Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mummification was common in Bronze Age Britain

Ancient Britons may have intentionally mummified some of their dead during the Bronze Age, according to archaeologists at the University of Sheffield. 

Bronze Age skeleton from Neat's Court excavation, on Isle of Sheppey, Kent  
[Credit: Geoff Morley]

The study, published in the Antiquity Journal, is the first to provide indications that mummification may have been a wide-spread funerary practise in Britain. 

Working with colleagues from the University of Manchester and University College London, Dr Tom Booth analysed skeletons at several Bronze Age burial sites across the UK. The team from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology found that the remains of some ancient Britons are consistent with a prehistoric mummy from northern Yemen and a partially mummified body recovered from a sphagnum peat bog in County Roscommon, Ireland.

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Archaeologists in Orkney have uncovered the remains of over 30 buildings dating from around 4000 BC to 1000 BC, together with field systems, middens and cemeteries. The find includes a very rare Bronze Age building which experts believed could have been a sauna or steam house, which may have been built for ritual purposes. 

EASE Archaeology recently made the exciting discovery on the periphery of the prehistoric Links of Noltland, on the island of Westray in Orkney, next to where the famous ‘Westray Wife’ was found in 2009, which is believed to be the earliest depiction of a human face in Britain. 

The work is being funded by Historic Scotland, who are this week merging with the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) to form a new heritage body called Historic Environment Scotland. 

Work has been carried out at the Links of Noltland for several years now but the most recent discovery, and one of the most remarkable to date, is that of an almost complete and remarkably well-preserved, very rare Bronze Age building which experts believe had a very specialised function and was used by select groups for activities such as rites of passage or spiritual ceremonies.  It’s also possible that the building could have been used as a sweat house or sauna, for a number of activities ranging from basic healing and cleansing, or as a place where women could come to give birth, the sick and elderly could come to die, or where bodies were taken before burial.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

5,000-Year-Old Throne Found in Turkey

The remains of a 5,000-year-old adobe basament of a possible “throne” have been unearthed during excavations in Turkey, revealing the origins of the secularization of power and one of the first evidence of the birth of the state system.
Discovered in Aslantepe in the eastern Turkish province of Malatya, the structure consists of an adobe platform, raised by three steps above the floor, on top of which burnt wooden pieces were found.
“The burnt wooden fragments are likely the remains of a chair or throne,” excavation director Marcella Frangipane of La Sapienza University in Rome, told Discovery News.
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Steinzeitliche Miniaturräder aus Holz

Kinderspielzeug, Anschauungsmaterial für Wagenbauer oder rituelle Gegenstände?
Im Olzreuter Ried bei Bad Schussenried in Oberschwaben fanden Archäologen des des Landesamts für Denkmalpflege im Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart zwei gut erhaltene hölzerne Miniaturräder aus dem 3. Jahrtausend v.Chr. Die Funde zeigen, dass in der Jungsteinzeit zwei unterschiedliche Konstruktionsprinzipien für Fuhrwerke bekannt waren.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Mesolithic site on Skye to be investigated

Archaeologists have described the site as having "huge potential"

Excavations of a Mesolithic site on Skye could give new insights into the lives of some of the island's earliest residents.
Archaeologists believe the location above Staffin Bay has the remains of a house that could be 8,000 years old.
Mesolithic flints have previously been found in an area of eroded grazing land near the site.
Archaeologists will work with Staffin Community Trust and volunteers in making small excavations.
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Neolithic skeleton reveals early history of rickets

Rickets has been identified in a Neolithic skeleton from the Scottish island of Tiree, making it the earliest case of the disease in the UK, according to research announced at the British Science Festival in Bradford.
This is particularly surprising as the disease – caused by Vitamin D deficiency linked to lack of sunlight – is more commonly associated with the urban slums of Victorian Britain than with rural, farming communities, as existed in Neolithic Scotland. The nature of the grave itself – a simple burial rather than a chambered tomb – has raised questions as to how the woman, physically deformed by the disease, may have been treated by her community.
Professor Ian Armit from the University of Bradford explains: “The earliest case of rickets in Britain until now dated from the Roman period, but this discovery takes it back more than 3,000 years. There have been a few possible cases in other parts of the world that are around the same time, but none as clear cut as this. While we can’t say for certain that this is the earliest case in the world, it is definitely very unusual.
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DNA from Neandertal relative may shake up human family tree


