The grandeur of York Minster has left millions of visitors awestruck as they have caught sight of the cathedral’s gothic spires for the first time.
The iconic place of worship remains for many as the defining image of Yorkshire, towering above York’s warren of medieval streets.
But its history remains as fascinating as its architecture is impressive, and visitors are to be given an unprecedented insight into how the Minster’s site has evolved throughout the past 2,000 years.
A long-awaited attraction, which is the largest set within a cathedral in the UK, will open to the public this weekend after more than eight years have been spent planning the multi-million pound venture.
The Revealing York Minster exhibition is being staged in a series of chambers which have been transformed with interactive displays to inform visitors of the hidden history of the site, featuring artefacts never before put on show.
The displays include information about a Roman barracks, an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and the foundations of the Norman Minster – the forerunner of the present cathedral.Read the full article and watch the video on www.yorkshirepost.co.uk
Leading archaeologists have denounced the poor state of conservation of the Roman remains at Antinopolis in Egypt, the city built by the emperor Hadrian, who ruled Rome from 117AD to 138AD. The revolution that swept through the country in 2011 and the subsequent exit of its president, Hosni Mubarak, who is currently in jail facing corruption charges, have affected the security and conservations of many historical sights in the country, especially those that are far from major city centres. Antinopolis, located near the Nile over 30km south of the nearest large town, Minya, is a perfect target.
Until recently, the Roman hippodrome there was still intact, although it has now been swallowed by the ever-expanding cemetery for the neighbouring small town called Sheikh ‘Ibada. Out of the four hippodromes built by the Romans in Egypt, this was the only one that survived. Large areas are being prepared for redevelopment and parts of the ancient necropolis on the north of the site have already been converted into farmland.
Groups of children pass by us, grinning, armed with spades with which they dig out artefacts and sell them. People don’t like our presence hereRead the full article here on www.theartnewspaper.com
New research from the University of Reading shows that Ice Age people living in Europe 15,000 years ago might have used forms of some common words including I, you, we, man and bark, that in some cases could still be recognised today.
The English word brother and the French frère are related to the Sanskrit bhratr and the Latin frater, suggesting that words as mere sounds can remain associated with the same meaning for millennia. But how far back in time can traces of a word’s genealogical history persist, and can we predict which words are likely to show deep ancestry? These questions are central to understanding language evolution and to identify linguistic superfamilies uniting the world’s languagesStatistical models of conserved words
Using statistical models, Professor of Evolutionary Biology Mark Pagel and his team predicted that certain words would have changed so slowly over long periods of time as to retain traces of their ancestry for up to ten thousand or more years. These words point to the existence of a linguistic super-family tree that unites seven major language families of Eurasia.
Previously linguists have relied solely on studying shared sounds among words to identify those that are likely to be derived from common ancestral words, such as the Latin pater and the English father. A difficulty with this approach is that two words might have similar sounds just by accident, such as the words team and cream.
To combat this problem, Professor Pagel’s team showed that a subset of words used frequently in everyday speech, are more likely to be retained over long periods of time. The team used this method to predict words likely to have shared sounds, giving greater confidence that when such sound similarities are discovered they do not merely reflect the workings of chance.Eurasian super-family
Professor Pagel, from the University of Reading’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “The way in which we use a certain set of words in everyday speech is something common to all human languages. We discovered numerals, pronouns and special adverbs are replaced far more slowly, with linguistic half-lives of once every 10,000 or even more years. As a rule of thumb, words used more than about once per thousand in everyday speech were seven to ten times more likely to show deep ancestry in the Eurasian super-family.”
Professor Pagel’s previous research on the evolution of human languages has built up a picture of how our 7,000 living human languages have evolved. Professor Pagel and his research team have documented the shared patterns in the way we use language and researched why some words succeed and others have become obsolete over time. This is done by using statistical estimates of rates of lexical replacement for a range of vocabulary items in the Indo-European languages. The variation in replacement rates makes the most common vocabulary items in these languages promising candidates for estimating the divergence between pairs of languages.
Source: University of Reading
University of Reading. Ice Age ancestors in our speech. Past Horizons. May 20, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/ice-age-words-in-our-speech For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Archaeologists digging under Lincoln Castle have made contact with the remains of a previously unknown church that is at least 1,000 years old.
The earliest find was a cemetery with several skeletons, associated with the remains of two stone walls. Further investigation revealed more burials, including at least one stone coffin. As explorations continue, it seems that the remains all belong to a stone church built after the Romans left and before the Norman conquerors came. During this period the English and the Danes competed for supremacy in Northern England.View over Lincoln Castle. Image: Karen Roe (Wikimedia Commons, used under a CC BY 3.0)
Beryl Lott, historic environment manager for Lincolnshire County Council, said:
“This is a very exciting discovery. Our knowledge of the site between the end of Roman period and when the castle was built is very scant. While the discovery was totally unexpected, it is well known that other Roman walled towns often contained some form of high-status use during the Anglo-Saxon period. This will greatly increase our knowledge not just of the castle, but of uphill Lincoln as well. It’s a major find and we look forward to future developments.”
The finds were made three metres down from today’s ground level in a small area (3x3m metres) being excavated by the archaeologists for the construction of a lift shaft. Along one side of the excavation the limestone coffin with a lid mortared in place can be seen. Archaeologists Cecily Spall and Justin Garner-Lahire, of FAS Heritage, hope to insert an endoscopic camera into the coffin to see what it contains. The site is being excavated under Scheduled Monument Consent and English Heritage are advising on methodology of further work.Extraordinary find – a votive deposit
The earliest stone wall discovered runs on the opposite side of the excavation, where there was another extraordinary find: the bones of a person laid inside a niche in the wall foundation. The bones were originally wrapped in a finely woven textile – the tiny impressions of the cloth could be seen on the mortar of the wall. This looks like a ‘votive deposit’ and may be the relics of a holy person placed inside the wall to dedicate the building.10th century or earlier
The archaeologists will now be using radiocarbon dating to try and refine the date of the remains, which from the stratigraphy and associated artefacts already uncovered they expect to be 10th century or earlier. The church has popped up in an unexpected place: Lincoln’s earliest church St Paul in the Bail was in the area of the Roman forum, probably built in the 7th century, but a body buried in its dedication grave was removed in the 10th century for burial somewhere else. This might be the church built by Blaecca, chief man of Lincoln at that time. The Late Saxon cathedral built 300 years later has always been assumed to be under the present minster, but the church under the castle is certainly showing signs of being an important high status church, further historical research as well as the on-going archaeological work may give clues to whether it might be a Saxon minster, or belong to an adjacent monastery or palace.
“The most important thing is to get a close look at what’s inside the stone coffin”, said Martin Carver, professor at the University of York. “The Romans used stone coffins (sarcophagi), including Christian ones in the 4th century AD, and the early Christian English re-used them in the 7th. But Late Saxon stone coffins are pretty rare. What we do have, at York and elsewhere are stone covers, some richly decorated or inscribed. It would certainly be good to see if this coffin has a decorated lid – but more than that, if the coffin has an occupant we can bring the tool box of modern forensic archaeology to bear and find out more about them: place of birth, diet, health, wounds, date of death and more. This is a wonderful find.”The finds were made three metres down from today’s ground level in a small area (3x3m metres) being excavated by the archaeologists for the construction of a lift shaft. Image: Lincolnshire County Council
FAS Heritage are being employed by Lincolnshire County Council to help prepare the castle for its rebirth as a major tourist attraction. The archaeologists are also digging near the prison where another rich historical sequence from the 19th century back to Roman times is being investigated. These results – which are hugely enriching Lincoln’s history – will form part of a final exhibition at the castle. Meanwhile the public are welcome to visit and view the excavation near the prison, which also employs local volunteers.
Source: Lincolnshire County Council
- FAS Heritage
- For further information on the all the improvements happening at the castle, please visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/historiclincoln .
Lincolnshire County Council. Early church and burials found at Lincoln castle. Past Horizons. May 16, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/early-church-and-burials-found-at-lincoln-castle
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Fig. 1. Map of the Harrat in Syria, Jordan and northern Saudi Arabia.
