Monday, February 27, 2006

Met to return antiquities Italy claims were stolen

ROME -- New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art agreed Monday to return antiquities Italy says were looted in exchange for long-term loans of other artifacts -- a precedent archaeologists hope will prompt museums to change their acquisition policies.

The agreement, which is expected to be signed today in Rome by Met chief Philippe de Montebello and Italian Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione, will likely have ramifications across the museum world, thrust into the spotlight by a vigorous Italian campaign to reclaim treasures it says were illegally taken from its soil.

Antiquities experts and archaeologists said that unless the Met and other museums are forced to change their policies to prevent the acquisition of looted treasures, the Met's agreement with Italy will be little more than a one-shot deal.

"The Italians have the best evidence we've ever had in 40 years" to go after museums with antiquities that have dubious provenances, said Ricardo Elia, an archaeology professor at Boston University. "They can't just accept a trade. They need to make them change their policy."

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient maps to soon go online

CHAPEL HILL -- While they may study places and people that are thousands of years old, scholars at UNC are at the forefront of modernizing antiquity.

Researchers long have had to dip into hefty and static atlases to study the stomping grounds of Alexander the Great or the Roman emperors, but they soon will be able to do so on a comprehensive, open-source database on the Internet -- thanks to UNC's Ancient World Mapping Center.

The group started the project this month with the help of a $390,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Mapping center leaders hope the online project will serve as a template for other humanities scholars to incorporate technology into their research.

"You think it's all so old, boring and crusty," Richard Talbert, principal investigator of the project, said of the classics. "But it's not."

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Good Neanderthal Was Hard to Find

Maybe they just didn't have time to get to know each other.

The question of what Neanderthals and Homo sapiens might have done on cold nights in their caves, if they happened to get together and the fire burned down to embers, has intrigued scientists since the 19th century, when the existence of Neanderthals was discovered.

A correction in the way prehistoric time is measured using radiocarbon dating, described last week in the journal Nature, doesn't answer the enduring question, but it might at least help explain why no DNA evidence of interbreeding has been found: the two species spent less time together than was previously believed.

The old radiocarbon calculation is now known to be off by as much as several thousand years, the new research shows. That means that modern Homo sapiens barged into Europe 46,000 years ago, 3,000 years earlier than once estimated. But the radiocarbon dating under the new calculation also shows that their takeover of the continent was more rapid, their coexistence with the native Neanderthals much briefer.

Read the rest of this article...

Archaeologists think skull could be that of Copernicus

FROMBORK, Poland · This Baltic coastal village prides itself as the hometown of Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer and scientific revolutionary who showed that Earth revolved around the sun. There's a Copernicus museum and a Copernicus altar; even the tower where he did his stargazing almost 500 years ago has been carefully preserved.

One thing is missing: Copernicus himself.

The people of Frombork have long known that the astronomer died somewhere around here in 1543, but the failure of their ancestors to record exactly where he was buried has fueled one of the most enduring mysteries in Polish history, despite repeated attempts over the centuries to locate his grave.

Recently, however, a team of archaeologists reported a breakthrough: the discovery of a skull deep below the flagstones of the 14th-century Frombork Cathedral. Aided by fresh historical research and a high-tech police crime lab, the archaeologists have tentatively concluded that the skull -- that of a man with a broken nose who was approximately 70 years old when he died -- is that of Copernicus.

The findings have aroused excitement in Poland, where Copernicus is regarded as a national hero. But they have also forced Poles to make some uncomfortable reckonings with history, such as the question of whether Copernicus was Polish at all.

Read the rest of this article...

Cave paintings are graffiti by prehistoric yobs

For decades, they have been presented as pioneers of creativity who left a rich legacy of artistic expression. But recent research has revealed that Stone Age cave painters were little more than sexually charged, intoxicated teenagers intent on vandalism.

In the legendary Lascaux caves in France's Dordogne, there are indeed colourful scenes of deer and woolly mammoths. But the majority of prehistoric work shows little more than human genitalia crudely scratched into stone.

"In schools all over the world, you go to the toilets and far enough back in the toilet booth you'll start seeing these same sexual images," said Professor Dale Guthrie, a US-based expert in the field. In his new book, The Nature of Palaeolithic Art, he argues that most ancient artists were motivated by the most powerful force known to early man - sex.

The claims were made by Professor Guthrie's team after examining 3,000 ancient images. "That adolescent giggles echoed in dark cave passages demeans neither artists nor art," said Professor Guthrie. "Why did they do it? Well, it was fun."

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Cathedral's Anglo-Saxon angel aired

THE 1,300-year-old carved figure of an Anglo-Saxon angel unearthed during excavations at Lichfield Cathedral was yesterday unveiled.

The 63cm-high stone sculpture, dubbed the Lichfield Angel, was discovered by archaeologists beneath the nave in the remains of an Anglo-Saxon church built to house the grave of St Chad, the first Bishop of Lichfield.

The exact location of this building had remained a mystery until it was unearthed during this most recent dig.

Archaeologists were asked to excavate the nave ahead of the installation of a motorised platform to replace portable staging used for concerts.

Experts believe the Lichfield Angel formed part of the original shrine of St Chad, which was built around AD700, and was part of a panel believed to depict the Angel Gabriel greeting the Virgin Mary with news she was to have a son.

Read the rest of this article...

Detector unearths a treasure

A treasure hunter unearthed a rare Roman bracelet while scouring a field in Staffordshire with a metal detector, an inquest heard.

The strip bracelet, made of almost pure gold, dates back to possibly the 1st century, the Cannock hearing was told yesterday.

The artefact, declared treasure trove by Staffordshire South coroner Andrew Haigh, is now being evaluated by experts at the British Museum to determine its value.

The bracelet was discovered by Stephen Wood while he was searching a field in Lichfield with his metal detector in December 2004.

Read the rest of this article...

Uncovered shrine goes on display

The remains of a church house and a shrine to a Midlands' saint are going on display on Saturday.

Archaeologists claim to have found the house built around St Chad's grave along with the shrine, known as the Lichfield Angel.

The discovery was made during a dig underneath the nave of Staffordshire's Lichfield Cathedral.

Chad became the fifth Bishop of the Mercians in AD 669 and moved the Bishopric from Repton to Lichfield.

The Lichfield Angel, created in AD 700, will be on display until the end of March before being taken away for further research.

Read the rest of this article...

Historic finds on public display

An archaeological dig in the centre of a historic city is being opened to the public on Saturday.

Experts carrying out the excavation in the grounds of the library in Jewry Street in Winchester, have unearthed pottery, metal, shells and bones.

Councillor Margaret Snaith said: "It's a rare opportunity to view Winchester's history from medieval and Roman times."

The archaeologists are checking the area before a planned extension of the library can take place.

Read the rest of this article...

Vikings on the rampage

BEARDED Vikings from overseas rampaged through city streets as part of the annual York festival.

Norse warriors from France, Belgium, Russia, Poland and Sweden recreated life as it was 1,000 years ago in their own countries in St Sampson's Square.

Pictured above enjoying the festivities are Georg Hamsem, centre, of Norway, with Eric Reuter, left, and Yohann Turmel, of Normandy, in France.

The Jorvik Viking Festival continued today and climaxes tomorrow with a host of events.

A Viking market will be held tomorrow between 10am and 5pm at Barley Hall, off Stonegate, while three battle drills will take place in Coppergate Square at 11am, 2pm and 3.30pm.

Read the rest of this article...

Parthenon sculptures were coloured blue, red and green

Its austere white is on every postcard, but the Athens Parthenon was originally daubed with red, blue and green, the Greek archaeologist supervising conservation work on the 2,400-year-old temple said.

"A recent cleaning operation by laser revealed traces of haematite (red), Egyptian blue and malachite-azurite (green-blue) on the sculptures of the western frieze," senior archaeologist Evi Papakonstantinou-Zioti told AFP.

While archaeologists had found traces of the first two colours elsewhere on the temple years ago, the malachite-azurite colouring was only revealed in the latest restoration process, Papakonstantinou-Zioti said.

Given the testimony of ancient writers, it is not unlikely that the Parthenon's trademark columns were also coloured, she added.

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient refuge found by workmen

Workmen have unearthed 1,000 years of history on a County Down building site.

They have come upon an underground stone-built tunnel in Raholp, where our ancestors might have hidden from the Vikings or from warring neighbours.

Archaeologist Ken Neill said that with chambers off from the main tunnel it was a quite complicated souterrain, and probably built by better off farmers.

The opening that led to the tunnel - which leads into the hillside - will be sealed and the passage left alone.

Read the rest of this article...

Met's Antiquities Case Shows Donor, Trustee Ties to Looted Art

On Nov. 22, Philippe de Montebello, the director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, walked up a cobblestone street in Rome and into a palazzo connected to the chambers where Galileo faced the Inquisition 372 years earlier.

Inside the Italian Culture Ministry's headquarters, curators, police and the minister of culture himself showed evidence to the chief of the Western Hemisphere's biggest art museum that the Met harbored looted antiquities -- both in its collection and loaned by wealthy donors, some of whom run the museum as trustees.

