Monday, May 28, 2012

Earliest Musical Instruments Date Back 42000 Years

Oxford and Tübingen scientists have identified what they believe are the world’s oldest known musical instruments.

Mammoth-, left, and bird-bone flutes from the site of Geißenklösterle in Germany (Tom Higham et al / Oxford University / Tübingen University)

In their paper in the Journal of Human Evolution, the scientists report new results of radiocarbon dating for animal bones, excavated in the same archaeological layers as the musical instruments and early art, at Geißenklösterle Cave in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany.

The musical instruments take the form of flutes made from the bird bones and mammoth ivory. The animal bones bear cuts and marks from human hunting and eating. They were excavated at a key site, which is widely believed to have been occupied by some of first modern humans to arrive in Europe.

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Kourion excavation hoping for Cyprus first

A team of archaeologists from a Texas theological seminary and the University of Cyprus is hoping to reveal the ordinary domestic lives of Cyprus’ early Christians in a new dig at Kourion (Curium) which was destroyed by a series of earthquakes around 365 AD.

The team at the beginning of the dig [Credit: Cyprus Mail]
A long-cherished hope of team leader Professor Thomas Davis is that excavations will also uncover the island’s first ever “house-church”, a private home where early believers met to worship at a time when fear of persecution prevented the erection of churches.

“We are trying to explore something which doesn’t really get looked at in Cypriot archaeology, and that’s the common people,” said Davis, a professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at Fort Worth Texas and previously a director of CAARI (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute).

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Theologischer Code des Kaiserdoms in Speyer rekonstruiert

Der Kaiserdom zu Speyer trägt die Handschrift der Salier: Sowohl in seiner baulichen Gestalt wie in der ursprünglichen Anordnung der Altäre haben sie politische und theologische Akzente gesetzt. Ein Forschungsprojekt am Lehrstuhl für Liturgiewissenschaft der Universität Tübingen in Kooperation mit dem Seminar für Mittelalterliche Geschichte hat nun den theologischen Code des Kaiserdoms rekonstruiert.

Der Dom zu Speyer (CC)

Die Wissenschaftler konnten zeigen, wie sehr das religiöse wie politische Selbstverständnis der Salier mit den gottesdienstlichen Handlungen des Domes und der damit verbundenen Altaranordnung, der "sakralen Binnentopographie", zusammenhängt. So nahm man beim Dombau von einer noch in Worms und Mainz vorhandenen doppelchörigen Anlage Abstand, um den Westteil ganz der Herrschaftsrepräsentation vorzubehalten. Altarstellen fanden sich bis ins Hohe Mittelalter lediglich im Osten der Saliergrablege. Der Hochaltar St. Maria dürfte dabei auf das Fest Mariae Geburt (am 8. September) Bezug nehmen, denn an diesem Tag wurde Konrad II. im Jahre 1024 zum König gekrönt. Liest man den Marientitel im Kontext der beiden Seitenaltäre, St. Stephanus (Fest am 26.12.) im Süden und St. Johannes Evangelist (Fest am 27.12.) im Norden, gerät das Weihnachtsfest in den Blick. Damit wird erneut ein wichtiges Datum der Salierdynastie festgehalten, denn am Weihnachtstag des Jahres 1046 wurde Heinrich III. in Alt-St. Peter in Rom zum Kaiser gekrönt.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Interactive map of the Roman Empire now online

Imagine you’re in Rome, it’s 205 CE, and you’ve got to figure out the quickest way to transport wheat to Virunum, in what’s now Austria. Your transportation choices are limited: ox cart, mule, ship or by foot, and your budget is tight. What do you do?

Enter ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World. With it, you can survey the options that would have been available to an ancient Roman in that very predicament with the ease of getting directions via GPS.

Type in your starting point, destination, the goods you need to move, and the time of year. Voila! You can quickly see the most cost-effective way to transport the grain.

By generating new information about the ancient Roman transport network, ORBIS demonstrates how, more than anything else, the expansion of the empire was a function of cost.

