Wednesday, June 25, 2014


A series of hunting scenes dating from 7,000 years ago have been found by archaeologists on the six-meter long wall of a small cave in the region of Vilafranca in Castellón, eastern Spain--but it is being kept a secret for now.

A layer of dust and dirt covered ten figures, including bulls, two archers and a goat. The murals were exposed to harsh weather but the paintings pigments have not seriously deteriorated.

Inés Domingo Sanz, a research professor at the University of Barcelona, and Dídac Román, a research associate (archaeology) at the University of Toulouse II Le Mirail and University of Valencia, discovered the site while undertaking government-sponsored research into another excavation area in the region. Sanz says that "some of the [painting] details are unique [and unlike anything] across the entire Mediterranean Basin". A planned publication will throw light on the rare archaeological find.

The cave was discovered in November 2013 but its location will only be revealed once security measures are in place, after vandals defaced a 5,000-year-old rock painting in Spain's southern Jaén province in April.

Edited from The Art Newspaper (23 May 2014)
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Five Neolithic houses have been recreated at Stonehenge to reveal how the ancient monument's builders would have lived 4,500 years ago. The single-room, 5m (16ft) wide homes made of chalk and straw daub and wheat-thatching, are based on archaeological remains at nearby Durrington Walls. Susan Greaney, from English Heritage, said the houses are the result of "archaeological evidence, educated guess work, and lots of physical work." More than 20 tons of chalk, 5,000 rods of hazel and three tonnes of wheat straw were used

The 'bright and airy' Neolithic homes are closely based on archaeological remains of houses, discovered just over a mile away from Stonehenge. Dated to about the same time as the large sarsen stones were being erected, English Heritage said experts believe they may have housed the people involved with constructing the monument.

Excavations at Durrington Walls, not only uncovered the floors of houses but stake holes where walls had once stood - providing 'valuable evidence' to their size and layout. "We know for example, that each house contained a hearth and that puddled chalk was used to make the floor," said a spokesman for English Heritage. "And far from being dark and primitive, the homes were incredibly bright and airy spaces with white chalk walls and floors designed to reflect sunlight and capture the heat from the fire."
Using authentic local materials including 20 tonnes of chalk, 5,000 rods of hazel and three tonnes of wheat straw, it has taken a team of 60 volunteers five months to re-create the homes. Susan Greaney, a historian at English Heritage, said it had been a "labor of love" and an "incredible learning experience" for the volunteers. "Now visitors can step through the door of these houses and get a real sense of what everyday life might have been like when Stonehenge was built," she said.

Edited from BBC News (2 June 2014)
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Recent work by a team led by Mietje Germonpré, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, uncovered evidence that some large carnivores at these sites were early domesticated dogs, not wolves.

According to Penn State Professor Emerita Pat Shipman, "Dogs help hunters find prey faster and more often, and can surround a large animal... while hunters move in. Furthermore, large dogs like those identified by Germonpré either can help carry the prey home or, by guarding the carcass from other carnivores, can make it possible for the hunters to camp at the kill sites."

Another unusual feature of these sites is the presence of extraordinary numbers of other predators, particularly wolves and foxes. "If humans were working and living with domesticated dogs or even semi-domesticated wolves at these archaeological sites, we would expect to find the new focus on killing the wild wolves that we see there."

Two other types of studies have yielded data that support Shipman's hypothesis. Hervé Bocherens and Dorothée Drucker, of the University of Tubingen in Germany, found that the individuals identified as dogs had different diets from those identified as wolves, possibly indicating feeding by humans. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA by Olaf Thalmann of the University of Turku in Finland, and others, show the dogs have a distinctive genetic signature that is not known from any other canid.

"Since mitochondrial DNA is carried only by females, this finding may indicate that these odd canids did not give rise to modern domesticated dogs and were simply a peculiar, extinct group of wolves," Shipman says. "Alternatively, it may indicate that early humans did domesticate wolves into dogs or a doglike group, but the female canids interbred with wild wolf males and so the distinctive female mitochondrial DNA lineage was lost."

