Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Thousands of years ago in what is now northern Israel, waves of migrating people from the north and east - present-day Iran and Turkey - arrived in the region. And this influx of newcomers had a profound effect, transforming the emerging culture. What's more, these immigrants introduced new genes - such as the mutation that produces blue eyes - that were previously unknown in that geographic area, according to a new study.

Archaeologists recently discovered this historic population shift by analyzing DNA from skeletons preserved in an Israeli cave. The site, in the north of the country, contains dozens of burials and more than 600 bodies dating to approximately 6,500 years ago, the scientists reported. DNA analysis showed that skeletons preserved in the cave were genetically distinct from people who historically lived in that region. And some of the genetic differences matched those of people who lived in neighboring Anatolia and the Zagros Mountains, which are now part of Turkey and Iran, the study found.

Ancient Israel experienced a significant cultural shift during the Late Chalcolithic period, around 4500 to 3800 BCE, with denser settlements, more rituals performed in public and a growing use of ossuaries in funerary preparations, the researchers reported.
The authors of the new study suspected that waves of human migration explained the changes. To find answers, the scientists turned to a burial site in Israel's Peqi'in Cave.

Measuring around 56 feet (17 m) long and about 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 m) wide, the cave contained decorated jars and burial offerings - along with hundreds of skeletons - suggesting that the location served as a type of mortuary for Chalcolithic people who lived nearby. However, not all of the cave's contents appeared to have local origins, study co-author Dina Shalem, an archaeologist with the Institute for Galilean Archaeology at Kinneret College in Israel, said in a statement.

The scientists sampled DNA from bone powder from 48 skeletal remains and were able to reconstruct genomes for 22 individuals found in the cave. The scientists found that these individuals shared genetic features with people from the north, and those similar genes were absent in farmers who lived in the region earlier.

The scientists also discovered that genetic diversity increased within groups over time, while genetic differences between groups decreased; this is a pattern that typically emerges in populations after a period of human migration, according to the researchers. "The publication of the artifacts from Peqi'in has shown many cultural links between these regions, but it will be interesting to see, in the future, whether those links are genetic as well," said Daniel Master, a professor of archaeology at Wheaton College in Illinois.

Edited from LiveScience (24 August 2018)


A red, crosshatched design adorning a rock from a South African cave may take the prize as the oldest known drawing. Ancient humans sketched the line pattern around 73,000 years ago by running a chunk of pigment across a smoothed section of stone in Blombos Cave, scientists say. Until now, the earliest drawings dated to roughly 40,000 years ago on cave walls in Europe and Indonesia.

The discovery “helps round out the argument that Homo sapiens [at Blombos Cave] behaved essentially like us before 70,000 years ago,” says archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen in Norway. His team noticed the ancient drawing while examining thousands of stone fragments and tools excavated in 2011 from cave sediment. Other finds have included 100,000- to 70,000-year-old pigment chunks engraved with crosshatched and line designs (SN Online: 6/12/09), 100,000-year-old abalone shells containing remnants of a pigment-infused paint (SN: 11/19/11, p. 16) and shell beads from around the same time.

The faded pattern consists of six upward-oriented lines crossed at an angle by three slightly curved lines, the researchers report online September 12 in Nature. Microscopic and chemical analyses showed that the lines were composed of a reddish, earthy pigment known as ocher. An illustration of ancient crosshatched lines of pigment applied to a stone shows what the larger pattern would have looked like as it extended beyond the edges of the surviving piece of rock.

The lines end abruptly at the rock’s edges, indicating that a larger and possibly more complex version of the drawing originally appeared on a bigger stone, the researchers say. Tiny pigment particles dotted the rock’s drawing surface, which had been ground smooth. Henshilwood suspects the chunk of rock was part of a large grinding stone on which people scraped pieces of pigment into crayonlike shapes.

Crosshatched designs similar to the drawing have been found engraved on shells at the site, Henshilwood says. So the patterns may have held some sort of meaning for their makers. But it’s hard to know whether the crossed lines represent an abstract idea or a real-life concern. Some modern hunter-gatherer societies create abstract-looking designs that actually depict animals, objects or people, he says.

Whatever the drawing’s original significance, it shows that Stone Age folk in southern Africa communicated something they considered important by applying crosshatched patterns to different surfaces, says archaeologist Paul Pettitt of Durham University in England. “If there is any point at which one can say that symbolic activity had emerged in human society, this is it.”

