Sunday, July 29, 2012

17,500-Year-Old Ceramic Figures Unearthed in Croatia

36 ceramics artifacts found at the archaeological site of Vela Spila, Croatia (Rebecca Farbstein / PLoS ONE)

An international team of archaeologists has uncovered the first evidence of ceramic figurative art in late Upper Paleolithic Europe – from about 17,500 years ago, thousands of years before pottery was commonly used.

The evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who ‘invented’ ceramics during the last Ice Age has been found at the archaeological site of Vela Spila, Croatia.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modeled animals, and come from the site on the Adriatic coast. The archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Archaeologists uncover Palaeolithic ceramic art

Leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. This is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia. Credit: Rebecca Farbstein

Evidence of a community of prehistoric artists and craftspeople who “invented” ceramics during the last Ice Age – thousands of years before pottery became commonplace – has been found in modern-day Croatia.

The finds consist of 36 fragments, most of them apparently the broken-off remnants of modelled animals, and come from a site called Vela Spila on the Adriatic coast. Archaeologists believe that they were the products of an artistic culture which sprang up in the region about 17,500 years ago. Their ceramic art flourished for about 2,500 years, but then disappeared. 

The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, adds to a rapidly-changing set of views about when humans first developed the ability to make ceramics and pottery. Most histories of the technology begin with the more settled cultures of the Neolithic era, which began about 10,000 years ago.
Leg and torso from the model of a four-legged animal, possibly a deer or horse. This is one of 36 ceramic items recovered from Vela Spila, Croatia. Credit: Rebecca Farbstein

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

6,500 year old hunting trophy found in eastern Croatia

Archaeologists in Bapska, eastern Croatia have stumbled across 6,500 year old deer antlers. The hunting trophy was found hanging on the wall of prehistoric house along with valuable items of jewellery, writes website

"We have the oldest deer hunting trophy in Croatia," said Marcel Buric, the head researcher at the Department of Prehistoric Archaeology of the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb.

According to Buric, local hunters from Bapska have estimated that the deer, where the antlers trophy has come from, would have weighed between 220 and 250 kilograms and would have been extremely strong due to its 12 antlers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Archaeologists to dig at Bronze Age site near Peterborough

Archaeologists are hoping to find clues about an ancient timber structure at Flag Fen Credit: ITV Central
Archaeologists are to dig at a Bronze Age site near Peterborough for the first time in 10 years. 

They are hoping to find clues about an ancient timber structure at Flag Fen. 

In previous digs they found the UK's oldest wheel and gold rings more than 3,500 years old.

News Science Archaeology House of the Telephus Relief: raising the roof on Roman real estate

Buried by Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, archaeologists at Herculaneum have excavated and carried out the first-ever full reconstruction of the timber roof of a Roman villa

 With several dozen rooms, the House of the Telephus Relief was 'top-level Roman real estate'. Photograph: Art Archive/Alamy

For almost two millennia, the piles of wood lay undisturbed and largely intact under layers of hardened volcanic material. Now, after three years of painstaking work, archaeologists at Herculaneum have not only excavated and preserved the pieces, but worked out how they fitted together, achieving the first-ever full reconstruction of the timberwork of a Roman roof.

With several dozen rooms, the House of the Telephus Relief was "top-level Roman real estate", said Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, the director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project (HCP). It was more of a palace or mansion, thought to have been built for Marcus Nonius Balbus, the Roman governor of Crete and part of modern-day Libya, whose ostentatious tomb was found nearby.

The most lavishly decorated part of the immense residence was a three-storey tower. On the top floor was a nine-metre high dining room with a coloured marble floor and walls, a suspended ceiling and a wrap-around terrace. It offered the owners and their dinner guests a heart-stopping view across the silver-blue Bay of Naples to the islands of Ischia and Capri.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Neanderthals Self-Medicated?

Tartar remains on teeth reveal traces of herbs, veggies, study says.

 Neanderthals may have been gatherers and hunters (file picture of a model of a Neanderthal woman).

