Saturday, December 19, 2009

Science's breakthrough of the year: Uncovering 'Ardi'

The research that brought to light the fossils of Ardipithecus ramidus, a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia, has topped Science's list of this year's most significant scientific breakthroughs. The monumental find predates "Lucy,"—previously the most ancient partial skeleton of a hominid on record—by more than one million years, and it inches researchers ever-closer to the last common ancestor shared by humans and chimpanzees.

Science and its publisher, AAAS, the nonprofit science society, recognize the Ardipithecus ramidus fossils, including the partial skeleton named "Ardi," as 2009's Breakthrough of the Year. They also identify nine other important scientific accomplishments from this past year in a top ten list, appearing in a special news feature in the journal's 18 December 2009 issue.

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Human Ancestors Were Homemakers

In a stone-age version of "Iron Chef," early humans were dividing their living spaces into kitchens and work areas much earlier than previously thought, a new study found.

So rather than cooking and eating in the same area where they snoozed, early humans demarcated such living quarters.

Archaeologists discovered evidence of this coordinated living at a hominid site at Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov, Israel from about 800,000 years ago. Scientists aren't sure exactly who lived there, but it predates the appearance of modern humans, so it was likely a human ancestor such as Homo erectus.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

2010 preview: Arise, Neanderthal brother

Do we have a little Neanderthal in us? That's not a reference to your behaviour at the end-of-year office party, but to the genes of our extinct cousins. With the imminent publication of the genome sequence of Homo neanderthalis, that question may finally be answered.

So far no one has uncovered evidence of any cross-species romps - at least none that left a trace in our DNA. The 3-billion-nucleotide Neanderthal genome is our best chance yet of finding out.

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Stone Age Pantry: Archaeologist Unearths Earliest Evidence of Modern Humans Using Wild Grains and Tubers for Food

The consumption of wild cereals among prehistoric hunters and gatherers appears to be far more ancient than previously thought, according to a University of Calgary archaeologist who has found the oldest example of extensive reliance on cereal and root staples in the diet of early Homo sapiens more than 100,000 years ago.

Julio Mercader, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Tropical Archaeology in the U of C's Department of Archaeology, recovered dozens of stone tools from a deep cave in Mozambique showing that wild sorghum, the ancestor of the chief cereal consumed today in sub-Saharan Africa for flours, breads, porridges and alcoholic beverages, was in Homo sapiens' pantry along with the African wine palm, the false banana, pigeon peas, wild oranges and the African "potato."

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

4,000-year-old-year-old flowers found at Bronze Age dig

For the first time ever there is proof that pre-historic people placed bunches of flowers in the grave when they buried their dead, experts have said.

Archaeologists have discovered a bunch of meadowsweet blossoms in a Bronze Age grave at Forteviot, south of Perth.

The find is reported in the journal "British Archaeology", out this week.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Ancient site reveals signs of mass cannibalism

Archaeologists have found evidence of mass cannibalism at a 7,000-year-old human burial site in south-west Germany, the journal Antiquity reports.

The authors say their findings provide rare evidence of cannibalism in Europe's early Neolithic period.

Up to 500 human remains unearthed near the village of Herxheim may have been cannibalised.

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French immigrants founded first British farms

THE British may owe the French more than they care to admit. Archaeological finds from Britain show that farming was introduced 6000 years ago by immigrants from France, and that the ancient Brits might have continued as hunter-gatherers had it not been for innovations introduced by the Gallic newcomers.

Mark Collard from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and his colleagues studied carbon-14 dates for ancient bones, wood and cereal grains from locations across Great Britain. From this they were able to assess how population density changed with time, indicating that around 6000 years ago the population quadrupled in just 400 years (Journal of Archaeological Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2009.11.016). This coincides with the emergence of farming in Britain.

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Oslo growing older

Archeologists now say Oslo's history will have to be re-written. They have made new escavations which show that people have lived on the Ekeberg heights east of the capital for 10,000 years.

The artifacts found include flint chips and other evidence of tool production, which show that people have lived here more than 2000 years longer than experts previously believed.

The new find includes a settlement, which in those days was located at the waters edge, but now is found high up in the hillside. The land has risen after the ice cap which covered much of the area melted.

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Debate Over Evidence of Mass Cannibalism

At a settlement in what is now southern Germany, the menu turned gruesome 7,000 years ago. Over a period of perhaps a few decades, hundreds of people were butchered and eaten before parts of their bodies were thrown into oval pits, a new study suggests.
Click here to find out more!

Cannibalism at the village, now called Herxheim, may have occurred during ceremonies in which people from near and far brought slaves, war prisoners or other dependents for ritual sacrifice, propose anthropologist Bruno Boulestin of the University of Bordeaux 1 in France and his colleagues. A social and political crisis in central Europe at that time triggered various forms of violence, the researchers suspect.

“Human sacrifice at Herxheim is a hypothesis that’s difficult to prove right now, but we have evidence that several hundred people were eaten over a brief period,” Boulestin says. Skeletal markings indicate that human bodies were butchered in the same way as animals.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Novice metal detector man discovers 'stunning' treasure hoard

A Iron Age treasure hoard has been unearthed by a safari park keeper using a metal detector for the first time.

David Booth was “stunned” when he found several 2000-year-old gold neckbands in a field in Stirlingshire.

He had driven to the site and parked his car. Then, after taking only seven steps, he found the treasure.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Man finds treasure estimated to be worth of £1 million

A metal-detecting enthusiast has unearthed a 2,000-year-old treasure hoard worth an estimated £1 million, it was revealed today.

Four gold neckbands dating to the Iron Age were discovered in a field near Stirling by the amateur hunter.

The man, who has not been identified, informed Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit which sent a team to excavate the site, the Daily Record newspADVERTISEMENTaper reported.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

City reveals 'Bronze Age site'

Archaeologists have unearthed what they say could be a prehistoric Bronze Age burial site in central Oxford.

Experts say important chiefs may have been laid to rest at the site of the former Radcliffe Infirmary.

Land around the River Thames, known as the River Isis as it passes through Oxford, was often used for prehistoric burial, ritual and social monuments.

The Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) also revealed evidence of a later 6th Century Saxon settlement.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Malawi is the cradle of humankind, scientist says

The latest discovery of pre-historic tools and remains of hominids (pictured: periodic table) in Malawi's remote northern district of Karonga provides further proof that the area could be the cradle of humankind, a leading German researcher said.

Professor Friedemann Schrenk of the Goethe University in Frankfurt told Reuters that two students working on the excavation site last month had discovered prehistoric tools and a tooth of an hominid.

"This latest discovery of prehistoric tools and remains of hominids provides additional proof to the theory that the Great Rift Valley of Africa and perhaps the excavation site near Karonga can be considered the cradle of humankind," Prof Schrenk said.

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Modern man had sex with Neanderthals

Modern man and Neanderthals had sex across the species barrier, according to leading geneticist Professor Svante Paabo.

Professor Paabo, who is director of genetics at the renowned Max Planck Institution for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, made the claim at a conference in the Cold Springs Laboratory in New York.

But Prof Paabo said he was unclear if the couplings had led to children, of if they were capable of producing offspring.

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World's Oldest Known Granaries Predate Agriculture

A new study coauthored by Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world's oldest know granaries. The appearance of the granaries represents a critical evolutionary shift in the relationship between people and plant foods.

Anthropologists consider food storage to be a vital component in the economic and social package that comprises the Neolithic period, contributing to plant domestication, increasingly sedentary lifestyles and new social organizations. It has traditionally been assumed that people only started to store significant amounts of food when plants were domesticated.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Orkney Venus to face the public

The earliest human figure to be found in Scotland is to go on temporary display at Edinburgh Castle.

The Orkney Venus, which was discovered a few weeks ago, is a 5,000-year-old female carving which has the UK's first known depiction of a person's face.

It will be exhibited for a fortnight from Monday.

Historic Scotland said children would be given free entry to the castle during the exhibition, which ends on Sunday 1 November.

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Understanding Ancient Hominin Dispersals Using Artefactual Data: A Phylogeographic Analysis of Acheulean Handaxes


Reconstructing the dispersal patterns of extinct hominins remains a challenging but essential goal. One means of supplementing fossil evidence is to utilize archaeological evidence in the form of stone tools. Based on broad dating patterns, it has long been thought that the appearance of Acheulean handaxe technologies outside of Africa was the result of hominin dispersals, yet independent tests of this hypothesis remain rare. Cultural transmission theory leads to a prediction of a strong African versus non-African phylogeographic pattern in handaxe datasets, if the African Acheulean hypothesis is to be supported.

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Historian finds bronze age relic

A KEEN historian is delighted to have discovered a rare bronze age arrowhead in Rutland.

