Friday, June 29, 2007

Cats are our oldest friends

The dog is usually thought of as man's best friend.

But a genetic study published today suggests that cats may actually have been a more constant companion of humans over the millennia.

Ancestors of domestic cats are now believed to have started living alongside humans any time from about 10,000 to 130,000 years ago. In the case of dogs, an earlier DNA study showed that they originated from east Asian wolves a mere 15,000 years ago.

The new DNA evidence shows that cats around the world can trace their origins to the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, which stretches from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, revealing how at least five female ancestors from the region gave rise to all the domestic cats alive today.

Read the rest of this article...

Archaeology expert to carry on campaign over M3 route

Archaeology expert Conor Newman, appointed by Minister for the Environment John Gormley to advise on the excavation of the national monument at Tara, has said he will continue to campaign against the routing of the M3 through the area. Login or subscribe for more.

Read the rest of this article...

DNA research identifies homeland of the domestic cat

The ancestry of the world's household cats can be traced to an ancient region of the near east, suggesting an unusually exotic origin for one of the most aloof animals ever to be domesticated by humans.

A major genetic survey of nearly 1,000 feral and domestic cats has revealed that every breed of household cat alive today originates from just five lineages which lived alongside ancient settlers in the Fertile Crescent, an area stretching from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

The earliest archaeological evidence for cat domestication dates to 9,500 years ago, when cats were thought to have been kept as pets in parts of Cyprus. But the researchers believe domestication started 3,000 years earlier, with the family feline having broken ranks with its wild relatives as long as 130,000 years ago.

Read the rest of this article...

Dig discovery is oldest 'pet cat'

The oldest known evidence of people keeping cats as pets may have been found by archaeologists.

The discovery of a cat buried with what could be its owner in a Neolithic grave on Cyprus suggests domestication of cats had begun 9,500 years ago.

It was thought the Egyptians were first to domesticate cats, with the earliest evidence dating to 2,000-1,900 BC.

French researchers writing in Science magazine show that the process actually began much earlier than that.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, June 28, 2007


A Team of archaeologists from Bath has helped uncover an ancient stone circle in one of Britain's most remote locations.

Members of the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society (Bacas) have taken part in a two-week excavation on Foula, part of the Shetland Islands.

The team was previously involved in an extensive geophysical survey on the island in May last year.

They were invited back to investigate the possibility that an early Bronze Age ceremonial enclosure, aligned to the midwinter sunrise, had been discovered.

Read the rest of this article...

Iron Age 'royal house' discovered

AN IRON Age "royal residence" - one of the biggest roundhouses ever discovered - has been found during an archaeological dig near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, it was revealed yesterday.

Read the rest of this article...

Die Prinzessin mit den Seidenstrümpfen

Eine seltene Gelegenheit nutzten die Wissenschaftler des Rheinischen Amtes für Denkmalpflege (RAD), um Erkenntnisse über Leopoldine Eleonore, die 1693 im Alter von 13 Jahren verstorbene Schwester des Kurfürsten Jan Wellem zu gewinnen: anlässlich notwendiger Dekontaminierungsarbeiten am Mausoleum in der Düsseldorfer St. Andreaskirche wurde ihr Sarg veröffnet.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ancient virus left us vulnerable to Aids

Ancient virus left us vulnerable to Aids

The discipline of "palaeovirology" sheds light on why we are vulnerable to HIV, reports Roger Highfield

The Aids pandemic is the price humanity now has to pay for our ancestors winning an earlier battle against disease millions of years ago, scientists report.

Human resistance to a virus that infected chimpanzees and other apes four million years ago ironically may be at least partially responsible for the susceptibility of humans to HIV infection.

These findings, reported by Dr Michael Emerman and colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle, in the journal Science, provide a better understanding of Aids through the study of an ancient relative, a virus called Pan troglodytes endogenous retrovirus, or PtERV1.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Exploring Human Origins

Exploring human origins in the Great Rift Valley of east Africa has profound significance for people today. In this interview, Dr. Louise Leakey reflects on current knowledge about human evolution through the lens of her own research at Lake Turkana, Kenya, and her life growing up as the third generation of the Leakey family to engage in paleoanthropological research. With remarkable candor and warm personality, Dr. Leakey shows that exploring the deep human past is far more than a purely academic subject.

Watch the video...