A cave in northern Spain that previously yielded evidence of Neanderthals as brain-eating cannibals now suggests the prehistoric humans ate their greens and used herbal remedies.

A new study of skeletal remains from El Sidrón cave site in Asturias (map) detected chemical and food traces on the teeth of five Neanderthals. (Take a Neanderthal quiz in National Geographic magazine.)

Tartar samples from the 50,000-year-old teeth revealed microscopic plant starch granules, which had cracks indicating the plants had been roasted first. Further chemical analysis revealed compounds associated with wood smoke.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Neanderthals' macho image may be wrong

Neanderthals have traditionally been seen as a race of macho hunters but in reality they spent much of their time carrying out domestic chores, a study has found. 

The primitive men, who became extinct about 30,000 years ago after human ancestors arrived in Europe from Africa, were presumed to have spent most of their time hunting prey. 
But a new study suggests that their daily lives were in fact much more mundane, with tedious tasks like processing animal skins to make clothing accounting for several hours of each day.

Neanderthals ate their greens

Neanderthals have long been viewed as meat-eaters. The vision of them as inflexible carnivores has even been used to suggest that they went extinct around 25,000 years ago as a result of food scarcity, whereas omnivorous humans were able to survive. But evidence is mounting that plants were important to Neanderthal diets — and now a study reveals that those plants were roasted, and may have been used medicinally.

The finding comes from the El Sidrón Cave in northern Spain, where the roughly 50,000-year-old skeletal remains of at least 13 Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) have been discovered. Many of these individuals had calcified layers of plaque on their teeth. Karen Hardy, an anthropologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain, wondered whether it might be possible to use this plaque to take a closer look at the Neanderthal menu.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Prehistoric Ironworking at Beechwood, Inverness

Archaeological excavations by AOC Archaeology Group at Beechwood, Inverness, have uncovered new evidence of Iron Age metalworking which is allowing experts to re-evaluate the importance of iron and ironworking in prehistoric Scotland.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is currently investing up to £25m in the 215-acre former Beechwood Farm site to create Inverness Campus as a high quality location for business, research, learning and leisure in the Highland capital. Edinburgh-based AOC Archaeology Group was commissioned to help HIE evaluate and record by excavation any buried archaeological sites occupying the development area prior to the start of construction works.

Prehistorc tablet calls into question history of writing

Back in 1993, in a Neolithic lakeshore settlement that occupied an artificial island near the modern village of Dispilio on Lake Kastoria in the Kastoria Prefecture, professor George Hourmouziadis and his team unearthed the Dispilio Tablet (also known as the Dispilio Scripture or the Dispilio Disk), a wooden tablet bearing inscribed markings (charagmata) that has been carbon 14-dated to about 7300 BP (5260 BC).

In February 2004, during the announcement of the Tablet’s discovery to the world, Hourmouziadis claimed that the text with the markings could not be easily publicized because it would ultimately change the current historical background concerning the origins of writing and articulate speech depicted with letters instead of ideograms within the borders of the ancient Greek world and by extension, the broader European one. 

According to the Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the markings suggested that the current theory proposing that the ancient Greeks received their alphabet from the ancient civilizations of the Middle East (Babylonians, Sumerians and Phoenicians etc) fails to close the historic gap of some 4,000 years. This gap translates into the following facts:  while ancient eastern civilizations would use ideograms to express themselves, the ancient Greeks were using syllables in a similar manner like we use today. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

300 000 year old flint tools found in Northern France

The deposits at Etricourt Manancourt in the Picardie region of France documents the history of early European settlements, revealing at least five prehistoric levels, ranging between 300,000 and 80,000 years old.

This discovery resulted from the archaeological work carried out prior to construction of a large canal. Archaeologists from Inrap looked at 17 hectares in 2010, which revealed a Palaeolithic level and more evidence was found in 2012, when 3,200 square metres were excavated over 4 month period.

The most recent occupation comes from the Middle Paleolithic (80,000 years old) and belongs to the Neanderthals. Twenty sites of this period are already known in northern France.