Digging opportunity at Syon Park

This year’s Museum of London community and training excavations will take place at Syon Park in Hounslow, it has been announced. 

Both investigations will focus on the house of Sir Richard Wynne, a Parliamentarian on whose land the 1641 Battle of Brentford was fought as anti-Royalist forces tried to stop Prince Rupert’s troops reaching London. The house was demolished in the 19th century but this summer archaeologists hope to uncover remains of the building and its grounds.

The site is also close to the main Roman road leading from the capital to Silchester and previous excavations in the park have exposed a wealth of Roman archaeology. Hopes are high for more Roman finds this year.

Roman pot to go on display for first time

A ROMAN pot, thought to be up to 2,000 years old, will go on to display to the public for the first time in September.

The artefact, which new analysis shows was used to store dairy products, was found in a pit with other objects during excavations for a garage in Highworth.

Lead “staples” on one side of the storage jar, which is 2ft tall and 11/2 feet wide, show where a break was fixed by its owners 1,700 years ago.

Dogs, booze and bling: Northern Ireland's medieval shopping mall

Dunnyneil IslandDunnyneil Island in Strangford Lough was the site of a seventh century 'shopping centre'

Excavations on Dunnyneil Island in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, have revealed a seventh century trading emporium frequented by merchants from as far afield as modern day Russia, Germany, Iceland and France. 

Back in early medieval times, there was no cash economy, few buyers, and even fewer sellers, but there are surprising parallels between these ancient trading outposts and modern shopping centres.
Luxury goods, lots of wine
 Medieval wine merchants would have traded at Dunnyneil
According to archaeologist Dr Philip MacDonald, who led the dig on Dunnyneil, merchants would have brought wine and other luxury products to Ireland to exchange at emporia for furs, seal skin, slaves and famed Irish wolfhounds.

Oldest Art Even Older: New Dates from Geißenklösterle Cave Show Early Arrival of Modern Humans, Art and Music

Jewelry. Geißenklösterle Cave is one of several caves in the Swabian Jura that have produced important examples of personal ornaments, figurative art, mythical imagery and musical instruments. (Credit: Image courtesy of Universitaet Tübingen)

 New dates from Geißenklösterle Cave in Southwest Germany document the early arrival of modern humans and early appearance of art and music.

Researchers from Oxford and Tübingen have published new radiocarbon dates from the from Geißenklösterle Cave in Swabian Jura of Southwestern Germany in the Journal of Human Evolution. The new dates use improved methods to remove contamination and produced ages between began between 42,000 – 43,000 years ago for start of the Aurignacian, the first culture to produce a wide range of figurative art, music and other key innovations as postulated in the Kulturpumpe Hypothesis. The full spectrum of these innovations were established in the region no later than 40 000 years ago.

Earliest musical instruments in Europe 40,000 old

The first modern humans in Europe were playing musical instruments and showing artistic creativity as early as 40,000 years ago, according to new research from Oxford and Tübingen universities. 

A flute from the site of Geißenklösterle made from mammoth ivory [Credit: Oxford University]
The researchers have obtained important new radiocarbon dates for bones found in the same archaeological layers as a variety of musical instruments. The instruments take the form of flutes made from the bird bones and mammoth ivory. They were excavated at a key site in Germany, which is widely believed to have been occupied by some of first modern humans to arrive in Europe. 

In a paper published in the Journal of Human Evolution, the researchers describe the new dating results for animal bones, excavated in the same archaeological layers as the instruments and early art, at Geißenklösterle Cave in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany. The animal bones bear cuts and marks from human hunting and eating.

Ältestes jüdisches Zeugnis auf der Iberischen Halbinsel

Archäologen der Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena haben bei Ausgrabungen nahe der Stadt Silves im Süden Portugals das bisher älteste Zeugnis jüdischer Kultur auf der Iberischen Halbinsel entdeckt. Auf einer etwa 40 mal 60 Zentimeter großen Marmorplatte ist in hebräischer Schrift der Name »Yehiel« zu lesen, gefolgt von weiteren Buchstaben, die bisher nicht entziffert werden konnten.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Clemson research to advance archaeological iron conservation

Scientists with the Warren Lasch Conservation Center at the Clemson University Restoration Institute will receive a share of a $235,000 grant from the National Park Service's Preservation Technology and Training Program to improve metals conservation in a sustainable way.

