Saturday, September 28, 2013


[Another special interest for me as Tim Pauketat and I did a young people's book for Oxford University Press a few years ago.]

Excavations in the Midwest have turned up evidence of a massive ancient fire that likely marked “the beginning of the end” for what was once America’s largest city, archaeologists say. The digs took place in southern Illinois, just meters away from the interstate highways that carve their way through and around modern-day St. Louis. But 900 years ago, this was the heart of Greater Cahokia, a civilization whose trade routes and religious influence stretched from the Great Lakes to the Deep South, and whose culture shaped the lifeways of the Plains and Southern Indians.

Here, researchers with the Illinois State Archaeological Survey have discovered a widespread layer of charcoal and burned artifacts among the foundations of ancient structures — evidence of a great and sudden conflagration that consumed perhaps as many as 100 buildings. While there’s only “circumstantial evidence” as to what caused the fire, the researchers say, what’s even more striking is that the event seems to mark an ominous turning point in Cahokian culture.

The structures destroyed by the fire were never rebuilt, the excavations showed. Meanwhile, other large, important buildings, like distinctive ceremonial “lodges” or houses for local elites, stopped appearing altogether throughout the region. And soon after the fire, a great palisade wall went up around the nearby city center — known to archaeologists as Downtown Cahokia — most likely for protection.

“My colleagues and I believe that we have pinpointed a major turning point in ancient Cahokia’s history,” writes Dr. Tim Pauketat, archaeologist at the University of Illinois, in a statement. “We have found, we think, the beginning of the end of this American Indian city.” Pauketat, author of Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi, is also lead author of a paper describing the find in the Journal of Field Archaeology.

The end, in this case, began at a site known today as the East St. Louis precinct, a large walled compound some 10 kilometers from Downtown Cahokia that was likely the site of important civic and religious ceremonies. During the culture’s heyday, from about 1050 to the mid-12th century, East St. Louis was the second-largest ceremonial center in all of eastern North America — after Downtown Cahokia itself, which at its peak was home to as many as 10,000 people.


Details of the “first passage-tomb to be discovered in in Boyne Valley in 200 years” have been reported in the Sept 7 edition of the Meath Chronicle. It was discovered by the Heritage Council Funded ‘Boyne Valley Landscapes Project’, a collaborative research project led by researchers from University College Dublin (Dr Stephen Davis and Dr Will Megarry) and Dundalk Institute of Technology (Dr Conor Brady).

The newly discovered passage-tomb, on the floodplain of the Boyne southwest of Newgrange, had showed up in the lidar surface as a low rise, a mere 25cm high and 30m across, surrounded by a barely visible enclosure 130m in diameter. The site was originally designated LP2 (Low Profile) by the research team, but is now recorded as an embanked enclosure (the Irish equivalent to a henge monument), SMR no. ME019-094.

Geophysical survey using magnetic gradiometry and resistivity was then carried out, and confirmed the weakly defined outer enclosure in addition to a distinct passage/chamber arrangement, with the passage aligned towards the north-northeast on the Newgrange ridge.

Archaeologists have been excited about the central mound, which they said “appears to show a clear passage and chamber arrangement with splayed terminals at the NNE. The central mound is clearly identifiable and measures c. 30m in diameter. This strongly suggests that the feature represents a hitherto unknown passage tomb.”

The lidar survey also revealed a wealth of other new monuments and possible monuments (in excess of 65), including previously unrecorded embanked enclosures at Carranstown, Co. Meath and in Dowth townland.

With three henges/embanked enclosures and the remarkable images of the chamber and passage these discoveries rewrite the narrative of Brú na Bóinne, and demonstrate the huge potential of lidar in both archaeological prospection and landscape archaeology.


[I'm always delighted to find "new" info on Stonehenge as I am the author w/ Caroline Malone of a Oxford University Press book for young people on Stonehenge. Lots of new stuff since we wrote it several years ago.]