The next two levels are also Neanderthal and belong to the early phase of the Middle Paleolithic during an interglacial period – the Saalian – between 190,000 and 240,000 years old. The discoveries of sites from this period are rare and, in the north of France, only excavations in 1999 (around Beauvais) and Biache St. Vaast in 1976 (Pas-de-Calais) have produced such well preserved contemporary deposits.

Scientists Reconstruct Diet of Australopithecus Anamensis

A team of Spanish paleoanthropologists has reconstructed the diet of Australopithecus anamensis, a hominid that lived in the east of the African continent more than 4 million years ago.

An artist’s reconstruction of Australopithecus anamensis, left, and an image of traces on fossil tooth of Australopithecus anamensis, scale bar is 100 µm (Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt / Ferran Estebaranz et al.)

A. anamensis is a fossil hominid species described in 1995 and considered to be the direct ancestor of A. afarensis, known as Lucy, which lived in the same region half a million years later. The paleoecological reconstructions of the sites with A. anamensis fossil remains are quite similar to those of A. afarensis, and suggest a scene with different habitats, from open forests to thick plant formations, with herbaceous strata and gallery forests.

Traditionally, the reconstruction of the diet of A. anamensis was carried out by means of indirect evidence – specifically, studies of microstructure and enamel thickness, and the dental size and morphology.

In the new study, published in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences, the team analyzed the pattern of microstriation of the post-canine dentition, from microscopic traces that some structural components of plants and other external elements leave in the dental enamel during the chewing of food. It is, therefore, a direct analysis of the result of the diet’s interaction with the teeth.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tom Higham's audio: Neanderthals and modern humans

A public day of lectures and discussion on the Palaeolithic of Europe, the arrival of the first modern humans and the extinction of Neanderthals. 16 April 2011, Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Oxford.

Prof Martin Richards from University of Leeds talks about Archaeogenetics and the Palaeolithic.

Dr William Davies delivers the fourth talk of this public day entitled "Living on a climatic rollercoaster: Climate, environment and humans in the last Ice Age".
In this audio file I conclude the public day with a talk on the end of the Neanderthals and the transition to the Upper Palaeolithic in terms of radiocarbon dating.

New 'Iron Age' discoveries made in Inverness

New discoveries made in Inverness have fuelled speculation among experts that it was an important area of prehistoric iron production.

Rare finds of well-preserved metalworking hearths, or furnaces, have been uncovered at Beechwood during work by Edinburgh-based AOC Archaeology.

Archaeologists believe the discoveries date to the Iron Age.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is spending £25m on preparing the land for the new Inverness Campus.

The University of the Highlands and Islands and businesses will eventually occupy buildings constructed on the former farmland.

'Deep Fen' archaeologists awarded for Cambridgeshire finds

Bronze Age boats, spears and clothing dating back 3,000 years have helped secure two prestigious awards for Cambridgeshire archaeologists.

Excavation at a brick pit near Whittlesey earned the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) team the titles of best project and best find.

The British Archaeology Awards said the Must Farm dig "stimulated imagination".

CAU's Mark Knight said the site was the "first exploration into deep Fenland, submerged for 10,000 years".

Scientists uncover 'pre-human' skeleton in South Africa

Archaeologists have identified the most complete skeleton related to an ancient relative of human in a rock in South Africa, which dates back to two million years ago.

Scientists uncovered that the findings were the remains of a juvenile hominid skeleton, of the Australopithecus (southern ape) sediba species.

The remains are the "most complete early human ancestor skeleton ever discovered," according to University of Witwatersrand paleontologist and a lead professor in the finding Lee Berger.

2,000 year old coins found in Leicestershire

A man from Leicestershire has stumbled across a set of 2,000 year old coins, which will be unveiled at the start of the county's two week archaeology festival. 

The coins date back to the Iron Age [Credit: Leicestershire County Council]
The ten gold coins were discovered in Peatling Magna by Steve Bestwick. 

It is thought that they were made in Northern France, between 60-50 BC, suggesting that people living in Leicestershire had contact with their French counterparts. 

