Monday, November 26, 2018


The archaeological treasure, unearthed this month in the bedroom of a house being excavated on the Via del Vesuvio in Pompeii, was the latest find from an extensive excavation campaign to secure some of the fragile archaeological site’s most at-risk areas.

“This is one of the most critical areas of Pompeii,” Massimo Osanna, the site’s director general, said in a video, which shows an archaeologist carefully brushing centuries of earth from the Leda fresco, which was buried — along with the rest of the city — under ash, lapilli and rubble when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

The recovery of the house is part of a large-scale intervention, known as the Great Pompeii Project, in the Regio V sector of the city, begun in July 2017 with funds from the European Union. The project involves excavating and securing more than two miles of earth that border an unexcavated area of the ancient city. The archaeological remains along this front have suffered in recent years as a result of collapses and landslides caused by heavy rains. The remodeling will gradually decrease the slope of the hill, and is expected to drastically reduce the pressure created by the earth on the excavated structures.

In August, archaeologists also unearthed in an adjacent room of the same house a fresco of the fertility god Priapus weighing a phallus. Erotic works of classical mythology were popular in first-century Pompeii, Mr. Osanna said, including the Greek myth of Leda, the Spartan queen and wife of Tyndareus. She was seduced and raped by Zeus in swan form, before having intercourse with her husband.

Priapus frescoes in the house suggested that the owner, likely to have been a freed slave who had made good, was showing off his family’s power. “These are iconographies that this specific social and political class liked,” he said. Antonio Varone, a former director of the excavations at Pompeii, and the author of a book about Pompeian erotic art, said that sex was seen as “a natural impulse” in ancient times, and that in many cases, homeowners “sought to entertain guests” while showing off their erudition.

This year, the excavations on Via del Vesuvio included two houses “with extraordinary mosaics and frescoes,” Mr. Osanna said. Skeletons were found in one dwelling, as well as a charcoal inscription etched on a wall; Pompeii officials said it supported the theory that Vesuvius erupted in October and not in August, as tradition holds.
The inscription was found in a room that had been undergoing renovations, and gives a date corresponding to Oct. 17. Pompeii officials suggested in a news release that the inscription dates “to a week prior to the great catastrophe.”

Excavations will continue into the spring, while the remainder of 2019 will be dedicated to securing the areas that have been unearthed to make them accessible to the public, Mr. Osanna said. At least 54 acres of the ancient city remain underground. “We could dig for years, decades, even centuries, but we prefer to leave that to future generations,” he said


Archaeologists made a discovery that is rewriting local history. It's been said Spanish explorer Coronado traveled through Albuquerque in the 1500s, but there was no proof he had been here until now. Workers at the Coronado Historic Site are digging through packets and packets of history. The site is named after the 16th-century Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. It's rumored that he traveled through the area in search of the Seven Cities of Gold in northern New Mexico, but they never had proof he was here, until now.

Nails, weapons, and bits of armor are all linked to Coronado and his army. "That one is bent because it hit something," said a site volunteer showing a piece of crossbow metal.

Researchers have been poring over the area for the past year and a half. They originally thought Coronado just passed through, but these artifacts tell a different story. "The large numbers of Spanish leveled artifacts such as the musket balls and the chain metal, along with Native American weapons such as war balls, axes, sling stones, represent a battle," said New Mexico Historic Sites Regional Manager Matthew Barbour. "People here resisted at Kuaua."

This discovery is making it easier to understand what really happened here five centuries ago. "They tell a story of military force to subdue this village," said Barbour. Those researchers have so far covered two-thirds of the site. They plan to display their findings at the site next summer.


Inside a 2,100-year-old pit in China, archaeologists have discovered a miniature army of sorts: carefully arranged chariots and mini statues of cavalry, watchtowers, infantry and musicians. They look like a miniaturized version of the Terracotta Army — a collection of chariots and life-size sculptures of soldiers, horses, entertainers and civil officials — that was constructed for Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.

Based on the design of the newfound artifacts, archaeologists believe that the pit was created about 2,100 years ago, or about a century after the construction of the Terracotta Army. The southern part of the pit is filled with formations of cavalry and chariots, along with models of watchtowers that stand 55 inches (140 centimeters) high. At the pit's center, about 300 infantrymen stand alert in a square formation, while the northern part of the pit has a model of a theatrical pavilion holding small sculptures of musicians.

"The form and scale of the pit suggest that it accompanies a large burial site," wrote archaeologists in a paper published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. The "vehicles, cavalry and infantry in square formation were reserved for burials of the monarchs or meritorious officials or princes," the archaeologists wrote.

The soldiers and cavalry in the newly discovered army are much smaller than those in the Terracotta Army. Based on the date, size and location of the pit, archaeologists believe that this newly discovered army may have been built for Liu Hong, a prince of Qi (a part of China), who was the son of Emperor Wu (reign 141–87 B.C.).