Three months later, de Montebello agreed to return 21 of the Met's gems to Italy, among them a 2,500-year-old vase painted by the Greek artist Euphronios.

While Italy secured a victory in this instance, the Met remains enmeshed in a broader tangle of donors, trustees and curators, some of whom have dealt in illicit antiquities, according to Italian and U.S. court decisions.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Christian Burials in England (APACBE)

Pursuant to the publication of Guidance on Best Practice for Treatment of Human Remains Excavated From Christian Burial Grounds in England in 2005 by English Heritage and the Church of England, an Advisory Panel has been set up to provide supporting advice to this document and to facilitate the progress of policy and strategy relating to this field. The Advisory Panel is sponsored by the Church of England, English Heritage and the Department for Constitutional Affairs (to which responsibility for burial and exhumation law has recently been transferred from the Home Office). Each of these organisations has statutory or legal responsibilities relating to the archaeology of Christian burials in England.

Read the rest of this article...

Prehistoric building unearthed in Aalter

Near the cemetery of Aalter (prov. Eastern Flanders) archaeologists discovered the remains of a prehistoric construction. The house, measuring 12.5 by 5 m, was supported by 8 heavy posts in two parallel rows. The construction was clearly divided in two parts, indicating that it was inhabited by both humans and cattle. Based on the ceramic finds the construction is provisionally dated in the early Iron Age, but this needs to be verified by radiocarbon datingNear the cemetery of Aalter (prov. Eastern Flanders) archaeologists discovered the remains of a prehistoric construction. The house, measuring 12.5 by 5 m, was supported by 8 heavy posts in two parallel rows. The construction was clearly divided in two parts, indicating that it was inhabited by both humans and cattle. Based on the ceramic finds the construction is provisionally dated in the early Iron Age, but this needs to be verified by radiocarbon dating

Read the rest of this article...

ARCHAEOLOGY: 2,000 years of history revealed

THOUSANDS of years of history have been uncovered at a major archaeological dig in St Neots.
From iron age relics to medieval ground works a record of the last 2,000 years and beyond has been carefully unearthed at the Love's Farm site, just off Cambridge Road.

After a year of hard and painstaking work by a team of more than 20 archaeologists, the dig – one of the largest ever undertaken in the UK – is now coming to a close.

More than half the 60 hectare site has been stripped and meticulously mapped out so that centuries of historical data can be recorded before the site is developed with new homes, a school and other facilities.

The dig was commissioned and funded by Gallagher Estates and has been conducted by the Archaeological Field Unit of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Read the rest of this article...

Greece and Italy team up to recover stolen antiquities

Greece has joined forces with Italy in a joint attempt to locate and repatriate priceless stolen antiquities, an effort that could have serious ramifications for Europe's leading museums.

After the surprise success of Italian authorities in securing the return of ancient masterpieces from New York's Metropolitan museum, Athens sent to Italy the investigator responsible for the capture and prosecution of the notorious November 17 terrorist group, so he could gather information.

Sources close to the investigation say the Athens prosecutor, Yiannis Diotis, met Italian counterparts in Rome, and acquired a catalogue of Polaroid images of looted art seized last year during raids targeting antiquities smugglers.

These images are said to include scores of ancient works, looted from Greece and sold to wealthy private collectors or major museums. The items were photographed while in the possession of crooked dealers and circulated to potential buyers, typically, before being sold through Swiss auction houses which operate outside EU laws on trafficking in stolen goods. Mr Diotis will now spearhead the effort to trace the pictured items, said to include priceless statues, vases, ornate wreaths and sculpted reliefs.

Read the rest of this article...


Archaeologists working on the site of a new bypass in Cornwall have discovered a ceremonial henge - the first of its kind to be found in the region.

The circle-henge or pit circle was found during excavations at Deep Tye Farm between Bodmin and Indian Queens, where improvements to the A30 are being carried out to ease traffic and bring environmental gains to Tregoss and Goss Moors.

The ceremonial monument was built in the late Neolithic period (3000-2000BC) and consists of pits in two arc formations, one inside the other. The outer arc forms a ditch 10metres in diameter while the inner arc has 10 postholes that may have contained freestanding wooden posts or a more elaborate structure. There is a wide gap to the south.

“The Deep Tye Farm site is a modest example of this type of monument,” said Stuart Foreman of Oxford Archaeology, who carried out the excavation work on behalf of the Highways Agency, “which can reach quite lavish proportions. Stonehenge is the best known example.”

Read the rest of this article...

Archaeology throughout the Aegean

Modern Greek towns and cities are practically all built on the foundations of ancient cities and sites. We live on ancient ruins, yet besides the obvious and most well known, we hardly know of the hundreds of other sites that occupy an important position in our cultural heritage.

A visit to a region in Greece may provide the occasion for some further reading on a particular site, and this is where guides or more specialized books on a given site may be quite handy. Yet it is rare that one is offered a more comprehensive knowledge of archaeology and is given a broader context in which to place existing information.

“Archaeology, Aegean Islands,” recently published in Greek by Melissa (an English edition and possibly a German one are expected for the fall), is an impressive publication that for the first time in both the Greek and international bibliography, offers full documentation of all archaeological sites throughout the Aegean. From the largest islands to the smallest islets, it covers every piece of land in the Aegean Sea that was populated by man in any period in time from 7,000 BC to the fourth century AD.

Read the rest of this article...

Carbon dating dashes old theories

New advances in radiocarbon dating are threatening to upend old theories about when modern humans colonized Europe from Africa, and how rapidly they advanced.

The research casts new light on significant patterns of human migration into Central and Western Europe in the crucial period from 50,000 to 35,000 years ago, scientists say. It suggests that the dispersal of anatomically modern Homo sapiens into Europe was more rapid than previously thought.

That, in turn, would mean that their coexistence with Neanderthals was briefer and their introduction of cave art, symbolic artifacts and personal ornamentation much earlier.

"Evidently the native Neanderthal populations of Europe succumbed much more rapidly to competition from the expanding biologically modern populations than previous estimates have generally assumed," Paul Mellars, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge in England, wrote in the journal Nature that was published Wednesday.

Read the rest of this article...

Gladiators Fought by the Book

THE Roman arena may have played host to appalling brutality in the name of entertainment, but at least the gladiators who fought there maintained certain standards. A forensic analysis of remains from a gladiator cemetery at Ephesus in Turkey reveals that unlike the gory free-for-all depicted in films like Ridley Scott's Gladiator, real gladiators stuck to strict rules of combat and did not resort to the savage violence and mutilation typical of battlefields of the era.

The forensic work may also confirm what historians had previously suspected - that gladiators whom the crowd condemned to death were often still alive when dragged from the arena, and were in fact dispatched by a final hammer blow to the head from a backstage executioner.

Much of what we understand about gladiatorial combat comes from Roman artwork, which suggests that gladiators were well matched in their capabilities, and followed sets of rules enforced by two referees.

To find out whether they actually stuck to the rules, Karl Großschmidt of the Medical University of Vienna in Austria and Fabian Kanz of the Austrian Archaeological Institute used modern forensic techniques to determine the causes of death of 67 gladiators discovered at Ephesus, the centre of power for ancient Rome's empire in western Asia. The cemetery, identified by tomb reliefs of gladiators, was uncovered by archaeologists in 1993 and is thought to date from the second century AD.

Read the rest of this article...

Italians plan visit to Boston for return of allegedly stolen art

Italian authorities plan a trip to Boston next month to secure the return of at least two-dozen objects from the city's Museum of Fine Arts.
It's part of the same crackdown to recover allegedly stolen artifacts that has prosecutors in Rome engaged in a legal battle with the Getty Museum's former curator.

Authorities contend that many of the artifacts in Boston were stolen from ancient tombs in the 1970s.

A former director of the Boston museum says it did not work hard enough to ensure it didn't receive stolen objects.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, February 23, 2006


ARCHAEOLOGISTS could be close to discovering a medieval settlement beneath a Newport estate.

John Ashall, archaeologist in charge of the Pan estate project, said he had uncovered much more evidence than expected of prehistoric, Roman and medieval life.

Experts were still investigating the discovery of a mystery item found during a recent field walk, he said.

The final field walk is due to take place on Saturday, when the public will be able to join the search for evidence of historic activity.

Mr Ashall, who has worked on projects around the world, will then catalogue the finds and prepare a report for the county archaeologist and other experts next month.

Read the rest of this article...

Angel hailed as 'important find'

A 1,200-year-old carving discovered by archaeologists at Lichfield Cathedral has been hailed as one of most important finds in English history.

The carving has been called the Lichfield Angel and its discovery has changed the history of the cathedral.

Specialist restorers have been working on the angel and it will go on display to the public on Saturday (February 25).

The 'Angel' was found during excavation work to prepare a site in the cathedral's nave for the installation of a rising platform.

Read the rest of this article...

Thornborough Henges: Poster and Information Sheets

Please help with the campaign to save Thornborough Henges.

There are information sheets available at:

and a poster at:

Thornborough Henges: Tarmac will appeal

The very welcome news that Tarmac has lost the first round in the battle to save the historic landscape around Thornborough Henges is tempered by the fact that Tarmac have announced that they will launch an appeal and that they hoped “factual evidence” would prevail at its appeal.

