Image : John Stewart conducting his research into prehistoric environmentsTracing the effects of climate change on prehistoric and future environments
Dr John Stewart has made important contributions to a growing body of work that shows how the evolution of ecosystems has to be taken into account when speculating between different geological eras. Go back to the time of the dinosaurs or to the single-celled organisms at the origins of life, and it is obvious that ecosystems existing more than 65 million years ago and around four billion years ago cannot be simply surmised from those of today.
Although the most drastic evolutionary changes occur over long spans of time, the effects can be seen relatively recently, argues Dr Stewart.
Stewart has studied the interaction between ancient ecosystems – paleoecology – and evolution of humans and other organisms over the past 100,000 years, undertaking everything from excavating cave sites in Belgium to exploring the desert of Abu Dhabi.
In one milestone collaborative study, Dr Stewart has taken existing knowledge of the geographical spread of plant and animal species throughout the warming and cooling of the Ice Ages to provide insights into human origins, including the evolution and extinction of Neanderthals.
He has also examined the rise of the ‘first Europeans’, along with the Denisovans – a newly discovered group – mysterious cousins of the Neanderthals, who occupied a vast realm stretching from the chill expanse of Siberia to the tropical forests of Indonesia.
The key insight in this work, conducted alongside Prof Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum, came from understanding the important role of the refuge taken by a species from harsher conditions – known as a refugium – which has a tremendous influence on the evolutionary future of the species. Once the climate changes again, for instance as ice sheets melt, these refuges can expand or connect up again.
But, of course, there’s a twist. Evolution has also had a huge influence. The inhabitants are not the same as the original populations as a result of genetic mutations. The time spent apart in refuge generally serves to splinter a once unified species.
Previous research into hedgehogs, polar bears and other animals suggest that, even once an Ice Age ends and the different populations start intermingling again, they never really merge back together as a single group. This process drives important evolutionary changes, which can ultimately lead to the origins of a new species.
Ultimately, this explains why Homo sapiens are still here and our archaic human cousins went extinct some 30,000 years ago: our ancestors chose the right refuge to wait out the Ice Age.
Today, Dr Stewart’s work has shifted away from fossil remains to ancient DNA. Traditionally insights into the evolution of species have come from fossils, but we now know that the genetic changes that underlie a major change in body shape can be minor.
“The most exciting development in my field has been the ability to analyse ancient DNA, which has begun to allow us to see evolution happening over the last several dozen thousand years,” explains Dr Stewart.
His claim that climate change caused the Neanderthals’ demise is supported by work by Love Dalén at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, who has looked at the genes in 13 Neanderthal fossils found in southern Europe and western Asia.
All Neanderthal fossils more than 48,000 years old, and those found in Asia, had a higher level of genetic diversity than later European fossils, suggesting that the Neanderthals probably went through an evolutionary ‘bottleneck’ where a significant percentage of them perished.
When a bottleneck occurs, the remaining individuals are often a much less diverse group, which makes it more difficult for them to evolve and adapt to a changing environment.
Dr Stewart, who is doing DNA studies in collaboration with teams at the Natural History Museum in Stockholm and the Universities of York and Royal Holloway, is now focusing on using genetics to elucidate the evolution of a wide range of creatures.
He has conducted recent studies at the cave site of Trou Al’Wesse, a refugium once occupied by Neanderthals, in Belgium. He is studying how animal populations changed as a result of Ice Age climate change to understand the evolutionary processes that have taken place over the last 50,000 years.
But his work is not confined to the past. It informs the present too. Recently there had been a proposal to eradicate the Eagle Owl because it killed other birds, such as hen harriers, and was not thought to be a native species. But Dr Stewart’s studies of fossils and more recent archaeological records revealed the bird, or something like it, has been present in Britain for up to 700,000 years. The plan to cull the birds has now been abandoned.
And his research can help us predict the future. The fear is that our ever-expanding impact on the planet will trigger ecological collapse. But the only way to know for sure is to look back into the past.
“By studying how organisms have reacted to past climate change,” explains Dr Stewart, “we can learn lessons about what may take place due to human-caused global warming.Contributing Source : Bournemouth University HeritageDaily : Archaeology : Archaeology Press Releeases
Excavation crew working on cleaning Operation V at the site of Caballete in the Fortaleza valley. Many of the stone tools and coprolites containing evidence of Maize came from this excavation. (Photo by Jonathan Haas)For decades, archaeologists have struggled with understanding the emergence of a distinct South American civilization during the Late Archaic period (3000-1800 B.C.) in Peru.
One of the persistent questions has been the role of agriculture and particularly corn (maize) in the evolution of complex, centralized societies. Up until now, the prevailing theory was that marine resources, not agriculture and corn, provided the economic engine behind the development of civilization in the Andean region of Peru.
Now, breakthrough research led by Field Museum curator Dr. Jonathan Haas is providing new resolution to the issue by looking at microscopic evidence found in soil, on stone tools, and in coprolites from ancient sites and dated with over 200 Carbon-14 dates.
After years of study, Haas and his colleagues have concluded that during the Late Archaic, maize (Zea mays, or corn) was indeed a primary component in the diet of people living in the Norte Chico region of Peru, an area of remarkable cultural florescence in 3rd millennium B.C. Their research is the subject of a paper that appears in the online Early Edition issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of February 25, 2013..
“This new body of evidence demonstrates quite clearly that the very earliest emergence of civilization in South America was indeed based on agriculture as in the other great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China,” said Haas.
Haas and his team focused on sites in the desert valleys of Pativilca and Fortaleza north of Lima where broad botanical evidence pointed to the extensive production, processing and consumption of maize between 3000 and 1800 B.C. They studied a total of 13 sites. The two most extensively studied sites were Caballete, about six miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and consisting of six large platform mounds arranged in a “U” shape, and the site of Huaricanga, about 14 miles inland and consisting one very large mound and several much smaller mounds on either side.
The scientists targeted several areas at the sites including residences, trash pits, ceremonial rooms, and campsites. A total of 212 radiocarbon dates were obtained in the course of all the excavations.
Macroscopic remains of maize (kernels, leaves, stalks, and cobs) were rare.Stone scraping tool
However, the team looked deeper and found an abundance of microscopic evidence of maize in various forms in the excavations. One of the clearest markers was the abundance of maize pollen in the prehistoric soil samples. While maize is grown in the area today, they were able to rule out modern day contamination because modern maize pollen grains are larger and turn dark red when stain is applied. Also, modern soil samples consistently contain pollen from the Australian Pine (Casuarinaceae Casuarina), a plant which is an invasive species from Australia never found in prehistoric samples.
A majority of the soil samples analyzed came from trash pits associated with residential architecture. Other samples were taken from places such as room floors and construction debris. Of the 126 soil samples (not counting stone tools and coprolites) analyzed, 61 contained Z. mays pollen. (In fact, Z. mays was the second most common pollen found in the total of all samples, behind only pollen from cattails which have wind-pollinated flowers.) This is consistent with the percentage of maize pollen found in pollen analyses from sites in other parts of the world where maize is a major crop and constitutes the primary source of calories in the diet.A multi-purpose stone tool from Caballete.
Haas and his colleagues also analyzed residues on stone tools used for cutting, scraping, pounding, and grinding. The tools were examined for evidence of plant residues, particularly starch grains and phytoliths (plant silica bodies). Of the 14 stone tools analyzed, 11 had maize starch grains on the working surfaces and two had maize phytoliths.