Charles Haworth, of Barleythorpe Road, Oakham, was out dog walking in Langham on Tuesday when he came across the piece of history on the edge of a ploughed field.

The 45-year-old said: "I've dreamed my whole life of finding a prehistoric flint, and now I've found one when I was least expecting it. It is always worth keeping your eyes open."

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£10m investment for Stonehenge visitor centre

THE planned visitor centre for Stonehenge has received a £10m boost from the Government.

The move has been confirmed today by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Ben Bradshaw.

Mr Bradshaw said:‪ “Stonehenge is one of our best known historic attractions, but facilities for visitors are below par.

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Sea gives up secrets to experts

With shafts of sunlight shimmering through a few metres of crystal clear water, you can pick out the cornerstones of an ancient civilisation which inspired literature and legend.

There is more than a whiff of Atlantis about the story of Pavlopetri - the world's oldest submerged town.

But the Bronze Age site, off the coast of Laconia in Greece, has its roots in fact not fiction.

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World's Oldest Submerged Town Dates Back 5,000 Years

Archaeologists surveying the world’s oldest submerged town have found ceramics dating back to the Final Neolithic. Their discovery suggests that Pavlopetri, off the southern Laconia coast of Greece, was occupied some 5,000 years ago — at least 1,200 years earlier than originally thought.

These remarkable findings have been made public by the Greek government after the start of a five year collaborative project involving the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and The University of Nottingham.

As a Mycenaean town the site offers potential new insights into the workings of Mycenaean society. Pavlopetri has added importance as it was a maritime settlement from which the inhabitants coordinated local and long distance trade.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Embattled Stonehenge visitor center seeks planning approval

English Heritage has submitted plans for approval for the Stonehenge visitor center, designed by Australian architectural practice Denton Corker Marshall, at the World Heritage Site in Wiltshire County, south west of England.

The plans, submitted to Wiltshire Council, include before and after images of the GBP25 million ($37 million) proposal, with the intention of demonstrating how the design and location of the center – on Airman’s Corner, 2.5km west of the current visitor center, on the A344 main road – will help restore the natural surroundings of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is under the ownership of the British Crown, and English Heritage, a non-departmental public body of the government. The land surrounding the site is under the National Trust. In May 2009, the government announced that it had approved the use of the Stonehenge site after almost a decade of debate over the feasibility of setting up a visitor center so close to the ‘stones’.

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Bronze Age burial site unearthed at former rugby club

A BRONZE Age burial site has been unearthed by archaeologists excavating the former home of a Suffolk rugby club.

The two fields which served as the home of Sudbury Rugby Club in nearby Great Cornard are the source of great excitement for a team of archaeologists working at the site.

Since moving into the site off The Mead in July teams from Suffolk County Council's Archaeological Service have discovered a haul of artefacts dating back to around 3,000 BC.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TAU archaeologists shed light on life, diet and society before the delicatessen

Contestants on TV shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen know that their meat-cutting skills will be scrutinized by a panel of unforgiving judges. Now, new archaeological evidence is getting the same scrutiny by scientists at Tel Aviv University and the University of Arizona.

Their research is providing new clues about how, where and when our communal habits of butchering meat developed, and they're changing the way anthropologists, zoologists and archaeologists think about our evolutionary development, economics and social behaviors through the millennia.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

5000-year-old tombs under study in Kercem

Studies are underway on two tombs believed to be 5000 years old, which have been discovered in an excavation site in Kercem, Gozo.

The tombs were unearthed during extension works at the parish priest's house, which lies adjacent to the parish church. Pottery recovered so far place the origins of tombs in the Tarxien phase of Maltese prehistory, currently dated to about 3000-2500 BC. The excavations are being carried out by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage under the direction of Anthony Pace.

The Department of Information said the rock-cut tombs lay undisturbed for almost 5000 years. They may have been first encountered during the construction of Kercem parish church, between 1846-51, which involved extensive quarrying. However the tombs did not draw any further attention and went unnoticed for another 163 years until the present development.

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Ardi on the Discovery Channel

Tonight, the Discovery Channel features a special on Ardipithecus ramidus called "Discovering Ardi". Although I haven't seen the video, the website for the project has a dozen video clips featuring Owen Lovejoy discussing the ramifications, some simulation video of Ardipithecus walking and a video on how Jay Matternes created his reconstruction drawing of Ardi.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Irish farming in 3000 BC

BALLYCASTLE, Ireland--It took 40 years, but Seamas Caulfield finally solved the puzzle of his father's peat bog, and in the process unearthed a 5,000-year-old Stone Age village.

Schoolteacher Patrick Caulfield was digging peat--long-decayed vegetation that has been used for domestic fuel in Ireland for centuries--in a bog near this western Ireland hamlet in the 1930s when his spade struck rocks two metres down.

He cleared the immediate area and discovered that the rocks formed part of a wall.

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Scientists Stonehenge discovery

For decades archaeologists have puzzled over not just how Stonehenge was built, but why, and what for.

Now a team from Bristol University has made an incredible discovery that's changing the way historians think about the ancient site. They've found another, smaller stone circle just a mile away.

Watch the video...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

History Cookbook

Welcome to the history cookbook. Do you know what the Vikings ate for dinner? What a typical meal of a wealthy family in Roman Britain consisted of, or what food was like in a Victorian Workhouse? Why not drop into history cookbook and find out? This project looks at the food of the past and how this influenced the health of the people living in each time period. You can also try some of the recipes for yourself. We have a wide range of historical recipes from Brown Bread Ice Cream to Gruel (Why not see if you would be asking for more - just like Oliver Twist).

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Mini-Stonehenge Found: Crematorium on Stonehenge Road?

Sorry, Spinal Tap fans—though a newfound stone circle in England is being called a mini-Stonehenge, it was never in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.

Thirty-three-foot-wide (ten-meter-wide) "Bluestonehenge" was discovered just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the original Stonehenge near Salisbury, United Kingdom, scientists announced today.

The 5,000-year-old ceremonial site is thought to have been a key stop along an ancient route between a land of the living, several miles away, and a domain of the dead—Stonehenge. At least one archaeologist thinks Bluestonehenge may have been a sort of crematorium.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Profile: Ardi: Our 4.4 million-year-old granny

PICTURE the scene. It's the African savanna of Ethiopia, 4.4 million years ago. Tuesday, to be exact, somewhere around tea-time. There is a rustle among the long grass and in the distance an elephant trumpets its annoyance, scattering parrots from the trees and sending shrews and mice scuttling deeper into the undergrowth.

A small, hairy head turns, cocks her ear and waits till any danger has passed. Ardi, as she will come to be known, is four feet tall, weighs 120 lbs and has a thin body covered in matted hair. She has very short legs and exceedingly long arms, but short palms and fingers which are flexible enough to allow them to support her entire body weight on her palms.

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Mini-Stonehenge find 'important'

Archaeologists have discovered a mini-Stonehenge, a mile from the site of Wiltshire's famous stone circle.

"Bluehenge", named after the hue of the 27 stones from Wales which once formed it, has been described by researchers as a "very important" find.

All that now exists of the 5,000-year-old site is a series of holes where the dolerite monoliths once stood.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Before Lucy came Ardi, new earliest hominid found

The story of humankind is reaching back another million years as scientists learn more about "Ardi," a hominid who lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia. The 110-pound, 4-foot female roamed forests a million years before the famous Lucy, long studied as the earliest skeleton of a human ancestor.

This older skeleton reverses the common wisdom of human evolution, said anthropologist C. Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University.

Rather than humans evolving from an ancient chimp-like creature, the new find provides evidence that chimps and humans evolved from some long-ago common ancestor — but each evolved and changed separately along the way.

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English archaeologists find new prehistoric site

Archaeologists have discovered a smaller prehistoric site near Britain's famous circle of standing stones at Stonehenge.

Researchers have dubbed the site "Bluehenge," after the color of the 27 Welsh stones that were laid to make up a path. The stones have disappeared but the path of holes remains.

The new circle, unearthed over the summer by researchers from Sheffield University, represents an important find, researchers said Saturday. The site is about a mile (2 kilometers) away from Stonehenge.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Startling evidence of a Stone Age structure in the Solent.

DIVING almost blind in the Solent’s murky waters, the team of maritime detectives could just make out the shape of a wooden plank protruding from the muddy seabed.

While it might have been dismissed as underwater junk by the untrained eye, the archaeologists soon realised they had discovered a vital clue to a lost civilisation.