Campaigners to protest over M3 route

Protesters opposed to the M3 motorway being routed near the Hill of Tara will today stage a demonstration at Custom House in Dublin.

The campaigners want the Government to halt works through newly discovered archaeological sites along the historic valley in Co Meath.

TaraWatch will urge the new Green Party Minister for Environment John Gormley to stop the major road construction after a number of monuments were uncovered over the weekend.

It said a stone underground chamber and an underground stone passageway with wooden entrances – apparently linked to a complex of underground souterrains - must be saved.

Read the rest of this article...

Tara campaigners to protest outside Gormley's offices

Heritage campaigners are planning a protest outside the offices of Environment Minister John Gormley today as part of their ongoing campaign against the route of the M3 motorway.

The protestors from the TaraWatch group are demanding that Mr Gormley halt construction on the controversial road following the recent discovery of two more archaeological sites.

The group is rubbishing claims by the National Roads Authority that the sites are not unique.

Spokesman Vincent Salafia says it is absurd for anyone to claim that archaeological remains dating back to before the time of Christ are unimportant.

Read the rest of this article...

'Drive around, not over, archaeological sites'

Five years after the US warned the Iraq war would destroy some of the most precious archaeological sites in the world, what have they done? Sent out some more playing cards.

The five of clubs says: "Drive around, not over, archaeological sites."

Presumably there wasn't room on the card for "do not flatten the heart of ancient Babylon to make a helicopter landing pad and tank park; strive not to fill thousands of wire baskets with potshards, bone fragments and mudbrick inscribed with the name of Nebuchadnezzar; if possible avoid digging trenches into the ziggurat, the original Tower of Babel and part of one of the wonders of the ancient world."

It's enough to make archaeologists weep, and some will.

Read the rest of this article...

Medieval Gold Jewellery Found in Thracian Mound in Bulgaria

A total of eleven gold rings, three bracelets and a pair of ear-rings have been found in a Thracian mound between Bulgaria's villages of Topolchane and Kaloyanovo.

The artifacts were discovered in the tombs of three women by one of Bulgaria's best-known archaeologists, Professor Georgi Kitov.

"In 13th-14th century BC there was a medieval settlement near the mound," professor Kitov explained.

The finds will be preserved in the museum of history in the nearby town of Sliven.

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

EMAS Field Trip to Godmersham, Kent

Saturday, 7 July

EMAS, the University of London Extra-Mural Archaeological Society, will be conducting a field trip to Godmersham, Kent.

Click here for further details…

Ancient Human Behavior Uncovered

A major question in evolutionary studies today is how early did humans begin to think and behave in ways we would see as fundamentally modern" One index of 'behavioural modernity' is in the appearance of objects used purely as decoration or ornaments. Such items are widely regarded as having symbolic rather than practical value. By displaying them on the body as necklaces, pendants or bracelets or attached to clothing this also greatly increased their visual impact. The appearance of ornaments may be linked to a growing sense of self-awareness and identity amongst humans and any symbolic meanings would have been shared by members of the same group.

Read the rest of this article...

NRA rejects claims of new archaeological find on M3 route

The National Roads Authority is rejecting a claim that an important archaeological find has been made at a site in the path of the new M3 motorway.

Campaign group "TaraWatch" has claimed that two underground stone chambers, believed to date to the Stone Age, have been found in Lismullen in the Tara Valley.

As a result the group wants work to stop on the M3.

However the NRA has insisted that the find is not new.

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rare carving on display at Cathedral

An "exceptional" 8th century limestone carving is set to return to permanent public display for the first time in more than 1,100 years.

The return of the Lichfield Angel, which was destroyed by a Viking raid in 873 and lay undiscovered under Lichfield Cathedral until 2003, comes as part of an £8 million development plan to dramatically transform the Cathedral's image. Yesterday senior clergy announced the start of the Lichfield Inspires campaign, which aims to change the way tourists and pilgrims view one of the country's most historic cathedrals.

The proposals, which are still in the development stage, will see improvements to the entrance of the building as well as new educational facilities and a visitor centre. It also features the restoration of the artwork, which depicts the Archangel Gabriel. This will go on show permanently from midday on Sunday.

Read the rest of this article...

Campaigners say new archaeological find lying in path of M3 works

The new Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, is being asked to stop work on the M3 motorway after a new archaeological find.

