Thursday, November 12, 2009


I was so intrigued with the story about the Paisley site (see previous BLOG where I noted the early dates of Meadowcroft outside of Pittsburgh) that I contacted Dennis Jenkins, the excavator of Oregon's Paisley site explaining that we had Professor Jim Adovasio, the excavator of Meadowcroft, speak to our AAG organization very convincingly about the site and its dates. Now that there is actually a visitors pavilion at Meadowcroft, I thought we should clarify. Jenkins promptly replied and I asked him if I could share his reply on my BLOG. So with many thanks, Dennis, here it is:
Dear Nancy,
The story writer added some glitz to his piece for sure but the fact is the Meadowcroft Rock shelter site is still debated. Indeed, the Paisley Caves are being debated but the Paisley site is unique in that there we have human remains (DNA), with Pleistocene megafauna, and now we have directly radiocarbon dated artifacts in excellent chrono-stratigraphic contexts. All date to the same time period according to multiple AMS labs. The more we work with the Paisley Caves the better they are
proving to be. In my opinion, there is no doubt about the site and its pre-Clovis cultural component. To be honest, Meadowcroft certainly looks good to me as well.


Dennis L. Jenkins

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The massive eruption of the Thera volcano in the Aegean Sea more than 3,000 years ago produced killer waves that raced across hundreds of miles of the Eastern Mediterranean to inundate the area that is now Israel and probably other coastal sites, a team of scientists has found.

The team, writing in the October issue of Geology, said the new evidence suggested that giant tsunamis from the catastrophic eruption hit “coastal sites across the Eastern Mediterranean littoral.” Tsunamis are giant waves that can crash into shore, rearrange the seabed, inundate vast areas of land and carry terrestrial material out to sea.

The region at the time was home to rising civilizations in Crete, Cyprus, Egypt, Phoenicia and Turkey.

Thera is thought to have erupted between 1630 and 1550 B.C., or the Late Bronze Age, a time when many human cultures made tools and weapons of bronze. Scholars say the tsunamis and dense clouds of volcanic ash from the eruption had cultural repercussions that rippled across the Eastern Mediterranean for decades, even centuries. The fall of Minoan civilization is usually dated to around 1450 B.C. Geologists judge the eruption as far more violent than the 1883 eruption of the volcanic island of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which killed more than 36,000.

The five tsunami researchers came from Haifa University, in Israel; Hunter College, in New York City; McMaster University, in Canada; and the University of Hawaii. The team did its excavations off Caesarea, Israel, a coastal town dating from Roman and Byzantine days. The coastal region was only sparsely settled at the time of the Thera eruption, with no identifiable city.

The team sank a half-dozen tubes into the offshore seabed and pulled up sediment cores for analysis. It looked for standard signs of tsunami upheaval, including pumice (the volcanic rock that solidifies from frothy lava), distinctive patterns of microfossils, cultural materials from human dwellings and well-rounded beach pebbles that seldom appear in deeper waters.

Writing in Geology, a journal published by the Geological Society of America, the team reported finding evidence of three tsunamis — two historically documented ones dating to A.D. 115 and 551, and one from the time of the Thera eruption.

The Thera tsunamis, the team wrote, left a signature layer in the seabed of well-rounded pebbles, distinctive patterns of mollusks and characteristic inclusions in rocky fragments all oriented in the same direction. The disturbed layer, up to 16 inches wide, came from a few feet below the seabed in waters up to 65 feet deep.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


A Iron Age treasure hoard has been unearthed by a safari park keeper using a metal detector for the first time. David Booth was 'stunned' when he found several 2,000-year-old gold neckbands in a field in Stirlingshire (Scotland).

He had driven to the site and parked his car. Then, after taking only seven steps, he found the treasure. The find is thought to be the most important ever made in Scotland. Booth said: It was the first thing I came across. I knew it was jewelery
and I knew it was old but I didn't know the age of it."

The lucky amateur appeared along with the treasure of the National Museum of Scotland ahead of a valuation of the hoard by the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel. Under law, the Crown can claim any objects found in Scotland and the people who find the objects have no right of ownership. However, Mr Booth could be set to receive an enormous reward that may be equal to the value of the jewelery.

