Sunday, June 30, 2019


Climate change is threatening ancient Greek monuments, among them the Acropolis, one of the most-visited archaeological sites in the world, scientists said. Air pollution and acid rain are eroding marbles, while extreme weather phenomena such as droughts or torrential rains have led ancient walls and temples to develop structural problems.

Even though the Acropolis hill, where the Parthenon stands, is probably Greece's best preserved archaeological site, there are signs that climate change has been increasingly affecting the monuments that stand on the hill. The temple of the Parthenon on the rock of the Acropolis, located in the heart of Athens, dates back to the classical period of antiquity - the 5th century BC.

The wider Athens area has been hit hard by deadly floods and forest fires over the last decade. A 2007 forest fire in the Peloponnese peninsula threatened to destroy the temples and stadiums of ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games.


Earlier this month, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History announced new discoveries made by archaeologists working at the site of Teotihuacan, located outside of Mexico City. Teotihuacan was first occupied in 100 BC and grew to be one of the largest cities in the entire world before its collapse in AD 650. The new findings from this ancient city shed important light on the complex relationship that the people of Teotihuacan held with their Central American neighbors, the Maya.

For many decades, archaeologists have found occasional examples of Teotihuacan style artifacts and architecture at Maya sites leading to speculation about the relationship between these two cultures. Significant light was thrown onto that relationship in 2000 when epigrapher David Stuart published his interpretation of a hieroglyphic text from Stela 31, a monument from the Maya city of Tikal. This public monument seemed to describe the conquest of Tikal in AD 378 by foreigners with the backing of Teotihuacan.

In the 4th century AD, Maya cities were still relatively small, and thus it was not difficult to imagine that Teotihuacan could have held some political or military influence over their neighbors, yet we still knew relatively little about the nature of the relationship between these two powers. The new findings announced by the National Institute of Anthropology and History, however, have revealed the presence of Maya people at Teotihuacan prior to the invasion of Tikal, thereby adding yet more layers of complexity to this story.


Former Lake George battlefield site preserves history as park. A monument of William Johnson and His Mohawk Ally King Hendrick at Lake George Battlefield Park in Lake George. You might want to double check where you spread out your picnic blanket next time you’re in Lake George Village.

For decades, local families have grilled burgers or hosted birthday parties on the Lake George Battlefield Day Use Area, or Battlefield Park, near the waterfront in the village. The location was the site of a military camp in 1755’s Battle of Lake George during the French and Indian War. From 1755 to 1783, the spot housed a hospital and supply base during the American Revolution and now it’s a popular site for recognizing the area’s vast history.

The 1921 Mohawk warrior statue honors the Native Americans who lived in Lake George before Europeans arrived, the Jogues statue honors the first European who saw the lake and the Johnson and Hendrick statue honors the name originator — who named the lake after King George — and his Mohawk ally.

The memorial for the four unknown soldiers is another popular site in the park. It surfaced after a road crew found four skeletons of colonial soldiers in 1931. The men were believed to have died during the Bloody Morning Scout in Lake George, were reburied in a 1935 ceremony and have a wreath lay next to them each Memorial Day. Local volunteers recently remodeled the location of the burial.

Archaeologists have unearthed campsites and building foundations in the area, as well, dating back to the French and Indian War. A foundation near the location of the unknown soldiers is believed to be that of a blacksmith.

The site, maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, even with its vast history, is now used for its public grills, rentable pavilions and numerous picnic tables.


YAKUTSK, RUSSIA—According to a report in The Siberian Times, paleontologist Innokenty Pavlov and his colleagues discovered a woolly mammoth skeleton in the thawing permafrost on Kotelny Island, which is now located off Russia’s northeastern coast, but during the Pleistocene era was connected to the mainland.

Pavlov said the skeleton belonged to an animal that lived at least 10,000 years ago. Tool marks on one of its tusks suggest the ivory may have been collected to make sharp-edged tools and weapons. A mark on one of its lower ribs may be a hunting wound, he added. The skeleton will be taken to a laboratory for radiocarbon dating and further study.

Monday, June 24, 2019


Climate change had a significant impact on people living in the Amazon rain forest before the arrival of Europeans and the loss of many indigenous groups, a new study shows. Major shifts in temperature and rainfall caused the disappearance of communities long before 1492, researchers have found. In contrast other cultures still flourished just before the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

New analysis of what the climate was like in the Amazon from 700 to 1300 shows the changing weather led to the end of communities who farmed intensively, and had a strong class structure. Those who lived without political hierarchy, who grew a greater variety of crops, and took more care to look after the land so it remained fertile, were able to adapt and were less affected. During this period the Amazon was home to dozens of sophisticated communities who lived in flourishing towns and villages. Conflict between these communities, and migration, also contributed to the downfall of some.