The timber was not isolated. In fact they found another 23 pieces of all shapes and sizes intersecting throughout the underwater cliff off Bouldnor, on the north coast of the Isle of Wight.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

'Whicker Man' tomb to yield Bronze Age secrets, say scientists

HUMAN remains uncovered at a burial site in the Highlands are extremely rare and could provide new information about Bronze Age life, experts say.

The site was discovered in February when landowner Jonathan Hampton was using a mechanical digger to clear peat from Langwell Farm, Strath Oykel, in Sutherland.

He found a substantial stone cist (tomb) containing a skeleton that archaeologists
believe was partially wrapped in animal hide or was wearing furs. A wicker basket lay over its face.

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Researchers Probe Links Between Modern Humans and Neanderthals

Homo neanderthalensis nearly made it through two Ice Ages in Europe, only to disappear roughly 30,000 years ago. That’s about 15,000 years after our own ancestors arrived and settled the continent. For most of our own species’ time on Earth, Neanderthals were around, too. Some people even suspect that our own ancestors did them in.

Many wonder if there was interbreeding. Might some of us have a few distinctly Neanderthal genes?

Richard “Ed” Green, PhD, studies Neanderthal DNA at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Green is part of a lab team headed by Svante Pääbo, a Swedish scientist internationally renowned for studies of Neanderthal genes. Green visited UCSF’s Mission Bay campus in late July and gave a seminar talk highlighting the lab team’s recent discoveries.

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Bones discovery 'extremely rare'

Bones recovered from an ancient burial site in the Highlands could provide fresh insight of life in the Bronze Age, archaeologists have said.

Parts of a skull, some bones and teeth were in a cist - a rectangular stone chamber - uncovered by a digger operator in Sutherland in February.

In a report to Historic Scotland, archaeologists have described the find as "extremely rare" and "valuable".

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Landesausstellung »Eiszeit - Kunst und Kultur« in Stuttgart eröffnet

Beeindruckende Gesamtschau der spektakulären Höhlenfunde der Schwäbischen Alb

Seit heute ist die baden-württembergische Landesausstellung im neu sanierten Stuttgarter Kunstgebäude für Besucher geöffnet.

„Die Große Landesausstellung ‚Eiszeit - Kunst und Kultur‘ bietet eine beeindruckende Gesamtschau der spektakulären Höhlenfunde der Schwäbischen Alb, darunter die erst jüngst gemachten Entdeckungen der Venusfigur vom Hohle Fels und des Elfenbeinmammuts aus der Vogelherdhöhle bei Niederstotzingen.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Online Courses in Archaeology

Cave paintings, castles and pyramids, Neanderthals, Romans and Vikings - archaeology is about the excitement of discovery, finding out about our ancestors, exploring landscape through time, piecing together puzzles of the past from material remains.

Our courses enable you to experience all this through online archaeological resources based on primary evidence from excavations and artefacts and from complex scientific processes and current thinking. Together with guided reading, discussion and activities you can experience how archaeologists work today to increase our knowledge of people and societies from the past.

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Exhuming a violent event

Scientists glean clues to a lethal prehistoric raid from skeletons excavated at a German site

Thirteen people who perished around 4,600 years ago still have something to say about life and death in prehistoric Europe.

Analyses of their skeletal remains, found in 2005 in four large graves at a German Neolithic-era site called Eulau, provide a rare opportunity to reconstruct a lethal encounter from Europe’s Corded Ware culture, say anthropologist Christian Meyer of the University of Mainz in Germany and his colleagues. Between about 4,800 and 4,000 years ago, Corded Ware farmers and cattle-raisers spread across central and eastern Europe.

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Digging up the past at Maiden Castle

FAMILIES and history lovers will be blazing a trail to Dorchester for a Bronze Age festival at Maiden Castle.

They will be digging up the past at the ancient monument just outside the county town on the weekend of September 19 and 20.

The free weekend will include living history, arts, crafts and workshops South Dorset Ridgeway Heritage Project officer Sarah Harbige said: “Experimental archaeologists and living history experts will demonstrate aspects of Bronze Age life including metal work, house building, textiles and food.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Facelift for Stonehenge?

Plans for access and a new visitor centre for Stonehenge have been going around for years but a solution could finally be in the offing...

More than 15 years after MPs branded the situation ‘a national disgrace', has a solution finally been found for Stonehenge? At present, the Stones are hemmed in by roads the busy, arterial A303 south-western route and the A344 Devizes road, which joins it, cutting the site off from its surrounding monuments and landscape. The latter not only comes up so close so as to almost clip the heel stone of the circle, but also lies slap across the Avenue, believed to be the site's ancient processional approach. In addition, the current visitor facilities, housed in a 1968 ‘concrete monstrosity' on the other side of the A344, are not only outdated and ineffectual, but also represent a significant visual intrusion to the site.

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16,000 year-old mother goddess figurine excavated in Turkey

Archeologists have unearthed a 16,000 year-old mother goddess figurine during excavations in Direkli Cave in the southern province of Kahramanmaras in Turkey.

According to a report in Todays Zaman, Gazi University Archeology Department lecturer Cevdet Merih Erek told the Anatolia news agency that the excavations in Direkli Cave, 65 km away from Kahramanmaras, started on July 15.

Noting that it was the third cave excavation of Turkey, Erek said that the clay mother goddess figurine they found was 16,000 years old.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

London's Oldest "Boardwalk" Found?

London's oldest known timber structure could be the city's earliest "boardwalk," archaeologists say.

Preserved for more than 5,700 years, the structure was found in an ancient peat bog next to the Belmarsh prison in Plumstead, a suburb of East London near the banks of the River Thames (see map).

"It is definitely man-made, and a very rare find," said team member Jon Sygrave of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London.

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Ancient stone artwork discovered

Prehistoric artwork has been discovered by an amateur archaeologist at a Perthshire mountain range.

The ancient carvings were discovered by rock art enthusiast George Currie at Ben Lawers, near Loch Tay.

Mr Currie discovered a piece of rock which has more than 90 cup marks, which are circular depressions in the stone.

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Nothing new under the sun

Anthropogenic global warming started when people began farming

IMAGINE a small group of farmers tending a rice paddy some 5,000 years ago in eastern Asia or sowing seeds in a freshly cleared forest in Europe a couple of thousand years before that. It is here, a small group of scientists would have you believe, that humanity launched climate change. Long before the Industrial Revolution—indeed, long before a worldwide revolution in intensive farming, the results of which kept humanity alive—people caused unnatural exhalations of greenhouse gases that had an impact on the world’s climate.

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Rock carving uncovered

STONE carvings dating back centuries have been uncovered by an amateur archaeologist.

The prehistoric artwork was found on the mountain of Ben Lawers, in the Scottish Highlands, by rock art enthusiast George Currie.

The art is similar to other prehistoric pieces found in the area, consisting of depressions known as cup marks, or cup and ring marks, which are carved on rocks.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Study: Fire used to make tools 75,000 years ago

Early humans crossed a threshold around 75,000 years ago, when they started painting symbols, carving patterns and making jewelry. A new study found they also began to use fire to make tools around that time.

Until now, this complex, multistep process for tool making was only known to occur as recently as 25,000 years ago in Europe. But the new findings show this breakthrough occurred much earlier, and in Africa, not Europe.

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More on Neolithic cathedral built to amaze unearthed in Orkney dig

Archaeologists said that the building would have dwarfed the island' s landmarks from the Stone Age - the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. Nick Card, who is leading the dig at the Ness of Brodgar, said that the cathedral, which would have served the whole of the north of Scotland, would have been constructed to  amaze and  create a sense of awe among those who saw it.

It is about 65ft in length and width and would have dominated the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness which stand on either side. These important sites, dating back about 5,000 years, might have actually been peripheral features of Orkney' s Stone Age landscape. Mr Card said:  In effect it is a Neolithic cathedral for the whole of the north of Scotland.

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4,000-year-old timber circle found in Tyrone

The remains of a timber circle from more than 4,000 years ago have been uncovered by archaeologists in County Tyrone.

The timber circle was found by the Headland Group near Ballygawley in 2006/2007 as part of an excavation project linked to the A4 and A5 road improvements scheme.

Project Officer at Headland Archaeology, Kirsty Dingwall, said radiocarbon dating had confirmed it was from around the middle of the third millenium BC, "although some elements of it may be earlier".

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Britain's first works of art really rock

It has been described as a Palaeolithic condominium, with all the mod cons that were required 13,500 years ago – running water, abundant food, shelter, warmth, and, to cap it all, an artist in residence.

The discovery of cave art at Creswell Crags in 2003 caused a sensation, revolutionising archaeologists' views on the spread of early man. The figures include a stag, a bison and an ibis carved in bas- relief, a panel either of women, or of birds stretching their beaks towards the sun, and a series of triangular figures, generally interpreted as fertility symbols.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Seafood gave us the edge on the Neanderthals

If Neanderthals ever shared a Thanksgiving feast with Homo sapiens, the two species may have had trouble settling on a menu.

