Friday, April 07, 2017

Why you should take your kids to Britain's smelliest attraction


Scent is the most underrated element of travel. Consider: lavender-infused Provencal fields or sulphuric water in Iceland. Each smell evokes a fundamental aspect of its place of origin. And, if you are under the age of 12, or know someone who is, consider this particular whiff: rotting flesh, with more than a hint of human excrement.

Nothing brings history alive like the scent of a turd, particularly when accompanied by a fossilised version, which you will find on display in a new case at Jorvik Viking Centre, which re-opens this weekend, 17 months after floods destroyed one of York’s most memorable attractions.

Vikings are heroes for my children’s generation thanks, in part, to How to Train Your Dragon, the historical drama Vikings and the Scandi clothing invasion, which features cheerful bearded Nordic faces on just about anything.

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Divers search lake for Roman Emperor Caligula's pleasure barge, site of wild orgies

Today, the serene waters of Lake Nemi make it a quaint getaway, one that is best known for its peaceful landscapes and the area's delicious wild strawberries.
But in ancient Roman times, the volcanic lake southeast of Rome was the anchor point for Emperor Caligula's pleasure ships - massive and ornate barges that were rumored to be the sites of wild orgies and other excessive indulgences.
For nearly 2,000 years, the sunken remains of Caligula's pleasure ships tantalized divers, who launched expeditions to recover them, with little success.
It wasn't until 1927, when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered Lake Nemi drained, that two of the ships began to be fully revealed. Measuring 230 and 240 feet long, the "Nemi ships" recovered over the next several years astounded researchers with their advanced technology.
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A Lost Roman City Has Been Discovered in Southern France


For the first time in over a thousand years, archeologists have laid eyes on the ancient Roman town of Ucetia, which is decked out with some surprisingly well-preserved mosaics.

The discovery by the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) was made near modern-day Uzès in the south of France during the construction of a school. The 4,000-square-meter (43,056-square-foot) site contains artifacts ranging from the Roman Republic era (1st century BCE) to the late antiquity (7th century), right through to the Middle Ages.

The town’s existence was first hinted at when researchers found an inscription saying Ucetia on a stone slab in nearby Nîmes. A few isolated fragments and mosaic pieces suggested the site of the mysterious Roman town, but it remained hidden until INRAP started to dig beneath the surface.

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Prehistoric cannibalism not just driven by hunger, study reveals

Humans are less nutritious than other forms of meat, findings show, indicating complex social motivations may be behind our ancestors’ cannibalism


Evidence of cannibalism found at a number of prehistoric sites indicate our ancestors as well as other hominins such as Neanderthals sometimes ate each other. 
Photograph: Nikola Solic/Reuters/Corbis

Thursday 6 April 2017 14.00 BST Last modified on Thursday 6 April 2017 14.14 BST
Cannibalism among prehistoric humans was more likely to have been driven by social reasons than the need for a hearty meal, research suggests.

Evidence of cannibalism, in the form of cut marks, tooth marks and tell-tale bone breakage has been found at a number of prehistoric sites, including in France, Spain and Belgium, revealing that our ancestors as well as other hominins such as Neanderthals and Homo antecessor at least occasionally ate each other.
But how common cannibalism was and to what extent it was driven by the need for nutrition has been a matter of debate, with remains from some sites showing evidence of ritual treatment.

The latest study adds weight to the idea that cannibalism might have been driven by more than the necessity of hunger.

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Rome Metro workers accidentally discovered an ancient aqueduct

The aqueduct. Photo: Archaeological Superintendency Rome
A 2,300-year-old aqueduct uncovered by workers on Rome's new Metro line has been hailed as "a sensational discovery of enormous importance" by the city's Superintendency for Archaeology.
Archaeologists first stumbled across the impressive ruin at the end of 2016, though it was not publicly announced until Sunday. On Wednesday, the team presented the results of analysis of the structure, along with that of other recent finds, at a conference hosted by Rome's Sapienza university.

Simona Morretta, who led the team of archaeologists, said the 32-metre stretch was likely part of the Aqua Appia - the oldest known Roman aqueduct, which dates back to 312 BC.
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Crusader Wreck Tells Tale Of Crusader Holy Land Conquest

Christian knights and Mameluke warriors were fighting on the walls. Now the wreck of a 13th century ship reveals the desperate bid to save the Holy Land.