An ancient ceremonial pathway linking Stonehenge and the nearby River Avon has been unearthed during work to close the road alongside the monument. Two ditches buried beneath the A344 represent either side of the Avenue, a processional approach aligned with the sunrise of the summer solstice. Its connection with Stonehenge had been severed when the A344 was built hundreds of years ago. The find was made near the Heel Stone, about 24 metres from the monument.

English Heritage's Heather Sebire called it "the missing piece of the jigsaw", as the Avenue had been difficult to identify on the ground, but is clearly visible in aerial photographs. She said: "The part of the Avenue that was cut through by the road has obviously been destroyed forever, but we were hopeful that archaeology below the road would survive.

National Trust archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall said it confirms "with total certainty" that Stonehenge and its Avenue were linked. Work is currently being carried out to restore the A344 alongside the monument to grass and build a new visitor center. English Heritage said the work would "restore the dignity" of the stones' setting and "minimize the intrusion of the modern world".


Excavations at Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos have uncovered the earliest complete human figurine currently known on Cyprus, the Antiquities Department has announced. The age of the statue could range from 10,500 to 11,000 years old based on the fact it was discovered at a site that has been radio-carbon dated to between 8800-8600 BC. The period marks the beginning of the Neolithic period in Cyprus at a time when the transition from hunting to farming economies was beginning throughout the Middle East.

The figurine was found in a collection of four igneous stone objects including two flat cobbles, one with an extensive red ocher reside, a perfectly pecked stone sphere, along with the complete female statuette.

A third large semi-subterranean building was also unearthed, as was a simple dish-shaped pit structure furnished with a single post-hole that could have supported only a comparatively light roof for its earliest curvilinear earth floor, with a cluster of small stake holes providing evidence of a similarly light super-structure during a later re-occupation of the building.

The 2013 excavations continued to unearth evidence of significant manufacturing activity associated with the production of chipped stone tools, which together with a second resource, namely ocher, combine to explain the choice of site location adjacent to the Lefkara chalk belt and the sulfide deposits of Mathiatis.

“The processing of multi-coloured pigments was facilitated by a large array of ground stone tools dominated by pounding tools and grinders that facilitated the processing of pigments as evidenced by significant numbers of tools with ocher residues,” said the Antiquities Department. Such tools were cached in features dug into structure floors or placed in heaps along with other evidence of occupation including discarded chert tools and animal bones.

Unique among the finds were two large pits each with a thick clay lining that could have facilitated the storage of water within the structure. Postholes and burnt mud plaster encircling the circumference of the interior pit wall of the structure provided evidence of a substantial timber super-structure used to roof the building.

The excavations were conducted from the end of March to mid-June 2013 under the direction of Dr Carole McCartney on behalf of the Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Cyprus working in partnership with Cornell University and the University of Toronto.


A new excavation in the Xirokambi area of Aghios Vassilios west of Sparta, in the Peloponnese, Greece, has revealed a richness of Mycenaean artifacts in the area, including the remains of a palace, Linear B tablets, fragments of wall paintings, and several bronze swords. The excavation, led by emeritus ephor of antiquities Adamantia Vassilogrambrou, was presented publicly at the biennial Shanghai Archaeology Forum at the end of August as one of 11 sites showcased from different parts of the world.

The Aghios Vassilios excavation began in 2010, after Linear B tablets were found in the area in 2008, pointing to the existence of a powerful central authority and distribution system. The deciphered texts were devoted to perfume and cloth production, the trade of which was controlled by a palace administration in the Mycenaean era.

Evidence of a central palace administration was confirmed also by the architecture, which is dated to the 14th century BC, while contact with Crete was confirmed by the finding of a double axe, a feature of the island’s palace culture.

Artifacts found include seals, a multitude of ceramic and bronze vessels, and 21 bronze swords. According to the evidence, a sudden fire that broke out either at the end of the 14th century or the beginning of the 13th destroyed the three buildings on the site which were never rebuilt at the same location.
(source: ana-mpa)

 Aghios Vassilios, Greece, Mycenean, Peloponnese, Sparta, Xirokambi


The find, a 1,400 year old gold medallion was part of a cache found, is a “once-in-a lifetime discovery,” according to Eilat Mazar, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist who directed the excavation. Etched into the medallion is a menorah, the 7-branched candelabrum used in the ancient Temple, a ram’s horn, and a Torah scroll.