Chemical signatures locked into bone suggest the Neanderthals got the bulk of their protein from large game, such as mammoths, bison and reindeer. The anatomically modern humans that were living alongside them had more diverse tastes. As well as big game, they also had a liking for smaller mammals, fish and seafood.

"It seems modern humans had a much broader diet, in terms of using fish or aquatic birds, which Neanderthals didn't seem to do," says Michael Richards, a biological anthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and the University of British Columbia in Canada.

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As old as the pyramids … the dagger unearthed from tribal leader's grave

ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Perth-shire have unearthed a spectacular early Bronze Age grave containing a gold-banded dagger still wrapped in its 4,000-year-old sheath.

The discovery follows drama at the site last week, when a giant crane was brought in to lift a four-tonne capstone that had sealed an ancient burial chamber for four millennia.

While few traces survive of the body buried in the primitive stone coffin, found near the village of Forteviot, several clues suggest the remains are those of a tribal leader or warrior of "tremendous importance".

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Scientists discover that Neanderthals hated Brussel sprouts

Spanish researchers have moved closer to resolving a "mystery of evolution" - why some people like Brussels sprouts but others hate them.

They have found that a gene in modern humans that makes some people dislike a bitter chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC, was also present in Neanderthals hundreds of thousands of years ago.

The scientists made the discovery after recovering and sequencing a fragment of the TAS2R38 gene taken from 48,000-year-old Neanderthal bones found at a site in El Sidron, in northern Spain, they said in a report by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

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London's earliest timber structure found on building site

A timber structure that is older than Stonehenge has been unearthed by university archaeologists in Plumstead.

The structure was found during the excavation of a prehistoric peat bog next door to Belmarsh Prison in Plumstead, Greenwich, prior to the construction of a new prison building.

Radiocarbon dating has shown the structure to be nearly 6,000 years old - predating Stonehenge by more than 500 years. The structure consisted of a timber platform or trackway found at a depth of 4.7m (about the height of a double decker bus) beneath two metres of peat next to an ancient river channel (image available).

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'Cathedral' as old as Stonehenge unearthed

EVEN in an area as archaeologically rich as Orkney, it is being hailed as the find of a lifetime.

Experts have unearthed a Neolithic "cathedral" – a massive building of a kind never before seen in Britain – which has left them in awe of its scale and workmanship.

At 82ft long and 65ft wide, it stands between two of Orkney's most famous Neolithic landmarks, the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness.

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At 9,000 years old, Britain's oldest house gives a glimpse of post-Ice Age domesticity

Built 3,000 years before the miracle of Stonehenge, this is Britain's oldest and best preserved house.

The remains of the strongly built shelter, discovered on the Isle of Man, provide a rare window into the domestic life of hunter-gatherers 9,000 years ago.

Unearthed by accident during extension work to the island's airport runway, the 23ft wide pit is giving up extraordinary archaeological secrets.

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Early toolmakers were 'engineers'

Early modern humans in South Africa were using "heat treatment" to improve their stone tools about 72,000 years ago, according to new research.

This technique may bridge a gap between the use of fire to cook food 800,000 years ago and the production of ceramics 10,000 years ago.

Evidence for this innovation was found at Pinnacle Point, a Middle Stone Age site on the South African coast.

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Archaeologists find prehistoric skeleton in the Dales

A human body, thought to date from the Iron Age, has been unearthed by archaeologists during a dig at a Peak District beauty spot.

The prehistoric skeleton emerged as volunteers, who were taking part in a lottery-funded dig, excavated the site of an ancient hillfort near Monsal Head.

Ann Hall, Longstone Local History Group project manager, said: "We quickly stopped everything, then archaeologists spent a very careful afternoon excavating the body."

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Dig a blast from past

THE Biggar Bigger Dig, which re-wrote Scotland’s history books, is finally over.

For the last three months more than 150 volunteers have been literally digging up our history in a field at Howburn Farm, near Elsrickle.

The work by Biggar Museums has now positively identified two camps sites used by reindeer hunters around 14,000 years ago.

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World's oldest profession: Engineering?

Evidence of humans engineering tools to improve their effectiveness has emerged 30,000 years earlier than previously thought.

A discovery at Pinnacle Point on the South African coast shows early humans fire-treated stones to make tool making more efficient.

The find pinpoints engineering of tools to between 70,000 and 164,000 years ago.

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5,000 year-old sites found

Archaeologists have unearthed eight neolithic sites in Derry, some more than 5,000 years old, the 'Journal' can exclusively reveal.

The exciting discoveries were made during work on the new Maydown dual carriageway and include a pair of well-preserved 5,000 years-old Neolithic houses and 4,000 years-old Bronze Age burial places known as 'ring-ditches'.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Prehistoric hut gives clues to ancient Alp life

Archaeologists in a remote region of Switzerland have excavated the ruins of the oldest hut in the Alps, a prehistoric discovery that dates back nearly 3,000 years.

The find in the Silvretta mountains near the Austrian border gives scientists the oldest architectural proof that early Iron Age shepherds spent summers living among the rich alpine grasses, tending to herds and using milk to make cheese, in a way much like farmers today.

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Silvio Berlusconi sex scandal overshadowed by cave row

A row about the discovery of a series of 2,300-year-old caves has emerged as a potentially greater threat to Silvio Berlusconi than allegations he slept call girl Patrizia D'Addario.

The latest extracts of taped bedroom conversations to be released contained an apparently innocuous remark by the Italian prime minister that he had discovered 30 ancient tombs on one of his estates.

He is heard boasting to Miss D'Addario, 42, about the existence of Phoenician tombs, from the 3rd Century BC on his Villa Certosa estate on Sardinia where guests have included Tony Blair.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Excavation work takes place on Stone Age dwelling

EXCAVATION work was due to finish at the weekend on a Stone Age dwelling unearthed at Ronaldsway.

The 8,000-year-old structure, found during construction of the airport runway extension, is believed to be the oldest house ever found in the Isle of Man.

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When and wear: the prehistory of clothing

Ask Ian Gilligan about his research project, and he’ll begin with a contradiction.

“My great interest is in clothing, because I think it’s our most important invention,” he says. “But the next thing I’m going to say is that I’m not interested in clothing at all.”

Is this the sign of a confused mind, or a rampant contrarian? Far from it.

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Neanderthals Were Few and Poised for Extinction

Neanderthals are of course extinct. But there never were very many of them, new research concludes.

In fact, new genetic evidence from the remains of six Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) suggests the population hovered at an average of 1,500 females of reproductive age in Europe between 38,000 and 70,000 years ago, with the maximum estimate of 3,500 such female Neanderthals.

"It seems they never really took off in Eurasia in the way modern humans did later," said study researcher Adrian Briggs of the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Did an Ancient Volcano Freeze Earth?

One fine day about 74,000 years ago, a giant volcano on Sumatra blew its top. The volcano, named Toba, may have ejected 1000 times more rock and other material than Mount St. Helens in Washington state did in 1980. In the process, it cooled the climate by at least 10°C, causing a global famine. But could the aftermath have been even worse? A new study puts to rest questions about whether Toba plunged Earth into a 1000-year deep freeze and whether an equivalent event today could jump-start a new, millennia-long ice age.

Giant volcanic eruptions such as Toba briefly cause the opposite of global warming. Although eruptions do emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, volcanoes also spew sulfur dioxide. Combined with water vapor, sulfur dioxide forms sulfate aerosols, which can spread around the globe, blocking solar radiation and chilling the air before becoming acid rain and snow.

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Archaeologists Discover Mesolithic Human Traces in South-Western Romania

Human traces dating from the Early Mesolithic Period were recently discovered at the Schela Cladovei archaeological site in south-western Romania by experts from the University of Edinburgh and of the “Vasile Parvan” Bucharest Institute of Archaeology.

The unearthed finds indicate the beginning of human sedentary life, the transition from the food-gathering, fishing and hunting stage to a primitive civilization dating from 7100 to 5500 BC, Professor Adina Boroneanţ, the archaeological team’s coordinator recently told the Romanian press agency Agerpres.

“It is the first time when, for a period specific to the Romanian Neolithic, we come upon one of a kind traces. These are the ruins of an artisan centre producing malachite beads. We found such pieces in both unprocessed and processed stage. And what is more interesting, we even found the silex tools used to manufacture these ornaments,” Boroneanţ explained.

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Secrets of 'unlucky' Bradford hill fort under the microscope

Described by one archaeologist as the unluckiest hill fort in Wiltshire, the Iron Age past of Budbury in Bradford on Avon remains to this day shrouded in mystery.

