Friday, July 28, 2017


A crew working on a rehabilitation project of the historic Main Ranch House on Santa Rosa Island have discovered an ancient Native American site beneath the building. Santa Rosa is the second-largest of California's Channel Islands, about 100 kilometers west of Los Angeles. It is part of the Channel Islands National Park.

The house was constructed sometime after 1869 and served as a sheep and cattle ranch for more than 150 years. It had been lifted to allow construction of a foundation. Within a few days of tunneling, the archaeological monitor found stone flakes, and work was suspended while an archeological team conducted an investigation in consultation with elders of the local Chumash tribe, who call the island Wima, meaning 'driftwood'.

Gary Brown, National Park Service archaeologist, says: "there are intact paleocoastal deposits from the south end of the house to the opposite end on the north." He and his team first found a distinctive stone called a Channel Islands barbed point, and later a crescent - two types of stone tools made from local chert. Both likely would have been used to hunt and fish, and represent a sophisticated technology of early tool making on the islands. They are between 8,000 and 16,000 years old.

Speaking about the tools, Jon Erlandson, University of Oregon Archeologist and leading expert on Paleocoastal archeology, reveals: "Usually, when we find the two of them together, the site is at least 10,000 years old and could be 12,000 years old or older." Erlandson says the Chumash people and their ancestors have been on the islands for thousands of years. "That suggests that these were some of the very earliest peoples along the Pacific Coast. We know now that they were on the islands as early as they were practically anywhere in the new world. The Channel Islands, especially the northern islands, are emerging as one of the central places in understanding the peopling of the new world."

Santa Rosa Island is also where the "Arlington Man" was discovered - the oldest known human remains found in North America, dating back about 13,000 years. The team hopes to find clues about the prey being hunted then.

Edited from Ventura County Star (5 June 2017), (6 June 2017)
[8 images, 1 video]


New dates for two massive circular wooden enclosures built at West Kennet, close to Avebury (Wiltshire, England), show they predate the first stones erected at nearby Stonehenge by about 800 years. Archaeologists think they were used for only a short time about 5,300 years ago, then purposely burned.

Study co-author Alex Bayliss, a statistical archaeologist with Historic England, says: "It's completely unlike anything we've ever found in the British prehistory."

The area around Stonehenge is saturated with ancient sites. Bones found near Stonehenge suggest that the area was a wild-auroch hunting ground long before the monument was built. Avebury has its own henge monument. Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric artificial chalk mound, stands nearby. The remains of a Neolithic settlement called Durrington Walls shows signs of ancient feasting, and may have been where the builders of Stonehenge lived while working there.

The wooden circles at West Kennet were discovered when a pipeline was being laid in the 1960s and 70s. In the late 80s and early 90s, Cardiff University archaeologist Alasdair Whittle led a small excavation which found charred remains, and deduced that two immense circles had been built side-by-side with only a small gap between them. One was a single ring about 250 meters in diameter, the other a concentric double ring about 200 meters in diameter.

The enclosures were probably built by digging ditches and placing oak posts into sockets in the ground creating a huge palisade. The posts were very closely set; around 4,000 trees would have been needed.

Whittle's team originally carbon-dated a shard of pottery found in one of the post holes to around 2500 BCE. Improved techniques available to Bayliss' team push the dates for charred remains from post holes, animal bones, and fragments of pottery back a further 800 years to 3,300 BCE - a period for which relatively little archaeological evidence exists.

Her team suspects the two enclosures were used as a gathering place, but not for long; few other remains of human occupation dating to the period were found.

Edited from BBC News, LiveScience (8 June 2017)
[3 images, 1 map]
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Archaeologists from Northampton discovered what they believe to be the oldest artifact ever found within Massachusetts (USA). Investigations have focused on how this artifact could provide information for a broader study of prehistoric life in the valley.