The position of the items as they were discovered indicates that one bundle was carefully hidden underground, while the second bundle appeared to be abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor, according to an e-mailed statement from Hebrew University.

“The striking Jewish symbols, the location of the hoard, the find itself, which gives so much information, all make it a very special find,” said Mazar in a telephone interview. “I’ve also never found so much gold in my life.”

The medallion, which hangs from a gold chain, is probably an ornament for a Torah scroll, according to the statement. If so, it is the earliest Torah scroll ornament found in archaeological excavations to date. It was buried in a small depression in the floor of a ruined Byzantine public structure, about 50 meters from the Temple Mount’s southern wall.

“The most likely explanation is that the cache was earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue, at a location that is near the Temple Mount,” said Mazar. “What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful. The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it.”

The find is only the third collection of gold coins to be found in excavations in Jerusalem, according to Lior Sandberg, a numismatics specialist at Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology. The coins can be dated to the reigns of different Byzantine emperors, ranging from the middle of the 4th century to the early 7th century, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alisa Odenheimer in Jerusalem at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at


The raging war in Syria is killing civilians, wrecking institutions and the economy, and destroying the country. It is also eliminating its heritage, history, and antiquities. But discussing this issue is not a luxury we can postpone. The issue is not random at all. Theft of archaeological sites in Syria has become systematic. Those implicated in the operations, thieves and smugglers, are not reluctant to justify their reprehensible and illegal actions.

The pieces will be taken to Damascus to ensure their authenticity, in the first operation of its kind involving the return of antiquities since the eruption of the events in Syria. The issue was brought to light recently after the attempted smuggling of 18 mosaic tiles from Syria, which were seized by Lebanese customs a year and a half ago. The General Directorate of Antiquities is expected to return them today to the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) in Syria. Information obtained by Al-Akhbar reveals that the smuggling operation took place in October 2012. A Syrian bus with Idlib license plates crossed the Lebanese border with only a few passengers. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. However, a surprise checkpoint set up by customs stopped the bus. The driver was asked to open the luggage compartment in the lower part of the bus. To their surprise, they found 18 mosaics, wrapped and piled on top of each other.

The artifacts were arranged in the form that carpets are kept at home. In fact, "carpets" are what they are usually called by smugglers. When mosaics are being removed from the ground, they are covered with a piece of strong adhesive cloth. This allows them to detach the small stones – some of which had been stuck together for more than 200 years – and begin rolling the mosaic like one would roll a carpet, removing them from the ground. The loose stones that remain are picked up so they can restore the mosaic with its original stones. This was how the discovered mosaics were removed.

Customs delivered the pieces to the Office of International Thefts. Archaeologists from the Lebanese General Directorate for Antiquities checked the mosaics and declared to Lebanese authorities that they were authentic and originated in Syria. The directorate's report was used as conclusive evidence in the trial against the bus driver, who was accused of smuggling, despite his lawyer's attempts to prove that his client was transporting recently manufactured personal items. But this could not hold up against the report of archaeologist Laure Salloum.

The court ordered the items to be returned to Syria and, in the meantime, to be safely kept in the General Directorate for Antiquities' warehouses. Syrian authorities were contacted, and they sent a preliminary team to assess the pieces and verify their Syrian origins. The team, which visited the warehouses in June, was made up of Director of Archaeological Exploration and Studies Ahmed al-Tarqaji, Director of Restoration Laboratories Kamit Abdullah, and restoration expert Maher Gebai.

The teams from both directorates began inspecting the artifacts, and the Syrian team faces began turning sour with every piece. The first piece was heavily damaged. The relatively large stones (1 cm squares) were falling apart, and it was difficult to discern the the original image it depicted. This mosaic was cut into 11 smaller squares, which had to be put together to see the original image. Then they began to unwrap the mosaics with small stones. Faces and Greek writing began to appear. One of them depicted scenes from Homer's Odyssey, with the names of the characters in Greek letters.