It is very important, therefore, that the archaeological community takes steps now to prepare to meet this new threat.

George Chaplin has petitioned Parliament with a request that “the House of Commons take all necessary steps to ensure that all quarrying activities be excluded from within a one mile radius of all the scheduled monuments known as the Thornborough Henges, these include the Central, Southern and Northern Henges, and the Thornborough Cursus.”

Please support this petition!

You can find a Word version of the petition at:

If Word doesn’t work for you, then there is a PDF version at:

(You will need Acrobat Reader to use the PDF file. Get a free copy here)

Villagers claim church fresco is lost Michelangelo

Parishioner's confession leads to discovery of monogram behind altar

No one else knows what the pensioner told the priest about what he got up to when he was a naughty altar boy. But his confession holds out the tantalising possibility that there could be a lost Michelangelo on the wall of a village church in Chianti.
For centuries the inhabitants of Marcialla have handed down the legend that a fresco above the altar was painted by the great Florentine artist in his youth. And the claim has sometimes been referred to in scholarly texts.

Read the rest of this article...

Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Meets w/Romania Officials

Romanian and Greek officials work on the specific details for the implementation of projects short-listed for assessment by the Greek delegation in view of receiving non-reimbursable financial assistance as stipulated by the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (HIPERB).

Deputy Foreign Minister of the Hellenic Republic Evripidis Stylianidis met with Secretary of State Istvan Jakab to examine the economic cooperation stage between Greece and Romania.
The four projects which will be subject to technical, economic and financial assessments, refer to the Targu Mures Regional Reference Centre for Critical Emergencies (SMURD), “Marina” Tourism Port in Tulcea, The 21st Century Museum for tourists in Constanta and rehabilitation of the Histria archaeology site.

Read the rest of this article...

Humans vs. Neanderthals: Game Over Earlier

Neanderthals in Europe were killed off by the advance of modern humans thousands of years earlier than previously believed, losing a competition for food and shelter, according to a scientific study published Wednesday.
The research uses advances in radiocarbon dating to revise understanding of early humans, suggesting they colonized Europe more rapidly and coexisted for a much shorter period with genetic ancestors.

Paul Mellars, professor of prehistory and human evolution at the University of Cambridge and author of the study, said Neanderthals—the species of the Homo genus that lived in Europe and western Asia from around 230,000 years ago to around 29,000 years ago—succumbed much more readily to competition.

"The two sides were competing for the same territories, the same animals and fuel supplies and occupying the same cave spaces. With that kind of competition, the Neanderthals were always going to come out as the losers,'' said Mellars, whose paper was published in the journal Nature.

Read the rest of this article...

Archaeology Dig 2006: Mitrou, Greece

The University of Tennessee's Classics department will conduct a field school in Greece this year, from June 15-August 2, 2006. The aim of the field school is to explore the archaeology of Greece focusing on the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, at the site of Mitrou, a tidal islet on the North Euboean Gulf of central Greece.

Read the rest of this article...

Gladiators fought by the rules: forensic research

Gladiators may have fought and died to entertain others in the brutality of the Roman arena but they appear to have abided by a strict code of conduct which avoided savage violence, forensic scientists say.

Tests on the remains of 67 gladiators found in tombs at Ephesus in Turkey, center of power for ancient Rome's eastern empire, show they stuck to well defined rules of combat and avoided gory free-for-alls.

Injuries to the front of each skull suggested that each opponent used just one type of weapon per bout of face-to-face contact, two Austrian researchers report in a paper to be published in Forensic Science International.

Savage violence and mutilation, typical of battlefields 2,000 years ago, were out of order.

And the losers appear to have died quickly.

Despite the fact that most gladiators wore helmets, 10 of the remains showed the fighters had died of squarish hammer-like blows to the side of the head, possibly the work of a backstage executioner who finished off wounded losers after the fight.

Read the rest of this article...

Road to a safe Stonehenge

Sir, Proposals for road improvements at Stonehenge are under review. A rise in projected costs may mean that only part, or none at all, of the works will go ahead. We are concerned that ministers and others may be unaware that, contrary to some media coverage, many archaeologists and members of the public support the approved Highways scheme — which includes a 2.1km bored tunnel on the present route of the A303 — as a realistic and acceptable solution.

We are archaeologists whose careers have engaged with Stonehenge for many years. Between us we have conducted significant excavations at the monument and in its immediate landscape, have written, lectured and broadcast extensively on Stonehenge and have guided many members of the public around the stones and the world heritage site.

Read the rest of this letter...

Modern humans 'blitzed Europe'

Our ancestors colonised Europe and wiped out their Neanderthal cousins even faster than we thought, says a study published today.

Modern humans 'blitzed Europe'
By Roger Highfield
(Filed: 23/02/2006)

Our ancestors colonised Europe and wiped out their Neanderthal cousins even faster than we thought, says a study published today.

Argument has raged for years about whether our ancestors from Africa outsurvived, killed or bred with the Neanderthals, who were stronger, bulkier and shorter but had equally large brains.

Now developments in radiocarbon dating suggest that many of the dates published over the past 40 years are likely to underestimate the true ages of the samples.

Prof Paul Mellars, of the University of Cambridge, describes today in the journal Nature how better calibration of radiocarbon ages have led to revisions of radiocarbon dates in the crucial 40,000 to 50,000 year time period when modern humans are thought to have arrived in Europe.

Read the rest of this article...

Neolithic site wins reprieve from diggers

Conservationists in Yorkshire today won their fight to save the prehistoric site of Thornborough Henges from a gravel extraction scheme, writes Martin Wainwright

It seems careless to overlook Britain's largest prehistoric site for the best part of 1,000 years - but that it what has happened in the case of the threat to the Thornborough Henges.

The country only woke up at the 11th hour, thanks to a determined group of enthusiasts in Yorkshire who networked remorselessly to get every conservation group on their side.

They finally won the day this afternoon, at a packed open meeting of North Yorkshire county council in Masham, a beautiful market town with an abundance of obviously precious ancient monuments.

Read the rest of this article...

Radiocarbon review rewrites European pre-history

The ancestors of modern man moved into and across Europe, ousting the Neanderthals, faster than previously thought, a new analysis of radiocarbon data shows.

Rather than taking some 7,000 years to colonize Europe from Africa, the reinterpreted data shows the process may only have taken 5,000 years, scientist Paul Mellars from Cambridge University said in the science journal Nature on Wednesday.

"The same chronological pattern points to a substantially shorter period of chronological and demographic overlap between the earliest ... modern humans and the last survivors of the preceding Neanderthal populations," he wrote.

The reassessment is based on advances in eliminating modern carbon contamination from ancient bone fragments and recalibration of fluctuations in the pattern of the earth's original carbon 14 content.

Populations of anatomically and behaviorally modern humans first appeared in the near eastern region some 45,000 years ago and slowly expanded into southeastern Europe.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Campaigners celebrate as quarry extension is rejected

Construction giant loses heritage battle

A LONG-running fight by campaigners to protect the area around a nationally important Neolithic site in North Yorkshire ended in success yesterday when construction giant Tarmac was refused permission to extend a nearby quarry.

Tarmac immediately said it would appeal after losing its battle with English Heritage over the importance of the Neolithic remains at the quarry site near Thornborough Henges, a scheduled ancient monument, which archaeologists claim is the Stonehenge of the North.

The company wants to extract 2.2 million tonnes of sand and gravel by extending Nosterfield Quarry, north of Ripon, further away from the three henges on to 112 acres of Ladybridge Farm, but North Yorkshire County Council's planning committee yesterday voted 6-3 to reject the scheme.

The legality of the decision was immediately questioned because the committee's vice-chairman, Heather Garnett, failed to declare that she was a member of English Heritage and North Yorkshire's "Heritage Champion" before proposing the refusal.
Conservative councillor Mrs Garnett, from Darley, near Harrogate, left the Masham meeting refusing to comment, but after consulting solicitors, the council's assistant director of environmental service, Simon Smales, said it had decided the decision was legal and would stand.

Read the rest of this article...

Die erste Uhr der Bronzezeit

Himmelsscheibe von Nebra: Hamburger Forscher macht Sensationsfund. 3600 Jahre alte Bronzescheibe war ein astronomisches Meisterwerk.

Halle -
Eine babylonische Keilschrift aus dem 7. Jahrhundert v. Chr. und die Detektivarbeit des Hamburger Astronomen Rahlf Hansen (45) haben das Rätsel der berühmten Himmelsscheibe von Nebra gelöst: Der Forscher des Hamburger Planetariums entschlüsselte auf der 3600 Jahre alten Bronzescheibe eine Schaltmonatsregel, die es den Menschen der Bronzezeit ermöglichte, die beiden uralten großen Kalendersysteme der Menschheit, das Sonnenjahr mit 365 und das Mondjahr mit 354 Tagen, in Einklang zu bringen.