The TaraWatch group, which is campaigning for the motorway to be re-routed, says the underground stone structures, which are located near another archaeological site, are a significant find.

"Its further evidence for what we have been saying all along about this valley - its just full of archaeological wonders," said member Laura Grealish.

Read the rest of this article...

Angel is back after 1,100 years

An 8th-century limestone religious carving is to go on display for the first time in more than 1,100 years.

The Lichfield Angel was destroyed by a Viking raiding party in 873 and its remains lay buried under Lichfield Cathedral until archaeologists dug it up in 2003. The carving, which depicts the Archangel Gabriel, was made originally in 700, and formed part of a shrine to St Chad. It will go on show at the cathedral from noon tomorrow, after 14 months of conservation work.

Read the rest of this article...

3rd-Century Man Preserved in Salt

During the Roman Empire period, just after the fall of Parthia, a salt mine worker from northwestern Iran lost his life following a catastrophic rock collapse. Approximately 1,800 years later, the man's body — preserved in salt — was discovered in the very spot where he died, according to recent Iranian news service accounts and to a report issued by the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies.

Since salt prevents bacterial growth and acts as a drying agent, the unfortunate accident victim became a rare natural mummy. He is the sixth "salt man" to be found at the Chehr Abad mine in Zanjan province.

Removal of the body from its salty environs could damage it, so archaeologists hope to keep the mummy on site for now.

Read the rest of this article...

Egypt asks British Museum for Rosetta Stone

The Egyptian government has made a formal request to borrow the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum (BM). A letter was sent last month by Dr Zahi Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The Art Newspaper can reveal that the request is for a three-month loan in 2012, for the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is being built near the Pyramids. Until now, the BM has been able to fend off questions about the return of the Rosetta Stone, since there had been no formal request.

Whether the loan is eventually granted is expected to depend on three main factors. First, conservation, and whether the 1,680 pound stone could be at risk.

Secondly, if the Rosetta Stone can be lent in view of its iconic importance. It is probably the single most-visited object in the BM’s entire collection, attracting even more visitors than the Parthenon Marbles. The Rosetta Stone has been at the museum since 1802, and has only left the building twice—when it was evacuated during World War I and when it was lent to the Louvre for one month in 1972.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Riddle of the bog

A murder mystery preserved in peat is at the heart of the British Museum's revamped prehistoric galleries. Jonathan Jones turns detective

A single brown fingernail lies on the leather bag of his chest, which tapers to nothing where the peat-cutting machine chopped him in two. His arm lies next to him, but these fragments of a body would mean nothing, were it not for the look on his face. A face that is 2,000 years old is not expected to have a "look". Death destroys individuality - but not his. When the remains came rising out of a Cheshire bog in 1984, that deflated torso would turn out to be packed with biological information, clues to a violent death, but it's all there for anyone to see, the full horror of it, in his face. It is the face of the eternal victim, bound and garrotted and thrown into the marsh.

Read the rest of this article...

Medieval find casts new light on town

NEW light is being shed on the history of Helmsley with a discovery which indicates the medieval layout of the market town may have been dramatically different.

The granting of planning consent to the Feversham Arms Hotel for works including creating an underground car park has provided the fascinating glimpse of what lies underneath the present town centre.

There had been archive evidence of some kind of past settlement in the area of the hotel tennis court – earmarked for a new extension – but contractors were surprised by what they found just below the surface.

There were remains of medieval buildings and boundaries – two top of the range private
homes, possibly built two centuries apart, with the remains of a kiln used to produce lime for construction work and agriculture.

Read the rest of this article...

Solstice celebrated at Hill of Tara

Revellers gathered at the Hill of Tara to greet the morning sun today, the longest day of the year.

TaraWatch - which is campaigning for the M3 motorway to be re-reouted away from the historic Tara-Skryne valley - is staging a four-day summer solstice celebration at the site. Today is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Solstice celebrations were a highlight of the pre-Christian calendar.

The Tara archaeological complex was recently placed on the World Monuments Fund's last of the World's 100 Most Endangered Sites.

TaraWatch are holding a number of protests at various archaeological sites in the area during the course of the week.

Read the rest of this article...

Archaeologist sparks hunt for Holy Grail

An archaeologist has sparked a Da Vinci Code-style hunt for the Holy Grail after claiming ancient records show it is buried under a 6th century church in Rome.