A Crusader-era book illumination showing a Christian ship at sea. A wreck near the port of Acre dates from the fall of that city — and the last hours of the Crusader state [Credit: WikiCommons]

The port of the city of Acre was a vital lifeline for Crusader knights and settlers alike. Through it streamed European pilgrims, horses, fighting men and manufacturing goods, all vital to sustain Christianity’s tenuous hold in what would later become Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

In return, ships carried precious cargoes of sugar, spice and exotic textiles. But, in 1291, it all came crashing down.

The Egyptian Mameluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil — leading an army of 100,000 men and horses — rolled back the Christian defences, weakened by almost two centuries of fighting to maintain control over the Holy Land.

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DÉCOUVERTE D’UN SANCTUAIRE GALLO-ROMAIN À MURVIEL-LÈS-MONTPELLIER


Cette fouille a donné lieu à la découverte des vestiges d’un sanctuaire gallo-romain. Dimanche 9 avril 2017, les archéologues présenteront leurs découvertes au  public, lors de visites guidées.

Àl’occasion de l’aménagement d’un lotissement par Rambier Aménagement à Murviel-lès-Montpellier, une fouille préventive prescrite par l’État (Drac Occitanie) a donné lieu à la découverte des vestiges d’un sanctuaire gallo-romain. Les archéologues de l’Inrap, en partenariat avec le service Archéologie et Patrimoine de la Communauté d’agglomération du Bassin de Thau (CABT) enrichissent ainsi la  connaissance de l’agglomération antique fouillée sur la commune depuis de nombreuses années.  

Dimanche 9 avril, les archéologues présenteront leurs découvertes au  public, lors de visites guidées proposées toute la journée. 

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Geologists reveal how violent 'Brexit 1.0' separated Britain from Europe

Bathymetry map of the strait of Dover showing prominent valley eroded through the centre. Note the rock ridge made of chalk in southern Britain and northern France which would have connected across the strait prior to breaching.
Photograph: Imperial College London/Professor Sanjeev Gupta and Dr Jenny Collier

Once attached to the European mainland, a new study shows how catastrophic flooding led to Britain becoming an island about 125,000 years ago

Brexit might be causing political chaos but whatever Theresa May has up her sleeve it is unlikely to be as catastrophic as the first separation of Britain from the continent.

A new study has revealed how giant waterfalls and, later, a megaflood severed our connection to France, resulting in the creation of island Britain and the watery moat of the English Channel.

“A chance series of geological events set the stage for Britain becoming an island,” said Sanjeev Gupta, professor of earth science at Imperial College London and co-author of the research.

“If it weren’t for these events, in a sense the history of Britain would have been completely different,” he added, pointing out that if the ridge had never been breached, Britain would have remained attached to northern France with easy access to the rest of Europe.

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Evidence of ancient 'geological Brexit' revealed


The UK has now started the formal process of leaving the EU, but scientists say they have evidence of a much earlier "Brexit".
They have worked out how a thin strip of land that once connected ancient Britain to Europe was destroyed.
The researchers believe a large lake overflowed 450,000 years ago, damaging the land link, then a later flood fully opened the Dover Strait.
The scars of these events can be found on the seabed of the English Channel.

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Monday, April 03, 2017

Tiller the Hun? Farmers in Roman Empire converted to Hun lifestyle -- and vice versa

New archaeological analysis suggests people of Western Roman Empire switched between Hunnic nomadism and settled farming over a lifetime. Findings may be evidence of tribal encroachment that undermined Roman Empire during 5th century AD, contributing to its fall.


Example of a modified skull, a practice assumed to be Hunnic that may have been appropriated by local farmers within the bounds of the
Credit: Susanne Hakenbeck

Marauding hordes of barbarian Huns, under their ferocious leader Attila, are often credited with triggering the fall of one of history's greatest empires: Rome.

Historians believe Hunnic incursions into Roman provinces bordering the Danube during the 5th century AD opened the floodgates for nomadic tribes to encroach on the empire. This caused a destabilisation that contributed to collapse of Roman power in the West.


According to Roman accounts, the Huns brought only terror and destruction. However, research from the University of Cambridge on gravesite remains in the Roman frontier region of Pannonia (now Hungary) has revealed for the first time how ordinary people may have dealt with the arrival of the Huns.