Edited from PhysOrg (29 May 2014)
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Near the village of Mursalevo in southwestern Bulgaria, archaeologists are investigating the remains of a settlement estimated to date to the late Neolithic, about 5800 BCE, making it one of the oldest farming communities in Europe. Archaeologist Vassil Nikolov, of the National Archaeology Institute and Museum, says the settlement shows signs of urban planning, and had about 35 houses made of clay over a wooden skeleton and covered with trestle and straw.

The digs have unearthed many pottery shards, as well as numerous bones of domesticated animals - evidence that the inhabitants kept livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. The settlement existed for at least 150 years, but was abandoned and burned down. Parts were excavated in the 1920s, during the construction of the railway line between Dupnitsa and Blagoevgrad, but the settlement had not been studied in depth in recent decades.

The site is one of several locations of archaeological interest that will be crossed by the Struma motorway, linking the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia to Thessaloniki in northern Greece.

Major infrastructure projects like motorways have proven a boon to archaeological research in Bulgaria over the past decade, offering the opportunity to excavate sites for which funding is otherwise not available because of the dwindling state subsidies for such research.

"The results are very important, the urban planning is something that I have not seen anywhere in the Balkans, not to such extent and in a settlement of this size," Nikolov said. "This will allow us to draw some conclusions about the social organization of this community and it speaks a lot to the human ability to organize and plan a settlement to take into account environmental factors."

Edited from The Sofia Globe (29 May 2014)
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Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an Iron Age settlement on the grounds of a proposed road and car park near Aberdeen (Scotland). Remnants of timber roundhouses and historic smithing materials have been dug up; pottery from the early Bronze Age has also been recovered from the field where construction work to ease traffic congestion along the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road is due to begin.

Aberdeen City Council employed AECOM and Headland Archaeology to dig up a relatively undisturbed piece of ground in an area where prehistoric finds had been uncovered in the past. Archaeologist Eddie Bailey said it was 'remarkable' to see how the land was continually used by historic settlements.

He said: "Domestic occupation in the area has been found in the form of the remains of timber constructed roundhouses, with hearths and remnants of compacted floor and activity surfaces, which so far seem to indicate prolonged occupation on the same site, with phases of rebuilding occurring. The site appears to have been significant over a 2,000 year period with Iron Age occupation and evidence of smithing and domestic life. Partial quern stones, used for grinding cereal crops, have been found along with metal working residues and puts containing probable fire rakings of meals and every day life. Archaeologist Steve Thomson added: ""The continuity of use of the land is remarkable," he said. "Clearly a sense of place was important, not purely for practical reasons. Seeing the landscape, even today, helps the team understand why it was a focus for so long for continued use."

Edited from The Scotsman (3 June 2014), Culture24 (4 June 2014)
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Vandals have destroyed prehistoric rock art in southern Libya, endangering a sprawling tableau of paintings and carvings classified by UNESCO as of 'outstanding universal value'.

Located along Libya's southwestern tip bordering Algeria, the Tadrart Acacus mountain massif is famous for thousands of cave paintings and carvings going back up to 14,000 years. The art, painted or carved on rocks sandwiched by spectacular sand dunes, showcase the changing flora and fauna of the Sahara stretching over thousands of years. Highlights include a huge elephant carved on a rock face as well as giraffes, cows and ostriches rendered in caves dating back to an era when the region was not inhospitable desert.

Now, several of those paintings have been destroyed or damaged by graffiti sprayers or people carving in their initials. Tourist officials in Ghat, the nearest large town, said the vandalism started around 2009 when a former Libyan employee of a foreign tour company sprayed over several paintings in anger after he had been fired. But the destruction has accelerated since the 2011 civil war.

Edited from Reuters (3 June 2014)
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