Experimental reproductions of the crosshatched pigment pattern, drawn on rocks like those at the South African cave, indicate that the lines were intentionally produced and were originally darker and better defined, he says. Previous evidence also suggested that ancient humans at the cave used pigment as a glue ingredient and possibly as a sunscreen. But the experimental drawings produced too little powder to use as a glue additive or a sunblock. Ancient pigment wielders appear to have wanted only to draw a design on the stone.

Monday, September 10, 2018


The discovery of a rare and important Contact Period Native American fort in Norwalk has made national news, including coverage by the Associated Press.

The 500-year-old Native American fort and settlement on the east bank of the Norwalk River was kept secret for a year by the state Department of Transportation, which feared looters would scour and violate it, Hearst Connecticut Media has learned. Now, the archaeological dig has fencing and video monitoring. But a year ago, when remnants of the fort were first found — indicating trading with the Dutch in the early 17th century — the potential of the wide-open site in the heart of the city was so important that the DOT and its archaeologists kept it under wraps.

In December of 2016, archaeologists involved in the billion-dollar rebuilding of the Metro-North Railroad bridge began unearthing clues to a location they knew was first used by natives 5,000 years ago. In November 2017, they hinted there could be some farther-reaching historical importance uncovered. Finally, last month, the DOT announced the vast extent of the find. Both the archaeologists and the DOT said the secrecy was warranted by the fragility of the site. “The awesome thing about this project team is they have involved me since the very beginning,” said Mandy Ranslow, the DOT’s archaeologist in its Office of Environmental Planning, “And nothing we’re doing now is delaying the project.”

First, the archaeologists found a storage pit, yielding pottery with decorative etchings. Then they found the signs of the walled encampment: the acidic soils where wooden palisades had been raised. Inside the perimeter are the remnants of posts from wigwams where indigenous families lived. There’s widespread evidence of trade with the European explorers, including Dutch-made glass beads and an iron knife, as well as beads called wampum. Made by the natives from clam and oyster shells, the new arrivals to North America used wampum to barter for furs with upland tribes. It’s being called the most important discovery of indigenous life in New England in the 21st century and likely the last such find between the Connecticut River and New York City.

In the early 1600s this was part of the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, during the early decades of contact with Native Ameri-cans. “Given the urban location it’s pretty amazing that there was anything else at all,” said Sara P. Sportman, senior archaeologist at the Storrs-based Archaeological and Historical Services Inc., which has been involved in the bridge project since 2015. After locating the fort through historic maps published as early as 1847, the archaeologists took core samples. The fort site, occupied by a since-disappeared group referred to as the Norwalk Indians, was active from 1610 to 1641, when the land was sold to English settlers.

There is no evdence of burials or human remains, although Lucianne Lavin, director of Research and Collections at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT, believes that dog and bear bones found at the fort could indicate a ceremonial feast of some kind. “The site also poses some important cultural-historical questions,” said Lavin, who recently visited the dig. “Why was the settlement palisaded and located in the middle of a protective swamp? From whom were the Norwalk Indians protecting themselves?

Another question that might be answered by the pottery recovered from the site: What was the cultural affiliation of the inhabitants? Were they a village-band of the Wiechquaesgeck tribe whose homelands included Westchester County, Greenwich and Stamford, or were they a village/band of the Poquonnocks to their east? Or were they a separate community altogether?” "For me, it's like a gold mine," said Kevin McBride, an anthropology professor at UConn and research director at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. "I think the reason the site is so important is that there's a lot of material here. It's definitely one of the most important sites we've found in a long time." McBride said items found at the site provide some insight into Native Americans' first interactions with Europeans.


The 46-year-old man was arrested shortly before he sold the statue for €350.000. Police found several other objects of great archaeological value in his possession.

Specifically, in the 46-year-old’s car, police found a Roman marble statue of Aphrodite wearing a chiton. It is 80 centimeters tall and archaeologists estimate it dates to the 2nd or 1st century BC. The statue was stolen from the storage facilities of the Thera Prehistoric Museum in Santorini where it was kept. It was recognized by staff of the Cyclades Ephorate of Antiquities and the head of the Museum.