Hong was based in Linzi, a Chinese city near the newly discovered pit; he died in 110 B.C. "Textual sources record that Liu Hong was installed as the prince of Qi when he was quite young, and he unfortunately died early, without any heir," archaeologists wrote in the journal article. Shortly before Hong's death, according to writings by ancient historian Ban Gu, a comet appeared in the sky over China.

The Terracotta Army pits found beside the tomb of the first emperor of China are the only known examples of an army of life-size ceramic soldiers in China. Shortly after the first emperor's 210 B.C. death, his dynasty, known as the Qin dynasty, collapsed and a new dynasty, known as the Han, took over China.

Some of the Han dynasty rulers continued to build pits with armies of ceramic soldiers for their burials, but the soldiers were considerably smaller. For instance, the infantry sculptures in the newly discovered pit are between 9 and 12 inches (22 and 31 cm) tall, nowhere near the heights of the life-size soldiers buried near the tomb of the first emperor.

The pit, along with several other archaeological sites, was discovered in the winter of 2007 during construction work. After its discovery, the pit was excavated by the Cultural Relics Agency of Linzi District of Zibo city.

After excavation was complete, archaeologists from this agency analyzed the artifacts, working with researchers from the Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology. A report on the pit was first published, in Chinese, in 2016, in the journal Wenwu. This report was recently translated into English and published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.


For urban graffiti artists, their work is sometimes on display all too briefly before rival artists cover it up. And ice age cave art suffered a similar fate, experts have discovered.

Archaeologists suspected that two caves called Grottes d'Agneux and located in eastern France might harbor artwork produced thousands of years ago by human artists. The researchers had strong suspicions that the art was there, but the cave walls were so covered with layers of more-recent graffiti (from the 16th to 19th centuries) that the ancient art had likely been hidden for hundreds of years, representatives of the University of Tübingen in Germany reported.

The graffiti covering the cave walls was mostly inscriptions of names and dates with a few figurative pictures, research team leader Harald Floss, a Tübingen University professor of early prehistory and quaternary ecology, told Live Science in an email. Because the caves are in a picturesque part of the countryside with spectacular views, many people have visited the location over time — and plenty of them left their mark in the cave, Floss said.

For 150 years, archaeologists have explored France's southern Burgundy region and found abundant remnants of Paleolithic culture — the earliest period of human cultural development. Because there are so many Paleolithic sites in this part of France, archaeologists have long thought that there must be cave art in the Saône-et-Loire district, according to Floss.

After scans revealed the figures, the scientists reconstructed the artwork with image-processing software. Then, the researchers used carbon-14 dating of charcoal in the cave and in the art to reveal the age of the paintings. Carbon-14, a carbon isotope, breaks down over time. By examining how much of the isotope in an object has decayed, scientists can calculate how old the object is; in this case, the art was found to be 12,000 years old.

The region in France where archaeologists discovered the cave art is significant, because it represents a zone where modern humans may have encountered Neanderthals. Evidence uncovered there could offer intriguing clues about human-Neanderthal interactions, Floss said.

The findings were published in August in the book "Palaeolithic Rock and Cave Art in Central Europe?" (Verlag Marie Leidorf, 2018).


The World Heritage site of Chauvet Cave in southern France is famous—and a source of both wonder and controversy—for having the world’s oldest cave paintings. When the cave was discovered in 1994, many scholars initially assumed that they must have been made around the same time as those at Lascaux, around 21,000 years ago.

But the first radiocarbon dates showed that Chauvet Cave had been occupied twice starting about 35,000 years ago. The Aurignacian people, among the first Homo sapiens to live in Europe, brought to the cave a fully formed artistic tradition that used a variety of techniques involving charcoal and a type of red pigment.

Now, a new batch of 88 radiocarbon dates has further refined the cave’s chronology. Humans used the cave from 37,000 to 33,500 years ago and again from 31,000 to 28,000 years ago, the research has found. A series of chlorine isotope dates shows that the cave’s entrance was sealed by a rock fall around the time of its last use.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


According to a Science Magazine report, archaeologist Michael McCormick of Harvard University and glaciologist Paul Mayewski of the University of Maine say a volcanic eruption in Iceland in A.D. 536 could have been responsible for the fog and drop in temperatures reported in medieval records from Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.

Previous studies had linked such changes in climate to cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, but it had been thought the eruption in A.D. 536 might have taken place in North America. McCormick, Mayewski, and their colleagues conducted an “ultraprecise analysis” of slivers of ice from a core taken from a Swiss glacier in 2013, which allowed them to pinpoint the occurrence of storms and volcanic eruptions, as well as levels of lead pollution over the past 2,000 years.