Coprolites (preserved fecal material) provide the best direct evidence of prehistoric diet. Among 62 coprolites analyzed of all types – 34 human, 16 domesticated dog, and others from various animals – 43 (or 69 percent) contained maize starch grains, phytoliths, or other remains. Of the 34 human coprolites, 23 (or 68 percent) contained evidence of maize. (The second most common grain in humans came from sweet potatoes.) Coprolites also showed that fish, mostly anchovies, did provide the primary protein in the diet, but not the calories.
The researchers concluded that the prevalence of maize in multiple contexts and in multiple sites indicates this domesticated food crop was grown widely in the area and constituted a major portion of the local diet, and it was not used just on ceremonial occasions. The research ultimately confirms the importance of agriculture in providing a strong economic base for the rise of complex, centralized societies in the emergence of the world’s civilizations.Background:
All of the botanical work conducted on this project was carried out at the new Laboratorio de Palinología y Paleobotánica at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, under the direction of Luis Huamán. Analysis of the botanical remains was a collaboration among Huaman, David Goldstein, National Park Service, Karl Reinhard, University of Nebraska, Cindy Vergel, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. The Project was co-directed by Haas and Winifred Creamer, Northern Illinois University, with funding from the National Science Foundation.Contributing Source : Field Museum HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims : Wiki CommonsDr Melanie Klinkner explores the unique legal challenges surrounding forensic evidence from mass graves in international criminal trials.
Dr Melanie Klinkner, lecturer in Law at BU’s Business School, has devoted recent years to interrogating the use of forensic science – particularly forensic archaeology, anthropology, and pathology – in international criminal proceedings.
The nature of atrocity crimes prosecuted at international level is such that the accused is often a senior ranking military or governmental figure, with no direct involvement in any given base crime. Forensic evidence is therefore called upon to show whether the scale and methodology of killings discovered across a wide geographical area supports the hypothesis of more systematic activity. This is often required for the higher-order charges, such as crimes against humanity and genocide, to be proven.
“Challenges to forensic science are not so much rooted in cultural rejections of scientific methods,” explains Dr Klinkner, “but in the problems of overcoming specific geographical and cultural variables. On-going hostilities, adverse weather conditions and cultural sensitivities towards the scientific examination of the dead are common in places where forensic science is not well-developed as a tool of the criminal justice system. With current practices of outsourcing investigations at the International Criminal Court, there may also be questions about the integrity and effectiveness of outsourcing forensic fieldwork.”
Another challenge for forensic scientists excavating mass graves is that many have been contaminated by previous attempts. The totemic ‘pyramid of skulls’ in Cambodian mass graves, whilst the iconoclastic image of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, is a forensic anthropologist’s nightmare due to the alienation of crania from skeletons, the contamination of evidence and divorce of evidence from the crime scene.
Indeed, the cultural, religious and political imperatives of the aftermath of genocide are often in conflict with the dispassionate task of forensic science – the need to remember, to bury and grieve, to immortalise, to forgive, to display in museums, to collect with a view to remembrance rather than to analyse: all these motivations and activities may sit uneasily with the detached, pragmatic ideal of a forensic archaeologist.
Forensic science in the context of crimes against humanity also introduces complex questions of the rights of survivors and victims’ families. Clearly there is a humanitarian duty to try and identify victims, but whether there exists a substantive right (the “Right to Truth”) is a further challenge for socio-legal scholars concerned with such heinous crimes.
Ultimately, the examination of forensic evidence in the international criminal tribunals requires an interdisciplinary expertise – between legal scholarship, natural science and social science. The Law Department, working in tandem with forensic archaeologists from BU’s School of Applied Sciences, are rare in being able to address so many aspects of forensic science within international criminal contexts, just as the conjunction of these disciplines continues to evolve.Contributing Source : University of Birmingham HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Relics of Vizier Khay’s pyramid, built from adobe brick, in the courtyard of an older tomb on the Cheikh Abd el-Gourna hill (2/2013 ©Bavay/ULB).The Egyptian Antiquities Minister, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, announced , the discovery of a new pyramid from the Ramses era, found over the course of archaeological research being carried out on the Cheikh Abd el-Gourna hill by a joint University of Liège and Free University of Brussels mission.
Imprints on the monument’s brickwork indicate that the pyramid belonged to a Vizier of Upper and Lower Egypt called Khay, who carried out this function, equivalent to that of a Prime Minister, for some fifteen years during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II (around 1279-1213 before the Common Era).
The pyramid measures 12m sideaways and its original height reached 15 metres. The monument, built from adobe brick, was covered with a white coating and capped with a stone pyramidion decorated with the image of the owner worshipping the god Rê-Horakhty. The pyramid was constructed in the courtyard of an older tomb belonging to the deputy of the chancellor Amenhotep, discovered by the Belgian mission in 2009.
Situated on one of the hill’s crests and overlooking the Ramses II (Ramesseum) funerary temple, Khay’s pyramid without a doubt constituted a remarkable fixture in the Theban landscape. The monument was largely destroyed in the 7th-8th centuries of our common era, when the tomb was transformed into a Coptic hermitage.
Pyramids of adobe brick were constructed above the tombs of senior dignitaries during the Ramses era in the Theban necropolis. The Vizier’s tomb is situated immediately below the pyramid, under a modern villager’s house, and remains to be explored.
The discovery is one of extraordinary importance, because the Vizier Khay is well known to Egyptologists through numerous documents. Occupying the highest civil function in the kingdom, Khay was involved in the celebrations of Ramses II’s first six jubilees. He also supervised the community of artisans entrusted with building the royal tombs within the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Two statues of the Vizier, today in the Museum of Cairo, come from the Karnak Cachette, discovered in 1903.
During the excavations of the tomb of Amenhotep (TT C3), the mission also discovered magnificent fragments of wall paintings dating from the reign of Thoutmosis III (around 1479-1427 before our common era).
The mission’s work is supported by the University of Liège, the Free University of Brussels, the F.R.S.-FNRS and the Wallonia-Brussels Ministry for Academic and Scientific Research.Vizier Khay
The Ancient Egyptian Noble Khay, (Kh-’-y) was Vizier, in the latter part of the reign of Ramesses II, during the 19th dynasty.Family
A family stela from Abydos mentions that Khay was the son of Hai and Nub-em-niut. Khay’s father was said to be greatly favored by the Lord of the Two Lands and a Troop Commander of the goodly god. Khay’s mother Nub-em-niut was a chantress of Amun and Lady of the House. Khay’s wife is named Yam.Life
Khay grew up as the son of the Troop Commander Hai. A stela from Abydos shows that Khay started his career as the First Royal Herald of the Lord of the Two Lands. He was charged with reporting the affairs of Egypt. In year 26 of Ramesses II, Khay was appointed Vizier. He may have succeeded Paser in office. After year 40, Khay was in charge of announcing the sed jubilees held by Ramesses II. In West Silsila a stela pronounces that
“The Lord of Both Lands, Usermaatre Setepenre, Lord of Crowns, Ramesses II, given life like Re forever. His Majesty decreed that the Hereditary Noble and Count, God’s Father beloved of the God, Guardian of Nekhen, Prophet of Maat, Judge and Dignitary, City-governor and Vizier, Khay, justified, be charged to proclaim the Jubilee festival in the entire land, throughout the South and the North.” The previous sed festivals had been announced by the King’s Son Khaemwaset and Khay both.Contributing Source : University of Liege HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Burial of Teviec, (Britanny, France) Mesolithic : Wiki CommonsA new study from the University of Colorado Denver shows that the earliest human burial practices in Eurasia varied widely, with some graves lavish and ornate while the vast majority were fairly plain.
