Monday, September 29, 2014

Sardinian archaeologists find Bronze Age 'giant'


Archeologists working in Sardinia's southwestern region have uncovered a new 'giant', officials reported on Thursday. 


The newly discovered Bronze Age stone figure at the Monte Prama excavation site in Oristano [Credit: ANSA] 

Archaeologists from the Superintendency of Cagliari and Oristano and Cagliari and Sassari universities dug up another monumental sandstone giant at the Monte Prama excavation site in Oristano on Thursday morning. 

The Monte Prama site is home to the Giants of Monte Prama, ancient stone figures from the Bronze-age Nuragic civilization that were discovered en masse in the early 1970s.

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Prehistoric Stone Tools Evolved Independently Within Local Populations, Say Researchers


Suggestion challenges the traditional Out-of-Africa human migration theory for new stone tool introduction into Eurasia.


It wasn’t exclusively the arrival of new people from Africa with new technology that changed the stone tool repertoire of early humans in Eurasia a few hundred thousand years ago—it was local populations in different places and times gradually and independently wising up to a better industry on their own.

So suggests Daniel Adler, associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, and colleagues based on a recently completed study in which the researchers examined thousands of stone artifacts recovered from Nor Geghi 1, an Armenian Southern Caucasus archaeological site that features preserved lava flows and artifact-bearing sediments dated to between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago.  The artifacts, dated at 325,000 – 335,000 years old, were a mix of two distinct stone tool technology traditions—bifacial tools, such as hand axes, which were common among early human populations during the Lower Paleolithic, andLevallois, a stone tool production method typically attributed to the Middle Stone Age in Africa and the Middle Paleolithic in Eurasia. The researchers argue that the coexistence of two technologies at Nor Geghi 1 provides the first clear evidence that local populations developed Levallois technology out of existing biface technology.
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Study shows early modern human settlement in Central Europe over 43,000 years ago



Early modern humans inhabited the region of what is today known as Austria around 43,500 years ago, living in an environment that was cold and steppe-like, according to a recent study. 

Philip Nigst and colleagues of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and other institutions analyzed stone tools and their context after a re-excavation of the famous Willendorf site in Austria, the site best known for the discovery in 1908 of the Venus of Willendorf figurine. Between 2006 and 2011 archaeologists uncovered an assemblage of 32 lithic artifacts and 23 faunal remains. The authors identified the tools as belonging to the Aurignacian culture, generally accepted as associated with modern humans. The researchers determined this through systematic morphological and technological analysis. They assign the artifacts to a very early archaeological horizon of modern human occupation.
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They weren’t wimps: how modern humans, like Neanderthals, braved the northern cold


Recent finds at Willendorf in Austria reveal that modern humans were living in cool steppe-like conditions some 43,500 years ago – and that their presence overlapped with that of Neanderthals for far longer than we thought. 

In 1908 the famously plump Venus of Willendorf, thought to be a symbol of fecundity, was discovered during an excavation near the Austrian town of Melk. The statuette, on display at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, has been dated to 30,000 years ago and is one of the world’s earliest examples of figurative art.
Now a team of archaeologists has dated a number of stone tools, excavated recently from the same site at the village of Willendorf, to 43,500 years ago. The multinational team, led by Dr Philip Nigst of the University of Cambridge, has identified the tools as belonging to the Aurignacian culture, generally accepted as indicative of modern human presence. 
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Divers sure of new finds from 'ancient computer' wreck


Athens - Archaeologists began on Monday using a revolutionary new deep sea diving suit to explore the ancient shipwreck where one of the most remarkable scientific objects of antiquity was found.
The so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device known as the world's oldest computer, was discovered by sponge divers in 1900 off a remote Greek island in the Aegean.
The highly complex mechanism of up to 40 bronze cogs and gears was used by the ancient Greeks to track the cycles of the solar system. It took another 1 500 years for an astrological clock of similar sophistication to be made in Europe.
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Roadworks reveal ancient city in Western Greece


The construction works for the new motorway Ionia Odos, in Messolonghi, western Greece, led to an important archaeological discovery. 


The recently discovered archaeological site of Alikyrna near Missolonghi  in western Greece [Credit: Protothema] The archaeological site of Alikyrnas stretches to many acres and includes an entire ancient city near Aghios Thomas in Messolonghi. 

The Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Michael Chryssochoides visited the area and expressed his admiration for this great discovery. 

According to sources in the Greek media, the first findings suggest an ancient urban center which crosses over to the Ionia Odos construction site.

