viernes, 28 de junio de 2013

First Unlooted Royal Tomb of Its Kind Unearthed in Peru

Three queens were buried with golden treasures, human sacrifices.
It was a stunning discovery: the first unlooted imperial tomb of the Wari, the ancient civilization that built South America's earliest empire between 700 and 1000 A.D. Yet it wasn't happiness that Milosz Giersz felt when he first glimpsed gold in the dim recesses of the burial chamber in northern Peru.
Giersz, an archaeologist at the University of Warsaw in Poland, realized at once that if word leaked out that his Polish-Peruvian team had discovered a 1,200-year-old "temple of the dead" filled with precious gold and silver artifacts, looters would descend on the site in droves. "I had a nightmare about the possibility," says Giersz.
So Giersz and project co-director Roberto Pimentel Nita kept their discovery secret. Digging quietly for months in one of the burial chambers, the archaeologists collected more than a thousand artifacts, including sophisticated gold and silver jewelry, bronze axes, and gold tools, along with the bodies of three Wari queens and 60 other individuals, some of whom were probably human sacrifices. (See more: "First Pictures: Peru's Rare, Unlooted Royal Tomb")

Archaeologists discovered a massive carved wooden mace (foreground) protruding from stone fill. “It was a tomb marker,” says University of Warsaw archaeologist Milosz Giersz, who heads the team. “We knew then that we had the main mausoleum.” (See more pictures)
Photograph by Milosz Giersz

Peru's Minister of Culture and other dignitaries will officially announce the discovery today at a press conference at the site. Krzysztof Makowski Hanula, an archaeologist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima and the project's scientific adviser, said the newly unearthed temple of the dead "is like a pantheon, like a mausoleum of all the Wari nobility in the region."
Overlooked Empire
The Wari lords have long been overshadowed by the later Inca, whose achievements were extensively documented by their Spanish conquerors. But in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D., the Wari built an empire that spanned much of present-day Peru. Their Andean capital, Huari, became one of the world's great cities. At its zenith, Huari boasted a population conservatively estimated at about 40,000 people. Paris, by comparison, had just 25,000 residents at the time.
Just how the Wari forged this empire, whether by conquest or persuasion, is a long-standing archaeological mystery. The sheer sophistication of Wari artwork has long attracted looters, who have ransacked the remains of imperial palaces and shrines. Unable to stop the destruction of vital archaeological information, researchers were left with many more questions than answers. (Read: "Brewery Was Burned After Ancient Peru Drinking Ritual.")

The spectacular new finds at El Castillo de Huarmey, a four-hour drive north of Lima, will go a long way toward answering some of those questions. Although grave robbers have been digging at the 110-acre site off and on for decades, Giersz suspected that a mausoleum remained hidden deep underground. In January 2010, he and a small team scrutinized the area using aerial photography and geophysical imaging equipment. On a ridge between two large adobe-brick pyramids, they spotted the faint outline of what appeared to be a subterranean mausoleum.
The research at El Castillo de Huarmey is supported by National Geographic's Global Exploration Fund and Expeditions Council.
Tomb robbers had long dumped rubble on the ridge. Digging through the rubble last September, Giersz and his team uncovered an ancient ceremonial room with a stone throne. Below this lay a large mysterious chamber sealed with 30 tons of loose stone fill. Giersz decided to keep digging. Inside the fill was a huge carved wooden mace. "It was a tomb marker," says Giersz, "and we knew then that we had the main mausoleum."
Buried Treasure
As the archaeologists carefully removed the fill, they discovered rows of human bodies buried in a seated position and wrapped in poorly preserved textiles. Nearby, in three small side chambers, were the remains of three Wari queens and many of their prized possessions, including weaving tools made of gold. "So what were these first ladies doing at the imperial court? They were weaving cloth with gold instruments," says Makowski.
Mourners had also interred many other treasures in the room: inlaid gold and silver ear-ornaments, silver bowls, bronze ritual axes, a rare alabaster drinking cup, knives, coca leaf containers, brilliantly painted ceramics from many parts of the Andean world, and other precious objects. Giersz and his colleagues had never seen anything like it before. "We are talking about the first unearthed royal imperial tomb," says Giersz.
But for archaeologists, the greatest treasure will be the tomb's wealth of new information on the Wari Empire. The construction of an imperial mausoleum at El Castillo shows that Wari lords conquered and politically controlled this part of the northern coast, and likely played a key role in the downfall of the northern Moche kingdom. Intriguingly, one vessel from the mausoleum depicts coastal warriors battling axe-wielding Wari invaders.
The Wari also waged a battle for the hearts and minds of their new vassals. In addition to military might, they fostered a cult of royal ancestor worship. The bodies of the entombed queens bore traces of insect pupae, revealing that attendants had taken them out of the funerary chamber and exposed them to the air. This strongly suggests that the Wari displayed the mummies of their queens on the throne of the ceremonial room, allowing the living to venerate the royal dead. (Related: "Mummy Bundles, Child Sacrifices Found on Pyramid.")
Analysis of the mausoleum-and other chambers that may still be buried-is only beginning. Giersz predicts that his team has another eight to ten years of work there. But already the finds at El Castillo promise to cast the Wari civilization in a brilliant new light. "The Wari phenomenon can be compared to the empire of Alexander the Great," says Makowski. "It's a brief historical phenomenon, but with great consequence."
Images of winged, supernatural beings adorn a pair of heavy gold-and-silver ear ornaments that one high-ranking Wari woman wore to her grave in the imperial tomb at El Castillo de Huarmey.  In all, the archaeological team found the remains of 63 individuals, including three Wari queens.

Isle of Man Viking silver declared 'treasure trove'

Three pieces of Viking silver dating back 1,000 years, discovered using a metal detector in the Isle of Man, have been declared treasure trove.
An inquest heard the three items, found by Seth Crowe in a field in Andreas in April, date back to between 930 and 1080 AD.
Archaeologists believe the two silver ingots and brooch fragment contain more than 60% silver.
Coroner of Inquests John Needham made the ruling at Douglas Courthouse.
Mr Crowe, 39, made the discovery having sought the permission of the landowner Leslie Faragher, some years ago.
'Amazing Viking history' The Ramsey man said he was "proud of his discovery".

Start Quote

Viking Ingot found in Isle of Man
It is likely that the item buried for safe keeping but the owner never returned”
End Quote Allison Fox Head of Archaeology at Manx National Heritage
All three objects were found in a ditch at the side of Mr Faragher's field.
It is the second significant find on the farmer's land after fellow treasure seeker, John Crowe, found a similar Viking silver ingot in 2009.
Head of Archaeology at Manx National Heritage, Allison Fox, said it is "highly likely" the two finds are related.
She explained there are no recorded archaeological sites near the area where the discovery was made and pieces like this are usually associated with larger hordes.
According to Miss Fox, the ingots would have originally been used as currency.
"They are another significant part of the Isle of Man's amazing Viking history", she said.
The Vikings flourished on the Isle of Man and much of their influence is still evident today.
She said: "This is the latest of a number of Viking finds in recent years and illustrates how the Isle of Man could have once acted as a 'clearing house' for deals in goods and wealth and been at the centre of Viking trade routes.
Broach A decorative fragment of a brooch was found alongside the two ingots in Andreas
"It is likely that the item was buried for safe keeping but the owner never returned."
After he made the discovery, Mr Crowe brought his find to the Manx Museum in Douglas.
Following Wednesday's ruling, MNH will now take a decision whether or not to acquire the items for the national collection.
If that is the case they will be valued and a reward offered to the finder.
Mr Crowe said any reward would be split 50-50 with the land owner.

700,000 year old horse gets its genome sequenced

It is nothing short of a world record in DNA research that scientists at the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark (University of Copenhagen) have hit. They have sequenced the so far oldest genome from a prehistoric creature. They have done so by sequencing and analysing short pieces of DNA molecules preserved in bone-remnants from a horse that had been kept frozen for the last 700.000 years in the permafrost of Yukon, Canada.
By tracking the genomic changes that transformed prehistoric wild horses into domestic breeds, the researchers have revealed the genetic make-up of modern horses with unprecedented details. The spectacular results are now published in the international scientific journal Nature.
DNA molecules can survive in fossils well after an organism dies. Not as whole chromosomes, but as short pieces that could be assembled back together, like a puzzle. Sometimes enough molecules survive so that the full genome sequence of extinct species could be resurrected and over the last years, the full genome sequence of a few ancient humans and archaic hominins has been characterized. But so far, none dated back to before 70,000 years.

