Sunday, July 29, 2012

17,500-Year-Old Ceramic Figures Unearthed in Croatia

36 ceramics artifacts found at the archaeological site of Vela Spila, Croatia (Rebecca Farbstein / PLoS ONE)

An international team of archaeologists has uncovered the first evidence of ceramic figurative art in late Upper Paleolithic Europe – from about 17,500 years ago, thousands of years before pottery was commonly used.

The evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who ‘invented’ ceramics during the last Ice Age has been found at the archaeological site of Vela Spila, Croatia.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modeled animals, and come from the site on the Adriatic coast. The archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared.

31 early Christian tombs discovered in Serbia

The remains of 31 early Christian tombs have been discovered during archaeological excavations in Nis, Serbia's third largest city in the southern part of the country. 

"These are the most important excavations carried out so far on the site of the early Christian necropolis of Jagodin-mala", said Toni Cerskov, who heads the team of 45 archaeologists, architects, anthropologists, photographers and workers at the site. The tombs are located under the former textile factory Niteks, the Tanjug news agency reports.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Christian Vikings

Christian burials in Ribe in Denmark have been dated to mid 9th century

Danish Archaeologists have been busy digging around the old Cathedral in Ribe for several years. Here lies a cemetery, which was abandoned about 1050. The sensational character of the find has however more to do with the fact, that the earliest graves have been dated to around 850 – more than a 100 years before Denmark was officially Christianised according to the famous rune-stone of Harold Bluetooth in Jellinge.

All in all the archaeologists believe there were between 1500 -2000 graves in the cemetery of which at least 60 (and probably 75) belong to the earliest phase. The dead persons have been buried in a number of different types of caskets made of wood, one of which may even have been a small boat. However, the graves are all pointing towards East and no grave-goods have been found. Strontium analysis has shown that the buried persons grew up locally.

Flying Lasers Reveal Buried Historical Structures

Archaeology is being revolutionized by remote-scanning techniques that use lasers to detect otherwise invisible ground features. The technology digitally extracts vegetation for a clean image of the earth's surface. Archaeologists in Germany have already discovered thousands of new sites. 

The Glauberg is a hot spot for archaeologists. For decades, researchers have been studying the hill in the central German state of Hesse, where people settled some 7,000 years ago. 

Over the millennia, the plateau was inhabited by Celts and Alemanni and, in the Middle Ages, people there built castles that reached for the sky. Accordingly, researchers have found plenty of artifacts. In 1996, they made the sensational discovery of an almost perfectly preserved statue of a Celtic warrior, which is now known as the Celtic Prince of Glauberg.

'Perplexing' find at Alderney Roman dig

Archaeologists have found something "interesting" and "perplexing" at a Roman dig in Alderney.

A team from the island, the UK and Guernsey are excavating land at the fort of the nunnery at Longy Common.

The dig is focusing on a gateway and wall but the team said they were "not expecting" the way it was laid out.

Dr Jason Monaghan said: "We've found something interesting, but we don't actually know what it is until we take a bit more dirt out." 

Dr Monaghan, Director of Guernsey Museums, said the team had dug a trench to examine the gateway.
"It's a bit perplexing, the nunnery always throws little surprises at us and the wall has changed below the ground level and we weren't expecting that to happen so we need to know why it's changed," he said.

Viking boat bid for Barrow Dock Museum funds

"Vikings" are taking to the water to raise money for a south Cumbria museum hoping to house a newly-acquired treasure hoard.

A metal detector enthusiast found Viking silver coins and ingots near Stainton, Dalton, in 2010.

Barrow Dock Museum raised £50,000 to buy the hoard, and now wants to build a special Viking gallery.
Re-enactor warriors are rowing a replica longboat around Derwent Water to raise the cash.

The team, from Herlid Vikings group, will set off from Lodore to the Keswick boat landing, where they will hold a combat display.