Richard Gamly, an archaeologist from North Andover and leader of the team of research, said that "This is just the very beginning of what will probably prove to be a very important archaeological site." The research began in 2015 following the discovery of a supposed Clovis point arrowhead that could be more than 12,800 years old, referring to a specific Native American culture known for its stonework.

The arrowhead was found by Jason Lovett of Vermont, special educator and amateur archaeologist, during metal detecting. Lovett immediately knew what he had found and met with Gramly who returned the find to the farm's owner, who then allowed further search of his fields.

Gramly has noted that "While no more arrowheads have been found, the team has discovered items suggesting that native peoples hunted here in prehistoric times." The most recent trip to field revealed not only quartz flakes but also Hudson River Valley flint, known to be the material used for Clovis tools.

The historic utility is revealed by the shape of the rock, according to Barbara L. Calogero, being shaped to optimize the piercing effects of the arrowhead. "The fluting that was found is very diagnostic of folks who were here 12,000 years ago," According to Calogero. The amount of flakes discovered point to the area being used as a springtime hunting ground, the riverbanks providing natural sustenance for humans for thousands of years.

Due to the constant agricultural activity in the area, finds are constantly being pulled to the surface.

Edited from Daily Hampshire Gazette (25 May 2017)
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A small, ancient, and rectangular copper mask was found in the southern Andes in Argentina, and dated to be about 3,000 years old. According to archaeologists, it has been determined to be among the oldest human made objects from South America, challenging the consensus that metalworking started in Peru.

The mask has been dated to about 1,000 BCE and was found in an area commonly associated with the burial of women and children. The mask is marked with holes for the eye and mouth, as well as openings for attaching the mask.

A local copper ore source lies within 44 miles (70 kilometers) of where the mask was uncovered, suggesting a local production. This makes it likely that metal production in Peru was contemporary with the production in Argentina.

The mask was uncovered due to a summer rainy season, which also uncovered a collection of human bones in a tomb near the La Quebrada village in Northwestern Argentina. The total amount of bodies is estimated to about 14 with the bones being mixed and the mask lying in one corner.
The mask measures about 7 inches long and 6 inches wide (18 centimeters x 15 centimeters). It is at least 99% pure copper and would have been cold hammered and then reheated. Due to the mask's shape and the age of the object, it strongly suggests a much older metal production than previously thought.

"Proof of copper smelting and annealing [a process of cooling metal slowly to make it stronger] further highlights the northwest Argentinian valleys and northern Chile as early centers in the production of copper," the researchers wrote, adding that "This data is essential to any narrative that seeks to understand the emergence of Andean metallurgy."

Edited from LiveScience (6 June 2017)
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Monday, July 03, 2017


A site discovered in Peru at 12,500 feet above sea level suggests that hunter-gatherers lived all-year-round at very high altitudes beginning at least 7,000 years ago.

USA TODAY reports that archaeologists uncovered the remains of 16 individuals at the site of Soro Mik'aya Patjxa in the Andean Highlands, as well as stone points, animal bones—likely of the vicuña, a relative of the llama—and evidence of wild tubers.

According to the researchers, several factors point to the group's permanent residence in upper altitudes, including the lack of any imported materials found at the site, the great distance to lower elevations in the area, and the results of stable isotope analysis on their bone material, which yielded low oxygen and high carbon isotope ratios, indicating a life spent in thin air and dizzying heights.


The UNESCO World Heritage Site, cared for by the National Trust, was built over several hundred years in the third millennium BC and contains three stone circles – including the largest stone circle in Europe which is 330m across and originally comprised around 100 huge standing stones.

Dr Mark Gillings, Academic Director and Reader in Archaeology at the University of Leicester, said: "Our research has revealed previously unknown megaliths inside the world-famous Avebury stone circle. We have detected and mapped a series of prehistoric standing stones that were subsequently hidden and buried, along with the positions of others likely destroyed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Together, these reveal a striking and apparently unique square megalithic monument within the Avebury circles that has the potential to be one of the very earliest structures on this remarkable site."

