Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ancient Greek computer reveals its secrets

A bronze calculating machine salvaged from a shipwreck a century ago is finally yielding up its secrets, revealing a Greek computer of remarkable sophistication for a device constructed long before the birth of Christ.

Scholars have been baffled by the 80-plus fragments of the ancient mechanism found in 1901 by sponge divers in a Roman shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, midway between the Peloponnese and Crete.

Around the size of a discus, the device was so badly corroded that it had the consistency of flaky pastry and was encrusted with deposits. Yet it seemed to be the earliest-known machine involving an arrangement of gear-wheels, built centuries before such technology became commonplace.

Was it a rich man's toy? Or was it an orrery or an astronomical clock? Or something else that reflected an ancient interest in astrology?

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Ancient Moon 'computer' revisited

The delicate workings at the heart of a 2,000-year-old analogue computer have been revealed by scientists.

The Antikythera Mechanism, discovered more than 100 years ago in a Roman shipwreck, was used by ancient Greeks to display astronomical cycles.

Using advanced imaging techniques, an Anglo-Greek team probed the remaining fragments of the complex geared device.

The results, published in the journal Nature, show it could have been used to predict solar and lunar eclipses.

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Mysteries of computer from 65BC are solved

A 2,000-year-old mechanical computer salvaged from a Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unravelled the secrets of how the sophisticated device works.

The machine was lost among cargo in 65BC when the ship carrying it sank in 42m of water off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. By chance, in 1900, a sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck and recovered statues and other artifacts from the site.

The machine first came to light when an archaeologist working on the recovered objects noticed that a lump of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Closer inspection of material brought up from the stricken ship subsequently revealed 80 pieces of gear wheels, dials, clock-like hands and a wooden and bronze casing bearing ancient Greek inscriptions.

Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device, which is now known to be an astronomical calendar capable of tracking with remarkable precision the position of the sun, several heavenly bodies and the phases of the moon. Experts believe it to be the earliest-known device to use gear wheels and by far the most sophisticated object to be found from the ancient and medieval periods.

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Skeleton find

THE remains of skeletons dating back hundreds of years have been unearthed at a Weston church.

Diggers moved into the grounds of St John the Baptist Church in Lower Church Road last week to start work on a £460,000 church centre.

But during the excavations workmen disturbed the resting places of some former Weston residents. Shards of a late iron age jar have also been found at the site.

Reverend Richard Taylor said: "We always knew it was likely there would be a former burial ground there. We had an initial exploratory dig on the site seven months ago which concluded we were likely to find remains.

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Man held for 'pharaoh relic' sale

A man has been arrested in France after advertising what he said was a lock of hair from Egypt's Pharaoh Ramses II for sale on the internet.

The man said he had obtained the relic when his father worked on the pharaoh's mummy in France in the 1970s.

Police seized small plastic sachets and boxes from the home of the man in the French Alpine town of Grenoble.

The items have to be tested, but some experts said it was possible that the unnamed man's claims were true.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Skeletons preserved to aid study of forensic science

A UNIQUE Scottish collection of the skeletal remains of babies and young children is to be preserved to help forensic anthropologists.

The collection will help research into unsolved crimes and the identification of children killed in natural disasters.

The Scheuer Collection is believed to be the world's only active repository for juvenile skeletal remains and includes the bones of 100 individuals. Some of the bones, collected from archaeological and historical anatomical sources, are hundreds of years old.

Named after Louise Scheuer, the eminent anthropologist who gathered the bones for study 14 years ago, the collection is still held at Dundee University's unit of human anatomy and forensic anthropology, headed by Professor Sue Black, who was the lead anthropologist in the British forensic team deployed to war-torn Kosovo in 1999.

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Stolen Dacian bracelet to be brought back to Romania

The golden Dacian bracelet found in September at one of the Grand Palais Biennial Exhibition stands in Paris will be brought back to Romania by December 15, and exhibited at the National History Museum of Romania (MNIR) in Bucharest.

“By December 15, the Dacian gold bracelet found in Paris will be brought to the National History Museum. The item will continue to act as evidence in the pending lawsuit,” says Virgil Nitulescu, adviser to the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs (MCC).

According to the official, several Romanian experts will be sent to Paris to analyse the bracelet. Romanian and French authorities believe the item to have been stolen from the Sarmisegetuza Regia archaeology site in Orastiei Mountains. The item is put at EUR 1.5 M.

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Hungarian archaeologist discovers tablet mentioning Masada's destroyer

In 73 CE, the Roman governor of Judea, Flavius Silva, laid siege to Masada with Legion X Fretensis. When the walls were broken down by a battering ram, the Romans found the fortress' defenders had set fire to all the structures and preferred mass suicide to captivity or defeat. Masada has since become part of Jewish mythology, as has the name Silva, who Josephus Flavius mentions in his writings. It is therefore no great surprise that Hungarian archaeologist Dr. Tibor Grull, studying in Israel three years ago, was excited to discover a stone tablet during a visit to the Temple Mount with a Latin inscription of the name of Masada's destroyer.

Grull asked officials of the Waqf, the Muslim trust for the Temple Mount, where the tablet came from, and they explained it had been found in the large hole dug in the mount in 1999 when the entrance to Solomon's Stables was opened. The Hungarian archaeologist received rare permission to photograph and document the finding. In October 2005, Grull published the discovery in the journal of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research.

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Volunteers peel back Pan’s past

For the past 9 weeks, enthusiastic amateur archaeologists and metal detectorists have gathered at Pan, Newport to join in the investigation of two large fields on either side of Pan Lane. Each Saturday groups of between 10 and 25 volunteers have lent a hand, searching the fields for clues to Pan’s past. And there were plenty! Hundreds of objects have been washed, marked and sorted to see what they can tell us about the area.

It is clear that people have lived here for thousands of years. On the very first session sharp-eyed volunteer Dawn Russell picked up a flint tool which is at least 4,000 years’ old! Jane Roberts of Wessex Archaeology said “It’s difficult to spot a small piece of worked flint in the mud, amongst lots of other stones. The volunteers were really keen and we had to persuade them to take a beak!”

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ancient Egyptian Drama on TAC

Location: Egypt Length: 23 min.

This is the fictional story of Khonso-Imhep, Head Musician of the Pharaoh's court during the 18th Dynasty, as he passes from life into the afterworld, complete with a trial that determines his fate. Through re-enactments and imagery on wall paintings, this film depicts the ancient Egyptian mummification process and the religious rituals involved in preparing a dead body. This story displays the unique funeral ceremonies surrounding the preparation of a mummy and portrays the religious beliefs involved, as well as the mummy's discovery by archaeologists.

Watch the video...

Roman Amphitheatres & spectacula - a 21st Century Perspective

16th - 18th February 2007, The Grosvenor Museum, Chester

This unique conference will range across all aspects of study of the Roman Amphitheatre and the spectacula that took place there. The event offers specialists and non-specialists alike an unrivalled opportunity to access the very latest research and thinking from many different perspectives.

The conference will discuss the discovery of new amphitheatre sites, and recent excavation and survey work, aspects of the architecture and planning of the buildings, amphitheatres both at the frontier periphery and at the centre of the Empire; from Northern Europe through Spain, the east, and North Africa. It will examine functional, religious and social aspects of the buildings and the spectacles, aspects of the organisation of the spectacles, and gladiatorial death and burial. The problems encountered in the preservation and display of amphitheatres as monuments in the modern urban environment will be touched upon. The Conference will feature speakers from the USA, Canada, Brazil, Austria, Germany, Spain and the UK, and will start with a keynote public lecture given by Professor Kathleen Coleman of Harvard University – ‘The Arena of conflict: facts, myths and speculation about gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome.’

Full programme...