Experts have declared the hoard of international significance, demonstrating the wealth and connections of people in Scotland at the time. The exact location of the field in which the treasure was found is being kept secret to stop other would-be
treasure hunters from mobbing the site.

The collection consists of two ribbon torcs - a local style of jewelery made from a twisted ribbon of gold - half an ornate torc of southern French origin, and a unique braided gold wire torc which shows strong influences of Mediterranean craftsmanship. both are thought to date from the 1st and 3rd century BCE. Dr Fraser Hunter, Iron Age and Roman curator at the National Museum of Scotland, said he "almost fell off my seat" when he first set eyes on photographs of Mr Booth's discovery. He said: "It's one of the most important hoards from Scotland ever. We haven't found anything of this quality."

Sources: (3 November 2009), The Herald (4 November 2009)


Archaeologists claim to have found the oldest known artifact in the Americas, a scraper-like tool in an Oregon cave (USA) that dates back 14,230 years. The tool shows that people were living in North America well before the widespread Clovis culture of 12,900 to 12,400 years ago, says archaeologist Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon in Eugene. Studies of sediment and radiocarbon dating showed the bone's age. Jenkins and his team found the tool in a rock shelter overlooking
a lake in south-central Oregon, one of a series of caves near the town of Paisley.

I would like to interrupt this news release with a comment: Meadowraft Rock Shelter in Avella, Washington County, Pennsylvania, has been dated to 16,000 years ago. Consult the web site for Meadowcroft for further information. I'm not sure why the University of Oregon is not aware of this.

Last year, Jenkins and colleagues reported that Paisley Cave coprolites, or fossilized human excrement, dated to 14,000 to 14,270 years ago. That report established the Paisley Caves as a key site for American archaeology. Analysis of ancient DNA marked the coprolites as human. But in July, another group argued that the coprolites might be younger than the sediments that contained them. This team, led by Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, also questioned the 2008 report because no artifacts had been found in the crucial sediments. The Oregon team strongly disputed the criticisms. The dating of the bone tool, and the finding that the sediments encasing it range from 11,930 to 14,480 years old, might put these questions to rest.

But -- this is all interesting and very early but Meadowcroft Shelter is still earlier.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


An ancient civilization brought about its own demise by destroying forests which kept its delicate ecosystem in balance, according to researchers who claim the discovery has important implications for the modern world. Archaeologists examining the remains of the Nazca, who once flourished in the valleys of south coastal Peru, discovered a sequence of human-induced events which led to their 'catastrophic'
collapse around 500 CE.

"There are rearrangements of settlement, there is evidence from human bodies that life expectancy was falling and infant mortality rising, and the orthodox understanding is that something awful happened," said David Beresford-Jones, of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. "The major ceremonial site at Cahuachi was also abandoned."

The Nazca civilization, noted for creating vast patterns in the desert that can only be seen from the air, disappeared partly because it damaged the fragile ecosystem that held it in place, a study found. Author Oliver Whaley, of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: "The mistakes of prehistory offer us important lessons for our management of fragile, arid areas in the present."

In the study published in the journal Latin American Antiquity, the researchers found that the Nazca cleared areas of forest to make way for their own agriculture over the course of many generations. In doing so, the huarango tree, which once covered what is now a desert area, was gradually replaced by crops such as cotton and maize. But the tree was crucial to the desert's fragile ecosystem as it enhanced soil fertility and moisture and helped to hold the Nasca's narrow, vulnerable irrigation channels in place, the researchers said.

The Nazca eventually cut down so many trees that they reached a tipping point at which the arid ecosystem was irreversibly damaged. An El Nino-style flood then occurred, but its impact would have been far less devastating had the forests which protected the delicate desert ecology still been there, they said.

Dr David Beresford-Jones said: "These were very particular forests. The huarango is a remarkable nitrogen-fixing tree and it was an important source of food, forage, timber and fuel for the local people. It is the ecological 'keystone' species in this desert zone, enhancing soil fertility and moisture, ameliorating desert extremes in the microclimate beneath its canopy and underpinning the floodplain
with one of the deepest root systems of any tree known.