The suspense grew as the last and largest piece, 3.40 by 2.10 meters, was unwrapped, revealing meticulous precision in illustration and the use of stones of no more than 3 mm each. The tableau portrayed the four seasons as faces at the corners. In the middle, it showed people going about their daily life. The borders were decorated with signs of the zodiac. "The astrological depiction of the zodiac in its current form goes back for centuries," explained Abdullah. "This was discovered in other mosaics." As for the authenticity of these pieces, he said, "We cannot say for sure until we study the pieces in the restoration laboratories in Damascus." However, he stressed that the last item was "a first-class museum piece. It is a valuable piece of art originating in northern Syria."

"The war in Syria is drowning the country in its people's blood and extensive destruction. But where the guns do not reach, the shovels will dig," Saad explained.The pieces will be taken to Damascus to ensure their authenticity, in the first operation of its kind involving the return of antiquities since the eruption of the events in Syria. "Lebanon is the only neighboring country, which contacted us and informed us about seizing smuggled antiquities," explained the General Director of DGAM in Syria, Mamoun Abdul-Karim. "This positive relationship confirms that Lebanon is truly concerned with the fight against smuggling Syrian antiquities. We are grateful for its efforts and credibility."

"The war in Syria is drowning the country in its people's blood and extensive destruction. But where the guns do not reach, the shovels will dig," Saad explained. "Archaeological sites, even the ones difficult to reach, were not spared the war. Over there, Syria's history is not buried under the rubble, but in the sand carried with the antiquities." "Archaeological digs have become open grounds and everyone can find something there. Some of them justify this by the supremacy of their cause and others by their need. Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) acknowledged in several media reports that some combatants are charged with digging for antiquities that could be exchanged with weapons," Saad explained.

"This is confirmed by archaeologists monitoring the market closely. One of them, who asked to remain anonymous, goes even further, saying that trading 'arms for artifacts' is currently taking place, but it is concentrated in Turkey, not Lebanon. The roads leading to Lebanon are now inside the battlefields in more than one location. Yet the borders with Turkey are wide open and the traders can move with great ease. The goods are transported by airplanes to selected locations," Saad continued.

Lebanon imports weapons and stolen cars, and exports antiquities and hashish. It is merely a stop for stolen Syrian antiquities, not the final destination. To ensure the success of smuggling operations of this magnitude, "there is collusion between security forces on each side of the border, the exporting and the importing side. General Security and Customs are the ones responsible here. The collaboration of some of their personnel ensures the arrival of the pieces."

There are no official figures on how extensive the thefts are in Syria. Aerial photographs could be the only evidence currently. At the satellite division of the UN Institute for Training and Research, sources maintain the lack of images for sites along the Euphrates, especially around the Hassakeh region. However, a detailed comparison of images of Apamea between 2011 and 2012 shows that the famous archaeological site now looks like the surface of the moon.

More than 5,000 craters, some two meters deep or more, are spread around the site. Archaeologists fear that the fate of the eastern Dura-Europos and Mari sites could even be worse. According to former director of archaeological excavation in Syria Michel Makdissi, "We received news of [non-combatant] armed groups around these two sites, protecting workers spread around the two areas, who are digging non stop."


The British Museum and US-based Penn Museum are collaborating on the creation of a web resource to display archaeologist Leonard Woolley’s Mesopotamian excavations from 1922-34.

The two institutions are in talks with colleagues at the National Museum of Iraq about the project and hope to develop a collaboration with their Iraqi counterparts as the initiative progresses. The project will include all available information on each object, as well as photographs, drawings, maps and field records, with full translations in English to provide context. The project is funded by a $1.28m grant from the Leon Levy Foundation and is due to be completed in June 2015.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said: “Through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation, these sensational discoveries, housed in three great museums, can be presented to a worldwide audience of millions.” According to reports, the artifacts are being registered in an electronic database at Cornell University before being transferred to Iraq.


With the absence of security agencies following the revolution, grave diggers are speeding up their operations, threatening heritage left behind by civilizations that thrived in Libya thousands of years ago. Magharebia had a tour with archaeologist Saed al-Annabi in Shahat in eastern Libya, the location of the archaeological city of Cyrene, built by the Greeks in 631 BC. The city is one of the world's largest grave sites.

