Friday, September 23, 2005



With a chronic shortage of funds, too few well-trained teachers, and in
many cases inadequate physical plants, the public schools in America
hardly need yet another serious problem.

However another serious problem has arisen, writes James E. Darnell. A resurgent challenge to the teaching of science has been mounted by evangelical Christians. Teachers are being intimidated from teaching biological evolution by individuals and
organized groups.

In a survey by the National Science Teachers Association over 30 % of public school teachers reported being pressured to alter teaching of evolution. Well-funded and politically well-organized outfits like The Discovery Institute and its subsidiary, The Center for Science and Culture, in Seattle push demands to include "intelligent design" or ID in public school science classrooms on local school boards, state legislatures, and even in one instance the U. S. Senate.

These efforts represent an impediment to science education that the country can surely do without. If this country is to continue to benefit from a seemingly inexhaustible supply of scientific discovery followed by innovative technology, all obstacles to public school science education must be removed. This appeal is not to prevent children from hearing about and learning about religious ideas in the appropriate setting, for example, in history or social studies classes where all types of religious ideas should be open for discussion.

The appeal is to have our best possible science taught in science classes without interference from religion.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

200th anniversary of Lewis & Clark

There's a nice page of diary entries of Lewis, Clark and Sgt. Gass in the September issue of Smithsonian Magazine(p. 35). In September of 1805, the Corp of Discovery was equipped with horses from the Shoshone, prepared to cross the Bitterroot Mountains in present-day Idaho. But winter was fast approaching and there was little to eat.

For instance: September 16 from Clark's diary: Began to Snow about 3 hours before Day and Continud all day... by night we found it from 6 to 8 Inches deep... I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life, indeed I was at one time fearfull my feet would freeze in the thin mockersons which I wore..." September 24 from Clark's diary: "Several men So unwell that they were Compelled to lie on the Side of the road for Some time others obliged to be put on horses." [spelling and caps as written]

Check out the Lewis and Clark web site:
It's terrific: You can click on "Discovery Paths" that includes Journal Excerpts, Native Nations, Aerial Photos of the Expedition and much more...

Monday, September 19, 2005


Cornwall England will have an auction for 240 acres of prime Bodmin Moor on Sept. 27. It's called Brown Gelly, the hill on the south of Dozmary Pool. On the hill are several barrows plus Iron Age settlements. I've been to Cornwall and it is full of such treasures, almost too many (obviously) to investigate.

And its too late for a Neolithic -- yes! Neolithic site in Turkish Cyprus. Recently Turkish Cypriot armed forces bulldozed away an 8,000 year old Neolithic site at Karpas peninsula. The site, called Kastros, is situated 4 km north of the Monastary of Apostolos Andreas and sits on a steep hillside. The Monastery was once known as the Lourdes of Cyprus. Those remains, if they have survived now lie under a military road.

Kastros ruins were as old as Khirokitea which you might remember from the wonderful illustration in the classic The Dawn of Civilization (1961) edited by Stuart Piggott (p.44) and dated to 5500 BC. Polished stoneware and necklaces of carenlian beads and tusk-shaped dentalium shells as well as evidence of domestication of sheep, goats and possibly pigs were found there.

French archaeologist Alain LeBrun excavated at Kastros in 1970 and discovered a number of round dry stone buildings, much like Khirokitea's, and dating to the same 6th millennium BCE.

LeBrun has returned and said that the site is now "devastated." How sad.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I was delighted to see a report that the discovery of a Mesolithic site at a Bletchingley (Surrey) farm is "one of the most important archaeological finds in years." Shrouded by hoods and umbrellas, archaeologists guided a group of reporters around what appeared to be little more than a barren sandpit. The dig is in its early stages so there wasn't much to see.