700.000 years of evolution of the horse lineage

Now Dr. Ludovic Orlando and Professor Eske Willerslev from the Centre for GeoGenetics have beaten this DNA-record by about 10 times. Thereby the two researchers – in collaboration with Danish and international colleagues – have been able to track major genomic changes over the last 700.000 years of evolution of the horse lineage.
Dr. Ludovic Orlando and professor Eske Willerslev, both of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, have sequenced the genome of the oldest horse ever found on Earth. Bone fragments from a 700,000 year old nag excavated in Yukon, Canada, had enough DNA in them to reveal new aspects of the evolutionary history of the horse. Image: Uffe Wilken/University of Copenhagen
Dr. Ludovic Orlando and professor Eske Willerslev, both of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, have sequenced the genome of the oldest horse ever found on Earth. Bone fragments from a 700,000 year old nag excavated in Yukon, Canada, had enough DNA in them to reveal new aspects of the evolutionary history of the horse. Image: Uffe Wilken/University of Copenhagen
First, by comparing the genome in the 700,000 year old horse with the genome of a 43,000 year old horse, six present day horses and a donkey the researchers could estimate how fast mutations accumulate through time and calibrate a genome-wide mutation rate. This revealed that the last common ancestor of all modern equids was living about 4.0-4.5 million years ago. Therefore, the evolutionary radiation underlying the origin of horses, donkeys and zebras reaches back in time twice as long as previously thought. Additionally, this new clock revealed multiple episodes of severe demographic fluctuation in horse history, in phase with major climatic changes such as the Last Glacial Maximum, some 20,000 years ago.

The world’s only wild horse

The results also put an happy end to a long discussion about the so-called Przewalski’s Horse from the Mongolian steppes. This horse population was discovered by the Western world in the second half of the nineteenth century and rapidly became threatened. It almost became extinct in the wild by the 1970s but has survived until now following massive conservation efforts. The evolutionary origin of this horse, that shows striking physical differences compared to domesticated horses, as well as an extra-pair of chromosomes, remained a mystery.
The researchers reveal now that the Przewalski’s horse population became isolated from the lineage leading to the present day domesticated horses about 50.000 years ago. As the scientists could detect similar levels of genetic diversity within the Przewalski’s Horse genome than in the genomes of several domestic breeds, this suggests that the Przewalski’s Horses are likely genetically viable and therefore worthy of conservation efforts.

True Single DNA Molecule Sequencing

The geological context and dating information available was very strong and was built on about ten years of field work. Additionally, cold conditions, such as those from the Arctic permafrost, are known to be favourable for DNA preservation. But even so:
- Sequencing the first genome from the Middle Pleistocene was by no means straightforward, says Dr Ludovic Orlando who, together with his team, spent the most of the last three years on this project.
The researchers first got excited when they detected the signature of those amino-acids that are most abundant in the collagen as this could indicate that proteins had survived in situ. They even got more excited when they succeeding in directly sequencing collagen peptides. When they detected blood proteins, it really started looking promising because those are barely preserved. At that stage, it could well be that ancient DNA could also be preserved.
And indeed DNA was present. In tiny amount as the vast majority of sequences generated actually originated from environmental micro-organisms living in the bone. But with Helicos true Single DNA Molecule Sequencing, the researchers managed to identify molecular preservation niches in the bone and experimental conditions that enabled finishing the full genome sequence.
This was methodologically challenging but clearly some parameters worked better than others“, says Professor Eske Willerslev. “But sequencing was just half the way really“. Professor Willerslev continues:
Because 700,000 years of evolution and damage, it is not something that does come without any modification to the DNA sequence itself. We had to improve our ability to identify modified and divergent ancient horse sequences by aligning them to the genome of present day horses“.
Quite a computational challenge, especially when the level of DNA modification outcompasses that seen in any other Arctic horses from the Late Pleistocene“. Dr. Orlando explains:
Levels of base modifications were extremely high, for some regions even so high that every single cytosine was actually damaged. This, and the phylogenetic position of the ancient horse outside the diversity of any horse ever sequenced, provided clear evidence that the data was real“.
Professor Willerslev adds:
The results of the studies and the applied techniques open up new doors for the exploration of prehistoric living creatures. Now with genomics and proteomics, we can reach ten times further back in time compared to before. And new knowledge about the horse’s evolutionary history has been added – a history which is considered as a classical example in evolutionary biology and a topic which is taught in high schools and universities“.
Source: University of Copenhagen

Unearthing Tuscaloosa’s early history

University of Alabama archaeologists are getting a glimpse of what life in Tuscaloosa might have been like more than 180 years ago. From bottles and porcelain pieces to soil and flotation samples taken from privies, or outhouses, the analysts are discovering many “stories” of Tuscaloosa’s past.
For the past two months, UA’s Office of Archaeological Research has been analysing artefacts found at the former City Fest lot, located on the corner of University Boulevard and Greensboro Avenue. The University was contracted by the City of Tuscaloosa to perform an archaeological investigation per federal guidelines in preparation for construction of a new Embassy Suites hotel

Early 19th century foundations

Beginning in January, project director Brandon Thompson and his team began investigating the “Bank of the State site.” In February, they stripped the remaining parking lot and exposed some “incredible” features, including many foundation remains from buildings that date back to before 1820, said Matt Gage, director of the Office of Archaeological Research.
Initial occupation of the site dates to 1816 when Revolutionary War veteran John Click built a log cabin on the property. However, he never got a deed to the property and lost it to John McKee in 1823. McKee was the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw agent at the time, as well as a land surveyor, and he had helped lay out the city of Tuscaloosa, Gage said.
Over the years, the property was home to numerous businesses, including Augustin Lynch’s cabinet manufactory. Known as one of the most important Antebellum furniture makers of the time, Gage said Lynch provided furniture for the Capitol building – at the time located only a few blocks to the west – and for some of the early University of Alabama buildings.

Ivory billiard balls and foreign currency

He also created ivory billiard balls and sold them to people in Washington, D.C. Gage said they discovered ivory on the site, as well as rusted tools such as saw blades and drills.
The Bank of the State was built on the property in 1829, and Gage said they found some beautiful decorative pieces from that building, as well as a few Spanish coins. The coins are reales minted in Brazil, Guatemala City and Mexico City. The coins were found in pits containing British gun flints and early bottles closer to where Click’s log cabin had been, so Gage predicted they were either associated with traders coming through Tuscaloosa or early dealings with the Bank of the State.
“In the early 1800s, foreign currency was used as frequently as coinage minted in the country,” he said. “There were so few mints in the U.S. at the time, any currency of monetary value made of gold, silver or copper was given value and could be exchanged as easily as currency minted in the U.S.”
The property also housed an ice factory, numerous shanties and other dwellings, a hotel and the Drish building, which was initially used as a warehouse and then a Civil War prisoner-of-war facility. Artefacts discovered included various bottles (including those that held food, as well as drink and medicine), buttons, porcelain pieces, printing press letters, early smoking pipes, architectural elements from the buildings and more.

Wells and privies hold a wealth of information

A gold mine for archaeologists when it comes to historical sites are wells and privies, said Gage, and they found several on this site, including some that had been used by the Union soldiers housed at the Civil War prison. Using soil and flotation samples from the privies, analysts can determine everything from what individuals were eating to how they were being treated, he added.
It’s just a wealth of information,” Gage said.
Tuscaloosa has a very rich history. When you think of the early history of Tuscaloosa, even though the state capitol was here, you still figure that it was a small little enclave, people going about their lives with a predominant lifestyle involving agriculture, but commerce is a major aspect of this block,” Gage said.
There are so many elements of this site that provide a fantastic glimpse of the past and knowing that past is incredibly important. You can never know who or what you are without knowing your history.”

Throwing with speed and accuracy an uniquely human adaptation

It’s easy to marvel at the athleticism required to throw a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, but when Neil Roach watches baseball, he sees something else at work – evolution.
That ability – to throw an object with great speed and accuracy – is an uniquely human adaptation, one that Roach believes was crucial in our evolutionary past. How, when and why humans evolved the ability to throw so well is the subject of a study published in the journal Nature. The team found that a suite of changes to our shoulders and arms allowed early humans to more efficiently hunt by throwing projectiles, helping our ancestors become part-time carnivores and paving the way for a host of later adaptations, including increases in brain size and migration out of Africa.

Why are humans so uniquely good at throwing?