In the man’s possession were also the marble body of a cylindrical compass that belongs to the Hellenistic period, 14 centimeters in diameter and 6 centimeters high, decorated with embossed stripes. There is also the compass cover, which is 17 centimeters diameter and 2 centimeters high, and decorated with a fish bone pattern. In addition, there is a stone measuring 25 centimeters in length and 14 centimeters high, carved on the four sides with depictions of Hercules with Lernaia Hydra, an antiquity that dates to the 3rd century AD.

Along with the stolen antiquities, police seized a digital camera, four memory cards, two mobile phones, a usb stick, €900 in cash, and the vehicle used for the transportation of the stolen goods. The seized antiquities will be handed over to the Corinth and Thera Prehistoric Museums, respectively, while the antiquities trafficker will be taken to the Corinth Prosecutor’s Office. In addition, police identified two accomplices and criminal charges have been brought against them.


reception chamber with columns and a throne chamber, which belong to a 2,500-year old Persian palace, were found during excavation at the Oluz Mound in the Göynücek district of Amasya province.

Emphasizing that finding ruins belonging to a 2,500-year old Persian palace excited them, Varol said "We visited the excavation site and had a chance to see what has been found. This is long-running work.

Istanbul University Archaeology Department faculty member and professor, Dr. Şevket Dönmez, is leading the excavation works; he said that movable cultural material ruins showed that a group of Persian-origin Akhamenids might have lived at the Oluz Mound in the year 450 B.C. The mound is located at 25 kilometeters southwest of the Amasya city center.

Stressing that a Persian city was found during the excavation works this year, Dönmez said that "New units of this city have been revealed. We now know about a path, a mansion and a fire temple. All these are firsts in world history. A reception chamber with columns and a throne chamber have also started to emerge for the first time this year. We are in the beginning phase of the excavation work for these chambers. This current phase and discoveries are very exciting. These belong to a very significant period of the Anatolian Iron Age, Anatolian Old Age and Persian archaeology.

"They are very important discoveries which will add to their identity and uniqueness. We have found six column bases so far. A clear plan has not yet been revealed, but hopefully we will find it in one or two years of excavation works. We found a bull figurine belonging to the Hittite period this year during excavations. There is a very big Hittite city under the Persian city. We think that it is Shanovhitta. It shows us that

this is a traditional sacred city and every new civilization built a temple here.


700-piece Egyptian collection at Brazil's National Museum destroyed:

People watch as a fire burns at the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. A massive fire raced through the 200-year-old museum on Sunday, probably destroying its collection of more than 20 million items, ranging from archaeological finds to historical memorabilia. A preliminary report has revealed that the 700-piece ancient Egyptian collection at the National Museum of Brazil was destroyed in the fire that engulfed the 200-year-old building. A massive fire swept through the museum, a former imperial palace, in Rio de Janeiro Sunday, destroying its collection of more than 20 million artifacts.

The Egyptian artifacts included collectibles of Brazilian Emperor Pedro I, founder and first ruler of the Empire of Brazil, which he purchased in the 19th century from antiquities merchants. It also featured five mummies, one of which was kept in a sarcophagus and gifted by Egyptian Khedive Ismail to Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II during his visit to Egypt in the 19th century.

Waziri earlier described the fire as "a great loss for humanity and world heritage."

The oldest scientific institution in the country, the museum housed one of the largest anthropology and natural history and paleontology collections in the Americas. It was also home to the oldest human fossil found in Brazil, the 12,000-year-old fossil Luzia, and dinosaur bones.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but Brazilian Minister of Culture Sergio Sa Leitao was quoted in Brazilian media as saying the blaze was likely caused by an electrical short-circuit or small paper-based hot air balloon landing on the roof.

Sunday, September 09, 2018


A new research paper confirms St Patrick’s birthplace as Old Kilpatrick in Scotland. The paper “Saint Patrick's birthplace & the names of the Roman forts along the Antonine Wall” states that new Roman period place names assigned to four places along the Antoinine Wall, which was constructed in Scotland around 142 AD by the Romans, confirms St Patrick’s birthplace.

The four name places include three forts along the Antonine wall (VOLITANIO (Mumrills), MEDIO (Balmuildy), NEMETON (Old Kilpatrick) and one settlement beyond the wall SUBDOBIADON (Dumbarton).

According to the researchers, a link found between the Roman names on the wall and St Patrick’s birthplace securely ties the saint’s place of birth to Old Kilpatrick.