Local historians have been trying to unlock Budbury’s secrets ever since eminent archaeologist GJ Wainwright uncovered evidence of a substantial hill fort in the area, which is now developed into housing, dating back to as early as 600BC.

Wainwright believed he was on the verge of uncovering a burial mound, so the discovery of the hill fort, thought to cover up to six acres of land, came as a complete surprise.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

No Etruscan link to modern Tuscans

The current population of Tuscany is not descended from the Etruscans, the people that lived in the region during the Bronze Age, a new Italian study has shown.

Researchers at the universities of Florence, Ferrara, Pisa, Venice and Parma discovered the genealogical discontinuity by testing samples of mitochondrial DNA from remains of Etruscans and people who lived in the Middle Ages (between the 10th and 15th centuries) as well as from people living in the region today.

While there was a clear genetic link between Medieval Tuscans and the current population, the relationship between modern Tuscans and their Bronze Age ancestors could not be proven, the study showed.

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No Etruscan link to modern Tuscans

The current population of Tuscany is not descended from the Etruscans, the people that lived in the region during the Bronze Age, a new Italian study has shown.

Researchers at the universities of Florence, Ferrara, Pisa, Venice and Parma discovered the genealogical discontinuity by testing samples of mitochondrial DNA from remains of Etruscans and people who lived in the Middle Ages (between the 10th and 15th centuries) as well as from people living in the region today.

While there was a clear genetic link between Medieval Tuscans and the current population, the relationship between modern Tuscans and their Bronze Age ancestors could not be proven, the study showed.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Iron Age coins declared treasure

One of the UK's largest hauls of Iron Age gold coins has been declared treasure at an inquest in Suffolk.

The 840 handmade coins, called staters, were unearthed in a field near Wickham Market, Suffolk, in March last year.

After Michael Dark made the discovery with his metal detector, archaeologists found more coins, which are now at the British Museum in London.

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Via Aurelia: The Roman Empire's Lost Highway

French amateur archaeologist Bruno Tassan fights to preserve a neglected 2,000-year-old ancient interstate in southern Provence

At first glance, it didn't appear that impressive: a worn limestone pillar, six feet high and two feet wide, standing slightly askew beside a country road near the village of Pélissanne in southern France. "A lot of people pass by without knowing what it is," Bruno Tassan, 61, was saying, as he tugged aside dense weeds that had grown over the column since he last inspected it. Tassan was showing me a milliaire, or milestone, one of hundreds planted along the highways of Gaul at the time of the Roman Empire. The inscription had worn away ages ago, but Tassan, a documentary filmmaker and amateur archaeologist, was well versed in the artifact's history. This particular stone, set in place in 3 B.C. during the reign of Augustus, was once a perfect cylinder, set along the nearly 50 miles between Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence) and Arelate (Arles). "It's one of the last standing," Tassan said.

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New Fossil Primate Challenges "Missing Link" Ida

Remember Ida? It's been just a month since the fossil primate made her debut on the History Channel where she was called a "missing link" between humans and primitive primates and a "revolutionary scientific find that will change everything." But Ida may be robbed of her claim to that title by a new fossil primate from Asia, published today. "It shows that Ida is out of the running as a [human] ancestor," says the fossil's discoverer, paleontologist K. Christopher Beard of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Researchers have long searched for the earliest anthropoids, advanced primates that were the ancestors of humans, apes, and monkeys. Until recently, most scientists thought anthropoids arose in Africa, where the oldest widely accepted members of the group lived as early as 37 million years ago in the Fayum province of Egypt.

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Bulgaria: Archaeologists Research Balkans’ Oldest Funeral Site

A team of Dutch archaeologists has come to the village of Dzhulyunitsa in central northern Bulgaria in order to research the oldest funeral site in the Balkans.

The site, discovered by Nedko Elenski, an archaeologist from the Regional History Museum of Veliko Tarnovo in 2004, is a funeral of a person of the age between 12 and 13, which dates to 6300 – 6150 BC.

The Neolithic settlement near the modern-day village of Dzhulyunitsa existed between 6300 and 5700 BC. The settlement flourished around 6000 BC but, 300 years later, life there ceased to exist due to reasons that are still unknown to archaeologists.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Feature - Grid makes a SPLASH in underwater archaeology

Submerged beneath the waves lies a large part of human history.

For our ancestors, the ancient coastlines were attractive places to settle and experiment with what became the foundations of civilization. As the major glaciers melted between sixteen and six thousand years ago, these sites — where people first began to make fishing equipment, build boats and create permanent settlements — became engulfed by the rising seas.

But rather than destroying these ancient landscapes, the rising sea level instead preserved many of them, and with them many details in the story of our past.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Archaeology Quiz of the Week: Middle Paleolithic

Today's Archaeology Quiz of the Week is on Middle Paleolithic, that most exciting period in human history.

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Important historic remains unearthed in Bridlington

REMAINS of some of the earliest houses ever found in the North of England have been unearthed in Bridlington.

Archaeologists have discovered that buildings stood on the site of the current Cottage Farm development more than 5,000 years ago.

In a significant find, a team uncovered remains of houses, fields, kilns and people during excavations of the area, on the north side of town.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Prehistoric European Cave Artists Were Female

Inside France's 25,000-year-old Pech Merle cave, hand stencils surround the famed "Spotted Horses" mural.

For about as long as humans have created works of art, they've also left behind handprints. People began stenciling, painting, or chipping imprints of their hands onto rock walls at least 30,000 years ago.

Until recently, most scientists assumed these prehistoric handprints were male. But "even a superficial examination of published photos suggested to me that there were lots of female hands there," Pennsylvania State University archaeologist Dean Snow said of European cave art.

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Students dig Iron Age

TROWELS are at the ready for an annual dig that will uncover new information about an Iron Age settlement.

The annual Silchester dig on the site of Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum, near Silchester, begins on Monday for six weeks, until August 9.

The dig is organised by the Field School at Reading University’s Department of Archaeology as a research and training excavation which this year will involve about 70 first year archaeology students and 200 other people learning the ropes of excavation.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ancient river found beneath the Channel during Olympics survey

An ancient river bed that has lain unseen for 185,000 years has been uncovered by scientists mapping the parts of the English Channel in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.

The groundbreaking discovery was made during a two-year £300,000 project to map 500 square miles of seabed off the Jurassic coast in Dorset.

Using new and incredibly accurate mapping techniques, experts traced the river that may have once been used as a watering hole by woolly mammoths that roamed the area.

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Models of Earliest (Camel-Pulled) Vehicles Found

Some of the world's first farmers may have sped around in two-wheeled carts pulled by camels and bulls, suggests a new analysis on tiny models of these carts that date to 6,000-5,000 years ago.

The cart models, which may have been ritual objects or children's toys, were found at Altyndepe, a Chalcolithic and Bronze Age settlement in Western Central Asia near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Together with other finds, the cart models provide a history of how wheeled transportation first emerged in the area and later developed.

"Horsepower" is a common term today, but the ancients had bull-power, followed by camel-power, researcher Lyubov Kircho explained to Discovery News.

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Oldest human settlement in Aegean unearthed on Limnos island

The ruins of the oldest human settlement in the Aegean found so far have been unearthed in archaeological excavations by a team of Greek, Italian and American archaeologists on the island of Limnos, headed by Thessaloniki Aristotle University (AUTH) professor of Prehistoric Archaeology Nikos Efstratiou.

The excavation began in early June and the finds brought to light so far, mainly stone tools of a high quality, are from the Epipaleolithic Period approximately 14,000 years ago. The finds indicate a settlement of hunters, food-collectors and fishermen of the 12th millennium BC.

Until now, it was believed that the oldest human presence in the Aegean had been located in the Archipelagos of the so-called Cyclops Cave on the rocky islet Yioura, north of the island of Alonissos, and at the Maroula site on Kythnos island, dating to circa 8,000 (8th millennium) BC.

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Die Kunst der Kelten in in Bern

Zum ersten Mal im deutschsprachigen Raum wird mit der Ausstellung «Kunst der Kelten – 700 vor bis 700 nach Chr.» das Kunstschaffen der antiken Kelten in den Mittelpunkt gestellt. Präsentiert werden rund 450 Meisterwerke aus vierzehn Jahrhunderten. Die ausgesuchten Ausstellungsstücke stammen aus ganz Europa, vom Atlantik bis zu den Alpen und von Schottland bis nach Bulgarien. Die Ausstellung dauert bis zum 18. Oktober und entstand in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Landesmuseum Württemberg in Stuttgart.