Discovery of early medieval royal stronghold in southwest Scotland

Trusty's Hill Pictish carving. Image: Galloway Picts Project

A recent Heritage Lottery funded archaeological excavation has discovered a hitherto forgotten early medieval royal stronghold in Scotland.

Pictish symbols

Trusty’s Hill, near Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway, is best known for the Pictish Symbols carved into a natural rock outcrop at the fort’s entrance.  However, in recent years, many historians have begun to doubt whether these carvings were genuine, some even suggesting that the carvings are forgeries. The Galloway Picts Excavation, led by the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society and funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund, sought to find out why there are Pictish Carvings here, so far from the Pictish heartlands in the north-east of Scotland, and if the carvings are indeed genuine.

Under the direction of two members of the Society, over 60 local volunteers, assisted by professional archaeologists from GUARD Archaeology Ltd, spent two weeks discovering new archaeological evidence that establishes a clear archaeological context for the Pictish Symbols at this vitrified fort.

Nit combs are 'nothing new'

Proof that even ancient folk needed the nit comb

It's official ... even ancient folk needed a nit comb.

A fine tooth comb is among treasures uncovered at an excavation site near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.
Arrow heads, pottery and ancient human remains have been found at the crannog - a kind of artificial island - that could date back more than 1,000 years.

The site is being cleared to allow for a new road, but archaeologists have been given some time to glean all they can before the bulldozers move in.

"The Cherrymount link crannog was thought initially to date back to the 14th century but now evidence suggests it went back to early medieval times," said archaeologist Declan Hurl.

Christian burial ground unearthed in West Cumbria

When excavation work started on Camp Farm adjacent to the Senhouse Museum archaeologists believed they were looking at late Roman buildings. Their recent find of four graves and what appears to be a church shows how life evolved after the fall of the Roman Empire. 

Site director Tony Wilmott said the find uncovered 'Maryport's missing centuries' and is of national significance. 

The graves are believed to have been from the 5th or 6th century. The team to be able use the fragments of teeth and bone found buried to accurately date the site using carbon dating. 

Ein Blick auf Paderborns erste Marktsiedlung

Es ist nicht einfach nur eine Baustelle, die an der Westernstraße 15 den Paderborner Boden öffnet. Hier bietet sich insbesondere für die LWL-Archäologen der Stadtarchäologie Paderborn im wahrsten Sinne ein Schaufenster auf die erste Marktsiedlung - und ein wichtiges Puzzlestück für die Stadtforschung.

Fant Håkon Håkonssons kongsgård

Arkeologer har funnet restene av en kongsgård som tilhørte Håkon Håkonsson. Funnet på Avaldsnes blir betegnet som en sensasjon.

– Dette er den eneste kongsgården fra middelalderen på landsbygda vi vet om. Det var en kjempeoverraskelse for oss å finne dette og et utrolig flott funn, sier professor i arkeologi ved Universitetet i Oslo, Dagfinn Skree.

Arkeologene har lenge vært sikre på at konger har holdt til på det historiske området på Avaldsnes i Karmøy kommune.

Under sommerens utgravinger på Avaldsnes er det gjort en rekke funn. Kongsgåden er det desidert største.
Arkeologene tror kongsgården ble bygget i andre halvdel av 1200-tallet.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Imminent destruction of Crannog site in Northern Ireland

Concerns have been raised with the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) and other heritage agencies about the potentially inadequate excavation in advance of the imminent destruction of a crannog site at Drumclay in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, as part of a road-building scheme.

IfA met with archaeologists of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), which has a curatorial role for the site. NIEA explained that the original proposal was for site preservation below the road. However,  engineering works elsewhere on the scheme led to a sudden ‘dewatering’ of the bog in which the crannog stood. Initially, road stone was imported to support the collapsing crannog but it was over a year later before archaeological excavation actually took place.

Adequate time for excavations?

In view of the crannog’s now extremely fragile state, the decision was taken to excavate rather than to seek to preserve the medieval occupation levels (there also appears to be potential for prehistoric activity).