The Clemson researchers will receive $24,000 to investigate the applicability of ion-exchange technology for metal conservation.

Awards were selected and the assistance agreements will be administered by the Park Service's National Center for Preservation Technology and Training in Natchitoches, La. The center strives to create new technologies and training opportunities to preserve prehistoric and historic resources throughout the United States.

The National Park Service awarded the grants and agreements under Title IV of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Service received 42 grant applications, which underwent peer review and a national panel review. Eleven institutions were selected for awards.

Clemson's grant application was submitted by research scientist Stéphanie Cretté, research engineer Nestor G. Gonzalez-Pereyra and conservator Liisa Näsänen, who will conduct the research.


Study of the human past from physical remains - including forensic and archaeological science

Archaeological worker looks at mummy of King Tutankhamun
Most courses will give you the chance to get your hands dirty on field trips and research projects. Photograph: Pool/Reuters
What will I learn?

Archaeology is learning about the past through its physical remains, for example, a Roman bath and mosaics or sketches in a mountain cave that depicted daily life 5,000 years ago.

Archaeology courses should give you the practical skills of excavation, but also, just as importantly, teach you to examine what you find and piece it together to get an idea of how we used to live, and where, and how life and the environment has changed.

You'll also learn how to apply what you know of the past to the present, particularly in terms of the politics and economic considerations of heritage tourism.

Most courses will give you the chance to get your hands dirty on field trips and research projects.

France: A Medieval Castle in the Making

The construction of Guédelon about 100 miles southeast of Paris has already been underway for 15 years, yet workers are proud about how long it’s taking. That’s because you don’t build a medieval castle in a day using 13th-century techniques only.

The project, begun in 1997, is the brainchild—or, as it was said at the time, the idée folle—of Michel Guyot, an architectural historian who restored the nearby Château de St.-Fargeau. In the process he discovered the remains of a castle that predated the elegant 17th manor. Fascinated by the building they suggested, he decided to recreate it in the forest a dozen miles from St.-Fargeau, enlisting experts who studied illuminated manuscripts, stained-glass windows and extant medieval structures to devise a fully authentic design.

With Guédelon now on the rise, no one’s calling Guyot crazy and the point of the exercise grows ever more apparent. Like one of those illustrated children’s books by David Macaulay—”Cathedral,” “Castle,“ “City,“ “Pyramid”—it is aimed at answering a question everyone asks when visiting remarkable edifices from the Middle Ages: How did workers do it without trucks, bulldozers and power tools?

Gnawed Roman skeleton that inspired Sylvia Plath poem goes on display

Roman skeleton that inspired Sylvia Plath
The Roman skeleton that inspired Sylvia Plath. It had been taken off display due to overcrowding. Photograph: Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
The skeleton of a Roman woman and the bones of the mouse and shrew that gnawed her ankle in her coffin, inspiring one of Sylvia Plath's most haunting poems, have gone on display.

Plath saw the massive stone sarcophagus and its contents soon after it was excavated in the 1950s, when she was a student at Cambridge.

Staff at the university's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology mounted the rodent bones on a piece of card – also on display again – and showed them in the coffin alongside the remains of the middle-aged woman, which is grimacing as if in pain.

Trefael Stone reveals stone age burial chamber

The Trefael Stone  
The Trefael Stone, seen here with a metre-long measuring stick, is probably the capstone of a Stone Age burial chamber

Archaeologists are to exhume and analyse human bones found under a prehistoric monument only recently identified as a burial site cap.

The Trefael Stone in Pembrokeshire was thought to be just one of many linked to nearby Bronze Age locations.

But it has now been reclassified after a survey established it as the capstone of a Stone Age ritual burial chamber.

