Sunday, April 25, 2010


After 12 years of preservation efforts, the 8 foot-high oak tree from the center of the Bronze Age Seahenge timber circle joined the rest of the excavated monument in the Lynn Museum (Norfolk, England). The stump, weighing one and a half tons, had to be lifted in through the front window of the museum.

The exhibit, including a replica of the original formation, will open this summer. More than 20,000 visitors have already come to see the oak posts since they went on display two years ago.

Dr. Robin Hanley, area museums officer, explained that all of the 4,000 year-old timbers show marks from the individual axes used to harvest the wood. Seahenge was built on the edge of an ancient forest. Carbon and tree ring dating give a date of 2049 BP for the construction of the timber circle.

It is the only known site of this kind ever found. A peat bog preserved the stumps after they were covered by sand, and a storm in 1998 revealved the monument.

Source: EDP 24 (18 April 2010)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


New research undertaken by the Center for Prehistoric Archaeological Heritage Studies at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona supports the view that modern humans and Neanderthals may have occupied the same sites at different times, and places the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic transition, the time when Neanderthals died out, between 34,000 and 32,000 years ago.

The team excavated at Cova Gran, a site of 2,500 square metres, in the south east Pyrenees in Catalonia, Spain, where they uncovered many well preserved materials, including tools from both the Middle (300,000 to 30,000 years ago) and Upper Palaeolithic (40,000 to 10,000 years ago). Different toolmaking techniques suggested that different species made the tools, and Carbon 14 dating showed the area was inhabited by the different species at different times between 34,000 and 32,000 years ago.

Although inhabiting Cova Gran at different times, the Neanderthals and modern humans had very similar lifestyles, hunting, gathering, making tools and using fire. However, perforated snail shells found at the site might indicate that modern humans had an increased cognitive capacity, for which there is as yet no evidence during the Middle Palaeolithic, and also that they traveled widely and had social networks through which such items could be shared.

This research supports similar findings from other excavations at sites around Europe that modern humans replaced Neanderthals between 40,000 to 30,000 years ago, and that the two species did not interact.

Source: Cordis News (6 April 2010)
[1 image]


University of Montana archaeologists have been excavating in Yellowstone National Park and have come to the conclusion that the area was a popular summer camp long before modern day Americans came to enjoy the natural geological features.

Evidence has been found to suggest that the area around the Yellowstone Lake was hunted by Native Americans from all parts of the northwest of the North American continent. The area is also rich in deposits of Obsidian which was used to make tools and weapons.

A 5,800 year old hearth has been found, together with a 3,000 year old volcanic boulder table. The obsidian artifacts found indicate that there was a north/south divide around the lake, with spear points and arrow heads manufactured on the north shore being traded north, west & east of the area whilst south shore traders stayed their side of the lake.

Source: Missoulian (3 April 2010)


Archaeologists from Syria and the United States have been excavating a site known as Tell Zeidan, on the borders of Syria and Turkey. This site is rare in the fact that there has been no further building or settlement in the area since the Ubaid Period (5,500 - 4,000 BCE) so the evidence found is 'clean'.

The Ubaid is a largely unexplored period, with the majority of the sites so far being either very small or not accessible enough (mixed with other periods) to reveal more than a glimpse of this civilization, where long distance trade became of greater importance and where the beginnings of a hierarchical class structure started to emerge.

The site is of such immense importance that Guillermo Algaze, of the University of California, is quoted as saying that the site "has the potential to revolutionize current interpretations of how civilization in the Near East came about".

Source: The New York Times (5 April 2010)


Following the recent expansion of Google Street View to most of the UK's roads, a website called the Megalithic Portal has created a comprehensive map of prehistoric and ancient sites, all found on the Street View service.

"I realized we could use our web resource to pinpoint ancient stones, barrows and other sites on Google Street View, so I launched a competition to see who could find the most sites.", explains Andy Burnham, the founder of the Megalithic Portal.

In just four weeks amateur archaeologists have found over 1000 ancient sites visible from the roadside, including 550 sites in England, and over 300 in Wales and Scotland put together. Amanda Gough from Cardiff is one of the volunteers: "This really gives you an idea of just how many ancient sites are still around and visible. Many people probably don't realize that they are driving or walking past
ancient monuments on a regular basis. It's amazing to think that out there beside our busy roads is thousands of years of history just waiting to be discovered."

The Megalithic Portal has created a map of the Street View discoveries at


Nine megalithic sites in a remote part of Dartmoor (England), share features in common with Stonehenge, and may shed light on the meaning behind these prehistoric stone monuments, according to a report in the latest issue of British Archaeology.

The Dartmoor megaliths, which were recently carbon-dated to around 3500 BCE, could predate Stonehenge, but both sites feature large standing stones that are aligned to mark the rising of the midsummer sun and the setting of the midwinter sun. Yet another Dartmoor stone monument, called Drizzlecombe, shares the same orientation. The ancient Brits were not necessarily sun worshippers, however.

Archaeologist Mike Pitts, editor of the journal, "The general feeling is that the sun was symbolizing or marking the occasion, rather than being the ritual focus itself, so it probably was not sun worship," added Pitts.

The Dartmoor megaliths, described in a separate study in the current issue of the journal Antiquity, are now lying flat, since the stones in a row fell, or were individually pushed, over. The toppling was fortuitous for historians, however, since peat above and the below the stones permitted the carbon dating, which is extremely rare for such monuments. Tom Greeves, who discovered the Dartmoor stones at a site called Cut Hill and is co-author of the Antiquity paper, said it is "remarkable that a previously unrecorded stone row with very large stones has been noted for the first time on one of Dartmoor's highest and remotest hills." He added that to reach their location "requires a walk of about two hours from whatever direction."

A ditched barrow (a mound of earth or stones) exists very close to the Cut Hill stones, providing further evidence that burials and possible death-related rituals might have taken place there. At least 81 stone monuments have now been discovered nearby, with Cut Hill's being among the largest at over 705 feet in length.

Pitts hopes that in the near future, archaeologists will carefully place the Cut Hill stones back into their upright positions, to further reveal what the monument looked like when it was first erected.