It reminds me of the day when I was leading an archaeological-minded group in Wales. We visited what was also called a Mesolithic site -- Trwyn Du -- on the island of Anglesey in Northern Wales. It reportedly had a flint workshop dated to 6800 BC. I was very excited to spot the few what looked to the rest of my travelers like inconsequential stones that I knew must have been foundations. I oohed and ahhed as we walked about the little promontory, now lapped by the sea. In fact, the tide was coming in and some of the group were nervous that we might get cut off from our van. I explained with great enthusiasm how almost 9,000 years ago it was a good look-out on a hill about a mile from the sea. My companions were amused at my excitement. "We can't imagine," said one good friend, "what you do when you visit the Acropolis!"


There's an interesting and somewhat controversial new show at the British Museum: "Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia." The show runs through January 8. There are some 450 ancient objects, from stone reliefs and lapis lazuli heads to gold statuettes and jewelry. Most of us can't get to London but do check out nine artifacts at
The New York Times has a review(Sept. 14) as does The Guardian (Sept. 8),11710,1564733,00.html

All kinds of interesting political interpretations are being bandied about (check Google) that are too long to go into in Archaeology Briefs. Do your homework on line! But ironically the Persians, yes now Iranians, are building the Sivan Dam that is threatening to flood more than 100 archaeological sites including Cyrus' tomb in Pasargard. A group set up a table outside the British Museum with laminated posters of Cyrus' tomb with the words of his epitaph "Grudge me not this humble monument."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Remember that wonderful mosaic that's in every Alexander the Great book? The mosaic depicted the decisive moment in Alexander's Persian campaign that showed Alexander (on the right) confronting King Darius III ( on the left). It was found at Pompeii in the House of the Faun. Well, it's to be returned shortly -- although it is a copy, it is faithful in its form, materials, size and colors to the original mosaic. The Ravenna International Mosaic Study Centre used 3 million mosaic pieces and thousands of support panels to complete the clone that will be placed on the pavement of the building. The mosaic was based on a painting attributed to Philoxenos of Eretria for King Cassandrus at the end of the 4th century BC. The original is in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. You can see the picture of the two in battle at

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Dolmen For Sale!

It's hard to believe. In the southern part of the Loire valley, in the little town of Bagneux, there's a small cafe with a dolmen right next to it. We've been there, had a coffee in the cafe and admired this huge megalithic monument, an enormous capstone set on other stones, the longest in France. And the owner has put it up for sale on the internet ( I can't understand how the Lourvre, the French government or any proper authority can let this happen.

In case you don't know what a dolmen is: the famous Dolmen in Bagneux is probably one of the most majestic French dolmens and the largest of the 4,500 dolmens spread over about 60 French departments.

The overall length of this dolmen is over 23 meters (75 feet) and its chamber is over 18 meters (60 feet) long. As all dolmens, the 'Great Covered stone" in Bagneux, was a large chamber tomb which must have contained a great number of prehistoric skeletons during the neolithic age, i.e.from 4,000 to 2,000 B.C., that is about 5,000 years ago.

Only suppositions can be made on the way the dolmens were built. The flagstones must have been raised several times with numerous levers while pebbles were slid underneath the stone. Once it was raised to a certain level, and lying on a heap of pebbles, it was easier to pull it further. Then, the same operation started all over again. There's some nice pictures on

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Those of you who live within driving distance of St. Louis and Cahokia Mounds -- there's a POW WOW coming up -- September 9-11, 2005, at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, Illinois. Native Americans from across the country will dance competitively and socially. Native American Arts, crafts and jewelry will be on display. FREE! (618) 346-5160 or

And if you're just curious about Cahokia Mounds (one of the great and frankly, neglected by other than Midwesterners, North Ameican archaeological sites) and can't make it to the POW WOW, do look at my book, written with Professor Timothy Pauketat Cahokia Mounds, published by Oxford University Press in their "Digging for the Past" series. You can find it on Amazon by putting in Nancy Stone Bernard or order from your local bookstore.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Now a group of scientists claim to have proof -- based on radiocarbon dating of artefact finds in France -- that the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens sapiens, two distinct groups, did indeed share the same space at the same time some 38,000 years ago.