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New photos of Amphipolis Caryatids released


The two caryatids found at the Kasta Tomb in ancient Amphipolis were uncovered entirely by excavators, the ministry of Culture announced on Sunday. 


The Caryatids wear a long chiton and long fringed robe with rich folds  [Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture] 

The full height of each caryatid is 2.27 metres and they are wearing chitons - or full-length draped dresses, tied in the middle - and a long himation, or a shawl-like cover over their dress, with fringes and several folds. 

They are wearing kothornoi, resembling platform boots or shoes and best known for being worn by ancient Greek actors. Their shoes preserve traces of red and yellow pigments, while their toes are depicted in very fine detail.

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Naturfreunde schmelzen für Eisenzeit dahin: In Lehrte bald historisch-ökologische Bildung

DBU-Kurator Matthias Miersch überreichte den Bewilligungsbescheid über 150.000 Euro an den ersten Vorsitzenden der Naturfreunde Lehrte, Wilfried Helmreich. (© Anette Helmreich)

In der Eisenzeit stand die Eisenerz-Verhüttung auch in und um Hannover hoch im Kurs – und produzierte schon früh erste ökologische Krisen. Was diese historische Epoche mit der Gegenwart in Sachen nachhaltige Landwirtschaft, Imkerei und Forstwirtschaft trennt oder verbindet, wollen die Naturfreunde Lehrte in einem "Miniatur-Freilichtmuseum" aufzeigen und so ein "differenziertes Nachhaltigkeitsverständnis für Schüler der Sekundarstufen I und II wie für Jugendgruppen befördern".

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2,000 year old boomerang unearthed in France


The Gauls used boomerangs 2,000 years ago, according to archaeologists who have found a wooden curved stick on a beach in the northern French town of Cotentin. 


The Gallic "throwing stick" found at the site of Urville-Nacqueville  [Credit: Cyril Damourette] 

Boomerangs are usually associated with Australian aborigines but these amazing wooden weapons have been found in Egypt, apparently dating back 2,000 years, and in Europe - the oldest one, which was found in a cave in Poland, being 30,000 years old. 

They were apparently toys but now archaelogists have found what sems to be a 2,000-year-old boomerang on the beach at Cotentin and it was not used for play, Le Monde newspaper reports. 

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Fourth chamber likely at Amphipolis tomb


A high-ranking Ministry of Culture official told Greek news sources that the archaeologists who are currently clearing out the dirt from the third chamber in the Amphipolis tomb believe that a fourth chamber may exist. 


Meanwhile, the head of the excavation Katerina Peristeri told journalists that based on the findings so far, she believes the enigmatic tomb definitely dates back to the last quarter of the 4th century B.C.

 Mrs. Peristeri complained about colleagues who appear in the media claiming that the tomb may have been constructed in the Roman era. 

“The tomb is Macedonian. We have all the proof for that." said Mrs. Peristeri. "It’s futile for some people to say that it is Roman. I feel indignation against some colleagues of mine that speak to the TV channels, just for 5 minutes on prime time TV without knowing anything about the excavation.” 

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Greeks captivated by Alexander-era tomb at Amphipolis

Two sphinxes guard the entrance to the tomb at Amphipolis

The discovery of an enormous tomb in northern Greece, dating to the time of Alexander the Great of Macedonia, has enthused Greeks, distracting them from a dire economic crisis.
Who, they are asking, is buried within.
In early August, a team of Greek archaeologists led by Katerina Peristeri unearthed what officials say is the largest burial site ever to be discovered in the country. The mound is in ancient Amphipolis, a major city of the Macedonian kingdom, 100km (62 miles) east of Thessaloniki, Greece's second city.
The structure dates back to the late 4th Century BC and is 500m (1,600ft) wide, dwarfing the burial site of Alexander's father, Philip II, in Vergina, west of Thessaloniki.
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Friday, September 19, 2014

Prehistoric pit discovered on Coney Island beach


A box-like structure built from large stone slabs may have been used for bathing or cooking during the Bronze Age

Volunteers excavate the box-like archeological structure on Coney Island. The site may date back 4,000 years
Archaeologists have discovered signs of human habitation, possibly dating back 4,000 years, on Sligo’s Coney Island.
A box-like structure built from large stone slabs found on the island may have been used for bathing or cooking during the Bronze Age, experts believe. It has been excavated by a team led by Eamonn Kelly, director of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum.
The structure is thought to be part of a fulacht fiadh, a prehistoric trough or pit that was dug into the ground and filled with water. Stones, heated separated on an outdoor hearth, would be added to bring the water to boil.
Measuring about a metre long and 80cm wide, the structure was recently identified as an archaeological site by Ciaran Davis, an archaeology student at IT Sligo, and native of nearby Rosses Point, who alerted the museum.
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Letter from Ireland: Mystery of the Fulacht Fiadh


Versions of the same Bronze Age structure pop up all around Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom. Archaeologists, however, still have not agreed on their purpose.