The chemical composition of two microscopic particles of volcanic glass, located in a section of the ice core dating to the spring of 536, resembled volcanic rocks from Iceland. Vulcanologist Andrei Kurbatov of the University of Maine said the next step is to look for particles from the volcano in lakes in Europe and Iceland. For more on evidence of past volcanic eruptions, go to “Pinpoint Precision.”


A new study of stone tools from a cave site in China shows that sophisticated "Levallois" tool-making techniques were present in East Asia at a much earlier date than previously thought. The findings challenge the existing model of the origin and spread of these techniques in East Asia, with implications for theories of the dispersal of modern humans around the world. The study, by researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW), University of Washington, Peking University, Chinese Academy of Sciences and China's Bureau of Cultural Relics Protection, is published online in Nature on 19 November.

Examples of Levallois technology (named after a Paris suburb where tools made with this method were discovered) have been found in Africa and Europe dating back to around 300,000 years ago. Before now, the earliest examples of Levallois techniques in East Asia were dated to 40,000 – 30,000 years ago; the new study places them there as far back as 170,000 years ago. Associate Professor Bo Li from UOW's Centre for Archaeological Science, one of the paper's corresponding authors, said the researchers analysed 2,273 stone artefacts excavated from Guanyindong Cave in southwest China in the 1960s and '70s, and found 45 artifacts (four tools, eleven cores and thirty flakes) that show Levallois-style knapping.

"Levallois technology is a step up from earlier stone tools because it involves a level of planning, of preparation, and a repetition of technique" Professor Li said. "Instead of hitting two stones together and picking up whatever looks useful, for Levallois tools you first have to prepare the core to make it a special shape before you knap the core to produce a flake that can be used for cutting or scraping. "Earlier stone tools are more arbitrary in size and shape. Levallois tools are more standardized.

Previous dating at the site, using uranium-series dating, had indicated an age between 240,000 and 50,000 years ago, but had focused on fossils and carbonate samples found away from the stone artefacts. The team returned to Guanyindong Cave to do further dating using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), which measures the time since the artefacts-bearing sediments were last exposed to sunlight.

"Dating for this site was challenging because it had been excavated 40 years ago, and the sediment profile was exposed to air and without protection, so trees, plants, animals, insects could disturb the stratigraphy, which may affect the dating results if conventional methods were used for dating" Professor Li said.

The question of whether Levallois techniques were invented independently in East Asia won't be resolved until further archaeological evidence is uncovered, Professor Li said.

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Thursday, November 08, 2018


Arizona State Parks & Trails has dug up and bulldozed Native American and other archaeological sites without preserving artifacts in a rush to build visitor attractions and make money, a state archaeologist claims.
In one case, Parks unearthed ancient stone tools and caused "irreversible" damage to a site dating back 12,000 years, according to agency memos.

The archaeologist, Will Russell, told The Arizona Republic he repeatedly cautioned Parks officials that the work could violate the law and destroy artifacts, but he was overruled and even threatened by top agency managers, including Parks Director Sue Black.

"There are dozens of archaeological sites that have been wrecked" because Parks officials didn't want to delay development plans, Russell told The Republic. Russell left his job with Parks on Oct. 15 and now works for another state agency.


About 6,000 years ago, a precious stone ax that had been skillfully carved and shaped by Native Americans was lost on a ridge overlooking the Potomac River in Virginia. The ax, about seven inches long, had been hewed and smoothed and was narrowed at one end where a wooden handle was attached. Its loss must have been keenly felt.

Six millennia later, on Oct. 12, 2018, Dominic Anderson and Jared Phillips, 17-year-old high school seniors from Ohio, were on an archaeological dig at George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon, when a stone that looked like a big potato turned up in their sifting screen. Not sure what it was, they asked the Mount Vernon archaeologists working nearby. It was the lost ax, missing for 60 centuries.

It “provides a window onto the lives of individuals who lived here nearly 6,000 years ago,” said Sean Devlin, Mount Vernon’s curator of archaeological collections. “Artifacts such as this are a vital resource for helping us learn about the diverse communities who shaped this landscape throughout its long history.”

Mount Vernon officials said the ax had been made from a piece of “green stone” probably taken from a local river.
It had been chipped with a hammer stone to create a cutting edge and then further carved with a harder stone to create a smoother cutting surface. It was then worked even further with a grinding stone, and the groove was cut where the handle would attach. The tool was probably highly valuable.

Devlin said the ax was dated through knowledge of when such tools came into use, by comparing it to other tools from the period, and by dating the methods of its construction. It is believed to be the first such artifact found at Mount Vernon in recent years. The makers of the ax were probably people who migrated by boat up and down the Potomac River seasonally and may not have lived in fixed villages, Devlin said. The ax would have been a key possession during their travels. The ax was probably used for cutting or carving wood, he said. It probably was not a weapon.