The six-week excavation has now been completed by archaeologists contracted by the Engineering Firm AME and was approved by John O’Keefe (NIEA Archaeologist). However, the NIEA has assured the IfA that no road building work will take place until the Minister for the Environment (Alex Attwood) is satisfied that adequate investigation of the construction levels has taken place – crucially to establish whether the crannog has prehistoric origins. Discussions are underway to ascertain whether these potential earlier remains can be preserved below the road.

Archaeologists uncover Palaeolithic ceramic art

Leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. This is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia. Credit: Rebecca Farbstein

Evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who “invented” ceramics during the last Ice Age – thousands of years before pottery became commonplace – has been found in modern-day Croatia.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals, and come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast. Archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared. 

The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago.
Leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. This is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia. Credit: Rebecca Farbstein

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Viking burial exhibit in York

The Jorvik Viking Centre in York has launched its exhibition Valhalla: Examining Viking Burials in the British Isles, open now until the 5th November.

The result of York Archaeological Trust's collaboration with York Minster and Manx National Heritage brings together key Viking burial findings and explores the latest archaeological research techniques.

The exhibition will display two Viking-age skeletons from the Hungate excavation in York and a replica of Thorwald's Cross, which is thought to depict the transition of the Viking world of pagan beliefs to the introduction of Christianity.

Groups can also discover how excavations reveal the way Vikings commemorated and celebrated their dead using pagan boat burials, grave goods and ornately carved headstones, such as those found in excavations at York Minster.

In addition, the story of a Viking man buried in the Balladoole ship burial will be told using forensic science and state-of-the-art facial reconstruction.

Archaeologists' Mona Lisa search in Florence

Archaeologists have unearthed a skeleton in a rare state of preservation in Florence. 

They believe it may be the body of Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine noblewoman widely believed to have served as the muse for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

It could be a crucial step towards unravelling the mystery of the woman with the world's most enigmatic smile.

Art historian Silvano Vinceti told the BBC: "We are entering the heart of this search, which is the most important moment."

Excavation to find exact site of Battle of Bannockburn begins

An excavation has begun to find the exact location of the Battle of Bannockburn ahead of its 700th anniversary in 2014.

Until now historians have only been able to make a rough guess about where Robert Bruce famously led an outnumbered Scots army to victory against Edward II's English force.

The battle is one of the most famous in Scottish history, but no archaeological evidence has ever proved exactly where Bannockburn actually took place.

Now, a team of local archaeologists has begun an extensive search for proof of where the clash occurred.

Valhalla: In Search Of The Viking Dead

Historical artefacts revealing how the Vikings celebrated and commemorated their dead have gone on display in York. 

Sarah Maltby, director of attractions at Jorvik with a skeleton at Valhalla [Credit: The Press] The Valhalla exhibition displaying artefacts from excavations in York and the Isle of Man has opened thanks to York Archaeological Trust. 

The exhibition, which is the result of collaboration with York Minster and Manx National Heritage, brings together burial findings and the latest archaeological research techniques to examine. 

It includes two Viking-age skeletons from the Hungate excavation in York, which have been the subject of pathological research from York Osteoarchaeology in a bid to uncover more about who they were. 

Visitors can also see a replica of Thorwald's Cross, which is thought to depict the transition from the Viking's pagan belief system to Christianity.

Work starts on Easter Ross's Nigg cross-slab

Detail on the Nigg cross-slab which dates from the 8th Century AD

Conservation work has started on an intricately carved Pictish stone from Easter Ross.

The Nigg cross-slab dates from the 8th Century AD and features snakes and a depiction of monks receiving bread from a raven sent by God.

Nigg Old Trust received grants towards the £180,000 restoration project.

The monument has been taken to a workshop in Edinburgh and will eventually be put back on display at 16th Century Nigg Old Church.

The cross-slab is one of Scotland's greatest art treasures, according to the trust.
The stone's entry in the Highland Historic Environment database described it as being intricately carved.

Archaeology Slide Collection at University of York open to public

A COLLECTION of archaeological images will be available to the public thanks to the University of York .