On a typically misty morning in the west of Ireland, just outside the medieval town of Athenry, County Galway, archaeologist Declan Moore opens the trunk of his car and invites me to pull on a pair of Wellingtons. “Believe me, you’ll need them,” he assures me as we cross the parking lot and hop a fence into a nearby field.

Moore is taking me to visit an unexcavated fulacht fiadh (pronounced FULL-ahk FEE-add), or fulachtaí fia in plural, the most common type of prehistoric archaeological site in Ireland. Better known as a “burnt mound” in the neighboring United Kingdom, where they are also found, there are nearly 6,000 recorded fulacht fiadh sites dotted around Ireland alone. As we trudge through the wet and soggy field, Moore points out a small stream. “They are usually found near water or in marshy areas, so this is a prime location,” he explains.


When we arrive at the site, Moore shows me the basic features of a fulacht fiadh—a horseshoe-shaped mound of soil and rocks surrounding a depression big enough to park a small car in. Moore climbs the four-and-a-half-foot mound and quickly wipes away some of the soil to expose the layer of stones. He then points to the depression. “If we were to excavate, we’d find a trough dug into the ground there,” he says. It takes us only 15 minutes to fully explore the still-buried site.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Die genetische Herkunft der Europäer

Schädel der ungefähr 7.000 Jahre alten Bäuerin aus Stuttgart, Deutschland. Es fehlt der untere rechte Backenzahn, aus dem die DNA gewonnen wurde. (Bild: Joanna Drath, Universität Tübingen)

Forscher vergleichen Genome ursprünglicher Jäger und Sammler sowie früher Bauern mit denen heutiger Menschen: die Spuren der Europäer führen zu Ahnen aus drei Populationen

Der Beginn der Landwirtschaft und die Domestizierung wilder Tiere, die vor rund 11.000 Jahren im Nahen Osten ihren Anfang nahmen, hatten einen enormen Einfluss auf das Leben der Menschen. Jäger und Sammler wurden vielerorts von sesshaften Bauern abgelöst. Die Populationen wuchsen und schufen so die Voraussetzungen für das Entstehen größerer Städte und komplexer Gesellschaften. Die archäologischen Nachweise legen nahe, dass sich der Übergang zur bäuerlichen Lebensweise in Mitteleuropa vor rund 7.500 Jahren vollzog, gleichzeitig mit dem Auftreten der Linienbandkeramik, der ersten jungsteinzeitlichen Kultur in Europa.

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'Emmets Post' excavation blog - weeks 1-2


When Olaf mentioned that he was going to be digging a round barrow in its entirety on the edge of Dartmoor in August, I did everything I could think of in order to secure a place on the crew. This is an incredible and very rare chance to investigate what hopefully may yet turn out to be a relatively undisturbed Bronze Age ring cairn/round barrow c. 2000 BC or so. I have been interested – to an almost manic degree – in British prehistory and specifically megaliths for more than 20 years now. I am a self-confessed stone circle, longbarrow, standing stone, stone row and rock art-loving fanatic and proud of it.

Long before I began a career in archaeology in the late 1990s I travelled to England with fanciful ideas of our prehistoric ancestors and only a handful of sites under my belt to ponder. I had been to Avebury and Stonehenge and the like but, amazing as these sites are, they were covered in throngs of people. I first went to Dartmoor in the summer of 1997 and fell madly in love with every aspect of this lonely and enchanted land, and this love drove me around much of the rest of the British Isles to see more. Being back in Dartmoor for a month has given me the chance to hike around the Moor in the evenings to new and ever more mysterious sites. This place is really a paradise for hikers and lovers of the prehistoric past. This near-obsession back in Canada at the dawn of the new millennium drove me to pursue a degree and career in archaeology. Almost 20 years later I am back here again been given the chance to fully investigate something from the period, people and type of place that turned me into an archaeologist in the first place.