“We don’t know why some of these burials were so ornate, but what’s striking is that they postdate the arrival of modern humans in Eurasia by almost 10,000 years,” said Julien Riel-Salvatore, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology at CU Denver and lead author of the study. “When they appear around 30,000 years ago some are lavish but many aren’t and over time the most elaborate ones almost disappear. So, the behavior of humans does not always go from simple to complex; it often waxes and wanes in terms of its complexity depending on the conditions people live under.”
The study, which examined 85 burials from the Upper Paleolithic period, found that men were buried more often than women. Infants were buried only sporadically, if at all in later periods, a difference that could be related to changes in subsistence, climate and the ability to keep babies alive, Riel-Salvatore said.
It also showed that a few ornate burials in Russia, Italy and the Czech Republic dating back nearly 30,000 years are anomalies, and not representative of most early Homo sapiens burial practices in Eurasia.
“The problem is that these burials are so rare — there’s just over three per thousand years for all of Eurasia — that it’s difficult to draw clear conclusions about what they meant to their societies,” said Riel-Salvatore.
In fact, the majority of the burials were fairly plain and included mostly items of daily life as opposed to ornate burial goods. In that way, many were similar to Neanderthal graves. Both early humans and Neanderthals put bodies into pits sometimes with household items. During the Upper Paleolithic, this included ornaments worn by the deceased while they were alive. When present, ornaments of stone, teeth and shells are often found on the heads and torsos of the dead rather than the lower body, consistent with how they were likely worn in life.
“Some researchers have used burial practices to separate modern humans from Neanderthals,” said Riel-Salvatore. “But we are challenging the orthodoxy that all modern human burials were necessarily more sophisticated than those of Neanderthals.”
Many scientists believe that the capacity for symbolic behavior separates humans from Neanderthals, who disappeared about 35,000 years ago.
“It’s thought to be an expression of abstract thinking” Riel-Salvatore said. “But as research progresses we are finding evidence that Neanderthals engaged in practices generally considered characteristic of modern humans.”
Riel-Salvatore is an expert on early modern humans and Neanderthals. His last study proposed that, contrary to popular belief, early humans didn’t wipe out Neanderthals but interbred with them, swamping them genetically. Another of his studies demonstrated that Neanderthals in southern Italy adapted, innovated and created technology before contact with modern humans, something previously considered unlikely.
This latest study, “Upper Paleolithic mortuary practices in Eurasia: A critical look at the burial record” co-authored with Claudine Gravel-Miguel (Arizona State University), will be published in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial in April.
It reveals intriguing variation in early human burial customs between 10,000 and 35,000 years ago. And this study raises the question of why there was so much variability in early human burial practices.
“There seems to be little rhyme or reason to it,” Riel-Salvatore said. “The main point here is that we need to be careful of using exceptional examples of ornate burials to characterize Upper Paleolithic burial practices as a whole.”Contributing Source : University of Denvor HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
“Pond in a Garden” (fresco from the Tomb of Nebamun) : Wiki CommonsA bright blue pigment used 5,000 years ago is giving modern scientists clues toward the development of new nanomaterials with potential uses in state-of-the-art medical imaging devices, remote controls for televisions, security inks and other technology.
That’s the conclusion of an article on the pigment, Egyptian blue, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Tina T. Salguero and colleagues point out that Egyptian blue, regarded as humanity’s first artificial pigment, was used in paintings on tombs, statues and other objects throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. Remnants have been found, for instance, on the statue of the messenger goddess Iris on the Parthenon and in the famous Pond in a Garden fresco in the tomb of Egyptian “scribe and counter of grain” Nebamun in Thebes.
They describe surprise in discovering that the calcium copper silicate in Egyptian blue breaks apart into nanosheets so thin that thousands would fit across the width of a human hair.
The sheets produce invisible infrared (IR) radiation similar to the beams that communicate between remote controls and TVs, car door locks and other telecommunications devices. “Calcium copper silicate provides a route to a new class of nanomaterials that are particularly interesting with respect to state-of-the-art pursuits like near-IR-based biomedical imaging, IR light-emitting devices (especially telecommunication platforms) and security ink formulations,” the report states. “In this way we can reimagine the applications of an ancient material through modern technochemical means.”Background:
The authors acknowledge funding from the University of Georgia.
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.Contributing Source : American Chemical Society HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Credit IAAThe Israel Antiquities Authority exposed remains of an installation for extracting liquid which dates to the Byzantine period, within the framework of infrastructure development implemented by the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality
Archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority provide a glimpse at hundreds of years of magnificent history that lies beneath the busy streets. The excavations are being conducted prior to modernizing the infrastructure, on behalf of the Tel Aviv municipality, by the Mashlama Le-Yafo, within the framework of the Magen Avraham Compound project. Recently impressive remains of an industrial installation from the Byzantine period which was used to extract liquid were exposed on Hai Gaon Street.
Installations such as these are usually identified as wine presses for producing wine from grapes, and it is also possible they were used to produce wine or alcoholic beverage from other types of fruit that grew in the region. Yafo’s rich and diverse agricultural tradition has a history thousands of years old beginning with references to the city and its fertile fields in ancient Egyptian documents up until Yafo’s orchards in the Ottoman period.
According to Dr. Yoav Arbel, director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is the first important building from the Byzantine period to be uncovered in this part of the city. The fact that the installation is located relatively far from Tel Yafo adds a significant dimension to our knowledge about the impressive agricultural distribution in the region in this period.
The installation, which probably dates to the second half of the Byzantine period (sixth century – early seventh century CE), is divided into surfaces paved with a white industrial mosaic. Due to the mosaic’s impermeability such surfaces are commonly found in the press installations of the period which were used to extract liquid. Each unit was connected to a plastered collecting vat.Credit IAA
The pressing was performed on the mosaic surfaces whereupon the liquid drained into the vats. It is possible that the section that was discovered represents a relatively small part of the overall installation, and other elements of it are likely to be revealed in archaeological excavations along adjacent streets which are expected to take place later this year”.
Upon completion of the excavation the installation was covered over, and new infrastructures were laid in place above it without damaging it, thereby enabling the continued work on the infrastructure without compromising the preservation of the antiquities for future generations.
The Magen Avraham Compound project constitutes another tier in the development of the tourist, commercial and residential region in Yafo and encompasses seven streets: Noʽam, Magen Avraham, Hai Gaon, Yossi Ben Yossi, Ardon, Ba’alei Ha-Tosafot and Resh Galuta. The municipality is modernizing the underground infrastructure, roads and sidewalks within the framework of the project. The overhead electrical and telephone wires are being lowered as well and street furniture and landscaping are being added.Contributing Source : IAA HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
For more than fifteen years, French Archaeologist and adventurer, Thierry Jamin explores the jungle of South Peru, searching for clues of the permanent presence of the Incas in the Amazonian forest, and the legendary lost city of Paititi.