Broken leg may have killed Tutankhamun

A medical scan of King Tutankhamun's mummified corpse may have finally nailed the cause of the Egyptian pharaoh's premature death. It was not a blow to the head, as some had speculated, but gangrene caused by a badly broken leg.

A team of radiologists used a sophisticated 3D X-ray of Tutankhamun's body to identify what may have happened to the boy king before he died 3,300 years ago at about the age of 19.

Computed tomography (CT) scans of the pharaoh's mummy, presented yesterday to the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of America in Chicago, confirmed a possible fracture in the boy's femur, or thigh bone, which probably occurred just before he died. Ashraf Selim, a radiologist at the Kasr Eleini Teaching Hospital at Cairo University, said there was no evidence of a skull fracture caused by a blow to the head - a suggestion made after previous X-rays taken in 1968 - but the broken leg may have been serious enough to kill the pharaoh.

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A Layered Look Reveals Ancient Greek Texts

An ambitious international project to decipher 1,000-year-old moldy pages is yielding new clues about ancient Greece as seen through the eyes of Hyperides, an important Athenian orator and politician from the fourth century B.C. What is slowly coming to light, scholars say, represents the most significant discovery of Hyperides text since 1891, illuminating some fascinating, time-shrouded insights into Athenian law and social history.

“This helps to fill in critical moments in ancient classical Greece,” said William Noel, the curator of manuscripts and rare books at the Walters Art Museum here and the director of the Archimedes Palimpsest project. Hyperides “is one of the great foundational figures of Greek democracy and the golden age of Athenian democracy, the foundational democracy of all democracy.”

The Archimedes Palimpsest, sold at auction at Christie’s for $2 million in 1998, is best known for containing some of the oldest copies of work by the great Greek mathematician who gives the manuscript its name. But there is more to the palimpsest than Archimedes’ work, including 10 pages of Hyperides, offering tantalizing and fresh insights into the critical battle of Salamis in 480 B.C., in which the Greeks defeated the Persians, and the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C., which spelled the beginning of the end of Greek democracy.

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Brushing up on Neanderthal tooth fossils

Skulls and teeth are so important to fossil scholars that they regularly label every other kind of bone they dig up as "post-cranial." Post-cranial as in leg bones, arm bones, ribs — the body's whole kit and caboodle, sans the stuff north of the chin. A new study of Neanderthal teeth serves up an example of why the cranial bones are so often the most important ones to researchers struggling to understand ancient creatures.

Neanderthals, Homo neanderthalensis, were a species of archaic humans who lived in Europe and the Middle East hundreds of thousands of years ago. They disappear from the fossil record most recently around 30,000 years ago, about the time that early modern humans, Homo sapiens, started to spread across the continent. A long-raging disagreement among paleoanthropologists has concerned whether early humans straight-out replaced Neanderthals, the majority view, or else interbred with them.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

CyArk: Digital Heritage Archaeology

The CyArk project is an ambitious plan to place digital images--maps, plans, three-dimensional views--of world heritage sites in one place. Funded primarily by the Kacyra Family Foundation, CyArk currently has images on some of the better known sites from around the world, including Salvador da Bahia (Brazil), Ankgor (Cambodia), Thebes (Egypt), the Cathedral of Beauvais (France), Tikal (Guatemala), Pompeii (Italy), Chavin de Huantar and Tambo Colorado (Peru) and Deadwood and Mesa Verde (the United States). Each archaeological site studied has a short film introduction, clickable thumbnail photographs of rooms at the site and a site plan; many have three-dimensional images of site details such as rooms and profiles and a few have computer-generated reconstructions.

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Stonehenge was a site for sore eyes in 2300BC

Stonehenge was the Lourdes of its day, to which diseased and injured ancient Britons flocked seeking cures for their ailments, according to a new theory.

For most of the 20th century archaeologists have debated what motivated primitive humans to go to the immense effort of transporting giant stones 240 miles from south Wales to erect Britain's most significant prehistoric monument.

Stonehenge was built in different stages between 3000BC and 1600BC and theories about their meaning and purpose have ranged from the serious to the wacky. The most widely accepted view is that it was to honour their ancestors.

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IRON Age man reared foxes to make fur-trimmed clothes, archaeologists believe.

Experts say the pelts were used to make sought-after fur-trimmed coats, loin cloths and blankets.

Researchers at York University found that foxes flourished on Orkney during the late Iron Age.

But there were none on the Outer Hebrides or Shetland, suggesting they were introduced to Orkney.

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New clues about Ptolemaic past

AN inscription has been found by archeologists conducting excavations in the Lower City of Amathus that provides new information about Cypriot society in the Ptolemaic period, a statement from the Antiquities Department said yesterday.

The inscription was found on the floor of the interior doorway connecting two rooms and is as old as 3rd century BC. Although it is quite worn, it consists of 12 verses and is one of the longest texts from the Hellenistic period discovered in Cyprus. This inscription with arithmetic in Greek may refer to land portions given by the Ptolemaic General. It appears that it was laid in the floor in secondary use. Once the inscription is studied further, it is expected to provide more information about that period.

Another noteworthy find was a large gold cross that must have belonged to a high ranking official of the early Byzantine period (7th century AD). It was discovered in the complex of rooms with few fragments of paintings on the walls, and a lot of coins were found on the floor in the same room with the cross. The official may have resided in the room or in the entire complex.

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Ancient settlements discovered in Anatolia

Researchers working on the Archaeological Settlements in Turkey (TAY) project have discovered 120 previously unknown ancient settlement areas in various locations in eastern Anatolia, the project's manager said. Assistant Professor Alparslan Ceylan, a lecturer at Erzurum's Atatürk University and the project's leader, said that the 120 settlement areas, thought to belong to the Iron Age, included a temple and several fortresses. Ceylan said inventories for 480 ancient settlements in the region - including the newly discovered sites- were also prepared as part of the project, which has been under way for the last one-and-a-half years.

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Authenticity of Ilkley rock carvings challenged

Elaborate rock art which for years is believed to have been created by prehistoric Ilkley man (West Yorkshire, England) was probably only created about 170 years ago, it has been revealed. A Victorian workman could have been responsible for some of the markings on one of Britain's most famous examples of prehistoric rock art.

Ilkley archaeologist Gavin Edwards says he has proof which suggests the cup and ring markings on the town's internationally-known Panorama Stones were tampered with by a workman called Ambrose Collins in about the 1870s. He said the ladder-shaped markings are what has made the design on the largest of the three stones, the most elaborate example of bronze-age' art in the UK - but he seriously doubts they are the real thing. He got suspicious when he was studying sketches of marked stones which were donated to the town museum in 1880. He said: "The ladders were not on the drawing. Because I feel the ladders are so prominent it's difficult to believe they could not possibly have been noticed or been omitted by artistic licence. There has been talk of this Victorian embellishment before but people have really not wanted to acknowledge or admit tampering could have happened. It will cause a debate but the bigger, the better."

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Sky disc of Nebra shines in Basel

The oldest representation of the cosmos – the sky disc of Nebra – has gone on show in Basel's history museum. Basel (Swiss) has a special place in the disc's history. It was here that police seized the disc after it was stolen from its place of origin in Germany. The disc, which forms the centrepiece of an exhibition devoted to Bronze Age objects, has been hailed as one of the most important archaeological discoveries of recent times. Made out of bronze with gold embossing, the 3,600-year-old object is an astronomical clock. It connects the sun and the moon calendars together, with the sun giving the day and year and the moon, the month. The moon year is, however, 11 days shorter than the sun year. This was taken into account in ancient times by adding an extra month, leading experts to believe that people in the Bronze Age were already making sophisticated astronomical observations similar to those written about by the Babylonians around 1,000 years later.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mining Ancient Molars

For the first time, researchers have been allowed to slice through Neandertal teeth. This coup is providing the best evidence yet that these creatures grew and developed at the same slow rate as modern children. Neandertals even had enough time to complete most of the development of their large brains in childhood, like modern humans.