The Archaeology Slide Collection contains about 5,000 images, many by the founding professor of the university’s department of archaeology, Philip Rahtz, who died last year at the age of 90.

Julie Allinson, York Digital Library Manager, said: “The images date back to the 1950s and many document the work of York’s department of archaeology over the past years.”

The Archaeology Slide Collection is available online at

Skeleton unearthed in hunt for Mona Lisa

Archaeologists in Florence have unearthed a skeleton which they believe may be crucial in the quest to find the remains of the woman who sat for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa portrait.

Several bodies have been discovered in the hunt to find the mortal remains of Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine noblewoman widely believed to have served as Leonardo's muse.

Silvano Vinceti, who heads up the team of Italian archaeologists, said this latest discovery in an abandoned convent was particularly exciting - though tests would still have to be carried out to ascertain the identity of the remains.

6,500 year old hunting trophy found in eastern Croatia

Archaeologists in Bapska, eastern Croatia have stumbled across 6,500 year old deer antlers. The hunting trophy was found hanging on the wall of prehistoric house along with valuable items of jewellery, writes website

"We have the oldest deer hunting trophy in Croatia," said Marcel Buric, the head researcher at the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology of the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb.

According to Buric, local hunters from Bapska have estimated that the deer, where the antlers trophy has come from, would have weighed between 220 and 250 kilograms and would have been extremely strong due to its 12 antlers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Neanderthals Weren’t Stone Age Rodeo Riders?

Ambushing large animals and attacking them with spears is the traditional explanation for why Neanderthals appeared to have the same injuries as rodeo riders. Image: UNiessert/Wikicommons

Neanderthals didn’t ride bucking broncos (as far as we know), but the Stone Age hominids did seem to have one thing in common with rodeo riders: injuries. In 1995, paleoanthropologists Thomas Berger and Erik Trinkaus, now at Washington University in St. Louis, noted that Neanderthals had a disproportionate number of injuries to their heads and necks. The same is true among modern rodeo riders. Just as these cowboys get too close for comfort to angry horses and bulls, Neanderthals’ hunting style—sneaking up on prey and jabbing them with heavy spears—brought their upper bodies within striking distance of large, hoofed animals.

Over the last 17 years, researchers have reassessed the Neanderthal-rodeo rider connection. Recently, in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Trinkaus offered alternative explanations for the trauma patterns.

Pictures: Toothless "Vampire" Skeleton Unearthed in Bulgaria

The discovery of a 700-year-old skeleton in Bulgaria—seen at the country's National Museum of History in June—offers evidence that the fear of vampires is far older than Bram Stoker's Dracula

The "vampire" was found entombed among church ruins in the Black Sea town of Sozopol (map) earlier in the month. The skeleton had been stabbed in the chest with an iron rod (upper right), which was in the tomb next to the body.

In addition, the skeleton's teeth had been pulled. Scholars believe the rod and tooth-pulling were techniques villagers used to prevent dead men from turning into vampires.

The vampire obsession dates back millennia in countries across Europe.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's Viking heaven at York's Jorvik as Valhalla goes in search of dead Norsemen

A detail from Thorwald's Cross, found on the Isle of Man.
© Photograph John Caley, 2009 Manx National Heritage

Exhibition: Valhalla: In Search of the Viking Dead, Jorvik Viking Centre, York, until November 5 2012

Valhalla; it's a word synonymous with the blood curdling, axe-wielding world of the Vikings and their peculiar belief in an afterlife where fallen Norse warriors drank, ate and caroused wildly with their god Odin.

Little wonder, then, that the Vikings placed great importance on the funerary arrangements that would transport them to this alluring version of the pagan afterlife.

This new exhibition, organised by Manx National Heritage, York Minster and the York Archaeological Trust, lifts the lid on this Viking paradise by looking at Viking burials, artworks, carvings and tapestries from across the British Isles as well as the advanced archaeological techniques employed to unearth and interpret them.