“These coins bring up so many questions. Why did they come to Leicestershire? What sort of journey they have been on? How did they get here from the continent, so long ago before cross –channel ferries? Who was the last person to hold them and what did they mean to them?” – Steve Bestwick, metal detectorist

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hidden Doggerland underworld uncovered in North Sea

A map of the UK with Doggerland marked as red

A huge area of land which was swallowed up into the North Sea thousands of years ago has been recreated and put on display by scientists.

Doggerland was an area between Northern Scotland, Denmark and the Channel Islands.

It was believed to have been home to tens of thousands of people before it disappeared underwater.

Now its history has been pieced together by artefacts recovered from the seabed and displayed in London.
The 15-year-project has involved St Andrews, Dundee and Aberdeen universities.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Surprise Human-Ancestor Find—Key Fossils Hidden in Lab Rock

Posing with an A. sediba skull, student Justin Mukanku points to the tooth he found in a fossil-filled rock.

Single tooth tipped researchers off to a bonanza right under their noses.

Last month a prehistoric tooth protruding from a boulder tipped off researchers to hidden evolutionary treasure: remarkably complete human-ancestor fossils trapped in a rock that had been sitting in their lab for years.

Scans later showed that the rock contains two-million-year-old fossils that will "almost certainly" make one Australopithecus sediba specimen "the most complete early human ancestor skeleton ever discovered," anthropologist Lee Berger said in a statement Thursday.

The bones are nearly invisible from the outside, and were discovered only after a technician noticed the small tooth in the three-foot-wide (meter-wide) rock, which was retrieved from a South African cave in 2008 and brought to a lab at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Roots of medieval rights of common stretch back thousands of years

The Uffington white horse marks an area of open grassland that has been subject to common rights of pasture for over 3,000 years. Image: Dave Price (Flickr, used under a CC )

In the 1920s archaeologists discovered more than 1,000 cattle skulls buried at an early Iron Age stock enclosure at Harrow Hill in Sussex, while a huge Iron Age midden (rubbish heap) covering at least 2.5 hectares has been found at East Chisenbury in Wiltshire. Each is thought to represent the remains of vast annual feasts on grasslands shared between local communities, perhaps during the annual round-ups of their collective herds.

A chance for a good meal

These meetings were much more than the chance for a good meal. Feasts reinforced links and relationships within and between communities: such occasions provided at very least a context for resolving disputes about livestock and grazing, at times when animals were taken to the pastures in the spring or rounded up in the autumn and disagreements were most likely to occur. Post-medieval folklore suggests that these meetings may have been accompanied by games and competitions, the making of marriages and other formal agreements between groups, and opportunities to catch up between members of extended families.

Excavations at ancient Side to run through summer

The archaeology department of Anatolian University has started its summer excavations in Antalya's ancient city of Side, home to several historic temples, including the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Tyche, which have now been placed under protection to preserve the cultural and historic assets of the city. 

The ancient Greek Temple of Apollo is located at the end of Side's peninsula [Credit: Wiki Commons]
The archeological excavation team of 100 archeologists is being led by Assistant Professor Hüseyin Alanyalı in the touristic hub and historic city. Alanyalı said on Tuesday that excavations will continue until the end of the September. 

The excavations will be carried out to preserve and restore sites in Side of the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Tyche, the Temple of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena and a basilica, Alanyalı said. The site of the Temple of Apollo will be put under protection and will be closed to visitors during the summer months of 2012. Alanyalı underlined that the ancient city of Side was treated with a lack of care, with motorcycles and trucks passing near the site and harming the environment.

Temple to Demeter unearthed in Sicily

Archaeologists have discovered what may be among the oldest remains at the ancient site of Selinunte in Sicily, an ancient temple. 

Inside, fragments have been found that help explain the site's significance: an offering to Demeter, the goddess of grain and agriculture; a small flute, made of bone and dating to 570 BC; a small Corinthian vase. 

