the blades were roughly 300,000 years old. The skulls, discovered in the same rock layer, must have been the same age.