After the discovery of about thirty incredible archeological sites, located in the North of the department of Cuzco, between 2009 and 2011, which include several fortresses, burial and ceremonial, centers, and small Inca cities composed by hundreds of buildings, and many streets, passages, squares…
Thierry Jamin embarked on an incredible journey that led him to the heart of Machu Picchu. A few months ago, Thierry Jamin and his team think they have made an extraordinary archaeological discovery in the Inca city discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911.
This discovery was made possible thanks to the testimony of a French engineer who lives in Barcelona-Spain, David Crespy.
In 2010, while he was visiting the lost city, David Crespy noticed the presence of a strange “shelter” located in the middle of the city, at the bottom of one of the main buildings. For him, there was no doubt about it, he was looking at a “door”, an entrance sealed by the Incas. In August 2011, David Crespy luckily learned about Thierry Jamin and his work in the French newspaper the Figaro magazine. Immediately he decided to contact the French researcher.
Thierry Jamin, who has investigated several burial sites in the North of Cusco, listened carefully the story of David Crespy. Quickly he wants to confirm the facts behind the story.
Accompanied by archaeologists of the Regional Office of the Culture from Cusco, he was able to visit the site several times.
His preliminary findings are obvious: it is indeed an entrance, blocked by the Incas at an undetermined moment of History. The entrance is indeed strangely similar to what has been observed on burial sites, such as the ones Thierry Jamin and his companions often find in the valleys of Lacco and Chunchusmayo.
In December 2011, in order to confirm the existence of cavities in the basement of the building, Thierry and his team submit and official request to the Ministry of Culture in Lima, so they could perform a geophysical survey with the help of electromagnetic (EM) conductivity type of instruments.This license was granted a few months later.
Realized between April 9th and April 12th 2012, the electromagnetic survey not only confirmed the presence of an underground room but several! Just Behind the famous entrance, a staircase was also discovered. The two main paths seem to lead to specific chambers, including to the main squared one. The different techniques used by the French researcher(s), including a Molecular Frequencies Discriminator allowed them to highlight the presence of important archaeological materials, including deposits of metal and a large quantity of gold and silver!
Thierry Jamin is now preparing for the next step: The opening of the entrance sealed by the Incas more than five centuries ago. On May 22nd 2012, he officially submitted a request for authorization to the Peruvian authorities which would allow his team to proceed with the opening of the burial chambers. This project, “Machu Picchu 2012″, is now extended to a period of six months. At stake, an extraordinary archaeological treasure and some new revelations about the forgotten History of the Inca Empire. Soon you will see Machu Picchu from a brand new perspective since it could be the tomb of the Inca Emperor Pachacutec…The Inkari Institute
Due to his success, in January, 2012, the French archaeologist Thierry Jamin had to transform his old non profit organization into a more solid organization : the “Instituto Inka of Investigación & Revaloración Indígena”, also called the Inkari Institute – Cusco. This non-governmental, non-profit organization, has for main mission the scientific research, the protection and the development of archeological sites existing on the Peruvian national territory.
Further Sources : http://www.machupicchu-2012.com/secret-room-machu-picchu-300.htmlHeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Ruins on the Lycian way between Adrasan and Olympos : Wiki CommonsA new system called FIRESENSE detects fire and extreme weather conditions and could become the best insurance to protect cultural heritage monuments from fire and other hazards.
The village of Olympos, located near the ancient city of Rhodiapolis, in the Antalya region of Turkey, escaped a wild fire, on 2 September 2012. This happened thanks to a network of cameras coupled to an intelligent video-based smoke detection algorithm that raised the alarm. This automatic early warning system is being tested as part of a multi-sensor fire detection network developed by an EU funded project called FIRESENSE. Its aim is to protect ancient heritage sites, such as the ancient Olympia in Greece. In the absence of such detection system, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, was only just saved from forest fires, on 26 August 2007, after a three-day fire fight that cost 60 lives.
In addition, to Rhodiapolis, “the system is currently tested in the Galceti Park, in Italy and in Dodge Hall, located in Bogazici University, [Istanbul, Turkey]”, explains Nikos Grammalidis, scientific director of the project, based at The Centre for Research & Technology, Hellas, in Thessaloniki, Greece. The system was also tested in the archaeological site of Kabeirion in Thebes, Greece and is currently being installed in the Temple of Water, in Zaghouan, Tunisia.
The automated warning signal generated through the project takes advantage of recent advances in multi-sensor surveillance technologies. It is using wireless sensor networks capable of simultaneously measuring temperature and humidity, collecting information through optical and infrared cameras and local weather stations. Intelligent computer vision and pattern recognition algorithms as well as multi-sensor data fusion techniques automatically analyse the sensor data, according to Grammalidis.
Some experts believe that this automated fire surveillance system may, however, not yet be mature enough. “The replacement of human observation with wireless sensor networks will take some time due to insufficient autonomy and robustness of such devices, although extensive research activity is observed in such networks by the European Union and national governments”, Nikos Komninos, a visiting assistant Professor of network security, at the University of Cyprus, tells youris.com.
The issue of cost of such automated surveillance may also prohibit further use of the technology. “When constant human surveillance is not feasible, then a wireless sensor network becomes a valuable alternative. Its operational cost, however, has to be compared against the cost of human surveillance,” says Martin Hasler, Professor of nonlinear systems at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. “The specific costs are initially the deployment and afterwards maintenance. I would guess that these costs will decrease as more and more wireless sensor networks are deployed.”
Grammalidis argues that it is not only a cost issue: “Since, the loss of a heritage site is irreversible, there is great significance in adopting new technologies for the protection of these sites.” He adds: “The cost of damages and losses caused by wildfires cannot be compared to the cost of using a multi-sensor early warning system.”
Detecting the ignition point of a wildfire is only the first step in fire fighting. What matters next is estimating the fire propagation direction and speed in order to facilitate fire management. “Firesense approximates fire and other phenomena evolution with a representation in 3D [Geographical Information System]. A concrete model, if developed, will enhance the efficiency of the system,“ comments Panayiotis Vlamos, associate professor of informatics, at Ionio University, Greece. “For sure, [this] is a serious attempt in the right direction.”Contributing Source : Youris HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Project director, Hayley Saul, en route to the base of Annapurna I during a 2011 reconnaissance to discover the potential for archaeological remains in the Mustang regionA team of archaeologists from the University of York are to travel to the roof of the world to discover, survey, and record mountain archaeology in the Nepalese Himalayas.
The Himalayan Exploration and Archaeological Research Team (HEART) will spend four weeks documenting high-altitude artefact scatters, rock shelters and formerly inhabited hand-cut cave systems that were used either as settlements and tombs dating back to the 3rd century BC.
The five-strong team, led by Dr Hayley Saul, of the Department of Archaeology at York, will be based in the Mustang valley in the Annapurna massif where they will use digital 3D imaging to survey and record the features as part of a new initiative to piece together the prehistory of the high Himalayas.
They will also trace the way mountain cultures have occupied and adapted to the landscape through time, seeking to set Himalayan archaeology in a broader global framework. This will include the role of the region in the development of the domestic cultivation of rice, a historical perspective on mountain resource exploitation, and the spread of Buddhism.
Dr Saul says: “Despite the fact that a lot of important processes, such as the domestication and movements of many plants, converge on this area very little is known about its pre-history.”
