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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