"Die Himmelsscheibe aus der frühen Bronzezeit erweist sich damit als eine astronomische Uhr", sagte Harald Meller, Landesarchäologe von Sachsen-Anhalt, gestern in Halle. Der Sensationsfund offenbart, daß die Schöpfer der Scheibe über ein herausragendes Wissen in Astronomie und Mathematik verfügten und tiefe Einblicke in die Mechanik der Himmelskörper hatten, was die meisten Wissenschaftler den Mitteleuropäern der Bronzezeit bisher nicht zugetraut hatten.

Read the rest of this article...

Quarrying at henge site rejected

Plans to quarry gravel from part of Britain's biggest prehistoric site were rejected yesterday but the construction company Tarmac is to appeal.

A full public inquiry is now likely over the fate of land surrounding Thornborough Henges, three giant discs encircled by earthen ramparts which have survived from a complex of eight erected around 5000BC in the Vale of York.

The quashing of the plan by North Yorkshire county council was welcomed by English Heritage and the British Council for Archaeology which have ranked the complex as a "northern Stonehenge". Although short of dramatic stone relics, the area is rich in burial mounds, traces of settlements and an formal avenue which may have been used for ceremonial funerals.

Read the rest of this article...

Italy seeks return of its 'looted treasures'

A LANDMARK agreement with New York’s Metropolitan Museum for the return to Italy of a 6th century BC painted vase and five other stolen treasures has “opened the floodgates” for a return of other looted antiquities, officials said yesterday.

Prosecutors have already served one US gallery with a list of allegedly plundered antiquities which they want returned to Italy. Museums in Japan and Denmark have been told that they too will receive demands for the return of allegedly stolen treasures.

Maurizio Fiorilli, the lawyer negotiating the return of stolen items from the US, said that he had presented the Getty Museum in Los Angeles with a list of 300 artefacts that Italy says it can prove were acquired illegally. He said that Michael Brand, the new head of the museum, was stunned on receipt of the list.

Marion True, former curator of antiquities at the Getty Museum, is on trial in Rome for allegedly acquiring stolen treasures. Prosecutors have demanded the return of 42 items acquired by the Getty during Mrs True’s tenure. But Signor Fiorilli said that Italy wanted at least 300 artefacts back from the Getty, including a 5th century BC statue of Venus and a 4th century BC statue of an athlete.

Read the rest of this article...

Italy and US in antiquities deal

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York yesterday clinched a landmark deal with Italy to return a 2,500-year-old vase and other allegedly looted treasures in return for the loan of items of "equivalent importance and beauty".

Officials in Rome yesterday said the deal also provided for the Met funding of archaeological digs in Italy. Antiquities found during the digs would be allowed to leave Italy. The deal is the biggest victory so far in Rome's vigorous campaign to disrupt the market in artefacts looted from Italy by tombaroli, or tomb raiders.

Read the rest of this article...

Angel hidden for 1,200 years

This is the first view of a 1,200-year-old carved angel discovered by archaeologists at Lichfield Cathedral.

Dubbed the Lichfield Angel, the carved stone figure has been hailed one of the most important finds ever in England. It lay hidden for 1,000 years.

It could not be photographed until examinations by specialist restorers and will not be on view to the public until Saturday.

The Lichfield Angel was found during excavation work to prepare a site in the cathedral's nave for the installation of a rising platform.

Read the rest of this article...

Battle goes on for the 'Stonehenge of North'

THE battle over a 5,000-year-old monument labelled the Stonehenge of the North took a new turn last night after construction company Tarmac said it would contest a ruling preventing it extending a quarry.

Campaigners were delighted when North Yorkshire county councillors threw out a proposed extension to Nosterfield Quarry, near Masham.

The extension would have been about 700 metres from the Neolithic man-made circles known as Thornborough Henges.

The company claims the monument would not be damaged.

The campaigners say the development would destroy important elements of the earthworks and hailed yesterday's decision as common sense.

But Tarmac said last night it would launch an immediate appeal. Earlier this week, it warned that jobs could be at risk if the extension did not go ahead. The site has only two years life left.

Read the rest of this article...

A tussle begins to keep Roman find

MOVES have been taken to ensure the ancient tombstone found at a Lancaster development site stays in the city.

As reported in last week's Visitor, property developer Chris Tudor Whelan has been finding out how much the stone is worth, saying he wants to cover the cost to him of its excavation.

He has said he'd like it to stay in the city but couldn't give any guarantee. He has consulted Sotheby's whose New York office, which deals with many such sales, says it could fetch up to $100,000.

Now the leader of the city council has stepped into the controversy.
Coun Ian Barker has written to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, asking her to refuse an export licence if there's any suggestion it's sold abroad.

Coun Barker said that, as far as the city council was concerned, planning permission was granted with archaeological conditions attached. There was an obligation in the development agreement not to dispose of any important archaeological finds.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Blogging as a Tool for Archaeology Outreach

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project Blog

In January of 2006, an innovative archaeology blog opened, dedicated to describing research at the Tell es-Safi archaeological site, and marking the next step forward in the use of electronic media in public archaeology. Blogs, also called weblogs, if you haven't seen them yet, are online journals, in which the diarist makes regular entries, called posts. Although most of the early blogs were personal diaries, a recent trend has been blogging for a literary or educational purpose. Educators and writers have discovered that the blog format offers a personal and informal access to information not otherwise available.

An interesting interview from About Archaeology

Read the rest of this article...

A Visigoth in Kent?

A small piece of rusted iron discovered by Wessex Archaeology at Springhead, near Gravesend, turned out to be a 5th – early 6th century Visigothic brooch.

The Visigoths (West Goths) were one of the German tribes. Settled near the Black Sea in the 3rd century AD, by the 6th century they had migrated west and reached Spain and southern France.

The Springhead brooch is a very exciting discovery indeed. A number of similar brooches have been found in southern France and central Spain, with a few in northern France, but this one is the first to be found in Britain.

X-ray photography showed that the brooch was made of iron with silver inlay, very similar to two Visigothic brooches found in Frénouville, Normandy.

In the last 30 years or so a number of objects of Visigothic design have come to light in this country, mainly in south-east England.

Read the rest of this article...

Underwater robot cuts survey mapping time

SeaBED is an underwater survey robot which recently proved electronics could take the boring bits out of underwater archaeology.

“The consensus was it would take a team two field seasons to do the work that we did in a day,” archaeologist Brendan Foley of the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told Electronics Weekly.

Foley was the only US archaeologist on a Greek-led dig of a sunken 4th century BC merchant ship.

“[Before seaBED] most of our time was spent making a site survey: siting references then taking hundreds of measurements and tri-laterating,” he said. “This is not a good use of archaeologists’ time, not very accurate, and the worst possible use of brain power.” - and at 60m, the wreck was too deep for conventional scuba diving anyway.

Read the rest of this article...

Caught on camera: chimps use 'tool-kit' to catch termites

Remarkable video clips of wild chimpanzees using "tool kits" to dig out termites from an underground nest have been recorded by scientists, who believe it is the most sophisticated culture yet observed in great apes.

Although chimps are known to use long twigs as simple tools to fish for termites - a nutritious delicacy - it is the first time that a far more complex behaviour involving two different kinds of tools has been observed in the wild.

Crickette Sanz, of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, and David Morgan, of Cambridge University, made the video with the help of hidden cameras trained on termite mounds in the tropical forests of the Congo that chimps are known to frequent.

They filmed the chimps, who were using a thick stick which they had prepared by stripping its leaves, to push a tunnel a foot deep in to the heart of the nest. Once they had removed the stick, they pushed a far more delicate twig that had been deliberately frayed at one end down the tunnel and into the heart of the nest, said Professor Andrew Whiten, of Edinburgh University.

Read the rest of this article...

Vergeten Neanderthalers in museumkelder

In vergeten reserves van het Jubelparkmuseum (KMKG) en het Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen (KBIN) in Brussel hebben antropologen tot nu toe onbekende fossielen gevonden van twee Neanderthal-kinderen. De gevonden fossielen zijn een onderkaak van een kind van anderhalf jaar en schedelfragmenten van een kind van ongeveer acht jaar. De 30.000 jaar oude beenderen werden meer dan honderd jaar geleden in een grot in Spy gevonden.

Aan de ontdekkingen ging maandenlang speurwerk vooraf van een team antropologen, archeologen en geologen. Tijdens hun zoektocht bezochten ze verschillende instituten en musea waar nog niet onderzochte delen van de verzameling van de grot van Spy bewaard worden.

"De verspreiding van de vondsten heeft een historische reden," zegt Patrick Semal (KBIN) vandaag in De Standaard. "Ze zijn afkomstig van diverse opgravingen die destijds werden georganiseerd door amateurs of door wetenschappers van de Belgische federale wetenschappelijke instellingen zoals het KBIN en de KMKG. Andere collecties zitten dan weer in onder meer de Universiteit en het Curtiusmuseum van Luik en in Namen. Een deel van de vondsten uit Spy zit bij privé-verzamelaars."

Read the rest of this article...

Monument quarry decision awaited

Campaigners fighting an application for quarrying near an ancient monument in North Yorkshire are awaiting a final decision on the controversial plans.

It is almost two years since Tarmac first applied to quarry sand and gravel at Ladybridge Farm, north of Ripon, near the Thornborough Henges.