In a remarkable technical feat, researchers have sequenced DNA from fossils in Spain that are about 300,000 to 400,000 years old and have found an ancestor—or close relative—of Neandertals. The nuclear DNA, which is the oldest ever sequenced from a member of the human family, may push back the date for the origins of the distinct ancestors of Neandertals and modern humans, according to a presentation here yesterday at the fifth annual meeting of the European Society for the study of human evolution.

Ever since researchers first discovered thousands of bones and teeth from 28 individuals in the mid-1990s from Sima de los Huesos (“pit of bones”), a cave in the Atapuerca Mountains of Spain, they had noted that the fossils looked a lot like primitive Neandertals. The Sima people, who lived before Neandertals, were thought to have emerged in Europe. Yet their teeth, jaws, and large nasal cavities were among the traits that closely resembled those of Neandertals, according to a team led by paleontologist Juan-Luis Arsuaga of the Complutense University of Madrid. As a result, his team classified the fossils as members of Homo heidelbergensis, a species that lived about 600,000 to 250,000 years ago in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Many researchers have thought H. heidelbergensis gave rise to Neandertals and perhaps also to our species, H. sapiens, in the past 400,000 years or so.

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Scientists identify a new ancient ancestor

An international team of scientists, including one from the University of Colorado Denver and another from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, announced the discovery of a new species of hominin, a small creature with a tiny brain that opens the door to a new way of thinking about our ancient ancestors. 

This photo provided by National Geographic from their October 2015 issue shows  a composite skeleton of Homo naledi surrounded by some of the hundreds of  other fossil elements recovered from the Rising Star cave in South Africa,  photographed at the Evolutionary Studies Institute of the University of  the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa  [Credit: Robert Clark/National Geographic, Lee Berger/ University of the Witwatersrand via AP] 

The discovery of 15 individuals, consisting of 1,550 bones, represents the largest fossil hominin find on the African continent. 

“We found adults and children in the cave who are members of genus Homo but very different from modern humans,” said CU Denver Associate Professor of Anthropology Charles Musiba, PhD, who took part in a press conference Thursday near the discovery inside the Rising Star Cave in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site outside Johannesburg, South Africa. “They are very petite and have the brain size of chimpanzees. The only thing similar we know of are the so-called ‘hobbits’ of Flores Island in Indonesia.”

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Friday, July 31, 2015

First glimpse inside the Siberian cave that holds the key to man's origins

The significance of the cave is immense, and the experts are convinced it has more secrets to give up on human origins. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

These exclusive pictures show the world famous Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains from which a series of stunning scientific discoveries on man's origins have been made in recent years.
More are expected as a result of a hive of archeological activity - overseen by the specialists from Novosibirsk State University -  underway at this unique site inhabited continuously from the deep past.
Scientist Maksim Kozlikin said: 'We are working with Oxford University in the UK, they help us with radiocarbon and other dating and also conduct studies of ancient DNA. Currently, we continue cooperation and there can be new joint scientific articles.' 
The significance of the cave is immense, and the experts are convinced it has more secrets to give up on human origins. Here in 2008 was discovered a finger bone fragment of 'X woman', a juvenile female who lived around 41,000 years ago, analysis of which indicated that she was genetically distinct from Neanderthals and modern humans.
This previously unknown and long extinct hominin species or subspecies was christened Denisovan after this cave. In 2010 analysis on an upper molar from a young adult, found in the cave ten years previously, was also from a Denisovan.
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Fragments of new female figurine found at Hohle Fels

Archaeologists, Prof. Nicholas Conard and his team member Maria Malina, present the discovery of two fragments of a new female figurine in today's edition of the journal: Archäologische Ausgrabungen Baden-Württemberg. The figurine shows similarities with the well-known Venus from Hohle Fels that Prof. Conard published in 2009. 