Some paleoanthropologists have proposed that Neandertals grew up faster than modern humans so they could become fertile sooner. This would have helped ensure they would produce enough offspring to survive in the frigid climate of Europe 200,000 to 28,000 years ago, but it would have provided less time for brain development as children. In contrast, modern humans inhabited the warmer climes of Africa and western Asia until they swept into Europe 40,000 years ago. They may have lived longer as adults, enabling them to delay becoming parents so they could prolong their childhood and develop larger brains. A 2004 study supported this hypothesis by showing that Neandertals' front teeth grew faster than those of modern humans, indicating the species reached adulthood more rapidly (ScienceNOW, 28 April 2004).

A challenge came in 2005, after another team of researchers used the same method to count layers of enamel on the outside surface of Neandertal front teeth. But they also applied the method to modern humans from around the globe and found that the Neandertals' tooth development fit within the range for the diverse modern humans. Hence, both Neandertals and modern humans appeared to have similar childhood development patterns (ScienceNOW, 19 September 2005). Still, the study was limited because front teeth cannot provide detailed information about daily growth rates.

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History centre 'to open in 2007'

Work on an £11.6m history centre in Swindon has been completed, with the building due to open next October.

The centre will have seven miles of shelving for documents charting the history of Wiltshire and Swindon over the last seven centuries.

This archive is currently held at the Record Office in Trowbridge.

Access to the new centre in Chippenham will be improved through larger reading rooms and better internet facilities, Wiltshire County Council said.

An education room for schools will also be provided.

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Dramatic shift from simple to complex marine ecosystems occurred 250M years ago at mass extinction

The earth experienced its biggest mass extinction about 250 million years ago. New research shows that this mass extinction did more than eliminate species: ecologically simple marine communities were largely displaced by complex communities

Field Museum, James Cook University scholars uncover a profound, yet overlooked ecological change in the history of life

EurekAlert -CHICAGO: The earth experienced its biggest mass extinction about 250 million years ago, an event that wiped out an estimated 95% of marine species and 70% of land species. New research shows that this mass extinction did more than eliminate species: it fundamentally changed the basic ecology of the world's oceans.

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Die 8 als Grabanlage

Seit Mai untersuchen Archäologen eine 10.000 Quadratmeter große Fläche in Ense-Bremen (Kreis Soest) und haben bisher über 80 Gräber entdeckt. Die untersuchte Fläche wurden besonders in der Bronzezeit und erneut im Frühmittelalter als Bestattungsplatz genutzt.

Bei den insgesamt 65 bronzezeitlichen Gräbern handelt es sich vorwiegend um Brandbestattungen. Der Leichenbrand wurde in Urnen aus Keramik oder organischem Material beigesetzt, teilweise auch schlicht auf den Grabboden geschüttet. Die ältesten Brandgräber sind rund 3000 Jahre alt und stammen aus der späten Bronzezeit. „Es konnten überraschenderweise auch zwei Grabeinhegungen aus der späten Bronzezeit dokumentiert werden, die die Form von Schlüssellöchern hatten“, freut sich Grabungsleiter Stephan Deiters. „Damit ist Ense-Bremen einer der südlichsten Fundpunkte dieser Grabform.“

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Getty museum walks out of talks over looted antiquities

The battle between the world's richest museum and the Italian state took a turn for the worse yesterday when the Getty museum in California walked out of talks over the restitution of looted antiquities.

Michael Brand, the director of the Getty, has sent a closely argued, six-page letter to Francesco Rutelli, the Minister of Culture, saying he is "deeply saddened" by the failure to reach agreement after more than a year of talks, and announcing the end of "these present negotiations". Mr Rutelli's office said the letter had been received "with surprise and disappointment".

At the centre of the dispute is an enormous marble and limestone statue of the goddess Aphrodite, sold to the Getty for $18m (£10m) by a British antiquities dealer who was jailed last year. The statue, one of the glories of the Malibu museum, is claimed by the Italians to have been dug up by grave robbers in Morgantina, Sicily, and illegally exported to Switzerland, where the British dealer Robin Symes sold it on to the Americans.

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Creation vs. Darwin takes Muslim twist in Turkey

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A lavishly illustrated "Atlas of Creation" is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism.

Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species.

At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of United States creationists, the Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible.

But the author's name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey which has an influence U.S. creationists could only dream of.

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21st century technology cracks alchemists' secret recipe

A 500-year old mystery surrounding the centre-piece of the alchemists' lab kit has been solved by UCL (University College London) and Cardiff University archaeologists.

Since the Middle Ages, mixing vessels – or crucibles – manufactured in the Hesse region of Germany have been world renowned because of their ability to withstand strong reagents and high temperatures.

Previous work by the team has shown that Hessian crucibles have been found in archaeological sites across the world, including Scandinavia, Central Europe, Spain, Portugal, the UK, and even colonial America. At the time, many people tried to reproduce them but always failed.

Now, writing in Nature, the researchers reveal using petrographic, chemical and X-ray diffraction analysis that Hessian crucible makers made use of an advanced material only properly identified and named in the 20th century.

Dr Marcos Martinón-Torres, of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, who led the study, explains: "Our analysis of 50 Hessian and non-Hessian crucibles revealed that the secret component in their manufacture is an aluminium silicate known as mullite (Al6Si2O13).

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Rome's She-Wolf Younger Than Its City

The icon of Rome's foundation, the Capitoline she-wolf, was crafted in the Middle Ages, not the Antiquities, according to a research into the statue’s bronze-casting technique.

The discovery quashes the long-prevailing belief that the she-wolf was adopted as an icon by the earliest Romans as a symbol for their city.

Recalling the story of a she-wolf which fed Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus, after they had been thrown in a basket into the Tiber River, the statue has been always linked to the ancient world.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Former Getty curator charged with Greek art theft

A Greek prosecutor on Tuesday charged a former curator of the American J. Paul Getty Museum with knowingly buying an ancient artifact which had been illegally dug up and smuggled out of Greece 13 years ago.

The accusation that former antiquities curator Marion True illegally obtained a 4th-century BC golden wreath is the latest controversy surrounding acquisitions she made for the wealthy Los Angeles-based museum.

True resigned from her post in a whirlwind of publicity last year when Italian authorities charged her with conspiring to receive stolen antiquities.

In the Greek investigation, police raided her Aegean island villa earlier this year and retrieved what authorities say are dozens of unregistered ancient objects.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Giant Roman Shipwreck Yields "Fishy" Treasure

Sunken treasure with a distinctly fishy flavor has been recovered from a huge Roman shipwreck in the Mediterranean.

The 2,000-year-old vessel, discovered off the Spanish coast, was described by marine archaeologists last week as "a jewel of the Old World."

However, it wasn't gold or silver that the ship was carrying but hundreds of jars of a foul-smelling fish sauce.

The ancient delicacy, known as garum, was usually made from fermented fish guts and blood. Wealthy Romans, experts say, couldn't get enough of the stuff.

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Genetic Study Of Neanderthal DNA Reveals Early Split Between Humans And Neanderthals

In the most thorough study to date of the Neanderthal genome, scientists suggest an early human-Neanderthal split. The two species have a common ancestry, say the authors, but do not share much else after evolving their separate ways. The study, published in this week's issue of Science, also finds no evidence of genetic admixture between Neanderthals and humans.

The study helps to explain the evolutionary relationship between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). It also "signifies the dawn of Neanderthal genomics," wrote the study's authors, who comprise scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (Walnut Creek, Calif.), the University of Chicago (Ill.) and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany).