Conservationists claim the work would disturb the setting of the 5,000-year-old bronze age earthworks.

But Tarmac says the land could cope with the quarrying operation.

County councillors, who visited the site in August last year, are being recommended to refuse planning permission at a meeting on Tuesday morning.

Read the rest of this article...


A Sixteenth century listed building has been wrecked by a digger. Residents watched in horror as a digger drove up to 16th century Grade II listed Oak House in Apperley and repeatedly rammed it, knocked down one wall and badly damaged two others.

Tewkesbury Borough Council's head of development control David Jones said it was the "most blatant act of vandalism against a listed building that the council has ever seen".

"It's clear that the building has been attacked by some mechanical means which caused considerable damage.

"It's a valuable listed building in a village setting. It had suffered damage in a fire. It needed repair but it wasn't a danger. Now we believe it's under threat.

Read the rest of this article...

Roman villa found in Sicily

Bronte, February 20 - A Roman villa dating back to the III Century AD has been found near Catania in Sicily .

Digs began a few months ago after archaeologists found red potsherds scattered at the site, a stone's throw from a famous castle built by Admiral Horatio Nelson .

Italian police kept the discovery secret until Monday in order to keep tomb raiders away .

The dig has now been secured and opened to journalists .

They were taken on a tour on Monday and shown the remains of Roman walls, a grinding stone and an altar .

The villa, which is thought to cover about 2,500 square metres, may be the same one discovered by a famous Italian archaeologist, Paolo Orsi, at the beginning of the last century .

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient Egypt pottery discovery

A request from the Department of Ancient Egypt at the British Museum has resulted in a 4,000-year-old discovery at Hawick Museum.

A box of pottery, long-untouched and undocumented, turned out to contain numbered items, many of them from the Middle Kingdom of 2040-1750 BC.

The items were collected by the Egyptologist John Garstang at Esna, Upper Egypt, in the early 20th Century.

The British Museum is to date and analyse the collection.

Read the rest of this article...

Parthenon fragment returned to Greece

This is the first time a piece of the ancient building has returned to Athens

LONDON. A fairly nondescript piece of stone could have an impact on the future of the Parthenon Marbles dispute. Last month Heidelberg University decided to return its small fragment of the frieze to Greece.

How the stone, 8 x 11 centimetres, reached Heidelberg remains a mystery. On the front, it is simply cut, with the outline of part of a male foot, and on the back is a modern incised inscription, in Greek, with the word “Parthenon”. It was not until 1948 that archaeologist German Hafner recognised that it was the heel of figure number 28 in block viii of the north frieze.

The fragment was registered in the university’s antiquities collection in 1871, and the most likely scenario is that it was originally acquired as a souvenir by a German visitor in Athens. It has never been displayed at Heidelberg’s Museum of Antiquities.

On 11 January, Heidelberg’s vice rector Professor Angelos Chaniotis issued a statement, saying the fragment would be returned, “guided by the scholarly aim of promoting the unification of the Parthenon as a unique moment of world culture”. It is perhaps no coincidence that the vice rector, a historian, is Greek, although he has lived in Germany for more than 20 years.

Read the rest of this article...

Archangel sculpture rises from Lichfield nave

The Archangel Gabriel, his wings still fiery with colour applied over 1200 years ago, has emerged from beneath the nave of Lichfield Cathedral.

The Anglo-Saxon carved figure was found when builders, watched over by archaeologists, took up part of the floor of the nave to build a new rising platform for concerts and recitals.

"None of us imagined that the project would provide a priceless gem, with the discovery of a carved stone angel that dates back to the original Saxon church that pre-dates the present Cathedral," said the Cathedral's Dean, Adrian Dorbar.

Read the rest of this article...

Metropolitan Museum Agrees To Return Artifacts

ROME -- New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art agreed Monday to return antiquities Italy says were looted in exchange for long-term loans of other artifacts - a precedent archaeologists hope will prompt museums to change their acquisition policies.

The agreement, expected to be signed today in Rome by Met chief Philippe de Montebello and Italian Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione, will likely have ramifications across the museum world, thrust into the spotlight by a vigorous Italian campaign to reclaim treasures it says were illegally taken from its soil.

Antiquities experts and archaeologists said that unless the Met and other museums are forced to change their policies to prevent the acquisition of looted treasures, the Met's agreement with Italy will be little more than a one-off deal.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Archaeologists unearth 2,600-metre wall

ATHENS: Greek archaeologists excavating an ancient Macedonian city in the foothills of Mount Olympus have uncovered a 2,600-metre defensive wall whose design was "inspired by the glories of Alexander the Great," the site supervisor said on Thursday.

Built into the wall were dozens of fragments from statues honouring ancient Greek deities, including Zeus, Hephaestus and possibly Dionysus, archaeologist Dimitrios Pantermalis told a conference in the northern port city of Salonika, according to the Athens News Agency.

Early work on the fortification is believed to have begun under Cassander, the fourth-century BC king of Macedon who succeeded Alexander the Great. Cassander is believed to have ordered the murders of Alexander's mother, wife and infant son, Pantermalis said.

The wall's design suggests that it was "inspired by the glory of Alexander the Great in the East," as the young king sought to emulate grandiose structures encountered during his campaigns, Pantermalis told the conference.

Read the rest of this article...

Limestone angel on display was buried for 1,000 years

AN ANGLO-SAXON carving of an angel unearthed at Lichfield Cathedral was hailed yesterday as the most important discovery of its type since the 19th century.

The 8th-century limestone panel retains much of its painted decoration, thanks to having been buried for more than a millennium. It is believed by archaeologists to have been part of the shrine of St Chad, Bishop of the Mercians, and an integral part of the Saxon church that lies under the cathedral.

St Chad’s remains were reburied in the church in the late 7th to early 8th centuries. According to the historian Bede, writing in the century after Chad’s death, his tomb became a place of pilgrimage because miracles took place there.

The carving, painted in strong colours, is thought to be one of the ends of a shrine chest depicting the Annunciation. Some of the angel’s feathers are in a gradation of tones from dark red to a pale pink.

Read the rest of this article...

JISC consultation

A JISC consultation for Internet Archaeology has just been announced. If you work in UK HE/FE then in responding to the consultation and showing your support for Internet Archaeology, you could be helping to secure free, open access to Internet Archaeology for every HE/FE educational institution in the UK.

Further details:

Human Brain Evolution And Eating Fish From Shoreline Environments

Forget the textbook story about tool use and language sparking the dramatic evolutionary growth of the human brain. Instead, imagine ancient hominid children chasing frogs. Not for fun, but for food.

According to Dr. Stephen Cunnane it was a rich and secure shore-based diet that fuelled and provided the essential nutrients to make our brains what they are today. Controversially, according to Dr. Cunnane our initial brain boost didn't happen by adaptation, but by exaptation, or chance.

"Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists usually point to things like the rise of language and tool making to explain the massive expansion of early hominid brains. But this is a Catch-22. Something had to start the process of brain expansion and I think it was early humans eating clams, frogs, bird eggs and fish from shoreline environments. This is what created the necessary physiological conditions for explosive brain growth," says Dr. Cunnane, a metabolic physiologist at the University of Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

The evolutionary growth in hominid brain size remains a mystery and a major point of contention among anthropologists. Our brains weigh roughly twice as much as our similarly sized earliest human relative, Homo habilis two million years ago. The big question is which came first - the bigger brain or the social, linguistic and tool-making skills we associate with it?

Read the rest of this article...

In praise of ... Neolithic monuments

It is often said that radio's advantage over television is the amount it leaves to the imagination. So it is with Thornborough Henges, the vast but largely vanished prehistoric monuments in Yorkshire whose fate will be discussed at a meeting in Northallerton tomorrow. The three great earth circles are all that is left of a complex of eight, surrounded by smaller monuments, which was the country's largest ceremonial area in Neolithic and Bronze Age times. Only undulations and nothing of the obvious, sturdy relics of the much smaller Stonehenge site remain for the visitor on the ground. But seen from the air, as it has been in a recent BBC series on the wonders of the north, Thornborough is stunning. And a partnership of every conservation group from the Henges' erudite and sparky friends' campaign to English Heritage, has drawn up a management and interpretation scheme which will bring this sense of wonder down to earth.

For this to be imperilled by a gravel extraction scheme for Tarmac, the subject of tomorrow's meeting, beggars belief, particularly when the company has shown sensitivity to the core of the henge site, which would not be damaged by the proposed work. Recent archaeology shows unanswerably how the circles need their setting to be understood, and to create that numinous atmosphere which will bring visitors, and their money. Of course this farming and quarrying part of North Yorkshire has to earn a living. It will not do so by digging up its finest asset.

Read the rest of this article...

Island looks forward to celebrating treasures of its past

Work will begin this spring on the creation of a Gaelic heritage museum on a Scottish island.

Although Lismore spans little more than a mile and is home to just 176 people, the island near Oban contains more than its fair share of history. An abundance of treasures have been found in the bronze age burial cairns that pepper its ridges, bearing down over Loch Linnhe.

The tentative first steps are now being taken towards the creation of the Lismore Gaelic Heritage Museum, which will provide a permanent exhibition space for the island's heritage.