When we started this research, there were essentially two questions we asked – one of them was why are humans so uniquely good at throwing, while all other creatures including our chimpanzee cousins are not,” said Roach. “The other question was: How do we do it? What is it about our body that enables this behaviour, and can we identify those changes in the fossil record?”
What they found, Roach said, were a suite of physical changes – such as the lowering and widening of the shoulders, an expansion of the waist, and a twisting of the humerus – that make humans especially good at throwing.
While some of those changes occurred earlier during human evolution, Lieberman said it wasn’t until the appearance of Homo erectus, approximately 2 million years ago, that they all appeared together. The same period is also marked by some of the earliest signs of effective hunting, suggesting that the ability to throw an object very fast and very accurately played a critical role in human’s ability to rise to the top of the food chain.
The ability to throw was one of a handful of changes that enabled us to become carnivores, which then triggered a host of changes that occurred later in our evolution,” Lieberman said. “If we were not good at throwing and running and a few other things, we would not have been able to evolve our large brains, and all the cognitive abilities such as language that come with it. If it were not for our ability to throw, we would not be who we are today.

Chimps throw as a part of display behaviour

To start unpacking the evolutionary origins of throwing, Roach began not by studying how humans throw, but how our closest relatives – chimpanzees – do.
Though they’re known to throw objects (often feces) underhand, chimps, on rare occasions, do throw overhand, but those throws are far less accurate and powerful than those of the average Little League pitcher, Roach said. Additionally, chimps throw as a part of display behaviour and never when hunting.
Part of the reason for chimpanzee’s poor throwing performance, Lieberman said, is tied to their technique, which in turn is limited by their anatomy. “Chimps throw overhand using either a dart throwing motion, where the elbow is extended, or much like a cricket bowler, where their elbow is kept straight and they generate force by swinging their shoulder“, Lieberman said.
That led us to studying cricket bowlers and trying to understand what happens when you keep your arm straight, and why that diminishes your throwing ability,” Roach said. “Eventually, we began to think that changes in the way the shoulder is oriented with regards to the rest of the body could change the way you generate force when you’re throwing.”

Harvard Baseball team

To explore those physical changes, Roach and colleagues began by creating a complex model that incorporated current research about the biomechanics of throwing. Using that model, they were able to explore how morphological changes to the body – wider shoulders, arms that are higher or lower on the body, the ability to twist the upper body independently of the hips and legs, and the anatomy of the humerus – effect throwing performance.
In addition to the modelling, Roach performed a series of real-world experiments in Lieberman’s Skeletal Biology Lab using members of the Harvard Baseball team and a host of braces designed to limit their movements.
The idea, Roach explained, was that by restricting certain motions, the players would be forced into a more primitive condition, giving him the opportunity to see how different anatomical shifts contribute to the mechanics of modern throwing.
Armed with a method known as inverse dynamics, Roach and colleagues were able to not only quantify how much restricting certain types of movements affected throwing performance, but were able to trace the effect to specific changes in the mechanics of each player.
We try to push these bits of anatomy back in time, if you will, to see how that affects performance,” Roach said. “The important thing about our experiments is that they went beyond just being able to measure how the restriction affects someone’s ability to throw fast and accurately – they allowed us to to figure out the underlying physics. For example, when a thrower’s velocity dropped by 10 percent, we could trace that change back to where it occurred.”
In order to test our evolutionary hypotheses, we needed to link the changes we’d seen in the fossil record to performance in terms of throwing,” he continued. “This type of analysis allowed us to do that.”

Three key physical changes

What they found were three key physical changes that helped to make fast, accurate throwing possible.
Evolutionary changes in the shoulder show that, as a pitcher cocks their arm back, “what they’re doing is stretching the ligaments and tendons that run across their shoulder,” Roach said. “Those tendons and ligaments get loaded up like the elastic bands on a slingshot, and late in the throw they release that energy rapidly and forcefully to rotate the upper arm with extraordinary speed and force.” That rotation is the fastest motion the human body can produce. “The rotation of the humerus can reach up to 9,000 degrees-per-second, which generates an incredible amount of energy, causing you to rapidly extend your elbow, producing a very fast throw“, Roach said.
Among the evolutionary changes that proved key to generating a powerful throwing motions, he said, was a twist in the bone of the upper arm and an expanded, mobile waist, which both gave early humans the ability to store up and then release more of this elastic energy
The linchpin is really what’s going on with the shoulder,” Roach said. “When you see the shift from a chimpanzee shoulder to a more relaxed human-like shoulder, that enables this massive energy storage. Many of the evolutionary changes we studied, whether in the torso or the wrist, may predate Homo erectus, but when we see that final change in the shoulder, that’s what brings it all together.”

How much throwing is too much?

While the findings help shed light on a critical phase of human evolution, they also hint at a possible solution to a hotly debated question in sports: When it comes to young players, how much throwing is too much?
It’s a tough question to answer,” Roach said. “The real difference, from an evolutionary perspective, is the frequency with which some folks throw now. To successfully learn to throw and use that ability to hunt, our ancestors would need to throw often, but nothing like the 100 or more high speed throws that some baseball pitchers throw now in the span of a couple of hours.”
I think it’s really a case of what we evolved to do being superseded by what we’re now asking athletes to do,” he continued. “Athletes are overusing this capability that gave early humans an evolutionary advantage, and they’re overusing it to the point that injuries are common.”

A uniquely human adaptation

Ultimately, Lieberman said, the evidence points to one clear conclusion – the ability to throw with speed and accuracy is a uniquely human adaptation, one that played an immeasurably important role in human development.
Recent research indicates that stone points – the oldest kind of spear point – are about 500,000 years old,” he said. “But people have been killing animals for at least 2 million years, and eating animals for about 2.6 million years.”
That means that for about 1.5 million years, when people hunted, they basically had nothing more lethal to throw than a pointed wooden stick,” he continued. “If you want to kill something with that, you have to be able to throw that pretty hard, and you have to be accurate. Imagine how important it must have been to our ancestors to throw hard and fast.”
The study was led by Neil Roach, who recently received his Ph.D. from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and is now a postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University, with Madhusudhan Venkadesan of NCBS at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Michael Rainbow of the Spaulding National Running Center, and Daniel Lieberman, the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences at Harvard.

19 monuments found in Chactun give archaeologists new data about the ancient city

MEXICO CITY.- The 19 steles found in the ancient Mayan city of Chactun, recently discovered in the southeast of Campeche, will allow archaeologists to collect new data about the ancient inhabitants of this region, located north of the River Bec, of which we know little about. The archaeologist and epigraphist Octavio Esparza Olguin signaled that epigraphic registries are not abundant in this region, which is why the pieces found are of such importance.

The expert in epigraphy, who is part of the expedition endorsed by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and who advanced deep into the Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul, explained that from the pieces found at the site, three are in a good state of conservation, and seven still allow the observation of hieroglyphic writing, although its conservation state is so precarious that events and precise dates are difficult to appreciate. Another nine remain severely eroded.

Esparza Olguien said that it’s exceptional that Stele 1 still has stucco remains, because this material is rarely conserved in tropical weather after so long. The piece gives name to the place, since it makes reference to a “Red Stone” or “Big Stone”, which was set up by a character named K’ihnich B’ahlam, in the year 751 AD.

Octavio Esparza, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said that many of the pieces found at the site –which flourished in the Late Classic period (600 through 900 AD)– were reused some time later. “The majority of the fragments were placed in the ball courts and the plazas in the West and Southeast”.

The epigraphist mentioned that Stele 14 is a clear example of how this site was used by later civilizations, since it was buried and a wall was attached to its front, which prevents archaeologists from seeing the character clearly, although a long calendar date corresponding to 731 AD and part of a lunar cycle can be distinguished.

They also found remains of late offerings in some monuments, such as the case of Stele 1, where it was possible to rescue some ceramic censers that were deposited towards the end of the Late Classic period or beginning the Posclassic period (900 through 1200 AD). “Many of these pieces –added the expert– where placed by people who were on a pilgrimage as an act of respect, although they probably didn’t understand the meaning of the hieroglyphic texts”.

Jews buried in 13th century Spanish cemetery ‘well preserved’

JTA) — A Spanish historian who identified and catalogued 107 tombs in a 13th-century Jewish cemetery in Toledo said the remains were “well preserved.”

The cemetery was partially unearthed in 2008, but the delineation and archaeological study of the graves was only recently completed, according to the Spanish news agency, EFE.

The archaeologist leading the excavations, Arturo Ruiz Taboada, told EFE earlier this month that the people buried in the 107 Jewish tombs were “well preserved” and deposited unusually deep in the ground, some over 9 feet from ground level. The identity of many of those buried at the site remains unknown.

The deep burial may have been to ensure that the Jews were not buried with the remains of others, Jews and non-Jews alike, who had been buried in the area, Taboada told the news agency.

Taboada said that some burial plots contained whole families, including several tombs where mothers were buried with newborn infants.

Archaeologists first learned of the cemetery’s existence in 2008, when human bones were found in the grounds of a local school. The Spanish government began excavating there but stopped following protests by Jewish groups.