Following a reconnaissance expedition in 2011, she realised that many archaeological remains in the dessicated environment of the high mountains while well-preserved, remain unrecorded and undated,
Dr Saul adds: “There is potential that these remains could contribute hugely to our understanding of significant prehistoric events. We shall keep interference of remains to a minimum and seek to involve local people in our work.”
The HEART team comprises Dr Cath Neal and Dr Suzi Richer of the Department of Archaeology at York, and York Archaeology graduates Jim Williams and James Kilroy. You can follow their progress on Facebook.
As well as the archaeological investigations, the team is working in association with a charity Community Action Nepal, which was founded by the mountaineer Doug Scott, to develop heritage-based initiatives to stimulate local economies in the mountains.
They aim to work with Community Action Nepal and NGOs to use archaeological fieldwork and heritage as a vehicle to stimulate positive economic development and to create a repository of mountain peoples’ heritage, with an accessible digital archive. They also plan to promote modern Himalayan arts and crafts in the UK.
HEART plans to stage an exhibition of archaeology and Nepalese art, including indigenous crafts and Tibetan Thanka art, in York and London in autumn 2013. The exhibition will also include artwork from children based at the Bahrabise school for the deaf. All profits go to Thanka art schools in Kathmandu and Bahrabise.
The York exhibition will coincide with a lecture in the city by Doug Scott on his mountaineering exploits including his first ascent of the south-west face of Everest.
At the conclusion of the research project, Dr Saul will visit schools in the Helambu region to teach archaeology. She will also visit monuments in Langtang, including a 500 year old gompa , a Buddhist monastery, which are in need of conservation.Contributing Source : University of York HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Image Source : NatemassRichard III may have had an ignominious resting place under a Leicester car park, but spare a thought for Henri IV. First the French monarch was disinterred from the royal sepulchre by revolutionaries and thrown into a mass grave. Then his head was cut off and – allegedly – turned up in the attic of a retired tax inspector.
Richard III may have had an ignominious resting place under a Leicester car park, but spare a thought for Henri IV. First the French monarch was disinterred from the royal sepulchre by revolutionaries and thrown into a mass grave. Then his head was cut off and – allegedly – turned up in the attic of a retired tax inspector.
Worse, while British experts have confirmed that the deformed skeleton found in Leicester is “almost certainly” that of Richard, bearing signs of fatal wounds he suffered during the battle of Bosworth, French scientists are still fighting over the disputed remains of Henri, who was assassinated in 1610 by a Catholic fundamentalist.
Unlike Richard III, who was reviled during his lifetime, “good King Henri” was credited with kindliness and seen as a potent symbol of national unity and reconciliation. Baptised a Catholic but raised a Calvinist, he ended bitter religious wars in France and took pains to ease the daily travails of his poorer subjects. “If God gives me life, I will ensure there is no labourer in my kingdom who has not the means to have a chicken in his pot each Sunday!” he is said to have pledged.
In death, however, the much-loved monarch has caused disagreement and division. On Friday, the rifts that have for decades split historians, scientists, researchers and descendants of France’s pre-revolutionary ruling families – the Orléans and the Bourbons – were prised open again by a new book.
In Henri IV: The Mystery of a Headless King, authors Stéphane Gabet and Philippe Charlier claim to have solved the enduring enigma of what happened to the king’s remains – specifically, his head. They insist that a mummified head found five years ago in a box in the attic of a retired tax collector, Jacques Bellanger, is that of Henri.
Facials hairs, a large beauty spot, a broken nose, a knife gash to the upper lip from an assassination attempt, all point to the skull being his. “Rubbish,” cry critics, who insist that the book owes more to fiction than fact and point to a lack of scientific proof and the fact that the brain – albeit shrunken to the size of a walnut – was still present, when it would have been removed by royal embalmers.
Meanwhile, the head of the man who may or may not have been king – and who may or may not have said on converting back to Catholicism for his coronation that “Paris is worth a mass” – sits in a bank vault near the Bastille where, symbolically, the mystery is rooted.
After his death on 14 May 1610, Henri IV was buried with previous kings in the Saint Denis basilica outside Paris. In 1793, French revolutionaries dug up his remains and tossed them unceremoniously into a mass grave.
It is unclear exactly when Henri’s head was separated from the rest of his corpse, but when the public grave was opened in 1817, it was missing. A head said to be his came to light in 1919, when Joseph Emile Bourdais, a photographer, bought it at auction for three francs.
Bourdais spent much of his life unsuccessfully trying to confirm its authenticity and offered it to the Louvre before his death in 1946, an offer that was refused. Then in 2008 a head was found in the attic of a house in Angers, western France belonging to Bellanger, who claimed to have bought it in 1953.
“In the loft, in an old wardrobe, was a box,” Gabet says. “Inside, there was something wrapped in an old towel. Jacques Bellanger folded back one side of the towel, then the other. The mummified head appeared, well conserved, impressive. It was a magic moment.”
The author says experts later reported: “There were a few long moustache hairs still visible and others broken at the roots. The nose was broken and bent to the left … the head was a brownish colour, with the mouth wide open … Almost all the soft tissue remained.”
Although the head had not been cut to remove the brain or embalmed – as would have been expected – a facial reconstruction from the skull matched portraits of the king.
Charlier, a pathologist who is an expert on historical remains, said that DNA tests on samples from the head and a trace of blood from Louis XVI linked the two royals.
“The DNA is clear: the mummified head found again in 2008 has the same genetic heritage as the dried blood of Louis XVI found on a handkerchief the day of his decapitation in 1793,” Charlier said in a statement.
There are now calls for the head to be reburied in the Saint Denis basilica, but while the scientists continue to argue, it remains in a Paris bank vault.
The row has split descendants from France’s two royal dynasties. Henri d’Orléans, Count of Paris and Duke of France, described the book as a “pseudo inquiry”. “This affair seems closer to a novel than scientific or historic truth,” he told French journalists. “What are we supposed to see from this supposed facial reconstitution – that he had a Bourbon nose?”
Prince Louis de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou, disagrees. “Now that we have found and authenticated the head, we have to organise its return [to the rest of the body],” he said.
However, Dr Olivier Pascal, president of the French Institute of Genetic Testing, told the newspaper Le Figaro that there was still no conclusive proof that the head had belonged to Good King Henri. “This information wouldn’t stand up in a court of law,” he added.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Holy Bread and Kolio in front of Georgian icons. © Söderlind Ulrica.Humans cannot live on wine alone and, as in the case of wine-culture, evidence for wheat and bread consumption in Georgia also goes back to the pre-historic times.
Four endemic cultures of wheat were found in the Shulaveris Gora site representative of the Shulaver-Shomu Tepe chalcolithic culture – where the first evidence of cultivated vine has been found.
Wheat is one of the first cereals known to have been domesticated, and wheat’s ability to self-pollinate greatly facilitated the selection of many distinct domesticated varieties. In Georgia wheat appears for the first time in the countries Chalcolitic period and it seems like humans has taken a great interest in the crop from an very early stage since it is very suitable for making meals such bread and porridges. Out of 17 varieties of wheat known in the world, 12 were grown in Georgia. Local varieties, Makha and Zanduri developed from wild sorts into cultural crop. It is a unique phenomenon, an established fact of selection, which gives an interesting picture of the development of a diversified economy over a longer period of time.
