Sunday, May 20, 2018


Dr. Catherine Frieman recently excavated an untouched ancient barrow near the town of Looe in South East Cornwall. Her 14 day-dig over Easter was the first time such a site in the area has been excavated to modern archaeological standards. She said when digging began, local farmers told her they'd ploughed the field in their childhood, so she didn't expect the site to be so well preserved.

"We were so excited to find such a lot of archaeology on the site despite scores of generations of ploughing, but to find an intact clay urn buried 4,000 years ago just 25 centimetres beneath the surface is nothing short of a miracle," said Dr. Frieman. This and other evidence from the site has led her to conclude there was most likely a large mound over the burial which existed from prehistory well into the middle ages protecting the center of the barrow.

"This is a sealed, intact cremation so it has the potential to tell us a lot about the cremation rite as it was practiced 4,000 years ago. We also appear to have some identifiable fragments of bone among the cremated remains so we'll potentially be able to tell a lot about the individual themselves," she said.
"We'll be able to say what gender they were, possibly their age, or an age range, and depending on the bone preservation we can conduct analyses to examine where they were from, what their diet was like, where this food was coming from and what they ate and drank as a child when their teeth were forming. This is a very beautiful, very complete burial, and we're very excited," she said.

Other items found include various examples of Cornish Bronze Age pottery, flint tools and two high-quality hammer stones, used to make flint tools. However, what has puzzled Dr. Frieman and her team was the discovery of medieval activity on the same site. "The site has thrown up a big mystery for us because we found what we believe is an entire—albeit crushed—medieval pot from the 12th or 13th century AD, carefully placed under a couple of layers of flat stones. It had some cooked food remains adhering to it and we don't know what it's doing there or why." "Hundreds of years after the barrow was built, someone from the 12th or 13th century came back to this site and dug into it to bury this pot. "At that stage there were two local monasteries in view of this site, as Looe Island was a satellite monastery of the Glastonbury Abbey, so it would be very strange to have non-Christian activity on this site. The evidence looks quite ritualistic, but what the ritual was, we don't know," she said.

The team also excavated a round house—an ancient dwelling or land marker nearby, possibly from 500 BC and are trying to deduce possible reasons for the location of the barrow. "This was a traversed place and regularly visited over the millennia, it affords a sweeping view of the south coast of England and we know that there are a series of Bronze Age shipwrecks off this coast, so this was an important shipping highway in prehistory."

The analysis of soil, pollen, flint and other samples is underway but it will probably be a year before a comprehensive story of the find is possible.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


Eleven thousand years ago at the end of the last ice age, Norway was buried under a thick layer of ice. But it didn’t take long for folks to wander their way north as the ice sheet melted away. The first traces of human habitation in Norway date from roughly 9500 BC.

Steinar Solheim is an archaeologist at the University of Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History who has worked on numerous excavations of different Stone Age settlements around Oslo Fjord. Now he and colleague Per Perrson have investigated longer-term population trends in the Oslo Fjord region, based on 157 different Stone Age settlements. All were inhabited between 8000 and 2000 BC.

The two researchers tried to determine whether the population during this time was stable, or if living conditions were better or worse for people who lived here during different periods. Solheim says that forests began to grow in this region after 9000 BC.

"The climate was also quite different, and it was probably a bit warmer than it is today,” he said. “We see a lot of hazel, alder, elm, and later oak, all of which are tree species that prefer warmer environments.”

This area of Norway was also much lower in elevation than it is today, since the weight of the glacial ice was enough to depress the land itself. That means the coastline at the time was also higher than it is today. Stone Age settlements were usually down by the water.

The people who lived here used wood to keep their fires going, and their cooking pits and fireplaces are among the few things that archaeologists can still find after many thousands of years.

But archaeological digs of the settlements also yield stone tools, residues from tool production and remainders from cooking fires. The charcoal from the fires can be used to date the site using radiocarbon dating.

The researchers used a method that relies on radiocarbon dates as an indication of the amount of human activity in an area. The idea is to look at the temporal distribution of radiocarbon dates, to see whether the population has been stable or whether there have been major fluctuations in human activity. The researchers also used a simulation-based model to account for oversampling and for comparison. The researchers use the simulation-based model to see whether dates from the archaeological sites show a stable population over time, or if the dates are actually more randomly distributed. Using this approach, the researchers found that there was a stable, cohesive population in the Oslo Fjord area between 8000-2000 BC.

There is also evidence of settlements that are older than this, but researchers have not found any charcoal, which makes it impossible to accurately date the settlements. This presents a bit of a conundrum, Solheim says. Solheim says that people may have been more mobile at the beginning of this period, but they eventually settled in more permanent locations.

If there was indeed a stable population over the millennia in the region, it means that the people living here lived well, Solheim said. "It appears that they have managed to live quite well on the resources they found along the sea," says Solheim. These populations also managed to survive through known climate anomalies that posed problems for other settlements during the same period. One prominent example is the Finse event, also known as the 8.2 kiloyear event, where there was a sudden and extreme drop in global temperatures starting around 6000 BC that persisted for two to four centuries. This could have been catastrophic for people who lived here, but Solheim’s analysis shows that the population in the region remained stable in spite of the sudden deep freeze.


Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat
Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), revealed at the “Roads of Arabia — Saudi Archaeological Masterpieces through the Ages” exhibition at the National Museum in Tokyo, Japan the discovery of footprints dating back 85,000 years in the province of Tabuk in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

Prince Sultan added that an international team of archaeologists, including Saudi experts, found traces of footprints of several early human adults scattered on the land and in an old lake.

It is said that the footprints belong to early immigrants to the Arabian Peninsula believed to have reached the site after passing the desert of An Nafud, which was a then green pasture rich with rivers, lakes and freshwater.

Prince Sultan bin Salman pointed out that the Saudi General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage is working alongside archaeologists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History to conduct further research on the discovery.