Thursday, May 28, 2020

Early Iron Age burials discovered in France

General view of the site with a circular enclosure from the Early Iron Age in the foreground
[Credit: Philippe Alix, Inrap]

Several excavations have been requested by the DRAC Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes authorities since 2016 as part of the development of the Plaine de l'Ain Industrial Park (PIPA) in the commune of Saint-Vulbas. One of them, carried out by a team from Inrap, has, among other things, brought to light several funerary structures from the Early Iron Age.

The excavation of almost one hectare took place to the north of a vast protohistoric funerary area (Bronze Age and Iron Age), which was identified during the course of a series of preliminary surveys, extending over several dozens of hectares on the right bank of the Rhone.

One burial and three circular enclosures, probably tumuli, were found from the very beginning of the Iron Age (first half of the 8th century BC), one of which still has a central cremation repository. Towards the end of the 5th century BC a new grave site was established which consists of cremation pit associated with a four-post aedicula in the centre of a small quadrangular enclosure. 

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Butchery Marks Suggest Paleolithic Hunters Ate Large Carnivores

Courtesy Piotr Wojtal)

KRAKÓW, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that Piotr Wojtal of the Polish Academy of Sciences identified butchered wolf bones among a collection of 30,000-year-old flint and bone artifacts and tools unearthed in the Czech Republic. “Until now, scientists were convinced that wolves and other predators were the target of hunting primarily because of their skins, and certainly not as a source of meat,” Wojtal said. Some of the marks on the wolf bones were the result of removing the skin, he explained, but other marks are only associated with dividing a carcass into portions.

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Neolithic Skeleton “Lovingly Buried” in Fetal Position

A “lovingly” buried Neolithic skeleton is offering archaeologists new insights on burial practices 4,500-years ago.

The gravesite is located in the idyllic German countryside at Uckermark, a rural county around 60 miles (96.56 km) northeast of Berlin. It contained the remains of a woman who had been carefully buried in a north-facing fetal position with her back to the Sun. Because bodies found in other graves across Neolithic Europe have been found in this position, the archaeologists suspect this was possibly a shared burial practice that they say reached as far away as Scotland.

A Woman “Lovingly Laid” in The Fetal Position
A Newsweek article explains how Dr. Philipp Roskoschinski and a team of archaeologists from the private archaeology company Archaeros discovered the roughly 4,500-year-old remains of the woman. He believes the Neolithic skeleton was buried in a simple but “lovingly made gravesite.” And Roskoschinski said in an interview with Tagespeigel he has “never found anything like this.”

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

A 5,000-year-old mystery: recording rock art within the Dolmen de Soto

The Dolmen de Soto from above, showing both the low earth mound covering the megalithic corridor, and the reconstructed entrance way beside the portal, which provides access to the interior. (Image: Dron Pelayo)

Investigating an isolated Neolithic tomb in Andalucía has revealed a new dimension to its rock art. What can this tell us about life as well as death in a remarkable megalithic monument? George Nash, Sara Garcês, José Julio García Arranz, and Hipólito Collado share the secrets of the Dolmen de Soto.

The origins of Neolithic tomb building in Europe are difficult to pinpoint. We know that the Neolithic Revolution occurred in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ of the Middle East around 10,000 BC, but the development and spread of tomb architecture across Europe is less clear. We can say that during the 5th and 4th millennium BC, passage graves became dominant, probably after emerging from a tomb style popular in eastern Europe. 

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Migration patterns reveal an Eden for ancient humans and animals

An artist rendering of the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain during the Pleistocene.

Home to some of the richest evidence for the behavior and culture of the earliest clearly modern humans, the submerged shelf called the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP) once formed its own ecosystem. Co-author Curtis Marean, Ph.D., Arizona State University, has worked with teams of scientists for decades to reconstruct the locale back into the Pleistocene, the time period that spanned from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

In this study, the researchers looked specifically at antelope migratory patterns at Pinnacle Point. This series of cave sites that sit on the modern South African coast offers archaeological materials from humans who were living and hunting there back to 170,000 years ago.