Fragments of a female figurine from Hohle Fels in southwestern Germany  dating to the Aurignacian period roughly 40,000 years ago  [Credit: J. Lipták/University of Tübingen] 

The two pieces of carved mammoth ivory fit together to form a find with dimensions of 23 x 22 x 13 mm. The find does not appear to be part of a depiction of an animal or lionman, both frequent motifs from the caves of the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany. 

Instead, the find shows strong affinities with the only other female figurine known from the region. The find will be exhibited as part of a small research exhibit at the Museum of Prehistory in Blaubeuren.

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French student finds tooth dating back 560,000 years

 Valentin Loescher, left, holding the tooth, and Camille Jacquey were working together on the dig. Photograph: Denis Dainat/EPA

A French student has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in south-western France, in what researchers are hailing as a major discovery.
Valentin Loescher, 20, was volunteering alongside Camille Jacquey, 16, on his first summer archaeological dig at the Arago cave near Tautavel, when he discovered the tooth.
The tooth could be the oldest human remains found in France. It predates by 100,000 years the famous Tautavel man, a 20-year-old prehistoric hunter and ancestor of Neanderthal man, who was discovered at the site in 1971 and whose remains dated back about 450,000 years.
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5,000-year-old fort found in Monmouth

Archaeologists in Monmouth have discovered the remains of an ancient wooden building that dates back 5,000 years. 

An artist impression of what the fort looked like nearly 5,000 years ago  [Credit: Monmouth Archaeological Society] 

Steve Clarke, who two years ago uncovered the remains of a huge post-glacial lake at the Parc Glyndwr building site, said the timber remains found under the new Rockfield estate were once part of a crannog, an ancient fortified dwelling built into a lake. 

Part of the wooden building set into the bed of what was once Monmouth’s prehistoric lake, pre-dates the only other known crannog in England and Wales by 2,000 years. 

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Neolithic house discovery at Avebury stone circle dig

Archaeologists believe they may have found the remains of a house where people who built Avebury stone circle may have lived.
The three-week Between the Monuments project is researching the daily lives of Neolithic and Bronze Age residents at the Wiltshire site.
The dig is being led by The National Trust and Southampton and Leicester University archaeologists.
The National Trust said if it is a house they will have "hit the jackpot".
Spokesman Dr Nick Snashall said: "I could count the number of middle Neolithic houses that have been found on the fingers of one hand.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ancient carriage way discovered near Athens

A 300-metre section of an ancient carriage way dated to the 4th century BC was discovered by archaeologists at the Megalo Kavouri beach in the southern suburb of Vouliagmeni, the ministry of Culture announced on Monday. 

Section of the ancient carriage road discovered in Vouliagmeni 
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture] 

The road, paved with small stones placed close to one another, varies in width from 1.90 metres to 6.10 metres. It is delineated by retaining walls on either side that also serve to keep the pavement stable, as the earth underneath is soft and sandy.

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Bronze Age skeleton unearthed in Wiltshire

A 4,000-year-old Bronze Age skeleton, believed to be that of an adolescent child, has been unearthed by archaeologists.
The rare discovery was made by a team from the University of Reading, who are excavating Wilsford henge in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire.
It is believed the skeleton will help shed light on the lives of those who lived and worshipped at nearby Stonehenge.
The body, around 1.5m in length, was found in a foetal position and was wearing an amber necklace. Efforts will now be made to determine the age and gender of the child and where they were from after the find was made on Tuesday.
The Vale of Pewsey, situated between Stonehenge and Avebury, is the subject of a three-year dig but over the last six weeks, archaeologists have focused on Marden henge and Wilsford henge.
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Fortress older than the pyramids is uncovered in Monmouth