Local authorities in Toledo — a major center of Jewish life before the expulsion of Spain’s Jewish communities in 1492 — had offered to hand over the bones for reburial at another site, but eventually they were reburied in 2011 at the same cemetery at the request of the local Jewish community and European Jewish groups.

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History records the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, but archaeologists never have found evidence of the famine that plagued Jews

Jewish Press

Evidence of Siege in Jerusalem
History records the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, but archaeologists never have found evidence of the famine that plagued Jews – until now.
By: Jewish Press Staff
This small ceramic lamp was probably used by Jews hiding in the Great Revolt during the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago
Photo Credit: IAA; Vladimir Naykhin

Archaeological excavations near the Western Wall have unearthed three complete cooking pots and a small ceramic oil lamp that are the first pieces of evidence of the Jewish famine during the revolt during the siege of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is digging up history in excavations of the drainage channel that runs from the Shiloah Pool in the City of David to Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall.

“This is the first time we are able to connect archaeological finds with the famine that occurred during the siege of Jerusalem at the time of the Great Revolt,” said excavation director Eli Shukrun.

The complete cooking pots and ceramic oil lamp, discovered inside a small cistern in a drainage channel, indicate that the people went down into the cistern where they secretly ate the food that was contained in the pots, without anyone seeing them, and this is consistent with the account provided by Josephus,” he explained.

In his book “The Jewish War,” Josephus describes the Roman siege of Jerusalem and in its wake the dire hunger that prevailed in the blockaded city.

In his dramatic description of the famine in Jerusalem he tells about the Jewish rebels who sought food in the homes of their fellow Jews in the city. Josephus said that the Jews concealed the food they possessed for fear it would be stolen by the rebels, and they ate in hidden places in their homes.

“As the famine grew worse, the frenzy of the partisans increased with it…. Nowhere was there corn to be seen, men broke into the houses and ransacked them. If they found some, they maltreated the occupants for saying there was none; if they did not, they suspected them of having hidden it more carefully and tortured them,” Josephus wrote.

“Many secretly exchanged their possessions for one measure of corn-wheat if they happened to be rich, barley if they were poor. They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of the their houses, where some through extreme hunger ate their grain as it was, others made bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a tab

The artifacts will be on display in a study conference on the City of David next Thursday.

le laid…”

martes, 25 de junio de 2013

Archaeologists find evidence of Highland Clearance violence

A smashed pot uncovered at the site of an 1800s longhouse could be evidence of a potentially violent eviction, archaeologists have suggested.
Hundreds of the homes were abandoned during the Highland Clearances, when families were moved off land to make way for large-scale sheep production.
Thatched roofs of longhouses were set on fire and walls toppled to prevent people from moving back into them.
The pot at Lower Caen in Sutherland was found under a collapsed wall.
Archaeologists have been excavating the site as part of a wider Timespan Museum-led project exploring the Clearances.
Site director Dr Keir Strickland, of Orkney College UHI, said pieces of broken pottery were found directly under the wall.
He said: "It really suggests the pot was dropped, smashed in place and there was no time to pick up the pieces and the wall has then come down almost immediately, or certainly within days."
Dr Strickland added: "There is a sense of, if not violence, then a very forceful eviction and demolition of buildings to prevent people coming back to this place."
Severe winter Academics from various universities, including Durham, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the University of the Highlands and Islands, are involved in the excavation.
A feature of the Clearances in Sutherland was the displacement of about 100 people from the Strath of Kildonan in 1813.
Several of the families sailed to Hudson Bay, in north east Canada, where they were forced to build their own shelters to protect themselves against severe winter conditions.
The following spring, they set off on foot for the Red River Settlement around Lake Winnipeg in Canada, where Scottish aristocrat, the Earl of Selkirk, had promised them land.
Many made the 100 mile (161km) journey in handmade snowshoes.
Surviving examples of thatched longhouses include The Corr at Latheron, near Wick in Caithness.

Roman townhouse 'underneath Lincoln Castle'

A Roman townhouse is probably located underneath Lincoln Castle, according to archaeologists digging at the site.
The team have already reached the foundations of the Norman phase of the castle during their work.
Archaeologist Cecily Spall said the dig had reached a depth of 3.5m with another half-metre of digging left to complete.
The area is being excavated prior to a revamp of the castle.

Lincoln Castle

Skeleton found at Lincoln Castle
  • A Roman fort was built at the site in about AD 60
  • The Romans abandoned Lincoln and Britain in AD 410
  • William the Conqueror built Lincoln Castle in 1068 on the site of the Roman fortress
  • For 900 years the castle was used as a court and prison
"We have been working since September - and have reached the level of the Norman castle - from the mid 11th Century," Ms Spall said.
She said they had found evidence of timber-framed buildings which may have been part of a medieval stable block.
"We expect we will find a Roman townhouse at about 4m depth below ground level," she added.
Lincolnshire County Council aims to refurbish the castle so it can become a major tourist attraction.
Ms Spall said: "We will gradually piece together using the artefacts that we find.
"We have found an enormous amount of animal bones and pottery and this can tell us an enormous amount about the lifestyle of the castle inhabitants, including what they were eating, how high status they were and how rich they were."
A previously undiscovered church, thought to be at least 1,000 years old, has also been found beneath the castle.
It is believed the stone church was built in the Anglo-Saxon period, after the Romans left Britain and before the Norman conquest of 1066.
The finds will form part of an exhibition at the castle.

Royal Rhynie focus of Pictish excavation

A team from the University of Aberdeen commenced digging at Rhynie, Aberdeenshire in Scotland – a site famous for its impressive collection of carved Pictish standing stones.
Knowledge of the Pictish kingdoms, which developed between the 5th and 11th centuries, is relatively poor with the standing stones some of the only relics remaining of the once powerful people.
Rhynie boasts eight such stones, including the Craw Stone, which is thought to have been the centre point of an elaborate fortified settlement of the 5th-6th centuries AD.

A very royal place

Since 2011 Aberdeen and Chester universities have been uncovering dramatic evidence concerning the stones at Rhynie”, explained project leader Dr Gordon Noble of the University of Aberdeen. “Rhynie derives from ‘rhynnoid’, which means ‘a very royal place’, which is fitting considering what’s been uncovered there over the last few yea
“After just two small-scale seasons of evaluation, it is clear how important this site is. It includes exceptional material including the northernmost European examples of Mediterranean Late Roman Amphorae (large, usually ceramic vessels, for carrying wine and oil) imports, which lie far outside the normal distribution of Mediterranean wares in Britain and Ireland in the early medieval period. The imports are of a type only found on high status, normally royal, sites in western Britain and Ireland.
“Other finds from the site include the only confirmed early medieval metalworking tongs known from Scotland and moulds for making precious metal objects – metalworking was another indicator of power in early medieval Scotland. The imports along with the presence of evidence for fine metalworking, suggest that Rhynie is an extremely unusual site, and illustrate a picture of long-distance contacts and a sophisticated Pictish power centre.”

A community focus

The Pictish symbol stones remain something of a mystery as they have never been translated, with interpretations of their meanings many and varied.
The dig team will return to Rhynie on June 24 for two weeks to undertake further work on the archaeology of the village and the early medieval landscape. They will be focussing the excavation on two square enclosures on the outskirts of the village near where a number of symbol stones were found and could be associated with cist burials found in the village in the 19th century.
This excavation will involve members of the public and students working alongside the University academics,” explained Dr Noble. “The community focus is of utmost importance this year and locals and visitors will be invited to attend a café event where they can see further information on the project and the artefacts. There will also be daily tours of the dig site, after school Pictish arts and crafts workshops, a souvenir exchange arts project and a public talk”.

Search continues for Roman fort of the northern frontier

Archaeologists will next week begin the search for an elusive Roman fort believed to be located somewhere in the northeast of Scotland.
Dr Birgitta Hoffmann, Co-Director of The Roman Gask Project, based at the University of Liverpool, will lead a team of experienced volunteers in their search for a Roman fort which is believed to exist, but has been ‘missing’ for almost 2,000 years. It’s not certain that a fort actually exists, but if it does, it is likely to lie somewhere between the last known (and most northerly) fort at Stracathro (Brechin) and the northeast coast.

Rome’s first frontier

Locating the fort would be the first such discovery beyond the Antonine Wall in 30 years, and would form another piece of the Gask frontier. The Gask Ridge system was constructed sometime between 70 and 80 CE long before either Hadrian’s Wall (122-130 CE), and the Antonine Wall (142-144 CE). Although the Gask Ridge was not an unbroken defensive wall, it may be Rome’s earliest fortified land frontier based on forts and watchtowers along a military road. Blocking the glens with garrisoned forts disrupted the Caledonian tribes ability to raid the fertile lowlands and effectively created a border between Roman occupied lands and the north and west.
This Roman land frontier stretches from just north of Stirling up to Stracathro. The frontier comprises of a series of Roman forts and watchtowers, with a legionary fortress near Blairgowrie.

