Monday, January 31, 2011

Vikings' crystal clear method of navigation

Viking sagas may have been more truthful than we realised. Crystal "sunstones" could have helped Viking sailors to navigate even when cloud or fog hid the sun.

Vikings navigated using sundials calibrated to show the direction of the North Pole. While there is no physical evidence for the navigational techniques adopted on cloudy days, there are references in the Viking sagas to "sunstones" being used.

In 1967, Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou suggested that sunstones may work by creating a pattern of light that revealed the hidden sun's location – although sceptics countered that the method is unwieldy, if not unworkable.

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Bath Abbey archaeologists discover cathedral remains

Archaeologists at Bath Abbey have unearthed the remains of a Norman cathedral, thought to be the first ever built on the site.

The foundations, which stand 3m to 4m high (9ft to 13ft), have been buried for several hundred years.

Archaeologists believe that they may have also found what is left of a medieval abbot's lodgings nearby

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Secrets in stone

It looked to be a routine excavation of what was thought to be a burial mound. But beneath the mound, archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Museum of Natural History and Archaeology found something more: unusual Bronze Age petroglyphs. 

“We believe these are very special in a Norwegian context,” says museum researcher and project manager Anne Haug.

The excavation in Stjørdal, just north of Trondheim, was necessitated by the expansion of a gravel pit. Given that project archaeologists didn’t anticipate that the dig would be very complicated, the museum researchers dedicated just three weeks to the effort.

Petroglyphs under a cremation site
Then came the surprises. First, it turned out that mound builders had used an existing hill as a starting point - which of course saved them time and effort. The hill itself made the burial mound even larger and more monumental than it might have otherwise been.

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Norwegian petroglyphs found beneath burial mounds

It looked to be a routine excavation of what was thought to be a burial mound. But beneath the mound, archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Museum of Natural History and Archaeology found something more: unusual Bronze Age petroglyphs. 

"We believe these are very special in a Norwegian context," says museum researcher and project manager Anne Haug.

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Crossrail archeology

Children have been given the chance to look around an archaeology site in Stepney, east London. The site is being excavated to make way for work to build the new Crossrail line which will connect east and west London by rail link through central London.

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Did Vikings navigate by polarized light?

A Viking legend tells of a glowing 'sunstone' that, when held up to the sky, revealed the position of the Sun even on a cloudy day. It sounds like magic, but scientists measuring the properties of light in the sky say that polarizing crystals — which function in the same way as the mythical sunstone — could have helped ancient sailors to cross the northern Atlantic. A review of their evidence is published today in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B1.

The Vikings, seafarers from Scandinavia who travelled widely and settled in swathes of Northern Europe, the British Isles and the northern Atlantic from around 750 to 1050 AD, were skilled navigators, able to cross thousands of kilometres of open sea between Norway, Iceland and Greenland. Perpetual daylight during the summer sailing season in the far north would have prevented them from using the stars as a guide to their positions, and the magnetic compass had yet to be introduced in Europe — in any case, it would have been of limited use so close to the North Pole.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

A medieval mural depicting Henry VIII has been uncovered by a couple renovating their home

A unique medieval mural of Henry VIII has been discovered by a couple renovating their Tudor home.

Angie Powell, 57, and her husband Rhodri, 56, uncovered the 20ft wide, six ft high, wall painting as they peeled back wallpaper and mortar from their grade II listed home.

The priceless picture, which shows the monarch sitting on his thrown wearing his crown and holding a sceptre, is thought to have been painted shortly after the house was built at the turn of the 15th century.

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The Spectacular Life and Finds of Max von Oppenheim

A new exhibition in Berlin's Pergamon Museum displays 3,000-year-old finds from Syria that fell victim to bombing in World War II and were painstakingly reassembled over almost a decade. But just as interesting is the checkered life story of Max von Oppenheim, the aristocratic German archaeologist who discovered them.

The Irish writer Samuel Beckett and Iraqi King Faisal I had traveled to Berlin to marvel at the latest sensation in the German capital. In July 1930, Max von Oppenheim -- diplomat, secret agent and frequent traveler to the Orient -- had established a private museum in Berlin's Charlottenburg district.

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Loyal dog still guarding coins after 2,000 years

Archaeologists have pieced together the remains of a 2,000-year-old guard dog whose spirit is believed to have protected a hoard of treasure.

The skeleton, which is about the same size as that of a retriever or Alsatian, was discovered in a pit at the site of an Iron Age shrine in Hallaton, near Market Harborough.

Experts think the animal was sacrificed and buried to protect the Hallaton Treasure – a collection of more than 5,000 gold and silver coins.

The hoard was discovered a decade ago and is now housed in a gallery at Harborough Museum.

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Treasure hunters asked to share their finds at online Kent archive

Treasure hunters asked to share their finds at online Kent archive
Add your comments

13th century medieval silver seal matrix found in Swanley
An archaeological guide for history enthusiasts has been launched to help them record and share their discoveries.

It was created by Kent County Council to encourage people who metal detect to have their finds properly recorded, so they can be understood and enjoyed by others.

Last year, about 1,300 ancient objects were found by Kent residents and added to the national Portable Antiquities Scheme, a database recording archaeological finds by members of the public.

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A Guide For Portable Antiques Scheme Launched

A guide for the portable antiques scheme for both Archaeologists and metal dectecting enthusiasts has been launched to help them record and share their discoveries.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a voluntary scheme to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales.