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Controversy arises over ancient stone site

The controversy over Ale's Stones (Ales stenar), a sandstone monument in the form of a ship, in Skåne in southern Sweden has taken a new turn.

The county administrative board has taken a decision to charge amateur archeaologist Bob G. Lind a fine of 20,000 kronor per day if he puts up signs at the popular tourist destination, reports Skånska Dagbladet newspaper.

Lind's previous signs at Ale's Stones, which has been called the "Stonehenge of the Nordic region", have been removed by the county board. They describe Lind's theories about the origins of the monument, which differ from those of professional archaeologists.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Giving the archaeology buffs a chance to get their hands dirty

A series of training courses will begin next month, aimed at tempting armchair archaeology buffs out of doors and into the field.

As part of the Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme, members of the public can now participate in a series of archaeological excavation courses - ending up working on one of two digs in the county.

The courses centre around the ongoing archaeological work at Cantick and the Cairns, Windwick, South Ronaldsay.

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Bronze Age burial ground uncovered

MAJOR roadworks on one of Ulster's main thoroughfares have uncovered items of archaeological significance.

Excavation as part of the upgrade of the A1 Belfast to Dublin road between Loughbrickland and Beech Hill has uncovered a Bronze Age burial ground and a Neolithic settlement site dating back 6,500 years.

The find has been described as "rare and extremely significant".

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Stone Age flutes found in Germany

Prehistoric people made musical instruments out of bone and ivory soon after reaching Europe

The hills may be alive with the sound of music, but so were vulture bones and mammoth tusks for ancient Europeans. Researchers working at two Stone Age German sites have unearthed a nearly complete flute made from a vulture’s forearm as well as sections of three mammoth-ivory flutes.

These 35,000- to 40,000-year-old finds are the oldest known musical instruments in the world, says archaeologist and project director Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen in Germany.

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A Little Flute Music To Warm The Cave

Archaeologists say they have unearthed the world's oldest musical instruments. They are flutes, made of vulture bone and mammoth tusks. They were found in caves in southwestern Germany and date back to the time when modern human beings — who actually looked like us — were first venturing into Europe.

Scientists have little doubt that music is so basic to human nature that it goes back to our earliest days as a species. It's hard not to make music, when you think about it.

"Clap your hands, tap your foot, dance, sing, whistle. There's endless music you can make just with your body," says Nicholas Conard at Tuebingen University.

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35,000-year-old flute is oldest known musical instrument

The discovery, reported in the journal Nature, suggests that the first humans to occupy Europe had a fairly sophisticated culture. The instrument was excavated from a cave in Germany.

The wing bone of a griffon vulture with five precisely drilled holes in it is the oldest known musical instrument, a 35,000-year-old relic of an early human society that drank beer, played flute and drums and danced around the campfire on cold winter evenings, researchers said Wednesday.

Excavated from a cave in Germany, the nearly complete flute suggests that the first humans to occupy Europe had a fairly sophisticated culture, complete with alcohol, adornments, art objects and music that they developed there or even brought with them from Africa when they moved to the new continent 40,000 years or so ago.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

World's oldest musical instrument 'played Star Spangled Banner'

An ancient flute has been unearthed in Germany, revealing that musical traditions began earlier than previously thought.

The bone instrument, which is almost completely intact, has been dated to around 33,000BC — more than 5,000 years older than the earliest musical instruments on record.

Fragments of three ivory flutes were discovered at the same site, the Hohle Fels cave, near the city of Ulm.

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Stone Age wells found in Cyprus

Archaeologists have found a group of water wells in western Cyprus believed to be among the oldest in the world.

The skeleton of a young woman was among items found at the bottom of one shaft.

Radiocarbon dating indicates the wells are 9,000 to 10,500 years old, putting them in the Stone Age, the Cypriot Antiquities Department says.

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Co Down dig reveals a prehistoric mystery

Prehistoric mysteries uncovered in an archaeological dig at a Co Down road scheme were revealed to the public this morning.

The team behind the dig at the A1 Loughbrickland road scheme has uncovered not just a Bronze Age burial ground but also a Neolithic settlement dating back some 6,500 years.

The settlements, which contained a number of intriguing artefacts, lay on a finger of land which is believed to have been almost surrounded by water in prehistoric times. Three books on the finds have been published, including ‘Digging Down’, a children’s book, and a number of information boards at Loughbrickland lakeside were unveiled by Education Minister Caitriona Ruane this morning.

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The first Europeans were cannibals: archaeologists

The remains of the "first Europeans" discovered at an archaeological site in northern Spain have revealed that these prehistoric men were cannibals who particularly liked the flesh of children.

"We know that they practiced cannibalism," said Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro, one of the co-directors of the Atapuerca project, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A study of the remains revealed that they turned to cannibalism to feed themselves and not as part of a ritual, that they ate their rivals after killing them, mostly children and adolescents.

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Prehistoric flute in Germany is oldest known

A bird-bone flute unearthed in a German cave was carved some 35,000 years ago and is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archaeologists say, offering the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture.

A team led by University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot of the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany.

Together, the pieces comprise a 8.6-inch (22-centimeter) instrument with five holes and a notched end. Conard said the flute was 35,000 years old.

Read the rest of this article...A bird-bone flute unearthed in a German cave was carved some 35,000 years ago and is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archaeologists say, offering the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture.

A team led by University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot of the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany.

Together, the pieces comprise a 8.6-inch (22-centimeter) instrument with five holes and a notched end. Conard said the flute was 35,000 years old.

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Archaeological dig finds unveiled

The results of a significant archaeological dig in County Down will be unveiled later.

Neolithic and Bronze Age remains were found at the site in Loughbrickland when work began on new roads four years ago.

The results of the find will be announced on Thursday afternoon.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Facedown Burials Widely Used to Humiliate the Dead

Burying the dead facedown in ancient times didn't mean RIP, according to new research that says the practice was both deliberate and widespread.

Experts have assumed such burials were either unusual or accidental.

But the first global study on the facedown burials suggests that it was a custom used across societies to disrespect or humiliate the dead.

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Bulgarian Archaeologists Uncover Intact Thracian Settlement

A team of Bulgarian archaeologists has uncovered a Thracian settlement close to the southeast town of Nova Zagora.

The team of Konstantin Gospodinov and Veselin Ignatov from the city of Burgas hope that their finding would be the first Thracian settlement to be uncovered in its entirety.

The settlement is located along the Blatnitsa River. It had a moat around it, and include large buildings rising above the ground, reported.

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Neanderthals Made Mammoth Jerky

Necessity compelled Neanderthals to dry hunks of big game meat for easy transport, according to a new study on the survival needs of Neanderthals.

Neanderthals also likely wore tailored clothing, according to the new study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeology.

The findings help to explain how Neanderthals could transport meat over long distances without it rotting, as well as how they survived the often chilly conditions of Northern Europe.

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Ancient granaries preceded the Agricultural Revolution

A Jordanian site yields food-storage facilities from more than 11,000 years ago, indicating that a major social shift led to the rise of domesticated crops

It apparently took a long time to get the Agricultural Revolution off the ground. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers in the Middle East cultivated the farming life over more than a millennium, largely thanks to their proficiency at building structures to store wild cereals, a new report suggests.

Excavations at Dhra' near the Dead Sea in Jordan have uncovered remnants of four sophisticated granaries built between 11,300 and 11,175 years ago, about a millennium before domesticated plants were known to have been cultivated there, say archaeologists Ian Kuijt of the University of Notre Dame and Bill Finlayson of the Council for British Research in the Levant in Amman, Jordan.

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Study: Food storage began well before farming

People were storing grain long before they learned to domesticate crops, a new study indicates. A structure used as a food granary discovered in recent excavations in Jordan dates to about 11,300 years ago, according to a report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That's as much as a thousand years before people in the Middle East domesticated grain, the research team led by anthropologist Ian Kuijt of the University of Notre Dame said.

Remains of wild barley were found in the structure, indicating that the grain was collected and saved even though formal cultivation had not yet developed.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Looking into wetlands' ancient past

The hidden history of marshlands near a Lincolnshire town could be revealed when archaeologists start digging them up.

The work is taking place in advance of a project to create a haven for otters, water voles, birds and dragonflies at Beckingham Marshes, near Gainsborough.

A team from the University of Birmingham will be using carbon dating and analysis of buried pollen to work out what the Trent Valley looked like between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Record crowd for Solstice sunrise

A record crowd of about 36,500 revellers has welcomed the dawn of the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge.

The number of people attending the event caused roads in the area to become gridlocked in the hours leading up to sunrise at 0458 BST.

Druid ceremonies took place alongside music and Morris dancing, however overcast skies obscured the sun.