In today’s churches during some special Holy days wheat grains are placed in a special bowl. The meaning of the wheat is two folded, one as dead sees as such but also a sign of prosperity when the seeds is planted and springs up green with new life to the humans. Bread sacrament in the Georgian Orthodox Church is made out of wheat flour. The bread has two meanings – it represents abundance according to Jesus miracle in Galelea, where he feed a large number of people (approx. 5,000) from two fishes and five breads. Secondly it represents Jesus Christ two nature – Human and Devine. A part from that the sacrament of bread is made in two shapes – one for past persons that are decorated with a cross and the second one for persons that are still alive. The worshipers buy the holy breads and write there the names of past and living persons. The priest then includes the persons in the prayers during the mass.
Wheat also plays an important role in rituals, when a person has passed away. Before the burial ceremonies sanctified water, wheat and an oil-lamp is placed near the coffin and the wheat symbolises abundance and prosperity in the after life for the person that passed away. On funeral days a special dish called “Kolio” is made. The ingredients are wheat, honey, walnut, sugar, raisins and water. The history of this meal traces back to the saint Teodore Tironi who was a knight in 4th century A.D, that is in the very early days of Christianity in Georgia so many people still had their pre-Christian beliefs, one can call it a transmission period. The rulers Maksimiane (305-311) and Maksimine (305-313) said that all who would not pray to the pre-Christian Gods and who would not make a sacrifice to them would be punished. The Knight who was an early Christian answers to the decree was to burn down some of the temples dedicated to the pre-Christian Gods and for this action he was captured, tortured and burnt.
50 years after his martyrdom, when it was big fasting days for Christians, King Ivliane said to the governors that they should pure blood sacrifices on the foodstuff in the markets, since the Christians then could not eat it because it would be a sin, breaking the fasting rules. The legend also states that at the same time Saint Teodore was seen by the main bishop Evdoksis and the saint told the bishop to tell the people not to buy food at the markets since it was contaminated by blood and instead they should buy wheat and honey from other places and make the dish “Kolio”. After this events Kolio became an important dish during some religious days and when a person has passed away. The feast day for the Saint Teodore Tironi is on the 17th of February in the Georgian orthodox church.
It takes two days to make Kolio. One starts to clean the whole wheat, rinsing it in water and putting it to a boil. When it is boiled the pot is taking of the stove and placed in the middle of several blankets and let to rest to the following day. The pot is left to rest so the wheat can absorb the remaining water. When the blankets are taking away the following day, the pot is still hot. Sugar, honey, shopped walnuts and raisins are added and the dish is stirred. If it is in need of more boiling water, it is added.Beer
Wheat also used to make beer. The beer culture in Georgia was introduced from the countries of the ancient world. It is under no doubt today, that oriental beer counts the oldest age, and all the archaeological, historical, epigraphic and ethnographic materials clearly testify economic-social links of ancestral tribes of Georgians with these nations. Since vine has not adapted itself to all the different areas in Georgia and does not like the conditions in the high mountain areas beer became and still is a very important beverage for the people that are living in this high remote locations, specially on Holy days and since one of the main ingredients for making beer is wheat, the crop is held in very high regard. No women are allowed into the beer brewery and the beer making is considered to be a task for only men in this regions.
For the mountain people in Georgia, beer is considered to be a national drink. It is an integral part of their everyday life and plays an essential role in civil ceremonies as well as in cult –ritual services. All economic activities are connected with beer brewing and as if beer opens the divine gateway, beyond which the Gods live. Perhaps this is the reason that Georgian beer making traditions in the mountains are so refined, production process so rich, beer drinking vessels so diverse and the ways of consumption so original.
Generally, the people of mountains brew beer for ritual purposes as well as for home consumption. The grain crop for beer making is stored in the granary of the house of worship and is under direct supervision of the chieftain, the head of the clan. On his approval, the sorted grain is placed in the sack knitted from the goat’s hair and is taken to the river to soak. The mass covered with water stays in the water for a couple of days. On the third day, the soaked sacks with barley are loaded ashore and are placed on big flat stones to strain off. After that, the sacks are taken to the attic of a well- aired house to allow it to become puffy. There the sacks are emptied and the barley is spread on an inch thick. Then it is covered with a dry cloth to be warmed. In three or four days, the wheat becomes fleecy and puffy.
Generally, the preparation of the beer brewing starts 7-8 days before the festivity which, in Khevsureti is called “scattering pans”, and in Tusheti – “hanging pans”. People in charge, bring the puffed mass of grain and add as much water as there is the flour in the tun.
The mixture needs to be constantly stirred and the heat is also very important. As a rule, during the boiling process the mass increases at first and it needs to be moved to another pan where, more of the mass can be added. When the mass reaches the desirable level, the boiling process has to end. After that, the mass has to be cooled and tasted and if it has a sweetish taste and is thick and sticky, it means that the boiling cycle is over.
The tun is left to be cooled, so that the residues could go to the bottom. After a while, the mass on the surface of the pan clears up, it needs no straining and can be moved to another container. The beer will acquire the best quality if the hop is taken in good proportion with the mass it is added to; this way it gets some bitterness and strength. The process of puffing the hop is supervised by the chief of clan, who is the most experienced. At the same time, the process acquires a mysterious spirit because of the participation of such a holy and righteous man who is the go-between the people and the God. This is where beer acquires the function of a ritual drink and its notion becomes much broader than just that of a drink. As for the chief of clan, he is once again being recognized as the most authoritative person in the community –a mediator between people and God.
Every time the chieftain prepares the beer for brewing, he performs the ritual of its consecration, which once again proves that the beer is a ritual drink, and the process of its puffing up is a symbol of enlivening and is directly connected with the will of God. This is why the person performing this ritual has to have an immaculate body and soul.
Further, some brewed beer is drawn with the silver chalice, which is placed next to the cask, and some candles are stuck to it. They also stick smaller candles to the chalice filled with beer and the chieftain starts offering prayers to the glory of God. After the prayers, he sips the beer, then gives it to everyone in turn to take a gulp and lastly drinks the rest of it.
According to the people of mountains, the beer has to be thick, with sweetish-bitter taste and its color – as black as a raven. The mountain man knows the price of beer very well as his joyful days are connected with it. After a hard day’s work, the beer gives him new vigor and he wishes it never ended.Bread
Since wheat has such long history in the country, bread also has a long tradition, dating back to the chalcolitic period. The crop that is mainly used for bread-making in Georgia today is wheat. The Georgian word for wheat flour actually translates into English as “bread flour”.
A special oven called ‘tone’ exist in Georgia for baking bread. This kind of oven is designed to provide very high, dry heat. Fuel for the fire is provided by charcoal which lines the bottom of the structure. In order to produce temperatures approaching 900 degrees Fahrenheit (480 degrees Celsius), bakers maintain a long vigil to keep the oven’s coals continually burning. At such high temperatures, the bread made in a Tone oven develops a very crisp outer layer without sacrificing moistness on the inside.
One can find analogies between the ‘tone’ oven and the ‘tandoor’ oven in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, the Transcaucasus region, the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia and Bangladesh. The earliest example of a tandoor oven has been found at the Harappa and Mohenjo Daro settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization (2600-1500 B.C). Even so, ovens of the tandoor -type have been found in early-Harappan contexts (The Early Harappan Ravi Phase is named after the nearby Ravi River, lasted from ca 3300- 2800 BC). The mature phase of earlier village cultures is represented by Rehman Dheri and Amri in Pakistan. Trade networks linked this culture with related regional cultures and distant sources of raw materials, including lapis lazuli and other materials for bead-making.