Using the latest techniques

The archaeologists will be using a variety of non-invasive techniques to investigate various sites. Any sites which have the potential to be Roman will then be investigated by the Project from the air later in the year, with the potential for a follow up excavation in 2014.
Dr Hoffmann described the survey as exciting, commenting ,
“We know they built forts as far north as Brechin, and we even have evidence that they marched as far as Elgin, but that’s it, but we think there’s much more than that. The problem is that they weren’t around long enough to build buildings out of stone, instead they used timber and turf which tends to disappear over time. So instead of just looking for lumps and bumps in the ground, we have to look at the local geography, old settlements, and a host of other evidence which will help us to pinpoint likely sites.
“People are always surprised when I tell them about the Roman occupation of the area – they think the Romans never got any further than the Antonine Wall or even Hadrian’s Wall. The truth is, we don’t know how far north they got, but we’re hoping that the work of The Roman Gask Project will change that this year.”
The Roman Gask Project has been running since 1995, and during that time revealed an ever changing picture to the northern frontier.
Source: Roman Gask Project

martes, 18 de junio de 2013

Tusculum, una ciudad olvidada a las puertas de Roma, descubierta por el CSIC

Ángel Gómez Fuentes 
Una especie de pequeña Pompeya medieval está saliendo a la luz a menos de 30 kilómetros al sureste de Roma, gracias a las excavaciones de arqueólogos de la Escuela Española de Historia y Arqueología
Una especie de pequeña Pompeya medieval está saliendo a la luz a menos de 30 kilómetros al sureste de Roma, gracias a las excavaciones de arqueólogos de la Escuela Española de Historia y Arqueología en Roma—CSIC. Se trata de la antigua ciudad de Tusculum, tantas veces citada por Cicerón como el «antiquissimum muncipium».  

El origen de la ciudad se sitúa entre los siglos X y VIII a.C., convirtiéndose posteriormente en una urbe próspera que llegó a competir en época antigua con Roma por la supremacía política y económica del territorio. Fue lugar de residencia del poderoso linaje de los condes de Tusculum, familia aristocrática a la que pertenecen algunos de los más importantes personajes de los siglos centrales de la Edad Media, y de la que surgieron tres pontífices: Benedicto VIII, Juan XIX y Benedicto IX, que se sucedieron desde el año 1012 hasta el 1048.
Incluso Alejandro III residió con la curia en Tusculum durante 26 meses, entre los años 1170-1173. Era tal el poder y prosperidad de Tusculum, sobre todo por su estratégica posición que le permitía el control de importantes vías de comunicación, que Roma se planteó su destrucción, y tras numerosos asaltos a lo largo de 30 años, terminó arrasándola en el 1191 y consiguiendo que se perdiese hasta la memoria de su ubicación.

«Una ciudad olvidada a las puertas»

«El mismo Petrarca, en el siglo XIV, buscaba la antigua ciudad tantas veces citadas por las fuentes clásicas. De hecho, tras ser arrasada, no volvió a ser ocupada, conservándose sus restos no alterados por ocupaciones posteriores. De ahí que Tusculum ofrezca una
oportunidad extraordinaria para estudiar la evolución de su urbanismo y arquitectura y para conocer qué producían y cómo vivían sus habitantes, cuál era su alimentación, tipos de cultivos, cabañas ganaderas y sus prácticas agrícolas. Hemos encontrado, por ejemplo, cebada en los restos que hemos estudiado y seguramente encontremos otros cereales así como distintas evidencias de los recursos vegetales utilizados por los Tusculanos», dice a ABC la directora del proyecto de excavaciones Leonor Peña-Chocarro.
Nuevos detalles salen a la luz. La Escuela Española de Historia y Arqueología en Roma acaba de realizar una campaña de excavaciones en Tusculum, con la colaboración de varios grupos de investigación de arqueólogos, arqueobotánicos, arqueozoólogos, geólogos, topógrafos e ingenieros españoles e italianos, despertando ya el interés de los expertos. 

Así, por primera vez, salen a la luz detalles hasta ahora desconocidos sobre la ciudad medieval y las costumbres de su sociedad. «Se trata de un proyecto multidisciplinar que involucra a investigadores que trabajan en diferentes ámbitos científicos, permitiendo cruzar datos que enriquecen la visión de conjunto del funcionamiento de la ciudad. Por ejemplo, hemos podido determinar que era gente que vivía muy bien porque tenía una dieta muy rica, destacando el consumo de animales jóvenes. Esto era muy raro en esa época, ya que lo habitual en otras zonas era utilizar los animales como fuerza de trabajo y se mataban cuando eran viejos», comenta a ABC Valeria Beolchini, investigadora del Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC).
El estudio que está realizando la investigadora del CCHS-CSIC Marta Moreno García está revelando la enorme cantidad de especies animales -vacas, ciervos, jabalíes, ovejas y sobre todo cabras, además de aves, como gallinas- que se consumían, así como las practicas de transformación de los alimentos, según nos comenta Leonor Peña-Chocarro. 

Así, por primera vez, salen a la luz detalles hasta ahora desconocidos sobre la ciudad medieval y las costumbres de su sociedad. «Se trata de un proyecto multidisciplinar que involucra a investigadores que trabajan en diferentes ámbitos científicos, permitiendo cruzar datos que enriquecen la visión de conjunto del funcionamiento de la ciudad. Por ejemplo, hemos podido determinar que era gente que vivía muy bien porque tenía una dieta muy rica, destacando el consumo de animales jóvenes. Esto era muy raro en esa época, ya que lo habitual en otras zonas era utilizar los animales como fuerza de trabajo y se mataban cuando eran viejos», comenta a ABC Valeria Beolchini, investigadora del Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC).
El estudio que está realizando la investigadora del CCHS-CSIC Marta Moreno García está revelando la enorme cantidad de especies animales -vacas, ciervos, jabalíes, ovejas y sobre todo cabras, además de aves, como gallinas- que se consumían, así como las practicas de transformación de los alimentos, según nos comenta Leonor Peña-Chocarro. 

 Estos importantes descubrimientos son fruto de un trabajo multidisciplinar, en el que colaboran con el CSIC las universidades de Zaragoza, Alicante, Chieti-Pescara, Roma “La Sapienza” y Modena. Cuentan con los más modernos y sofisticados sistemas de investigación: un equipo del “International Research School of Planetary Science” ha llevado a cabo una serie de vuelos con un dron, que han permitido obtener una cartografía digital detallada del territorio. Colabora también la Agencia Espacial Europea que pone a disposición los datos satelitares, fundamentales para la prospección sistemática de la superficie de Tusculum, como comenta Pilar Diarte Blasco, investigadora del proyecto y experta de nuevas tecnologías aplicadas a la arqueología.

Parque arqueológico

Estos descubrimientos de Tusculum están despertando el entusiasmo de la XI Comunidad Montana del Lazio, que agrupa 13 pueblos que quieren fomentar un proyecto de parque arqueológico único en Europa. Sus dirigentes elogian constantemente el rigor y la seriedad de los investigadores españoles. Toda la zona ayuda como puede, contribuyendo en la logística e incluso participando en las excavaciones con voluntarios.
«Nuestro objetivo es recuperar la historia de una ciudad que tiene veinte siglos de continuidad en el mismo sitio. Es un caso único, porque no existen estos modelos a tu disposición. Generalmente se construye ciudad sobre ciudad. En Tusculum, al ser arrasada, la gente se marchó dejando atrás la ciudad. Y ahora, a través de distintos estratos, podemos llegar hasta el siglo X antes de Cristo», manifiesta a ABC Fernando García Sanz, director de la Escuela Española de Historia y Arqueología en Roma. 

 El cambio fundamental respecto a la investigación que han realizado arqueólogos españoles en Tusculum desde el 1994, centrados en el área monumental de época pre-romana y romana, es que ahora se ha ampliado el horizonte histórico hasta época medieval, concentrando la investigación en un área inédita de Tusculum como es la Acrópolis, en la parte alta, con importantes descubrimientos gracias también a la aplicación a la investigación arqueológica de las más novedosas tecnologías.