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Rare ‘Coffin Birth' Found At Black Death Burial Site In Northern Italy


Researchers investigating a 14th century burial ground have identified a rare case of "coffin birth" - a gruesome phenomenon in which a deceased pregnant woman's fetus is expelled within the grave.


The remains of a mother and fetus were buried alongside those of two other children in the early days of the  Black Death in Italy, however researchers cannot say for certain that they died of the plague 
[Credit: Fabrizio Benente (Universita di Genova – DAFIST)]

The event, which has seldom been reported in archaeology, is known as postmortem fetal extrusion. It results from a build-up of gas pressure within the decomposing body.

"In this case, we have a partial expulsion of a 38- to 40-week-old fetus, which was found to be complete and to lie within the birth canal," Deneb Cesana, at the University of Genova, told Seeker.

The remains of the woman and her unborn baby were originally uncovered in 2006, interred with two other young individuals that scientists say were aged 12 and three years old. Only recently has the discovery been fully investigated.

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Rich Roman haul surprises Dutch archaeologists

A Roman ring, found at the dig. Photo: William Hoogteyling via HH 

Archeologists digging at a site in Tiel in the province of Gelderland, have found a rich haul of Roman artefacts, among which a statue of the god Jupiter, a grave stone inscribed DEAE (to the goddess), 2,500 bronze objects and a unique ointment pot. 

The dig is one of a number of archaeological activities taking place on an 80 hectare site which is projected to become part of the adjacent Medel industrial estate. As with any major construction work, archaeologists are invited to investigate what is in the ground before any building is done. 

The area has yielded treasure before. In November last year archaeologists found numerous artefacts dating back some 6,000 years, and a Roman funerary urn with a small glass bottle inside it.

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A decorated raven bone discovered in Crimea may provide insight into Neanderthal cognition


The cognitive abilities of Neanderthals are debated, but a raven bone fragment found at the Zaskalnaya VI (ZSK) site in Crimea features two notches that may have been made by Neanderthals intentionally to display a visually consistent pattern, according to a study by Ana Majkic at the Universite de Bordeaux and colleagues, published in the open access journal, PLOS ONE on March 29, 2017.
Majkic and colleagues conducted a mixed-methods study to assess whether the two extra notches on the ZSK raven bone were made by Neanderthals with the intention of making the final series of notches appear to be evenly spaced. First, researchers conducted a multi-phase experiment where recruited volunteers were asked to create evenly spaced notches in domestic turkey bones, which are similar in size to the ZSK raven bone. Morphometric analyses reveal that the equal spacing of the experimental notches was comparable to the spacing of notches in the ZSK raven bone, even when adjusted for errors in human perception. Archeological specimens featuring aligned notches from different sites were also analyzed and compared with the ZSK raven bone specimen.
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Iron Age chariot and horse found buried together in Yorkshire


The two Iron Age horses, once used to pull the chariot are examined on site by archaeologists 
Henry Hayhurst-France/David Wilson Homes

The Ancient Brits loved their wheels. Indeed they seem to have been so attached to their sports-car-style chariots that they may even have thought they could use them to get to the next world.

Academic knowledge about these elegant high status prehistoric British vehicles is now set to increase significantly, following the discovery of an ancient Briton buried inside his chariot in East Yorkshire.

Although around 20 other similar chariot graves have been found over the past century or so in the UK (mainly in Yorkshire), this new discovery, unearthed on the outskirts of the market town of Pocklington at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, is the only example ever excavated by modern archaeologists in which the two horses, used to pull the vehicle, were also interred.

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Crete’s Late Minoan Tombs Point Way To Early European Migration


Researchers at the University of Huddersfield have visited Rethymnon in Crete, to collect samples from the late Bronze Age Necropolis of Armenoi, one of the world's finest archaeological sites. DNA analysis of the ancient skeletal remains could provide fresh insights into the origins of European civilisation.


View of the Late Minoan necropolis at Armeni [Credit: West Crete]

Dr Ceiridwen Edwards and PhD student George Foody were permitted to take bone samples and teeth from over 110 of the more than 600 skeletons discovered in the Necropolis, a rock-hewn burial site from the Late Minoan period dating to more than 4,000 years ago. During their two-week visit, the Huddersfield researchers – part of a team that included colleagues from Oxford University and the Hellenic Archaeological Research Foundation – also took DNA swabs from more than 100 contemporary Cretans. They sought people whose grandmothers were from Crete in order to analyse links to the Minoan period.