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Risqué Roman cup goes on display in city museum

THIS piece of Roman art, which was considered too risqué to be put on public display until it was bought by the British Museum in 1999, is to be exhibited in York.

The Warren Cup, a first century AD silver vessel, which depicts two male couples in sexual acts, will be at the Yorkshire Museum from December 1 until January 21.

It will form the centrepiece of a new display, The Classical Ideal, exploring the debate around Greek and Roman attitudes to the development of the ideal male, which often involved sex between men.

The Warren Cup stands four inches high and is a drinking vessel that would been used by the Roman social elite just as the Roman city of Eboracum (York) was being founded. It is the first time it has been loaned by the British Museum.

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CAA UK 2007 - Southampton

Tudor Merchants Hall 24th - 26th January

Second Call for Papers

Selected papers from the recent CAA UK meetings, including 2007, will be included in a peer reviewed monograph for publication in 2007.

Further information...

Monday, November 20, 2006

3,000-year-old tools to museum

A man with a metal detector who came across a hoard of prehistoric bronze tools and weapons has handed over his find to the National Museum Wales.

Phil Smith came across the Bronze Age haul on land in Llanbadoc in Monmouthshire and reported his find.

Dating between 1,000 and 800 BC, the haul contains axes, fragments of swords and a spearhead as well knives and harvesting tools.

The 3,000-year-old pieces are being studied by experts.

The treasure was thought to have been buried together in the ground, probably in a small pit, as a ritual gift to the pagan gods of the time.

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Forensics, Archaeology Techniques Used in MIA Search

During his first-ever visit to Vietnam, U.S. President George W. Bush met this week with the country's leaders to discuss how lessons learned during the Vietnam War could be applied to the current conflict in Iraq.

One of the many topics under discussion was how U.S. and Vietnamese officials could better cooperate on retrieving information about the approximately 1,300 military personnel who are still considered missing in action (MIA) after the war ended in 1975.

As part of this effort, President Bush's agenda included a visit with a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).

JPAC teams work at sites around the world, searching for clues about the fates of the nearly 88,000 U.S. soldiers who have been listed as MIA since the end of World War II.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stonehenge was the Lourdes of the ancient world for pilgrims on a health kick

Stonehenge was a major international healing centre, according to a leading British archaeologist.

Up till now, most scholars have accepted that the 4,600-year-old stone circle was used mainly for ritual purposes but new research suggests that it was a prehistoric version of Lourdes packed full of pilgrims from all over the ancient world.

Professor Timothy Darvill, who has just published the most detailed study of the area ever carried out, says it is much more associated with water sources, traditionally imbued with healing properties, than thought.

The scientific theories also tally with legend - such as why stones were imported from Preseli in south-west Wales (by Merlin, naturally), a region with a dense concentration of holy wells.

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The real prehistoric religion of Malta

Forget the goddess theory, which you hear every tourist guide trying to explain the huge statues at the National Museum of Archaeology or while touring Hagar Qim.

That may not have been the original religion of Malta.

This was the startling starting point in a lecture “Ritual, Space and Structure in Prehistoric Malta and Gozo: New Observations on Old Matters”, given by Dr Caroline Malone, co-director, Xaghra Stone Circle excavation during the recent Heritage Malta international conference held at the Grand Hotel in Gozo.

Dr Malone is senior tutor at Hughes Hall, Cambridge, and Director of studies in archaeology and anthropology and principal research investigator for the Cambridge Templeton Project “Explorations into the conditions of spiritual creativity in prehistoric Malta” at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

The goddess theory may not have been adequately investigated and structured from the many archaeological remains in Malta and Dr Malone dismissed it summarily as a “faulty” theory.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Search this Blog!

Now you can search the archives of the Archaeology in Europe Weblog!

We have added a Blogger search bar at the top of this page which gives you the ability to run a search on this, or other blogs.

Those of you who have been readers of the Archaeology in Europe Weblog for some time may remember that we previously provided a Blogger search bar, but removed it because it had many problems.

Blogger have now improved their search engine, so that the search bar will now provide a fast and efficient search which we hope will prove useful to our readers.

Best, Worst World Heritage Sites Ranked

The National Geographic Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations has released a scorecard ranking the world's top natural and cultural treasures.

Jonathan Tourtellot, geotourism editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine, spearheaded the survey, which solicited findings from more than 400 experts in sustainable tourism on nearly a hundred UN World Heritage sites.

The United Nations began naming World Heritage sites in 1973 to help preserve grand palaces like France's Versailles, remnants of ancient civilizations such as Peru's Machu Picchu, and natural wonders like Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Tourtellot explains.

But over the years some of the sites have struggled to maintain the unique character that landed them on the list, due to funding shortfalls, heavy tourist traffic, or political strife.

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Neandertal DNA Partially Mapped, Studies Show

Modern humans' closest relatives, the Neandertals, broke off from the family tree about 500,000 years ago, according to one of two new studies that analyzed DNA from the extinct species Homo neandertalis.

Nuclear DNA from a 38,000-year-old Neandertal (often spelled Neanderthal) fossil leg bone from Croatia was sequenced and compared to DNA from modern humans and chimpanzees.

The findings, published today in the journal Nature, also suggest that the entire Neandertal population was derived from a relatively small ancestral group of 3,000 individuals.

The second study, released simultaneously by the journal Science, analyzed DNA from the same ancient Croatian bone, revealing for the first time that modern humans and Neandertals share 99.5 percent of their genetic makeup.

But their analysis didn't find evidence that modern human and Neandertal DNA mixed, seeming to counter recent conclusions that Neandertals interbred with humans to the point of total absorption, leading to their extinction.

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Neanderthal DNA reveals human divergence

Fragments of DNA plucked from a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal fossil have pinpointed the time when modern humans split from their long-faced, barrel-chested relatives to become the world's most formidable species.
Anthropologists analysed 1 million "base pairs" of genetic material from a fossilised leg bone recovered from a cave in Vindija, Croatia, to show that modern humans and Neanderthals split evolutionary company 500,000 years ago. The feat is remarkable given the age and fragility of the DNA and marks a new push from geneticists to turn the most powerful technology of the day on some of the oldest remnants of life.

The team behind the study, which appears in the journal Nature today, hopes to unravel all 3 billion base pairs of the Neanderthal genome within two years. Comparing the biological blueprint with the human genome will reveal the subtle genetic differences that underpin what it means to be human. It will also help solve an ongoing controversy over whether Neanderthals and modern humans continued to interbreed after forming distinct species.

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Neanderthal Genome Being Mapped

A bone fragment that scientists had initially ignored has begun to yield secrets of the Neanderthal genome, launching a new way to learn about the stocky and muscular relative of modern humans, scientists say.

Genetic material from the bone has let researchers identify more than a million building blocks of Neanderthal DNA so far, and it should be enough to derive most of the creature's 3.3 billion blocks within the next two years, said researcher Svante Paabo.

"We're at the dawn of Neanderthal genomics," said gene expert Edward Rubin of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

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Neanderthals have genome chunk sequenced

What are the genetic changes that set us apart from our Neanderthal cousins? Although the ancient race is long extinct, we may soon know the answers.

More than one million base pairs of fossilised Neanderthal DNA have now been sequenced – the most of any extinct organism – thanks to a new high-throughput sequencing technique well-suited to handling old, degraded DNA.

Two research teams collaborated closely on the project – the first steps towards sequencing the Neanderthal genome – in a marked difference to the competitive race to for the human genome.

Both teams used the same 38,000-year-old Neanderthal specimen, discovered in Croatia, from which to extract DNA and report their findings on Wednesday in the journals Nature and Science, respectively.