Archaeologists to dig at Bronze Age site near Peterborough

Archaeologists are hoping to find clues about an ancient timber structure at Flag Fen Credit: ITV Central
Archaeologists are to dig at a Bronze Age site near Peterborough for the first time in 10 years. 

They are hoping to find clues about an ancient timber structure at Flag Fen. 

In previous digs they found the UK's oldest wheel and gold rings more than 3,500 years old.

Cookery through the ages

From Roman recipes to Victorian victuals, the Museum of London is hosting a series of cookery workshops exploring how our ancestors prepared their favourite dishes.
Between September and December, members of the public can learn how to prepare ancient dishes and sample bygone flavours – including ancient Rome’s infamous fish sauce.

Led by Sally Grainger and Annie Gray, both celebrated chefs and food historians, the workshops will explore the culinary quirks of four historic periods: Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Georgian, and Victorian.

Each class will begin with a short introduction to historic table etiquette and culinary fashions, followed by making forgotten recipes from the period and sampling typical drinks of the era.

House of the Telephus Relief: raising the roof on Roman real estate

Buried by Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, archaeologists at Herculaneum have excavated and carried out the first-ever full reconstruction of the timber roof of a Roman villa

 With several dozen rooms, the House of the Telephus Relief was 'top-level Roman real estate'. Photograph: Art Archive/Alamy

For almost two millennia, the piles of wood lay undisturbed and largely intact under layers of hardened volcanic material. Now, after three years of painstaking work, archaeologists at Herculaneum have not only excavated and preserved the pieces, but worked out how they fitted together, achieving the first-ever full reconstruction of the timberwork of a Roman roof.

With several dozen rooms, the House of the Telephus Relief was "top-level Roman real estate", said Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, the director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project (HCP). It was more of a palace or mansion, thought to have been built for Marcus Nonius Balbus, the Roman governor of Crete and part of modern-day Libya, whose ostentatious tomb was found nearby.

The most lavishly decorated part of the immense residence was a three-storey tower. On the top floor was a nine-metre high dining room with a coloured marble floor and walls, a suspended ceiling and a wrap-around terrace. It offered the owners and their dinner guests a heart-stopping view across the silver-blue Bay of Naples to the islands of Ischia and Capri.

Tsunamis may have hit Kerry coast

THE POSSIBILITY that the south Kerry coast has over the centuries been struck by long tsunami waves of over 50ft in events that have lived on in folk memory has been raised by an archaeologist.

Cross-checking folk tales with archaeological and geological evidence, Alan R Hayden, director of more than 200 medieval excavations since 1987 in Ireland, said the grouping of Valentia, Beginish and Church islands may bear the scars of earthquakes and tsunami-type waves in medieval times.

His research is reported in the current edition of the Journal of the Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society.

Damage to the south and southwest surrounding walls of Church Island, an important early medieval ecclesiastical site, was unlikely to have been caused by a storm or heavy swell, he concluded.

Yorkshire Museum hopes to save rare Richard III boar badge

THE race is on to save a rare 15th Century badge that was once worn by a nobleman to demonstrate his loyalty to King Richard III. 

The silver gilt livery badge in the form of a boar, a symbol of Richard III, was found by a metal detectorist in 2010, near Stillingfleet, North Yorkshire. 

Now, the Yorkshire Museum in York has launched an appeal to raise the £2,000 needed to buy the badge and ensure it goes on public display. 

It must raise the cash by September or it could be sold on the private market to the highest bidder.

Ilısu River dam excavation sheds light on new artifacts

Work on the new ‘Ilısu Protection Excavation’ is taking place at sites around Diyarbakır on a river that is soon to be controversially dammed. The total number of excavation works will increase to 17, Diyarbakır Museum manager Nevin Soyukaya says, noting that important discoveries have already been made at the sites

The excavation works at the southeastern province of Diyarbakır’s Ilısu River are soon to begin with seven local and two foreign teams. The works are slated to protect the areas that would otherwise be submerged after the construction of the contentious Ilısu Dam.