Investigación a coste cero

El resultado es casi milagroso, porque la investigación, modélica y ejemplar en su género, se realiza prácticamente a coste casi cero. «Contamos con una modesta financiación del Ministerio de Educación. Pero el resultado es extraordinario, porque investigadores españoles están trabajando en el mayor campo internacional sobre humanidades que es Roma, y desde aquí nuestras actividades se difunden al resto de los centros internacionales establecidos en Roma y a toda Europa», nos dice el historiador Fernando García Sanz, quien concluye orgulloso: «Estamos recuperando la historia. Vamos a devolverles su pasado a los tusculanos. Es algo fantástico». Es descubrir una ciudad espejo de Roma, que permaneció arrasada, con sus cimientos intactos. Como Pompeya.

sábado, 15 de junio de 2013

La apertura del tesoro

El MARQ empieza a montar las piezas de la exposición 'El reino de la sal. 7.000 años de historia en Hallstatt'

c. martínez/video: rafa arjones

Nueva muestra. El próximo viernes el MARQ abrirá sus puertas a la exposición El reino de la sal. 7.000 años de historia en Hallstatt, una muestra procedente del Museo de Historia Natural de Austria que trae por primera vez a España piezas de bronce, cerámica y, sobre todo, material orgánico conservado gracias a las propiedades de ese producto.
Llegaron el pasado domingo. Tres camiones con el mobiliario y uno con las piezas. El trayecto se inició en el Museo de Historia Natural de Viena y acabó en el MARQ, donde ahora se trabaja en el desembalaje, revisión y registro de este fondo, y en su colocación en las tres salas temporales del museo alicantino. La inauguración tendrá lugar el viernes y estará abierta hasta el 6 de enero. En esos casi seis meses, el público podrá ver por primera vez en España esta exposición que bajo el título El reino de la sal. 7.000 años de historia en Hallstatt reúne algunos de los objetos aparecidos en ese yacimiento austríaco, considerado uno de los emplazamientos arqueológicos más destacados de Europa.
Lo que hace único a este yacimiento es que la sal, además de un producto de comercio y riqueza se convirtió en un conservador de primera magnitud. Si la mina de donde se extraía la sal es un centro de investigación en sí mismo, no lo es menos el cementerio de inicios de la Edad del Hierro, del siglo VIII antes de Cristo. En ambos lugares lo sorprendente para los arqueólogos fue encontrarse objetos en perfecta conservación gracias a las propiedades de la sal.
Este es el caso de algunas de las piezas que desembalaron ayer dos de los cuatro correos que han acompañado a los fondos: Anton Kern, jefe del departamento de Prehistoria del museo austríaco, y Reinhard Golebiowski, jefe de exposiciones de ese centro.
Dos cascos de bronce, un cazo para rituales, un vaso con decoración zoomórfica que sale por primera vez de Austria; una vasija; una cerámica y un parásito que corresponde a unos huevos que se encontraron en unos excrementos del cementerio de Hallstatt, son algunas de las piezas que ayer pasaron ya a las vitrinas del MARQ, una vez que los técnicos de ambos museos certificaron su óptimo estado.

domingo, 9 de junio de 2013

New North America Viking Voyage Discovered

Some 1,000 years ago, the Vikings set off on a voyage to Notre Dame Bay in modern-day Newfoundland, Canada, new evidence suggests.
The journey would have taken the Vikings, also called the Norse, from L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the same island to a densely populated part of Newfoundland and may have led to the first contact between Europeans and the indigenous people of the New World.
"This area of Notre Dame Bay was as good a candidate as any for that first contact between the Old World and the New World, and that's kind of an exciting thing," said Kevin Smith, deputy director and chief curator of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University.

Evidence of the voyage was discovered by a combination of archaeological excavation and chemical analysis of two jasper artifacts that the Norse used to light fires. The analysis, presented at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Honolulu, suggests the jasper used in the artifacts came from the area of Notre Dame Bay. [See Images of the Viking Voyage Discovery]
The jasper artifacts were found L'Anse aux Meadows and the Norse explorers likely set out from that outpost. They would've headed due south, traveling some 143 miles (230 kilometers) to Notre Dame Bay. When they reached their destination Norse would have set foot in an area of Newfoundland that modern-day researchers know was well inhabited.
"This area of Notre Dame Bay [is] archaeologically the area of densest settlement on Newfoundland, at that time, of indigenous people, the ancestors of the Beothuk," a people who, at the time, lived as hunter-gatherers, Smith told LiveScience.
Aside from likely encountering the ancestral Beothuk, the Norse would probably have been impressed by the landscape itself. The coastline had fjords, inlets and offshore islands, with lots of forests. Birds, sea mammals and fish also would have been plentiful.
"For anyone coming from the nearly treeless islands of the North Atlantic, this would have potentially been a very interesting zone," Smith said. "There are a lot of trees; there's a lot of opportunities for cutting things down; it's a bit warmer; it's an interesting mix of resources," Smith said.
For any Norse voyagers who had been to Norway, it would have been familiar. It still would have made an impression though, since the lands the Norse had occupied in their journey across the North Atlantic tended to be more barren.
Researchers don't know the specifics about the contact between the Norse and the ancestral Beothuk on this voyage, presuming it actually happened. It could have been a peaceful encounter, although the Norse sagas also tell of hostile meetings with people in the New World. Also, while the possible meeting likely would have been one of the earliest Old World-New World encounters, researchers don't know if it was the very first.  [Fierce Fighters: 7 Secrets of Viking Seamen]
Norse matches
The two jasper artifacts were key pieces of evidence that helped the researchers unravel the existence of the voyage.
viking archaeology, viking voyage, norse voyage discovered
This jasper fire starter was found in 2008 only 33 feet (10 meters) away from a Norse hall at L’Anse aux Meadows, the only Norse settlement in the New World.
CREDIT: Kevin Smith.
The larger, and more recently excavated of the two, was found in 2008, only 33 feet (10 meters) away from an ancient Norse hall. The discovery was made by Priscilla Renouf, a professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and Todd Kristensen, who is now a graduate student at the University of Alberta.
"You can think of these almost as the matches of the Vikings," Smith said. The Norse would have struck them against a steel fire starter to make sparks to start a fire, he explained. As time passed, and after being struck against steel repeatedly, the jasper fire starters wore down and were thrown out.
The chemical composition of jasper varies depending on where it was obtained. To figure out where the larger jasper fire starter came from, Smith, Thomas Urban of Oxford University, and Susan Herringer of Brown University's Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World looked for the outcrops in the New (or Old) World chemically matched it. They compared the fire starter with geological samples using a handheld X-ray florescence device that can detect the chemical signature of jasper.
The results suggested the jasper originated from the area of Notre Dame Bay, somewhere along a 44-mile-long (71 km) stretch of the coast. The closest chemical match was to a geological sample from modern-day Fortune Harbor.

The second, smaller jasper piece was unearthed in the 1960s in excavations carried out by Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad, who discovered L'Anse aux Meadows. Different tests run on this piece suggested in 1999 that it also came from the Notre Dame Bay area. At the time Smith couldn’t prove it was used as a fire starter, but now believes it likely is.
Exploring the New World
Ever since the discovery of L'Anse aux Meadows nearly 50 years ago, archaeologists and historians have been trying to uncover the story of Norse exploration in the New World.
Previous research has revealed the presence of butternut seeds at L'Anse aux Meadows, indicating the Norse made a trip to the Gulf of St. Lawrence or possibly even a bit beyond. Additionally, Norse artifacts (and possibly a structure) have been discovered in the Canadian Arctic, indicating a trading relationship with the indigenous people there that might have lasted for centuries.
However, the Norse exploration outpost at L'Anse aux Meadows was in operation for no more than 10 to 25 years, archaeological evidence suggests. In fact, according to medieval Norse stories, the outpost may have been in use for just two to three years, and perhaps only seasonally, before being abandoned.
The new research, Smith said, has demonstrated there is still much to learn about Norse exploration in the New World.
"It's provocative," he said. "It's interesting to think about where this goes."