Stephan F.J. Kempe1, Ahmad Al-Malabeh2
1: Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany; 2: Hashemite University Zarka, Jordan
The eastern “panhandle” of the kingdom of Jordan is partly covered by a vast and rugged lava desert, the Harrat, covering about 11.400 km2 (Fig. 1). Scoured by wind in winter and scorched dry by the sun in summer, the surface is covered by black basalt stones, making this area seem as uninviting, hostile and inaccessible as is imaginable.
Nevertheless this modern day desolate desert proves to be as rich in archaeological heritage as one may wish.Understanding the harsh landscape
Prior to the building of roads and the bulldozing of four-wheel-tracks the area could only be traversed on foot, by donkey or camel. Water was provided by scarce pools in the deeper parts of wadis that bought winter water from the higher ground of the Djbel al-Arab to the north in what is now Syria.
An important factor in understanding the ecology of the Harrat is the loess, which covers almost the entire area to a depth of 1 to 2 m. “Stone heaving” (a poorly understood process, possibly driven by freeze-thaw- cycles in the Glacials) has then brought loose lava blocks to the surface densely covering the loess. Infrequent rains washed the loess into the depressions of the hummocky lava plain, forming playas (mudflats or Qa‘ or Qa‘a in Arabic) that give the Harrat a mottled appearance from above. The loess serves to hold water and the stones prevent swift evaporation. Thus vegetation not only occurs along the wadis, but can also appear in winter and spring among the stones, providing an unexpected pasture. Formerly the Harrat would have been teeming with gazelle, ostriches and ibex. Petroglyphs of these wild animals are abundant in the area along with riders on horses and camels and hunts of lions and hyenas (Fig. 2).Fig. 2. Petroglyph with Safaitic inscriptions and interpretation: In the center a hunter with spear and small round shield attacking an animal, most probably a striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena). Below two and a half horses are outlined, above we see a herd of animals, either gazelle (with short horns) and ibex (with longer horns) or a herd of goats to be protected. The petroglyph is accompanied by a Safaitic inscription, transcribed and partly translated, dating to about 2000 aBP. Desert kites
This is the ecological and topographic background in which a characteristic set of archaeological features occur, known as “desert kites” (Fig. 3). Looking like a child’s kite, it consists of kilometre-long guiding walls (the tails of the kite) converging on a narrow gate leading into a hectare-sized enclosure (the kite’s body).
Due to its immense size it only became known to archaeologists, when the first regular postal flights from Baghdad to Cairo commenced in the 1920′s (Maitland, 1927; Poidebard, 1928). Today, a less arduous arm-chair archaeology is provided by Google Earth images and more than 550 kites can be identified in the areas available in high resolution (Fig. 4). Many more are seen on aerial images during airborne photographic sorties (e.g., Kennedy, 2011).
Further examination has shown the kites are not distributed randomly in the desert, but are – with a very few exceptions – arranged in chains, forming continuous barriers across the routes of migrating animals.
Because the Jordanian Harrat extends both into Saudi Arabia and Syria, these chains continue even further, both south and north.Fig. 4. Map of about 550 kites discernible on Google Earth in the Jordanian Harrat. Their organization into continuous chains is clearly visible. It is clear a degree of organisation went into the construction which currently is believed to have begun in the Neolithic. Fig. 3. A desert kite in the Jordanian Harrat showing a deep stratigraphy (Google Earth picture). The final star-shaped kite supersedes an earlier, unfinished kite overlying an oval “circular path”. To the right an older “meander wall trap”. Dating the features Fig. 5. Google Earth picture of a “wheel house” using a kite enclosure and destroying it, thus illustrating that the kites are stratigraphically older than the wheel houses in the Jordanian Harrat.
Dating the kites is difficult but they seem to have some degree of antiquity, based on relationships to other structures that cross them they may even date to as early as the late Neolithic (for review see Kempe & Al-Malabeh, 2010 and 2013, where also the detailed mode of hunting is discussed). The aerial imagery also provides information about the evolution of these structures: they may have started as meandering walls and small and simple bag-like traps. All in all the over 500 kites visible on Google Earth may represent a volume of stone moved equal to half of the volume of the Cheops pyramid (Kempe & Al-Malabeh 2013). It could be argued that the desert kites collectively represent one of the largest examples of stone works from this period. Later the area was used by herders that left “wheel” and “jelly-fish” houses, possibly as corrals for sheep and goats, which continued to add to the rich stone wall heritage of the desert. Some of these destroyed or re-used kite walls (Fig. 5), thus providing for a relative chronological stratigraphy.The circular path
However one feature that has not been recognized yet is a very strange “geoglyph” – the “circular path”. It is subtle and inconspicuous and if viewed individually may pass for a curious irregularity but when searched for, located and cross related, dozens of them appear on the high resolution areas (Fig. 6).
A circular path is a strip of land, 1 to 1.5 m wide, cleared of rocks so that the underlying loess appears. This light-coloured strip doubles back on itself, forming circles, ovals or (rarely) dumbbells (Fig. 3 and 7, 8, 9). On rare occasions, two paths are nested within each other (Fig. 10). Sizes vary from 18 m to the largest yet measured of 106×90 m in diameter.
A hundred paths have been evaluated along a high resolution strip following the eastern border of the Harrat (Kempe & Al-Malabeh 2010). They average 42.9 ± 17.8 m in length and 31.4 ± 13.7 m in width.Fig. 6. More than a 100 circular paths are marked on this Google Earth image, eastern limit of the Harrat in Jordan. Fig. 7. A circular path almost 50 m wide is clearly visible from this satellite image (Google Earth image). Fig. 8. An elongated oval-shaped circular path, 46 m long and 6 m wide (Google Earth image). Fig. 9. A dumbbell-shaped circular path 45 m long. Next to it are two “wheel houses” (Google Earth image). Fig. 10. Two nested circular paths, about 30 m across (Google Earth image). Fig. 11. The southern guiding wall of kite 36 of the Eastern Border Chain crosses a circular path, 36 * 29 m wide (Google Earth image). Fig. 12. Google Earth image of the three circular paths next to the track of the former TAP (Trans-Arabian Pipeline). Fig. 13. Detail of three circular paths investigated on the ground (Google Earth image). Fig. 14. View of a section of a circular path on the ground (CP1 in Figs. 12 and 13). (Photo S. Kempe)
Their size and general shapes mark them as anthropogenic features however, stones removed from the paths are not stacked along the perimeter and no contemporary walls are associated with them. The interior is never cleared in any way, still full of the rough black basalt rocks that are difficult to walk over, thus the path itself carries the function not the area it encircles.
Some of the paths seem to encircle low lava knolls and there is no apparent association with the kites or any other anthropogenic feature. The paths are distinct from the countless small animal and migratory paths that criss-cross the Harrat like spider webs and these are not as wide and are linear and not circular.
Only a few clues have yet been detected that give any idea for the chronology of the circular paths. One of the most apparent is a path that is crossed by the guiding wall of a kite (Fig. 11), suggesting that this particular circular path is older than the kite.
Because most the circular paths are literally in the middle of nowhere, they have gone unnoticed until now. Even if one of the few ground based researchers of the Harrat encountered one of the paths during field studies, it would have been seen as a curious anomaly, as it is almost impossible to see the full shape and the widespread occurrence of these features prior to satellite imaging opened up the larger scale visual inspection of the landscape.
Looking for examples that were easily accessible, Dr. Stephan Kempe travelled with the archaeologist Dr. Bernd Müller-Neuhof from Berlin on October 29th, 2010 to three paths next to the track of the former Trans Arabian Pipeline (the straight line in Fig. 4 running from SE to SW) (Figs. 12, 13).
These paths have diameters of 42×40 m (CP1), 33×29 m (CP2) and 33×25 m (CP3). Figure 14 shows a section through CP1, showing that the path today has lost definition with stones having moved in from the rim.
Due to the relative evenness of the lava plain, it is difficult to take pictures of a path from ground level: In the panorama of Figure 15 two people are standing on the far side of CP 3.