The “Ilısu Protection Excavation” works will be located at Körtik, Salattepe, Karavelyan, Hakemi Use, Müslüman Tepe, Ziyarettepe and Hırbemerdon. The total number of excavation works will be 17, Diyarbakır Museum manager Nevin Soyukaya told the Anatolia news agency. Works at Hakemi Use and Salattepe have already begun and the other works will begin this year.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Neanderthals Self-Medicated?

Tartar remains on teeth reveal traces of herbs, veggies, study says.

 Neanderthals may have been gatherers and hunters (file picture of a model of a Neanderthal woman).

A cave in northern Spain that previously yielded evidence of Neanderthals as brain-eating cannibals now suggests the prehistoric humans ate their greens and used herbal remedies.

A new study of skeletal remains from El Sidrón cave site in Asturias (map) detected chemical and food traces on the teeth of five Neanderthals. (Take a Neanderthal quiz in National Geographic magazine.)

Tartar samples from the 50,000-year-old teeth revealed microscopic plant starch granules, which had cracks indicating the plants had been roasted first. Further chemical analysis revealed compounds associated with wood smoke.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Neanderthals' macho image may be wrong

Neanderthals have traditionally been seen as a race of macho hunters but in reality they spent much of their time carrying out domestic chores, a study has found. 

The primitive men, who became extinct about 30,000 years ago after human ancestors arrived in Europe from Africa, were presumed to have spent most of their time hunting prey. 
But a new study suggests that their daily lives were in fact much more mundane, with tedious tasks like processing animal skins to make clothing accounting for several hours of each day.

Neanderthals ate their greens

Neanderthals have long been viewed as meat-eaters. The vision of them as inflexible carnivores has even been used to suggest that they went extinct around 25,000 years ago as a result of food scarcity, whereas omnivorous humans were able to survive. But evidence is mounting that plants were important to Neanderthal diets — and now a study reveals that those plants were roasted, and may have been used medicinally.

The finding comes from the El Sidrón Cave in northern Spain, where the roughly 50,000-year-old skeletal remains of at least 13 Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) have been discovered. Many of these individuals had calcified layers of plaque on their teeth. Karen Hardy, an anthropologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain, wondered whether it might be possible to use this plaque to take a closer look at the Neanderthal menu.

Archaeologists uncover Mona Lisa's remains

The burial site of Lisa Gherardini, wife of the wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, the model who inspired Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Mona Lisa".[Credit: AFP/Claudio Giovanni]

It's the face that launched a thousand imitations. Now, archaeologists are convinced they've found the body of the real Mona Lisa. 

Buried in a crypt beneath a convent in Florence, Italy, archaeologists believe they have uncovered the skeleton belonging to the model who posed for Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece in 1504. 

The wife of a rich silk merchant, Lisa Gheradini, is generally accepted by historians to be the woman with the mysterious smile. 

Lisa Gheradini, whose married name was Giocondo, became a nun after her husband's death. She was buried in the grounds of the Convent of Saint Ursula where she died in 1542, aged 63.

Read the rest of this article...

Registration for AVICOM 2012 Conference

Organized in collaboration with the Board of Montréal Museum Directors (BMMD), the AVICOM Committee’s 2012 Conference will be held in Montreal, Canada from October 9–12, 2012 at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), during the same time as the AVICOM Committee’s annual meeting. 

The Conference will be followed by the International Audiovisual Festival on Museums and Heritage (FIAMP), a competition that salutes the best achievements of museums worldwide in a number of categories. Visits to various Montreal  museums are planned for the final day of the Conference, Friday, October 12, 2012. In addition, a “Guide to Suggested Activities” will be provided to those participants who would like to extend their stay in Montreal through the following weekend. From 200 to 300 AVICOM members are expected to attend. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Medieval lingerie? Discovery in Austria reveals what really was worn under those tunics

A recent discovery in an Austrian castle has revealed that bras existed back in the 15th century. It is among dozens of new textile artifacts that seem to have been preserved by a lucky accident, which will give historians a much better understanding of late medieval fashion.