When the ancient DNA samples are compared with those of modern Cretans, there is the potential to find solutions to many issues surrounding the ancient migration of people and culture to an island where the Bronze Age Minoans and their successors the Mycenaeans laid foundations for later European civilisation and culture.

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Medieval villagers mutilated the dead to stop them rising, study finds

The Wharram Percy excavation area as it looks today. 
Photograph: Pete Horne/Historic England/PA

A study by archaeologists has revealed certain people in medieval Yorkshire were so afraid of the dead they chopped, smashed and burned their skeletons to make sure they stayed in their graves.

The research published by Historic England and the University of Southampton may represent the first scientific evidence in England of attempts to prevent the dead from walking and harming the living – still common in folklore in many parts of the world.

The archaeologists who studied a collection of human bones – including the remains of adults, teenagers and children excavated more than half a century ago, and dated back to the period between the 11th and 14th century – rejected gruesome possibilities including cannibalism in times of famine, or the massacre of outsiders. The cut marks were in the wrong place for butchery, and isotope analysis of the teeth showed that the people came from the same area as the villagers of Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire – a once flourishing village which had been completely deserted by the early 16th century.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Fregerslev Viking From Outside Hørning


Sensational find of chamber graves from the later part of the Viking Age at Fregerslev south of Hørning in Jutland in Denmark will hopefully witness to the ethos of the Viking warriors in the 10th century.

Fregerslev is a small settlement located a few km south of Hørning in the midst of Jutland near the town of Skanderborg. It lies down to a lake at an old crossing point. At the periphery of Hørning close to the road towards Fregerslev, a Viking burial ground was discovered in 2012, consisting of two inhumation graves and a tomb with two (or maybe three) chambers. While the two inhumation graves have been excavated, the chamber graves were left in situ for later excavation. However, intensive studies carried out using metal detectors as well as electromagnetic surveying left the archaeologists with tantalising glimpses of what might be a very rich picking ground for future excavations. Also, a magnificent headgear for a horse gave an inkling of what hopefully lies beneath. During the next years funding was sought while the find was kept hidden for fear of “night-owls”. Now, However, the time has come.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Evidence Of Craft Specialisation In Bead Production In Upper Palaeolithic France?

The organization of bead production during the Aurignacian has significant implications for understanding the role of these artifacts in Upper Palaeolithic societies, and the evolution of symbolic behavior and social organization more generally.


French Upper Palaeolithic beads [Credit: University College London]

In a special issue of the Quaternary International on The Role of Art in Prehistoric Societies a case study of Early Aurignacian beads in ivory and soapstone are presented, and related production debris, from four sites (Abri Castanet, Abri de la Souquette, Grotte des Hyènes at Brassempouy, Grotte d’Isturitz) in the Aquitaine region of France.

The data from the case study are used to evaluate three hypothetical models of production and exchange in the given regional context, and are evaluated in terms of the current, common criteria for the recognition of craft specialization in the archaeological record.

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Archaeologists make sensational Viking discovery in Denmark

One of the beautiful, gilded fittings (photo: Museum of Skanderborg)

In what is being described as one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Denmark in recent times, archaeologists have uncovered several chamber-graves in the hamlet of Hørning near Skanderborg in Jutland.

What is of particular interest is that one of the chamber-graves contains the remains of a high-level person from the early Viking Age, as well as a number of spectacular items that confirm the individual’s high standing. He has been dubbed the ‘Fregerslev Viking’.

“The artefacts that we’ve already found are exquisite gilded fittings from a horse bridle. This type of bridle would only be available to the most powerful of people in the Viking Age, and we believe it might have been a gift of alliance from the king,” said Merethe Schifter Bagge, a project manager and archaeologist at the Museum of Skanderborg

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New Technology Reveals Lost Townscape Of Sixteenth Century Edinburgh

The lost townscape of sixteenth-century Edinburgh has been brought back to life by researchers at the University of St Andrews.


Digital reconstruction of Edinburgh [Credit: University of St Andrews]

The new digital reconstruction is the first to be created of the period, and is based on a drawing from 1544, thought to be the earliest accurate depiction of the capital.