These findings are critically important in helping archaeologists to date the temple where they were found, to around the 6th century BC - possibly the oldest at the Selinunte site. 

They've been unearthed in recent months by a team led by Clemente Marconi of New York University, working with the Department of Culture and Identity in Sicily and Selinunte Archaeological Park Together, they've also identified the remains of a central colonnade and nearby are pottery shards dated from around 650 BC, including a long vessel decorated with grazing animals.

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Die ältesten Menschenknochen Schleswig-Holsteins sind rund 7.400 Jahre alt

Ausgrabungsarbeiten am steinzeitlichen Fundplatz in Schleswig-Holstein, sechs Meter unter der Wasseroberfläche. Foto: © Florian Huber

Die bisher ältesten Menschenknochen Schleswig-Holsteins wurden jetzt vor der Ostseeküste bei Stohl während der Grabung einer mesolithischen Siedlung entdeckt.

Im Juni bargen Forschungstaucher und Studierende des Instituts für Ur- und Frühgeschichte der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) diese Knochen und weitere archäologische Funde aus sechs Metern Wassertiefe.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Must Farm excavation and Thames Discovery Programme win British Archaeological Awards

An unprecedented landscape-wide investigation into prehistoric life, the longest open air archaeological site in London, a scheme to help injured soldiers and, of course, Channel 4’s Time Team are among the winners in this year’s British Archaeological Awards.

The bi-annual Awards, which took place yesterday at the British Museum revealed Cambridge Archaeology Unit’s remarkable 2011 excavation of Deep Fenland around Must Farm as winner in the Best Archaeology Project and Best Archaeological Discovery categories.

The Cambridge team, which worked with Hanson UK on the extraordinary mass excavation project at a clay brick extraction site at Whittlesey, has had top Bronze expert and TV archaeologist Dr Francis Pryor describing the venture “as a rare glimpse of a vanished time”.

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Frankenstein" bog bodies discovered in Scotland

In a "eureka" moment worthy of Dr. Frankenstein, scientists have discovered that two 3,000-year-old Scottish "bog bodies" are actually made from the remains of six people. 

A female Bronze Age mummy from Cladh Hallan is a composite of different skeletons [Credit: Mike Parker Pearson, University of Sheffield]
According to new isotopic dating and DNA experiments, the mummies—a male and a female—were assembled from various body parts, although the purpose of the gruesome composites is likely lost to history. 

The mummies were discovered more than a decade ago below the remnants of 11th-century houses at Cladh Hallan, a prehistoric village on the island of South Uist (map), off the coast of Scotland.

Neolithisches Kammergrab im Oberaargau

Bereits im Oktober 2011 wurde in der Gemeinde Oberbipp im Kanton Bern eine große Granitplatte freigelegt, die sich bei den weiteren Untersuchungen als Deckplatte eines neolithischen Gemeinschaftsgrabes erwies. Seit Februar wird die Anlage vom Archäologisches Dienst des Kanton Bern nun detailliert untersucht.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Iron Age warrior bones dug up in Denmark

Danish archaeologists said on Tuesday they had re-opened a mass grave of scores of slaughtered Iron Age warriors to find new clues about their fate and the bloody practices of Germanic tribes on the edge of the Roman Empire. 

Bones of around 200 soldiers have already been found preserved in a peat bog near the village of Alken on Denmark's Jutland peninsula. 

Experts started digging again on Monday, saying they expected to find more bodies dating back 2,000 years to around the time of Christ. 

"I guess we will end up with a scale that is much larger than the 200 that we have at present," Aarhus University archaeologist Mads Kahler Holst told Reuters.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wilberforce College's Iron Age finds halt building work

Builders at a college in East Yorkshire have stopped work after finding objects dating back to the Iron Age.

The workers constructing a sports court at Wilberforce College, Hull, have made way for experts from Humber Field Archaeology to inspect the site.

Digs at the site in the east of the city date back to the 1960s and there was archaeological work there in 2010.

David Cooper, vice-principal at the college, said: "This is a really important site."
It is thought the objects found are shards of Iron Age pottery.