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Neanderthal DNA secrets unlocked

A genetic breakthrough could help clear up some long-standing mysteries surrounding our closest evolutionary relatives: the Neanderthals.

Scientists have reconstructed a chunk of DNA from the genome of a Neanderthal man who lived 38,000 years ago.

The genetic information they extracted from a thigh bone has allowed them to identify more than a million building blocks of Neanderthal DNA so far.

Details of the efforts appear in the journals Nature and Science.

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Scientists unravel DNA of 38,000-year-old Neanderthal

Scientists have obtained the most extensive DNA profile of Neanderthal man from a fragment of bone of an individual who died 38,000 years ago - a few thousand years before the entire species became extinct.

An analysis of the genetic material confirms that the Neanderthal in question was male and his species probably did not interbreed with anatomically modern humans - Homo sapiens.

The researchers who isolated and deciphered the sequence of the Neanderthal DNA said their findings indicate that Neanderthals diverged genetically from the ancestors of modern humans about 400,000 years ago. It is known that H. sapiens and H. neanderthalenis lived alongside each other in Europe and the Middle East for thousands of years before the Neanderthals eventually disappeared about 30,000 years ago.

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Humans almost identical to Neanderthals

We may like to think we're far superior to the Neanderthals species that us humans beat in the evolutionary battle.

But analysis of DNA from a 38,000-year-old bone has revealed Neanderthal and human DNA is actually up to 99.9 per cent identical.

In contrast, humans and chimps only share 95 per cent of their genetic material.

The discovery came as scientists work on decoding the entire Neanderthal genome from a perfectly-preserved artefect.

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Neanderthal DNA will help to unlock the secrets of humanity

NEANDERTHAL Man has begun to give up his genetic secrets almost 30,000 years after he last walked the Earth, providing critical insights into the genes that make human beings what they are today.

DNA extracted from a Neanderthal bone has been analysed in detail for the first time and the genetic code of humanity’s closest cousin will be mapped completely within two years, scientists announced yesterday.

The development will allow scientists to compare the human genome with that of our nearest living and extinct relatives — the chimpanzee and the Neanderthal — to tease out the differences between the three. These variations will in turn reveal the genes that make us human.

A gene found only in Homo sapiens, but not in chimps or Neanderthals, must have evolved recently and is therefore solely part of Modern Man’s genetic heritage. Genes that we share with Neanderthals, but not with chimps, will also have played a part in human evolution, but at an earlier stage, before we diverged from our extinct cousins.

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Meet our very ape-like cousins

SCIENTISTS are close to discovering how humans differ from our extinct cousins the Neanderthals.

Research teams hope to crack the genetic code of Neanderthals within two years, using DNA from 38,000-year-old fossil bones found in Croatia.

Results so far, published in the journals Nature and Science, cast doubt on claims that humans ever interbred with the primitive Neanderthals — known for their heavy brows and low foreheads.

But it is still possible that some of us have Neanderthal ancestors.

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Monuments in danger

Researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute say the greenhouse effect is damaging monuments around the world, including the Parthenon.

Governments must realize that the greenhouse effect is damaging world heritage monuments such as the Parthenon, climatology experts said at the International Conference on Climate currently under way in Nairobi.

Climate change is a grave threat to some of the greatest world heritage monuments, from Darwin’s favorite coral reef in Belize to the archaeological treasures of Scotland.

Scientists have warned of the serious consequences of climate change, such as extreme weather conditions, mass population movements due to floods and droughts. But they have not managed to galvanize world governments into taking effective measures to curb activities that waste energy and cause pollution.

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Swedish woman returns Acropolis artifact to Greece

A retired Swedish gym teacher has returned an ancient piece of the Acropolis, taken by a member of her family more than a century ago.

Birgit Wiger-Angner returned the 20-by-8 centimetre section of the Erechtheion temple, built in the fifth century B.C., over the weekend. The 89-year-old said her great uncle, a naval officer, took it during a visit in 1896.

"I really hope this will be a signal to the many people in Europe, tourists and especially the British Museum, that has so many things from ancient Greece, to give them back to the Greek people," said Wiger-Angner.

Greek's culture minister Giorgos Voulgarakis hailed the gesture as "extremely significant."

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Roman tombstone to stay in city

A Roman gravestone which was unearthed by builders in Lancashire is to go on display near the site where it lay for almost 2,000 years.

The 6ft (1.8m) stone shows a mounted soldier holding a sword and the severed head of a barbarian he had killed.

Builders who were laying foundations for a block of flats in Lancaster city centre found the stone last year.

Archaeologists have worked with a number of organisations to raise enough money to keep it in Lancaster.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Roman ship thrills archaeologists

A Roman ship, wrecked off the coast of Spain in the 1st Century AD, has been dazzling archaeologists with the array of historical treasures on board.

Thirty metres (100ft) long and holding 400 tonnes, it is the largest Roman ship found in the Mediterranean.

Chief amongst the goods the ship was carrying were hundreds of jars of garum - a fish sauce which was a favourite condiment for rich Romans.

It was accidentally discovered in 2000 by sailors whose anchor snagged a jar.

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Roman Shipwreck Bears Culinary Treasure

A shipwrecked first-century vessel carrying delicacies to the richest palates of the Roman Empire has proved a dazzling find, with nearly 2,000-year-old fish bones still nestling inside clay jars, archaeologists said Monday.

Boaters found its cargo of hundreds of amphoras in 2000 when their anchor got tangled with one of the two-handled jars.

After years of arranging financing and crews, exploration of the site a mile off the coast of Alicante in southeast Spain began in July, said Carles de Juan, a co-director of the project, who works for the Valencia regional government.

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Roman soldier comes 'home'

A ROMAN cavalryman is to get a new lease of life in Lancaster - almost 2,000 years after his death in the city.

Insus Vodullus's tombstone was discovered by archaeologists last year during works to develop a site on Aldcliffe Road into flats - and it has now been bought for the public and will go on permanent display in Lancaster City Museum next summer.

The six-foot tombstone is believed to be of international significance. It will be cleaned and reassembled by experts before returning to Lancaster.

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First mammoth since Ice Age roams London

This nine foot tall woolly mammoth roamed London for the first time in 60,000 years today.

The giant beast was unveiled in Trafalgar Square as an icon of climate change. The creatures last roamed in Britain when it was in the grip of an ice age.

The hairy tusked mammoth, an exact replica made in resin by experts at the Natural History Museum, is modelled on real skeletons and patches of frozen skin and hair recovered by archaeologists.

Mammoths began roaming the country after the gulf stream, a current of warm water from the Gulf of Mexico that travels across the North Atlantic ocean and warms Britain, shut down - which scientists fear could happen again.

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Roman coins found at Netherlands dig

Dutch archeologists have discovered an estimated 200 silver Roman coins, several jewels, an armband and a ring hidden in a clay pot, the city overseeing the dig said Monday.

The city of Cuijk, near the Maas river, 80 miles southeast of Amsterdam, said archeologists found the cache while excavating in an area where new housing is to be built.

So far, most of the treasure in the pot has only been examined with x-rays.

The first coin to be removed and cleaned bears the emblem of the eccentric Roman emperor Elagabalus, who reigned from 218-222 A.D., the city said.

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Early Roman Shipwreck Carried Fish Sauce

A shipwrecked first-century vessel carrying delicacies to the richest palates of the Roman Empire has proved a dazzling find, with nearly 2,000-year-old fish bones still nestling inside clay jars, archaeolgists said Monday.

Boaters found its cargo of hundreds of amphoras in 2000 when their anchor got tangled with one of the two-handled jars.

After years of arranging financing and crews, exploration of the site a mile off the coast of Alicante in southeast Spain began in July, said Carles de Juan, a co-director of the project, who works for the Valencia regional government.