The virtual time travel technology – which will be released as an app in May – provides a unique window into the capital around the time of the birth of Mary Queen of Scots.

The technology is the result of a collaboration between St Andrews historians, art historians, computer scientists and University spinout company Smart History. The result is an interactive tour of the capital as it appeared in 1544, just before the city was sacked and burned by an English army led by Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

400,000-year-old fossil human cranium is oldest ever found in Portugal


 A large international research team, directed by the Portuguese archaeologist João Zilhão and including Binghamton University anthropologist Rolf Quam, has found the oldest fossil human cranium in Portugal, marking an important contribution to knowledge of human evolution during the middle Pleistocene in Europe and to the origin of the Neandertals.
The cranium represents the westernmost human fossil ever found in Europe during the middle Pleistocene epoch and one of the earliest on this continent to be associated with the Acheulean stone tool industry. In contrast to other fossils from this same time period, many of which are poorly dated or lack a clear archaeological context, the cranium discovered in the cave of Aroeira in Portugal is well-dated to 400,000 years ago and appeared in association with abundant faunal remains and stone tools, including numerous bifaces (handaxes).
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Immigration to Denmark is nothing new … just ask the Vikings

A Viking grave in Randers shows evidence of early globalisation



Ernst Stidsing, an archaeologist and the curator at East Jutland Museum, has discovered that the body of a woman buried in a Viking grave in Randers was born in Norway.

The remains of her teeth were subjected to a strontium analysis, which can show where a person is born and grew up. The results of the analysis, together with jewellery found with the body, pointed to the fact that she grew up in southern Norway.

Ernst Stidsing added that people have always travelled and emigrated. However, the exact circumstances of her coming to Denmark are unknown. It isn’t clear whether she came of her own free will, was a party in an arranged marriage, or if there was another reason for her presence in Denmark.

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Archaeological dig off Nayland Road reveals Medieval pottery industry in north Colchester


ARCHAEOLOGICAL excavations have revealed a busy Medieval pottery operation existed in north Colchester.
Excavation work is taking place on fields off Nayland Road, Colchester, where developer Mersea Homes is due to build hundreds of homes.
As a condition of the planning permission from Colchester Council, the developer was asked to commission the excavation.
It has been taking place on a slice of land measuring about 150 by 50 metres over the past six weeks by the Colchester Archaeological Trust.
The team has been painstakingly using hand tools to uncover a rare pottery kiln dating back to the 15th century and pottery which would have been discarded if it was not deemed up to standard.

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How a 400,000-year-old skull fragment hints at ancient 'unified humanity'

The mix of traits on this new specimen found in Portugal has encouraged researchers to rethink their way of describing and classifying ancient human fossils.



At one point, any new human fossil from hundreds of thousands of years ago might have drawn intrigue. If the new bones looked different from others that had been found before, they may have even been hailed as a new archaic human species, and given a taxonomic name in the genus Homo.

But some scientists say evidence is mounting that paleoanthropologists in the past may have been too quick to categorize hominin fossils as distinct species. 

So when a chunk of a 400,000-year-old skull was unearthed at the Gruta da Aroeira archaeological site in Portugal, the scientists who reveal its discovery in a paper published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences didn't try to assign a taxonomic name to the specimen as a reflection of that new thinking.

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Leopards Might Have Walked Alongside Neanderthals


Leopards may have roamed across Italy alongside Neanderthals, a new study finds.
Scientists analyzed an ancient, well-preserved bone discovered by amateur scientist Renato Bandera in the summer of 2014 and donated to the Paleoanthropological Museum of Po in San Daniele Po, Italy. The gray-brown fossil was the slender right shinbone of a leopard, and was found along the right bank of the Po River in northern Italy, near the harbor entrance of the city of Cremona. [In Photos: Rare and Beautiful Amur Leopards]
The region where this bone was discovered is well-known for its fossils. Other bones from this site have suggested that the area was once home to straight-tusked elephants, steppe bison, woolly mammoths, giant deer, rhinos and elk. However, fossils of carnivores such as bears, wolves, hyenas, foxes — and now, leopards — are very rare.
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Massive Coin Hoard Found At Wealthy Roman House In Northern Italy

An extensive Roman building has been unearthed during archaeological excavations in via Virgilio in the town of Merano located in the province of Bolzano in Trentino- Alto Adige region, Northern Italy. 