The guide was created by Kent County Council who hopes it will encourage people who metal detect to have their finds properly recorded, so they can help add to our understanding of the heritage record in Kent.

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Roman Road Found In Dorset

A Roman road has been unearthed in Puddletown Forest in Dorset UK

The road was discovered by accident by workers from the Forestry Commission discovered during clearance work.

The road is believed to be part of the Ackling Dyke Roman Road, built to link Old Sarum (Salisbury) with the Roman fort at Exeter.

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Museumsbau einstimmig beschlossen

Das Limes-Museum am Römerpark Ruffenhofen wird nach dem Sieger-Modell des Architektenwettbewerbs gebaut. Wie erwartet haben sich die drei Hesselberg-Gemeinden Gerolfingen, Wittelshofen und Weiltingen für den Entwurf eines Münchner Architekturbüros entschieden.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ireland's Viking Fortress

The remains of the legendary Viking fortress Linn Duachaill have been discovered in northeastern Ireland, 45 miles north of Dublin. "Historians and archaeologists have been trying to locate Linn Duachaill for more than 200 years," says Eamonn Kelly, Keeper of Antiquities with the National Museum of Ireland, who led a lengthy research and targeted excavation effort that resulted in the discovery of the infamous Viking base.

Linn Duachaill was founded in A.D. 841, the same year as Viking Dublin. The fortress was used as a center by the Vikings to trade goods, organize attacks against inland Irish monasteries, and send captured Irish slaves abroad. For more than 70 years, Linn Duachaill rivaled Dublin as the preeminent Viking holding on the east coast of Ireland before it was eventually abandoned.

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Was the fox prehistoric man's best friend?

Early humans may have preferred the fox to the dog as an animal companion, new archaeological findings suggest. Researchers analysing remains at a prehistoric burial ground in Jordan have uncovered a grave in which a fox was buried with a human, before part of it was then transferred to an adjacent grave.

The University of Cambridge-led team believes that the unprecedented case points to some sort of emotional attachment between human and fox. Their paper, published January 26, suggests that the fox may have been kept as a pet and was being buried to accompany its master, or mistress, to the afterlife.

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Modern humans reached Arabia earlier than thought, new artifacts suggest

Artifacts unearthed in the United Arab Emirates date back 100,000 years and imply that modern humans first left Africa much earlier than researchers had expected, a new study reports. In light of their excavation, an international team of researchers led by Hans-Peter Uerpmann from Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany suggests that humans could have arrived on the Arabian Peninsula as early as 125,000 years ago — directly from Africa rather than via the Nile Valley or the Near East, as researchers have suggested in the past.

The timing and dispersal of modern humans out of Africa has been the source of long-standing debate, though most evidence has pointed to an exodus along the Mediterranean Sea or along the Arabian coast approximately 60,000 years ago.

This new research, placing early humans on the Arabian Peninsula much earlier, will appear in the 28 January issue of Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

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Hints of earlier human exit from Africa

Stone Age people apparently took a surprisingly fast track out of Africa via an unexpected route — Arabia. Modern humans reached Arabia’s eastern edge, not far from the shores of southwestern Asia, as early as 125,000 years ago, according to a report in the Jan. 28 Science. That’s a good 65,000 years earlier than the generally accepted date for the first substantial human migrations beyond Africa.

Stone tools unearthed at an Arabian Peninsula rock shelter called Jebel Faya resemble sharpened points and cutting implements from East African sites of about the same age, says a scientific team led by physical geographer Simon Armitage of the University of London and archaeologist Hans-Peter Uerpmann of the University of Tübingen in Germany. Jebel Faya is located in what’s now the United Arab Emirates.

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Ancient Tools May Mark Earlier Path Out of Africa

The bodies are still missing, but a prehistoric toolkit discovered in the United Arab Emirates has led some archaeologists to propose a more complex scenario for humanity’s emigration out of Africa.

Uncovered at a Jebel Faya rock shelter, just west of the Straits of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the tools are 125,000 years old. Previous estimates placed the dispersal of modern humans from North Africa around 70,000 years ago. If correct, this new study indicates that humans in eastern Africa left earlier, and traveled to Arabia.

The tools include small hand axes, scrapers and notched tools called denticulates. They’re described Jan. 27 in Science. According to researchers led by University of London paleogeographer Simon Armitage, the tools resemble those made in the same era by humans in eastern Africa, rather than tools found at later sites along the Mediterranean’s eastern border.

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Tools Suggest Earlier Human Exit From Africa

A cache of stone tools found on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula has reopened the critical question of when and how modern humans escaped from their ancestral homeland in eastern Africa.

The present view, based on both archaeological and genetic evidence, holds that modern humans, although they first emerged in Africa some 200,000 years ago, were hemmed in by deserts and other human species like Neanderthals and did not escape to the rest of the world until some 50,000 years ago.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Archaeology in Europe Website is back

Following problems with our previous server, the Archaeology in Europe website was moved to a VPS server.

Unfortunately, the move created a number of problems, so that the site was down for several days.

We are pleased to say that all issues have been resolved, and you should find that the site now has much faster load times than previously.

You can find the site at:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Archaeology in Europe site down

The Archaeology in Europe home site will be unavailable for a short while, as we are moving to a new server.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Top 50 Archeologist Bloggers

Archaeology, occasionally known as archeology, is the study of past human societies. This is usually done through the excavation and evaluation of the materials, culture, and other environmental data which has been unearthed and can include artifacts, architecture, fossils, and cultural landscapes. No longer just limited to characters in George Lucas movies, interest in architecture has been steadily growing.