With its establishment, the community is vying to exhibit priceless antiquities unearthed on Lismore currently being held by the National Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh.

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient `village hall' find

A "VILLAGE hall" that is thousands of years old has been found by Herefordshire's time team.

The Neolithic henge - or sacred site - at Stapleton, near Prest-eigne, is the first find of its kind in the county.

Experts from Herefordshire Archaeology, the county archaeological service, spotted the outline of a henge in aerial photographs taken for a land survey. A dig last month revealed what was there.

County archaeologist Dr Keith Ray said deposits found during the dig dated the henge at around 2,500 BC - the Neolithic period.

But there was further evidence of it being used around 1,000 BC or the Bronze Age.

Read the rest of this article...

Lady of Wells reveals her secrets

A mysterious medieval wall painting found beneath the floor of the Bishop of Bath and Well's bedroom has given up its secrets.

The painting, which shows a partly-clad woman wearing a transparent dress, dates from between 1460 and 1470.

It was part of the decoration of the throne room of Bishop Thomas Beckynton.

Dr Mark Horton, of Bristol University, who researched the painting discovered it is most likely to be part of a scene representing a medieval paradise.

Read the rest of this article...

Scholars Unearth Mystery (Romans)

In The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon portrays the pagan emperor Maxentius as a licentious youth and "a tyrant as contemptible as he was odious." Historians have long assumed that the reviled Roman emperor lived part-time at an 80-acre suburban villa complex until he was killed by his rival Constantine at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in A.D. 312.

But a University of Colorado-led archaeology team has uncovered evidence that the villa's main hall was never occupied.

Instead, it appears to have been abandoned before completion, said CU archaeologist Diane Conlin, co-director of the Maxentius project, a five-year excavation that began last summer.

"Maxentius builds a lot in Rome during his extremely short reign," Conlin said. "And the pattern - up to our project - is that Constantine either finishes the buildings and takes them over, or he demolishes them and builds something new.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, February 19, 2006


A mini "Stonehenge" has been uncovered by archaeologists in Cornwall.

The 5,000 year-old "circle henge", an early religious site, was discovered during work on the A30 bypass at Goss Moor, between Indian Queens and Bodmin, and is the first of its kind found in the region.

The 10 metre diameter site at Deep Tye Farm, which could have been the setting for human sacrifice, has excited archeologists. Stuart Foreman, from Oxford Archaeology, which is doing the work, said: "Excavated sites of this period are comparatively rare in Cornwall."

The excavation, costing £500,000, is part of a planned set of examinations by archaeologists working ahead of road builders on the £93 million Goss Moor bypass. The discovery won't delay work on the road. The henge was unearthed less than a mile from the Castle-an-Dinas hillfort by a 10 metre wide trench that has been dug along the entire seven kilometre length of the bypass route.

Read the rest of this article...

Austria's Vienna University is willing to carry out excavations in Alinda

Karpuzlu Mayor Hayretin Anmak announced that archeological excavations in the ancient city of Alinda are to be launched by Austria's Vienna University.

The ancient city is located within the boundaries of today's town of Karpuzlu in the Aegean province of Aydın.

Anmak told the Anatolia news agency that a group of archaeologists from one of the world's leading universities was willing to undertake the excavations in Alinda and will therefore arrive in Karpuzlu in the coming days to conduct studies at the site.

Read the rest of this article...

(Requires free registration)

Rare pendant sheds light on Neolithic period

A 6,500-year-old gold pendant, found by a hiker in a field near the northern town of Ptolemaida, could provide insights into the Neolithic era, archaeologists said.

THESSALONIKI - A 6,500-year-old gold jewel was picked up in a northern Greek field by a hiker who handed it over to authorities, an archaeologist said yesterday.

The flat, ring-shaped prehistoric pendant is a rare find in Greece, where only three such gold artifacts have been discovered during organized digs, Georgia Karamitrou-Mendesidi said.

Police confiscated a hoard of 33 similar hammered gold jewels from smugglers in 1997.

“It’s very important that it comes from the Neolithic period, about which we know very little regarding the use of metals, particularly gold,” Karamitrou-Mendesidi, head of the archaeological service where the discovery was made, told AP.

Read the rest of this article...

Thornborough Henges as icon

In North Yorkshire, there is a wonderful ancient sacred site called
Thornborough Henges. See

Unfortunately, this monument complex has been suffering from large
scale quarrying and the public have been allowed to forget they exist. have done a great deal to raise their profile and now
there is a simple way that you can help:

Click on the following link:

This is a government funded poll of important icons for England.

Click on Yes in the left hand side voting section of the page.

Job done!

Please pass this on to your friends.

(Information from Timewatch)

Go here to vote

Saturday, February 18, 2006


New research on an excavated Bronze Age burial mound in south Wales has revealed links to funeral sites as far away as the Orkney Islands.

The burial mound on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire was unearthed by Cambria Archaeology in 2004 after it was feared that the weather and visitors to the area were causing permanent damage to the site.

Archaeologists discovered a large rectangular stone cist at the centre of the mound containing the cremated bones of a young child, a pottery urn, a bone pin and several flint tools.

The cist also contained the cremated bones of two pigs and what is though to be a dog. Research revealed that second later burial took place at the site, which was added to the side of the mound

Read the rest of this article...


RUSH-HOUR traffic came to a standstill in Cockermouth yesterday morning after part of the town’s historic castle wall collapsed into the street.

Two parked cars – a Fiat Bravo and a Renault – were crushed by falling rubble from the ancient stone boundary.

It happened at about 3am yesterday near Jennings Brewery at Castlegate.

Emergency highways crews had to be called out to cordon off part of the road.

This caused lengthy tailbacks throughout rush-hour, which had knock-on effects through the town.

The castle, parts of which date back to the 12th century, is situated just off Castlegate in secluded grounds.

Read the rest of this article..

'Welsh aren't 'true' Celts' claim

THE MODERN nations that consider themselves to be Celtic are not actually anything to do with the "true Celts" who once dominated Iron Age Europe, according to anthropological research.

The Welsh, Irish and other peoples who regard themselves as Celtic cousins are in fact ancient Bretons who include the original English peoples.

Being Celtic is not about blood, tribes and red hair; nor is it about loving folk music and believing in the little people.

In a landmark special to be broadcast tonight, anthropologist Richard Rudgley, who comes from London, aims to separate myth from fact as he reveals the Celtic world.

Chris Malone, producer for Granada TV, joined him on the journey tracing the Celtic tradition across the world and said that it actually originated with the "true Celts" of central Europe.

Read the rest of this article...


Action is being taken to preserve the region's coastal treasures.

Hundreds of historic sites and buildings along the coastline risk being lost forever in years to come as coastal erosion takes hold.

That is why a new English Heritage project, called Making The Past Part Of Our Future, has been launched.

Over the next three years, a working group will seek out historic coastal sites with a view to visiting, exploring and documenting them.

For later stages of the project, the public will be asked to contact English Heritage to flag up their favourite local sites.

Read the rest of this article...

Artful Surgery Abstract)

By Anagnostis P. Agelarakis

Greek archaeologists discover evidence of a skilled surgeon who practiced centuries before Hippocrates.

Sometime before 600 B.C., a surgeon in the settlement of Abdera on the north coast of the Aegean faced a difficult case. Standing back from his patient, a young woman in her late twenties lying on the table before him, he examined the wound cautiously. Normal practice required that the healer ask how an injury occurred, but here it was clear from the broken flesh and hair matted with blood. A stone or lead missile, hurled from a sling by one of the native Thracians intent on the colony's destruction, had hit her on the back of the head. Stepping closer, a grave expression on his face, the surgeon gently explored the wound by hand and with a bronze probe. As he feared, the impact was at a point where the bones came together, joining in a suture--the weakest point of the skull.

Today, most medical students take a solemn vow, repeating the Hippocratic Oath, named for Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician we call the "Father of Medicine." Although we know little about him--he has been described as the "most famous but least known Greek physician"--in his own day, Hippocrates (ca. 460-370 B.C.) was spoken of with respect by Plato and Aristotle. He was born at the island of Kos, near Ionia (the eastern coast of the Aegean Sea), and after practicing medicine throughout Greece, he devoted considerable time to teaching students.

None of the surviving late fifth- and early fourth-century B.C. Greek medical treatises--numbering about 70 and collectively known as the Hippocratic corpus--can be securely ascribed to the great physician himself. They could have been compiled by his students, who conceivably added to their master's notes, handbooks, and lecture materials. Perhaps in part from a library on Kos, the texts--gathered together in Alexandria at a later date--reflect the rich legacy of the Ionian school of medicine.

Read the rest of this article...

Rome struggles to rescue its ancient Palatine ruins

ROME (Reuters) - It's one of the world's most famous archaeological sites but it's also, literally, falling apart.

Experts fear the remains of Rome's Palatine Hill, where emperors built lavish residences, are becoming dangerously unstable and pose an increasing risk to the four million tourists who visit the central Rome site each year.

Years of neglect and poor preservation mean that many buildings in the city's open-air ancient forum are gradually eroding, while water leaks from increasingly heavy rains are undermining their foundations.