The cup - said to have been used by Christ at the Last Supper - is the focus of countless legends and has been sought for centuries.

Alfredo Barbagallo, an Italian archaeologist, claims that it is buried in a chapel-like room underneath the Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, one of the seven churches which Christian pilgrims used to visit when they came to Rome.

Read the rest of this article...

35,000-Year-Old Mammoth Sculpture Found in Germany

In southwestern Germany, an American archaeologist and his German colleagues have found the oldest mammoth-ivory carving known to modern science. And even at 35,000 years old, it's still intact.

Archaeologists at the University of Tübingen have recovered the first entirely intact woolly mammoth figurine from the Swabian Jura, a plateau in the state of Baden-Württemberg, thought to have been made by the first modern humans some 35,000 years ago. It is believed to be the oldest ivory carving ever found. "You can be sure," Tübingen archaeologist Nicholas J. Conard told SPIEGEL ONLINE, "that there has been art in Swabia for over 35,000 years."

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient Romans Preferred Fast Food

Just as a U.S. Presidential state dinner does not reflect how most Americans eat and socialize, researchers think the formal, decadent image of wining and dining in ancient Rome mostly just applied to the elite.

According to archaeologist Penelope Allison of the University of Leicester, the majority of the population consumed food "on the run."

Allison excavated an entire neighborhood block in Pompeii, a city frozen in time after the eruption of volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Neanderthals bid for human status

NEANDERTHALS as innovators? That the concept seems amusing goes to show how our sister species has become the butt of our jokes. Yet in the Middle Palaeolithic, some 300,000 years ago, innovation is what the Neanderthals were up to.

This period is usually regarded as undramatic in cultural and evolutionary terms, with little in the way of technological or cognitive development. Palaeoanthropologists get more excited about the changes in tools found later, as the Middle Palaeolithic gave way to the Upper, and as modern humans replaced Neanderthals, some 40,000 years ago.

Terry Hopkinson of the University of Leicester, UK, has now challenged this view, showing that Neanderthals were far from behaviourally static. They incorporated different forms of tool construction into a single technique, and learned to cope with the ecological challenges posed by habitats in eastern Europe.

Read the rest of this article...


Extensive archaeological remains of an old guard house dating to the Tudor and Jacobean periods have been uncovered at the Tower of London.

Staff were relaying a cobblestone path across Tower Green to conform with disability regulations when they found evidence of walls, which turned out to be the remains of a substantial building.

“The work we were doing was resurfacing for compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act,” explained Jane Spooner, Historic Buildings Curator at the Tower.

Read the rest of this article...

Greece hails return of stolen ancient statue

Greece on Thursday said an agreement with Switzerland to facilitate the return of stolen or illegally excavated antiquities was starting to bear fruit with the return of an ancient male marble torso.

Greece and Switzerland, a main thoroughfare for internationally traded ancient art, signed a memorandum of cooperation in May for the repatriation of illegally exported Greek antiquities.

"The return of this statue would not have taken place were it not for this memorandum," Culture Minister George Voulgarakis told reporters, standing next to the marble male torso dating to the 1st century AD, stolen from the island of Crete in the early 1990s.

Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Location: Peru Length: 4 min.

Chavin de Huantar exemplifies CyArk, a project of the Kacyra Family Foundation that is preserving the world's most valued cultural heritage sites in three-dimensional digital form. Between 800 and 300 BC, during the Chavin Horizon, the site was the ceremonial center of the Peruvian Andes and the location of the "Smiling God" of the Lanzon, represented by the Lanzon Monolith. Chavin's advanced textiles, metallurgy and ceramics changed traditional methods throughout South America. This video shows how CyArk is preserving the site in digital imagery through laser-scanning technology and the most accurate 3D models possible today.

Watch the video...

A boy archaeologist as the next Harry Potter?

The publisher who discovered the Harry Potter books 11 years ago claimed yesterday that stories of a boy archaeologist may follow the boy wizard as the must read for children after the final volume by J K Rowling is published next month.

Two unknown authors have amassed advances of more than £500,000 for their debut book. Tunnels is a fantasy adventure book that Barry Cunningham, who snapped up J K Rowling's first book in 1996, believes will be the next major children's success story.

Tunnels, the story of a "boy archaeologist, merciless villains, a lost world and a journey to the centre of the earth", will be published on July 2.

Read the rest of this article...