Shahat is an area that witnessed early improvement in security. Its police force and other agencies created after the revolution are actively working. However, they can't impose their control on archaeological sites around the area. Attacks on Cyrene have prompted UNESCO to threaten to remove it from the list of World Heritage Sites.

Historical studies indicate that Cyrene was one of the richest cities of the ancient world and that many of its products, such as silphium, which was equal in value to gold, as well as grains, olive and its derivatives, were so abundant that the city supplied ancient Greece. However, according to al-Annabi, the possessions of their dead are now "coveted by thieves".

Al-Annabi said attacks on archaeological sites occurred before the revolution but they increased afterwards because there was no security agency tasked with the protection of heritage. Excavations at archaeological sites have grown in the absence of state authority. Meanwhile, grave sites are disturbed, either by building on them or by turning them into rest-houses or even barns for animals. According to al-Annabi, residents of rural areas around Cyrene complained about individuals messing around with these sites. "Some of them were arrested and brought to court," he said.

In his turn, Ahmed Abdul Karim, professor of antiquities at Omar Mokhtar University, called for tightening security at archaeological sites. He blamed Libya's antiquities law, which failed to resolve the issue of land ownership. "Transferring the ownership of land where antiquities are found from citizens to state is one of the biggest challenges facing the Libyan authorities in protecting antiquities," he added.

Abdul Karim Jleed, a photographer, said, "Honestly, the security aspect is very neglected as far as antiquities are concerned. Archaeological sites are open from all sides and visitors are not monitored. Unfortunately, we see during holidays intensive security patrols and we can avoid many problems if these patrols continued throughout the year."


Adding to the accumulating evidence that Neanderthals were more sophisticated than previously thought, scientists in Europe said that they had unearthed strong evidence that the early hominins — often typecast as brutish, club-lugging ape-men — fashioned their own specialized bone tools. In a report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, archaeologists described the discovery of four fragments of bone tools known as lissoirs at two Neanderthal sites in southwest France. The implements are the oldest specialized bone tools found in Europe, said study lead author Marie Soressi, an archaeologist from Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Prior to the finds, tools unearthed at Neanderthal sites were almost exclusively made of stone, while bone tools were more common at early modern-human sites — leading many scholars to believe that Neanderthals adopted the technology from their more advanced relatives. But the recently unearthed lissoirs, about 41,000 to 51,000 years old, could predate the arrival of modern humans in Europe and suggest that Neanderthals might have figured out how to make the tools independently, Soressi and her team wrote.

Ancient lissoirs were made from animal ribs. Leather workers probably scraped the tools against hides to create more lustrous, waterproof leather. Craftspeople still use lissoirs today. Soressi's group unearthed the first lissoir fragment from the Pech-de-l'Azé I excavation site in southwestern France in 2005. Team member and archaeologist William Rendu of the French National Center for Scientific Research noticed the unusual looking fragment of deer rib and "immediately saw" that its shape and markings weren't anatomical or due to sediment wearing away at the bone, he said.

Further examination under a microscope revealed that the artifact, less than a centimeter long, had a worn edge and a polished surface, suggesting that it had come from a tool.The ancient fragment was probably a tip that had broken off, she said.

Soressi shared her findings with Shannon McPherron, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany who was researching Neanderthal behavior at a nearby site called Abri Peyrony.McPherron and his colleagues began searching his site for lissoir fragments too. The group found three over the next seven years and confirmed they too were from the leather-working tools.

Although archaeologists had discovered bone tools at Neanderthal sites before, these were the first specialized bone tools — implements that weren't just copies of existing stone tools but ones that exploited bone's unique properties, McPherron said. Radiocarbon dating dated one of the lissoirs to 51,000 years ago — thousands of years before modern humans landed in Europe. That suggests that our ancestors may have adopted the practice of making bone tools from the continent's earlier Neanderthal inhabitants. But it's just as likely that modern humans arrived earlier than previously thought and influenced the Neanderthals, Soressi said.