"We have a sick patient with many diseases. We need to find out which ones are the most serious and intervene," Angelo Bottini, head of Rome's Archaeological Office, said on Thursday.

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ignorance of the past makes us impotent before the present

According to the higher education minister, a Mr Bill Rammell, it is "not necessarily a bad thing" that there have been sharp falls in the number of students applying to study history and the classics at university. At the same time, he welcomes the considerable increases in those choosing what he calls "more vocationally beneficial subjects", such as nursing, social work and pharmacology.

Certainly we need nurses, chemists and even social workers, but a civilisation needs much more than that. One wonders whether Mr Rammell has ever thought about the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages were precisely those centuries in which classical learning was lost in the West, except in a few monasteries geographically on the very limits of the known world. It was kept alive only in Byzantium and, remarkably, in parts of the Islamic world.

And what does Mr Rammell think the Renaissance was about? It was precisely the rediscovery of classical antiquity in western Europe and a new sense of its riches and beauty.

For the sake of argument, let us suppose that the Renaissance was a 15th-century phenomenon, although of course its roots were earlier, in the poetry of Dante, in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and in the art of Giotto.

Read the rest of this article...

Protesters look set for victory in bid to halt quarrying

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to stop further quarrying near a prehistoric site north of Ripon look set to win the day.

At a crucial meeting next week, North Yorkshire Council is expected to refuse planning permission to quarry 112 acres of farmland close to the Thornborough Henges.

The council’s planning committee is meeting in Masham on Tuesday to consider the application by Tarmac, with officers recommending it should be rejected.

The meeting comes as fresh evidence suggests the 5,000-year -old triple henge complex displays surprisingly sophisticated knowledge of the skies, being aligned to the constellation Orion.

English Heritage has consistently argued the henges are of national importance and, following further archaeological work at the proposed extension site adjacent to Nosterfield Quarry, is calling for Tarmac’s plans to be rejected.

Read the rest of this article...

Let us keep our buried treasure

The leader of Lancaster Council has written to the Government in a bid to stop a piece of buried treasure leaving the city.

Council leader Ian Barker is furious a Roman tombstone, excavated from a site on Adcliffe Road, near to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, could be sold at auction and taken to America.

Property developer Chris Tudor Wheelan is proposing to auction the find at Sotheby's and is suggesting it might fetch $100,000 or £50,000.
Mr Wheelan, the owner of the excavated site, wants to sell the tombstone to recover the cost of unearthing it.

But Mr Barker has written to the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Tessa Jowell, asking her to refuse an export licence.

Read the rest of this article...


The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), the voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public, has backed Culture Minister David Lammy’s Ministerial Certificate scheme for Treasure finders who decline rewards.

The minister has written to all museums with archaeological collections to express his pleasure at the increasing tendency for finders of treasure to waive their claim to a reward in order to help museums acquire finds for public display.

Mr Lammy, who announced the scheme on February 16, said: “In order to pay tribute to the generosity of these finders who have sought no reward for their find, I will in future send a certificate, officially recognising the finder.”

Responding to the announcement Michael Lewis, Deputy Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, said: “ We are very much in favour of this proposal, hopefully museums will benefit from it.”

Read the rest of this article...

Early human ancestors walked on the wild side

Tempe, Ariz. -- Arizona State University anthropologist and Institute of Human Origins researcher Gary Schwartz, along with fellow anthropologist Dan Gebo from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, have studied fossil anklebones of some early ancestors of modern humans and discovered that they walked on the wild side.

It seems some of our earliest ancestors possessed a rather unsteady stride due to subtle anatomical differences. Schwartz and Gebo's findings will be published in the April 2006 edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, but the article is available online at

Schwartz and Gebo looked at seven anklebones from a variety of early human ancestors found in eastern and southern Africa and compared them to samples taken from modern humans, chimpanzees and gorillas. The research led them to two significant conclusions.

First, certain ancestral anklebones that were thought by some to be "half ape, half human" were found to be much more similar to humans, confirming these specimens were obligate bipeds--in other words, they most likely walked on two feet in a manner similar to how we walk today.

Read the rest of this article...

Rome's crumbling ruins are a threat to tourists, says study

Some of the most venerable of Rome's ancient ruins are in need of emergency treatment if they are not to pose a mortal danger to the millions of tourists who visit them every year.

They include the ruins of palaces where emperors lounged to watch chariots tearing round the Circus Maximus, the house of Julius Caesar and the labyrinthine Golden Dome of Nero, every inch of which was once covered with gold and mosaics.

A survey of the condition of Rome's ancient ruins was commissioned by Italy's Ministry of Culture in November after a wall on the Palatine Hill, the first of Rome's legendary seven hills to be built on, collapsed.

Presenting his initial findings, Angelo Bottini, head of Rome's Archaeological Office said yesterday: "We have a sick patient with many diseases. We need to find out which ones are the most serious and intervene."

Read the rest of this article...

Greek Hiker Finds 6,500-Year-Old Pendant

THESSALONIKI, Greece -- A Greek hiker found a 6,500-year-old gold pendant in a field and handed it over to authorities, an archaeologist said Thursday.

The flat, roughly ring-shaped prehistoric pendant probably had religious significance and would have been worn on a necklace by a prominent member of society.

Only three such gold artifacts have been discovered during organized digs, archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mendesidi, head of the Greek archaeological service in the northern region where the discovery was made, told The Associated Press.

"It belongs to the Neolithic period, about which we know very little regarding the use of metals, particularly gold," she said. "The fact that it is made of gold indicates that these people were highly advanced, producing significant works of art."

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Geoarchaeological Observations on the Roman Town of Ammaia

This article presents, for the first time, multidisciplinary geoarchaeological work by a joint Belgo-Italian team from the universities of Ghent and Cassino in and around the Roman urban site of Ammaia in the northern Alentejo region of Portugal. This project is a geoarchaeological case study to investigate the conditioning effects of landscape and landscape evolution on a Roman urban site (and vice versa) in the Iberian peninsula.

Read the rest of this article...

Internet Archaeology Book Giveaway

Internet Archaeology is in its 10th year. To celebrate, we are giving all individuals the opportunity to take 10% off the cost of their next subscription to the journal, plus the chance to win an archaeological 'book of the month' in our free draw.

How to Enter
All you have to do is to fill out the short form below. A winner will then be drawn at random from the collected names each month. The next draw will take place on 13th March 2006 (1400 GMT). The winner will be contacted directly by email. (See rules)

Read the rest of this article...

Rome displays Thracian treasures

What is described as a spectacular archaeological exhibit focusing on Bulgaria's Thracian heritage opened Wednesday at Rome's Palazzo del Quirinale.

The exhibition, entitled The Treasures of Bulgaria from Neolithic to Medieval Times, includes pieces uncovered during the past two years at the so-called Valley of the Thracian Kings, a 60-mile forested region in the center of Bulgaria, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Organizers say the exhibit, which runs to March 15, reveals how Thracian warriors helped spread the civilizing influence of the Greeks to more western and northern parts of Europe.

The Thracians lived in parts of what is today Bulgaria, Romania, northern Greece and Turkey from around 4000 B.C. They are featured in Homer's The Iliad as allies of the Trojans. History's most famous Thracian is probably Spartacus, the head of the 73 B.C.-71 B.C. slaves' revolt against Rome.

Read the rest of this article...

Viking smile suggests Norse were vain warriors

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Viking raids gave Norsemen a reputation in medieval Europe as bloodthirsty marauders. Recent archaeological finds show they may also have been vain - caring as much for the brilliance of their teeth as the bite of their swords.

A study of skeletal remains from 1,000-year-old burial sites in southern Sweden suggests some Norsemen used iron files to carve grooves into their teeth, probably to insert colourful decorations, anthropologist Caroline Arcini said.

She believes the grooves, which she found in the teeth of 10 per cent of male skeletons but none of the women, were either pure decoration or meant to show affiliation to a social class or trade group.

Tooth filing was widespread among Indian tribes in America at the time, but Arcini's discovery is the first indication it was also used among medieval Europeans.

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient Cave Art Full of Teenage Graffiti

Many art historians and anthropologists believe Paleolithic cave wall art was done by accomplished shaman-artists, but mixed in with the finer paintings are graffiti-like scenes of sex and hunting.

An analysis of thousands of paintings from the late Pleistocene epoch suggests the graffiti artists back then were likely the same as today—teenage males.

Most cave art from 10,000 to 35,000 years ago was done by hand, quite literally. Artists would chew up a bit of red ocher, place their hand against a wall, and spit over their hand.

"It was like kids taking a pencil and drawing an outline around their hand," said Dale Guthrie, a paleobiologist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Read the rest of this article...

Europäische Kulturen im Mittelalter - Schwerpunktprogramm der DFG

Die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft fördert das Schwerpunktprogramm "Integration und Desintegration der Kulturen im europäischen Mittelalter". Mit der Koordination wurden Prof. Dr. Michael Borgolte, Mittelalterliche Geschichte an der HU Berlin und Prof. Dr. Bernd Schneidmüller, Zentrum für Europäische Geschichts- und Kulturwissenschaften an der Uni Heidelberg beauftragt.