Villagers had, by this time, domesticated numerous crops, including peas, sesame seeds, dates and cotton, as well as various animals, including the water buffalo) on the Makran coast, including at the mound site of Balakut that pre-dates the findings from the Mohenjo Daro settlements (Mohenjo-daro (Mound of the Dead) was one of the largest city-settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization of south Asia situated in the province of Sind, Pakistan. Built around 2600 BC, the city was one of the early urban settlements in the world, existing at the same time as the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Crete). Description of ovens of this kind are also found in texts and accounts from Mesopotamia.
The word tandoor comes from the Dari words tandūr and tannūr; these are derived from very similar terms, Persian tanūr (تنور), Arabic tandūr, Turkish Tandır and Azeri word təndir. However, according to Dehkhoda Persian Dictionary the word originates from Akkadian tinûru, and is mentioned as early as in the Accadian Epic of Gilgames (reflexes of which are Avestan tanûra and Pahlavi tanûr). As such, the term may not be of Semitic or Iranian origin at all, dating back as it does to periods before the migration of Aryan and Semitic people to the Iranian plateau and Mesopotamia.
The fact that the main crop grown for use in bread baking in Georgia was wheat does not mean that no other crops were not also in evidence. In the western part of the country a crop called ”ღომი”[Romi] [ghomi], belonging to the Monocotyledons culture, was used. The crop (that was similar to millet) was boiled and eaten instead of bread. When sweet corn came into use in the western part of the country it was used instead of Ghomi and the crop is now extinct. Nevertheless, this kind of bread is still named Ghomi in western Georgia, even if it is baked using fine grained cornflour and such bread is often called cornbread when described to visitors. Ghomi was also found in the Monocotyledons cultural period and remained in use until the beginning of twentiethcentury.
Bread (პური) is a very important element of diet for Georgians; and, with just two exceptions, Khachapuri and Khinkali, it is eaten at every meal. It does not matter how many dishes there is on the table, if bread is missing, the meal is not considered to be complete.Written by Ulrica Söderlind HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Spitfire : Wiki CommonsGlobal video game company, Wargaming.net announced today that they believe their team of archaeologists, historians and scientists has solved the mystery of the “buried Spitfires of Burma” which has intrigued and captivated the world since the first rumours of buried aircraft began to spread among servicemen returning from South East Asia in 1946.
CEO, Victor Kisly, said: “Wargaming has always supported military history, both in our games and in the real world. We chose to support the Spitfire project because we found the story fascinating.
We wanted to be a part of this unique archaeological investigation of an enduring mystery – whether we found planes or not. And we are delighted our team has shown how good research can help tell a great story about not just the warplanes themselves, but the people who flew, maintained and care about them to this day.”
In the Autumn of 2012, Wargaming.net engaged a world-class team of geophysicists, historical researchers, and archaeologists to travel to Yangon International Airport, the former RAF Mingaladon, to “ground-truth” the legend of the lost Spitfires.
Wargaming’s research team had already undertaken an exhaustive independent desktop study of documentary sources at the United Kingdom National Archives, the Royal Air Force Museum, and other archival collections in the months prior to the departure of the expedition. That investigation failed to locate any evidence to support the arrival or the burial of crated Spitfires, but did find extensive evidence for the disposal of surplus aircraft by scrapping them in situ or passing them on to third parties such as the French and Royal Indian Air Forces.
But at the same time, witness testimony suggested that servicemen in the bars and canteens of South East Asia had heard rumours about buried Spitfires as early as 1946, although none of the surviving witnesses had actually seen the burials taking place. We had a mystery.
As the project’s Lead Archaeologist Andy Brockman explained, “We wanted to investigate the legend of the lost Spitfires which has captured the imagination of the world. Ultimately both we on the research team and Wargaming.net, who gave us a completely free rein to follow the evidence, realized that archive work, however comprehensive was not enough and we could only solve the mystery by also investigating it on the ground in Burma.”
In January 2013, the team began fieldwork at former RAF Mingaladon, now the site of Yangon International Airport.
The geophysics team led by Dr. Roger Clark of the University of Leeds and Dr. Adam Booth of Imperial College London surveyed more than 52,000 square metres of Yangon International Airport to a depth of up to ten metres.
Following the geophysical survey, the archaeology team, under the leadership of Martin Brown of the international multi-disciplinary consultancy WYG, and supported by Field Archaeologist Rod Scott, completed a detailed landscape survey of the site, using period documents, plans and air photographs to reconstruct the landscape of the airfield as it had existed in 1945/1946 down to the bomb craters caused by the allied bombers who blasted the runways and dispersal areas at Mingaladon in advance of the British assault on Rangoon in May 1945.
The team then dug four trenches at locations suggested by UK-based Spitfire hunter David Cundall. In all the trenches WW2 era archaeology was located at less than three metres depth below the modern ground surface, while below the WW2 era archaeology natural alluvial clay estimated to pre-date human occupation of the site lay undisturbed.
The Wargaming team now believes, based on clear documentary evidence, as well as the evidence from the fieldwork, that no Spitfires were delivered in crates and buried at RAF Mingaladon during 1945 and 1946.
Most significantly, the archival records show that the RAF unit that handled shipments through Rangoon docks – 41 Embarkation Unit – only received 37 aircraft in total from three transport ships between 1945 and 1946. None of the crates contained Spitfires and most appear to have been re-exported in the Autumn of 1946.
Moreover, the documents tell a story of appalling weather conditions at Mingaladon and shortages of everything from heavy equipment to timber and labour all of which we believe suggests it would be almost impossible that the Royal Air Force could have buried aircraft thirty feet deep in wooden crates even if it had wanted to do so.
Tracy Spaight, Wargaming’s Director of Special Projects, explained that “No-one would have been more delighted than our team had we found Spitfires. We knew the risks going in, as our team had spent many weeks in the archives and had not found any evidence to support the claim of buried Spitfires.
However, the team’s assessment was that even if there were no crated Spitfires, parts of Spitfires or other aircraft might well have been found, since Mingaladon was a major airfield occupied by three different Air Forces and hundreds of service people during WW2. Had Spitfires been found we were equipped to recover them using the best available technical expertise. And we would have done the work to the same high ethical and archaeological standards which we brought to the rest of the project.”
Brockman explained: “We approached the project as a CSI style police procedural looking for alleged missing persons – the Spitfires. We followed the clues in the documents, period maps, pictures and air photographs; we talked to surviving witnesses, and visited the ‘crime scene’ in order to turn our study in the archives into facts on the ground. As a result we believe that the legend of the buried Spitfires of Burma is just that: a captivating legend about a beautiful and iconic aircraft.”
Brockman added: “The documents and the ‘ground truthing’ provided by the field archaeology show, we believe, that the Royal Air Force had neither the Means, Motive nor the Opportunity to bury Spitfires at RAF Mingaladon at the end of the War.”
“But,” said Brockman, “some witnesses did see something. And we believe that, by following the story of the buried Spitfires of Burma from its apparent origins in 1945-1946, through its elaboration by word of mouth via the veterans and historic aircraft research networks in the intervening years, to its final manifestation as a full blown part of World War Two folklore in the present day, we have uncovered what lies behind the legend of the buried Spitfires. It is a fascinating and very human story and we look forward to sharing our full results shortly.”
