Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, a National Historic Landmark located in Avella, Pennsylvania (USA), has reopened.

Meadowcroft features a 16,000-year-old Rockshelter, the oldest site of human habitation in North America. The site provides ancient evidence of how the first Americans lived.

The new enclosure at Meadowcroft Rockshelter provides visitors with a unique, never-before-seen perspective into the oldest and deepest parts of this internationally-renowned archeological excavation.

To learn more about Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, please visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org and click on the Meadowcroft.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Tom Andrews, an archaeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife and lead researcher on the International Polar Year Ice Patch Study, is amazed at the implements being discovered by researchers.

Ice patches are accumulations of annual snow that, until recently, remained frozen all year. For millennia, caribou seeking relief from summer heat and insects have made their way to ice patches where they bed down until cooler temperatures prevail. Hunters noticed caribou were, in effect, marooned on these ice islands and took advantage.

"I'm never surprised at the brilliance of ancient hunters anymore. I feel stupid that we didn't find this sooner," says Andrews.

Ice patch archeology is a recent phenomenon that began in Yukon. In 1997, sheep hunters discovered a 4,300-year-old dart shaft in caribou dung that had become exposed as the ice receded. Scientists who investigated the site found layers of caribou dung buried between annual deposits of ice. They also discovered a repository of well-preserved artifacts.

In 2000, Andrews cobbled together funds to buy satellite imagery of specific areas in the Mackenzie Mountains and began to examine ice patches in the region. Five years later, he had raised enough to support a four-hour helicopter ride to investigate two ice patches. The trip proved fruitful.

"Low and behold, we found a willow bow." That discovery led to a successful application for federal International Polar Year funds which have allowed an interdisciplinary team of researchers to explore eight ice patches for four years.

The results have been extraordinary. Andrews and his team have found 2400-year-old spear throwing tools, a 1000-year-old ground squirrel snare, and bows and arrows dating back 850 years. Biologists involved in the project are examining dung for plant remains, insect parts, pollen and caribou parasites. Others are studying DNA evidence to track the lineage and migration patterns of caribou. Andrews also works closely with the Shutaot'ine or Mountain Dene, drawing on their guiding experience and traditional knowledge.

"The implements are truly amazing. There are wooden arrows and dart shafts so fine you can't believe someone sat down with a stone and made them."

Andrews is currently in a race against time. His IPY funds have run out and he is keenly aware that each summer, the patches continue to melt. In fact, two of the eight original patches have already disappeared.

"We realize that the ice patches are continuing to melt and we have an ethical obligation to collect these artifacts as they are exposed," says Andrews. If left on the ground, exposed artifacts would be trampled by caribou or dissolved by the acidic soils. "In a year or two the artifacts would be gone."

Provided by Arctic Institute of North America


AN ARCHAEOLOGIST has expressed amazement at the “bizarre” discovery of a 1,150-year-old Viking necklace in a Burren cave. Dr Marion Dowd of Sligo IT is leading the excavation of Glencurran cave in the Burren National Park, which she yesterday described as a “treasure trove” for archaeologists.

One of the major items discovered in the dig funded by the Department of the Environment and the Royal Irish Academy is the largest ever Viking necklace discovered in Ireland, described as a “stunning piece of jewellery” by Dr Dowd. "Normally, Viking necklaces that have been found have five to six glass beads, but this has 71 glass beads covered with gold foil,” she said.

“It really is bizarre how this necklace from a high status Viking came to be in a cave in the Burren. There is no parallel for it in Ireland and it is puzzling on a number of fronts.”

She said the necklace could have been the result of a trade with Vikings from Limerick and Gaelic chieftains in the Burren


In response to the announcement of a evangelical groups' find of Noah's Ark, Eric Cline, a prominent biblical archaeologist at George Washington University and author of the best-selling From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible, questions why this group made up mostly of amateurs in the field chose to announce their findings at a press conference rather than have them peer-reviewed and then published in a scholarly journal, as is standard archaeological and scientific practice.

"You see these sorts of claims almost every other year," he says. "When people of faith go out looking for things, it seems they almost always find them."

Archaeologists on blogs and forums have suggested the structure up on Mount Ararat may well just be a hut or some other form of rudimentary shelter. Cline also wonders why the ark over time would have been left intact at all. Indeed, according to the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, the ship was already being torn down. "It is said," he wrote, "that a portion of the vessel still survives ... on the mountains ... and that persons carry off pieces of [it], which they use as talismans."

Nevertheless, Yeung and his colleagues are pressing ahead, hoping to gain the support of UNESCO and spend the next few years deepening their analysis of the site. Cline says this sort of work strays from the real purpose of biblical archaeology, which is to bring to light the greater social realities of that ancient time, rather than prove the truth of Christian doctrine with quests for biblical totems.

It also misses a larger point about the history of the myth. The flood has echoes in legends from Central America to South Asia, and it almost certainly predates Judeo-Christian times. Scholars believe it was most likely transmitted to the Israelites from Mesopotamia: in the far older Epic of Gilgamesh, we encounter Utnapishtim, a man chosen by the gods to live alone in a boat full of animals while the world around him ended in a deluge. Just like Noah, as the rains stopped he sent out both a dove and a raven to gauge whether the waters had receded. "That's why I tell my students," says Cline, "that if I am going to look for an ark, it won't be that of Noah. Maybe it would be Utnapishtim's."

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1985830,00.html#ixzz0mnQ9zvOe