The ship, estimated to be 100 feet long with a capacity for around 400 tons of cargo, is twice the size of most other Roman shipwrecks found in the Mediterranean, de Juan said in an interview with The Associated Press.

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Ein Krieger auf Eis

Einem internationalen Forscherteam ist Ende Juli 2006 im Permafrostboden des mongolischen Altai ein großartiger Fund gelungen. Auf 2600 Meter Höhe im Dreiländereck Mongolei, China und Russland entdeckten die Wissenschaftler einen intakten, unberaubten Kurgan eines skythischen Kriegers mit hervorragenden Erhaltungsbedingungen.

Die hervorragenden Erhaltungsbedingungen ergeben sich aus der Tatsache, dass es sich hier um einen sog. Eiskurgan handelt. Hierbei füllt sich bereits kurz nach der Bestattung die Grabkammer mit Wasser, das im Hochgebirge gefriert und nicht mehr auftaut. Diese Eislinsen erhalten den Toten und die Gegenstände, die ihm mitgegeben wurden. Vor allem Gegenstände aus organischen Materialien wie Filz, Wolle, Seide oder Holz, die üblicherweise auf archäologischen Ausgrabungen Mangelware sind, bleiben in dieser Umgebung erhalten und bieten somit einen ganz besonderen Einblick in die materielle Welt der damaligen Zeit.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

So what's with all the dinosaurs?

The world's first Creationist museum - dedicated to the idea that the creation of the world, as told in Genesis, is factually correct - will soon open. Stephen Bates is given a sneak preview and asks: was there really a tyrannosaurus in the Bible?

Just off the interstate, a couple of junctions down from Cincinnati's international airport, over the state line in rural Kentucky, the finishing touches are being put to an impressive-looking building. When it is finished and open to the public next summer, it may, quite possibly, be one of the weirdest museums in the world.

The Creation Museum - motto: "Prepare to Believe!" - will be the first institution in the world whose contents, with the exception of a few turtles swimming in an artificial pond, are entirely fake. It is dedicated to the proposition that the account of the creation of the world in the Book of Genesis is completely correct, and its mission is to convince visitors through a mixture of animatronic models, tableaux and a strangely Disneyfied version of the Bible story.

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Chlorinated Paintings

There’s nothing like a good layer of volcanic ash to preserve things. In Pompeii, which was buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79, even loaves of bread have been found beneath the pumice.

But once items are excavated, deterioration can begin. That’s the case with many of Pompeii’s wall paintings, particularly those made with cinnabar, a deep red pigment containing mercury sulfide. Since being exposed to the air in the past several decades, cinnabar frescoes have darkened considerably.

Art preservationists have been uncertain why the degradation occurs, but have suspected that sunlight causes the mercury sulfide to change crystalline phases, to a form called metacinnabar.

But an analysis using the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, shows that there is no metacinnabar to be found. Instead, Marine Cotte of the synchrotron facility and colleagues found two other degradation processes at work, probably caused at least in part by chlorine.

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Sicilians in ancient Salcombe

AN ANCIENT bronze found on the seabed off Devon may be the first clear evidence of long-distance maritime trade between the central Mediterranean and the Channel coast.

Mike Pitts, the editor of British Archaeology, says that the curious object, of a type found otherwise only in Sicily, “is unique this far north, and raises the possibility, however remote, of a distant traveller reaching Britain from the Mediterranean”.

The bronze is one of 28 potential Bronze Age objects found recently off Salcombe, not far from the earlier Moor Sand finds which included post- medieval Moroccan gold coins and other historic material; both would seem to be from shipwrecks, although no ship remains have been found. The bronzes include 11 complete or fragmentary swords, five axes, three spearheads, and two gold ornaments, all dating to between 1300BC and 1150BC.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Archaeological Study Tour to Provence

1 to 9 June 2007

There are still a few places available for the Archaeological Study Tour to Provence.

You can find further details here...

Keeping up a historical connection

IT is appropriate that the Glasgow Archeological Society should carry out an excavation at Pollok Park to mark its 150th year.

Sir John Stirling-Maxwell of Pollok was an early member after the society was set up in the director's room of the Merchants Hall, Hutcheson Street, on December 8, 1856.
A later member was William Burrell, who left his art collection to Glasgow. It is now housed in Pollok Park in the Burrell Collection.

The then Glasgow Herald, reporting its first meeting, said: "The object of the society shall be to encourage the study of archaeology generally and more particularly in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, to record interesting antiquarian discoveries and to disseminate information regarding antiquities, which might, without the aid of such a society, be entirely lost or merely confined to individuals."

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Sicilian island yields fresh riches

The Sicilian island of Pantelleria, midway to Africa, has yielded fresh Roman treasures that have spurred local officials to call for a full-fledged open-air archaeological park across the island .

"We've unearthed amphorae and urns in a necropolis that came to light during building work. The finds on the island have now reached a critical mass that makes an archaeological park imperative," said Sicilian culture chief Lino Leanza .

"With the prehistoric village of Mursia, the San Marco acropolis, the Punic-Roman shrine at the Lake of Venus and the late Roman settlement at Scauri, we have all the potential for putting the island on the world culture map," Leanza added .

He laid particular emphasis on a collection of marble Roman heads depicting Sicilian governors and emperors .

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Burial mounds move housing

The discovery of "nationally important" bronze age burial mounds on the edge of Bicester has prompted a housing developer to change its plans.

Archaeologists uncovered the two mounds buried beneath land between Bicester and Chesterton, which is earmarked for 1,585 houses.

The discovery has forced Countryside Properties to draw up new plans for the site, which it submitted to Cherwell District Council last week.

Experts dug 134 trenches between July and September and found archaeological remains in 41 of them.

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Varied diet of early hominid casts doubt on extinction theory, says Colorado U study

An upright hominid that lived side by side with direct ancestors of modern humans more than a million years ago had a far more diverse diet than once believed, clouding the notion that it was driven to extinction by its picky eating habits as the African continent dried, says a new University of Colorado at Boulder study.

The new study shows that Paranthropus robustus, once thought to be a "chewing machine" specializing in tough, low-quality vegetation, instead had a diverse diet ranging from fruits and nuts to sedges, grasses, seeds and perhaps even animals, said CU-Boulder anthropology Assistant Professor Matt Sponheimer. The findings cast doubt on the idea that its extinction more than 1 million years ago was linked to its diet, he said.

Paranthropus was part of a line of close human relatives known as australopithecines that includes the famous Ethiopian fossil Lucy that lived over 3 million years ago. Lucy is regarded by many anthropologists as the matriarch of modern humans.

"One line of Lucy's children ultimately led to modern humans while the other was an evolutionary dead end," he said. "Since we have now shown Paranthropus was flexible in its eating habits over both short and long intervals, we probably need to look to other biological, cultural or social differences to explain its ultimate fate."

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A Buffet for Early Human Relatives 1.8 Million Years Ago

"By analyzing tooth enamel, we found that they ate lots of different things, and what they ate changed during the year," says University of Utah geology doctoral student Ben Passey, a coauthor of the study in the Friday, Nov. 10 issue of the journal Science.

"We wanted to know if they had variability in their diets on the time scale of a few months to a few years," he says. "The new method showed that their diets were extremely variable. One possibility is that they were migrating seasonally between more forested habitats to more open, savanna habitats."

Study coauthor and geochemist Thure Cerling - a University of Utah distinguished professor of geology and biology - says the study of the now-extinct, ape-like species known as Paranthropus robustus is important because it "shows that the variability in human diet has been 'in the family' for a very long time. It is this variability that allows modern humans to utilize foods from all over the world."

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Scientists Create Neanderthal Genome

Scientists are reconstructing the genome of Neanderthals - the close relations of modern man.