Two ancient curses dating back 1,600 years depict a deity with snakes coming out of its head. This deity may be none other than the goddess Hekate, the Queen of the Crossroads. Invocations in the curses resemble those used for her.
CREDIT: Photo courtesy Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna, cropping by Owen Jarus
At a time when black magic was relatively common, two curses involving snakes were cast, one targeting a senator and the other an animal doctor, says a Spanish researcher who has just deciphered the 1,600-year-old curses.

Both curses feature a depiction of a deity, possibly the Greek goddess Hekate, with serpents coming out of her hair, possibly meant to strike at the victims. Both curses contain Greek invocations similar to examples known to call upon Hekate.

Prague dig yields 5500 BC settlement

You could almost say that Prague keeps getting older. Not long ago, archaeologists found evidence of the oldest ploughed field here, tended five and a half thousand years ago. Now the imprints of structures have been found in the same location, dating back even further, some 7,500 years. 
View of the excavations [Credit: Czech Television]
The dates of the earliest settlements in the area of Prague are continuously being pushed back – just about anytime someone puts a shovel to the northern district of Bubeneč. The spot in the bend of the Vltava river apparently offered an unparalleled living space, a river terrace with fresh water in plenty, defence on three sides and fertile land. The site makes headlines again and again as the ground yields up fascinating finds from the mysterious peoples who inhabited Central Europe before the Europeans. That they farmed in at least 3500 BC, and that they lived there long before that, is well known. Now though comes the first hard evidence of a settlement as old as agriculture on the Nile, from around 5500 BC. Radek Balý is the director of the Czech Archaeological Society and heads the team that made the find.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Times of Their Lives: Understanding the Neolithic peoples of Europe

Windmill Hill, a large Neolithic causewayed enclosure in Avebury, was previously thought to be built circa 3700 - 3100 BC, but with the breakthrough achieved through the scientific dating project conducted by English Heritage and Cardiff University, it is now revealed that it was constructed in 3700 - 3640 BC – narrowing the span from six centuries down to six decades. Image: English Heritage Photo Library

A five-year collaborative project between Cardiff University and English Heritage that aims to construct a more precise chronology of Neolithic civilisations in Europe has just been awarded €2.5M from the European Research Council.

The Times of Their Lives, led by Professor Alasdair Whittle of the and Dr Alex Bayliss of English Heritage builds on the ground-breaking success of combining expertise in Neolithic archaeology and Bayesian statistical analysis in mapping a precise chronology of causewayed enclosures, a type of early Neolithic earthwork, in Britain.

A revolutionary new technique

Causewayed enclosures are known prehistoric features, but up to now it has been thought that they spread slowly across Britain over five centuries. Using the new technique, Professor Whittle and Dr Bayliss have already shown that this new class of huge monuments spread rapidly all over southern Britain in a short span of 75 years, starting from the Thames Estuary through Kent and Sussex, and then west, on an intense scale that was not apparent before. The new knowledge that this happened in a flurry within two to three generations has revolutionised the way prehistory is understood and studied in Britain, and has prompted wide interest around the world.

Archeologists to Study Pre-Settlement Hut in Iceland

The first archeological research in Iceland this year will begin at Hafnir in Reykjanes, southwest Iceland, on Monday. Archeologists will continue their study of a hut which may originate from 770-880 AD, the latter part of the Iron Age, and predate the historical settlement of Iceland in 874.
The remains of the hut at Hafnir. Photo: Bjarni F. Einarsson.
Excavation has been ongoing in the area around the hut, which has been given the name Vogur, with intermission since 2003, Fréttablaðið reports.
Last summer archeologist Bjarni F. Einarsson revealed that carbon age analysis indicated that the hut may have been constructed in the aforementioned period, which garnered considerable attention.

Join the experts to uncover the past at Flag Fen dig

Flag Fen

Flag Fen will live again this summer when archaeological experts will work tool by tool with wannabes for the first time. John Baker dug in to find out more about the world’s first ever crowd sourced and crowd funded excavation.

The Bronze age site off Northey Road will be flooded again in July and August, this time with people hoping to uncover secrets before time runs out completely. 