It is thought the population of indigenous communities declined by 90 per cent to 95 per cent after Europeans came to Amazonia due to epidemics and violence. Before this up to 10 million people had lived in Amazonia, and this loss reshaped landscapes and cultural geographies across the region.

Experts analysed the climate in ancient Amazonia through analysis of pollen and charcoal remains, sediments from lakes and stalagmites. This allowed them to track how much rainfall there was in the region from year-to-year. They also analysed archaeological remains showing crops grown by communities in the past, and the structures they lived in.

In the Eastern Amazon the Marajoara elite lived on large mounds, which each could have been home to around 2,000 people. These chiefdoms disintegrated after 1200. It had been thought this was due to the arrival of Aruã nomadic foragers, but the study suggests decreasing rainfall also played a part. Communities used the mounds to manage water, with the rich monopolizing resources. This made them sensitive to prolonged droughts.

Experts have found communities in the Amazon built canals to manage seasonal floods. In the southern Amazon people fortified their ditches, walled plazas, causeways and roads as the climate became more volatile.

Professor Jose Iriarte, from the University of Exeter, said: "This study adds to the growing evidence that the millennium preceding the European encounter was a period of long-distance migrations, conflict, disintegration of complex societies and social re-organisation across lowland South America. It shows the weather had a real impact."


Officials at the Taj Mahal have recently implemented a three-hour time limit for visitors wishing to see the world-renowned site — and those who overstay their welcome had better be ready to fork over some extra cash.

“If tourists exceed their time limit of three hours, they will be charged an extra amount equivalent to the ticket, which will have to be paid at the exit gate,” explained Vasant Swarankar, the superintending archaeologist, to the Times of India.

The new regulations finally went into effect on Sunday following a successful test run on Saturday. Visitors are now instructed to enter via one of two sets of seven entry gates (14 in total) and exit via two sets of five gates (10 in total). Those whose tickets were issued more than three hours prior to exiting will be charged the additional fees.

Passes to the world-renowned Unesco Heritage Site currently cost between $16 and $19. Passes are significantly less for citizens of India, costing between 72 cents and around $3.60, per Insider.


Hundreds of tiny islands around Scotland didn't arise naturally. They're fakes that were constructed out of boulders, clay and timbers by Neolithic people about 5,600 years ago, a new study finds. Researchers have known about these artificial islands, known as crannogs, for decades. But many archaeologists thought that the crannogs were made more recently, in the Iron Age about 2,800 years ago.

The new finding not only shows that these crannogs are much older than previously thought but also that they were likely "special locations" for Neolithic people, according to nearby pottery fragments found by modern divers, the researchers wrote in the study.

Initially, many researchers thought that Scotland's crannogs were built around 800 B.C. and reused until post-medieval times in A.D. 1700. But in the 1980s, hints began to emerge that some of these islands were made much earlier. In addition, in 2012, Chris Murray, a former Royal Navy diver, found well-preserved Neolithic pots on the lake floor near some of these islands, and he alerted a local museum about the discovery.

To investigate, two U.K archaeologists, Duncan Garrow from the University of Reading and Fraser Sturt from the University of Southampton, teamed up in 2016 and 2017 to take a comprehensive look at several crannogs in the Outer Hebrides, an artificial island hotspot off the coast of northern Scotland. In particular, they looked at islets in three lakes: Loch Arnish, Loch Bhorgastail and Loch Langabhat.

According to radiocarbon dating, four of the crannogs were created between 3640 B.C. and 3360 B.C., the researchers found. Other evidence, including ground and underwater surveys, palaeoenvironmental coring and excavation, supported the idea that these particular islets dated to the Neolithic.

Archaeologists have yet to find any Neolithic structures on the islands, and they said more excavations were needed. But divers found dozens of Neolithic pottery fragments, some of them burnt, around the islets at Bhorgastail and Langabhat, the researchers said.

So far, just 10% of the crannogs in Scotland have been radiocarbon dated, meaning that there may be more ancient crannogs than these newfound Neolithic ones, the researchers said.

Sunday, June 16, 2019


A LEADING archaeology professor has claimed the Stonehenge tunnel plans will mean the loss of "over half a million" prehistoric artifacts within the World Heritage Site, should plans go ahead. Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who is professor of British Prehistory at University College London, was talking at the A303 National Infrastructure Planning hearing in Salisbury City Hall. He claims these artifacts "would be bulldozed without record or recovery by the proposed strategy", adding "this is an unacceptable level of damage to the resources and loss of information about Stonehenge's prehistoric past".

Professor Pearson would like to see 100 per cent sampling of the area that is due to be affected by the project, which he estimates would take 300 archaeologists at least two summers to complete, as accommodations would have to be made for the weather. He adds that "for more than 10 years, archaeologists researching within the World Heritage Site have recovered finds by 100 per cent retrieval by hand-digging, and the same should be happening with this site."