The research, led by Beatrix Nutz of Innsbruck University, examines a room that was discovered in the south wing of Castle Lengberg in 2008. Evidence shows that the room was sealed off in the late 15th-century, and its dry conditions helped preserve organic material such as twigs and straw, as well as worked wood, leather (mainly shoes) and textiles.

In a paper given last year at the North European Symposium on Textiles, Professor Nutz explains that hundreds of textiles were discovered, some of which were clothing in very good condition. She said, “amid them were several nearly complete linen bras and fragments of corselettes, some rather coarsely made others more elaborately decorated with plaited borders and sprang worked parts. One of the bras even has a rather modern look.”

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Prehistoric Ironworking at Beechwood, Inverness

Archaeological excavations by AOC Archaeology Group at Beechwood, Inverness, have uncovered new evidence of Iron Age metalworking which is allowing experts to re-evaluate the importance of iron and ironworking in prehistoric Scotland.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is currently investing up to £25m in the 215-acre former Beechwood Farm site to create Inverness Campus as a high quality location for business, research, learning and leisure in the Highland capital. Edinburgh-based AOC Archaeology Group was commissioned to help HIE evaluate and record by excavation any buried archaeological sites occupying the development area prior to the start of construction works.

Grave of Mystery Woman in Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa Found?

Archaeologists digging at the Saint Ursula convent in the Italian city of Florence have found the skeleton of a woman they claim was Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a silk merchant in the city and the woman who was widely thought to be the subject of the painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

The scientists believe the skeleton matches the skull of an unidentified female, unearthed last year at the same site. However, DNA tests meant to establish the connection between the two have yet to be carried out. It is believed Lisa Gherardini died in 1542 and was buried at a Florentine convent.

"We don't know yet if the bones belong to one single skeleton or more than one. But this confirms our hypothesis that in St Ursula convent there are still human bones and we cannot exclude that among them there are bones belonging to Lisa Gherardini," archaeologist-in-charge Silvano Vinceti, who has worked on the Mona Lisa mystery for some time now, was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail. Incidentally, last year Vinceti claimed he found da Vinci's initials - LV - in the eyes of the woman in the painting.

Archaeology: Golden medallions from Roman era found in village near Bulgaria’s Bourgas

Golden medallions featuring inscriptions and images found in a gravesite dating to the Roman era in Debelt, a village in the region of Bourgas on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, have been identified by archaeologists as being from the second century CE.
According to archaeologists, the graves are those of veterans of the eighth legion of Augustus. They are in the western part of the ancient Roman colony of Deultum, according to a report on July 17 2012 by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.
Today the gravesite is next to a street in the latter-day village of Debelt. Deultum, in its time, was known as “Little Rome in Thrace”, the report said.
The find was made by accident while people were pouring concrete for construction. The vibration of the concrete mixer caused the surface to crack and a tomb was found.

Prehistorc tablet calls into question history of writing

Back in 1993, in a Neolithic lakeshore settlement that occupied an artificial island near the modern village of Dispilio on Lake Kastoria in the Kastoria Prefecture, professor George Hourmouziadis and his team unearthed the Dispilio Tablet (also known as the Dispilio Scripture or the Dispilio Disk), a wooden tablet bearing inscribed markings (charagmata) that has been carbon 14-dated to about 7300 BP (5260 BC).

In February 2004, during the announcement of the Tablet’s discovery to the world, Hourmouziadis claimed that the text with the markings could not be easily publicized because it would ultimately change the current historical background concerning the origins of writing and articulate speech depicted with letters instead of ideograms within the borders of the ancient Greek world and by extension, the broader European one. 