A small animal path crosses the circle (yellow arrow) that is clearly visible on the Google Earth image (Fig. 16; yellow arrow; the red arrow indicates the direction of view of Fig. 15). The white box in both pictures shows a set of rocks, illustrating that Google Earth can resolve boulders less than half a metre in size.Fig. 15. Panorama view of CP3 on Figs. 12 and 13 on the ground. The persons are standing on the far side of the path. The arrow marks an animal path crossing the circular path. The white box marks a set of stones clearly visible on Google Earth (see Fig. 16). (Photo S. Kempe) Fig. 16. CP3 on Google Earth. The yellow arrow marks the animal path crossing the circle. Red arrow marks the direction of Fig. 15 image and the white box marks the stones visible in the corresponding box. But what are they?
These are the archaeological and geological facts; but what what could have been the purpose of these paths?
Were they used to train dogs for hunting? Was something planted there? Were they cleared for religious processions? Were they used over long periods or were they only cleared for a single usage and then abandoned? We may never find out for sure, at least until more detailed work is carried out on these enigmatic structures, and suggestions are definately welcomed. But one thing is for sure: The Harrat as it is now is a complex palimpsest representing the imprint of millennia of human activities.Zoom out of the map to see the other geoglyphs of the Harrat More Information
- From a presentation at the Seventh World Archaeological Congress, Jordan 2013
- This article is based on the presentations: “Circular paths”, a new and enigmatic ancient pattern of the Jordanian Harrat and Hunting kites of the Jordanian Harrat and on the Arabian Peninsula, stratigraphy, design, and function, one of the largest stone monuments of early humankind -given by Stephan F.J. Kempe, Ahmad Al-Malabeh at the 7th World Archaeological Congress in Jordan in January 2013.
- Kempe, S., & Al-Malabeh, A., 2010: Hunting kites (‘desert kites’) and associated structures along the eastern rim of the Jordanian Harrat: A geo-archaeological Google Earth Images Survey. – Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie 10(3): 46-86.
- Kempe, S., & Al-Malabeh, A., 2013: Desert kites in Jordan and Saudi Arabia: Structure, statistics and function, a Google Earth study. – Quarter. Intern. 297, 126-146.
- Kempe, S., & Al-Malabeh, A., 2013: “Circular paths”, a new and enigmatic ancient pattern of the Jordanian Harrat. – Abstract World Archeological Congress, Dead Sea, Jordan, Jan. 2013.
- Kennedy, D.L., 2011: ‘The Works of the Old Men’ in Arabia: remote sensing in interior Arabia. – J. Archaeol. Sci. 38, 3185-3202.
- Maitland, R.A., 1927: The works of the ‘Old Men’ in Arabia. – Antiquity 1, 197–203.
- Poidebard, A., 1928: Reconnaissance aérienne au Ledja et au Safa. – Syria 9, 114–132.
New geoglyphs of the Jordanian Harrat. Past Horizons. May 10, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/new-geoglyphs-of-the-jordanian-harrat For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Excavations by Environment Agency contractors creating a new bird reserve on Teesside have revealed Bronze and Iron Age artefacts – and the remains of a former Roman settlement which was previously unknown.
The discoveries at Greatham Creek are significant as they are the first such remains ever to be found next to the salt marsh on the north bank of the Tees Estuary.View of the Tees Estuary. Image: Environment Agency Survey indicated nothing of special interest
Archaeological survey work undertaken before the start of the habitat creation scheme did not indicate that anything of special interest would be discovered.
However, the outlook changed when Environment Agency contractors, Birse, began digging, giving the project’s archaeologists the chance to assess what was being revealed.
Environment Agency project manager Chris Milburn said: “An archaeological survey is a key part of any major scheme we undertake to ensure that anything of historic interest is recorded. In this case, we had not expected to find anything unusual, so these discoveries are particularly remarkable.”
Among the finds are flint tools and pottery fragments, an arrowhead, jet jewellery, flint thumbnail scrapers, Bronze Age blades, ancient burial mounds and the remains of several Roman roundhouses.Open event
Local people are invited to look at the finds and discuss their significance with archaeologists at an open event at Greatham Community Centre on Tuesday, 14 May, between 3pm and 7pm.
Environment Agency staff will also be there to update people on the progress of the new Greatham bird habitat, which will be completed in September. Those who attend will also have the chance to choose a name for the new site.Excavation of sections across Bronze Age Watercourse. Image: Environment Agency
The Greatham scheme is part of an overall strategy for the Tees Estuary being developed by the Environment Agency to protect homes and properties from flooding, while at the same time ensuring that valuable wildlife habitat is maintained.
Much of the inter-tidal habitat around the Tees Estuary is legally protected because it is internationally important for birds. However, some of this vital area is being lost due to a rise in sea level.
To compensate for this loss, the Environment Agency is building a new bank further inland from the existing embankment at Greatham Creek. Part of this can then be breached so the tide can wash in and out of the area, creating a bigger area of mudflat and salt marsh.
Source: Environment AgencyMore Information
- Local people are invited to look at the finds and discuss their significance with archaeologists at an open event at Greatham Community Centre on Tuesday, 14 May, between 3pm and 7pm.
Environment Agency. Prehistoric and Roman remains rewrite history of the Tees Estuary. Past Horizons. May 14, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/prehistoric-and-roman-remains-rewrite-history-of-the-tees-estuary
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Remains of endangered Hawaiian petrels – both ancient and modern – show how drastically today’s open seas fish menu has changed.
A research team, led by Michigan State University and Smithsonian Institution scientists, analysed the bones of Hawaiian petrels – birds that spend the majority of their lives foraging the open waters of the Pacific. They found that the substantial change in petrels’ eating habits, eating prey that are lower rather than higher in the food chain, coincides with the growth of industrialized fishing.
Hawaiian petrels – both ancient and modern – show how drastically today’s open seas fish menu has changed. Courtesy of Jim Denny.
The birds’ dramatic shift in diet, shown in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, leaves scientists pondering the fate of petrels as well as wondering how many other species face similar challenges.Human influence
“Our bone record is alarming because it suggests that open-ocean food webs are changing on a large scale due to human influence,” said Peggy Ostrom, co-author and MSU zoologist. “Our study is among the first to address one of the great mysteries of biological oceanography – whether fishing has gone beyond an influence on targeted species to affect nontarget species and potentially, entire food webs in the open ocean.”
Hawaiian petrels’ diet is recorded in the chemistry of their bones. By studying the bones’ ratio of nitrogen-15 and nitrogen-14 isotopes, researchers can tell at what level in the food chain the birds are feasting; generally, the larger the isotope ratio, the bigger the prey (fish, squid and crustaceans).Bigger prey in the past
Between 4,000 and 100 years ago, petrels had high isotope ratios, indicating they ate bigger prey. After the onset of industrial fishing, which began extending past the continental shelves around 1950, the isotope ratios declined, indicating a species-wide shift to a diet of smaller fish and other prey.
Much research has focused on the impact of fishing near the coasts. In contrast, the open ocean covers nearly half of the Earth’s surface. But due to a lack of historical records, fishing’s impact on most open-ocean animal populations is completely unknown, said lead author Anne Wiley, formerly an MSU doctoral student and now a Smithsonian postdoctoral researcher.
Excavated bones of Hawaiian petrels – birds that spend the majority of their lives foraging the Pacific – show substantial change in the birds’ eating habits. Courtesy of Brittany Hance, Imaging Lab, Smithsonian Institution.
“Hawaiian petrels spend the majority of their lives foraging over vast expanses of open ocean,” she said. “In their search for food, they’ve done what scientists can only dream of. For thousands of years, they’ve captured a variety of fish, squid and crustaceans from a large portion of the North Pacific Ocean, and a record of their diet is preserved in their bones.”Three decades of fossil collection
Addressing fishery impact through a chronology of bones is remarkable. Most marine animals die at sea, where their bones are buried on the ocean bottom. But after three decades of fossil collection in the Hawaiian Islands – the breeding grounds of the Hawaiian petrel – co-author Helen James of the Smithsonian Institution and her colleagues have amassed a collection of more than 17,000 ancient Hawaiian petrel bones.
“The petrels breed in burrows and caves where, if they die, their bones are likely to be preserved for a long time,” James said. “It’s fortuitous to find such a rich bone record for a rare oceanic predator.”