DISCOVERED by Time Team’s Francis Pryor, who lives in Sutton St James, the site has a fantastic national and international reputation, but is not really held in the same regard by the people of Peterborough. Legend has it that Francis was on his way to the pub in 1982 when he stumbled over a piece of wood near a Fenland ditch on the outskirts of Peterborough.

The markings on that piece of timber looked unusual and were soon confirmed as dating from around 1000 BC – and from Francis’ serendipity a legend was born.

"This place has never been empty..."

"Since the discovery in 1999, of a large settlement site from Early Stone Age (ca 6 000 -- 4 000 BC) close to the river Motala ström, the Swedish National Heritage Board has conducted archaeological excavations north and south of the river.

Among other artifacts the site provides a rich and multifaceted material of bone and antler, which is very rare for this type of Stone Age excavations. This is due to the exceptionally good conditions for preservation. Artifacts found in anaerobic, cool and moist contexts appear to be manufactured yesterday and not to have been deposited in layers of gyttja for 7 000 or 8 000 years.

The structure of the excavated area and the multifaceted artifacts in combination with the projects inter disciplinary constitution creates widening scopes of interpretation of how the site was used, and also broadens our perception of Early Stone Age society."

The video is about 18 mins long and has English sub-titles.

You can view the video here...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Anglo-Saxons and hand-saex

As an invitation to explore the wonders of Old English, hand-saex is certainly arresting.

The Dictionary of Old English, based at the University of Toronto (, offered hand-saex as last week’s “word of the week.” Reader Susannah Cameron spotted it and sent the reference to Word Play. “Have to admit it caught my attention,” she said.

Sadly for anyone expecting new insight into the intimate practices of Anglo-Saxons between the years 600 and 1150, the word refers to a knife or dagger. The knife was a saex, also spelled seax and (yes) sex, and a hand-saex was a weapon held in one hand. The word for hand in Old English was hand. Very handy.

Saex comes from a Germanic root (sah or sag) meaning to cut. It survives today only in the narrowly defined word sax, a tool used to trim roofing slates. But before the Norman Conquest of 1066 reshaped the English language and gave us Middle English – a process that took about a century to filter down to ordinary folks – saex was all the rage.

Our Past, Our Future, Our Choice

Segontium Roman fort
Segontium Roman fort irst excavated in the 1920s by famous archaeologist, Mortimer Wheeler : Wiki Commons

Heritage, the natural landscape and Archaeology has never been more popular, but your chance to meet your ancestors is at risk.

“The work of archaeologists brings people of all ages and backgrounds into conversation with our ancestors and each other”
Today you can watch archaeology and history on television 24/7, often on dedicated Channels. In fact research in 2007 found that a fifth of the population watched at least one and often more heritage themed programmes per week. That has to be because archaeology starts to answer those most basic questions. Who am I and where do I come from?

The fact that archaeology does this using a unique combination of human canniness, teamwork and dexterity, coupled with high tech science means it is like the best kind of Police procedural thriller where we are all ordinary heroes; all at the centre of the investigation and we are never quite sure of the ending which it is in our power to discover.

Modern dogs have 'little in common' with ancient breeds

The cross-breeding of dogs has made it difficult to trace the genetic roots of today's pets, according to a new study.

Scientists from Durham and Aberdeen analysed data from the genetic make-up of modern dogs while assessing the archaeological record of dog remains.

They found that modern breeds genetically have little in common with their ancient ancestors.

The scientists believe their research could offer new insights into dog domestication and its evolution.

New Look for the Current Archaeology Website

Current Archaeology now has a dedicated news editor in-house, and the news articles are now posted on our website as the stories break rather than simply published in the magazine.  You can also subscribe to receive an email newsletter, and there are RSS feeds for your newreader as well.

Go to the Current Archaeology Website...

Twitter Feed:!/CurrentArchaeo

The Current World Archaeology website has also been updated.

Go to the Current World ArchaeologyWebsite...