The ambitious project involves isolating genetic fragments from fossils of the prehistoric beings who originally inhabited Europe to map their complete DNA.

The Neanderthal people were believed to have died out about 35,000 years ago - at a time when modern humans were advancing across the continent.

Lead researcher Dr Svante Paabo, an evolutionary geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said: "This would be the first time we have sequenced the entire genome of an extinct organism."

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'Ten millennia-worth of history' unearthed by Thames Water

Ten millennia-worth of history have been unearthed by Thames Water at one of its sewage treatment works in Berkshire.

Stone Age flintwork dating back to 8,000 BC has been discovered at the site near Kintbury, along with pieces of a Bronze Age urn, burnt bone and charcoal, suggesting the land was subsequently used for burial rituals. Shards of late Iron Age pottery were also discovered, clustered in pits and ditches.

The remains of three bread ovens, complete with hearth, flue and furnace, prove that the Romans also settled the area and evidence of two large gateposts indicates that visitors to the Roman community would have had to pass through an imposing entrance.

Dr. Roy Entwhistle, an archaeologist working for Thames Water, said: “Given how quiet this corner of the Kennet Valley is today, it’s remarkable to think that so many different people have called it home over the last ten thousand years.

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Ancestor of Modern Trees Preserves Record of Ancient Climate Change

About 350 million years ago, at the boundary of the Devonian and Carboniferous ages, the climate changed. There was no one around to record it, but there are records nonetheless in the rocks deposited by glaciers and in tissues preserved in fossils of ancient life.

“Events at the transition had terrific biological impact, marked by extinctions and the beginnings of new life forms,” said Stephen Scheckler of Blacksburg, professor of biological sciences and geosciences at Virginia Tech. He reported on evidence of climate change that he found in the fossils of the ancestors of modern trees at the at the Geological Society of America national meeting in Philadelphia Oct. 22-25.

“This glaciation was not widely understood until recently,” Scheckler said. “It was a worldwide event. The Europeans recognize the extinctions as the Hangenburg event, documented in a black shale deposit that contains a series of fauna changes. But the eastern United States was at a tropical latitude at that time, so the flora and fauna show less impact – but it is there. It is believed to be a time of coldness, because there was less diversity, but it is a subtle signal.”

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Could our big brains come from Neanderthals?

Neanderthals may have given the modern humans who replaced them a priceless gift -- a gene that helped them develop superior brains, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

And the only way they could have provided that gift would have been by interbreeding, the team at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Chicago said.

Their study, published in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, provides indirect evidence that modern Homo sapiens and so-called Neanderthals interbred at some point when they lived side by side in Europe.

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Google Earth, Satellite Maps Boost Armchair Archaeology

Satellite images are giving archaeologists a bird's-eye view of our past—by helping them quickly identify ancient sites from space.

Scott Madry, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been pinpointing possible archaeological sites in France with the popular desktop program Google Earth.

The freely available software is a virtual globe created with a collection of mixed-resolution images from both government and private satellite sources.

"Frankly I was floored," Madry said. "I was just shocked at the results that I was able to get."

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

November 2006: Roman Amphorae: digital resource now online.

The Amphora Project, developed by the Archaeology group at the University of Southampton and funded by the Arts and Humanities Reasearch Council (AHRC), provides an online resource for the study of Roman amphorae. Building on works published in the 1980s this interactive resource presents typological information, including photos and drawings, for c.250 amphorae forms. The resource also contains detailed information, text and images, on fabric types. All sections of the archive are fully searchable online as is an extensive bibliography.

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Pupils digging up the past

PUPILS at a primary school have started digging up the past as part of a pilot project.

The Medieval Glasgow Schools Project aims to help youngsters understand the city's history and encourage them to help preserve Glasgow's archaeological heritage.
The initiative, the first of its kind in Scotland, is inspired by discoveries during recent excavations around High Street, which revealed Glasgow as it was in the 12th century.

Pupils from Cadder Primary yesterday took part in simulated digs and discovered materials and artifacts on loan from Scottish Archaeological Services.
The youngsters will now divide into groups to research selected key sites marked on the medieval map and then write up a commentary to be used by pupils of other schools.

If the pilot is successful, the project will be adopted into the curriculum of all Glasgow primaries in June 2007.

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The Percy lion is set to roar again

Work has started on the latest stage of preserving a tower which symbolises the power of a family dynasty.

The 14th Century Lion Tower is part of English Heritage's Warkworth Castle in Northumberland.

The castle, which dates from the 12th Century, was given by Edward III to Henry, the second Lord Percy of Alnwick, and has been in the family ever since.

The Lion Tower, so called because it has the Percy emblem - the lion - on its frontage, served as a public entrance to the Great Hall, which would have been filled with rich tapestries and gold plate as a visible display of the family's wealth and power.

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Roman grave stele discovered in the village of Zabeni, Bitola region

The grave stele of the Roman period has been discovered by the citizens of the village of Zabeni, Bitola region while they conducted construction works.

- It is fragmented marble segment of monument, which with additional analysis will give an answer to the question whether there is new archaeological locality in the village of Zabeni or it belongs to already discovered one from the Neolithic period, Anica Gjorgjievska, the archaeologist of Bitola museum, said.

Gjorgjievska said that it was possible underground waters to throw out the grave stele.

This discovery starting Tuesday is under the authority of the Bureau for Protection of the Cultural Heritage.

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'Time team' uncovers Civil War clues

Archaeologists armed with hi-tech gear may have uncovered remains from a legendary English Civil War encampment.

Experts say it could be the first hard evidence of the Fairfax Entrenchment, a military base high above Bingley headed by a top-ranking Roundhead general.

Using technology seen by millions on television's Time Team programme, geophysicists led by Dr John Gater turned up a tantalising subterranean view of a field at the St Ives estate near Harden which may have held part of the encampment Dr Gater, a regular on the Channel 4 show, carried out the painstaking electronic survey on behalf of a group which is aiming to plant a new wood on the site.

The Friends of St Ives want to create a woodland containing British native trees, but they were keen to find out if there was anything of archaeological important around the site before setting out.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Archaeologists sweep British site for relics

Archaeologists have moved onto fields which could, in years to come, house the hundreds of homes proposed for the controversial Felpham and North Bersted Site Six site near Bognor in West Sussex (England). The first of more than 300 sample trenches across the whole site and link road, in excess of 60 hectares or almost 150 acres, is part of investigations into the ancient significance of the land.

Undertaken by developers Hallam Land Management the extensive results will be evaluated by archaeologists from CGMS which is managing the dig. Speaking for the company Rob Bourn told the Bognor Regis Observer that it was 'early days' to come to any conclusions about the land which could show some use during a generalised period of around 3,500 years between 2000 BCE and 7000 BCE.

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Spotlight on ancient boat

THE RECOVERY of a 3000-year-old log boat from the River Tay was among topics highlighted at a weekend conference in Perth.

David Strachan of Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust told those who attended the event in the Dewar’s Centre of the operation in August to remove the boat from mudflats near Abernethy.

The vessel, which was carved from a single oak, is now undergoing preservation at the National Museum in Edinburgh.

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Possible third Jellinge stone found

Archaeologists believe they have found a new Viking-era stone engraved with ancient Danish Rune writing

Archaeologists from Vejle Museum think they may have found a third 'Jellinge stone' - a large rock with carved runes and considered the first examples of written language in Denmark.

The researchers have found seven stones in all, which they believe date from the 10th century. Jellinge stones tell of the founding of Denmark and of Christianity's arrival in the country.

Even if the stones do not yield a true Jellinge stone, the find is still significant.

'I have no doubts that this is a prehistoric structure,' said Peter Mohr Christensen, one of Vejle Museum's archaeologists, to Ritzau.

