Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Medieval appetite suppressant could be new slimming aid

An 800-year-old herbal potion used by medieval monks to curb the appetite could soon find new popularity among 21st century dieters.

Archaeologists investigating an ancient hospital site founded by Augustinian monks about 845 years ago have found evidence that they used to chew on the bitter vetch plant to stave off hunger pains.

Now the component of the plant that suppresses appetite could be turned into a wonder pill for dieters.

After months of research and excavation experts have identified the remains of plant tubers belonging to lathyrus linifolius, the bitter vetch plant, in the drains of a 12th century monastery at Soutra Aisle, south of Edinburgh.

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Oldest homes were made of mammoth bone

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY archaeologists are joining Czech colleagues to study the world’s oldest-known houses, some of them built from mammoth bones, Norman Hammond writes. The houses lie beneath the vineyards of southern Moravia, along with early evidence of such craft activities as modelling in clay and weaving, all carried out around a central hearth.

Between 25,000 and 30,000 years ago, Moravia was a more hostile place than now, its climate dipping to very low temperatures. Archaeological evidence suggests that its inhabitants sheltered themselves and gathered around the hearth to share food, make small models of themselves and their animal prey, and probably tell stories about it all. Their descendants followed the mammoth and reindeer north into yet more hostile worlds, eventually into Siberia and across the Bering Strait to become the first Americans, the investigators believe.

The project is being led by Martin Jones, Professor of Archaeological Science at Cambridge, and Professor Jiri Svoboda, Director of the Palaeolithic and Palaeoethnology Research Centre at Dolni-Vestonice.

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Second rare burial unearthed at Minehowe

A second Iron Age burial has been found at the Minehowe (Orkney, Scotland) site. The latest find follows last year's discovery of a woman buried under the floor of a metalworking structure that has been the focus for the past few years. The fact that two burials have turned up on the site is particularly significant as Iron Age burials in Scotland, let alone Orkney, are rare.

Found buried into rubble outside this building, the remains may be contemporary with the 2004 skeleton. Their discovery once again hints at ritual practices surrounding the "mystical" nature of metalworking in the Iron Age. The woman buried in the floor, was found to be lying on her back, hands by her sides, with a piece of decorated antler lying on her chest. She also wore a decorative toe-ring on each foot. The body was found at the close of excavations, as one of the archaeologists recording details of a trench through the structure's wall moved a loose stone. A human skull was visible underneath.

It is hoped that additional local funding will see the excavation extended to allow the remains to be extracted. Co-director of the dig, Orkney College's Jane Downes said: "To find one formal burial was surprising, but to find two is really quite amazing."

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Prehistoric remains discovered in south Wales

Students from Lancashire discovered 5,000-year-old human remains on an archaeological dig in south Wales. The remains of seven humans were found in a large pit in the mouth of a cave on the Goldsland Wood site, near Wenvoe, in the Vale of Glamorgan. Archaeology students from the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, had been digging there as part of their course. The pottery and flint blades found with them date the remains to about 3000 BCE.

"The Goldsland caves have never been excavated before," said Dr Rick Peterson, the course leader. "We went there hoping to find undisturbed evidence for whatever ritual took place 5000 years ago that led to peoples' bones being put in caves and we seem to have found it. At the moment our understanding of these rituals is that first the large pit was dug, probably to make the small cave mouth look much bigger and more impressive. Then the dead were placed in the pit with some of their possessions such as pottery and stone tools. Then once the bodies had become skeletons it seems that most of the bones were then moved to other ritual sites, like the nearby chambered tomb of St Lythans. The pit containing the ash from a cremation is evidence for a different sort of rite - although it probably took place around the same time."

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Stone Age site uncovered in the heart of Surrey

An excavation in East Surrey (England) has turned up flint tools and cooking pots from about 10,000 years ago. The area, which bears the remains of cooked meals, campfires and flints shaped into tools by people who visited the North Downs around 8,000 BCE, is believed to contain one of the most important Mesolithic excavations in Britain.