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ancient rock art likened to a prehistoric Facebook

Ancient rock art has been likened to a prehistoric form of Facebook by a Cambridge archaeologist. 
Cambridge archaeologist Mark Sapwell believes he has discovered an ‘archaic version’ of social networking site Facebook [Credit: Cambridge News]
Mark Sapwell, who is a PhD archaeology student at St John’s College, believes he has discovered an “archaic version” of the social networking site, where users share thoughts and emotions and give stamps of approval to other contributions – similar to the Facebook “like”.

Images of animals and events were drawn on the rock faces in Russian and Northern Sweden to communicate with distant tribes and descendants during the Bronze Age. 

They form a timeline preserved in stone encompassing thousands of years.

'Cursing stone' found on Isle of Canna

The bullaun stone was found in an old graveyard

A stone discovered by chance on the Isle of Canna is Scotland's first known example of a bullaun "cursing stone", experts have revealed. 

Dating from about 800 AD, the stones are associated with early Christian crosses - of which there is one on the isle.
It was found in an old graveyard by a National Trust for Scotland (NTS) farm manager.
The stone is about 25cm in diameter and engraved with an early Christian cross.
It was later found to fit exactly into a large rectangular stone with a worn hole which was located at the base of the Canna cross.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Warfare Began with Human Hunter-Gatherers?

Author Robert Ardrey's* popularization of the theory that modern humans are in part a product of their violent primate ancestral past may have some merit, with a twist, according to Dr. Christopher Boehm, Director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California. In a review published in the May 18, 2012 issue of the journal Science, he suggests that, though the common ancestor to modern-day chimpanzees, bonobos and humans may have used conflict to solve problems and achieve objectives, it was not until the later human hunter-gatherers that the more organized, full-scale features of aggression and conflict that define actual warfare developed.

Boehm (pictured right) draws this insight based on comparative behavioral studies among humans and their closest genetic relatives, the chimpanzees and the bonobos. Chimpanzees and other apes, like humans, have been observed to exhibit violence as a means of addressing their environment or relating to others. Bonobos, although not strangers to conflict and violence, have been observed as beng significantly less agressive. The characteristics common to warfare, however, which include the application of social, organizational and technological skills not found among non-human primates, were observed first only among human hunter-gatherer groups.

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Humanity's Best Friend: How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals

One of the most compelling -- and enduring -- mysteries in archaeology concerns the rise of early humans and the decline of Neanderthals. For about 250,000 years, Neanderthals lived and evolved, quite successfully, in the area that is now Europe. Somewhere between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago, early humans came along.

They proliferated in their new environment, their population increasing tenfold in the 10,000 years after they arrived; Neanderthals declined and finally died away.

What happened? What went so wrong for the Neanderthals -- and what went so right for us humans?

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Von sehr alten und etwas jüngeren Felszeichnungen: Abri Castanet und Grotte Chauvet

Die vor fünf Jahren im Abri Castanet in Südfrankreich entdeckten Felszeichnungen und Gravuren dürften mit einem Alter von 37.000 Jahren zu den ältesten bekannten Wandmalereien zählen. Die außergewöhnlichen Zeichnungen in der Grotte Chauvet sind mindestens 21.000 Jahre alt, wie eine neue Studie erbrachte.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Digging deep for bells and bones . . .


Dr Carenza Lewis from Channel 4’s Time Team, right, with an object found by Thomas William-Powlett, centre, pictured with volunteers

Unearthing history: Dr Carenza Lewis from Channel 4’s Time Team, right, with an object found by Thomas William-Powlett, centre, pictured with volunteers

A mass archaeological dig led by a famous face took over a field in Clavering on Saturday.

Dr Carenza Lewis, of Channel 4’s TimeTeam, brought her Access Cambridge Archaeology team to the Uttlesford village’s Christian Centre in Stortford Road to carry out 29 separate digs.

Among the finds were bits of pottery ranging from Medieval times through to the Victorian period, animal bone, a medieval bell believed to have been used on a dog’s collar, a trading token dated 1669, and the remains of a commemorative cup from the 1700s, likely commissioned for a Christening or wedding.