In the olden days, before the internet, the only true way to learn archaeology was through a dig or a visit to a museum. Nowadays, many archaeologists, students, and other experts keep a blog. To help you find them all more quickly, we have gathered them below in the top 50 archaeologist bloggers.

Top Archeologist News Bloggers

Get the latest updates on the world of archaeology in the below blogs.

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Caligula's tomb found after police arrest man trying to smuggle statue

Police arrest tomb raider loading part of 2.5 metre statue into lorry near Lake Nemi, south of Rome, where Caligula had a villa

The lost tomb of Caligula has been found, according to Italian police, after the arrest of a man trying to smuggle abroad a statue of the notorious Roman emperor recovered from the site.

After reportedly sleeping with his sisters, killing for pleasure and seeking to appoint his horse a consul during his rule from AD37 to 41, Caligula was described by contemporaries as insane.

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Grapes domesticated 8,000 years ago

In wine there is truth, in vino veritas, as the ancient Romans put it. And the truth is that people first cultivated grapes for vino about 8,000 years ago, finds a genetics study.
Red seedless grapes.

In the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Sean Myles of Cornell, looked at "1,000 samples of the domesticated grape, Vitis vinifera subsp. vinifera, and its wild relative, V. vinifera subsp. sylvestris." Comparing the gene maps across the grapes, the team concludes that humanity has only begun to explore the genetic diversity of the humble grape.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Neanderthal faces were not adapted to cold

New research into Neanderthal skulls suggests that facial features believed for over a century to be adaptations to extreme cold are unlikely to have evolved in response to glacial periods after all.

Neanderthal faces had prominent cheekbones and wide noses previously thought to have developed in extremely cold periods because large sinuses were needed to warm air as it was inhaled. One problem with this theory is that modern people such as the Inuits, and other mammals living in Arctic regions have not developed large sinuses, and their sinuses are often smaller, and another problem is that it has never been proven that Neanderthal sinuses were larger.

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"Golden year" in archeological excavations in Aegean region

Hundreds of valuable historical artifacts, most of which were made of gold, have been unearthed during the archeological excavations conducted in Turkey's Aegean region in 2010.

A total of 779 artifacts have been brought to sunlight thanks to 16 excavations in and near the Aegean province of İzmir throughout last year, head of İzmir Archeology Museum told the Anatolia news agency on Wednesday.

Museum's Director Mehmet Tuna said that the unearthed artifacts, a major part of which were jewelries made of gold, had been taken under record by his institution.

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Glimpse of the past at excavation - video

VISITORS to a building site in Worcester were able to get a glimpse back in time.

People were able to visit an excavation of a trench dating back to the Civil War in the Lowesmoor.

Archaeologists are working on the dig next to the Silver Street Car Park.

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Reviving the taste of an Iron Age beer

Early Celtic rulers of a community in what’s now southwestern Germany liked to party, staging elaborate feasts in a ceremonial center. The business side of their revelries was located in a nearby brewery capable of turning out large quantities of a beer with a dark, smoky, slightly sour taste, new evidence suggests.

Six specially constructed ditches previously excavated at Eberdingen-Hochdorf a 2,550-year-old Celtic settlement, were used to make high-quality barley malt, a key beer ingredient, says archaeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. Thousands of charred barley grains unearthed in the ditches about a decade ago came from a large malt-making enterprise, Stika reports in a paper published online January 4 in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

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2,100 year-old Greek coin may have marked rare astronomical event

An unusual Greek coin, minted around 120 BC, may have marked a moment in time when people in ancient Syria saw Jupiter being blocked out by the moon.

On one side is a portrait of Antiochos VIII, the king who minted it. On the reverse is a depiction of Zeus, either nude or half-draped, holding a sceptre in his left hand. Above the god’s head is the crescent of the moon, and his right arm is outreached with a star like figure (that may in fact be Jupiter) hovering just above his palm.

“Nobody ever re-used this iconography again – it was a one off,” said Professor Robert Weir, of the University of Windsor in Canada, who presented his research recently at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

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Bog bodies baffle scientists

Scholars have long tried to make sense out of one of the oddities of the archaeological world —bodies pulled from ignominious burials in cold water bogs everywhere from Ireland to Russia.

Hundreds of these bog bodies have been found over the past two centuries. But who were they and why were they dispatched to the great beyond in mucky swamps? The theories range from executed deserters, to witches to everyday people.

The Irish Countess of Moira back in 1783 launched scholarly explorations by suggesting that bog bodies were victims of Druid ceremonies. Others, citing the ancient Roman writerTacitus, quickly saw them most likely as executed deserters. Arguments over individual finds have continued ever since the first look that year by the Countess at the Northern Ireland "Drumkeeragh" bog body, a woman dressed in wool clothes.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Your Favourite Archaeological Sites in Europe

Which sites in Europe have you most enjoyed visiting? A new Archaeology in Europe website allows you to post descriptions and photos of archaeological sites that you have visited, and to give ratings and comments for sites that are already in the database.

The site is very much in its infancy at the moment, and I would welcome contributions and feedback. It is envisaged that the site will grow into a useful source of up to date information for those planning to visit sites in Europe.

You can find the site at:

The site runs on Phile – a brilliant application developed by Mike Schiff and Sho Kuwamoto. Phile can be best described as a combination of an online database and a social network site, and it allows people with similar interests to share much more detailed information than the usual social network sites.