The findings add to earlier evidence of complex behavior in Neanderthals, such as using tree resin as glue and making pitch to waterproof their boats, said Villa of the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.


Research by a University of Southampton archaeologist suggests that early humans, who lived thousands of years before Neanderthals, were able to work together in groups to hunt and slaughter animals as large as the prehistoric elephant.

Dr Francis Wenban-Smith discovered a site containing remains of an extinct straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) in 2003, in an area of land at Ebbsfleet in Kent, during the construction of the High Speed 1 rail link from the Channel Tunnel to London. Investigation of the area was carried out with independent heritage organization Oxford Archaeology, with the support of HS1 Ltd.

Excavation revealed a deep sequence of deposits containing the elephant remains, along with numerous flint tools and a range of other species such as; wild aurochs, extinct forms of rhinoceros and lion, Barbary macaque, beaver, rabbit, various forms of vole and shrew, and a diverse assemblage of snails. These remains confirm that the deposits date to a warm period of climate around 420,000 years ago, the so-called Hoxnian interglacial, when the climate was probably slightly warmer than the present day.

Since the excavation, which took place in 2004, Francis has been carrying out a detailed analysis of evidence recovered from the site, including 80 undisturbed flint artifacts found scattered around the elephant carcass and used to butcher it. The pre-historic elephant was twice the size of today’s African variety and up to four times the weight of family car.

“Early hominins of this period would have depended on nutrition from large herbivores. The key evidence for elephant hunting is that, of the few prehistoric butchered elephant carcasses that have been found across Europe, they are almost all large males in their prime, a pattern that does not suggest natural death and scavenging. Although it seems incredible that they could have killed such an animal, it must have been possible with wooden spears. We know hominins of this period had these, and an elephant skeleton with a wooden spear through its ribs was found at the site of Lehringen in Germany in 1948,” according to Wenban-Smith.

These early humans suffered local extinction in Northern Europe during the great ice age known as the Anglian glaciation 450,000 years ago, but re-established themselves as the climate grew warmer again in the following Hoxnian interglacial.

An ability to hunt large mammals, and in particular elephants, as suggested by the Ebbsfleet find, would go some way to explaining how these people then managed to push northwards again into what is now Britain. The flint artifacts of these pioneer settlers are of a characteristic type known as Clactonian, mostly comprising simple razor-sharp flakes that would have been ideal for cutting meat, sometimes with notches on them that would have helped cut through the tougher animal hide. The discovery of this previously undisturbed Elephant grave site is unique in Britain – where only a handful of other elephant skeletons have been found and none of which have produced similar evidence of human exploitation. “Analysis of these deposits show they lived at a time of peak interglacial warmth, when the Ebbsfleet Valley was a lush, densely wooded tributary of the Thames, containing a quiet, almost stagnant swamp,” said Wenban-Smith.

Monday, September 02, 2013


One of the first stepping stones for Europeans as they explored across the Atlantic to ultimately land in the Americas was colonized much earlier than previously thought - and not by the Vikings, who were once thought to be the pioneers of those isles, researchers say.

The Faroe Islands are located about halfway between Norway and Iceland. They were the first stepping stones beyond the Scottish archipelago of the Shetlands for the Viking diaspora that culminated in the European discovery of continental North America in the 11th century, about 400 or 500 years before Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage.

Until now, scientists thought the Vikings undertook the first major settlement of the Faroes in the ninth century. Still, there were hints there might have been earlier arrivals there - for instance, in about 825, the Irish monk Dicuil in the court of Charlemagne wrote of Irish hermits settling islands beforehand that may have been the Faroes, researcher Mike Church, an environmental archaeologist at the Durham University in England, told LiveScience in an interview.

Now, scientists have discovered firm archaeological evidence "for the human colonization of the Faroes by people some 300 to 500 years before the large-scale Viking colonization of the ninth century, although we don't yet know who these people were or where they came from," Church said in a statement.