Further studies are needed to explore how the shift down the food chain is affecting Hawaiian petrels. For a coastal seabird, however, a similar shift in diet has been associated with decreases in population – bad news for a federally protected bird.
Since petrels exploit fishing grounds from the equator to near the Aleutian Islands – an area larger than the continental United States – their foraging habits are quite telling. If petrels, signal flares for open-ocean food webs, have had a species-wide change in feeding habits, how many other predators around the world has fishing impacted? And what role do consumers play?
“What you choose to put on your dinner plate – that’s your connection with the endangered Hawaiian petrel, and with many other marine species,” Wiley said.
Source: Michigan State University
- Anne E. Wiley, Peggy H. Ostrom, Andreanna J. Welch, Robert C. Fleischer, Hasand Gandhi, John R. Southon, Thomas W. Stafford, Jr., Jay F. Penniman, Darcy Hu, Fern P. Duvall, and Helen F. James. Millennial-scale isotope records from a wide-ranging predator show evidence of recent human impact to oceanic food webs. PNAS, May 13, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1300213110
Michigan State University. Seabird bones reveal changes in open-ocean food chain. Past Horizons. May 14, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/human-impact-on-open-ocean-food-chain For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
The Maya site of Noh Mul in Northern Belize has one less pyramid, due to a local contractor using the 20 metre high ancient structure as a quarry for nearby road works.
Reported by Jules Vasquez from 7 NewsBelize, this shocking story highlights a problem that is said to be endemic in the region.The extent of the damage is unbelievable, as the tracked excavator and cars sit below what is left of the main mound. Image: Jules Vasquez An important site
The site of Noh Mul was a major Maya ceremonial centre located in the Orange Walk/Corozal area of Belize. Twin ceremonial groups contain ten plazas and are connected by a sacbe or raised causeway. Those groups are surrounded by other plazas and temples and at least one ball court, and was once the centre for a polity covering nearly 20 square kilometres.
Built at a vantage point on the Hondo River to control the region’s trade routes, the site had a long life. Structures of this northern Yucatán type were built over those erected in the Classic period. Some of these new constructions covered the front of older stairways and resemble the Caracol in Chichén Itzá, southern Mexico. These later constructions support the theory that outsiders from the Yucatán settled in Noh Mul.
This important monument was first investigated in 1897 by Thomas Cann, who returned to it several times until the 1930s.Structure partially demolished in 1940s
However, in 1940 one structure was partially demolished to provide road material for the San Pablo to Douglas highway. At least three burial chambers were uncovered during its demolition and while some of the contents were recovered by the authorities, most were either smashed or looted.
In 1972 Ernestene Green of Western Michigan University carried out some limited test-pitting in the area as part of her location analysis of sites in Northern Belize.Layers of time are exposed to the weather, . Image: Jules Vasquez
Preservation and tourism
A major investigation began in 1982 when Norman Hammond, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Boston University began the full Noh Mul Project and by 1986 several areas relating to the ceremonial precinct and outlying zones including raised fields had been located and excavated. In the late 1980s structural consolidation began, with the hope of both preservation and tourism – however, this never fully materialised and the large pyramid returned to a mound in a cane field once again.The Big Hill is no more
The centre shows thriving occupation in the Late Preclassic and Late Classic Periods (c.a. 350 B.C. – 250 A.D. and 600 A.D. – 900 A.D.). The name Noh Mul is Maya for “big hill” though now, Noh Mul is no more.
Prof. Hammond commented in an email that “bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize (the whole of the San Estevan centre has gone, both of the major pyramids at Louisville, other structures at Nohmul, many smaller sites), but this sounds like the biggest yet.”A Maya chamber is exposed in the upper part of the pyramid mound, as the excavator claws away the main structure. The Name of the company is clearly visible on the back of the excavator ( inset: D-Mar Construction ). Image: Jules Vasquez
Exploiting Maya monuments for decades
Vasquez reports that the name D-Mar Construction, a company owned by the UDP politician Denny Grijalva was clearly visible on the heavy equipment. Grijalva initially claimed he knew nothing about the project and referred all questions to his foreman, who refused to answer calls, then failed to turn up to any meetings.
However, Grijlava did tell the reporter that when his foreman got there, he would apologize on behalf of the company, D-Mar and the Deputy Prime Minister, Gaspar Vega. Vega’s name comes in because Noh Mul is in Orange Walk North, and the road fill is allegedly being used in nearby Douglas Village.
Vasquez asked Dr Allan Moore from National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) if it was true that the Ministry of Works had been exploiting the Maya monuments for decades in order to obtain high quality building material.
Moore replied “We have constantly informed the Ministry of Works that when they are looking for material, they should not destroy the mounds.”An incredible display of ignorance
John Morris, an archaeologist with the Institute of Archaeology, told 7newsbelize.com’s Jules Vasquez. “We can’t salvage what has happened out here — it’s an incredible display of ignorance. I am appalled and don’t know what to say at this particular moment.”
The police in Belize said they are conducting an investigation and criminal charges are possible, as although the Nohmul complex sits on private land, Belizean law states that damage to any Maya structure, building, temple and archaeological site is illegal under the NICH Act 2003.Read Jules Vasquez’s original report here on www.7newsbelize.com
- Hammond, Norman; K. Anne Pyburn, John Rose, J.C. Staneko and Deborah Muyskens (Spring 1988). “Excavation and Survey at Nohmul, Belize, 1986“. Journal of Field Archaeology (Boston, MA: Boston University – Association for Field Archaeology) 15 (1): pp.1–15. doi:10.2307/530126.
- National Institute of Culture and History (NICH)
- Images of the 1980s excavations and later visits to Noh Mul http://www.pbase.com/meg96/belize_archaeology
- Institute of Archaeology (NICH) Belize (FACEBOOK page)
- Open source article re: Nohmul by Diane and Arlen Chase that has a good map of the site (see figure 1) but the photos are not very good: http://www.caracol.org/include/files/chase/Chases82.pdf
- Here are two good open source accounts of the site and it’s history: http://ambergriscaye.com/pages/mayan/mayasites.html and http://www.nichbelize.org/ia-maya-sites/nohmul.html
- Settlement Pattern Excavations in the Northern Sector of Nohmul, 1974,1975 by Richard Wilk
No More Noh Mul? Contractor Bulldozes Maya Temple Past Horizons. May 14, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/no-more-noh-mul-contractor-bulldozes-mayan-temple
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A joint team from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and Office for Cultural Relics Administration of Daoxian County, unearthed five hominin teeth and a large number of mammalian fossils from the Fuyan Cave site in Daoxian County, Hunan Province of China during an excavation carried out in September and October, 2011.
Researchers announced their finding in the latest issue of Acta Anthropologica Sinica 2013, providing new data for the study of human evolution and adaptive behaviour in South China.
Fuyan Cave site, also called Houbeishan cave by local farmers, was initially discovered in 1984.Teeth similar to Homo sapiens
This excavation was carried out in two trenches in an area of total 20m2. Five hominin teeth and large number of mammalian fossils were unearthed. The general morphological characteristics of the five hominin teeth is quite similar to those of Homo sapiens, and the size of these teeth all falls into the tooth size variation of Chinese modern humans. Thirty nine mammalian species, including some undetermined species, have been recognized, and only a few of them are extinct, e.g. Ailuropoda baconi, Crocuta ultima, Stegodon orientalis, Megatapirus augustus and Sus cf. australis.Occupation in Late Pleistocene
Preliminary U-series dating shows that the sediments were formed after 141700±12100 years, and the general feature of the mammalian fauna suggests a late Late Pleistocene age. Therefore, researchers inferred that hominin probably occupied the cave in the Late Pleistocene.
“Our excavation shows the cave has great potential perspectives. Further excavation and laboratory study of cave development, filling sequence, hominin teeth morphology, dating, and environmental change from the Fuyan Cave as well as some adjacent caves will help better understand the human evolution and adaptive behaviour in Southwest Hunan, east Guangxi, and north Guangdong”, said corresponding author Dr. PEI Shuwen of the IVPP.
Source: Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP)More Information
- Fuyan Cave – latitude 25°39′02.7″N, longitude 111°28′49.2″E and 232 m above sea level
- Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP). New hominin site found in China. Past Horizons. May 13, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/new-hominin-site-found-in-china
For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
A spectacular and colourful mosaic dating from the Byzantine period (4th–6th centuries CE) was exposed in recent weeks in the fields of Kibbutz Bet Qama, Israel. The mosaic was discovered during an archaeological excavation carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of an interchange between Ma’ahaz and Devira Junction.
The main building at the site under investigation was a large hall 12m long by 8.5m wide with an expensive tiled roof. The hall’s impressive mosaic that covers the floor suggests the structure was a public building – designed to impress the population with the power of Byzantium.
The well-preserved mosaic is decorated with geometric patterns and each corner contains details such as amphorae (jars used to transport wine), a pair of peacocks and a pair of doves pecking at grapes on a tendril. These are common designs known from this period, but what makes this mosaic unique is the large number of motifs that were incorporated in a single floor mosaic.A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor was uncovered during excavations near Kibbutz Beit Kama . Image Credit: Yael Yolovitch An extensive site
Pools and a system of channels and pipes between were discovered in front of the building. Steps were exposed in one of the pools and its walls were covered in a painted fresco.
Archaeologists from the Antiquities Authority are still trying to determine the purpose of the public building and the pools which would have required considerable economic capital for what looks like a non functional purpose.
The site, which was located along an ancient road that ran north from Be’er Sheva, seems to have consisted of a large estate that included a church, residential buildings and storerooms, a large cistern and a public building and pools surrounded by farmland. Presumably one of the structures served as an inn for travellers who visited the place.
During the Byzantine period Jewish and Christian settlements in the region were located next to each other. Two of the nearby Jewish settlements are Horbat Rimon, where a synagogue and ritual bath (miqwe) were exposed recently and the Nahal Shoval site, again recently excavated prior to the construction of the Cross-Israel Highway, where further ritual baths were uncovered. Among the exceptional Christian settlements are the churches at Abu Hof in Lahav Forest and the monastery at Givot Bar.
Source: Israel Antiquities AuthorityMore Information
Israel Antiquities Authority. New Byzantine mosaic brings colour from the past. Past Horizons. May 13, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/new-byzantine-mosaic-brings-colour-from-the-past For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
An international team of researchers including Colorado State University professors Christopher Fisher and Stephen Leisz have been utilizing LiDAR technology to seek ancient settlements and human constructed landscapes in an area long rumoured to contain the legendary city of Ciudad Blanca – the mythical “White City” – in Central America.
The project is a collaboration of the Global Heritage Foundation (GHF), UTL Productions, the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM), CSU, and the Honduran government. It is outlined in detail in the May 6 edition of The New Yorker.LiDAR is the latest in survey prospection
Fisher, an associate professor of archaeology, and Leisz, assistant professor of geography, have previously worked with airborne LiDAR to help reveal a lost pre-Columbian city in central Mexico. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing technique used to examine the earth’s surface.
Researchers focused their search for evidence of ancient settlements in the Mosquitia Coast region of Central America. Until now, dense tropical forests and relative inaccessibility of the region have hampered systematic archaeological investigation.
LiDAR’s computer-generated images allow researchers to “see” through the forest canopy to the ground surface, revealing any evidence of ancient settlements or human-engineered landscapes.
“The LiDAR point cloud data clearly show the remains of large settlements that can be characterized as ancient cities based on their spatial complexity, size and organization,” Fisher said.
“We may never be able to tell whether any of these are Ciudad Blanca, or whether the legendary city ever existed, but we can clearly see in the UTL data evidence that there was a densely settled region with a human modified environment. These conclusions provide important new insights into the pre-Hispanic settlement of this largely unexplored region.”
Interpretation of the LiDAR data suggests that the largest of these settlements is roughly the size of the central core of Copan, Honduras, though the architecture appears to be much less monumental. Copan was a Mayan city of nearly 20,000 people that thrived from the 5th to the 9th centuries AD.
Fisher and Leisz utilized LiDAR in recent research documenting the extent and spatial organization of the newly discovered ancient city of Angamuco, Michoacán, Mexico, as part of the Legacies of Resilience Archaeological Project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Geographic Society. Fisher, Leisz and several co-authors championed the use of LiDAR in Mesoamerica in a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as a scientific revolution that will fundamentally change the way that archaeologists do fieldwork.
“We were able to use our work at Angamuco to help reveal similar patterns in the Mosquitia data,” said Leisz. “The Honduras LiDAR results add to a growing number of studies using LiDAR point cloud-derived elevation data to analyze the ancient human impacts on the landscape of the Americas.”
Over the next several months Fisher, Leisz, and NCALM scientists will systematically analyze the Mosquitia data in preparation for fieldwork aimed at ground verification and documentation of the results as part of the broader GHF project. Leisz recently traveled to Honduras to sign a memorandum of understanding between CSU and GHF, as well as agreements of collaboration with The Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH), and Porfirio Lobo, president of Honduras. Initial results from the project will be presented by Leisz and Fisher in a session on the use of LiDAR at the upcoming American Geophysical Union Meeting of the Americas, to be held on May 14-17, in Cancun, Mexico.
Source: Colorado State University
A team of UCF scientists use a new LIDAR sensing system to see through the jungle to explore an ancient Maya city in Belize. – this video explains more about the approach and techniques.More Information
- The El Dorado Machine – A new scanner’s rain-forest discoveries. The New Yorker
by Douglas Preston May 6, 2013
- Legacies of Resilience Archaeological Project
- Ciudad Blanca – the mythical “White City”
Colorado State University . LiDAR and Lost Cities in Central America . Past Horizons. May 12, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/search-for-lost-cities-in-central-america For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
The news of famine cannibalism in Jamestown in the notorious winter of 1609-10 has caught the popular imagination on both sides of the Atlantic, with the Guardian running a poll to see who would nowadays resort to cannibalism in a case of starvation. Anyone uncertain about how to answer such a question might want to read the following.
Famine cannibalism has a long and grim history. During the siege of Jerusalem in AD70 mothers were said to have eaten their own aborted foetuses, while in an Italian famine of AD450 parents ate their dead children. In 1594, during the siege of Paris by Henri IV, an emergency famine committee agreed that bread should be made from bones from the charnel house of the Holy Innocents. It was available by mid-August, but those eating it died.
During the thirty years’ war it was claimed that starving parents ate their dead children in sheer desperation. In 1636, in the village of Steinhaus, a woman apparently lured a girl of 12 and a boy of five into her house, “killed them both, and devoured them with her neighbour”. In Picardy during this conflict, the Jesuit GS Menochio saw “several inhabitants” so crazed with hunger that they “ate their own arms and hands and died in despair”.
Cases like these cast an ironic light on the Jamestown cannibalism. Early modern Europeans continually denounced the savage tribal man-eaters of the Americas. Yet at the same time Protestants and Catholics were engaged in their own tribal wars of religion, and many cases of famine cannibalism sprang directly from these conflicts. Even much later over in North America itself, the relationship of savage natives and civilised colonisers could be surprising. In 1761, in what was then still the cannibal territory of Canada, three Anglo-Americans were killed by Indians “in revenge for an Indian boy that the famished trio had killed and eaten”.
Throughout the 19th century, the most likely catalyst for cannibalism beyond warfare was shipwreck. Most notoriously, there was the 1884 case of the Mignonette. After this yacht was wrecked on its way from England to Australia, Tom Dudley and Edwin Stephens murdered Richard Parker, aged 17. They drank his blood almost immediately, before cutting him open and eating his liver. With their legal counsel ultimately pleading extreme necessity, Dudley and Stephens were first sentenced to hang, and later given pardons, conditional on six-month jail terms.
Controversial as it was, the Mignonette was only one of numerous reported cases. And other ocean survivors could also tell you that, in such straits, vampirism was just as useful as cannibalism. Having exhausted supplies of fresh water and your own urine, blood was your drink (and food) of last resort. Hence the New York Times headline, “Shipwrecked men vampires”, of March 1895, telling of how Daniel Clarke and Thomas Moore lived for 14 days on 16 biscuits, salt water, the uppers of their shoes – and blood sucked from each other’s bodies.
This kind of benign auto-vampirism was fairly common: after the Shannon struck an iceberg in April 1832, 18 survivors were bled by the ship’s surgeon, some drinking their own blood immediately, and others mixing it with flour into a kind of gruesome bread paste. Elsewhere the vampirism was more drastic. In September 1899 three sailors stranded off North America survived by drinking the blood of those expired from dehydration. When this ran out, they cast lots. The loser was killed, his blood drunk straight from his veins, and much of his body eaten.
Was prearranged murder less culpable than spontaneous murder? While those who consumed the dead were doubtless repelled, they escaped such dilemmas. But in one such case, rights to a body were asserted in a particularly startling way. After the Frances Mary was wrecked in the Atlantic in February 1826, survivors languished for several days on bread and ship’s biscuit.
On 21 February James Clarke died. He was committed to the deep with prayers, unmolested. But a day can be a long time in the politics of starvation. When John Wilson died on 22 February he was quartered and hung up to dry, and on the next day the deceased J Moore had his heart and liver eaten. Until their rescue on 7 March the survivors lived on corpses – perhaps recalling as they forced down human flesh the spectacle of those who had drunk salt water and died raving mad. During this period the Master’s wife, feeding on human brains, described them as the most delicious food she had ever tasted. Most memorably of all, when sailor James Frier died, his fiancee Ann Saunders “shrieked a loud yell”, snatched a cup, “cut her late intended husband’s throat, and drank his blood, insisting that she had the greatest right to it”. She then got the better of a scuffle with the ship’s mate, Clerk, and allowed him to drink one cup to her two.
In extremis, how would you deal with such a dilemma? Try not to complain about the airline food on your next flight.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
A burial ground with the skeletal remains of about 28 individuals was discovered by archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) east of the city of Colima and is estimated to be at least 1,500 years old.
Archaeologist Marco Zavaleta Lucido, INAH Centre in Colima, said the area which covers 114 square metres contains burials, some of which are interred inside a shaft tomb.Stone burial markers at the entrance to the tomb. Image: INAH
The shaft tomb leads to a vault where the remains of 10 individuals were located and around its perimeter there was found to be another 16 burials.
“Heaps of stones were first observed indicating that there were burials here, and this prompted us to look further” said Marco Zavaleta.
“At the centre we discovered a single shaft tomb covered by a mortar (mixture of clay) which has not been seen before in Colima.
“The vault consisted of eight skulls, however, the large number of bones stacked inside indicate that there may be more than 10 individuals.”
On examination, Rosa Maria Flores, physical anthropologist at INAH noticed that one of the skulls had a hole which will be looked at in more detail at the Laboratory of Anthropology of Colima Regional Museum, to determine its nature.A family crypt
The shaft tomb contained an offering of over 20 ceramic objects, including pots, bowls, plates, incense burners as well as two hollow vessels in the shapes of dogs.In situ material of shaft tomb. Image: INAH
The archaeologists believe that the funerary space was reused several times “perhaps as a sort of family crypt” and due to the construction of the tomb and the incorporation of offerings, they were elite people. So far there has been no accompanying ornamentation found, except for a green stone bead near one of the skulls.Many burials around the tomb
Around the tomb the archaeologists have located a number of graves which have been dug into the limstone. Marco Zavaleta said that so far investigations have covered the northern and southern areas, where 16 have been recovered, including two double burials.
The skeletons found in these graves are not complete. “One of the double burials contains the remains of children estimated to be between 5 and 8 years old, while the other has two adults of about 40 years old, male and female “, said Mr. Zavaleta.
“The rest contain only one individual per grave and include three children between 8 and 13 years and adults up to 40 years, two of these were in a sitting position, while others were completely extended. ”16 burial contained offerings
Six of the 16 burials contained offerings with ceramic objects (pots, pans, bowls, cups and female anthropomorphic figurines with short skirt, loincloth and headdress) along with tomb markers, making them stand out from other funeral spaces and suggest that they could contain people of higher social rank.Burials around the shaft tomb. Image: INAH
From the ceramic material found outside the shaft tomb the skeletons have been dated to between 600 BC and 500 AD.
Marco Zavaleta said that the excavations will continue in the east and west where it is believed there are more burials, since there is evidence of ceramic material and burial markers.
“The skeletal remains are now in the Colima Regional Museum, where physical anthropologist Rosa Maria Flores will carry out further examinations” , concluded Mr Zavaleta.
Source: INAHMore Information
INAH. Ancient Mexican burial site contains at least 28 individuals. Past Horizons. May 12, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/ancient-mexican-burial-site-contains-at-least-28-individuals
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Dienekes assembles the recent papers that looks at the connection between Bronze Age Scandanavia and the Mycenean state in Greece.
A quote to start off the collection states a simple fact that has large implications.
It turns out that all examined Swedish subject except one – a slaggbit – comes from mines and ore deposits from sites in Cyprus, Sardinia, the Iberian Peninsula, the Massif Central in the current France, Tyrol and the British Isles. Copper has been transported, and in return it has been shipped back large amounts of amber. What emerges is a picture of a time when international contacts over large water was obvious, and there are already some 2000 years before the Vikings set off on their journeys.dienekes.blogspot.co.uk
Beginning around two million years ago, early stone tool-making humans, known scientifically as Oldowan hominin, started to exhibit a number of physiological and ecological adaptations that required greater daily energy expenditures, including an increase in brain and body size, heavier investment in their offspring and significant home-range expansion.
Demonstrating how these early humans acquired the extra energy they needed to sustain these shifts has been the subject of much debate among researchers.
A recent study led by Joseph Ferraro, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology at Baylor, offers new insight in this debate with a wealth of archaeological evidence from the two million-year-old site of Kanjera South (KJS), Kenya. The study’s findings were recently published in PLOS One.Facilitated brain expansion
“Considered in total, this study provides important early archaeological evidence for meat eating, hunting and scavenging behaviour -cornerstone adaptations that likely facilitated brain expansion in human evolution, movement of hominins out of Africa and into Eurasia, as well as important shifts in our social behaviour, anatomy and physiology,” Ferraro said.Aerial view of the archaeological site Kanjera South, Kenya. Photo courtesy of Thomas Plummer.
Located on the shores of Lake Victoria, KJS contains “three large, well-preserved, stratified” layers of animal remains. The research team worked at the site for more than a decade, recovering thousands of animal bones and rudimentary stone tools.Increased reliance on meat eating
According to researchers, hominins at KJS met their new energy requirements through an increased reliance on meat eating. Specifically, the archaeological record at KJS shows that hominins acquired an abundance of nutritious animal remains through a combination of both hunting and scavenging behaviours. The KJS site is the earliest known archaeological evidence of these behaviours.
“Our study helps inform the ‘hunting vs. scavenging’ debate in Palaeolithic archaeology. The record at KJS shows that it isn’t a case of either/or for Oldowan hominins two million years ago. Rather hominins at KJS were clearly doing both,” Ferraro said.Transported as whole carcasses
The fossil evidence for hominin hunting is particularly compelling. The record shows that Oldowan hominins acquired and butchered numerous small antelope carcasses. These animals are well represented at the site by most or all of their bones from the tops of their head to the tips of their hooves, indicating to researchers that they were transported to the site as whole carcasses.
Many of the bones also show evidence of cut marks made when hominins used simple stone tools to remove animal flesh. Some bones also bear evidence that hominins used fist-sized stones to break them open to acquire bone marrow.
In addition, modern studies in the Serengeti–an environment similar to KJS two million years ago–have also shown that predators completely devour antelopes of this size within minutes of their deaths. As a result, hominins could only have acquired these valuable remains on the savanna through active hunting.Wildebeest-sized antelopes
The site also contains a large number of isolated heads of wildebeest-sized antelopes. In contrast to small antelope carcasses, the heads of these somewhat larger individuals are able to be consumed several days after death and could be scavenged, as even the largest African predators like lions and hyenas were unable to break them open to access their nutrient-rich brains.
“Tool-wielding hominins at KJS, on the other hand, could access this tissue and likely did so by scavenging these heads after the initial non-human hunters had consumed the rest of the carcass,” Ferraro said. “KJS hominins not only scavenged these head remains, they also transported them some distance to the archaeological site before breaking them open and consuming the brains. This is important because it provides the earliest archaeological evidence of this type of resource transport behaviour in the human lineage.”
Source: Baylor University
Baylor University. Earliest evidence of human ancestors hunting and scavenging. Past Horizons. May 10, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/earliest-evidence-of-human-ancestors-hunting-and-scavenging For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Once upon a time in the back garden, I started to do some archaeological grain processing experiments. It was the summer of 1995. I’d just finished an archaeology degree. Now I was enrolled on a master’s degree course at Manchester University and I was beginning my investigations into how people may have made the ale in prehistory.
In my final year as an undergraduate, I had chosen the British Neolithic and Bronze Age as my specialist subject. We were told that, in Bronze Age Britain- Beakers were for Beer! Warriors buried with wristguards and bows and arrows and fine beaker pots for their ale! It got a laugh from the class, as any mention of beer and brewing seems to do.I’m still not sure why – but that was when I first began to wonder. “OK. So, how did they make it?”
Being married to a craft brewer, I was used to living in a brew house. The sacks of crushed malt. The delicious aroma of the mash. The rituals. The water and wort spilled on the kitchen floor. Steam emanating from the out house door as he mashed the malt and boiled the wort. We lived in a big, old Victorian house and the dining room was where the beer was fermented. We had a cellar to keep it in. He would bring a sack of crushed malt in through the front door and transform it into beer. It was very good beer. It was a fairly simple process.Read the full article and follow the excellent ancient brew blog! on merryn.dineley.com
The Carmona necropolis (Spain) is a collection of funeral structures from between the 1st century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. One of these is known as the Elephant’s Tomb because a statue in the shape of an elephant was found in the interior of the structure.Not all as it seemed
This funerary chamber was however not always used for burials and a new study by researchers from the University of Pablo de Olavide (Seville, Spain) who conducted a detailed analysis of the structure suggests it may originally have been a temple of Mithras – a mysterious Eastern religion that was once a rival to Christianity as a major religion of Rome.
Researchers have identified four stages of renovation and reuse for the building.
“In some stages, it was used for burial purposes, but its shape and an archaeoastronomical analysis suggest that it was originally designed and built to contain a Mithraeum [temple to Mithras],” explained Inmaculada Carrasco, one of the authors of the study.
Carrasco and her colleague Alejandro Jiménez focus their studies on a window in the main chamber built during the first construction. Earlier studies had already pointed towards the window not being for providing light into the space, but rather it may have served a more symbolic and spiritual purpose.Mithra killing a sacred bull (tauroctony), By Jastrow (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons The Sun, the Moon and the stars
Analysis of the window, allowed the researchers to deduce that it was positioned so that the rays of the sun reached the centre of the chamber during the equinoxes, in the spring and autumn, three hours after sunrise.
The authors believe that at that moment a statue of the tauroctony, Mithras slaying the bull (which must have long ago been removed), would have been illuminated.
In addition, during the winter and summer solstice, the sun would light up the north and south walls respectively.
Moreover, the position of the heavenly bodies at that time in the 2nd century reinforces the theory that the building was constructed for Mithraic worship, a religion that gave considerable importance to the constellations.
As the sun shines through the window during the spring equinox, Taurus rises to the East and Scorpio hides to the West. The opposite occurred during the autumn equinox.
Taurus and Scorpio were of special significance to the Mithraics. The main image of the cult is that of the God Mithras slaying a bull, and in the majority of these images there is also a scorpion stinging the animal’s testicles.
Other constellations such as Aquarius, Orion or Leo, which were also of significance in this religion, appear in the path of the sun in the equinoxes and solstices at that time.
Moreover, according to the authors, the Moon, although having a secondary role, may have lit up the face of Mithras with a full Moon on nights near to the equinoxes.The Tomb of the Elephant – right insert shows the door and window. Credit: University Pablo Olavide Four stages of renovation
Apart from the window, the architecture of the original building has similarities to other Mithraic constructions.
Carrasco explained that it is “an underground structure, with a room divided into three chambers, with a shrine or altar illuminated by the window at the head. The presence of a fountain is also highly significant as these are commonly found in the Mithraeums”.
According to the authors, after its period as a Mithraic temple, the building was renovated three more times, giving it new functions more in line with the functions of a necropolis. A burial chamber was built and at a later date, the roof was removed, leaving open courtyards. Finally, it was filled with dump material and used as an area for inhumation burials.
However, there are some objections to the theory as it is in a necropolis, which would make this a rare location for buildings used by this cult which were more often found in domestic, urban or rural environments.
“A similar case is that of Sutri (Italy) where the Mithraeum is on the outskirts of the town. The structure in Carmona is in a multi-purpose space, next to the Via Augusta which connected Cadiz to Rome, close to the amphitheatre and the circus, and consequently its position should not be considered an objection,” concludes Jiménez.
Source: University Pablo OlavideMore Information
- A. Jiménez, I. Carrasco. “The tomb of the Elephant at the Roman Necropolis of carmona. A necessary review through the Building Archaeology and Archaeostromy” Archivo español de arqueología. DOI: 10.3989/aespa.085.012.007
- Mithraic Studdies Portal
- Carmo: city in ancient Andalusia, modern Carmona.
- X. Ariño, C. Saiz-Jimenez Deterioration of the Elephant Tomb (Necropolis of Carmona, Seville, Spain), International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation, Volume 40, Issues 2–4, 1997, Pages 233–239
University Pablo Olavide . Elephant’s Tomb in Carmona may have been Mithraic Temple. Past Horizons. May 10, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/elephants-tomb-may-have-been-mithraic-temple For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Uruk, in modern-day Iraq, is one of the first cities in the world and was populated almost without interruption for over 5,000 years – from the 4th millennium BC to the 1st millennium AD.
The city is famous for the invention of cuneiform writing at the end of the 4th millennium, in the “late Uruk period”. During this creative flourishing the city already covered an area of 2.5 square kilometres and many distinctive architectural features were invented and developed.View of the reconstructed “Stone-Cone building” with surrounding walls. © artefacts-berlin.de; Scientific material: German Archaeological Institute (DAI) Recreating the architecture of innovation
Today, little is known with certainty about the purpose and function of this early representative architecture, among which the so-called “Stone-Cone Building” is perhaps one of the most puzzling.
The construction technique utilised on this building is without parallel, and is found neither in Uruk itself nor anywhere else in the world. While all other buildings in the region use mud brick as the primary building material, its walls are made up of an artificial cement-like material that was applied, layer after layer.
Thousands of carefully formed and perforated slabs of ceramic were placed in-between each layer in order to provide the basis for the outer plastering, while, within the plastering, hundreds of thousands of coloured stone cones were set into the walls in geometric patterns to make up the mosaic decoration of the building.
Understanding the construction was an important step in understanding the building and architectural make-up of the structure and this is where German based conceptual design agency Artefacts Berlin came in. The team specialise in the visualisation of archaeological and scientific content, creating informative graphics and animations for exhibitions and research projects.Based on excavated evidence
Together with Prof. Dr. Eichmann, who has been studying the “Stone-Cone Building” for many years, the Artefacts team, who are archaeologists themselves carefully reconstructed the building process on the basis of the evidence.
The results were visualised in a compelling animation that captured the building’s entire construction process, from its complex foundation design to more interpretive reflections regarding its inner installations. Each step of the building process is shown in detail in order to give an informative overview of the construction of this outstanding building.
There was also a further benefit to utilising this 3D architectural rendering process- the digital model allowed for calculations to be made on the total amount of building material used in this large-scale building project.Infographic showing the total amount and type of building material that was used in the construction of the “Stone-Cone Building”. © artefacts-berlin.de A monumental exhibition
The digital model of this and other structures is now showcased at the exciting exhibition Uruk: 5000 Years of the Megacity that marks the 100th anniversary of the first excavations at Uruk
The Staatliche Museen’s Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East) and the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim collaborated with the German Archaeological Institute’s Orient Department and the German Oriental Society to create a comprehensive display, featuring objects from the Vorderasiatisches Museum’s own collection and the Uruk-Warka collection of the German Archaeological Institute, which is maintained by the University of Heidelberg. The German-held works will be supplemented by further extraordinary objects from other museums, including the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris.