I am sure that Phile has tremendous potential for archaeological societies, fieldwork studies and other work groups. Take a look at

BBC filming in Norwich for Chapelfield skeletons

A group of skeletons which lay undisturbed beneath Norwich for 700 years will have their secrets revealed on television as a local archaeologist pieces together how they died

In 2004 a huddled mass of bodies was unearthed at the bottom of a well as workers dug foundations for the Chapelfield shopping centre. Giles Emery, from the Norfolk Archeological Unit, was called in to remove them and they were carefully placed in storage.

But now, seven years later, he is presenting an episode of History Cold Cases for the BBC and revealing exactly who the people were and how they died.

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Climate a factor in Rome's rise and fall: study

Climate change seems a factor in the rise and fall of the Roman empire, according to a study of ancient tree growth that urges greater awareness of the risks of global warming in the 21st century.

Good growth by oak and pine trees in central Europe in the past 2,500 years signaled warm and wet summers and coincided with periods of wealth among farming societies, for instance around the height of the Roman empire or in medieval times.

Periods of climate instability overlapped with political turmoil, such as during the decline of the Roman empire, and might even have made Europeans vulnerable to the Black Death or help explain migration to America during the chill 17th century.

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Skeletons could be Londonderry siege grave

Skeletons discovered underneath a Londonderry church could be evidence of a siege grave, according to archaeologists.

Thousands of people died in the siege sparked when a group of apprentice boys closed the gates of the city against the approaching army of King James II in 1689.

Two complete skeletons and an individual skull have been uncovered beneath First Derry Presybterian Church on the city walls.

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Roman coins stash is declared as treasure

A hoard of Roman coins discovered by a metal detecting club have been declared as treasure.

A group of six members from the East Devon Metal Detecting Society – Colin Hancock, Anthony Osbourne, John Evans, John Hill, George Stevens and Stephen Bassett – discovered the collection of 136 coins, three dinar and 133 copper and alloy, on February 24 and March 1, 2008, on farmland in Whiddon Down, near Okehampton.

A treasure trove inquest took place at Exeter County Hall on Wednesday.

Deputy Coroner Darren Salter took evidence from a British Museum representative and the Portable Antiquities Scheme funds liaison officer Danielle Wootton.

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Roman Erotic Cup To Go On Public Display

A famous Roman artefact once considered too shocking to be exhibited is coming to The University of Nottingham as part of a major new exhibition.

The Warren Cup, a silver cup decorated with scenes of male homosexual love, was recently featured in the BBC series A History of the World in 100 Objects and has its permanent home in the British Museum. It is only the second time the cup has left the Museum to be displayed outside London.

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17th Century Mass Grave of Siege Found In Derry, N. Ireland

Recent excavation in the city of Derry are believed to have uncovered a mass grave dating to the 17th century Siege of Derry.

One of the most important events in Irish History was the Siege of Derry, which took place from 18 April to 28 July 1689. The city was a stronghold, of William of Orange and was besieged by the army of James II until it was relieved by ships the Royal Navy. Up to now human remains from the siege have not been identified. However the discovery of three sets of human remains beneath First Derry Presbyterian Church might be from the Siege and could possibly be the site of a mass grave dating to this period.

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New Report Sheds Further Light On Paisley Abbey in Scotland

Recent excavation work on Paisley Abbey by Glasgow University ArchaeologicalResearch Division (GUARD) in September 2010 in collaboration with Renfrewshire Local History Forum, Renfrewshire Council and Paisley Museum has helped cast further light on this key structure in Scotlands Hertaige.

Paisley Abbey was founded in 1163 when Walter Fitzalan, the High Steward of Scotland, signed a charter at Fotheringay for the founding of a Cluniac monastery. Much of the original building was destroyed by fire in 1307 and was restored during the fourteenth century. The Abbey claims to be the 'cradle of the Royal House of Stewart . At the Scottish Reformation in 1560, the monastery was disbanded, the monastic buildings handed over to the Hamilton family and tbecame the parish church of Paisley. The transepts and choir were to remain in ruins until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when they were restored to create one of the finest churches in Scotland.

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Archaeologist Becomes Sherlock Holmes To Solve Medieval Mystery

Giles Emery an archaeologist from Norfolk, Uk will use the latest forensic methods to solve a macabre medieval mystery that has stuck in his mind for over 7 years

A medieval mystery in Norfolk, UK, that has remained unsolved for nearly 10 years might finally be close to been resolved. Giles Emery an archaeologist from Norfolk Archeological Unit, has decided to play Sherlock Holmes and solve the gruesome mystery of 17 bodies including 11 children who were found at the bottom of a medieval well as workers dug foundations for a local shopping centre. Giles Emery was the archaeologist tasked in 2004 with the horrible task of removing them. Giles alway was curious to discover not only how they died but why they came to be thrown down a well in such a disrespectful manner

Now, seven years later, he is being given a chance by the BBC and their archaeological program History Cold Cases to finally find exactly who the people were and how they met their death

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New Evidence for Climate Impacts on Ancient Societies

Annual-resolved European summer climate has, for the first time ever, been reconstructed over the past 2,500 years. Tree rings reveal possible links between past climate variability and changes in human history. Climate change coincided with periods of socioeconomic, cultural and political turmoil associated with the Barbarian Migrations, the Black Death and Thirty Years' War.

An international research team of archaeologists, climatologists, geographers and historians led by Willy Tegel (University of Freiburg, Institute for Forest Growth) and Ulf Büntgen (Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL) compared variations in European summer climate with conspicuous events and episodes in human history.