Andrew Josephs, an archaeologist and the project’s consultant, said: "The most extraordinary thing is that people gathered here for 4,000 years. It’s over a period of time that is very hard to comprehend. We think of the Romans as a long time ago, at 2,000 years. Mesolithic man was coming here for 4,000 years, which is 200 generations of people. It suggests a tradition passed down from generation to generation."

Within hours of starting to dig, archaeologists had unearthed an adze, an implement used for shaping wood. The buried land surface is littered with evidence of communities that came to the area from around 8,000 BCE to 4,300 BCE.

The site is at North Park Farm, Bletchingley, a medieval village in East Surrey. It emerged when a mineral supply company, applied for planning permission to quarry in the area and an archaeological investigation was undertaken as part of the process.

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Anatolia's largest Roman bath waiting to be excavated


The Herodes Atticus Hamam, situated in Çanakkale’s ancient ruins of Alexandria Troas, is believed to be the largest bath from the Roman era in Anatolia and is just waiting to be unearthed.


The Herodes Atticus Hamam, situated in Çanakkale's ancient ruins of Alexandria Troas, is believed to be the largest bath from the Roman era in Anatolia and is just waiting to be unearthed.

Excavation team leader and German archaeologist Professor Elmar Schwertheim told ...

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Rome's Greatest Brickmakers Identified

Two brothers are behind Rome's greatest monuments, according to Italian archaeologists who have discovered two furnaces that provided the bricks for buildings such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon.

Found in Mugnano in Teverina, a tiny village some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Rome, the furnaces belonged to Tullus and Lucanus, brothers of the Domitii family, as an inscription found on the road leading to the brickfield confirms: "iter privatum duorum Domitiorum" (private road of the two Domitii).

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Roman ruins to remain under rainwater canal

Finding themselves in a catch-22 situation, the authorities have decided to forge ahead with the construction of a "removable" canal over a significant piece of archaeology unearthed in Marsa.

The Works' Division and the heritage authorities have had to find the middle ground between building a water canal to alleviate flooding problems and exploiting one of the most important historical finds in recent years.

The area consists of a stretch of about 125 metres along the northern half of the water channel near Jetties Wharf, Marsa, which may be dated from the ceramics recovered from site to the Roman and Early Medieval periods.

"It's a significant discovery but sadly there are pragmatic realities we have to face. We opted for a practical solution," Anthony Pace, Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, told The Times.

He said the anti-flooding development in the area had now been redesigned in such a way as not to cause any long-term damage to the Roman structures. Special removable blocks will be used to cover the bottom of the trench.

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Roman road dug up after council error

A COUNCIL has been accused of vandalism after allowing a 2000-year-old stretch of Roman road to be dug up in error.

The criticism was levelled at Perth and Kinross Council after planners approved an application to improve drainage and build a shed next to Kaims Cottage, near Braco, without an archaeological survey.

The go-ahead resulted in the destruction of one of the few surviving undamaged sections of the road, which was constructed by the Romans in 70AD.
Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust had recommended that an archaeological survey be carried out to review the dangers in excavating land surrounding the Roman fort and road.

Its proposal was put to the planning department. But when the consent was issued the essential condition of an archaeological survey was forgotten.
Dr John Woolliscroft, a leading expert on the Roman occupation of Scotland, criticised the council's "carelessness''.
Dr Woolliscroft, of Liverpool University, said: "This was one of the surviving sections that seems to have been still in something like its original state, without modern rebuild-ing/resurfacing, so this bit of vandalism seems to be a sad loss of opportunity.

"It does sound as though the trouble at Kaims is the council's fault. I spoke to the trust, which advises the council on potential clashes between heritage and development, and they tell me that they strongly advised that if planning consent was granted it should be only on condition that an archaeological study should be undertaken before the work was started. They were ignored.
"Sadly, although the little Roman fort is a scheduled ancient monument, and so can't be touched without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, the Roman road is not, despite being well preserved."