He claims the Detailed Archaeological Mitigation Strategy (DAMS) proposed by Highways England would not allow for this to happen. This comes after Victoria Hutton, Counsel representing the consortium of 22 archaeologists, said that harm to the World Heritage Site would breach the World Heritage Convention 1972.

In response, Highways England claimed Professor Pearson was just putting forward "unclaimed theories", which would need to be tested further before given full consideration. Jim Hunter from Highways England added: “We’ve done a huge amount of work in advance of this scheme, more than has been done for any other road scheme in this country.

The hearing continues.


Archaeologists have discovered 12,000-year-old engravings of a horse and four other animals etched by Stone Age artists into sandstone in what is now southwestern France. Geometric decorations surround the animals on the sandstone engraving, a telltale sign that whoever made them was part of the Azilian industry, a tool tradition in Europe that thrived during the late Paleolithic and early Mesolithic, during which small stone tools were fit into handles made of bone or antler.

The sandstone slab is now broken, so the horse — which covers about half of the stone block — is headless. The horse's four legs and three hooves "are very realistic," the National Archaeological Research Institute (Inrap) said in a translated statement.

Alongside the headless horse are two, slightly smaller engravings of animals — likely a species of deer and another horse. The outline of an aurochs, an extinct species of wild cattle, is also visible. On the other side of the stone slab are fine lines delineating a horse rump.

Archaeologists found the hefty slab — which is 10 inches tall and 7 inches wide during excavations near the Angoulême train station, north of Bordeaux. This site was once used by prehistoric Azilian hunters, according to previous discoveries of ancient equipment, such as stone scrapers, found there that would have helped Paleolithic people prepare and eat meat.

Earlier digs have also revealed fireplaces, piles of pebbles that could have been heated for cooking purposes and animal bones. Moreover, archaeologists have unearthed arrowheads and cut flints from this site, Inrap said.


A long-lost underground city dating back 5,000 years has been discovered in Turkey after workers went to investigate the source of flooding affecting homes in the central Nevşehir province. "The city, which is partially submerged, is believed to stretch over three miles into the ground," the Daily Sabah reported. An initial exploration of the complex suggest it is made up of three floors and is comprised of tunnels, homes and a place of worship.

The discovery was made after locals living in the Çalış township of Avanos complained of flooding, the source of which could not be found. During their investigations, municipal workers opened up at tunnel that had been closed off for safety reasons decades earlier.

According to the Daily Sabah, when the crew ventured inside, they found the underground city partially submerged in clear water. The flooded rooms of the city were found to be directly beneath the houses that had experienced flooding. At the site, workers found a small human figurine believed to be an icon of some sort.

Turkey's Nevşehir province is home to many long lost underground cities, many of which have been discovered in the last decade. The Cappadocia region, where Nevşehir is located, is made up of soft volcanic rocks that would have been fairly easy for ancient humans to carve homes out of, providing protection from the elements. Over time, these grew to become vast cities.

According to the Hurriyet Daily News, the city stretches over four miles, with tunnels wide enough for a car to pass through. Özcan Çakır, from the Canakkale 18 March University who was involved in excavations, told the newspaper: "We believe that people, who were engaged in agriculture, were using the tunnels to carry agricultural products to the city. We also estimate that one of the tunnels passes under Nevşehir and reaches a faraway water source."


Scientists in South Africa have discovered 8,000-year-old carvings made by a group of humans inside the world's biggest meteorite impact crater. The carvings—of animals—were discovered in the 'Rain Snake' dyke of the Vredefort structure, and are believed to have had spiritual significance relating to rain making.

At 190 miles wide, the Vredefort structure is the largest verified impact crater on Earth. It was made by an asteroid between six and nine miles wide and was traveling at almost 43,500 miles per hour when it hit, over two billion years ago. While investigating these strange rock formations, researchers discovered a set of ancient carvings at the site that were unknown to archaeologists.

The carvings, which include what appears to be of a hippo, horse and rhino, were made 8,000 years ago by the Khoi-San—known as South Africa's 'First Peoples.' "As scientists, we recognize the special nature of the impact crater, but it was also recognized by ancient inhabitants of the area," Huber said.

"The area around these dykes is littered with artifacts and carvings from the Khoi-San people. Obviously, they also recognized the significance of the site. What is amazing is that the same dykes that we recognize to have the most geological significance also had the most spiritual significance for these early inhabitants. Our anthropological studies are focused on trying to uncover exactly what was done at these sites and how it influenced the people that were there."

Researchers noticed that one of the dykes resembles the shape of the "Rain Snake"—an important deity at the time. Archaeologists Shiona Moodley and Jens Kriek, who worked at the site note that San mythology is split into a three-tiered universe. Above is occupied by god and spirits of the dead, the middle is the material world, while below is associated with the dead and shamanistic travel. Snakes, they said, were found on all three tiers, and they were thought of as creatures of "rain."