Avebury has been the subject of considerable archaeological interest since the 17th century. The discovery of new megaliths inside the monument was therefore a great surprise, pointing to the need for further archaeological investigations of this kind at the site.

The survey took place inside the Southern Inner Circle, contained within the bank and ditch, and colossal Outer Stone Circle of the Avebury henge. Excavations here by the archaeologist and marmalade magnate Alexander Keiller in 1939 demonstrated the existence of a curious angular setting of small standing stones set close to a single huge upright known since the 18th century as the Obelisk. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war left this feature only partially investigated.

Dr Joshua Pollard, from the University of Southampton, said: "Our careful program of geophysical survey has finally completed the work begun by Keiller. It has shown the line of stones he identified was one side of a square of megaliths about 30m across and enclosing the Obelisk. Also visible are short lines of former standing stones radiating from this square and connecting with the Southern Inner Circle. Megalithic circles are well known from the time when Avebury was built during the late Neolithic (3rd millennium BC), but square megalithic settings of this kind are highly unusual."

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist at Avebury, said: "This discovery has been almost 80 years in the making but it's been well worth waiting for. The completion of the work first started by Keiller in the 1930s has revealed an entirely new type of monument at the heart of the world's largest prehistoric stone circle, using techniques he never dreamed of. And goes to show how much more is still to be revealed at Avebury if we ask the right questions."

The archaeologists who undertook the work think the construction of the square megalithic setting might have commemorated and monumentalized the location of an early Neolithic house – perhaps part of a founding settlement – subsequently used as the center point of the Southern Inner Circle. At the time of excavation in 1939 the house was erroneously considered by Keiller to be a medieval cart shed.

If proved correct, it may help understand the beginnings of the remarkable Avebury monument complex, and help explain why it was built where it was.


(Courtesy Italy’s Ministry of Culture)

Construction of Rome’s new metro Line C has uncovered traces of buildings dating to the third century A.D., according to a report in The Local, Italy.

The buildings were found more than 30 feet below ground level on the Caelian Hill, near the Aurelian Walls, which were also built during the third century to surround the ancient city.

A fire on the site preserved wood from the structures. The excavation also uncovered plaster fragments and frescoes, pieces of furniture, sculptures, windows, and the skeleton of a dog, which was found on the building’s doorstep. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology will try to determine whether seismic activity could have ignited the fire.


Iraq’s security directorate has revealed that ISIS has destroyed about 360 historical sites in Nineveh since its occupation by the terrorist group in 2014.

According to sources speaking to Al Arabiya, around 300 historical mosques and many churches were amongst the vandalized structures.

Sources have confirmed that the most prominent areas destroyed by ISIS include the Grand Mosque, Manara Mosque in al-Hadbba, prophet Yunus’s shrine and Saint Elijah's monastery, one of Iraq’s and the city of al-Hadar’s oldest churches.

The same sources added that the goal behind ISIS’s vandalizing attacks is to cover up its smuggling activities of other antiquities.


The large archaeological site Palmyra in Syria was severely damaged by the Islamic State (ISIS) but not pulverized and can be almost entirely rebuilt, said Paolo Matthiae.

The archaeologist, a prominent international expert, said that most of the ruins can be restored using traditional methods. Speaking at the presentation of the exhibition 'I Volti di Palmira' ('The Faces of Palmyra') in Aquileia, which will run from July 2 until October 3 at the National Archaeological Museum of the Friuli city, the discoverer of Ebla said that the Syrian authorities had begun to carefully study the parts that have collapsed and that an initial analysis had shown that many of the stones can be restored.

A French company was tasked with the initial assessment but Italy's Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro has restored two damaged sculptures currently at an exhibition at the Colosseum, after which they will be given back to Syrian.

The archaeological site of Palmyra is a vast field of ruins and only 20-30% of it is seriously damaged. Unfortunately these included important parts, such as the Temple of Bel, while the Arc of Triumph can be rebuilt,' he said. In any case, by using both traditional methods and advanced technologies, it might be possible to restore 98% of the site.