The research took place at an archaeological site of Á Sondum on the island of Sandoy. The investigation revealed an extensive windblown sand deposit containing patches of burnt peat ash from human activity. This ash contained barley grains burnt in domestic hearths, which carbon dating showed was pre-Viking. Barley is not indigenous to the Faroes, so it must have been either grown or brought to the islands by humans.

Humans would have spread these ashes onto the sands during the fourth to sixth centuries and sixth to eighth centuries. This practice was often seen in the North Atlantic region among Europeans during this period to stabilize the dunes and keep the wind from eroding them away.

"The majority of archaeological evidence for this early colonization is likely to have been destroyed by the major Viking invasion, explaining the lack of proof found in the Faroes for the earlier settlement," Church said. It remains unknown who these newly discovered settlers were. Possibilities may include religious hermits from Ireland, late-Iron Age colonists from Scotland or pre-Viking explorers from Scandinavia.

"Although we don't know who the people were that settled here and where they came from, it is clear that they did prepare peat for use by cutting, drying and burning it, which indicates they must have stayed here for some time," researcher Símun Arge, of the National Museum of the Faroe Islands, said in a statement.

"We're likely looking at very small numbers of people, so there won't be that much to find, and the big Viking colonization event probably involved quite a lot of Viking longhouses put in the same sorts of places where these early settlers put houses, so a lot of what little evidence there was may be destroyed," Church explained.

The scientists detailed their findings online July 17 in the journal
Quaternary Science Reviews.


The newly-found tunnel was large enough to have taken carts and wagons,which would have ferried food, fire wood and other goods from one part of the sprawling palace to another.
The villa, at Tivoli, about 20 miles east of Rome, was built by Hadrian in the 2nd century AD and was the largest ever constructed in the Roman period. It covered around 250 acres and consisted of more than 30 major buildings.

Although known as a villa, it was in fact a vast country estate which consisted of palaces, libraries, heated baths, theaters, courtyards and landscaped gardens. There were outdoor ornamental pools adorned with green marble crocodiles, as well as a perfectly round, artificial island in the middle of a pond.

Beneath the complex were more than two miles of tunnels which would have enabled slaves to move from the basement of one building to another without being seen by the emperor, his family and imperial dignitaries. The newly-discovered underground passageway has been dubbed by archaeologists the Great Underground Road - in Italian the Strada Carrabile.
Many of the tunnels have been known about for decades but this one is far larger than the rest.

It was discovered after archaeologists working at the site stumbled upon a small hole in the ground, hidden by bushes and brambles, which led to the main gallery. Around 10ft wide, it runs in a north-easterly direction and then switches towards the south. "All the majesty of the villa is reflected underground," Vittoria Fresi, the archaeologist leading the research project, told Il Messagero newspaper.

"The underground network helps us to understand the structures that are above ground." In contrast to the palace, which fell into disrepair after the fall of the Roman Empire and was plundered for its stone, the underground network remains "almost intact". Much of it is blocked by debris that has accumulated over the centuries. Heritage officials are hoping to organize the first public tours of the tunnels in the autumn.

Hadrian, who built the eponymous defensive wall in northern England, was a keen amateur architect who incorporated into the design of his villa architectural styles that he had seen during his travels in Egypt and Greece. He started building the palace shortly after he became emperor in 117AD and continued adding to it until his death in 138AD.


Once a sleepy area in one of the hottest areas in Turkey, the southeastern province of Kilis has gained prominence in recent months as it welcomes thousands of refugees from Syria's civil war. Its appearance on the stage of history, however, is in keeping with the area's importance in antiquity, as new archaeological excavations have revealed traces of Prophet Abraham's stay in the vicinity, as well as a treasure from Alexander the Great.

Researchers working in the area have discovered what they are terming a "lost city," according to the head of the excavation team, Cumhuriyet University Archaeology Department Associate Professor Atilla Engin.

"According to a papyrus document from the Iron Age, a lost city which we have found in the region is where the Prophet Abraham lived. It will make great contributions to the region and the country's tourism. We have also found 134 silver coins in the treasure of Alexander the Great," Engin said.

Speaking to members of the press, Engin said the area where they found the evidence and artifacts, the Oylum tumulus, was one of the most important and largest in the region, as it shed light on the history of the region.