But one of the highlights was a pre-historic leaf-shaped arrowhead which got the pulses racing.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Layer by layer: the Upper Palaeolithic at Mas d’Azil cave revealed

The upstream entrance of the cave of Mas d’Azil/cleaning of the upper archaeological layers. Images: © Marc Jarry / Inrap

Mas d’Azil is an immense cave and is one of the major prehistoric sites in France. Classed as an historic monument since 1942, it is also a very popular tourist site. The construction of a visitor centre and site path by the commune of Mas d’Azil requires archaeological intervention and two phases have already been completed. The first; a trench to house the buried pipes that traverse the road and the second; the visitor centre located inside the cave.

The cave of Mas d’Azil and French prehistory

The first research at this site was carried out in 1860 with Félix Garrigou presenting the general stratigraphy in 1867. Twenty years later, Édouard Piette conducted extensive excavations. Throughout these years, thousands of flint tools and hundreds of portable art objects were recovered.

The oldest farming village in the Mediterranean islands is discovered in Cyprus

The communal building in Klimonas partially excavated. It measures 10 m in diameter. Credit: J.-D. Vigne, CNRS-MNHN. This image is available from the CNRS photo library,

The oldest agricultural settlement ever found on a Mediterranean island has been discovered in Cyprus by a team of French archaeologists involving CNRS, the National Museum of Natural History, INRAP, EHESS and the University of Toulouse. Previously it was believed that, due to the island's geographic isolation, the first Neolithic farming societies did not reach Cyprus until a thousand years after the birth of agriculture in the Middle East (ca. 9500 to 9400 BCE). However, the discovery of Klimonas, a village that dates from nearly 9000 years before Christ, proves that early cultivators migrated to Cyprus from the Middle Eastern continent shortly after the emergence of agriculture there, bringing with them wheat as well as dogs and cats.

Anthropologists discover earliest form of wall art

Anthropologists working in southern France have determined that a 1.5 metric ton block of engraved limestone constitutes the earliest evidence of wall art. Their research, reported in the most recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows the piece to be approximately 37,000 years old and offers rich evidence of the role art played in the daily lives of Early Aurignacian humans. 

Anthropologists, including NYU's Randall White, working in southern France have determined that a 1.5 metric ton block of engraved limestone constitutes the earliest evidence of wall art. Their research shows the piece to be approximately 37,000 years old and offers rich evidence of the role art played in the daily lives of Early Aurignacian humans. Pictured above and below are pieces of the discovery, which depict animals in red and black paint [Credit: Raphaelle Bourrillon]
The research team, comprised of more than a dozen scientists from American and European universities and research institutions, has been excavating at the site of the discovery—Abri Castanet—for the past 15 years. Abri Castanet and its sister site Abri Blanchard have long been recognized as being among the oldest sites in Eurasia bearing artifacts of human symbolism. Hundreds of personal ornaments have been discovered, including pierced animal teeth, pierced shells, ivory and soapstone beads, engravings, and paintings on limestone slabs. 

"Early Aurignacian humans functioned, more or less, like humans today," explained New York University anthropology professor Randall White, one of the study's co-authors. "They had relatively complex social identities communicated through personal ornamentation, and they practiced sculpture and graphic arts."

Same-Sex Relations in the Middle Ages

The study of homosexual, lesbian and bisexual relations during the Middle Ages is a fairly new area of research, with some of the first important books on the topics being published in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Since then many scholars have been examining how same-sex practices and relationships were viewed in the medieval period. For the most part, any homosexual behaviour was considered sinful by medieval society, and often laws against sodomy proscribed harsh penalties such as castration and execution.

On the other hand, research has revealed that at times same-sex relationships were tolerated and that positive depictions about homosexuality can be found in medieval literature.

Here is a list of articles that are available online about same-sex relations in the Middle Ages:

Roman coins haul dug up

Roman coins more than 2,000 years old have been discovered in Staffordshire in what experts described today as a significant find.

The silver coins were unearthed by metal detecting enthusiast father-of-three Scott Heeley, from Hednesford.