The ax was found by students from Archbishop Hoban High School, in Akron, Ohio. Fourteen students, headed by archaeology teacher Jason Anderson, were helping to map out the dimensions of what is believed to be a cemetery for Mount Vernon’s enslaved African Americans and their descendants.


When a gang of goons rammed their Toyota truck into the side of a 500-year-old house in the English village of Dedham last December, they were hoping to find an ATM. They didn't. (Though the building had been converted into a convenience store, said goons drove away empty handed, according to news reports from the time.) Luckily, the goon squad did help local archaeologists find something much more valuable.

According to a newly published report from the Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT), the team of regional archaeologists who helped clean up after the mess in Dedham last December, the ram-and-run attack on the 1520-era house helped reveal previously undiscovered treasures. These came from both the medieval and Tudor periods and long lay hidden beneath the building's historic floors.

The archaeological team started digging shortly after the Dec. 10 attempted robbery. They aimed to help prepare a plan for repairing and stabilizing the building, which sustained major structural damage during the break-in. Local historians knew the timber-framed building was erected in 1520 and probably served as the home for a wealthy merchant family, but not much else was known before the archaeological assay began.

During the dig, the team found a medieval hearth that predated the surviving building. The researchers also found an internal porch dated to the 15th century, which would have been rare in England at the time, according to a statement from the Colchester Borough Council.

The dig also uncovered several artifacts from the Tudor period (1485-1603), including, most notably, a tripod cauldron buried near one of the house's original entrances. According to the CAT researchers, the pot was probably buried there as a totem to ward off evil visitations.

The historic house will once again open its doors as a convenience store tomorrow, Oct. 30, according to the Borough Council. Fittingly, the freshly repaired building even comes with an intriguing present for future archaeologists: The storefront is now reinforced with hidden steel beams.


Archaeologist have detected new traces of prehistoric relics and petroglyphs around Meshginshahr County, northwest Iran. “Ancient relicts have been discovered in 10 new places, apart from rock arts or petroglyphs scattered in two villages of Moradlu District.

Imanali Imani said the abundance and variety of rock paintings and engravings in Meshginshahr area represent rare examples of the rocky motifs in Iran and [even] the world. “The discovered objects bear depictions of human beings in archery, cavalry in rhythmic and magical themes,” the official said.

There are also petroglyphs that depict mountain goats, boat anchors, shooting and scenes of war, and scenes of deer hunting in individual and collective forms, he added.

The rock art can be seen in some mountainous regions across Iran where roaming life and livestock farming are prevalent typically. The ancient animals, tools, and human activities depicted often help shed light on daily life in the distant past, though the images are frequently symbolic.


Dead Sea Scroll Fakes Abound, and Scholars Admit They Share the Blame

By authenticating artifacts of unknown origin, researchers have unintentionally abetted their dissemination around the world, including to the Bible Museum in Washington


Celebrations will include the opening of new archaeological projects, art exhibitions and folkloric shows in Luxor.

Luxor will commemorate the anniversary by holding a series of artistic, intellectual and cultural activities, organized by Luxor’s archaeological and cultural institutions such as: the Luxor Public Library, the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Museum of Mummification, the Luxor Museum, Upper Egypt Antiquities Region and the Cultural Palaces Authority.

At the Faculty of Fine Arts, an exhibition to commemorate the occasion and a special cultural season organized by the Egyptian Museums Sector will be held. A number of Egyptian scientists and professors of arts and archaeology will give lectures at during the intellectual and cultural events.

These events discuss every step of the discovery since the workers pulled the first stone in the stairs leading to the tomb up until it was opened for public visit, while also shedding light on who British archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter was and his discoveries, as well as the most important discoveries in Luxor throughout the ages.

Francis Amin, a researcher in Egyptology, said that the Tutankhamun collection is the most famous among the collections of artifacts and treasures recovered from the tombs of ancient Egyptian royalty.

The President of the Egyptian Association for Archaeological and Tourism Development Ayman Abu Zaid said that the celebrations of the 96th anniversary are special, as the world is close to seeing the whole collection of treasures and monuments of King Tutankhamun under one roof in the Grand Egyptian Museum. Abu Zaid pointed out that the Pharaoh’s mummy is to be placed in a new showcase given by Italy to Egypt in order to protect the king’s remains from any damage.

On November 4, 1922, Carter found the first stone leading to the tomb of King Tutankhamun and its treasures, intact and untouched by thieves, such as statues of the king, gold jewelry and pots made of porcelain. The contents of the tomb gave archaeologists a unique opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the nature of life in the 18th dynasty, a period of particular importance in the history of ancient Egypt.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm