Marine paleoecologist Marco Coolen from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) was examining vast amounts of genetic data from the Black Sea sediment record. He was astonished by the variety of past plankton species that left behind their genetic makeup (i.e., the plankton paleome).
The semi-isolated Black Sea is highly sensitive to climate driven environmental changes, and the underlying sediments represent high-resolution archives of past continental climate and concurrent hydrologic changes in the basin. The brackish Black Sea is currently receiving salty Mediterranean waters via the narrow Strait of Bosphorus as well as freshwater from rivers and via precipitation.WHOI researcher Alan Gagnon, Marco Coolen (center, in blue safety helmet), and the crew from the Bulgarian research vessel Akademik sample the sediment core that was used for this study.
(Photo courtesy Dimitri Dimitrov from the Institute of Oceanology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (IO-BAS)) A giant lake and a library of the past
“During glacial sea level, the marine connection was hindered, and the Black Sea functioned as a giant lake,” says WHOI geologist Liviu Giosan.
He added that “the dynamics of the environmental changes from the Late Glacial into the Holocene (last 10,000 years) remain a matter of debate, and information on how these changes affected the plankton ecology of the Black Sea is sparse.”
Using a combination of advanced ancient DNA techniques and tools to reconstruct the past climate, Coolen, Giosan, and their colleagues have determined how communities of plankton have responded to changes in climate and the influence of humans over the last 11,400 years. The findings of this study are published in an upcoming issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“DNA offers the best opportunity to learn the past ecology of the Black Sea,” says Coolen. “For example, calcareous and organic-walled dinocysts are frequently used to reconstruct past environmental conditions, but 90 percent of the dinoflagellate species do not produce such diagnostic resting stages, yet their DNA remains in the fossil record.”
The breach of the Bosporus sill connected the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the world ocean. As glaciers melted and global sea levels began to rise, the Black Sea also rose, bringing it to its present day level. (Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) DNA Sequencing approach
However, ancient DNA signatures in marine sediments have thus far been used for targeted reconstruction of specific plankton groups and those studies were based on very small clone libraries. Instead, the researchers used a high throughput next generation DNA sequencing approach called pyrosequencing to look for the overall plankton changes in the Back Sea from the deglaciation to recent times.
In addition, the researchers reconstructed past changes in salinity and temperature as the possible causes for plankton community shifts in the Black Sea.
To reconstruct the salinity, the WHOI team analysed sediments containing highly resistant organic compounds called alkenones, which are uniquely produced by Emiliania huxleyi — the same photosynthetic organism oceanographers study to determine past sea surface temperatures. By examining the ratio of two hydrogen isotopes in the alkenones, they were able to map the salinity trend in the Black Sea over the last 6,500 years.
“One of the isotopes, deuterium, is not very common in nature,” explains Coolen, “And it doesn’t evaporate as easily as other isotopes. Higher ratios of deuterium are indicative of higher salinity.”
The WHOI team collaborated with Chris Quince and his postdoc Keith Harris from the Computational Microbial Genomics Group at the University of Glasgow, and with micropaloentologist Mariana Filipova-Marinova from the Natural History Museum in Varna, Bulgaria to complete this study of the plankton paleome. Their findings revealed that of 2,710 plankton identified, 150 showed a statistically significant response to four environmental stages since the deglacial.A visual inspection of the core clearly shows different types of sediment deposited over time. Analysis of the first section (far left), determined the sediment was deposited over the past 2515 years and contained E huxleyi coccoliths. The second core section sediment was deposited 2515-7550 years ago. The last three sections (middle to right) contain calcite-rich, lacustrine or lake-related, sediments dating back 7550-~13,000 years. (Dimitri Dimitrov from the Institute of Oceanology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (IO-BAS)) Response to human activities
Their study revealed that 150 of 2,710 identified plankton showed a statistically significant response to four environmental stages since the deglacial.
Freshwater green algae were the best indicator species for lake conditions more than 9,000 years ago although the co-presence of previously unidentified marine plankton species indicated that the Black Sea might have been influenced to some extent by the Mediterranean Sea over at least the past 9,600 years. Dinoflagellates, cercozoa, eustigmatophytes, and haptophyte algae responded most dramatically to the gradual increase in salinity after the latest marine reconnection and during the warm and moist mid-Holocene climatic optimum.
Salinity increased rapidly with the onset of the dry Subboreal climate stage after ca. 5200 years ago leading to an increase in marine fungi and the first occurrence of marine copepods. A gradual succession of phytoplankton such as dinoflagellates, diatoms, and golden algae occurred during refreshening of the Black Sea with the onset of the cool and wet Subatlantic climate around 2500 years ago. The most drastic changes in plankton occurred over the last century associated with recent human disturbances in the region.
The new findings show how sensitive marine ecosystems are to climate and human impact. The high throughput sequencing of ancient DNA signatures allows us to reconstruct a large part of ancient oceanic life including organisms that are not preserved as fossils.
Coolen added that ancient plankton DNA was even preserved in the oldest analysed Black Sea lake sediments when the entire water column was most likely well mixed and oxygenated. This means that ancient plankton DNA might be widely preserved in sediments and can likely be used to reconstruct past life in the majority of oceanic and lake environments.
Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionMore Information
- Coolen, M, Orsi W, Balkema C, Quince C, Harris K, Sylva S, Filipova-Marinova M, Giosan L. (2013) Evolution of the plankton paleome in the Black Sea from the Deglacial to Anthropocene. PNAS (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1219283110).
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Marco Coolen
- Liviu Giosan
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Black Sea holds a treasure of ancient genetic data. Past Horizons. May 9, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/black-sea-holds-a-treasure-of-ancient-genetic-data For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Does this mysterious Hebrew stone reveal a messiah BEFORE Jesus? Controversial ‘Gabriel stone’ tablet goes on show in Jerusalem
The so-called Gabriel Stone, said to have been found 13 years ago in Jordan, features an unknown prophetic text from the time of the Second Jewish Temple, which some researchers claim references a messianic resurrection pre-dating Jesus.
Scholars say it as a portal into the religious ideas circulating in the Holy Land in the era when was Jesus was born.
Its form is also unique – it is ink written on stone, not carved – and no other such religious text has been found in the region.
Curators at the Israel Museum, where the first exhibit dedicated to the stone opened today, say it is the most important document found in the area since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
‘The Gabriel Stone is in a way a Dead Sea Scroll written on stone,’ said James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum.
The writing dates to the same period, and uses the same tidy calligraphic Hebrew script, as some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of documents that include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of Hebrew Bible texts.
The Gabriel Stone made a splash in 2008 when Israeli Bible scholar Israel Knohl offered a daring theory that the stone’s faded writing would revolutionize the understanding of early Christianity, claiming it included a concept of messianic resurrection that predated Jesus.
He based his theory on one hazy line, translating it as ‘in three days you shall live.’
His interpretation caused a storm in the world of Bible studies, with scholars convening at an international conference the following year to debate readings of the text, and a National Geographic documentary crew featuring his theory.
An American team of experts using high resolution scanning technologies tried – but failed – to detect more of the faded writing.
Knohl, a professor of Bible at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, eventually scaled back from his original bombshell theory but the fierce scholarly debate he sparked continued to reverberate across the academic world, bringing international attention to the stone.Read the full article on the dailymail.co.uk
From Ireland to the Balkans, Europeans are basically one big family, closely related to one another for the past thousand years, according to a new study of the DNA of people from across the continent.
The study, co-authored by Graham Coop, a professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis, is published in the journal PLoS Biology.A modern-day person living in the United Kingdom shares ancestors with people across the Europe. These maps show where the distant cousins of modern-day people in the UK live, at three different levels of relatedness (recent on top, older on the bottom). Bigger circles mean more ancestors, and numbers give average number of shared genetic ancestors. The further back in time, the more widespread the shared ancestors. Credit: Peter Ralph/USC and Graham Coop/UC Davis.
“What’s remarkable about this is how closely everyone is related to each other. On a genealogical level, everyone in Europe traces back to nearly the same set of ancestors only a thousand years ago,” Coop said.
“This was predicted in theory over a decade ago, and we now have concrete evidence from DNA data,” Coop said, adding that such close kinship likely exists in other parts of the world as well.Relatedness among Europeans
Coop and co-author Peter Ralph, now a professor at the University of Southern California, set out to study relatedness among Europeans in recent history, up to about 3,000 years ago. Drawing on the Population Reference Sample (POPRES) database, a resource for population and genetics research, they compared genetic sequences from more than 2,000 individuals.
As expected, Coop and Ralph found that the degree of genetic relatedness between two people tends to be smaller the farther apart they live. But even a pair of individuals who live as far apart as the United Kingdom and Turkey — a distance of some 2,000 miles — likely are related to all of one another’s ancestors from a thousand years ago.
Subtle local differences, which likely mark demographic shifts and historic migrations, exist on top of this underlying kinship, Ralph said. Barriers like mountain ranges and linguistic differences have also slightly reduced relatedness among regions.
Coop noted, however, that these are all relatively small differences.
“The overall picture is that everybody is related, and we are looking at only subtle differences between regions,” he said.
To learn about these patterns, Ralph and Coop used ideas about the expected amount of genome shared between relatives of varying degrees of relatedness. For example, first cousins have grandparents in common and share long stretches of DNA.
Ralph and Coop looked for shorter blocks of DNA that were shared between cousins separated by many more generations.Shared blocks of DNA
Because the number of ancestors doubles with every generation, the chance of having identical DNA in common with more distant relatives quickly drops. But in large samples, rare cases of distant sharing could be detected. With their analysis, Coop and Ralph were able to detect these shared blocks of DNA in individuals spread across Europe, and calculate how long ago they shared an ancestor.
Coop and Ralph hope to continue the work with larger and more detailed databases, including much finer-resolution data on where individuals lived within a country.
However, Coop noted that while studies of genetic ancestry can shed light on history, they do not tell the whole story. Archaeology and linguistics also provide important information about how cultures and societies move and change.
“These studies need to proceed hand in hand, to form a much fuller picture of history,” Coop said.
Source: University of California – DavisMore Information
- Coop lab: Q&A about ancestry and genetics
- Genomics Recapitulates History in Europe- PLoS Biology – Open Access
University of California – Davis. Genes show one big European family. Past Horizons. May 08, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/Genes show one big European family For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
The Cape of Cavalleria on the northern coast of Menorca provides a natural shelter for the port of Sanitja from the northern and northeastern winds. This natural port was first occupied as a military camp during the Roman conquest of the Balearic Islands by General Metelus between 123 and 121 BCE, and the harbour settlement grew over the following centuries.
In 1996 the formal study of this area began, revealing one of the most important archaeological sites on the island of Menorca. The initial work between 1996 and 2008, revealed that the military camp had an unexpectedly long occupation of almost 70 years, until it was abandoned around 45 BCE. At this point, the veteran soldiers, merchants and locals started living in a ramshackle settlement that developed slowly into a new city called Sanisera, mentioned first by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century CE.Figure 1: Location of the sites in realtion to the main port Investigating the burials grounds
A team from the Sanisera Field School have been investigating two of the seven necropolis sites that surround the city. Between 2008 and 2011 one of them was completely excavated –necropolis 6 (N6)- containing 45 tombs. In 2012 work started on necropolis 4 (N4)- where 9 tombs have so far been excavated. Both cemeteries, belong to an area used for burials during the Late Antiquity period of Menorca, between the 5th and 6th centuries CE.
Even though the exact limits of the Roman city are yet to be determined, both N4 and N6 would have been located outside the walls, following the Roman legal requirement regarding placement of cemeteries outwith areas of occupation.
Of the 54 tombs that have been examined, most of them are cist burials, while the rest are simple rectangular pits cut directly into the bedrock, with the exception of a single burial which reused a Late Empire African amphora and contained the remains of a child.Figure 2: Cist tomb. Necropolis 6. Tomb 5. Cist burials
The use of cist tombs is widely documented in several Late Antiquity necropoles of the Balearic Islands; a cist consisting of a rectangular pit lined with a series of roughly cut stone slabs which form the sides of the tombs and in most cases, the base. Remains of sandstone and limestone slabs which were used as covers in both cist and simple pit tombs have been found throughout the area but all of them were broken. (Fig. 2)
Almost all the tombs had been looted in antiquity for valuable grave goods, but it is still possible to reconstruct the form and materials used to build the structures. Most of the materials are reused from other places and consist of tegulae (roof tiles), sandstone or slates and stone slabs which were taken from the vicinity. The use of opus caementicium (a Roman cement) has been confirmed from small fragments found inside the tombs and would have been used as a sealant.Figure 3: Excavation and final image of Tomb 42- Child in an amphora (Necropolis 06). The amphora burial
Of special interest is the amphora burial (tomb 42, N6) (Fig. 3), representing a typology used in funerary complexes and again dating from the Late Antiquity period, for the interment of infants.
Other examples of amphora burials appear in the necropolis of Parc de la Ciutat in Tarraco (Tarragona, Spain), which dates from the 4th until middle of the 5th century CE(Dupré i Raventós, X., 1987), where 38 were located.
The example from Sanisera belongs to an African amphora type Keay 62a, which lacks the neck, rim and handles, removed to allow the body of the infant to be placed within. Part of the side was also removed to facilitate use as a coffin. This was a single burial, consisting of one amphora with no subsequent inhumations and was conspicuous in having no grave goods.
The dating of the African amphora, (Keay 62a type) is from the middle of the 5th to end of the 6th centuries CE. Amphorae were commonly reused for other functions, including funerary purposes very soon after they were discarded.
Even though amphora burials were widely used in Late Roman necropoles between the 3rd and the 5th centuries CE, this practice fell into disuse in the 6th century CE.
All the burials in N4 and N6 in Sanisera are inhumations which became the most common style during the Late Empire, especially as Christianity became the official religion in the 4th century CE, and throughout the Late Antiquity period. The most frequent type of inhumation during the period is the cist tomb, which was widely used in Late Roman, Byzantine and Visigoth funerary complexes.
The vast majority of the tombs are collective burials which seem not to follow any distinct spatial distribution between adults and subadults or women and men; possibly indicating that a group of individuals buried in a certain tomb could have been members of the same family; something which could be confirmed by carrying out DNA analysis.
There are also a small number of tombs in the two necropoles which are of the simple pit type – containing a mixture of both adults and sub-adults as well as the previously described amphora burial.Reusing tombs
The most interesting case of reuse was detected in tomb 13 in N4, which contained 16 individuals. Investigations are ongoing to determine whether this constant reuse was due to the lack of space in the main necropolis, or because the individuals belonged to the same family group and were being interred with relatives. The reuse of tombs was a frequent practice in Byzantine and Visigoth necropolis cemeteries in the Iberian Peninsula. Two attested examples are the necropolis of Alcalá de Henares, Estagel (Ripoll, 1986: 56) and the Byzantine necropolis of Carthago Spartaria in Cartagena (Vizcaíno, J. 2007).
To reuse tombs, every time a new individual was be be buried within, the remains already inside the chamber were pushed to the sides to make room for the new body. Interestingly, in many Byzantine and Visigoth cemeteries skulls were not moved and for this reason several can appear in the same location. This curious act of respect for the dead has been recorded in several tombs from N4 and N6, in one case with 5 skulls at the west end of the burial chamber.
The tombs from N4 and N6 follow an E-W orientation, which reinforces the interpretation of these sites as Late Roman cemeteries used after the adoption of Christianity.Figure 4: personal adornments recovered from the burials Grave goods
Ceramics are common finds in Late Roman funerary contexts, becoming more frequent within Visigoth cemeteries on the Iberian Peninsula. However, in N6 these grave goods do not appear, which may relate to a growing austerity in Christian burials. From the late Empire onwards the “immaterial state of the soul” prevailed (Ripoll, 1989: 413), dispensing with the need for grave goods, with the exception of the rare personal ornament.
Personal items found in Sanisera consisted almost entirely of jewellery, including necklace beads, earrings and rings. (Fig. 4). In 2012 during the excavation of tomb 403 of N4, a well preserved bronze bracelet was discovered on the wrist of a young woman.The human remains
Taphonomy is an important factor in this skeletal population. Broadly speaking, the bone remains are poorly preserved due to disturbance by plant and animal action as well as the chemical composition of the soil.Figure 5: Distribution of aged individuals from the skeletal assemblages ( 54 individuals)
In addition, it is clear that looting has taken place – both in antiquity and more recently. These activities, in combination with the practice of multiple burials have caused a considerable disorganization in the skeletal remains and for this reason the population of the cemeteries might show different demographic profiles.
In general however, initial analysis shows a typical Mediterranean population from the late Antiquity period: high birth rate, high infant mortality and low life expectancy.
The demography seen in this skeletal collection is representative of a population under economic pressure derived from environmental stress. The high infant and adult mortality in conjunction with the low life expectancy seems to point to the vulnerability of this population to environmental changes and metabolic stress (evidenced by malnutrition or undernourishment) and as a consequence they would have a reduced immunity to infectious diseases.
The possibility of an epidemic or infectious disease can not be ruled out in this population, and we must be aware of the plague pandemic (for example the Plague of Justinian) which affected most of Europe in the mid 6th century and even as late as 750 CE (Roberts and Manchester, 2007). As a natural port, Sanisera would have been exposed to different infectious diseases. However, the high birth rate shows that this population was not in decline. (Fig. 5)Signs of the times
The three most common pathological conditions observed in this skeletal population are: dental calculus, degenerative joint diseases and non-specific infections. These diseases are typical for a rural, non-industrialized population.
Dental calculus is related to the consumption of a protein-rich diet; which is the case for the Sanisera population, who would have had easy access to varied marine resources. As it happens in this population, low levels of caries are due to a mixed economy and consequently they were not overly reliant on wheat or starch base products. Linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH), which is identified by horizontal lines or grooves in the teeth’s crown or the root indicates survival against diseases during childhood and periods of malnutrition during the first years of life – in effect this is an indicator of a living population. In this sample there is a large number of LEH lines in adult teeth, which does suggest that individuals were strong enough to survive nutritional deficiencies and disease during childhood.
There is a high prevalence of degenerative joint diseases, including the chronic-degenerative diseases (usually age-related) and osteoarthritis (caused by a number of genetic and external factors). These pathologies are observed and differentiated through varying combinations and severities of porosity, osteophytes, eburnation and enthesopathies, as outlined by Aufderheide and Rodríguez-Martín (1998).
Several cases of porosity and/or the thickening of the inner and outer table of the cranium (in adults and subadults) in conjunction with new bone formation could be indicative of non-specific infection or metabolic disease such as anaemia or even scurvy. The fragmentary nature of the bones does not allow for further diagnosis to be made, but it is clear that the underlying cause of an individual suffering from any of these conditions is metabolic stress compromising the individual’s immune system. Such stresses can include malnutrition, clean water shortage, parasitic infestation and epidemics caused by specific infections.Conclusions
Necropolis 4 and 6 are well-planned funerary spaces with their tombs arranged in neat rows that follow a N-S orientation. These rows create aisles between them and the tombs and show a sense of order and municipal planning to the cemeteries. When necessary, more tombs could be constructed , expanding the rows parallel to the older ones.
The inhumations inside the tombs took place over long periods of time, allowing for at least partial decomposition of the previously buried corpses which can be assumed based on the displacement of semi-articulated remains towards the sides of the tombs during the subsequent burials. Indeed the quality of the construction, organisation and depth of the tombs are all factors that support the hypothesis regarding reuse of these tombs being part of the original planned function.
The results that have been so far revealed on Necropolis 4 during 2012 are similar to those from Necropolis 6 (2008-2011). The demographic and paleopathological profiles that have been analysed from these assemblages are typical for Mediterranean populations from the Late Antiquity period and add to the growing corpus of data from this period, helping better understand this pivitol period of transition in the Mediterranean world as the Roman Empire transforms into Early Medieval Europe.
Source: Georgina Pacheco, Carmen Olivares , Jonna Hurts, Fernando Contreras [Sanisera Field School]More Information
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Sanisera Field School. Necropolis Bioarchaeology at Roman Sanisera. Past Horizons. May 08, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/necropolis-bioarchaeology-at-roman-sanisera For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Archaeologists with the LAMAR Institute discovered the location of Carr’s Fort, a significant frontier fortification that was attacked on February 10, 1779.
The month-long search by a team of six researchers encompassed more than 2,700 wooded acres of the Beaverdam Creek watershed. Battlefield archaeology at Carr’s Fort yielded about a dozen fired musket balls, several musket parts and several hundred iron and brass items from the 18th century.18th century Brass Button ear Carr’s Fort. Image: LAMAR Institute Frontier home became fort
Robert Carr was a Captain in the Georgia Patriot militia and by 1778 his frontier home became a fort for more than 100 soldiers. In late 1778, the British launched a campaign to reclaim the southern colonies, which included a major recruitment effort among the frontier settlers. On February 10, Carr’s Fort was occupied by 80 Loyalists (Tories) led by captains John Hamilton and Dougald Campbell.
Almost immediately, 200 Georgia and South Carolina Patriot militia, who had been hot on the trail of the Loyalists, laid siege to the fort in an attempt to take it back. An intense fire fight raged for several hours, in which more than a dozen were killed or wounded on each side. Patriot forces, commanded by Colonel Andrew Pickens, were ordered to break off the siege after he received word of that larger party of 750 Loyalists advancing from the Carolinas.
The Patriots rode off taking the Loyalist’s horses and baggage with them. The Loyalists marched several hundred miles back south to rejoin the main British invasion force. Several weeks later, Captain Carr was killed at his home by a raiding party of Loyalist Creek Indians, while his wife and children escaped.A needle in a haystack
The archaeological team used metal detectors to systematically comb the woods for any evidence of the fort and battlefield. Each find was labelled and carefully plotted using GPS technology. More than a dozen 18th century settlements were located, but none of these proved to be the fort.
“The search for Carr’s Fort was like looking for a needle in a haystack, only harder. We had no map and few descriptions of the fort, so its location was entirely unknown. Historians and land surveyors provided some clues to about a dozen potential target areas, which helped narrow the search. The LAMAR field team discovered Carr’s Fort on the last hour of the last day of the field project. Although our funds were depleted, I had no trouble convincing my crew to return with me to volunteer for another day or two to better establish the identity of the archaeological finds as Carr’s Fort”, stated Daniel Elliott, President of the LAMAR Institute.Musket butt plate near Carr’s Fort. Image: LAMAR Institute Revolutionary fervour
Wilkes County was a hot-bed of revolutionary fervour during the American Revolution. The discovery of the archaeological remains of Carr’s Fort indicates great potential that remnants of more than 30 other forts in Wilkes County may still exist. The identification of such resources can provide important new information on Georgia’s role in the American Revolution and how this international conflict affected remote frontier settlements.
Researching, locating, identifying, and interpreting fortifications and battlefields is one of The LAMAR Institute’s research focuses. This includes the Colonial, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War periods. Prior investigation of Revolutionary War sites has included the battle fields of Kettle Creek, New Ebenezer, Sansavilla Bluff, Savannah, and Sunbury. A complete report on the Carr’s Fort Battlefield project will be available to the public in early 2014.
Source: Lamar Institute
- The discovery was funded through grants from the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program, Kettle Creek Battlefield Association, and The LAMAR Institute.
- Lamar Institute
Lamar Institute. Our Title. Archaeologists discover Revolutionary War Carr’s Fort . May 08, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/archaeologists-discover-revolutionary-war-carrs-fort
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The whereabouts of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the fabled Hanging Garden of Babylon – has been one of the great mysteries from antiquity. The inability of archaeologists to find traces of it among Babylon’s ancient remains led some even to doubt its existence.
Now a British academic has amassed a wealth of textual evidence to show that the garden was instead created at Nineveh, 300 miles from Babylon, in the early 7th century BC.
After 18 years of study, Stephanie Dalley of Oxford University has concluded that the garden was built by the Assyrians in the north of Mesopotamia – in modern Iraq – rather than by their great enemies the Babylonians in the south.
She believes her research shows that the feat of engineering and artistry was achieved by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, rather than the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.
The evidence presented by Dalley, an expert in ancient Middle Eastern languages, emerged from deciphering Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform scripts and reinterpreting later Greek and Roman texts. They included a 7th-century BC Assyrian inscription that, she discovered, had been mistranslated in the 1920s, reducing passages to “absolute nonsense”.
She was astonished to find Sennacherib’s own description of an “unrivalled palace” and a “wonder for all peoples”. He describes the marvel of a water-raising screw made using a new method of casting bronze – and predating the invention of Archimedes’ screw by some four centuries.
Dalley said this was part of a complex system of canals, dams and aqueducts to bring mountain water from streams 50 miles away to the citadel of Nineveh and the hanging garden. The script records water being drawn up “all day”.
Recent excavations have found traces of aqueducts. One near Nineveh was so vast that Dalley said its remains looked like a stretch of motorway from the air, and it bore a crucial inscription: “Sennacherib king of the world … Over a great distance I had a watercourse directed to the environs of Nineveh …”
Having first broached her theory in 1992, Dalley is now presenting a mass of evidence in a book, The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon, which Oxford University Press publishes on 23 May. She expects to divide academic opinion, but the evidence convinces her that Sennacherib’s garden fulfils the criteria for a wonder of the world – “magnificent in conception, spectacular in engineering, and brilliant in artistry”.
Dalley said: “That the Hanging Garden was built in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar the Great is a fact learned at school and … ‘verified’ in encyclopaedias … To challenge such a universally accepted truth might seem the height of arrogance, revisionist scholarship … But Assyriology is a relatively recent discipline … Facts that once seemed secure become redundant.”
Sennacherib’s palace, with steps of semi-precious stone and an entrance guarded by colossal copper lions, was magnificent. Dalley pieced together ancient texts to reveal a garden that recreated a mountain landscape. It boasted terraces, pillared walkways, exotic plants and trees, and rippling streams.
The seven wonders appear in classical texts written centuries after the garden was created, but the 1st-century historian Josephus was the only author to name Nebuchadnezzar as creator of the Hanging Garden, Dalley said. She found extensive confusion over names and places in ancient texts, including the Book of Judith, muddling the two kings.
Little of Nineveh – near present-day Mosul – has so far been explored, because it has been judged too dangerous until now to conduct excavations.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, weren’t in Babylon at all – but were instead located 300 miles to the north in Babylon’s greatest rival Nineveh, according to a leading Oxford-based historian.
After more than 20 years of research, Dr. Stephanie Dalley, of Oxford University’s Oriental Institute, has finally pieced together enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the famed gardens were built in Nineveh by the great Assyrian ruler Sennacherib – and not, as historians have always thought, by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
Dr. Dalley first publicly proposed her idea that Nineveh, not Babylon, was the site of the gardens back in 1992, when her claim was reported in The Independent – but it’s taken a further two decades to find enough evidence to prove it.
Detective work by Dr. Dalley – due to be published as a book by Oxford University Press later this month – has yielded four key pieces of evidence.Read more on www.independent.co.uk
Rock paintings dating back thousands of years ago have been found in the Aegean province of Aydın’s Çine district.
Similar rock paintings have previously been found in the Beşparmak Mountains, Bafa Lake and its environs, all of which are located in an area divided between Muğla’s Milas district and Aydın’s Koçarlı and Söke districts.
The paintings, which are believed to be 7,500 years old, were discovered as part of work conducted by Tekirdağ Namık Kemal University Archaeology Department Professor Neşe Atik initiated in 2000.See full article on hurriyetdailynews.com
Figs and fig trees are familiar to a wide cross-section of human society, both as a common food and for their spiritual importance. What is less well understood is the global nature of this association between figs and humans, which is maintained across species, continents and societies.
This relationship is explored by David Wilson of Ecology and Heritage Partners and Anna Wilson from the University of Melbourne in Australia in a paper published in the Springer journal Human Ecology. Using examples from around the world, the authors show that figs are a vital resource for humans, no matter which species are present in a region.Spiritual connections
It is well known that figs are a recurring theme in religion: it is the first fruit tree mentioned in the Bible, and some traditions believe that it was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It was the tree under which Buddha received enlightenment.A small temple beneath the Bodhi tree (sacred fig), Bodh Gaya, built in 7th century, after the original built by King Ashoka in 3rd century BCE, c. 1810
Figs can also have powerful impacts on everyday life, both in a positive or negative fashion. For instance, Kikuyu women in Africa smear themselves with the sap of fig trees to ensure pregnancy. In Bolivia, soul-stealing spirits dwell in the canopy of figs and walking under, or felling, these trees can cause illness. In Papua New Guinea, figs are believed to be the haunt of evil spirits which would be released if they are felled.A multitude of uses
Aside from their spiritual connections, figs provide a range of material uses, and the authors explore examples of these from around the world. The fig is an important food source for both humans and animals, in both fresh and dried form. Different species of fig bear fruit at different times, so in areas where there are a large variety of fig species, fruit can be available all year round. In addition to human uses, shoots and leaves of fig trees are used for animal fodder, which can sustain livestock through otherwise lean periods.Cultural convergent evolution
In addition to being a food source, the bark and roots from fig trees are used for manufacturing items such as barkcloth, handicrafts, shields and buildings. The authors provide examples of barkcloth manufacture from Mexico, Uganda and Sulawesi. Despite the different fig species involved, the same method for making barkcloth has evolved three times – a remarkable demonstration of cultural convergent evolution. Figs are also a source of traditional medicine with sap being used to treat a variety of illnesses from intestinal upsets to heart problems and malaria. While the treatments vary between areas, the modes of preparation and administration are highly conserved.Humans as a dispersal agent
Figs and fig trees have a seemingly inexhaustible list of qualities and uses. Despite populations being continents apart, there are consistent similarities in the ways in which the fig and its tree are valued. The authors hope to emphasize the global nature of this relationship. They also provide hints that figs may benefit from humans by providing two examples where figs have used humans as a dispersal agent. Ficus religiosa in south-east Asia is spread by Buddhists and all fig species in Fundong, Cameroon, have been introduced from elsewhere. Given the examples the authors provide, further work is likely to further uncover just how close the connection is between humans and figs.
Source: Springer Science+Business MediaMore Information
- Wilson D and Wilson A (2013). Figs as a global spiritual and material resource for humans. Human Ecology DOI 10.1007/s10745-013-9582-z – download pdf
Springer Science+Business Media. Importance of the humble fig to humankind. Past Horizons. May 04, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/importance-of-the-humble-fig-to-humankind For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
The University of Leicester archaeological unit that discovered King Richard III has spearheaded another dig and discovered a 1,700 year old Roman cemetery – under another car park in Leicester.
The find has revealed remains thought to date back to 300AD – and includes personal items such as hairpins, rings, belt buckles and remains of shoes.Jet ring with curious symbol
In addition, the team has found a jet ring with a curious symbol etched onto it, apparently showing the letters IX overlain. Opinion as to its meaning is divided; it may just be an attractive design but it is also reminiscent of an early Christian symbol known as an IX (Iota-Chi) monogram taken from the initials of Jesus Christ in Greek.The jet ring just after it had been uncovered, showing the design. Credit: University of Leicester
The University of Leicester archaeologists have also identified the unusual practice of Christian burials alongside pagan burials.
In total, archaeologists have identified 13 sets of remains at the car park in Oxford Street in Leicester’s historic city centre.A known cemetery
Archaeological Project Officer John Thomas said: “We have discovered new evidence about a known cemetery that existed outside the walled town of Roman Leicester during the 3rd-4th Centuries AD.
“The excavation, at the junction of Oxford Street and Newarke Street, lay approximately 130m outside the south gate of Roman Leicester, adjacent to one of the main routes into the town from the south (Oxford Street). Roman law forbade burial within the town limits so cemeteries developed outside the walls, close to well-used roads.
“Previous excavations on Newarke Street had discovered numerous burials to the immediate east and north of the present site, all of which appeared to have been buried according to Christian traditions – buried in a supine position, facing east with little or no grave goods.
“Unusually the 13 burials found during the recent excavations, of mixed age and sex, displayed a variety of burial traditions including east to west & north to south oriented graves, many with personal items such as finger rings, hairpins, buckles and hob-nailed shoes.
“One in particular appears to have been buried in a Christian tradition, facing east and wearing a polished jet finger ring on their left hand which has a possible early Christian Iota – Chi monogram etched onto it, taking the initial letters from the Greek for Jesus Christ. If so this would represent rare evidence for a personal statement of belief from this period.
“In contrast a nearby and probably near contemporary grave appeared to indicate very different beliefs. This grave had a north-south orientation, with the body laid on its side in a semi-foetal position, with the head removed and placed near the feet alongside two complete pottery jars that would have held offerings for the journey to the afterlife. This would seem to be a very pagan burial, so it is possible from the variety of burials found that the cemetery catered for a range of beliefs that would have been important to people living in Leicester at this time.”The Roman individual who was wearing the jet ring under excavation. Credit: University of Leicester Medieval information
The excavations also add information to the increasingly well documented medieval southern suburb of the town, revealing remains of 12th-13th century quarries, cess-pits and rubbish pits that would have been dug in the backyards of properties fronting onto Oxford Street.
Mr Thomas added: “All of these pits contained a wealth of information from pottery, bone and environmental remains to help build a picture of medieval life in this part of the town. A large 17th century defensive ditch running alongside Newarke Street was also discovered which was part of the town’s defences during the English Civil War.”
The site is currently earmarked for development.
Source: University of Leicester
University of Leicester. Roman cemetery – under another car park in Leicester. Past Horizons. May 03, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/roman-cemetery-under-another-car-park-in-leicester For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
A nearly 1,000 year-old rune stone has been rediscovered at Bogesunds brygga west of Vaxholm in Sweden.
The rune stone was found during an excursion which was part of a course in landscape archaeology at Stockholm University. The stone has previously been known, but had been missing since the 17th century.Vague location
The runic script was carved into the stone sometime during the years 1050-80.
The characters were written down by antiquarian Peringskiöld in the 17th century, which means that virtually the entire text is already known. Hearsay said the stone was located somewhere around Bogesunds brygga and antiquarian Richard Dybeck searched for it in the 1870s without finding it.
The text on the stone reads:
“Gunne and Åsa had this stone and arch erected for Önd, their son. He died on Ekerö. He is buried in the graveyard. Fastulv inscribed the runes. Gunne erected this stone slab.”
Ekerö is an island in Lake Mälären just west of Stockholm.On the edge of a burial ground
“On the last stop of the day on the excursion with the students, the sun was shining in the right direction and suddenly it was there at the edge of the burial ground, the rune stone U 170 from Bogesunds brygga, which had been missing for 300 years,” says Torun Zachrisson, archaeologist and researcher at Stockholm University.
The inscription on the rune stone is the oldest evidence for the place name Ekerö and indicates the possible presence of an early church.
Only part of the stone remains and it is possible that the other half has been taken away for building use.
Source: University of Stockholm
University of Stockholm. Rune stone rediscovered after 300 years. Past Horizons. May 03, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/rune-stone-rediscovered-after-300-years
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The first evidence of agriculture appears in the archaeological record some 10,000 years ago. But the skills needed to cultivate and harvest crops weren’t learned overnight. Scientists have traced these roots back to 23,000-year-old tools used to grind seeds, found mostly in the Middle East.
Now, research lead by Li Liu, a professor of Chinese archaeology at Stanford, reveals that the same types of tools were used to process seeds and tubers in northern China, setting China’s agricultural clock back about 12,000 years and putting it on par with activity in the Middle East. Liu believes that the practices evolved independently, possibly as a global response to a changing climate.Stones for processing Professor Li Liu and graduate student Hao Zhao take residue and use-wear samples from a grinding slab in China. Image: Stanford University
The earliest grinding stones have been found in Upper Palaeolithic archaeological sites around the world. These consisted of a pair of stones, typically a handheld stone that would be rubbed against a larger, flat stone set on the ground, to process wild seeds and tubers into flour-like powder.
Once the stones are unearthed, use-wear traces and residue of starch grains on the used surfaces can be analysed to reveal the types of plants processed.
Liu focused on stones discovered at a roughly 23,000-year-old site in the middle of the Yellow River region in northern China. Most of the agricultural research in this area has focused on the Holocene period, roughly 10,000 years ago, when people were domesticating animals and farming.
“The roots of agriculture must be much deeper than 10,000 years ago,” Liu said. “People have to first be familiar with the wild plants before cultivating them. The use of these grinding stones to process food indicates that people exploited these plants intensively and became familiar with their characteristics, a process that eventually led to agriculture.”
Indeed, the starch analysis has shown traces of grasses, beans, wild millet seeds, a type of yam and snakegourd root – the same types of food that people in the region would domesticate thousands of years later. Domesticated millet, in particular, became the main staple crop that supported the agricultural basis of ancient Chinese civilization.Using a microscope, Professor Li Liu finds and records starch grains extracted from ancient tools. Image: Stanford University Human adaptation to climate change
Similar patterns of activity existed around the world at the same time, but this is the first evidence that people in northern China were practising comparable methods. In particular, the extensive use of seeds by people in China and elsewhere could help paint a picture of humans adapting to a worldwide changing climate during an ice age.
“Wild millet seeds are very, very small, and people would need to spend a lot of time to gather enough seeds to be useful,” Liu said. “This suggests either that they were under some pressure and better foods were not readily available, or that seeds had suddenly become more abundant and easier to collect.
“We know that during the Ice Age, populations were under pressure. I think that our finding suggests that there was some general evolutionary trend, and that people around the world reacted to climate change in a similar way, although independently.”
Incidentally, the presence of tubers could point to the dawn of another discipline.
“Yam and snakegourd root that we found can be used both as food and as traditional herb medicine in China,” Liu said. “Whether or not they were used as medicine, we don’t know yet, but this discovery could suggest that people understood, or were developing an understanding of, the medicinal properties of some of those roots.”
The study was published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: Stanford University
- The study was published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Stanford University. Origins of Chineses agriculture pushed back by 12,000 years. Past Horizons. May 03, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/origins-of-chinese-agriculture-pushed-back-by-12000-years For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Douglas Owsley, the division head for physical anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, presented a forensic analysis of 17th-century human remains proving that survival cannibalism took place in historic Jamestown.
The findings answer a long-standing question among historians about the occurrence of cannibalism at Jamestown during the deadly winter of 1609–1610 known as the “starving time”—a period during which about 80 percent of the colonists died. The announcement was made with chief archaeologist William Kelso from the Jamestown Rediscovery Project at Preservation Virginia, and historian James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at Colonial Williamsburg; each expert provided context about the discovery and the history of the site.17th-century human remains that were excavated from James Fort, Jamestown, Va., by William Kelso. Photo: Don Hurlbert, Smithsonian Unusual remains
Owsley has worked closely with Kelso and his team of archaeologists since 1996, examining skeletal remains to help researchers understand the lives of individual colonial settlers in the Chesapeake.
This particular incomplete human skull and tibia (shin bone) were excavated by Jamestown archaeologists in 2012 as part of a 20-year excavation of James Fort.
The remains were unusual due to their location and extensive fragmentation, so Kelso approached the Smithsonian’s forensic anthropologist for a comprehensive analysis.Indications of cannibalism
Owsley and his research team identified a number of features on the skull and tibia that indicated the individual was cannibalized.
Four shallow chops to the forehead represent a failed first attempt to open the skull. The back of the head was then struck by a series of deep, forceful chops from a small hatchet or cleaver.
The final blow split the cranium open. Sharp cuts and punctures mark on the sides and bottom of the mandible, reflecting efforts to remove tissue from the face and throat using a knife.Driven by desperation
“The desperation and overwhelming circumstances faced by the James Fort colonists during the winter of 1609–1610 are reflected in the postmortem treatment of this girl’s body,” said Owsley.
“The recovered bone fragments have unusually patterned cuts and chops that reflect tentativeness, trial and complete lack of experience in butchering animal remains. Nevertheless, the clear intent was to dismember the body, removing the brain and flesh from the face for consumption.”Several sharp cuts to the bottom of the mandible. Photo: Don Hurlbert, Smithsonian
Through specialized scientific analyses, Smithsonian scientists determined details about the life and story of this 14-year-old girl from England.
By analysing the dental development of the third molar and the growth stage of her shin bone, the research team determined that “Jane” was approximately 14 years old when she died.Cause of death not determined
The cause of death could not be determined from the remains, estimated to be less than 10 percent of the complete skeleton. Through a combination of digital and medical technologies, Smithsonian researchers led the effort to reconstruct the girl’s likeness through forensic facial reconstruction.
After scanning the incomplete remains of the fragmented skull with the museum’s CT scanner, a virtual model of the skull was pieced together digitally.
This digital rendering was sent to the Medical Modeling company to print a three-dimensional replica of the reconstructed skull. Finally, StudioEIS, in Brooklyn, N.Y., worked with Smithsonian scientists to create a forensic facial reconstruction of the girl’s likeness.Several sharp cuts to the bottom of the mandible. Photo: Don Hurlbert, Smithsonian
On May 3, the facial reconstruction will be on display in the National Museum of Natural History’s popular “Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th Century Chesapeake” exhibition, alongside other materials and information about Smithsonian forensic science.
The skeletal remains will be on display at Historic Jamestowne near the discovery site on Jamestown Island.
The contemporary accounts
The writings of George Percy, youngest son of the eighth Earl of Northumberland and a prominent member of the original band of Jamestown settlers, offers an insight into the plight of those early colonists.
“A worlde of miseries ensewed as the Sequell will expresse unto yow, in so mutche thatt some to satisfye their hunger have robbed the store for the which I Caused them to be executed. Then haveinge fedd upon our horses and other beastes as longe as they Lasted, we weare gladd to make shifte with vermin as doggs Catts, Ratts and myce all was fishe thatt Came to Nett to satisfye Crewell hunger, as to eate Bootes shoes or any other leather some Colde come by. And those beinge Spente and devoured some weare inforced to searche the woodes and to feede upon Serpentts and snakes and to digge the earthe for wylde and unknowne Rootes, where many of our men weare Cutt of and slayne by the Salvages. And now famin beginneinge to Looke gastely and pale in every face, thatt notheinge was Spared to mainteyne Lyfe and to doe those things which seameincredible, as to digge upp deade corpes outt of graves and to eate them. And some have Licked upp the Bloode which hathe fallen from their weake fellowes.”
Percy, reports how he dealt with a man accused of “killing, salting, and eating his pregnant wife”. When first told by the Swallow refugees, the story was hushed up and dismissed by the Virginia Company of London that was responsible for the colony and its supply. However, when Percy wrote his account in about 1625, he conceded that he passed a sentence of death on the man, not for cannibalism but for the murder of his wife.More Information
Smithsonian. Survival cannibalism took place in historic Jamestown. Past Horizons. May 01, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/survival-cannibalism-took-place-at-historic-jamestown For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
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Please note that now your favourite podcast – along with a great deal of additional features – is available also as an app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch on iTunes Store.
Stone Pages with BAJR and Past Horizons presents the long running archaeology based podcast with the latest archaeology news, mainly related to prehistory, megalithic monuments and discoveries.
An archaeological dig led by Dr Marc Oxenham from The Australian National University’s School of Archaeology and Anthropology has uncovered possibly the earliest cemetery site in Southeast Asia.
More than 140 ancient burials including men, women, teenagers and children have been recovered from the site in the Thanh Hoa province in northern Vietnam.Existed between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago
The burial site, known as Con Co Ngua, is believed to have existed sometime between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago. Rising sea levels helped preserve the site under a thick cap of marine clay.
“Archaeological cemeteries and living sites of such antiquity are all but unknown in the region, with only a handful of burials from a number of cave sites previously known,” Dr Oxenham said.Buried in a squatting position
Most of the bodies from the site were buried in a squatting position with their hands clasped in their laps and chins resting on their knees. Further research revealed the bodies were most likely wrapped tightly prior to burial and placed in circular earth pits with perishable items such as cuts of meat from buffalo or deer.
“The significance of this discovery – apart from its great age, size, plethora of artefacts and amazing level of preservation – is that it represents a crucial period in the archaeology of Southeast Asia,” Dr Oxenham said.
“The discovery tells us that the Con Co Ngua people are likely descendants of the original colonisers of Southeast Asia and Australia. In fact, putting flesh back on their bones would reveal people that looked a lot like modern day indigenous Australians and Melanesians.
“It will now take an army of students and academics to decode the mysteries of the site and the people that once lived there.”
The two-month excavation was a joint venture between Dr Oxenham and the Institute of Archaeology, Vietnam, and was funded by the Australian Research Council.
Source: The Australian National UniversityMore Information
The Australian National University. 140 ancient burials unearthed in northern Vietnam. Past Horizons. May 01, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/140-ancient-burials-unearthed-in-northern-vietnam
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A new archaeological park opens today (1 May 2013), in Niederstotzingen, midway between Stuttgart and Munich in Germany.
Located near the caves where University of Tübingen archaeologists have found the oldest works of art known to man, the Archeopark Vogelherd aims to help the modern visitor step into the world of our Ice Age ancestors.Carved by hunter-gatherers
Caves in the region have yielded delicate animal figurines of ivory, such as the Mammoth and the iconic Wild Horse recently exhibited at the British Museum in London; delicate flutes made from bird bones, and the Venus of Hohle Fels. These objects are 35,000-40,000 years old, carved by hunter-gatherers during the last major ice age.
“There is a lot of public interest in archaeology. People want to find out where they come from and who they are,” says Nicholas Conard, professor of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Archaeology at the University of Tübingen.Vogelherd cave
The Archeopark offers some answers by presenting the region’s unique finds in an accessible way. The focus is on the Vogelherd cave, where Conard’s team found the Mammoth figurine in 2006. The Archeopark integrates information about the Ice Age with the location, allowing visitors to experience how people lived here tens of thousands of years ago.
The University has worked closely with local authorities to bring the region’s unique history to life: the Museum of Prehistory in nearby Blaubeuren is due to open in 2014, and the University of Tübingen has opened a new Ice Age art exhibition at its museum in Hohentübingen Castle, which saw visitor numbers double in 2012.
“The University’s willingness to provide scientific support for the Archeopark was an important guarantee for its successful development as both an experience and a place of education,” Niederstotzingen Mayor Gerhard Kieninger explained.
Source: Tübingen UniversityMore Information
- Archeopark Vogelherd
- Ice Age Art: 35,000-Year-Old Mammoth Sculpture Found in Germany
- Hohle Fels venus
- Finds from the Vogelherd cave
Tübingen University. New Ice Age Archeopark for Germany. Past Horizons. May 01, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2013/new-ice-age-museum-for-germany
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Archaeologists from the University of Leicester have uncovered one of the biggest groups of Iron Age metal artefacts to be found in the region- in addition to finding dice and gaming pieces.
A dig at a prehistoric monument, an Iron Age hillfort at Burrough Hill, near Melton Mowbray in the UK Midlands, has given archaeologists a remarkable insight into the people who lived there over 2000 years ago.Iron Age gaming pieces that were found (dice at the top & ‘dominoes’/counters either side). Image: University of Leicester
Both staff and students from the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History and University of Leicester Archaeological Services are involved in the project, now in its fourth year.A series of large storage pits
About 100 pieces, including iron spearheads, knives, brooches and a reaping hook, as well as decorative bronze fittings from buckets and trim from an Iron Age shield, have been found.
Project Director John Thomas said: “To date the three excavation seasons have produced a wide array of finds that have transformed our understanding of how the hillfort was used, the length of occupation and the contacts that its occupants had with other regions. The last excavations focussed on a series of large storage pits that had become filled in with domestic refuse and produced a significant collection of objects including one of the largest groups of Iron Age metalwork from the East Midlands.
“All of the artefacts provide a remarkable insight into the lives of people who lived at Burrough Hill during the Iron Age. Further finds shed light on their social lives; a bone dice and gaming pieces were discovered alongside a polished bone flute and beautifully decorated blue glass bead from a necklace. These finds contrast sharply with artefacts found on other contemporary sites such as small farmsteads, suggesting differences in status and access to a wider range of material culture.Some of the ironwork – left to right a reaping hook, a cauldron suspension hook and a spear head. Image: University of Leicester
“The results of the project so far have been very impressive and tell us a lot about the history of Burrough Hill and its changing story over time. Not only that, but these results will enable comparison with other contemporary settlements and feed into a broader frame of research into the Iron Age occupation of Leicestershire and the East Midlands.”
The five-year Burrough Hill Project brought to light a huge amount of new evidence to enable a better understanding of the site which until recently had not seen extensive excavation due to its protected status as a Scheduled Monument.
Mr Thomas added: “This year we will be excavating further areas of the hillfort interior to increase understanding of how the hillfort was used.”
Source: University of LeicesterMore Information
- A Public Open Day will be held on Sunday 30 June between 11am – 4pm.
University of Leicester. A remarkable insight into Iron-Age life. Past Horizons. April 30, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/a-remarkable-insight-into-iron-age-life For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
Archaeologists make last ditch attempt to rescue remains of pre-historic tombs in RAK – The National
Archaeologists will comb through the 4,000-year-old tombs before road works in Ras Al Khaimah destroy some of them.
Archaeologists are in the final days of a three-month rescue excavation of the Qarn Al Harf tombs built by prehistoric date farmers.
Four megalithic, communal tombs are being excavated by archaeologists from the University of Durham in the UK and the Ras Al Khaimah Antiquities Department, ordered by the Ruler of RAK, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr.
Three tombs will be destroyed by the 32-kilometre RAK Ring Road that will bypass the city to connect the quarries and factories of the north coast with the 311 motorway.
The tombs date to the Wadi Suq period, from 2000 to 1600BC.
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In Manshiet Dahshur, 25 miles south of Cairo, the villagers recently extended the boundaries of the cemetery. For Ahmed Rageb, a carpenter who buried his cousin in the annexe, it was a logical decision. “We want to bury the dead,” he said, strolling through the new cemetery after visiting his cousin’s tomb. “The old cemetery is full. And there is no other place to bury my family.”
There is just one problem. The new tombs are perilously close to some of Egypt’s oldest: the pyramids of Dahshur, less famous than their larger cousins at Giza, but just as venerable. This is protected land, and no one is supposed to build here – yet more than 1,000 illegal tombs have appeared in the desert since January.
“What happened was crazy,” said Mohamed Youssef, Dahshur’s chief archaeologist. “They came and took space for about 20 generations.”
The tombs nestle in the dunes below the Red Pyramid, considered the pharaohs’ first successful attempt at a smooth-sided structure. To the south is the Bent Pyramid, named for its warped walls. In the east, nearer the Nile, lies the Black Pyramid – a collapsed colossus on which the villagers are most in danger of encroaching. This is their right, claimed Reda Dabus, a clerk worshipping at the mosque next to the cemetery. “All the people are born here,” Dabus said. “They died here. They should have the right to be buried here.” Inhabitable land is hard to come by in Egypt, where 99% of the population live on 5.5% of the territory.
But it is an argument disputed by local archaeologists, who say there is something darker afoot: looting. “Some of them have a real need for the tombs for their families,” said Youssef, who said that the land had been designated as government property since the late 1970s. “But when you have 1,000 people, some of them will want to do illegal excavation.”
Others agree. “They use the new tombs to hide what they are doing,” explained Ramadan al-Qot, a site inspector who grew up in the village. Observers say the cemetery is the latest in a series of forbidden incursions that have markedly increased since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. More than 500 illegal excavations have taken place at Dahshur since 2011 – an increase mirrored at sites all over the country.
“Dahshur is just a single case study of what’s happening on every archaeological site in Egypt,” said Monica Hanna, who campaigns for greater resources to be allocated to Egypt’s ancient sites. “It’s happened all around the Nile valley, in El Hiba, in Beni Suef. Everywhere.”
In the months following Mubarak’s fall in spring 2011, Nigel Hetherington, a British archaeologist and film-maker, documented dozens of new illegal buildings on ancient sites between Cairo and Dahshur. “They were openly building,” Hetherington said. “They had no fear of being filmed.”
The situation is symptomatic of a deterioration in law and order since the fall of the Mubarak regime. Nationwide, the police, whose brutality was a major cause of the 2011 uprising, no longer had the inclination to patrol either the streets or sites such as Dahshur. “After the revolution,” said Youssef, “the police would not do anything.” This left the inspectors to fend for themselves.
“It’s very dangerous for us,” said al-Qot, three of whose colleagues were hospitalised following a run-in with looters in December. “The thieves hide behind the tombs and shoot at us.”
The retreat of the state is just one explanation for the rise in looting and land grabs. Locals say it is also related to the way that the 2011 uprising prompted many ordinary Egyptians to shed some of their instinctive fear of authority. “The situation changed because the people changed,” said Youssef.
“That’s the reason for the building: the revolution,” agreed Abdo Diab, a carpenter who has built a tomb at Dahshur. “All the people now, we are not afraid of the army or the police or any government.”
“If we want something,” said Dabus, “we do it.”
At Dahshur, that is what has happened. In January, a dozen people who are said to have needed tombs for their relatives started building on restricted pyramid land. The site’s inspectors reported it to the police – but there was no response. “No one demolished their tombs because the government is so weak,” said Youssef. “So the other people realised that there is no punishment.”
Residents from other villages then heard about the free-for-all, and started building too. Then a building contractor allegedly claimed the land and started selling off small plots to those who agreed to pay him to build their tombs.
Soon there was a stampede, as no one wanted to be left out. “When one family built a tomb, the other families wanted new ones too,” said Diab, who also admitted that he had no legal right to build.
But many villagers still differentiated between their actions and the raids organised by armed gangs equipped with expensive diggers. “Some people built tombs to steal archaeology, definitely,” said 28-year-old Walid Ibrahim, picnicking on the boundary between the old and new cemeteries. “But all the old tombs are full and there’s no place to bury our new dead.”
There have been suggestions that both the looting and the government’s failure to tackle it results from the rise of Islamists who are culturally opposed to Egypt’s heathen heritage. One Salafi (or ultra-conservative) preacher recently called for the destruction of the pyramids. “But that’s just one person,” countered Hetherington. “There is some kind of undercurrent in this story [that this is] about Muslims against their foreign past. But it’s not. I’ve met Salafis here, and their views are not mine – but not one of them wanted to blow up the pyramid.”
Hetherington argues that the illegal building stemmed from locals’ economic and social alienation from their ancient heritage. “All they are is a cash cow for tourists,” said Hetherington of the pyramids. “And if you’re not in that business, where’s the benefit? In the past you might have got a spiritual value, because your grandmother was buried there, and you were going to be buried there, or because your mosque was in the temple, and you went to that mosque every day.”
Not any more, locals said. “When I was born, my grandfather and grandmother said that our pharaohs built the pyramids – but that was all they told us,” said Walid Ibrahim. “So many people don’t think about the pyramids. They haven’t any jobs. If the government gave them jobs, they would save the pyramids.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Where arrowheads, axes and other completed tools have received much of the attention by lithics specialists, archaeologist Sigrid Alraek Dugstad from the University of Stavanger has concentrated on the debris, unfinished or discarded products. In her article ‘Early child caught knapping: A novice early Mesolithic flint knapper in southwestern Norway,’ she overturns the hierarchy of artefacts from the Mesolithic period.Flint provides a durable testament to activity
During the Early Mesolithic (9500-8000 BCE) there seems to have been ready access to flint in Western Norway. Norwegian geology does not itself contain flint, but nodules were brought to the shores via glacial action and ice packs that deposited the valuable resource on the shorelines.
Flint knapping was one of the important technologies of the Stone Age and with the durability of flake stone tools and production debris it ensures that important information about technological processes and the social context of the acquisition of knapping skills are preserved.Failed axe from Hundvåg is damaged by a succession of failed strokes in both edge and body, suggesting that it was sculpted by an unskilled knapper, probably a child.
Photo: Terje Tveit, Archeological Museum, UiS Debris from a working area
During excavations at Hundvåg in Stavanger (Norway) in 2001 and 2002, five sites from the early Mesolithic were investigated. Situated a short distance from the dwelling, one of the sites turned out to be a work area where individuals were creating flint tools, dismembering animals and preparing skins and hides.
Dugstad noticed the flint assemblage lying here. Much of the deposited artefacts were wing-shaped, side-edge flakes, characteristic of flake axe-production, and among the debris she found a discarded flake axe.
The axe was not functional and had never been used, discarded along with many other flint artefacts on the site.
Both the body and the edge of the axe had been damaged by, “.. a succession of failed strokes, terminating in many hinge and step fractures, indicates that the axe was made by a novice flintknapper, probably a child,” Dugstad says. It had eventually been impossible to correct the repeated errors, and the axe was thrown into the waste heap. “Maybe the purpose was to practise the technique in itself rather than produce a finished tool,” she concludes.
In France, research on flaked stone tools and production debris has shown that it is possible to reveal the work and movements of individuals. These studies show that debris from tool production is an ideal starting point for distinguishing between different levels of skill, and thus the playing and imitations by children.
“It is reasonable to assume that every individual needed basic knowledge and skills in this type of tool production,” Dugstad believes. The need to practise before achieving good results implies that children are responsible for a far greater share of products than previously observed in the archaeological assemblage.Searching for a more detailed picture
Dugstad will also look at other areas in her studies of the past.
“I would like to search for a more detailed picture of settlement life. What activities took place at the sites and how were they organized? Where and how was knowledge transferred between generations? Traditions in tool technology and transmission of knowledge are central subjects. Recent archaeological investigations, where larger adjoined areas have been uncovered, can give a better understanding of the social organization at the micro-level,” she announced.
The need to practise before achieving good results implies that children are responsible for a far greater share of products than previously observed in the archaeological assemblage.Pioneering archaeological work
The ‘Archaeology of Children’ challenges the mindset of the researcher, both in terms of collected archaeological material, and when the archaeologist goes out into the field to make hypotheses about where the settlements have been in the past, and who the people were who once lived there.
The pioneer in children’s archaeology, Professor Grete Lillehammer has since the early 1970s, worked with this topic, and toward the end of the 1980s she wrote the first article concerning research on children in the past, an article that caught the attention of the academic community in Europe.
“Evidently, working with prehistoric people is particularly demanding for the archaeologist. At the same time as the children were linked to the adult world, they were kids who liked to run off to play hide and seek. Traces of children’s play are marginal and spread over a large and complex area, and therefore not easy to detect,” Lillehammer explains.
She still works actively to support new researchers and wishes to increase awareness of children in the past and make it natural to look for evidence in excavations.
Source: University of StavangerMore Information
- Early child caught knapping: A novice early Mesolithic flint-knapper in southwestern Norway
- Blankholm H. P., Earliest Mesolithic Site in Northern Norway?: A Reassessment of Sarnes B4, Arctic Anthropology Volume 41, Number 1, 2004 pp. 41-57 | 10.1353/arc.2011.0093
- Ferguson, J. 2008. The when, where, and how of novices in craft production. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 15(1), 51–67.
- Johansen, L. and Stapert, D. 2005. Stone Age Kids and their Stones. In M. Sørensen and P. Desrosiers (eds), Technology in Archaeology. Proceedings of the SILA Workshop. Publishing from the National Museum Studies in Archaeology and History Vol. 14. Copenhagen.
- Kamp, K.A. 2001. Where Have All the Children Gone?: The Archaeology of Childhood. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 8(1), 1–34.
- Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past
University of Stavanger. Knapping child’s play. Past Horizons. April 29, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2013/knapping-childs-play For Archaeology News – Archaeology Research – Archaeology Press Releases
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