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Murder 'comes naturally' to chimpanzees

Groups of male chimpanzees patrol the borders of their territory in single file

A major study suggests that killing among chimpanzees results from normal competition, not human interference.
Apart from humans, chimpanzees are the only primates known to gang up on their neighbours with lethal results - but primatologists have long disagreed about the underlying reasons.
One proposal was that human activity, including destroying habitats and providing food, increased aggression.
But the new findings, published in Nature, suggest this is not the case.
Instead, murder rates in different chimp communities simply reflect the numerical make-up of the local population.
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Stonehenge: children revealed to be the metal workers of prehistoric Britain


Research suggests children wrecked their eyesight embellishing weapons and jewellery with minute scraps of gold

Daggers at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes, discovered in 1808 in Bush Barrow, Salisbury Plain, the richest and most important bronze age grave ever excavated in Britain. Photograph: Sam Frost for the Guardian

Scientists believe that some 4,000 years ago children as young as 10 wrecked their eyesight embellishing weapons and jewellery with minute scraps of gold, creating dazzling pieces so fine that the detail can barely be picked out with the naked eye. They were some of the best prehistoric metal work ever found in Britain.
The children may have been working in Brittany, where the largest concentration of daggers decorated with the tiny gold pins have been found, but the finest of all was excavated more than 200 years ago from a burial mound half a mile from Stonehenge.
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Europeans drawn from three ancient 'tribes'


The modern European gene pool was formed when three ancient populations mixed within the last 7,000 years, Nature journal reports.
Blue-eyed, swarthy hunters mingled with brown-eyed, pale skinned farmers as the latter swept into Europe from the Near East.
But another, mysterious population with Siberian affinities also contributed to the genetic landscape of the continent.
The findings are based on analysis of genomes from nine ancient Europeans.
Agriculture originated in the Near East - in modern Syria, Iraq and Israel - before expanding into Europe around 7,500 years ago.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New bog body discovered in Co. Meath


A new, partially intact bog body has been discovered by Bord na Mona workers in Co Meath. Archaeologists from the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) have confirmed that it is working on a find of human remains in a bog near the border with Co Westmeath, at Rossan bog.


 Bog body remains of adult discovered last weekend at Rossan Bog, Meath  [Credit: National Museum Ireland] 

Archaeologist Maeve Sikora told the Irish Examiner that workers from Bord na Mona came across the remains. 

“Archaeologists and conservators from The National Museum of Ireland have been on site investigating the findspot of archaeological human remains in a bog in Co. Meath, near the border with Co. Westmeath,” Ms Sikora said.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New bog body found in Rossan, Co. Meath

New bog body remains (photo National Museum of Ireland)

Exciting news. The partial remains of a bog body has been uncovered in Rossan bog near Kinnegad in Co. Meath. The find was discovered by Bord na Móna workers and subsequently excavated by a team of archaeologists, led by Maeve Sikora of the National Museum of Ireland. Although as yet undated the remains were found in an area that has previously produced bog body remains (Moydrum Man) that were radiocarbon dated to the Early Iron Age (700-400 BC).

This latest addition to growing a corpus of Irish bog bodies will hopefully reveal as much information as two recent peat land discoveries. These aforementioned bog bodies, Old Croghan man and Clonycavan man, form the centre piece of the excellent Kingship and Sacrifice display at the National Museum of Ireland. What is striking about these remains is their fantastic state of preservation, something which is characteristic of bog bodies in general. This is primarily due to the cold, acidic, oxygen-free conditions that persist beneath peat bogs and which prevent decay and mummify human flesh.

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Groundwater tied to human evolution

Insert shows with arrow the location of study area in eastern Africa. Map of the Northern Tanzanian Divergence Zone depicts the East African Rift System (EARS), containing Lake Natron (north), diverging around the Ngorongoro Volcanic Highland massif and splitting into two separate rift valleys (Lake Eyasi on west) and Lake Manyara (on east). Prevailing wind is from the east. Olduvai basin lies to the west of and in the rain shadow of Ngorongoro.
Credit: Map made by Sara Mana, http://www.geomapapp.org; from Cuthbert et al., doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107358.g001

Our ancient ancestors' ability to move around and find new sources of groundwater during extremely dry periods in Africa millions of years ago may have been key to their survival and the evolution of the human species, a new study shows.
The research -- published in the journal PLOS ONE -- combines geological evidence from the Olduvai sedimentary basin in Northern Tanzania, which formed about 2.2 million years ago, and results from a hydrological model.
It shows that while water in rivers and lakes would have disappeared as the climate changed due to variations in Earth's orbit, freshwater springs fed by groundwater could have stayed active for up to 1000 years without rainfall.

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