The finds, including finely decorated fibulae (pins for clothing), which are now being analyzed, clearly show that the Roman house "was inhabited by a rich family”, says to Catrin Marzoli, director of the local provincial Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape.

“A hoard of coins was buried in the ground and hidden under a millstone of the kitchen of the house – a treasure which was buried and never recovered", explains Catrin Marzoli.

"In total 3187 coins dating from the late third/early fourth century AD were recovered. The coins are in fact from the period of the Tetrarchy, when Emperor Diocletian, to stem the crisis of the Roman Empire, divided it into two parts - a western and an eastern - ruled by two senior emperors with the title of Augustus and two younger emperors with the title of Caesar. On the coins we found at Maia Alta in Merano, Maximianus Augustus, Constantius Clorus Caesar, Diocletianus Augustus and Galerius Caesar are immortalized."

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Geoff Wainwright obituary

Influential archaeologist who helped to change the public experience of Stonehenge

Geoff Wainwright at Stonehenge, the proving ground for many of his ideas about the management of the historic environment. Photograph: Timothy Darvill

The young Geoff Wainwright once nervously approached Dame Kathleen Kenyonto inquire about employment prospects in archaeology. She apparently told him that without an inheritance or private income he had no hope. Luckily, he disregarded her advice and went on to become a big influence on archaeology in Britain and Europe.
Geoff, who has died aged 79, was fascinated by archaeology from an early age and in 1956, while still a student, excavated a Mesolithic settlement at Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire, two miles from his family home. His early excavations were traditional affairs, but led him to a realisation that empirical research required clearly defined questions, and methods that matched the scale of the problem.
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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Norwegian theme park wants to be ‘Viking capital of the world’


Theme park Thors Rike (Thor’s Kingdom) wants to attract Viking enthusiasts from all over the world.
The theme park, in the western Norwegian county of Hordaland, aims to become a traditional theme park with a difference – the carousels and rollercoasters will be supplemented by “infotainment” to educate visitors about Vikings and Viking history.

“There is much talk of rollercoasters and rides, but Viking experiences and a Viking ship will also be built. The aim is to take visitors a thousand years back in time while retaining the theme park aspect,” Terje Devold, project leader for the new amusement park, told broadcaster NRK.

Devold said that he envisaged the final result as a “theme park in Viking costume”.

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How to Fight Like a Viking

Courage, camaraderie, and a lack of chivalry made the Norse fearsome fighters.



From the day in 793 when Viking warriors descended on an isolated monastery in the north of England, the Norsemen became an object of fascination and terror for medieval Europeans. “Never before,” an English monk later wrote, “has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race.”

How did the Vikings come to inspire such fear in the hearts of their opponents? Archaeological excavations of Viking graves and battlefields show they used the same chain mail shirts, long spears, and sharp, double-edged swords as other well equipped warriors all across Europe.

Their reputation, experts say, came not so much from their weapons or armor as from their innovative tactics and high morale.

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The selection of archaeological research material should be re-evaluated


All research requires decisions on how to restrict the material under study. The material included in an archaeological study is in many ways already chosen before the researcher begins to make such decisions. The kinds of selections effected by the research process itself have rarely been examined.
In her doctoral dissertation, Tuula Tynjä studies the way the method of retrieval influences the quality and quantity of archaeological objects for research. The method of retrieval entails the criteria used to select material for retrieval and disposal from the archaeological objects available.
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Pollen adds to intrigue over Bronze Age woman 'Ava'

A facial reconstruction of Ava was made last year

Analysis of pollen found on pottery buried with a young woman more than 4,100 years ago has identified plants used for medicinal purposes.

The woman's bones, including a skull and teeth, were discovered at Achavanich in Caithness 30 years ago.

Known as "Ava", an abbreviation of Achavanich, she is the subject of a long-term research project managed by archaeologist Maya Hoole.

Ms Hoole said the presence of the pollen "raises interesting questions".

Last year, forensic artist Hew Morrison created a facial reconstruction of Ava.

Now the results of other research have been published.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Ancient skulls may belong to elusive humans called Denisovans


Fossil fragments (yellow) were put together with their mirror-image pieces (purple) to visualize the skull of an archaic human who lived in eastern China.