The old Nat West Bank and site of the Greyfriars Church and burial site of King Richard III is being redeveloped into a restaurant and flats.

An archaeological team is apparently going to be allowed in for a short time in order to investigate, but quite clearly it is being given little, to no, priority.

Considering that King Richard III is responsible for the majority of Leicester's tourist income, as well the site being, potentially, one of the greatest historical significance (King Richard III is the only king of England not to have a proper resting place), I find this lack of concern and urgency on behalf of the council simply quite appalling.

Read the rest of this article...

Boy archeologist has Potter magic

The publisher who first signed up J.K. Rowling believes he may have found another Harry Potter -- but this time it is a boy archaeologist.

In an industry that revels in hype and is always on the lookout for the next blockbuster, two unknown authors have amassed advances of more than £500,000 ($1 million) and pre-publication rights in 15 languages.

Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams were signed by Chicken House publisher Barry Cunningham after he tracked down an early version of their book "Tunnels" that was self-published.

"I knew from page one that Harry Potter was magic. Reading 'Tunnels' gave me the same thrill," said Cunningham, who has also achieved worldwide publishing success with the children's books of German writer Cornelia Funke.

Read the rest of this article...

Ancient Rome comes back to life in virtual model

Tourists puzzled by the jumble of buildings in classical and modern Rome can now find their bearings by visiting a virtual model of the imperial capital in what is being billed as the world's biggest computer simulation of an ancient city.

"Rome Reborn" was unveiled on Monday in a first release showing the city at its peak in 320 AD, under the Emperor Constantine when it had grown to a million inhabitants.

Brainchild of the University of Virginia's Bernard Frischer, Rome Reborn ( will eventually show its evolution from Bronze Age hut settlements to the Sack of Rome in the 5th century AD and the devastating Gothic

Reproduced for tourists on satellite-guided handsets and 3-D orientation movies in a theatre to be opened near the Colosseum, Frischer says his model "will prepare them for their visit to the Colosseum, the Forum, the imperial palaces on the Palatine, so that they can understand the ruins a lot better".

Read the rest of this article...

Unique Thracian Symbol of Royalty Discovered in Bulgaria

Archaeologists have discovered the most ancient ruler's symbol on Bulgarian territory, what was once the kingdom of the Thracian tribes.

The Bulgarian archaeologists Daniela Agre and Deyan Dichev, who are leading the Strandzha expedition, made the announcement for the exceptional finding on the Bulgarian National Radio on Monday.

The artifact was unearthed near the village of Golyam Dervent. Dichev and Agre were researching a dolmen (dolmens were the first Thracian tombs) when they noticed a frieze of intertwined zoomorphic and geometrical elements carved on the entrance of the tomb. The most interesting part of the discovery is the double-axe (labris) - a symbol of power in the Thracian society - placed inside a circle. The labris has lots of additional ornamentation on it, Dichev said. The frieze includes the images of snakes, which were the symbol of the king in the Thracian religious beliefs.

This is the first time when such an artifact is found on the territory, where Thracian tribes have lived in the 9-8 BC.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, June 11, 2007

WAC-6 First Announcement

The organising committee of the Sixth World Archaeology Congress (WAC-
6) are delighted to now invite colleagues from across the globe to
come to University College Dublin, Ireland from June 29-July 4, 2008
for this spectacular archaeological conference. We are planning a
varied and engaging thematic programme and a wide range of social
events that will provide opportunities to experience the cultural and
social life of Dublin and Ireland and to sample this island's
outstanding archaeological heritage.

WAC is committed to diversity and to redressing global inequities in
archaeology through conferences, publications and scholarly programs.
It has a special interest in protecting the cultural heritage of
Indigenous peoples, minorities and peoples from a range of countries.
WAC-6 will continue the established practice of previous international
congresses in facilitating the participation and empowerment of
indigenous peoples and researchers from economically disadvantaged

This first announcement is a call for themes, sessions, papers and
posters. See for details of application, programme,
accommodation, costs and grant opportunities.

View the Website...

Metageum '07

May I draw your attention to Metageum '07: An international,
interdisciplinary conference on different ways of approaching the thinking
and imagination of the Neolithic people who built the megalithic temples.
The conference will be held on the Vittoriosa Waterfront, Malta, 3rd-11th

Full details are available on the web site,

View the Website...

Is this Chaucer's astrolabe?