According to the Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the markings suggested that the current theory proposing that the ancient Greeks received their alphabet from the ancient civilizations of the Middle East (Babylonians, Sumerians and Phoenicians etc) fails to close the historic gap of some 4,000 years. This gap translates into the following facts:  while ancient eastern civilizations would use ideograms to express themselves, the ancient Greeks were using syllables in a similar manner like we use today. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Festival of British Archaeology 2012

This July over 750 archaeological events are taking place across the UK. Co-ordinated by the Council for British Archaeology, we picked out some highlights in CA 269 but there is plenty more still to see. From digging opportunities and behind-the-scenes access to normally off-limits sites, to guided walks, re-enactments and hands-on family fun, there is something for all ages and all levels of experience. Two of our featured events are either ongoing or about to start, while the CBA’s full guide to what’s on can be found at

In 2001 a local landlord invited the Stewartry Archaeology Trust to investigate a stone circle where legend told that the Devil had been seen dancing. When they arrived, archaeologists quickly found that the ‘monument’ was in fact a series of capstones covering a Neolithic passage grave and Early Bronze Age cremation burials. To date 62 prehistoric cremations have been found on the site, partly overlain by Medieval buildings.

Archaeology is about knowledge, not treasure

If you watched Britain’s Secret Treasures on ITV1 last night, you might be forgiven for thinking there are gold objects beneath our feet all over the UK just waiting to be dug up. Of course in reality, whilst there is evidence of the past all around us, it is rarely made of precious metal - but that doesn’t mean it is any less fascinating or significant to our understanding of the way our ancestors lived.

The Council for British Archaeology has been working in collaboration with ITV, the British Museum and the Portable Antiquities Scheme on Britain’s Secret Treasures to ensure that everyone fully understands all the issues involved in the search for “treasure” and can seek expert advice and guidance.

That way we can all share our fascination for the history and heritage of the UK and pass on our knowledge and understanding to future generations, whilst protecting the remains in the ground, which are best left undisturbed.

So, if you are thinking of rushing out to buy a metal detector to search an area near you and seek out your very own “treasure”, CBA Director Mike Heyworth explains why you should think again.

300 000 year old flint tools found in Northern France

The deposits at Etricourt Manancourt in the Picardie region of France documents the history of early European settlements, revealing at least five prehistoric levels, ranging between 300,000 and 80,000 years old.

This discovery resulted from the archaeological work carried out prior to construction of a large canal. Archaeologists from Inrap looked at 17 hectares in 2010, which revealed a Palaeolithic level and more evidence was found in 2012, when 3,200 square metres were excavated over 4 month period.

The most recent occupation comes from the Middle Paleolithic (80,000 years old) and belongs to the Neanderthals. Twenty sites of this period are already known in northern France.

The next two levels are also Neanderthal and belong to the early phase of the Middle Paleolithic during an interglacial period – the Saalian – between 190,000 and 240,000 years old. The discoveries of sites from this period are rare and, in the north of France, only excavations in 1999 (around Beauvais) and Biache St. Vaast in 1976 (Pas-de-Calais) have produced such well preserved contemporary deposits.

Scientists Reconstruct Diet of Australopithecus Anamensis

A team of Spanish paleoanthropologists has reconstructed the diet of Australopithecus anamensis, a hominid that lived in the east of the African continent more than 4 million years ago.

An artist’s reconstruction of Australopithecus anamensis, left, and an image of traces on fossil tooth of Australopithecus anamensis, scale bar is 100 µm (Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt / Ferran Estebaranz et al.)

A. anamensis is a fossil hominid species described in 1995 and considered to be the direct ancestor of A. afarensis, known as Lucy, which lived in the same region half a million years later. The paleoecological reconstructions of the sites with A. anamensis fossil remains are quite similar to those of A. afarensis, and suggest a scene with different habitats, from open forests to thick plant formations, with herbaceous strata and gallery forests.

Traditionally, the reconstruction of the diet of A. anamensis was carried out by means of indirect evidence – specifically, studies of microstructure and enamel thickness, and the dental size and morphology.

In the new study, published in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences, the team analyzed the pattern of microstriation of the post-canine dentition, from microscopic traces that some structural components of plants and other external elements leave in the dental enamel during the chewing of food. It is, therefore, a direct analysis of the result of the diet’s interaction with the teeth.