Fossil fragments (yellow) were put together with their mirror-image pieces (purple) to visualize the skull of an archaic human who lived in eastern China.
Z. Li et al., Science 355, 6328 (3 March 2017)
Ancient skulls may belong to elusive humans called Denisovans
By Ann GibbonsMar. 2, 2017 , 2:00 PM
Since their discovery in 2010, the ex­tinct ice age humans called Deniso­vans have been known only from bits of DNA, taken from a sliver of bone in the Denisova Cave in Siberia, Russia. Now, two partial skulls from eastern China are emerging as prime candidates for showing what these shadowy people may have looked like.

In a paper published this week in Science, a Chinese-U.S. team presents 105,000- to 125,000-year-old fossils they call “archaic Homo.” They note that the bones could be a new type of human or an eastern variant of Neandertals. But although the team avoids the word, “everyone else would wonder whether these might be Denisovans,” which are close cousins to Neandertals, says paleo­anthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.

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Why Did Greenland’s Vikings Vanish?

Newly discovered evidence is upending our understanding of how early settlers made a life on the island — and why they suddenly disappeared


On the grassy slope of a fjord near the southernmost tip of Greenland stand the ruins of a church built by Viking settlers more than a century before Columbus sailed to the Americas. The thick granite-block walls remain intact, as do the 20-foot-high gables. The wooden roof, rafters and doors collapsed and rotted away long ago. Now sheep come and go at will, munching wild thyme where devout Norse Christian converts once knelt in prayer.

The Vikings called this fjord Hvalsey, which means “Whale Island” in Old Norse. It was here that Sigrid Bjornsdottir wed Thorstein Olafsson on Sunday, September 16, 1408. The couple had been sailing from Norway to Iceland when they were blown off course; they ended up settling in Greenland, which by then had been a Viking colony for some 400 years. Their marriage was mentioned in three letters written between 1409 and 1424, and was then recorded for posterity by medieval Icelandic scribes. Another record from the period noted that one person had been burned at the stake at Hvalsey for witchcraft.

But the documents are most remarkable—and baffling—for what they don’t contain: any hint of hardship or imminent catastrophe for the Viking settlers in Greenland, who’d been living at the very edge of the known world ever since a renegade Icelander named Erik the Red arrived in a fleet of 14 longships in 985. For those letters were the last anyone ever heard from the Norse Greenlanders.

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Exhibition reveals hidden history of Colosseum after the fall of Rome, from medieval fortresses to slaughterhouses

An artist's impression of the timber walkway used by soldiers guarding the medieval fortress that was built into the side of the Colosseum CREDIT: COLOSSEUM EXHIBITION

Archaeologists in Rome have discovered the remains of a timber walkway used by soldiers guarding a fortress built into the remains of the Colosseum during the Middle Ages.
Gladiatorial contests and other spectacles held in the massive amphitheatre ground to a halt by the sixth century AD with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the arena was gradually appropriated for other uses in succeeding centuries. 
By the 12th century a powerful baronial family, the Frangipane, had commandeered the Colosseum and built a formidable fortress into its southern flank. The walkway was built on the top tier of the amphitheatre, enabling the clan’s soldiers to watch out for enemy forces.  The Frangipane were at war with another family of Roman nobles, the Annibaldi.
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Not in the Motte


Clifford's Tower in York is recognised around the world as one of Yorkshire's truly iconic landmarks.  It is an enormously important monument, steeped in 750 years of history. But on 27th October 2016 the City of York Council planning committee gave approval for the English Heritage visitor centre plans, including a concrete and glass building incorporating a souvenir shop, coffee bar and viewing area, which will be embedded in the base of the mound itself. Thousands of York residents, and people from around Britain and the world object to these plans and believe that this is a huge mistake.  It is felt that it would be an offensively commercial addition to this much loved landmark. 

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Monday, March 06, 2017

How to Eat Like a Viking


It's no surprise that the fearsome raiders relished wild boar meat. But yogurt?



Participants at the Slav and Viking Festival in Wolin, Poland tend to be sticklers for authenticity. Many adorn their bodies with tattoos, and some adopt a Viking diet, slaughtering and roasting game. 
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID GUTTENFELDER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

All that marauding must have left the Vikings famished. It’s easy to envision a group of them around a table, ravenous after a long day of ransacking, devouring giant hunks of meat and hoisting horns-full of ale.