“Our expedition to Myanmar took place at a historic moment in the country’s history,” added Tracy Spaight, “This expedition has been an unprecedented cooperative effort between an international team of experts and the people of Myanmar, facilitated by our local partners, STP, and with the background assistance of the UK and Myanmar government. Our team did good science, good history, and good archaeology – and we’re proud of what we accomplished.”
Wargaming – in association with Room 608, a New York based media production company – has finished principal photography on a feature-length documentary film about the Spitfire project, to be released early next year.
Spaight added with a smile: “The actual story of the Burma Spitfires is better than any legend, because it is by turns bizarre, fascinating and above all, it is true.”Contributing Source : Wargaming HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Pottery fragment from Seething Wells excavation : KingstonFrom a clay smoking pipe to Neolithic flint, a 19th Century garden has been revealing some of its secrets to an archaeological team from London’s Kingston University.
Dr Helen Wickstead spotted an opportunity to delve below the surface of an area of land at the University’s Seething Wells hall of residence after looking at historic maps and images of the area alongside the River Thames. The former industrial site had not been excavated before and she was intrigued to see whether she could find traces of a garden marked out on early maps.
“The Seething Wells site in Surbiton is of historic significance because the waterworks built there and opened in 1852 were pivotal in improving the health of Londoners. They provided clean, filtered water when cholera had been ravaging the capital,” Dr Wickstead explained. “A garden on a site like this might tell us more about the people who lived and worked nearby – did they use it for leisure, was it just decorative and reserved for the privileged, or was it used for food production? It was a time of great social change so we were keen to roll back the turf to see what we could find.”
The team studied 19th Century maps from English Heritage archives, comparing them with aerial photographs taken during World War II by the Royal Air Force as well as more modern day Google Earth images. “We could see that a path existed across the site and the parched grass visible on modern satellite images also suggested its presence,” Dr Wickstead said.
After digging a 10 metre square trench, the team discovered signs of a path made from cinder and gravel. “That showed us it was a functional feature rather than decorative,” Dr Wickstead, who lectures in heritage, said. “Now we’d like to explore beneath it and sample the soil as it will have captured pollen from plants growing at the time.”
Shells in the gravel section suggest the path was probably made from waste material from the water filter gravel beds that still exist opposite the hall of residence. But one fragment spotted by chance in the waste took the team right back to the Neolithic period. “We were very excited to find a fragment of flint that we believe is a chipping from the making of Neolithic tools,” Dr Wickstead, who is also a pre-historian, said. “It could be as much as 6,000 years old. I expect it came from the river at some point and was caught up in the gravel used in the filter beds. It’s an intriguing find and took us all by surprise.”
The team also unearthed a fragment of red and white pottery with illustrations of two Victorian gentlemen. “I like to imagine one of those people could even be the engineer James Simpson who invented the capital’s water filtration system,” Dr Wickstead said.
Some more recent objects have connections to the war years. The team expected several small metal garden tags they discovered to bear the names of plants. “On closer inspection, two had names of people on them,” Dr Wickstead said. “We’d love to find out more about Derek Ellis and Mabel Gower – perhaps they worked the allotments that were on the site during World War II.”
Students studying historic building conservation joined Dr Wickstead on the dig. Third year Crispin Thomas, who is particularly interested in Medieval carpentry, helped survey the ground with an auger – a drilling device that tests resistance to see how deep top soil is. “I’d never been on an archaeological dig before and I was fascinated to see how much information could be gleaned from such a small space,” he said. “So much evidence for how we got where we are today as a society, in so many aspects of life, is right there under our feet.”
Dr Wickstead said that small green patches of land like that at Seething Wells were scattered all over London and were windows into the past just waiting to be explored. “These little open spaces are like pieces of jigsaw puzzle and no-one has ever put them all together. A comprehensive study would tell us more about the story of the capital and, importantly too, the suburbs that helped the city flourish,” she said.Contributing Source : Kingston HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
Image Source : Wiki CommonsFor decades, archaeologists have debated how farming spread to Stone Age Europe, setting the stage for the rise of Western civilization.
Now, new data gleaned from the teeth of prehistoric farmers and the hunter-gatherers with whom they briefly overlapped shows that agriculture was introduced to Central Europe from the Near East by colonizers who brought farming technology with them.
“One of the big questions in European archaeology has been whether farming was brought or borrowed from the Near East,” says T. Douglas Price, a University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologist who, with Cardiff University’s Dusan Boric, measured strontium isotopes in the teeth of 153 humans from Neolithic burials in an area known as the Danube Gorges in modern Romania and Serbia.
The report, which appears this week (Feb. 11, 2013) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, draws on isotopic signatures of strontium found in the tooth enamel of people who died nearly 8,000 years ago, about 6,200 B.C. Strontium is a chemical found in rocks everywhere. It enters the body through diet at or around birth and etches an indelible signature in teeth that accurately documents the geology of an individual’s birthplace.
“The evidence from the Danube Gorges shows clearly that new people came in bringing farming and replaced the earlier Mesolithic hunter-gatherers,” says Price, a UW-Madison professor of anthropology and an expert on early agriculture in Europe.
The Danube Gorges slice through the Carpathian Mountains and in the Stone Age were a heavily forested setting, rich in fish and game, including huge sturgeon, catfish, red deer and wild boar. The bends and twists of the Danube in the Gorges region made it especially important as a source of fish, and thus potentially a desirable entryway to Europe for highly mobile and expanding Neolithic communities accompanied by their domesticates – wheat, barley, flax, goats and cattle.
The new research, explains Price, speaks to the question of colonization versus adoption of transformative technologies such as farming. “It is also useful because it suggests another route across the Black Sea or up the east coast of Bulgaria to the Danube for farmers moving into Europe. This contrasts with movement by sea across the Mediterranean or Aegean, which is the standard picture.”
Archaeologists have long wrestled with the question of how farming spread across Europe, ushering in a host of technologies, including the use of pottery, that ultimately led to the rise Western civilizations. Two big ideas have dominated the debate: Did the technology arrive with colonizers from Asia, notably Anatolia or modern Turkey? Or did the technology, including newly domesticated plants and animals, simply diffuse across the European landscape through networks of local foragers?
There is some evidence for the importation of early agriculture along the shores of the Mediterranean and in Central Europe, Price notes, “but elsewhere in Europe it is not clear whether it was colonists or locals adopting.”
Isotopic studies of strontium and other chemicals found in the teeth and bones of Neolithic humans, however, are now helping archaeologists better track the movement of ancient peoples across the landscape. Strontium signatures last not just a lifetime, but potentially thousands of years as tooth enamel, the densest tissue in the body, resists decomposition and contamination after death. It is now commonly used by archaeologists to determine if an individual was local or foreign to the place where their remains were discovered.
An interesting finding of the study is that 8,000 years ago, when Neolithic farmers were beginning to migrate into the Danube Gorges and overlap with Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, more women than men were identified as foreigners. A possible explanation for the variance, according to the study, is that women came to these sites from Neolithic farming communities as part of an ongoing social exchange.
In the Danube Gorges, the overlap of colonizing early farmers and hunter-gatherers lasted perhaps a couple of hundred years before the forager societies were completely absorbed by the beginning of the sixth millennium B.C.Contributing Source : University of Wisconsin-Madison HeritageDaily : Archaeology News : Archaeology Press Releases
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