Archaeologists have unearthed a wooden island old enough to have been built by the Flintstones under a modern Barratt estate.
The fortified farmhouse on stilts in the middle of an ice age lake is so old it could have even been built before Stonehenge was created.
At 4,900 years old it's probably even older than the Pyramids and was probably built to provide a natural moat to protect the rich inhabitants from attackers in an area that is now on the Welsh borders.
It was around the time early man started to live communally and archaeologist Steve Clarke says it is only the second "crannog" to be found in England and Wales and much older than the first.
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Irish motorway dig reveals finds dating back to 3500BC

A ‘mound’ used as a gathering point for rituals dating back to 3500 BC, evidence of medieval treasure-hunting and remains of Famine cottages are among the ancient finds along the M17 motorway. 

The excavation at Kilskeagh, which found, where a gathering point dating  back to 3500C was uncovered [Credit: Connacht Tribune] 

The finds at 26 excavated sites on the 30km stretch from Rathmorrissy (near Athenry) to Tuam have been recorded in a book entitled ‘Through the Lands of the Auteri and St Jarlath’, which will be launched next week. 

The book takes its title from the Auteri tribe which controlled large tracts of land in the second century AD in what is now Athenry, and 300 years later, where according to legend, St Jarlath founded Tuam.

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Eine weitere Frauenstatuette aus dem Hohle Fels?

Ein neu entdecktes Elfenbeinfragment aus dem Hohle Fels in Baden-Württemberg gehört möglicherweise zu einer zweiten weiblichen Figurine. Der im letzten Jahr gemachte Fund aus der Altsteinzeit ist derzeit in einer Sonderpräsenation in Blaubeuren zu sehen.

Bei Ausgrabungen in der Höhle Hohle Fels auf der Schwäbischen Alb nahe Schelklingen hat das Team von Professor Nicholas Conard aus der Abteilung Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie der Universität Tübingen einen rätselhaften Fund gemacht: ein aus zwei Teilen zusammengesetztes Bruchstück aus Mammutelfenbein. Von Menschenhand bearbeitet, weist das Fragment deutliche, tief eingebrachte Rillen in musterhafter Anordnung auf.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Archaeologists unearth golden enigma in Denmark

Archaeologists have discovered about 2,000 little gold spirals from the Bronze Age in a field near Boeslunde in Zealand.

Bronze Age gold spirals found in Boeslund, 900-700 BC  
[Credit: Morten Petersen/Zealand Museum]

The longest of the many spirals are around 3 cm in length and are all produced from thin and flat golden thread dating from 700-900 BC.

The find, in an area of Zealand considered one of northern Europe’s best places to find gold artefacts from the Bronze Age, remains as mysterious as it is sensational.

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The boneyard of the bizarre that rewrites our Celtic past to include hybrid-animal monster myths

Cow with horse's legs among finds that throw light on the ancient mind

Ancient Mediterranean cultures thought nothing of splicing different animals together to form fantastical mythical beasts, such as the half-lion, half-goat chimera or the half-lion, half-eagle griffin.

Until now, however, ancient Britons were not credited with such imagination. That is all about to change following the discovery of a series of animal skeletons near Winterborne Kingston in Dorset, which raises the possibility that Britain’s ancient Celtic population had hybrid-animal monster myths similar to those of the ancient Greeks, Mesopotamians and Egyptians.

The bones, discovered in Dorset by archaeologists, appear to have been deliberately rearranged by Iron Age Britons in order to create hybrid beasts, half one creature and half another.

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Human presence in Scotland earlier than thought

Archaeologists working on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire have uncovered evidence that people were active in this mountainous landscape thousands of years earlier than previously thought. 

Excavations of an 8,000 year-old hunter-gatherer site in remote Glen Geldie,  on the National Trust for Scotland’s mountainous Mar Lodge Estate  [Credit: National Trust for Scotland] 

Archaeologists working on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire have uncovered evidence that people were active in this mountainous landscape thousands of years earlier than previously thought. 

Excavations at sites deep in the Cairngorm glens have produced radiocarbon dates which demonstrate a human presence as far back as 8,100 BC, with some places being revisited over many thousands of years.

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