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Archaeological Team in Britain to Hone Skills

A team of Saudi academics specializing in archaeology and museums paid a visit to the United Kingdom recently as part of a cultural week organized by the Saudi Embassy in London in collaboration with the Royal Scottish Museum and the Royal British Museum.

The team, headed by Dr. Saad Al-Rashid, former deputy minister of education for archaeology and museums’ affairs, conducted a number of meetings with archaeology experts in London and Edinburgh. The team also participated in lectures on archaeology and its development in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Rashid said that the visit aims to tighten cultural relations between the two countries in addition to the exchange of experience with British experts in fields relating to museums and archaeology.

He said that the Kingdom has gone a long way in developing these areas and formed a huge databank about historical sites in the country.

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Spain digs for its once-hidden Jewish heritage

Spain has sometimes been slow to recognize its own treasures. Miguel de Cervantes was slipping into obscurity after his death until he was rescued by foreign literary experts. El Greco's paintings were pulled from oblivion by the French. The Muslim palace of Alhambra had fallen into neglect before the American author Washington Irving and others wrote about it in the 1800s.

Now, more than 500 years after expelling its Jews and moving to hide if not eradicate all traces of their existence, Spain has begun rediscovering the Jewish culture that thrived here for centuries and that scholars say functioned as a second Jerusalem during the Middle Ages.

"We've gone from a period of pillaging the Jews and then suppressing and ignoring their patrimony to a period of rising curiosity and fascination," said Ana María López, the director of the Sephardic Museum in Toledo, a hub of Jewish life before the Jews were expelled or forced to convert to Christianity in 1492 during the Inquisition.

Cities and towns across Spain are searching for the remains of their medieval synagogues, excavating old Jewish neighborhoods and trying to identify Jewish cemeteries. Scholars say they are overwhelmed with requests from local governments to study archaeological findings and ancient documents that may validate a region's Jewish heritage.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Stonehenge savaged in American attack

Stonehenge, Britain’s most iconic heritage site, has been savaged by a leading publication in the American tourist industry.

National Geographic Traveler says that the Neolithic and Bronze Age stone circle is “a mess”, “over-loved” and lacking in magic.

The criticisms are made in a survey by the magazine of conditions at 94 UNESCO World Heritage Sites based on a point-scoring system.

Two other UK sites - the city of Bath and the West Country’s Jurassic Coast - won higher marks and praise.

Stonehenge, which only scored 56 points out of 100 in the survey, dates back to 3000 BC. It has been plagued in recent years by local and central government indecision over the upgrading of the A303 road which runs close to the site.

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Dig uncovers Britain's hunter-gatherer past

One of the country's richest archaeology sites has been uncovered at a Berkshire sewage works. Finds at the dig at Kintbury include 10,000-year-old flints left behind by ancient hunter-gatherers who lived at a time when Britain was still connected by land to Europe.

The archaeologists, led by Dr Roy Entwistle of Berkshire Archaeology Services, have also found Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman artefacts at the site, suggesting it had been in frequent use by humans for thousands of years.

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An unresolved border between Georgia and Azerbaijan has put under question one of the South Caucasus’s most significant cultural and religious landmarks, the medieval David-Gareja monastery complex, located in Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Set in semi-desert some 70 kilometers southeast from Tbilisi along the Georgian border with Azerbaijan and within Azerbaijan proper, the complex, which contains a rich collection of cave frescoes, has been a site for conflict as well as for contemplation, ever since construction began in the 6th century.

The best-known part of the complex, the Udabno cave monastery, which contain frescoes dating approximately from the 8th to the 13th centuries, as well as the monastery headquarters at Lavra, are located within Georgia. Additional monasteries, some nearly inaccessible and largely ruined, are also on Georgian territory. Azerbaijan contains the monastery of Bertubani, which features frescoes of the legendary 12th-13th century Georgian Queen Tamara and her son, Giorgi IV.

But who should control the David-Gareja monastery? When the Soviet Union defined the borders between the then Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia, the monastery complex was split in two. The border between the two now independent countries has remained unchanged since 1991. Part of the border passes through the top of the 813-meter-high Udabno ridge (known in Azerbaijan as Keshishdag), which harbors cave monasteries on its top and also on the northern (Georgian-controlled) and southern (Azerbaijani-controlled) slopes.

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The National Trust will be urging the Government to recognise the links between climate change and protecting heritage, at the organisation’s AGM in Cheltenham this weekend (November 4 2006).

Sir William Proby, the Trust’s Chairman, points out the central role that both Britain’s natural and historic environments play in quality of life, and how acting on climate change is crucial to the protection of both - sentiments echoed by Fiona Reynolds, the Trust’s Director General.

“Care for our history and historic environment – our physical record of where we come from – actually goes hand in hand with care for our planet as a whole,” she said in a statement ahead of the AGM.

“Concern for one is critical for concern for the other. As we made clear in our History Matters Declaration: ‘A society out of touch with its past can have little confidence in its future’.”

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What’s the story with... amateur archaeology?

Much of Scotland's past remains a mystery. While historians offer glimpses of insight gleaned from written documents, more than 80% of archaeological sites in Scotland are not even on record. Robin Turner, head of archaeology for the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) says: "There are literally thousands of acres of hidden archaeology throughout Scotland in addition to the more recent sites you can stumble over." When the NTS surveyed the West Affric Estate - 9000 acres of mountainous moorland which appeared hostile to human habitation - 30 new sites were identified.

A new scheme called Scotland's Rural Past Project has just been launched by Scottish Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson. It's an attempt by Scottish cultural heritage agencies to give expert help to amateurs willing to augment the efforts of professionals. There is now funding to pay for training sessions and other costs. Around 40 groups in Scotland will have access to support. Turner says: "There is an enormous amount we don't know. For instance, we've done a lot of excavation work on St Kilda in the past few years and some of the evidence we are finding fundamentally challenges the written accounts of how people lived."

Meryl Marshall, a recently retired physiotherapist who lives in Dingwall, is an enthusiastic founding member of the North of Scotland Archaeological Society (Nosas). She has spent years surveying Glenfeshie in Strathspey and has written a book about her work. She says: "What we found was a township that dates back 400 years." It is now registered with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. "This means it is afforded a degree of protection with regards to any future development."

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Archaeologists dig up major find

ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Colchester have uncovered a major Roman find in the heart of the historic town.

The Head gate was one of the main Roman entrances to the ancient walled settlement and was situated where St John's Road, Crouch Street and Head Street now meet.

And on Saturday members of the Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT) found the structure's central pier, proving that the gate had two arches and not one, as some people had speculated.

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Das Kardinalkollegium im Mittelalter

"Glieder des Papstleibes oder Nachfolger der Apostel?" So lautet das wissenschaftliche Netzwerk, das die Forschung über die Kardinäle - die höchsten katholischen Würdenträger nach dem Papst - des Mittelalters voranbringen soll. Das Projekt wird über drei Jahre von der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) gefördert. Da zeitübergreifende und vergleichende Studien fehlen, lässt der derzeitige Forschungsstand tragfähige Aussagen über die Bedeutung des Kardinalkollegiums nicht zu. Das wissenschaftliche Netzwerk soll deshalb international den Austausch von jungen und etablierten Forschern zum mittelalterlichen Kardinalat stärken.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Stonehenge 'in serious trouble'

The Unesco World Heritage site Stonehenge is "a destination in trouble", a new survey has found.

The National Geographic Traveler magazine marked the site 56 out of 100 against criteria including historic preservation and tourism management.

Survey panellists said Stonehenge was a "mess", "over-loved" and "crowded".

English Heritage, which looks after the site, said it was "actively seeking to revamp its visitor facilities" and improve the nearby A303 road.

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