Their study, published Jan. 13, 2011 in the online version of the journal Science, provides new evidence that agrarian wealth and overall economic growth may was impacted by climate change.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Heritage fund digs deep for Reading Abbey ruins

A £3 million project to renovate Reading Abbey ruins got a boost when an initial application won provisional backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Reading Borough Council’s culture and sport scrutiny panel was told a pre-application on the renovation of the 12th Century abbey had been “received positively”.

HLF representatives have said the project “potentially meets the set criteria”.

The next opportunity for an official bid will be in November. Council officer Rhodri Thomas told the panel last Wednesday that any cash handout from the HLF would be subject to a match-funded agreement.

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HLF confirms Sandsfoot Castle funding

Efforts to restore Sandsfoot Castle near Weymouth, Dorset, have been handed a boost after receiving £194,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council (WPBC) and the Friends of Rodwell Trail and Sandsfoot Garden are working on the scheme to preserve the historic structure.

The HLF grant will be used to repair the castle and to provide a new walk platform around the interior walls to enable public access for the first time in years.

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Experts to meet public at Medieval Bishop's Palace in bid to raise £320,000 for Frome Hoard

A public appeal to save the largest Roman coin hoard ever found in Britain will host a major fundraising event at a Medieval palace in Somerset later this month.

The Art Fund needs to raise £320,250 by February 19 to buy the Frome Hoard, a buried pot of more than 52,000 coins found by metal detectorist Dave Crist in April 2010, for the Museum of Somerset in Taunton.

Supporters are being urged to make a minimum donation of £15 to attend an evening dedicated to the hoard at Bishop’s Palace in Wells, where experts from the British Museum will discuss the theories behind the burial in front of examples from the 1,700-year-old find.

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Tower of London calls in team of scientists to investigate mysterious Medieval wall painting

The Tower of London has allowed scientists to use eye-scanning software and infrared laser technology on a mystery Medieval wall painting which has baffled curators at the royal landmark.

A team led by Nottingham Trent University’s Dr Haida Liang used a portable Optical Coherence Tomographer, which allows them to see layers beneath the surface of paintings, and multispectral scanning – known as PRISMS – to investigate areas of the 14th century Byward Tower wall painting.

“This is an incredibly rare Medieval wall painting of extremely high quality,” said Building Curator Jane Spooner.

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Welsh castles 'more popular than Buckingham Palace'

Premier League, Scotland and Stonehenge rate highly in poll of potential overseas visitors

They are more than 700 years old, and built to pacify the unruly – but the castles of Wales could soon be letting down the drawbridge for thousands of foreign tourists, particularly from Poland, Russia, Italy and Germany if a poll of more than 10,000 potential overseas visitors proves correct.

A combination of Prince William being based in north Wales and what may be an untapped market for the remains of Edward I's "iron ring" of fortresses is raising prospects of a tourist invasion in an area that currently attracts only a miniscule proportion of visitors to the UK.

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Did Famine Destroy ‘Camelot’?

South Cadbury Castle is well known for its suspected association with King Arthur as the site of his infamous castle, Camelot. Excavations have shown that the site was indeed strengthened in the period formally known as the Dark Ages, at the time of the legendary Arthur. However, there is one question that remains an enigma – why was the site abandoned?

There is no archaeological evidence that shows there was destruction or an invasion at the site of South Cadbury at the beginning of the sixth century – it simply went out of use. Its abandonment is perplexing for it was strengthened and inhabited in the fifth century as evidenced by the pottery sherds, but by the early sixth century it was uninhabited. South Cadbury has undergone some extensive excavations, especially by Alcock (1965-1970), who tells us ‘On the basis of archaeological evidence – and there is no other – the Cadbury II occupation had come to an end before 600AD’ (Alcock 1005, 152).

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The Study of Human Remains: What does it really tell us? Part 3

The study of human remains can tell us a great deal about a society; status, wealth, religion and others.


The study of an individual person in history is quite important to assess what kind of impact he had on his society. The tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen, for example, was discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 1912 by Howard Carter. Since then, the world has been fascinated with this young boy king.

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Neanderthals and early modern humans had same lifespan

A new study by a Washington University in St. Louis suggests life expectancy was probably the same for early modern and late archaic humans and did not factor in the extinction of Neanderthals.

Our species, Homo sapiens, is the only surviving lineage of the genus Homo. Still, there once were many others, all of whom could also be called human. One puzzle was the lack of elderly individuals. It was therefore suggested that early hominins might have had a shorter life expectancy than early modern humans, with our lineage ultimately outnumbering Neanderthals, contributing to their demise.

Erik Trinkaus, PhD, Professor of Anthropology in Arts & Sciences examined the fossil record to assess adult mortality for both groups, which co-existed in different regions for roughly 150,000 years. Trinkaus found that the proportions of 20 to 40 year old adults versus adults older than 40, were about the same for early modern humans and Neanderthals.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dying Young Didn't Wipe Out Neanderthals

Early humans had the same life expectancy as their ancient cousins before Neanderthals died off about 30,000 years ago.

Dying young was not likely the reason Neanderthals went extinct, said a study out Monday that suggests early modern humans had about the same life expectancy as their hairier, ancient cousins.

Scientists have puzzled over why the Neanderthals disappeared just as modern humans were making huge gains and moving into new parts of Africa and Europe, and some have speculated that a difference in longevity may have been to blame.