Bone Tumor Found in Neanderthal Rib

A cancer thought common to modern humans is now discovered in the fossil remains of a Croatian Neanderthal.
For the first time, a bone tumor has been found in a Neanderthal rib bone dated to about 120,000 years ago. The rib was recovered at a site near Krapina in present-day Croatia. 
The tumor, a form of cancer called fibrous dysplasia, predates previous evidence of such by more than 100,000 years. Prior to this, the earliest known bone cancers were detected in samples approximately 1,000-4,000 years old. Fibrous dysplasia in modern-day humans occurs more frequently than other bone tumors, but study author David Frayer of the University of Kansas says that the evidence for cancer almost never shows up in the human fossil record. This may be partly due to the fact that the fossil record accounts for a comparatively small sampling of human species or human ancestors.
Nevertheless, says Frayer, "This case shows that Neandertals, living in an unpolluted environment, were susceptible to the same kind of cancer as living humans."
Also, scientists have suggested from previous research that Neanderthals had average life spans that were likely half those of modern humans in developed countries, and were exposed to different environmental factors. The study concludes, "Given these factors, cases of neoplastic disease are rare in prehistoric human populations. Against this background, the identification of a more than 120,000-year-old Neandertal rib with a bone tumor is surprising, and provides insights into the nature and history of the association of humans to neoplastic disease."
The detailed research report is published in the June 5th issue of the open access journal, PLOS ONE .

jueves, 6 de junio de 2013

Looting Egypt: Abu Sir Al-Maleq

By Monica Hanna and Salima Ikram
The looting of antiquities sites, both urban and rural, is continuing throughout Egypt, contributing to the dramatic loss of the country’s heritage. Unfortunately, with police and military presence at archaeological and urban sites still insufficient, there is no one to stop the looting.
The increase in looting is allied to the worsening economic situation in Egypt, coupled with the lack of security. People still think that pharaonic sites are filled with gold and treasures, just waiting to be dug up, so now, with no one to stop them, more people are looking for the nearest place where they can go dig for gold, then other artefacts that they can sell for immediate revenue.
This idea that gold is readily available is an old and mistaken one; few pharaonic era tombs had a lot of gold, and most of those had been robbed at least 200 years ago, if not longer.
Recently, sites in Beni Suef in particular have suffered acutely from looters; in fact, if one asks to rent a car to go to Beni Suef, the drivers casually ask, “Oh, you are going to buy antiquities. I know someone who can help you,” as we know from personal experience. Abu Sir Al-Maleq is now considered the best place to buy “coloured sarcophagi”.
The image shows the remaining parts of the looted sarcophagus  (Photo by Monica Hanna)
The image shows the remaining parts of the looted sarcophagus
(Photo by Monica Hanna)
In most of the public cafés in the city centre, and particularly in Al-Wasta, antiquities dealing is a common daily practice. All one has to do is to sit in a café, look like a stranger and wait to be approached by someone who has artefacts for sale. Much of this material is probably coming from two important sites in the area, namely Al-Hiba and Abu Sir Al-Maleq.
The police has reported several cases of illicit digging at both sites. The modern village of Abu Sir Al-Maleq is of approximately 20,000 inhabitants, according to the 2006 national consensus, and lies about 10 km from Meidum. The archaeological site lies right behind the village’s church and is composed of 500 acres of land that was inhabited from at least 3250 BCE until about 700 CE, containing the entire history of Egypt until just after the Arab Conquest.
The identity of the people carrying out the looting is not certain, but they seem to be from every walk of life. In addition to local looters, organised gangs from other places in the Nile Valley are also digging at the site. Once gently undulating sand, the site is now a pock-marked lunar landscape with dense scatters of mummy wrappings pulled off bodies, and huge piles of bones. Wrapped limbs and heads of people who were buried here more than 2000 years ago now lie dismembered and scattered about the site. Obviously, several artefacts have been recovered from here; the pillagers hide their loot on-site in convenient tombs and covered by desiccated reeds and maize stalks.
Entrance to the looted tomb at Abu Air Al-Maleq (Photo by Monica Hanna)
Entrance to the looted tomb at Abu Air Al-Maleq
(Photo by Monica Hanna)
In addition to coloured sarcophagi and coffins that are offered for sale in the area, shabtis (funerary faience figurines), amulets, glazed ceramics, pots, bead necklaces, bead bracelets, and chunks of inscription, hacked out of the limestone walls, are on offer. Dealers of various levels are clearly coming to buy objects here, and then taking them to their stores or distribution points in both rural and urban locations. The smaller objects are of higher prices because they can be smuggled easier outside of Egypt while a complete sarcophagus with its mummy might be of a lower price due to the difficulty in its transportation.
All of the sites that are being looted are suffering, as objects are being ripped undocumented from their contexts, without which the knowledge that they can impart is greatly diminished. The case of Abu Sir Al-Maleq is particularly tragic as it has never been fully excavated. The site has connections to Osiris, god of the dead, and was of great religious significance.
One of the most ancient sections, containing the graves of the Nagada II (3250-3050 BCE) era, was excavated by Otto Rubensohn in 1902-04. He also found 18th Dynasty (1550-1070 BCE) burials as well as priestly graves of the Late Period (712-332 BCE). A black sarcophagus belonging to Pakhus, currently in the Meidum storage house, has been found in the area. In 1905-06 Georg Möller also found burials of the Second Intermediate/Hyksos period (1640-1532 BCE). The archaeology of the Hyksos period is limited, with the majority of evidence coming from the Delta. Thus, any site with evidence of the history of that era, particularly one from this part of Egypt, is a treasure.
In addition to these tombs, a temple of the 30th Dynasty was also found near the village mosque. Caliph Marwan Al-Ja’di (744-751) of the Umayyad Dynasty is also said to have died very close to the monastery of Abu Sir Al-Maleq; a vase belonging to him said to have been found in the area is currently on display in the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. Although some archaeological work has been carried out at Abu Sir el-Melq, enormous parts of it have never been scientifically investigated and it was a site filled with potential to better understand the history of Egypt, particularly in its very early and late phases.
Locals and archaeologists surveying the etching on the walls of the tomb (Photo by Monica Hanna)
Locals and archaeologists surveying the etching on the walls of the tomb
(Photo by Monica Hanna)
Egyptian state bodies, civil society organisations and citizens all need to act immediately and work together for the protection of the country’s archaeological heritage. The different stakeholders of Egyptian heritage need to get actively involved in the study, protection and preservation of this heritage. Egypt’s future lies in its past, and with its loss, lies a dim future with lesser opportunities for the coming generations.
The potential Egypt has through its palimpsest of culture is enormous; its unique assets should provide economic and nationalistic values for its citizens. Each object that goes on the antiquities market loses its context and so loses its own history and that of the period it represents. It is like losing different pieces of a massive jigsaw.
It is a tragedy that we will not know more about those who lived and died here, in Abu Sir Al-Maleq; their beliefs and their lives. Only salvage archaeology can help at this point, and should be encouraged, or we will lose all evidence of Egypt’s rich past in this area.

miércoles, 5 de junio de 2013

Caernarfon dig finds Roman construction site and medieval cemetery

A dig on a piece of land in Gwynedd destined for a new school has resulted in the first discovery in Wales of a Roman construction camp.
The Caernarfon dig was carried out before the new Ysgol yr Hendre school was built, but the results of detailed analysis have only been released.
An early medieval cemetery was also unearthed from a later, lesser known period of Caernarfon's history.
The Romans had a fort called Segontium near Caernarfon from AD77 until AD393.
The two new findings contribute to a "better understanding" of life either side of the Roman occupation, according to the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust (GAT) which carried out the work.
The first revealed a cemetery dating to a time shortly after the withdrawal of Roman troops from Segontium, whilst the second identified a temporary camp set up by Roman soldiers during the initial construction phases of the main fort.
Comparison with other sites suggested the cemetery was in use during the period AD500 to AD700, at least one hundred years after the fort was abandoned.
'Fills the gaps' Previously there was very little evidence of people living near the site after the Romans left Segontium.
"This is a very important site, and it is very exciting when anything as early as this medieval cemetery is discovered," said Jane Kenny, a senior archaeologist with the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust.
"It ties in the Roman fort and the medieval town and as it happens in between the two [time-wise] it hints at a settlement and fills in some of the gaps.
"It fits neatly in the town's history."
archaeologists at the site The ovens found on the site were a surprise to archaeologists.
As the dig progressed excavations also revealed a series of double pits in a figure-of-eight shape scattered amongst the graves.
Experts interpreted them as pit ovens - one side was for the cooking, whilst the embers were scraped over to the other side.
Radiocarbon dating and statistical analysis was then used to date the ovens to the time the Segontium fort was under construction.
"The Roman construction site was a surprise - we didn't know what the areas were, so close to the construction of the [Segontium] fort in Llanbeblig," said Ms Kenny.
"A nice ditch [around the site] would have proved it nicely, but otherwise the evidence shows it must have been where the soldiers lived whilst constructing the fort."
Despite the areas around the Ysgol yr Hendre site now being mostly residential Ms Kenny believes some remains might still lay hidden under the soil.
"We didn't find one corner of the cemetery and things might survive in gardens, or in gaps that haven't been built on yet," she added.