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Italian lake yields Stone Age canoe

Rome, August 7 - Italian archaeologists have uncovered a Stone Age canoe like those probably used by Europe's first farmers at a lake near Rome .

The 8,000-year-old pirogue - a canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk - was discovered on the bed of Lake Bracciano at a depth of just 12 metres .

The lake is a popular destination for modern-day Romans who go there during summer weekends to swim, sunbathe or hire a pedal boat when they want to avoid the crowded beaches on the coast .

The experts who carried out the excavation, led by local Prehistory Superintendent Antonietta Fugazzola Delpino, said the find will reveal a great deal about Neolithic sailing and boat-building .

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The medical world of medieval monks

Anaesthetics and disinfectants are thought to be a modern medical invention but evidence is coming to light that medieval doctors knew of them too.

Evidence found at the ancient Soutra Hospital site, in Scotland, suggests the medieval Augustine monks also knew how to amputate limbs, fashion surgical instruments, induce birth, stop scurvy and even create hangover cures.

The excavations at Soutra have also unearthed fragments of pottery vessels that were once used for storing medicines such as an analgesic salve made from opium and grease and treatment for parasitic and intestinal worms.

Dressings have also been found, some still with salves or human tissues attached and the scientists have discovered a mixture of Quicklime (calcium oxide) which scientists believe was used as a disinfectant and a deodorant.

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Dig into past will pave way for bright future

£3.3m archaeological excavation will be biggest in city since Coppergate finds and lead to £150m regeneration

THE largest archaeological dig in York for almost 30 years will pave the way for a £150m development within the medieval city walls.

Regeneration of the 10-acre Hungate site has been heralded as one of the most significant building projects in Europe by architects behind the scheme, which will see the semi-derelict land transformed into a vibrant urban community.

But before construction work can start a £3.3m archaeological dig will begin – the biggest to take place in the city since the Coppergate excavations of the 1970s and early 1980s. The spectacular finds from the five-year Coppergate dig which began in 1976 led to the creation of the Jorvik Viking Centre, and developers believe the Hungate archaeological study will provide an equally important insight into history dating back 2,000 years.

Vital clues to York's Roman past have already been discovered during preliminary excavation in Hungate, and artefacts which have been unearthed date back to the first century AD when Eboracum became a key fortress for the Roman ninth legion.

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Saucy secrets of upmarket Pompeii

Harrods-style store revealed by Yorkshire team's find

ARCHAEOLOGISTS from Yorkshire believe they may have found an ancient version of Harrods in the ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii.
The discovery of unusual fish bones in the bottom of a crushed ceramic jar unearthed from the ash has offered fresh clues to life in the city before it was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79.

Bradford University is part of the Anglo-American Project in Pompeii, a long- term exploration of a large section of the ancient city.
Archaeologists digging in a building until recently thought to be a soap factory have found the crushed remains of an amphora, a large ceramic jar, containing hundreds of fish bones.

The bones are believed to be the remains of a fish sauce known as garum which was popular in Roman times with the well-off.
Similar bones found in the city before have come from a different breed of fish raising the possibility this was a particularly unusual, exotic or expensive version.
The building it was found in was named the soap factory because of large shallow vats found inside which were thought could have been used to make soap.
But it stands on one of the main roads through Pompeii and experts now think it far more likely the building was a shop, perhaps selling luxurious items like the unusual fish sauce or a distribution centre for goods heading for shops in the neighbourhood.
Dr Andrew Jones, from Bradford University, said: "This is a unique find. It is of maj
or significance."

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Iron Age log boat begins year's drying out

An Iron Age log boat has begun a year of drying out after spending a decade buried in sugar. Archaeologists at the Poole, Dorset (England), Waterfront Museum say it is the first time that sucrose treatment has been used in the UK. The boat is now in a specially-built drying chamber at the museum where it will stay for 12 months until it can be displayed to the public.