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Nicolas Sarkozy offers France's heritage sites to hotel chains

Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to rent out L'hôtel de la Marine on Place de la Concorde, linked to the revolution, angers historians

Paris boasts so many historic monuments it has been called a living museum. But now Nicolas Sarkozy is under attack for seeking to sell the capital's heritage to luxury hotel chains.

Historians are outraged at government plans to rent out one of France's most important palaces, L'hôtel de la Marine on Place de La Concorde

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Effective Use Of Power In The Bronze Age Societies Of Central Europe

During the first part of the Bronze Age in the Carpathian Basin in Central Europe, a large proportion of the population lived in what are known as tell-building societies. A thesis in archaeology from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) shows that the leaders of these societies had the ability to combine several sources of power in an effective way in order to dominate the rest of the population, which contributed towards creating a notably stable social system.

Tell-building societies are named after a distinct form of settlements with a high density of population and construction, which over the course of time accumulated such thick cultural layers that they took on the shape of low mounds.

On the basis of a discussion and analysis of previously published material from the Carpathian Basin and new findings from the tell settlement Százhalombatta-Földvár in Hungary, the author of the thesis, Claes Uhnér, describes the ways in which leaders could exercise power. Tell-building societies had relatively advanced economies. The subsistence economy, which was based on agricultural production and animal husbandry, produced a good return, and the societies were involved in regional and long-distance exchange of bronzes and other valuable craft products.

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A New Way to Date Old Ceramics

If you are an archaeologist, determining when a pot was made is not just a matter of checking the bottom for a time stamp. Dating clay-based materials like ceramics recovered from archeological sites can be time consuming, not to mention complex and expensive.

Patrick Bowen, a senior majoring in materials science and engineering, is refining a new way of dating ceramic artifacts that could one day shave thousands of dollars off the cost of doing archaeological research.

Called rehydroxylation dating, the technique was recently developed by researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Edinburgh. It takes advantage of ceramics’ predictable tendency to bond chemically with water over time.

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Longevity unlikely to have aided early modern humans

Life expectancy was probably the same for early modern and late archaic
humans and did not factor in the extinction of Neanderthals, suggests a new study by a Washington University in St. Louis anthropologist.

Erik Trinkaus, PhD, Professor of Anthropology in Arts & Sciences, examined the fossil record to assess adult mortality for both groups, which co-existed in different regions for roughly 150,000 years. Trinkaus found that the proportions of 20 to 40-year-old adults versus adults older than 40, were about the same for early modern humans and Neandertals.

This similar age distribution, says Trinkaus, reflects similar patterns of adult mortality and treatment of the elderly in the context of highly mobile hunting-and-gathering human populations.

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Chemical analysis confirms discovery of oldest wine-making equipment ever found

UCLA scientists use new scientific method to verify vintage 4100 B.C. wine

Analysis by a UCLA-led team of scientists has confirmed the discovery of the oldest complete wine production facility ever found, including grape seeds, withered grape vines, remains of pressed grapes, a rudimentary wine press, a clay vat apparently used for fermentation, wine-soaked potsherds, and even a cup and drinking bowl.

The facility, which dates back to roughly 4100 B.C. — 1,000 years before the earliest comparable find — was unearthed by a team of archaeologists from Armenia, the United States and Ireland in the same mysterious Armenian cave complex where an ancient leather shoe was found, a discovery that was announced last summer.

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Oldest-known wine press found in southern Armenia

Researchers find dried grape vines, after previously unearthing an ancient sandal from the same site. In the 1970s, Soviet officials initially were interested in the cave as a hardened storage location.

A team of American, Armenian and Irish archeologists have unearthed evidence of a wine press found in Armenia that is over 6,000-years-old, making it the oldest-known wine making facility.

"This was a relatively small installation related to the ritual inside the cave," said Gregory Areshian, a professor of archeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who helped lead the study.

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Ancient Denisovans and the human family tree

Last month scientists revealed remarkable evidence of a new group of ancient humans called Denisovans that interbred with our species and left behind a genetic trace in people living in south east Asia today.
Molar tooth from Denisova Cave that scientists obtained a genome from

An international team, including scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, carried out a genetic study of a finger bone and a large molar tooth uncovered in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains, Siberia. They sequenced the genome and found that this ancient human shared 4-6% of its genetic material with some present-day Melanesians.

In March, the team obtained a complete mitrochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence for the same finger bone, dated to about 40,000 years ago, showing that it was from neither a modern human nor Neanderthal

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Irish archaeologists help unearth the world’s oldest winery

Winery discovered close by to location of world’s oldest shoe find

The world’s oldest winery has been discovered by an Armenian, Irish, U.S. group. The caves, discovered in 2007, were found just the year before the 5,550 year old shoe was found.

The team found the cave near the Armenian border with Iran, close to a village that still produces wine. Radiocarbon analysis dated the find to between 4100BC and 4000BC. That is the Late Chalcolithic Period, known as the Copper Age.

Their findings included a rudimentary wine press, a clay vat surrounded by grape seeds, withered grape vines, the remains of pressed grapes as well as potsherd along with a cup and drinking bowl.

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World’s Oldest Winery Discovered by Archaeologists

Life on the planet was recently reported in the media to be 3 billion years old but the wine production is only around 6100 years old according to an archaeological find reporting discovery of the remains of world’s oldest known winery along with the grapes suggesting it produced red wine, near Iranian Border. The announcement was made by the National Geographic Society and published online by the Journal of Archaeological Science yesterday.

