Saturday, February 24, 2007


Archaeologists have discovered that what had been thought to be a relatively small, down-market amphitheatre in Britain was in fact a top-of-the-range, though admittedly more intimate, version of Rome's famous gladiatorial arena.The amphitheatre, built about AD100, was completely rebuilt about 100 years later to resemble a scaled-down version of Rome's Colosseum.

Chester's Colosseum was re-built possibly on the orders of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, who was in Britain at the time.

Although it was much smaller, its outer wall appears to have had an arcade of 80 arches, giving it a superficially similar appearance to the one in Rome. If the archaeologists' calculations are correct, Rome and Chester were the only places in the Roman world to have amphitheatres with that number of arches.

Evidence suggests that the gladitorial contest audience gorged on salmon, oysters, hazelnuts, venison, lamb, pork, beef and chicken. Gruesome evidence shows that the "entertainers" did not have such a good time. The archaeologists - led by Dr Tony Wilmott of English Heritage and Dan Garner of Chester Archaeology - have not only found broken daggers and bits of shattered armour, but also fragments of body parts. In the centre of the arena, a large stone block was found with the remains of an iron tethering ring set in it. It is likely that victims were tied to it while trying to protect themselves against wild animals.

Traveling through England? Check it out.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Within the wind-swept Atacama desert in northern Chile, circular clay structures can be clearly seen. They are the 3,000 year old remains of Tulor, one of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic villages in South America. Consisting of two room houses, a cemetery and stables, they were inhabited as far back as 800 BC.

Tulor's inhabitants raised cattle, grew maize and traded with communities as far away as present day Ecuador and Brazil. But climate change c. AD 300 caused their river to dry up and within a few hundred years, the village was abandoned. Sand covered the dunes, protecting the village, until it was discovered and excavated in 1958. But now the sand that once protected the village is destroying it, threatening to reduce the site to nothing.

Since 1998 the village has been managed by an indigenous community in Coyo, 2 km from the ruins, that has built a protective boardwalk around them and trained guides to lead tourists without causing further damage. Although they have appealed for help to stem the erosion to Chile's Council of National Monuments, there is no money. Those campaigning to save the site say the local communities in the Atacama depend on the income generated by Tulor's visitors. Meanwhile the World Monument Fund has put Tulor on its watch list of endangered sites.

Follow Up on the Neolithic "Lovers"

Italian scientists said they are determined to remove and preserve together the remains of a couple buried 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, their arms still wrapped around each other in an enduring embrace. Instead of removing the bones one-by-one for reassembly later,
archaeologists plan to scoop up the entire section of earth where the couple was buried, they told Reuters. The plot will then be transported for study before being put on display in an Italian museum, thereby preserving the world's longest known hug for posterity.

"We want to keep can them just as they have been all this time -together," archaeologist Elena Menotti, who announced the discovery a week ago, said. Their removal will be a relief for archaeologists who had to hire extra security to guard the rural site outside the northern city of Mantova after the discovery made world headlines. More importantly, it will give scientists a chance to figure out what was has become one of Italian archaeology's greatest mysteries: the
first known Neolithic couple to be buried together, hugging.

Scientists acknowledge they still know precious little about the now-famous Stone Age couple. And even their gender is a open question until scientists confirm the theory that they were a man and a woman.

Archaeologists seem certain the couple died young, since their teeth are intact and that they died during the Stone Age because of an arrowhead and tools found with the remains. But new evidence indicates the couple were not alone and that the remains may have left been near a Stone Age settlement.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Valentine's Day Archaeology

Prehistoric Rome lovers found in an embrace -- It could be humanity's oldest story of doomed love. NR and all the newspapers are filled with this today but here's the real archaeological story:

Archaeologists have unearthed two skeletons from the Neolithic period locked
in a tender embrace and buried outside Mantua, just 25 miles south of
Verona, the romantic city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale of
"Romeo and Juliet."

Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed
to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, as their
teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the
dig. "As far as we know, it's unique," Menotti told The Associated Press by
telephone from Milan. "Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and
these are even hugging."

Experts will now study the artifacts and the skeletons to determine the
burial site's age and how old the two were when they died, she said.
The two bodies, which cuddle closely while facing each other on their sides,
were probably buried at the same time, possibly an indication of sudden and
tragic death another expert has speculated.;_ylt=AvJMshcdXMRVUIJ1ZcL_4ZnMWM0F