Leitidee des Schwerpunktprogramms ist die Einsicht, dass Europa im Mittelalter nie durch eine Einheitskultur geprägt war, etwa auf der Basis des römischen Christentums. Daraus wird die These abgeleitet, dass die Begegnung der verschiedenen europäischen Kulturen zu unaufhörlichen Prozessen der Integration und Desintegration geführt hat, die im weltgeschichtlichen Vergleich die besondere Dynamik der europäischen Geschichte hervorgerufen haben.

Read the rest of this article...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bringing home the silver

WHILE THEIR OLYMPIC athletes go for the gold in Turin, Italian authorities hope to land some highly coveted silver and terra cotta in the United States. The bounty — five pieces of stoneware and 15 pieces of silver, each at least 2,300 years old — is being held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

But the Met concedes that the Hellenistic treasures were dug up by tomb raiders in Italy in the 1970s and '80s and spirited out of the country, violating a 1939 Italian law asserting ownership over all antiquities there. The Met is expected to finalize a deal soon that would give Italy title to the works in exchange for the museum being loaned pieces of comparable value.

This concession wasn't entirely voluntary. The Met's hand was forced by Italian prosecutors, who found damning evidence when they raided a Roman antiquities dealer. That dealer, it turns out, is a key figure in the prosecution of former Getty Museum antiquities curator Marion True, who was ushered out the door last year in an unrelated dispute.

Read the rest of this article...

Late-medieval structures found in Bruges

After some post-medieval finds (a.o. some late 19th century faience fine), the excavators at the Potterierei in Bruges now also encountered some late-medieval structures. The archaeologists unearthed the foundation of a rather large building from the 15th century. A coin retrieved from the foundation confirms this date. The function of the building, however, is still unclear. Several sand exploitation pits, filled with brick fragments, were probably dug in the same period.

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient site looks safe from quarry diggers

English Heritage wants 'Stonehenge of the North' preserved after claiming it is of archaeological importance

CONTROVERSIAL plans for sand and gravel quarrying near Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire look set to founder as new research offers further evidence the ancient monument was aligned with the stars.

Councillors have been urged to turn down an application to quarry 112 acres of land on a site just over half a mile away from the henges at Ladybridge Farm, near Masham, amid claims they are of national importance.

Last year councillors deferred a decision on plans by Tarmac Northern to extract a further 2.2 million tonnes of minerals by extending the existing Nosterfield Quarry after English Heritage claimed that archaeological investigation of the site had been insufficient.

Further archaeological work has taken place which has confirmed that features from the Neolithic or Bronze Age period are confined to an area of slightly higher land in the south west part of the site.

Read the rest of this article...

Rare Roman bracelet find

A RARE solid silver Roman snake bracelet dating from the 1st or 2nd centuries has been unearthed in a ploughed farmer's field, near Warrington.

Archaeologist James Balme didn't even need his metal detector - it was gleaming in the soil. He now believes he has unearthed one of his most important finds which looks set to be declared treasure trove and is currently awaiting a formal valuation at the British Museum.

Read the rest of this article...

Bronze Age burial site

NEW results from the excavation of a Bronze Age burial mound on the Black Mountain have provided a detailed insight into a moving burial ceremony over 4,000 years ago.

The excavation took place on Fan Foel above Llyn y Fan Fach, itself the origin of the `Lady in the Lake' myth, and was carried out by Llandeilo-based Cambria Archaeology.

Prior to the excavation, it was noticed that the monument was being slowly destroyed by a combination of the weather and the hundreds of walkers who climb the mountain every year.

"Visitors were collecting stones from the monument and creating their own mini-cairn," explained Gwilym Hughes, director of Cambria Archaeology.

"The only solution was to excavate and record the vulnerable parts of the site and protect the remainder from further damage."

Read the rest of this article...

Experts to Test Possible Joan of Arc Bones

A team of scientists hopes to crack one of the layers of mystery surrounding 15th-century French heroine Joan of Arc: Could a rib and other fragments recovered after she was burned at the stake be hers?

Eighteen experts plan a battery of tests to determine whether the few remains reportedly recovered from the pyre where the 19-year-old was burned alive for heresy — including a rib bone and some skin — really could have belonged to her.

The woman warrior-turned-saint remains omnipresent in the French imagination, nearly 600 years after her ashes were thought to have been thrown into the Seine River.

The tests, which will take six months, will not be able to say with certainty that the remains are Joan of Arc's, because there is no known DNA sample from her to compare them with, said Dr. Philippe Charlier of the Raymond-Poincare Hospital in Garches, west of Paris.

Read the rest of this article...

Unterwasser I: In Poseidons Reich XI. - Tagung zur Unterwasserarchäologie

Die Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Unterwasserarchäologie (DEGUWA) und das Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften der Universität Frankfurt a.M. veranstalten vom 17. bis 19.02.2006 in den Räumen der Universität die XI. Unterwasserarchäologie-Tagung.

Die internationale Fachtagung, zu der über 100 Unterwasser-Archäologen, Historiker und historisch engagierte Sporttaucher aus dem In- und Ausland eingeladen sind, steht unter dem Motto: „Transportkeramik: Ein Artikel der Massenproduktion als Schlüssel zur Wirtschafts- und Handelsgeschichte der Antike“.

Read the rest of this article...

Saints preserved, Joan's bones under microscope

SKIN and bone believed to belong to Joan of Arc, France's maiden warrior burnt at the stake by the English, will be tested to establish their authenticity and discover more about her life.

French forensic archaeologist Philippe Charlier has persuaded a Catholic archbishop to release the fragments for analysis.

The items supposedly retrieved from Joan's pyre include an intact rib, wood and also traces of small bones.

The remains belong to the Catholic authorities at Tours in the Loire Valley and are normally displayed at a museum in nearby Chinon. They have been moved to a hospital at Garches, on the outskirts of Paris, where Dr Charlier's team will spend six months carrying out biological and anthropological studies.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Experts believe they have discovered the remains of the largest-ever Roman building found in Leicester.

The dwelling, thought to be a second century town house is 230ft long - equivalent to 15 terraced houses.

Archeologists believe it could have been a hotel for Roman officials visiting the city.

Alternatively, it could have been a large home for a wealthy family.

The discovery was made in Vine Street, in the city centre - yards from the former St Margaret's Baths site, where archaeologists recently found the skeletons of 1,300 people in a medieval cemetery.

Evidence of Roman existence in the area was first reported in May last year, when experts thought they had found the remains of a wealthy family's townhouse.

Read the rest of this article...

Coin finder feels short-changed

THE only man in the country unhappy that a unique Saxon coin is to stay in the country is the man who found it.

Alan Jane found the Coenwulf Penny while metal detecting on Biggleswade Common in 2001.

The British Museum this week acquired the Anglo-Saxon gold coin for £357,832.

The penny had been sold to an American for around £240,000 in November 2004.

The British Government halted its export to allow British institutions to overbid for the coin, resulting in the British Museum's purchase.

Read the rest of this article...

Joan of Arc relics to go under microscope for authenticity

SKIN and bone believed to belong to Joan of Arc, the maiden warrior burnt at the stake by the English, will undergo tests to establish their authenticity and discover more about her life.

Philippe Charlier, a French forensic archaeologist, has persuaded a Catholic archbishop to release the fragments for laboratory analysis. The items supposedly retrieved from Joan's pyre include an intact rib, wood and also traces of small bones.

The remains belong to the Catholic authorities in Tours in the Loire Valley and are normally displayed at a museum in nearby Chinon.

They have been moved to a hospital at Garches, on the outskirts of Paris, where Mr Charlier's team will spend six months carrying out biological and anthropological studies.

DNA tests will also be used but only to determine whether the remains are those of a female.

(Requires free registration)

Read the rest of this article...

How do you fix a smashed antique vase?

When a visitor to a Cambridge museum tripped over his shoelaces he smashed a set of 17th Century Chinese porcelain vases into pieces. Conservationists have now pledged to glue them back together, but how?

It sounds like something from a crime scene. Once the body was removed from the staircase, a fingertip search for evidence began.

The body in question was Nick Flynn, who had accidentally fallen into three of the Fitzwilliam museum's Qing dynasty vases, breaking one and crunching two into small pieces. (Mr Flynn, himself, was unharmed.)

With hundreds of pieces of porcelain scattered over the staircase, the location was photographed using a grid, then each fragment was recorded and taken away for examination.

Read the rest of this article...

New view of Mr Boudica

For centuries, he has remained in the shadow of his famous wife, the warrior Queen of East Anglia's Iceni tribe.

But while Boudica outshines him in history, new research shows that Prasutagus was not quite the down-trodden husband previously suggested.

For it was he, and not his wife, who graced the coinage of the period.

Until now, Prasutagus has only existed in historical conjecture and myth as King of the Iceni, the tribe occupying East Anglia, which was ruled with Boudica under Roman authority.

However, new studies on a batch of silver coins found at Joist Fen in Suffolk more than 40 years ago have provided the first archaeological evidence that he existed, and was a man of some importance.

Read the rest of this article...