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Record crowd greet solstice at Stonehenge

Record numbers of people descended on Stonehenge this morning to mark the summer solstice.

Despite the sun not making an appearance in an overcast sky, around 36,500 people enjoyed a carnival atmosphere at the ancient stone circle on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

An eccentric mix of Morris dancers, pagans dressed in their traditional robes and musicians playing guitars and drums gathered alongside visitors from across the world.

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Record crowds at Stonehenge for summer solstice celebrations

Druids began their incantations, Wiccan priestesses drew their cowls tight against the damp morning air and four half-naked Papuan dancers waved their hands in the air and went: “Woo, woo, woo”.

Only the guest of honour failed to put in an appearance at Stonehenge.

A record 36,500 people had gathered at the prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain to watch the sun rise. So many turned out to celebrate the solstice that roads had to be shut and the vast field converted into a car park for 6,500 vehicles was full by 3am.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Do bow and arrow predate modern humans?

BOWS and arrows may not be the preserve of modern humans. It seems that simple stone blades make adequate arrowheads, so they might have been used in lightweight projectile weapons as far back as 100,000 years ago, when the blades first appeared.

Spears and arrows would have let early hunters catch small fast-moving creatures rather than tackling large dangerous animals with hand-held blades. Matthew Sisk and John Shea from Stony Brook University in New York have shown that so-called Levallois points make effective arrowheads. They turned 51 reproduction blades into arrows and successfully shot them into an animal carcass (Journal of Archaeological Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2009.05.023).

The earliest definite arrowheads date to around 20,000 years ago and are the handiwork of modern humans.

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Artefacts found at nature reserve

Human remains and Roman artefacts have been unearthed in an Iron Age ditch at a new nature reserve in Cambridgeshire.

Archaeologists made the discoveries at a former quarry at Cherry Hinton, near Cambridge, which is to open to visitors for the first time in 100 years.

East Pit has been transformed by the Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust into a haven for wild flowers and birds.

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New evidence of prehistoric man in north east Wales

EVIDENCE of human activity dating back nearly 10,000 years has been discovered in north east Wales.

Analysis of a sample of earth extracted from the Moel Llys y Coed, near Cilcain, in the Clwydian Range, has helped archaeologists paint a picture of the area during the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.

The project, which involved analysis techiniques including pollen levels and radio carbon dating, was funded by the Royal Commission on the Archaeological Historical Monuments of Wales.

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Honey-Loving Chimps Handy, Too

Life for human evolution researchers was so much simpler 50 years ago. There seemed to be a clear distinction between the cognitive capacities of humans and that of all other animals. The proof: Humans made tools, other species did not. The concept was perhaps best expressed in the title of a 1949 book by British anthropologist Kenneth Oakley, Man the Tool-Maker. As late as the early 1960s, most researchers agreed with famed fossil hunter Louis Leakey that toolmaking was a uniquely human activity.

But with more and more scientific observations of primates, identifying “uniquely human” behavior has been getting harder and harder. A paper in the June Journal of Human Evolution now extends animals’ reach even further toward human abilities, reporting that wild chimpanzees can sequentially craft a set of tools for a single task. Primatologist Christophe Boesch and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, conclude that researchers might have to rethink their whole approach to the cognitive divide between humans and their primate cousins.

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Der erste Neanderthaler Hollands lag auf dem Grund der Nordsee

Hobby-Paläontologe entdeckte Schädelfragment im Abfall eines Muschelfischers

Das Alter des Knochens schätzen Experten auf über 40.000 Jahre. Zu dieser Zeit war dort, wo heute Fischerboote fahren, noch ein fruchtbares, von Flüssen durchzogenes Land.

Der bedeutende Fund stammt aus einem als Middeldiep bezeichneten Gebiet rund 15 km vor der Küste Zeelands. Wie das Nationale Altertümermuseum (Rijksmusem van Oudheden) jetzt mitteilte, war das Fragment eines Stirnbeins bereits vor einigen Jahren entdeckt worden und wurde zwischenzeitlich von der Forschergruppe um Jean-Jacques Hublin vom Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie in Leipzig und holländischen Wissenschaftlern untersucht.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

New discovery suggests mammoths survived in Britain until 14,000 years ago

Research which finally proves that bones found in Shropshire, England provide the most geologically recent evidence of woolly mammoths in North Western Europe publishes today in the Geological Journal. Analysis of both the bones and the surrounding environment suggests that some mammoths remained part of British wildlife long after they are conventionally believed to have become extinct.

The mammoth bones, consisting of one largely complete adult male and at least four juveniles, were first excavated in 1986, but the carbon dating which took place at the time has since been considered inaccurate. Technological advances during the past two decades now allow a more exact reading, which complements the geological data needed to place the bones into their environmental context. This included a study of the bones' decay, analysis of fossilised insects which were also found on the site, and a geological analysis of the surrounding sediment.

The research was carried out by Professor Adrian Lister, based at the Natural History Museum in London, who has conducted numerous studies into 'extinction lag' where small pockets of a species have survived for thousands of years longer than conventionally thought.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blog for 'burial pit' relief road

A multimillion pound road development in Dorset has become the county council's first project to have its own online blog.

The Weymouth Relief Road site attracted much interest when archaeologists found an ancient burial pit last week.

The £87m road is being built to ease traffic between Dorchester and Weymouth and Portland, where the Olympic sailing events will be held in 2012.

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Humans worked the Welsh hills 10,000 years ago

Hunters and farmers were using the Clwydian Hills in North Wales 10,000 years ago, new research has revealed,

Analysis of a sample of earth extracted from the Clwydian Range has pieced together the timeline of human activity on the hills dating back almost 10,000 years.

The sample was taken from Moel Llys y Coed near Cilcain, to provide a picture for the change in the landscape over the years to become the heather moorland seen today.

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Prehistoric gold source traced to Mourne mountains

THE MOUNTAINS of Mourne may be fabled in song but now they have a new focus as scientists believe they were the source for most of Ireland’s prehistoric gold.

Ireland has a very high level of prehistoric gold objects especially from the early Bronze Age (2400-1800BC) when large quantities of it was used by skilled craftsmen.

They turned out beautiful objects such as the gold collars or lunula similar to the one which turned up recently following a robbery in Co Roscommon.

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Sea gives up Neanderthal fossil

Part of a Neanderthal man's skull has been dredged up from the North Sea, in the first confirmed find of its kind.

Scientists in Leiden, in the Netherlands, have unveiled the specimen - a fragment from the front of a skull belonging to a young adult male.

Analysis of chemical "isotopes" in the 60,000-year-old fossil suggest a carnivorous diet, matching results from other Neanderthal specimens.

The North Sea is one of the world's richest areas for mammal fossils.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Etching could be first example of art in Americas

An etching on a bone found near Vero Beach could be the earliest example of art in the Americas if determined to be authentic, which University of Florida professors believe to be the case.

An amateur fossil collector said the bone fragment had been sitting under his sink before he noticed what appeared to be an etching of a mammoth on it.

Barbara Purdy, professor emerita of anthropology at UF, ran the bone through a battery of tests to determine the etching's authenticity.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Executed Iron Age bodies from Roman battle found in pit on Olympic transport route

A 2,000-year-old mass grave full of dismembered bodies and skulls has been discovered at an ancient burial site being dug up to create a road for the 2012 Olympics.

Archaeologists excavating the Weymouth Relief Road, on Ridgeway Hill near Weymouth, believe the pit of corpses comprises Iron Age war casualties massacred by the Roman Army.

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This pile of rocks was once the seat of kings

It could be the world's first observatory, its network of little pools acting as mirrors to the stars. It could be a calendar, a kind of Bulgarian Stonehenge. Or it might even be where soothsayers once predicted the future by watching the pattern of flames and the flow of wine down channels carved in the rock.

It might even have been where Alexander first heard the prophecy that he would, one day, conquer the world. It has a sphinx; compasses go haywire when laid on its granite rocks; and it is dangerous to be there in a thunderstorm. Sci-fi geeks claim its flat plateau of rocks was a landing strip for aliens. But no one really knows what Belintash – 4,000 years old and 4,000 feet up in Bulgaria's Rhodope Mountains – was actually for.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Stone circle in East Anglian village?

A QUALIFIED surveyor claims a picturesque village on the Essex/Suffolk border might boast the only proper stone circle outside the west of England.

For generations the sarcen stones at Alphamstone near Sudbury have been at the centre of hot debate as to whether they were ever part of a stone circle.

There are two stones marking the entrance to St Barnabas Church and a number of others further back near - and in - the church, but they form neither a circle nor part of a circle.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bronze Age burial mound discovered

AN excavation within the ramparts of the Penycloddiau Iron Age hillfort has confirmed that a Bronze Age burial mound sits at the summit, dating back at least 3,500 years.