The boat, made in 300 BCE, was discovered in Poole Harbour in 1964. It was made from one giant log, estimated to have weighed 14 tonnes and could have carried up to 18 people. After it was found it was kept submerged in water for 30 years while archaeologists decided what to do with it. A decade ago it was submerged in the sucrose solution, which gradually replaces the soft tissue of the wood but keeps the boat's shape.

It is one of the largest surviving log boats of the prehistoric period in the UK, and is believed to be related to two nationally important Iron Age jetties and continental trade taking place on Green Island in Poole Harbour.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bomb disposal team called in to aid archaeologists

WHAT do you do when you find a Roman sarcophagus and want to know what's inside?

Archaeologist Mike Griffiths called in the Army Bomb Disposal Squad.

The stone coffin - one of the first of its kind to be discovered in York for decades - was found during a dig in the Mount area.

It consists of a stone trough weighing up to three tons, covered over by a gritstone slab weighing at least another ton.

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A Roman invasion of Lincoln will take place this weekend, turning back the clock to a bygone age.

On Friday from 10am visitors to the Usher Gallery in Lindum Road ill be able to try their hand at creating a Roman mosaic and add their design to a giant floor tile, all free of charge.

There is also a chance to take advantage of a Roman open forum, an opportunity to meet museum staff, handle Roman artefacts and find out about life in the city of Lindum Colonia.

On Saturday, re-enactors and museum archaeologists will make up a Roman army, and visitors will be able to find out what life was like in a Roman garrison and even meet the odd soldier or two.

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Thracian ghosts

ARCHAEOLOGISTS, led by professor Daniela Agre, have found a Thracian king’s grave dated from the fourth century BC, National Museum of History Director Bozhidar Dimitrov said on July 24.

The find was uncovered near the village of Zlatinitsa in the southern area of Yambol.
“A gold wreath and many gold, silver and bronze utensils, gold and silver ornaments and horse tacks were buried as gifts for the deceased,” said Dimitrov.
Work on the site continues, he said, adding that a new find comes up every 10 minutes.
Scholars also found a silver knee protector with images of Thracian mythology for use in parades, two silver rhythons and Greek ceramic vessels.

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A Subway Bores Into the Ottoman and Byzantine Eras

ISTANBUL - The dusty pit next to the governor's office here looks like any other archaeological dig. Workers chip away gingerly at a half-buried stone wall, carting off the crumbling bricks in a wheelbarrow.

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Workers dismantling walls that were part of the cellars of homes built 50 to 70 years ago, discovered at a construction site for the new Istanbul subway. Under the walls, archaeologists have found a staircase dating from the Ottoman Empire. Under that, they found a Byzantine-era arch.

The walls were originally the cellars of houses built 50 to 70 years ago in the early years of the Turkish Republic. Beneath them, archaeologists have uncovered a staircase dating from the late Ottoman Empire, perhaps a century or two old. And lurking beneath that is a genuine treasure: a stone arch that forms part of a cistern from the late Byzantine period, which ended in 1453.

What sets this site apart is that the diggers are only a step ahead of the bulldozers. Machines will soon tear up this serpentine street in the heart of Istanbul's old city to put in a station for a new subway line.

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Roman antiquity saved from decline

Donations from Times readers help to save a buried treasure

ONE of the most important Roman antiquities in Western Europe, at Brading on the Isle of Wight, was reopened by the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday after a £3.1 million mission to prevent its decay.

Discovered in the 1880s, the spectacular 3rd-century mosaic floors of an opulent villa, which remain in near-pristine condition, were threatened when their protective building was found to be unsafe.

Readers of The Times played a key role in saving the mosaics, contributing more than £100,000 after an article in 2003 reported that Brading Roman Villa was on the World Monuments Fund’s list of most endangered sites and English Heritage’s register of buildings at risk.

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