The world’s oldest winery was discovered near a cemetery in one of the cave complexes in Armenia, named as Areni-1 where a wine press, fermentation jar (about 60 liter capacity) and a drinking cup made of animal horn dating to approximately 6100 years ago, were found by international team of archeologists from the US, Armenia and Ireland, led by UCLA archaeologist Hans Barnard. The site is outside a small village known for its winemaking capabilities even today.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Can hot springs heat Bath Abbey?

Archaeologists begin work in Bath Abbey to see if they can use the city's famous springs to heat the church.

They will also be looking under the floor to find the best way to try to repair it.

The BBC's Lizzie Way talks to Peter Davenport from Cotswold Archaeology about the plans.

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Chirk Castle's medieval guards appeal

It may be 700 years since the last major recruitment drive but custodians of a castle near Wrexham are looking for medieval soldiers.

Chirk Castle keepers have appealed for more volunteers to swell the ranks of guards who dress up to greet visitors.

Joanne Jones, a visitors' manager, said: "We're looking for enthusiastic people who have a love of history."

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Thanks to an innovative TV project with Channel 4, a Roman villa urbana - a high status Roman town house - has been erected at Wroxeter in Shropshire, on the site of the fourth largest city in Roman Britain. A six part TV series will start on Thursday 20 January following a team of modern builders as they set about building the town house using traditional Roman methods.


The villa will be open to the public from Saturday 19 February, daily from 10am. It will greatly enhance the visitor experience at Wroxeter and will help bring history alive for the many school parties that come to the site each year.

Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, says: "The series is immensely entertaining and an eye-opener. What a great way to approach history. I urge everyone to come to Wroxeter and see for themselves the remarkable replica they have built and appreciate the energy and ingenuity that defined so much of the Roman era.

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At 6,000 years old, wine press is oldest yet found

Archeologists have unearthed the oldest wine-making facility ever found, using biochemical techniques to identify a dry red vintage made about 6,000 years ago in what is now southern Armenia.

The excavation paints a picture of a complex society where mourners tasted a special vintage made at a caveside cemetery, the researchers reported on Tuesday in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

"This is the world's oldest known installation to make wine," Gregory Areshian of the University of California Los Angeles, who helped lead the study, said in a telephone interview.

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Archaeologists uncork oldest wine press discovery

Wine's time with humankind goes back more than 6,000 years, reports an archaeology team from Armenia.
Visiting the excavations of the Areni-1 cave complex in Armenia, archaeologist Levon Petrosyan contemplates the 6,100-year-old wine-making equipment discovered by an international project co-directed by Boris Gasparyan, Gregory Areshian and Ron Pinhasi.

Discovered in the Areni-1 cave near the Iranian border, a team led by UCLA archaeologist Hans Barnard, details of the ancient wine press find appear in an upcoming Journal of Archaeological Science. The study reports discovery of a wine vat, wine-stained pots and grape remains, as well as a drinking bowl, located near a cemetery inside the cave.

"We believe the wine was made there for ritual activity," says UCLA's Gregory Areshian, co-director of the excavation site. "But the people living outside the cave in the region likely made wine all the time," he says, based on the evidence of the expertise needed to craft the wine vats and pots.

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Amazing find of Stone Age village made by historians

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have made the stunning discovery of a 5,500-year-old Stone Age village, home to Derbyshire's first farmers and potters.

Ben Johnson and his team made the ancient find during a painstaking dig in Peak District fields, near Wirksworth.

He said he was astonished when he discovered the first evidence – a shattered shard of pottery dating back to at least 3,500BC.

Ben said: "I pulled the piece of Stone Age pottery out of the ground and felt a sense of excitement and wonder.

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'Oldest known wine-making facility' found in Armenia

The world's earliest known wine-making facility has been discovered in Armenia, archaeologists say.

A wine press and fermentation jars from about 6,000 years ago were found in a cave in the south Caucasus country.

Co-director of the excavation Gregory Areshian, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said it was the earliest example of complete wine production.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Roman treasure discoverd in field

An amateur sleuth with a metal detector has uncovered the haul of a lifetime in a Cumbrian field.

John Murray, 66, was amazed to find 308 Roman coins, some thought to be nearly 2,000 years old. The hoard was concealed in a smashed pot a few feet below the ground at Beckfoot, near Silloth.

It is the second major Roman find in Cumbria, following the Crosby Garrett helmet which was unearthed by a metal detectorist last May.

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Geoff Egan PhD FSA- an appreciation

Geoff died at home in Harrow over Christmas 2010. He was London born and bred. Geoff went to Cambridge University in the early 70s to study classics but switched to archaeology. Afterwards he worked on the medieval excavations in Trondheim where he developed a lifelong love of Scandinavia. He started work in the UK directing sites in London but soon moved to specialise in finds. Much of his major work was on the medieval finds from the London waterfront- dumps of rubbish dated by dendrochronology of the timber wharfs. Published with colleagues in a series of monographs these finds groups form the core of all subsequent work on excavated European medieval artefacts.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Ancient farmers swiftly spread westward

Croatia does not have a reputation as a hotbed of ancient agriculture. But new excavations, described January 7 in San Antonio at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, unveil a Mediterranean Sea–hugging strip of southern Croatia as a hub for early farmers who spread their sedentary lifestyle from the Middle East into Europe.

Farming villages sprouted swiftly in this coastal region, called Dalmatia, nearly 8,000 years ago, apparently with the arrival of Middle Easterners already adept at growing crops and herding animals, says archaeologist Andrew Moore of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

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Study Of Lice DNA Shows Humans First Wore Clothes 170,000 Years Ago

A new University of Florida study following the evolution of lice shows modern humans started wearing clothes about 170,000 years ago, a technology which enabled them to successfully migrate out of Africa.