"In terms of its size, the Oylum tumulus is one of the largest in Turkey, but more importantly, we are here because it was a significant kingdom in the Bronze Age. Cuneiform documents and seal stamps of Hittite kings obtained during three excavation seasons prove to us that this area was the center of a kingdom. We think that this place is the ancient city of Ullis. Engin said Ullis was thought to have been located in the eastern Mediterranean, but their new discoveries show that the Oylum tumulus was the city of the ancient city.

"The name of Ullis is mentioned in ancient Akat documents. It matches with the name mentioned in Hittite documents. In the papyrus documents, this city is said to be the city where the Prophet Abraham had lived. In the Ullis plain, there is a center, which is related to a name, Abraam," said Engin.

He added: the Kilis Museum had been established with pieces unearthed so far in the excavations, hinting that some of the new findings would also find their way into the museum. "Artifacts from the Bronze Age draw particular attention at the museum."


After a century of uncertainty, researchers have confirmed that the iron used to weld 5,000-year-old Egyptian beads fell from the sky-in the form of a meteorite.

The nine small beads were excavated in 1911 from a tomb in Gerzeh, an ancient cemetery in northern Egypt. Early chemical testing showed traces of nickel, leading scientists to believe they were made from meteoric iron. The beads were prized as exotic artifacts, strung together on a necklace with precious minerals like gold and carnelian.

Fast forward a few decades to the 1980s, when a fragment from the beads was retested to determine its composition using newer technology called an electron microprobe. The results revealed concentrations of nickel that were too low to confirm whether the iron came from a meteorite. Still, some scientists remained unconvinced that the beads were entirely man-made, which was an alternative explanation.

Thilo Rehren, a professor at University College London's Institute of Archaeology campus in Qatar, has released a study in the Journal of Archaeological Science that says germanium levels-a chemical element not highly concentrated in man-made iron-prove the metal is meteoric.

Using noninvasive neutron and x-ray methods, Rehren and his team tested the inner core of the beads where the original metal was before it corroded. In the 1980 study that found low levels of nickel, scientists only were able to test the bead's outer layer, which had crusted into pure iron rust over time. "The label for these beads said: 'Meteoric Iron, question mark,' but with this new research we could say, 'Meteoric Iron, exclamation mark!'" Rehren said.

In addition to being the oldest discovered artifacts made from meteoric iron, these beads provide novel insight into Egyptian civilization that predates the Iron Age by 2,000 years. Rehren says the beads are the earliest known sign of metalwork, suggesting that people at that time had already mastered the art of blacksmithing.

The beads were created from rolling a very thin sheet of metal into a tube. Because meteoric iron is as tough as stainless steel, the process is precise. The brittle iron must be cooled extremely slowly to make sure it does not crack. Once the beads are heated, they are hammered into their nugget-like form.

"It is fascinating to see what museum collections still yield in terms of new information and discoveries."


Previously unknown archeological sites in forest islands reveal human presence in the western Amazon as early as 10,000 years ago, according to research published August 28 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Umberto Lombardo from the University of Bern, Switzerland and colleagues from other institutions.

The study focuses on a region in the Bolivian Amazon thought to be rarely occupied by pre-agricultural communities due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Hundreds of 'forest islands'- small forested mounds of earth- are found throughout the region, their origins attributed to termites, erosion or ancient human activity. In this study, the authors report that three of these islands are shell middens, mounds of seashells left by
settlers in the early Holocene period, approximately 10,400 years ago.

Radiocarbon analysis of two middens indicates that humans settled in this region during the early Holocene, approximately 10,400 years ago, and shells and other artifacts built up into mounds over an approximately 6,000 year period of human use. The sites may have been abandoned as climate shifted towards wetter conditions later. Lombardo adds, "We have discovered the oldest archaeological sites in western and southern Amazonia. These sites allow us to reconstruct 10,000 years of human-environment interactions in the Bolivian Amazon."

Journal Reference:. Early and Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Occupations in Western Amazonia: The Hidden Shell Middens. PLoS ONE, 2013;