Between May 11 and 22 archaeologists from the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) excavated a mound found on the northern end of the hillfort. The mound had been heavily eroded by the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail which runs through the centre of the hillfort and across the top of the mound.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ancient tombs discovered by Kingston University-led team

A prehistoric complex including two 6,000-year-old tombs representing some of the earliest monuments built in Britain has been discovered by a team led by a Kingston University archaeologist. Dr Helen Wickstead and her colleagues were stunned and delighted to find the previously undiscovered Neolithic tombs, also known as long barrows at a site at Damerham, Hampshire.

Some artefacts, including fragments of pottery and flint and stone tools, have already been recovered and later in the summer a team of volunteers will make a systematic survey of the site, recovering and recording any artefacts that have been brought to the surface by ploughing.

Dr Wickstead said that further work would help to reveal more about the Neolithic era. “We hope that scientific methods will allow us to record these sites before they are completely eroded”, she said. “If we can excavate, we’ll be able to say a lot more about Neolithic people in that area and find out things like who was buried there, what kinds of lives they led, and what the environment was like six thousand years ago.”

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Excavation uncovers 3,500 year old Bronze Age North Wales burial mound

A BRONZE Age burial mound, thought to be at least 3,500 years old, has been discovered in Penycloddiau, Denbighshire.

The ancient resting place was discovered in an excavation of the Penycloddiau Iron Age hillfort, which lies between Llandyrnog and Nannerch, by the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust.

The mound had been heavily eroded by the Offa's Dyke trail, which runs across the top of it and through the centre of the hillfort.

Although no dating evidence was found, archaeologists could distinguish the mound as being Bronze Age.

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Neolithic Age: Prehistoric Complex Including Two 6,000-year-old Tombs Discovered In Britain

A prehistoric complex including two 6,000-year-old tombs representing some of the earliest monuments built in Britain has been discovered by a team led by a Kingston University archaeologist. Dr Helen Wickstead and her colleagues were stunned and delighted to find the previously undiscovered Neolithic tombs, also known as long barrows, at a site at Damerham, Hampshire.

Some artefacts, including fragments of pottery and flint and stone tools, have already been recovered and later in the summer a team of volunteers will make a systematic survey of the site, recovering and recording any artefacts that have been brought to the surface by ploughing.

Dr Wickstead said that further work would help to reveal more about the Neolithic era. “We hope that scientific methods will allow us to record these sites before they are completely eroded,” she said. “If we can excavate, we’ll be able to say a lot more about Neolithic people in that area and find out things like who was buried there, what kinds of lives they led, and what the environment was like six thousand years ago.”

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Researchers dive into ancient treasure

Archaeologists from Britain's University of Nottingham and Greece's Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture are using digital equipment to unlock the mystery behind the ancient Greek town of Pavlopetri, thought to be the oldest submerged town in the world. Discovered and mapped by researchers of the Institute of Oceanography at Cambridge University in 1968, no other work has since been conducted at the site. This project could fuel underwater archaeology in the future.

The ruins of Pavlopetri, which lie in three to four metres of water just off the coast of Laconia in the Peloponnese, date from at least 2 800 BC. Buildings are still intact, and streets, courtyards, and chamber tombs exist as well. Experts believe the ruins belong to the Mycenaean period (circa 1680-1180 BC).

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Corrib may have had 'major' settlement

A CONNEMARA archaeologist says that the recent discovery of two stone axes in Galway city and county points to a “major” hunter-gatherer presence on the Corrib catchment up to 9,000 years ago.

The axes were found in Ballybane and in the garden of a private house in Clifden, Co Galway, and are the latest in a number of significant finds recorded by archaeologist Michael Gibbons in the last couple of months.

The Clifden axe was unearthed by Velta Conneely in her garden – the second such axe she has discovered there in eight years, Mr Gibbons noted.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Plough uncovers suspected chambered tomb

What appears to be a Neolithic chambered tomb has been unearthed on the outskirts of Kirkwall.

The underground structure was discovered by John Hourie, Heathfield, St Ola, while ploughing. He reported it to his neighbour, archaeologist Caroline Wickham Jones, who contacted the county archaeologist Julie Gibson.

Julie explained: “The structure is located in a field on the crest of the hill overlooking Kirkwall and Scapa. Soils are thin, are rarely ploughed - this year’s ploughing work was the first time in decades. Bedrock is apparent in places.

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New 'molecular clock' aids dating of human migration history

Researchers at the University of Leeds have devised a more accurate method of dating ancient human migration - even when no corroborating archaeological evidence exists.

Estimating the chronology of population migrations throughout mankind's early history has always been problematic. The most widely used genetic method works back to find the last common ancestor of any particular set of lineages using samples of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), but this method has recently been shown to be unreliable, throwing 20 years of research into doubt.

The new method refines the mtDNA calculation by taking into account the process of natural selection - which researchers realised was skewing their results - and has been tested successfully against known colonisation dates confirmed by archaeological evidence, such as in Polynesia in the Pacific (approximately 3,000 years ago), and the Canary Islands (approximately 2,500 years ago).

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ha-Ha! Ape study traces evolution of laughter

When scientists set out to trace the roots of human laughter, some chimps and gorillas were just tickled to help. Literally.

That's how researchers made a variety of apes and some human babies laugh. After analyzing the sounds, they concluded that people and great apes inherited laughter from a shared ancestor that lived more than 10 million years ago.

Experts praised the work. It gives very strong evidence that ape and human laughter are related through evolution, said Frans de Waal of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta.

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Ancient Art, Music Flowered as Communities, Not Brains, Grew

An explosion of art, music, jewelry and hunting technology appeared 45,000 years ago because of increased population density, rather than the evolution of the human brain, a study said.

Researchers used genetic estimates of ancient population sizes, archaeological artifacts and computer simulations of social learning. They found complex skills involving abstract thinking would be passed down through generations and across groups only when populations reach a critical level, according to the study in tomorrow’s edition of the journal Science.

Increased interaction between groups, the sharing of ideas and the exchange of raw materials that led to the flowering of human culture may explain why concentrated centers of industry, such as California’s Silicon Valley, produce technological innovations, said Mark Thomas, 44, a senior author of the study and a senior lecturer at University College London in England.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Iron Age mystery may be solved

Archaeologists will return to a 2,000-year-old site on Beccles marshes this summer in a bid to finally unravel the mystery behind it.

A team of students from Birmingham University will spend three weeks excavating on the iron-age site just outside the town.

Three long rows of wooden posts inserted into the ground were unearthed while flood defence work was being carried out on the marshes in 2006.

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New Forest discovery thought be one of oldest ever made in UK

TWO 6,000-year-old tombs have been unearthed in Hampshire in one of the biggest archaeological finds for years.

The discovery, thought to be among the oldest ever made in the UK, is set to shed new light on the life led by the county’s earliest settlers.

Flint tools and fragments of pottery have already been retrieved from the Neolithic site at Damerham in the New Forest.

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Mammoths Roasted in Prehistoric Kitchen Pit

Central Europe's prehistoric people would likely have been amused by today's hand-sized hamburgers and hot dogs, since archaeologists have just uncovered a 29,000 B.C. well-equipped kitchen where roasted gigantic mammoth was one of the last meals served.

The site, called Pavlov VI in the Czech Republic near the Austrian and Slovak Republic borders, provides a homespun look at the rich culture of some of Europe's first anatomically modern humans.

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New Hominid 12 Million Years Old Found In Spain, With 'Modern' Facial Features

Researchers have discovered a fossilized face and jaw from a previously unknown hominoid primate genus in Spain dating to the Middle Miocene era, roughly 12 million years ago. Nicknamed "Lluc," the male bears a strikingly "modern" facial appearance with a flat face, rather than a protruding one. The finding sheds important new light on the evolutionary development of hominids, including orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and humans.

In a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Salvador Moyà-Solà, director of the Institut Català de Paleontologia (ICP) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, and colleagues present evidence for the new genus and species, dubbed Anoiapithecus brevirostris. The scientific name is derived from the region where the fossil was found (l’Anoia) and also from its "modern" facial morphology, characterized by a very short face.

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Mammoth skeleton unearthed in Serbia

Archaeologists say a skeleton of a mammoth believed to be about one million years old has been unearthed in eastern Serbia.

Miomir Korac from the Archaeology Institute says the skeleton was discovered at an open-pit coal mine near Kostolac power plant.

Korac says the skeleton is very well preserved. He says the mammoth was more than 4 meters (13 feet) high, 5 meters (16 feet) long and weighed more than 10 tons.

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