It proves St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, was born in the year 387 at Kilpatrick, near Dumbarton which is in Scotland. Patrick tells us that he grew up in Bannavem Taberniae, but efforts to locate this place precisely have so far failed. He tells us elsewhere that he was a Briton, and a Roman citizen

. One place suggested for this has been south-west Scotland, which would be close to Ireland for raiders, and would also explain how Patrick knew Coroticus, who is named as king of Dumbarton in the fifth century in Welsh annals. As a teenager, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and enslaved as a shepherd for several years. He attributed his ability to persevere to his faith in God.

His birth name was actually Maewyn Succat -- it wasn't until he was in the Church that it was changed to Patricius, or Patrick.

Old Kilpatrick is located at the western end of the Antonine wall, making it the seventh of the main forts along the wall - SUBDOBIADON, Yet, the Gaelic hymn of Fiacc records Nemthur as the birthplace of Saint Patrick. The paper explains the mismatch between SUBDOBIADON and Nemthur.

This compels us to conclude that Old Kilpatrick is the NEMETON of the Ravenna Cosmography, Nemthur of Saint Patrick, and that this name is likely retained in the name "Dalnotter", a small valley just at a key ford across the Clyde.


ORK, ENGLAND—Silver coins dating back 2,000 years that were unearthed by metal detectorists in 2015 have led archaeologists to one of the earliest Roman settlements in northern Britain, according to a report in The Guardian. “All the coins date back to the time of the emperor Vespasian [A.D. 69-79], when the Romans marched north and established a center at York,” says project manager Lisa Westcott Wilkins.

The team has uncovered evidence that the settlement was the home of high-status families, including more silver coins, decorated ceramic bowls and amphoras that would have held imported wine, as well as an infant buried with a small brooch. They also identified postholes, foundation trenches, and the possible remnants of one or two villas. The location of the site is currently being withheld to protect it from looters. “We have many settlements from later periods—3rd and 4th centuries—but this one is much earlier and much higher status,” Wilkins says. “This is why it is so rare.”


fter seizing the ancient city of Palmyra in 2015, ISIS militants launched a campaign of cultural destruction, detonating centuries-old temples, blowing up historic columns and mutilating precious works of art. But now, more than a year after ISIS was expelled from Palmyra, Syrian officials are preparing to reopen the site to visitors, reports Sarah Cascone of Artnet News.

Restoration work on Palmyra, which today is located in Syria’s Homs Governate province, may be completed as early as the spring of 2019. Talal Barazi, the provincial governor of Homs, told the Russian state-owned publication Sputnik News that “authorities now have a project to repair all the damage caused to Palmyra’s Old City” and that Syria had received “offers from the world powers to restore the artifacts and historical value of Palmyra.” Experts from Russia, Italy and Poland are among those who have been helping salvage relics from the site, and UNESCO has also contributed to conservation efforts.

Built on a desert oasis, Palmyra was once a thriving city on the trade route that linked the Roman Empire to Persia, India and China. Palmyra came under Roman control in the first century A.D., and blossomed into an important cultural center filled with sumptuous architecture that married Greco-Roman and Persian influences. The ruins of this once-great city have been given UNESCO World Heritage status, and Palmyra used to be one of Syria’s most-visited attractions; according to Cascone, it once drew up to 150,000 visitors each year.

But the arrival of ISIS cast a dark cloud over the city. The jihadist group occupied Palmyra twice; first in May 2015 and, after being briefly ousted by government forces, again in December 2016. The jihadist group wreaked havoc on the city’s historic treasures. Militants destroyed the Temple of Bel, the Temple of Baalshamin, the Arch of Triumph and part of a second century Roman theater—all major landmarks of the ancient city. Statues in Palmyra’s museum were toppled and mutilated. Khaled al-Asaad, the 82-year-old head of antiquities in Palmyra, was executed.

ISIS was expelled from the city in March 2017, and has not returned since. Last month, Josie Ensor of the Telegraph reported that Syrian archaeologists, with assistance from experts at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, had started piecing together statues and sculptures from the site. According to Ensor, Russian archaeologists have also “made 3D models of the destroyed temple complexes for Syrian scientists to work from” as part of the restoration efforts.

But whether visitors will actually be able to return to Palmyra if and when it reopens next year remains uncertain, as Frieze points out. Though it may be drawing to a close, Syria’s brutal civil war is still ongoing. Travelling to the country, many governments caution, is highly unsafe.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ancient-city-palmyra-gravely-damaged-isis-may-reopen-next-year-1-180970160/#kY8pQoWgQMexeTFt.99