Tuesday, November 25, 2008


An amateur archaeological team from Datchet (Berkshire, England) have been presented with a Highly Commended award at the British Museum for uncovering a prehistoric settlement at Southlea Farm.

For the past five years a group from the Datchet Village Society have been carrying
out regular digs at the site after Janet Kennish, historian and chair of the group, became interested in some aerial photos of the village from the 1950s which prompted the archaeological investigation. Experts from local universities and museums have now labelled the discoveries as 'very important' after the 20 weekend volunteers
unearthed evidence of a settlement dating back 3000 years to the Neolithic period.

"A remarkably large quantity of flint and pottery was recovered along with tile, metal, bone, burnt flint and a complete quern stone. A fragment of human ulna was also recovered. As the project developed far beyond any original expectations it became clear that expert help would be needed and a successful application was made
to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant."

The presence of human occupation dating from the Neolithic Age all the way up to the Roman period has now been revealed thanks to the group's painstaking investigations. Group member Julia Martin, said: "We initially set out to investigate cropmarks at the farm but as work progressed we started to turn up all of these wonderful artifacts.

Professional people were called in to help identify our findings and they became very excited and encouraged us to continue with our Project, that was several years ago now and we've only just finished."

How great that amateurs evolved into a profesional excavation. But the important fact is that they did bring in professionals to help. A great lesson no matter where in the world you are digging!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Çatalhöyük, Turkey's most famous Neolithic site, is one the oldest
known areas of human settlement, animal domestication and wheat
cultivation. The Culture and Tourism Ministry's Cultural Assets and
Museums general manager, Orhan Düzgün, announced that the roof's
construction, which began in June of this year, had been finished. The
roof is made of specially laminated wood and is 40 meters high and 43
by 26 meters in area and will protect the historical site and the
archaeological work going on there from damage resulting from exposure
to the elements, Düzgün stated.

Çatalhöyük is a major tourist attraction as well as an
archaeological site. The design of the new roof and cover allows for educational panels to be posted on its sides, making it easier for visitors to get detailed information as they view the site.

Recent excavation on the Neolithic site, under the expertise and
leadership of Stanford University professor of archaeology Ian Hodder, began in
1993 and has continued intermittently since. Discoveries made so far
at the 9,000-year-old site include wall paintings, seals, and cooking
and eating utensils decorated with various painted and carved figures.
Except for its southern area, the site did not have any protection
against the harsh weather conditions characteristic of the Central
Anatolia region. Professor Hodder will continue to head the excavation
teams at the site until 2017.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Switzerland to return stolen artifacts to Italy

I was particularly interested in this story because many years ago I was on an archaeological project in Greece and heard a first hand story how prehistoric artifacts had been stolen and ended up in Switzerland.

Switzerland is returning 4,400 ancient artifacts stolen from archaeological sites in Italy, including ceramics, figurines and bronze daggers dating as far back as 2,000 BCE, prosecutors announced.

The transfer will require three tractor-trailers and all but end a seven-year legal battle over the antiquities. They were seized in 2001 in storage rooms belonging to two Basel-based art dealers after a tip-off from Italy, said Markus Melzl, a spokesman for city prosecutors. The couple have since lost several court battles to prevent the antiquities from being returned to Italy, Melzl said.

More than half the objects were from the eastern Italian region of Apulia, an area that was heavily influenced by ancient Greek culture, said Guido Lassau, a Swiss archaeologist who worked on the case. They include richly decorated vases and so-called kraters, large vessels that were used for mixing wine with water. The objects were stolen from upper-class tombs dating from the fifth to third centuries
BCE, according to Lassau. One item that looks like a ceramic mask modeled on a woman's face retains the original water-soluble painting from about 300 BCE.

Other items belong to the pre-Etruscan Villanova culture of northern Italy, and some of the bronze figures appear to have originated on the island of Sardinia. The oldest are bronze daggers thought to be about 4,000 years old, said Lassau. "This is a vast haul on a dramatic scale that would have saturated the market if they had
been sold," he said, adding that very few such items are available through legal channels.

Switzerland was until recently a major hub for the trade in stolen antiquities, but new laws introduced in 2005 have largely shut down the illegal market there, said Lassau. "The market has moved on to Germany, which has far looser laws," he said. "They really need to close the loopholes in their legislation, if they want to stop the global trade in these goods."

Check out a new book called Loot: the Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman -- the problem goes back to the 19th century!

Sources: Associated Press, Newsday.com (6 November 2008)

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Peruvian archaeologists have made the most exciting find for a generation. They have confirmed the discovery of two 3,000-year-old temples in the Collud-Zarpan complex, some 500 miles North of the capital Lima. The two structures formed part of a large ceremonial area that belonged to the Cupisnique culture, according to
Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva.

He said: "We have here a monumental staircase of 25m in width. The rest is a polychromatic relief with images of the spider god, and we also have a part behind of what would be a temple that extended at least 500m south." The archaeologist said the discovery ranks as one of Peru's most important religious finds and could reveal important information about the influence of Cupisnique culture. The news comes
as government officials considering giving some £350,000 worth of funding to reopen excavation at the site, which closed down last year due to lack of money.