But that wouldn’t quite be fair, or accurate.

As tempting as it is to assume that Viking meals were crude and carnivorous, the truth is that everyday Viking fare included a range of foods that a health-minded modern person would applaud.

Picture, for example, that burly, bearded warrior throwing down his sword to enjoy a tart treat similar to yogurt, or refuel with a tangle of fresh greens.

“The Vikings had a wide range of food and wild herbs available to make tasty and nutritious dishes,” says Diana Bertelsen, who helped research and develop recipes for Denmark’s Ribe Viking Center—a reconstructed Viking settlement where visitors can immerse themselves in just about every aspect of Viking culture, including what and how they ate.

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The toy boat that sailed the seas of time

Some child likely played with this carved wooden boat a thousand years ago. It was found in an abandoned well during an extensive archaeological dig at the Ørland Main Air Station, on the coast west of Trondheim.
Credit: Åge Hojem, NTNU University

A thousand years ago, for reasons we will never know, the residents of a tiny farmstead on the coast of central Norway filled an old well with dirt.

Maybe the water dried up, or maybe it became foul. But when archaeologists found the old well and dug it up in the summer of 2016, they discovered an unexpected surprise: a carefully carved toy, a wooden boat with a raised prow like a proud Viking ship, and a hole in the middle where a mast could have been stepped.

"This toy boat says something about the people who lived here," said Ulf Fransson, an archaeologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) University Museum and one of two field leaders for the Ørland Main Air Station dig, where the well and the boat were found.

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Prehistoric Norfolk mine Grime’s Graves to open second pit to public


Tourists will be winched deep underground to see 4,000-year-old site where Neolithic miners used antlers to hack out flint


The remains of the ancient pits created an extraordinary pockmarked landscape. Photograph: English Heritage/PA Wire

A challenging descent by ladder, winch and harness into a prehistoric underworld will open to the public for the first time this year, allowing exploration of shafts and galleries cut deep under Norfolk heathland more than 4,000 years ago.

The extraordinary surface landscape of Grime’s Graves, pockmarked with hundreds of shallow depressions, puzzled people for many centuries until they were identified about 150 years ago as neolithic flint mines. 


The name Grime’s Graves has Anglo-Saxon origins, given long after the mines fell out of use as metal tools replaced flint, and some of the convenient hollows were used as burial grounds in the Iron Age. Under the Normans the site was used to keep rabbits for their meat and skins, as the poor sandy soil was ideal for the animals’ warrens.

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Archaeologists Uncover Vast Ancient Roman Mining Operation in Spain


Archaeologists excavating the ancient city of Munigua in southern Spain have found a vast Roman copper mining operation built on an older mine dating back thousands of years.

Exploitation of ore at Munigua apparently began by the Turdetani, the original inhabitants of the region, over  4,000 years ago. Now the excavators have discovered an elaborate system of ventilated underground galleries connected by tunnels dating to the Roman era.

They also found shafts connecting at various heights forming floors that let the miners extract metal deeper than had been believed possible at the time. Happily for the miners, the ancient Romans were on to the secret of ventilation.

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LE DIEU MITHRA DÉCOUVERT EN CORSE



Une équipe de l’Inrap vient de mettre au jour un sanctuaire dédié au dieu Mithra sur le site de Mariana, à Lucciana (Haute-Corse). L’opération, autorisée par  le préfet de Corse, est placée sous le contrôle scientifique de la Drac de Corse (service déconcentré du ministère de la Culture et de la Communication) en liaison avec la commission territoriale de la recherche archéologique sud-est.

D’après Sénèque et Pline, Mariana est une colonie de citoyens romains, fondée vers 100 avant notre ère par Caius Marius, général, consul et grand réformateur de l’armée romaine, après sa retentissante victoire sur les peuples Cimbres et Teutons. Elle s’inscrit dans une stratégie militaire à l’échelle de la mer tyrrhénienne. À son apogée, vers le IIIe ou le IVe siècle, Mariana, une petite agglomération ne dépassant guère dix hectares, est organisée en une vingtaine d’îlots. Son port participe activement aux échanges commerciaux en Méditerranée. La fouille archéologique met au jour un quartier périphérique de la Mariana antique.

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