Astronomical instruments were probably made after Chaucer's designs, not before.

Want to see the astrolabe used for astronomical calculations by Geoffrey Chaucer himself? You'll be lucky, says Catherine Eagleton, a curator at the British Museum in London.

Several astrolabes have been suggested to have once belonged to Chaucer. The claims are based on the device in question's resemblance to one described by Chaucer in his Treatise on the Astrolabe, written in the late fourteenth century. Perhaps, the claimants argue, the astrolabe they now have in their collection was Chaucer's own, and served as a model for his work.

But Eagleton argues it's the other way around. It's more likely, she says, that these instruments were made after Chaucer's death, inspired by the design given in the English scholar's treatise.

Read the rest of this article...

Diving back into history

UNDERWATER archaeologists have probed the depths of a south Wiltshire lake in the grounds of a stately home to try and discover what was there before the valley was flooded.

Members of the Nautical Archaeology Society started their underwater research at Stourhead, the National Trust property near Mere.

They are interested in the huge lake, which was created when Henry Hoare flooded the area as part of his design for the landscape garden in the 18th Century.

Read the rest of this article...

What gladiators were really like

When you hear 'gladiator', what do you picture? A fat vegetarian with bad teeth, who never fought wearing strappy leather sandals? Well, that's what evidence from an ancient mass grave is telling us.

The discovery of the first confirmed collection of gladiator remains has allowed scientists to apply forensic analysis - such as seen in television dramas like CSI, except with real science and not just fluorescent sprays and swabs - to bones, providing startling new evidence of just how gladiators lived and died.

Read the rest of this article...

Tablets tell all: ancient athletes flogged for sins

AN ANCIENT training manual for Roman athletes — carved in marble almost 2000 years ago — prescribes far worse punishments than a sending off or a week's docked pay if they performed badly in the Colosseum.

The manual recommends a flogging to get them to perform better. And the same went if they drank too much mead or behaved disgracefully with the local maidens.

The marble tablet was found in 2003 in the town of Alexandria Troas in Turkey, and deciphered only recently by academics at the University of Muenster in Germany. Applied to professional football players today, the whip would undoubtedly replace the half-time talk as the favoured discipline of choice.

Read the rest of this article...

Konstantin der Große - Landesausstellung in Trier

Als ein Hauptprojekt der Kulturhauptstadt Europas 2007, Luxemburg und Großregion zeigt das Land Rheinland-Pfalz gemeinsam mit dem Bistum Trier und der Stadt Trier in drei Museen die große Landesausstellung Konstantin der Große. Zum ersten Mal widmet sich eine Ausstellung in diesem Umfang dem bedeutenden römischen Kaiser, der Konstantinopel als neue Hauptstadt des Römischen Reiches gründete und die Geschichte Europas durch die Förderung des Christentums bis heute geprägt hat.

Read the rest of this article...

Ice ages dried up African monsoons

When ice ages held Europe in their grip, Africa also felt the pinch - though in a different way.

It has long been suspected that there is a connection between the west African monsoon and climate at higher latitudes - especially over geological timescales, says David Lea at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "But until now, there hasn't been enough supporting evidence." Now Lea, with team leader Syee Weldeab and colleagues, has reconstructed the most detailed history of the monsoon yet, spanning 155,000 years and two ice ages.

The team analysed the amount of barium in plankton shells found in an ocean sediment core drilled beneath the Gulf of Guinea. Barium is found in freshwater run-off from the river Niger, says Lea, and is a gauge of past run-off levels and monsoon intensities. When the northern latitudes were frozen over, monsoon rains were much weaker, only gaining strength again when the temperatures in the north increased, the team found.

Read the rest of this article...

Students to study history through hairdressing

Schoolchildren taking a new beauty diploma will study ancient Egyptian make-up, hairstyles in society and cuticle care as a substitute for traditional GCSEs in history, geography and the sciences.

While classmates struggle with Nazi Germany, tectonic plates and the periodic table, 14-year-olds taking the Government's vocational diploma will spend most of their timetable exploring skin care and learning about health and safety.

The diploma, one of 14 work-related courses to be introduced in secondary schools by the end of the decade, will count for either six GCSEs or three A-levels, depending on the level at which it is taken. There will be little time left for any other qualification beyond the core subjects of English, maths and information and communication technology.

Read the rest of this article...