2nd-century wooden mask unearthed in Nara, oldest yet found

The Daifuku mask is on display at the Sakurai city center for buried cultural properties through Sept. 29.SAKURAI, Nara Prefecture--Once used to hide a face, a wooden mask fragment recently discovered here and currently on public display hints at ancient cultural links between this part of western Japan and China, archaeologists said May 30.According to the Sakurai city board of education, the mask unearthed at the Daifuku archaeological site likely dates to the latter half of the second century in light of accompanying finds.This places it several decades earlier than the previously oldest known wooden mask in Japan, which was unearthed at the nearby Makimuku site.The latest find from Daifuku represents only the left side of what would have been a whole mask. It is made of Japanese umbrella pine and is 23 centimeters long, up to 7 cm wide and 5 millimeters thick. There are no artificial patterns or coloring on its surface.The fragment has an oval hole, 0.9 to 2.5 cm across, and a circular hole 2.5 mm in diameter. Experts said the larger hole probably represents an eye, whereas the smaller one was likely used to accommodate a string for wearing the mask on the face.It resembles the mask from the Makimuku site that lies only 3 kilometers to the north. Makimuku is considered a hopeful candidate location for Yamatai, a mysterious early nation governed by shaman queen Himiko. Makimuku developed into a major settlement during a post-Yamatai period.Some experts compare the masks from both sites to the ones worn by fangxiangshi, or magicians mentioned in Zhouli, an ancient Chinese text describing the rites of the Zhou dynasty (12th century B.C.-256 B.C.). Exorcism rites involving fangxiangshi, in which a mask was worn on the face and a pike and a shield held in the hands, are said to be an origin of the demon-chasing rituals that continue to this day in Japan.In a separate development, Takashi Nakazawa, a professor of organic biochemistry at Nara Women's University, and his coworkers said May 30 that they used protein analysis to identify a silk product, unearthed in Makimuku in 1991, as made of silk from cocoons of the Japanese oak silkmoth. The product, shaped like a drawstring purse and 2.4 to 3 cm across in size, has been dated to the latter half of the third century.One section in Weishu, the official chronicle of the Wei dynasty of China (A.D. 220-265), says the Yamatai state presented "red and blue silk" to Wei in A.D. 243. The latest analysis results indicate those silk donations may have been Japanese products."The areas surrounding the Daifuku and Makimuku sites were possibly an ancient hub of Japan-China interactions, including the transfer of ideas and technologies from China," said Hironobu Ishino, director of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology.

The Lost Temples of Angkor

By Julie Masis   Sat, Jun 01, 2013

In Cambodia, archaeologists are still discovering temples that are more than 1,000 years old.
The Lost Temples of Angkor
Phnom Penh, Cambodia - By the time they encountered a ten-meter-tall brick wall, trees growing from its top, they had been walking through the jungle for an hour. It actually wasn't that far from the village, but there was no straight path. No path at all, in fact. A motorbike couldn't get through, so they walked. Following their guide, they zigzagged through unfamiliar terrain. They were compelled to look steadfastly down at the ground and step, as best they could, into the footprints of the person before. It was a matter of life or death. They were walking through a minefield, not far from the border between Cambodia and Thailand in the Oddar Meanchay province. 
Before leaving on this expedition through the forest, Nady Phann, an official from Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture, asked a local villager if there would be any mines. Phann was well aware of this legacy of his country's war-torn past.  "There are many", the villager said. "We found five or six mines per day when we were planting rice."
Despite that danger, on that day, in February of 2013, Phann and his team discovered five pre-Angkorian temples. These were temples that had been built before the rise of Angkor, a region of Cambodia that served as the center of the Khmer Empire, the most powerful empire of ancient Southeast Asia. Angkor flourished from approximately the 9th to the 15th centuries, AD, but these temples were made of brick and, according to Phann, they were probably built between the 6th and 8th centuries. Some were almost completely ruined. Others still stood. As he always does when he finds a new temple, he noted the exact location – latitude and longitude – took a few photos, and sketched a plan on a piece of paper. His favorite site, which the locals call ‘The Temple of the Black Water Lake’, consists of three temples in a line close to a nearly dried-up reservoir, with the tallest structure in the middle between the two smaller ones. He also recorded the names of the other sites: the 'Little Monkey Temple', the 'Red Temple', and strangely, the 'Economic Development Temple'.
“I don’t know how (the economic development) temple got its name," Phann admitted. "Maybe it comes from the Khmer Rouge. We have to study the names of the temples -- (to find out) if the villagers gave the names or if the name relates to an inscription.”
He was pleased, but not completely blown away by his discovery. That is because more than 150 years after French traveler Henri Mouhot first stumbled upon Angkor Wat (Cambodia’s most popular tourist attraction, which is sometimes described as the world’s largest religious monument) archaeologists working in Cambodia are still discovering ancient temples almost every year.
There are approximately four thousand known Angkorian and pre-Angkorian-era archeological sites in Cambodia, including temples, bridges, reservoirs, and theaters - and new sites are being added to this inventory every year, according to Damian Evans, a University of Sydney archaeologist who studies ancient Cambodian temples. However, most of the newly discovered “temples” do not resemble the grandeur of Angkor Wat. A temple ten meters high is an unusual discovery, he said.
“Over the last 20 years, it’s been a constant process of finding several hundred new temples per year,” he said. “But if they’re finding temples of that size, that’s quite an amazing discovery. Normally we just find piles of bricks, just some rubble on the ground, a few pots here and there. It’s definitely not every day that you find a structure with walls.”
During his career with the Ministry of Culture, Phann added dozens of long-lost ancient temples to the map of Cambodia – probably more than anyone else alive, says Evans.

According to Yern Hong, the director of the culture department of Oddar Meanchay province, the temples were initially discovered by villagers who went into the forest to gather fruits and hunt for animals. Others say that the temples were found by the Khmer Rouge soldiers, who hid in the forest near the Thai border while fighting the government’s army. But in either case, they didn't inform authorities in Cambodia’s capital, and that is why the temples had not been documented or studied by archaeologists until now. Even after officials were told about the temples, they couldn't visit them because of their remote location in the jungle, inaccessible by roads and surrounded by mine fields. Peace had only recently been restored in this sparsely populated area of Cambodia.
While Cambodia’s capital was liberated from the genocidal rule of the communist Khmer Rouge in 1979, fighting continued in some remote corners of the country – particularly near the Thai border – into the 1990s. According to Keo Tann, the police chief of the Traipang Prasat district where the temples were discovered, this area was occupied by the Khmer Rouge until 1998 or 1999.
“Both the Khmer Rouge and the government soldiers laid the mines. The Khmer Rouge reconciled with the government, but the landmines are still in the ground, they didn’t go anywhere. No one can go there because even the soldiers who laid the mines forgot where they put them,” he said.
Mining the areas around ancient temples was a common practice during Cambodia’s civil war because the stone structures could be used as bunkers, according to Heng Ratana, the director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), the country’s government de-mining agency.
The remote Oddar Meanchay province is one of the least populated in Cambodia. Christophe Pottier, an archaeologist with Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient who works in Cambodia, said that there is approximately one village every 50 kilometers. The temples, hidden by the forest, could not be seen in areal photographs.
In recent years, however, the country’s rapid economic development, the end of the war, and the push to build and pave more roads have led more people to move into previously unoccupied areas. More long-lost temples also began coming into view due to deforestation – in the last ten years, so much of Cambodia’s virgin forests disappeared due to logging that the country, which had appeared mostly green in photographs taken from space, now looks brown, a local newspaper recently reported.
Why so many temples?
There were thousands of stone temples in ancient Angkor, which between the 10th and 13th centuries extended from the border of Myanmar to the west and the Champa Kingdom in Southern Vietnam to the east.
Angkor’s temples, which were built to worship Hindu gods, were erected not only by the king, but also by ordinary people, and were also built to honor deceased ancestors, according to history professor Sombo Manara at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. Over time, it was not uncommon for old temples to be abandoned and new temples to be built somewhere else, leading to an increase in the number of temples over time.
Finding the temples gives historians a better idea about the exact location and extent of the ancient kingdom, and allows them to study how populations moved over time.
“Each of these small temples was a center of a community in the Angkor Empire,” Evans said. “For reasons we don’t clearly understand, the temples were abandoned. Once Angkor collapsed, this whole extended area collapsed at the same time.”
Some theories posit that the empire collapsed after being defeated by a Siamese invasion. According to other versions, climatic changes or drought may have played a role, or the fact that Hinduism was replaced by Buddhism, a more egalitarian religion.
Whatever the reason for Angkor’s demise, Phann and other archaeologists will continue searching for more ancient temples in Cambodia. Nady said he will return to Oddar Meanchey province again in the near future to explore the forest further – as he has heard that there are more temples beyond the minefields.
“We have to do the inventory of all the temples," he said. "If we know where the temples are, we can inform the companies (that work in the region) that we want to protect these areas".
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Sunset over a temple in Angkor Wat.  Alfred Boc, Wikimedia Commons