Huber believes the Khoi-San used the snake-shaped dyke as a "rain-making site." He said that while some of the art styles and carvings had changed over time, there is a constant connection to rain. "The dyke is positioned near the Vaal river—a body of water—and is on top of a hill. As a high point, it would have attracted lightning strikes. The animals carved into the dyke are all associated with the rain-making mythology of the San. All of these features point towards the site being used for making rain."

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Daily lives of ancient Greeks revealed in Acropolis museum’s huge archaeological dig
Museum’s new exhibition space is an excavation site with villas, workshops and bathhouses
Helena Smith Athens

But a decade after it opened, the four-story edifice at the foot of the Acropolis is now focusing on the lives of ancient Greeks. As the museum prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday on 20 June, it has announced the opening of a new exhibition space: an entire excavated neighborhood of ancient villas, streets, workshops and bathhouses that lies below the museum building.

On Friday, as archaeologists put the finishing touches to the site, Dimitrios Pandermalis, the museum’s director, told how finds once considered a curse had become a blessing. “For the first time we are able to see how people lived in the shadow of the Acropolis,” he enthused, singling out an ornate ancient courtyard and a chamber where aristocrats had held symposiums.

“And through the display of discoveries such as plates and toys, visitors will have a glimpse into the daily lives of ancient Greeks. There are a lot of marble masterpieces on display around the museum but life is not only about the glory days of yesteryear; it is about little things that make each and every day.”

But the 13 years of digging paid off. One of the biggest excavations within the walls of ancient Athens helped archaeologists learn more than any previous dig had about the birthplace of democracy. “It was complex because there were so many layers, so many dwellings, one on top of the other, all telling the history of Athens,” said Stamatia Eleftheratou, who headed the excavation work.

The ancient settlement covers 4,000 square meters, accessed by steel walkways. But Eleftheratou and her team worked over an area three times that size, discovering close to 50,000 artifacts, including figurines of little-known deities. “There is an entire hidden layer, earlier ruins beneath the settlement that aren’t visible because we covered them again with earth,” she said.


In 73 CE, at a mountain-top fortress in Masada, as Flavius Josephus claimed two years later, 967 men, women, and children killed each other and themselves. The last holdouts in a revolt against Rome (which had ended officially in 70 CE, with the siege, sacking and ransacking of Jerusalem and the Second Temple), they committed mass suicide as a “free choice of a noble death” over slavery to the Romans.

Almost 2,000 years later, Masada, which has become a national park, serves as a metaphor for the physical connection of Jews to their homeland; the heroism of Jewish freedom fighters (often compared to Warsaw Ghetto resisters); and for the State of Israel: isolated and threatened by enemies on all sides.

In Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth, Jodi Magness, a professor in the department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and the author, among other books, of Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, provides an examination of the site and the now iconic event. Noting that Josephus was the only ancient author to refer to a mass suicide, Magness separates facts, speculations and myths.

Her book is filled with fascinating details; it is informative and judicious. Magness sets the Jewish revolt against Rome in historical context. She identifies the beliefs and practices of the Jewish philosophical schools (Sadducees, Pharisees and Essences) of the late Second Temple period. She notes, “as one of the great ironies of Jewish history,” that the Maccabean victory (celebrated as Hanukkah) over Antiochus IV’s attempt to Hellenize Jews, was followed by the adoption of Greek customs when the family established the Hasmonean dynasty.

The co-director of Roman siege works at Masada in 1995 and the current director of excavations at Huqoq in Galilee, Magness is especially adept at drawing inferences about daily living from architecture and artifacts. Archeological remains, she indicates, verify that hundreds of Jews were living at Masada at the time of the siege. Indeed, 145 ovens and 85 stoves have been discovered at Masada. The arid climate also preserved the remains of seeds, nuts and fruits (including pomegranates, olives and dried figs) for two millennia. Nonetheless, Magness believes that conditions during the siege were harsh. Delicacies were probably consumed early on, by commanders and officers, leaving bread dipped in oil and bean paste and lentil stews as dietary staples for everyone else; and fruits appear to have contained charred larvae and adult insects.

At this point, it does not really matter. Virtually every nation, after all, has foundational myths. As Benedict Anderson, my former colleague at Cornell, has demonstrated, virtually every nation is “an imagined community.” Inextricably bound up with the identity and career of Yigal Yadin, the larger-than-life excavator of the site, who also played a pivotal role in military planning in the 1967 war, Masada continues to attract tens of thousands of visitors, who make the two-hour drive from Jerusalem and take a cable car to the top of the mountain, to celebrate 967 Jews who refused to surrender to the mighty Roman Empire.