The exhibition – along with these stunning digital models of the buildings promises to be an impressive demonstration of the emergence and blossoming of one of the oldest known cities in human history and will reveal how the many facets of urban life known to have first evolved in Uruk impacted not just on the ancient Near East, but the wider world as a whole.
Video is © artefacts-berlin.de; Scientific material: German Archaeological Institute (DAI)
Source: Artefacts BerlinMore Information
Artefacts Berlin. Uruk rises again in digital 3D. Past Horizons. Month Day, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/uruk-rises-again-in-digital-3d For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Geographic information systems – once limited to the domain of physical geographers – are emerging as a promising tool to study the past, as researchers are discovering for medieval history.
Almost nothing persists to reveal the existence of Jews in the Byzantine Empire – no buildings or synagogues, coins or seals, pots or pans, charms or amulets. Such evidence of everyday life simply hasn’t survived for this now-vanished people, despite their living in a region that stretched from the southern Balkans, across Turkey to Crete and Cyprus for almost a millennium until the late 15th century.Looking for the evidence
Yet, evidence there is – if you look hard enough: inscribed on toppling tombstones, referenced in medieval travelogues and documented in fragments of Hebrew manuscripts that have only recently been deciphered. But because these threads are scattered so widely, often inaccessibly or in fragments, Byzantine Jewry has been largely neglected in histories both of the Empire and of the faith.
Now, new research is not only filling these gaps – and, in so doing, showing how the Jewish population had a distinctive identity and unique culture – but is also breathing new life into the sources. The key to the approach is the use of a geographic information system (GIS). Similar to the advanced technology that underpins Google Maps and the global positioning systems now used in millions of cars, GIS combines a relational database with an interactive map. Like these tools, the map is dynamic – when a question is asked of it, the system pulls data from the database to produce a map that gives specific information about a specific location at a specific time.
Although GIS has been around for some 50 years, its use in research had largely been restricted to the geographical sciences. Today, however, the tool is increasingly being used by researchers to map behaviours and events onto the landscape, whether it’s the relationship between the built environment and obesity, or emergency planning for terrorist attacks and natural disasters.Managing and interrogating complex collections of data
And now, historians such as Professor Nicholas de Lange, who leads the study Mapping the Jewish Communities of the Byzantine Empire in the Faculty of Divinity, are turning to GIS as a means of managing and interrogating complex collections of data that relate to a defined location, and disseminating the information via the internet.
Maps have always been a linchpin of historical study but, as de Lange explained, GIS and the advent of web maps are providing new scope for visualising trends in historical data: “What’s exciting about GIS is it allows us to move into a different dimension. Conventional maps are two dimensional – they show the situation in a geographical area at a given point in time. We are adding a third dimension that frees maps from being static snapshots – it can be viewed backwards and forwards in time, instantly revealing changes.”
“The interactive nature of GIS is ideal for allowing researchers to investigate varied types of information quickly,” added Dr Gethin Rees, who built the GIS-enabled database in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Umeå in Sweden. “Users can assess the relevance of particular places to particular Jewish individuals or communities, and compare the data over whatever time period best suits them.” The resulting website was launched in March 2013 and is freely available to specialists and nonspecialists alike.
“We are trying to tell an historical story through the medium of a searchable map,” said de Lange. “In a history book, the author will inevitably have made judgements about the data they decide to show on a map, and this information can become outdated. GIS circumvents this – our database aims to have all of the data that are currently available, and that becomes available in the future. Inclusivity is important because the relatively unexplored nature of the subject means that it’s impossible to predict all the uses to which historians and other researchers will put the data.”Painstakingly assembling data
To this end, research associate Dr Alexander Panayotov, with the assistance of three researchers based in Italy, Greece and Turkey, has been painstakingly assembling data that can be dated and located relating to the presence of Jewish communities in the Empire from 650 until the end of the 15th century.
One of the richest sources of information is the writings of the Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela, who passed through Byzantium on his way to the Holy Land in the mid-12th century. His travelogue describes the location of Jewish communities, the number of Jews or Jewish households in each place, their communal leaders, social status, religious schools and sects.Benjamin of Tudela in the Sahara, in the XIIth century. Engraving by Dumouza, XIXst century
Other sources of knowledge about Byzantine Jewish life include Hebrew inscriptions on tombstones that help to place individuals in specific locations at specific times; deeds, personal correspondence and legal documents, such as the marriage settlement and dowry in 1022 between Namer son of Elkanah and Eudokia daughter of Caleb, which provide social and economic history; and Hebrew manuscripts that contain the date and place of their writing. All the information these provide is being added to the growing database.
To date, around 1,000 separate sources have been analysed, describing over 1,000 individuals living at 150 locations and participating in 100 different occupations.Dealing with problematic data
One of the greatest challenges the researchers have faced is the fact that GIS was designed for use with empirical data – facts and figures that are assured. “When you consider the age-related damage and fragility of many of the medieval sources, precision and reliability are sometimes compromised,” explained Rees. “Given the scarcity of information, even such problematic data cannot be overlooked in a project of this type. Luckily GIS is capable of handling ‘imperfect data’ much better than conventional maps and it’s possible to provide a digital indication of the uncertainty surrounding an event. That way, the user can judge whether to accept the evidence or not.”
The Byzantine Empire is held by scholars to be an important historical link between the ancient empires of Greece and Rome – with their rich cultural and intellectual traditions – and the modern world. Some have suggested that, without this link, the nature of European civilisation would have been very different.Shining new light on the Jewish population
“The Jewish population was a very interesting minority group in this time period,” explained de Lange, whose research was funded by the European Research Council. “We have learned through this project that Jews were engaged not only in a wide range of trades, but also in farming, and even owned property and lands, unlike Jews in much of Latin Europe.”
Thanks to the new digital resource, fresh insights can be gained into the involvement of Jews in trade, the effect of political change on their lives, the movement of Jewish communities around the Mediterranean and the factors that influenced the development of Jewish residential quarters in cities.
“Past scholarship tells us that historians have not been able to see some of these relationships clearly,” Rees added. “For instance, the importance of silk has been over-emphasised, probably based on Benjamin of Tudela’s interest in writing about this occupation. We now know that silk production makes up only a tiny fraction of the overall references to Jewish occupations.”
Acknowledging that the use of GIS for historical research is still in comparative infancy, the researchers are aware that it’s not easy to predict how the technology will develop. But by taking steps to ensure that their data are available in formats that allow others to link to the dataset and re-use it in the future, their hope is that it will interlock with other digital projects, to provide a seamless historical resource that criss-crosses time and place.
Source: University of Cambridge
- Mapping the Jewish Communities of the Byzantine Empire
- Forging connections: digital humanities in Cambridge and beyond
University of Cambridge. GIS: An emerging tool to study the past. Past Horizons. May 10, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/gis-an-emerging-tool-to-study-the-past For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
More than two years after the January 2011 Revolution, urban and agricultural encroachment continues to threaten Egypt’s archaeological sites.
The lack of security that overwhelmed the country during and after the revolution has certainly taken its toll. The sanctity of spiritual and archaeological environments have been desecrated, with plundering and destruction by vandals, thieves and neighbouring residents being carried out virtually unchecked.
Well-organised and well-armed gangs of thieves are reportedly plundering archaeological sites, while illegal construction encroaches on and sometimes even covers them.
The rich Islamic site of Istabl Antar in Egypt’s first Islamic capital has been isolated, as have Al-Muizz Street in historic Cairo; the ancient Egyptian necropolis of Dahshour; the Giza Plateau; the New Kingdom site of Matariya; the area of Al-Bordan on the Alexandria-Marsa Matrouh highway and the Hagg Kandil site at Amarna in Minya in Upper Egypt, to mention just a few.
Some building encroachments were removed safely and without damage, but for others help came too late and some areas of historical importance, where genuine objects and important remains are still hidden in the sand, were ruined or looted.Read the full and extensive report on weekly.ahram.org.eg
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