"These data strongly support the chronological coexistence -- and therefore potential demographic and cultural interactions -- between the last Neanderthal and the earliest anatomically and behaviourally modern human populations in western Europe," they wrote in the latest edition of the science journal Nature.

The scientists, led by Paul Mellars from Cambridge University, said the layers suggested that not only had the two groups been around at the same time but that they must have shared the same space -- at least for a while.

Radiocarbon dating of some of the bone fragments from the different layers confirmed the observational conclusions.

The scientists suggested that encroaching cold may have made the Aurignacians (the modern Homo sapiens sapiens) move toward the warmer coast from central Europe and at the same time encouraged the Neanderthals to move even further south where it would have been even warmer.

When the weather warmed again in later generations the population flow was reversed -- suggesting that the ancestors of modern man may have been better equipped to deal with colder climates than the last groups of Neanderthals, they said.

As you probably know, there is no evidence past 31,000 years ago that Neanderthal people survived. And that only was in the far reaches of the European continent in Spain. So, what happened? Neanderthals died out, as far as we know.

Full story at

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Check out the full article at but here's just a taste of what's going on with folks taking advantage of the antiquities market:

EBay Bidders Find Way to Fix Highest Bid
UPDATE 8-15: Casino Falls Victim to EBay Sniper Trap

A picture which I couldn't get to come up shows (LEFT) - Priceless gypsum statue of Nani from the temple of Ishtar at Mari. Fara/Ur I Period, c. 2900-2460 B.C. Height 46.4 cm. Damascus Museum. Photo from Fuenftausend Jahre Mesopotamien, Hirmer Verlag (1962).

Then on the RIGHT - A Worthless fake, listed on eBay as an authentic "Sumerian Stone Statue of a Seated Male," circa 2900-2450 B.C. (Item number: 7339274848). It sold for $3,726.00 on Monday, August 1, 2005. Collectors around the world noticed the item up for sale and noted that it showed no signs of age, but did show signs of artificial aging. Also, the proportions of the figure were "wrong." The shoulders of true Sumerian figures are wider. Said one observer, "The one on eBay looks more like the Travelocity Roaming Gnome."

More realistic prices for authentic Sumerian statues are posted below, all realized at auction.

EBAY "SNIPER TRAP" - In the final minute of bidding an unidentified bidder placed a bid of $14,800, only to retract the bid 15 seconds later. The effect of this tactic would be to instantly fire off automatic bids for all the other bidders, up to their maximums. By flushing out the maximum set by a bidder on July 31, 2005, a trap was set for the closing 28 seconds of the electronic auction. The con worked. Six seconds before the end of sale, a "sniper" (or last-second aggressively high) bid was placed and the winner was trapped at $3,726.00. Since the seller had arranged for this particular auction to be a "Private Listing," all of the bidders' identities are kept secret -- including those of 2 bid retractors.

SIGNS OF COLLUSION ON EBAY - There are signs that 2 computers were jointly involved in the second retraction which set the "sniper trap." There is no mechanism on eBay to allow a bidder to instantly retract a bid. The bidder must go to another section of eBay and complete a form. The form requires a proper explanation from the bidder for the retraction, to be selected from a short list of explanations; the phrase "no payment" -- as indicated in the item's bidding history -- is not on this list. Only the seller can submit a form to cancel a bid and provide an unlisted explanation. In this case, the phrase "no payment" would be premature since the auction had not yet ended. In spite of all these issues, the retraction was successfully executed just 15 seconds after the bid was placed.

Angela Schuster will be speaking to the Archaeological Associates November 17 at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich -- If you aren't near by, check her book "The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia" edited by Milbry Polk and Angela Schuster; Abrams, $35.


Iraq Museum International recommends notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of any crime or suspicious activity involving Iraqi cultural property.

Any member of the public may call 1-866-347-2423 to speak directly to an agent, file a report, and set up a password account for future reports.