Principal investigator David Reed, associate curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, studies lice in modern humans to better understand human evolution and migration patterns. His latest five-year study used DNA sequencing to calculate when clothing lice first began to diverge genetically from human head lice.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the study is available online and appears in this month's print edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

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7,000-year-old timbers found beneath MI6 Thames headquarters

Archaeologists hail oldest wooden structure ever found on river, despite security services' armed response to researchers

When MI6 set up home on the banks of the Thames one secret escaped its watchful eyes. The oldest wooden structure ever found on the river, timbers almost 7,000 years old, have been discovered buried in the silt below the windows of the security services' ziggurat headquarters at Vauxhall, south London.

The archaeologists who uncovered the six hefty timber piles had to explain to the security services what they were up to when armed police turned up after they were spotted pottering about on a foggy day in the mud, armed only with tripods, cameras and measuring equipment – not, as one spectator had apparently reported, shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New book throws light on Middle Saxon Shift in East Sussex

The later Anglo-Saxon settlement at Bishopstone: a downland manor in the making by Gabor Thomas is the latest CBA Research report (no 163) to be published.

Well known for the Early Anglo-Saxon settlement previously excavated on Rookery Hill and its impressive pre-Conquest church, Bishopstone has entered archaeological orthodoxy as a classic example of a ‘Middle Saxon Shift’.

This new volume reports on the excavations from 2002 to 2005 designed to investigate this transition, with the focus on the origins of Bishopstone village. Excavations adjacent to St Andrew’s churchyard revealed a dense swathe of later Anglo-Saxon (8th- to late 10th-/early 11th-century) habitation, including a planned complex of ‘timber halls’, and a unique cellared tower. The occupation encroached upon a pre-Conquest cemetery of 43 inhumations.

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Archaeologists Locate Remains Of Homo Sapiens In Israel 400,000 Years Ago

It has long been believed that modern man emerged from the continent of Africa 200,000 years ago. Now Tel Aviv University archaeologists have uncovered evidence that Homo sapiens roamed the land now called Israel as early as 400,000 years ago - the earliest evidence for the existence of modern man anywhere in the world.

The findings were discovered in the Qesem Cave, a pre-historic site located near Rosh Ha'ayin that was first excavated in 2000. Prof. Avi Gopher and Dr. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology, who run the excavations, and Prof. Israel Hershkowitz of the university's Department of Anatomy and Anthropology and Sackler School of Medicine, together with an international team of scientists, performed a morphological analysis on eight human teeth found in the Qesem Cave.

This analysis, which included CT scans and X-rays, indicates that the size and shape of the teeth are very similar to those of modern man. The teeth found in the Qesem Cave are very similar to other evidence of modern man from Israel, dated to around 100,000 years ago, discovered in the Skhul Cave in the Carmel and Qafzeh Cave in the Lower Galilee near Nazareth. The results of the researchers' findings are being published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

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The Mediterraneans

Plato's writings about an ancient advanced civilization may not be altogether fantasy. New scientific research is raising some tantalizing new considerations. Was there indeed a great founding culture and people that gave rise to the well-known civilizations that ringed and navigated the Mediterranean and laid foundations for the emergence of European societies?

ARCHAEOLOGIST DR. DAVID H. TRUMP HAS A RULE OF THUMB: "One stone is just a stone. Two stones side by side are a coincidence. But if you find three stones lined up together, you've got a wall."

So it is with excavating prehistory. Scientific inquiry and scholarship has now uncovered a continuously evolving story of the development of human society. About 10,000 - 6,000 years ago, the "Neolithic Revolution" was a profound turning point in human development, changing a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of farming and settlement.

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Jason and the argot: land where Greek's ancient language survives

An isolated community near the Black Sea coast in a remote part of north-eastern Turkey has been found to speak a Greek dialect that is remarkably close to the extinct language of ancient Greece.

As few as 5,000 people speak the dialect but linguists believe that it is the closest, living language to ancient Greek and could provide an unprecedented insight into the language of Socrates and Plato and how it evolved.

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Tourists to Rome hit with new hotel tax

Tourists visiting Rome are being hit with a new hotel tax to help pay for repairs and maintenance to the ancient city.

From Jan 1 all visitors to the Italian capital must pay an extra 2 euros per person per night to stay in hotels rated up to three stars and 3 euros per person per night for four and five star accommodation.

The tax, levied for the first ten nights of a stay in the city, will be collected at the end of a visitors' trip. The money raised will be used by the Roman councils to fund municipal services. Officials hope the tax will bring in more than 80 million (£69m) a year.

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Cretan tools point to 130,000-year-old sea travel

ATHENS, Greece – Archaeologists on the island of Crete have discovered what may be evidence of one of the world's first sea voyages by human ancestors, the Greek Culture Ministry said Monday. A ministry statement said experts from Greece and the U.S. have found rough axes and other tools thought to be between 130,000 and 700,000 years old close to shelters on the island's south coast.

Crete has been separated from the mainland for about five million years, so whoever made the tools must have traveled there by sea (a distance of at least 40 miles). That would upset the current view that human ancestors migrated to Europe from Africa by land alone.

"The results of the survey not only provide evidence of sea voyages in the Mediterranean tens of thousands of years earlier than we were aware of so far, but also change our understanding of early hominids' cognitive abilities," the ministry statement said.

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