At least one of 242 coins bears the head of Roman politician and military general Mark Antony, the loyal friend of Julius Caesar.

Experts say it is the most exciting discovery in the area since the Staffordshire Hoard – a collection of the largest haul of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.

Archaeologists uncover 37,000-year-old wall art in France

A massive block of limestone in France contains what scientists believe are the earliest known engravings of wall art dating back some 37,000 years, according to a study published Monday.

The 1.5-metric-ton ceiling piece was first discovered in 2007 at Abri Castanet, a well known archaeological site in southwestern France that holds some of the earliest forms of artwork, beads and pierced shells.

According to New York University anthropology professor Randall White, lead author of the paper in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” the art was likely meant to adorn the interior of a shelter for reindeer hunters.

“They decorated the places where they were living, where they were doing all their daily activities,” White told AFP. “There is a whole question about how and why, and why here in this place at this particular time you begin to see people spending so much time and energy and imagination on the graphics.”

Old Shipwrecks Reveal Their Chemical Secrets

A team of scientists from the University of Gothenburg and Stockholm University has found large quantities of sulphur and iron compounds in marine archaeological wood from shipwrecks both in the Baltic Sea area and off the west coast of Sweden.

The Vasa, a Swedish warship built 1626-1628. The ship sank after sailing less than a nautical mile into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628 (Javier Kohen)

A few years ago scientists reported large quantities of sulphur and iron compounds in the salvaged 17th century warship Vasa, resulting in the development of sulphuric acid and acidic salt precipitates on the surface of the hull and loose wooden objects.

Similar sulphur compounds have now been discovered also in other shipwrecks both from the Baltic and off the west coast of Sweden, including fellow 17th century warships Kronan, Riksnyckeln and Stora Sofia, the 17th century merchant vessel in Gothenburg known as the Göta wreck, and the Viking ships excavated at Skuldelev in Denmark.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vandals damage Roman stonework at Scarborough castle

Night time attack risks damage to sensitive archaeology dating back more than 2,500 years

Donkeys on Scarborough beach, North Yorkshire, England
Scarborough castle rises on its 300ft cliffs behind the bustle of South Bay beach. Photograph: Julian Calder/Corbis
It is good for the north that the Hepworth Wakefield has reached the final four of the Museum of the Year competition, but there is less happy heritage news from Scarborough.

Vandals have clambered into the town's castle, whose position on the headland is one of the glories of both bays, and done significant damage to Roman stonework.

The fortress is generally well capable of looking after itself, with walls up to 12ft thick and the mortar so hard in places that it has crystallised into spar. There is also a tradition of local people having a go at it; back in 1265, just over a century after the castle's foundation by William the Fat, Earl of Albermarle, Royal troops had to take over to protect the place and its constable from constant attacks.

Repairs for replica Bronze Age boat after Dover launch

Bronze Age boat replica  
The half-size replica Bronze Age boat took more than three months to build
A replica Bronze Age boat made in Kent is being repaired after it started to sink on its first voyage.
The vessel, which is called Boat 1550 BC, was lowered into Dover Harbour on Saturday but started to leak before it could get under way.

The boat, which has taken three months to construct, is made of wood and is half the size of the original boat unearthed in Dover in 1992.

The way the planks were joined together is thought to have caused the problem.

3-D Scanning: Bringing History Back to Life

Specialists are using new technology to unravel a mystery in the Smithsonian collections (2:18)

Produced by: Beth Py-Lieberman and Ryan R. Reed 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dover launch of replica Bronze Age boat aborted

The half-size replica Bronze Age boat took more than three months to build

The maiden voyage of a replica Bronze Age boat made in Kent had to be aborted when it failed to stay afloat. 

The vessel, which is called Boat 1550 BC, immediately began to take on water when it was lowered into Dover Harbour.

The boat is half the size of an original Bronze Age boat which was unearthed in Dover in 1992.

A Canterbury Christ Church University spokeswoman said: "It didn't go to plan so we had a bit of a naming ceremony instead."