"During glacial cycles, the coastal shelf was exposed," said Hodgkins. "There would have been a huge amount of land in front of the cave sites. We thought it was likely that humans and carnivores were hunting animals as they migrated east and west over the exposed shelve."

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Archaeologists uncover Iron Age tomb of woman adorned with jewellry

Archaeologists are planning to excavate the tomb along with the woman's remains. (Inrap)

The tomb of a woman dating back about 2700 years has been uncovered by archaeologists in France.
The woman, who is believed to have lived at the start of the Iron Age in the eighth century BC, was found adorned with jewelry which had been preserved over millennia.

Several hectares of the ancient grave site on the bank of the Rhone river in eastern France is being excavated by experts from the archaeological research organisation Inrap.

"Inside the coffin, the deceased, a middle-aged woman, was laid on her back, arms beside her body, dressed and adorned with her jewelry," the archaeologists wrote in a statement about the discovery.

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European Ice Age Hunters Ate Wolf Meat

New study reveals that hunters during the Palaeolithic (approx. 30,000 years ago) ate wolf meat.
Archaeologists excavating in the Czech Republic recently discovered thousands of pieces of flint, tools and decorative items manufactured from reindeer bone, artic fox teeth, mammoth tusks, in addition to thousands of animal bone fragments amongst the remains of an ancient Palaeolithic settlement.

The animal remains were examined by Dr Piotr Wojtal from the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Kraków who said: “Until now, scientists were convinced that wolves and other predators were the targets of hunting primarily because of their skins, and certainly not as a source of meat.”

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Homo Sapiens caused Neanderthal extinction according to computer models

Using computer models, climate scientists from the IBS Centre suggests that Homo Sapiens are responsible for the demise of the Neanderthal between 43-38 thousand years ago.
Previous extinction theories had proposed that Neanderthal extinction was caused by climatic events or interbreeding, but the new computer simulations quantified which processes played a major role in the collapse of Neanderthal populations using mathematical models that can realistically simulate the migration of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, their interactions, competition and interbreeding in a changing climatic environment. Such models did not exist previously.

Neanderthals lived in Eurasia for at least 300,000 years. Then, around 43 to 38 thousand years ago they quickly disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving only weak genetic traces in present-day Homo sapiens populations. It is well established that their extinction coincided with a period of rapidly fluctuating climatic conditions, as well as with the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe. However, determining which of these factors was the dominant cause, has remained one of the biggest challenges of evolutionary anthropology.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Science Notes – Bridging the gap in London’s prehistory

An aerial view of MOLA archaeologists excavating at Principal Place in Shoreditch – the site of the new Amazon UK HQ. [Image: © MOLA]

Over recent decades, developments in radiocarbon dating techniques have revolutionised our ability to establish the age of archaeological material and to interpret the past (see CA 359). In this month’s Science Notes we will be exploring how, thanks to further advances in this field, ‘the most significant group of Early Neolithic pottery ever uncovered in London’ has shed intriguing light on the capital’s prehistoric past.

Neolithic finds from central London are extremely rare, previously limited to a few individual fragments of pottery and stone axes – and so the discovery of almost 6.5kg of ceramics of this period, comprising 436 fragments from at least 24 separate vessels, was always going to be an important find.

Discovered by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) during excavation on behalf of Brookfield Properties at Principal Place in Shoreditch – the location of the new Amazon UK HQ – the pot sherds have now been analysed using a brand-new radiocarbon dating technique on traces of milk fats extracted from their surfaces.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Drowned Paleo-Agulhas Plain was an Eden for Early humans

The Paleo-Agulhas Plain in South Africa had diverse, verdant ecosystems and abundant game for early Humans.
In contrast to ice age environments elsewhere on Earth, it was a lush environment with a mild climate that disappeared under rising sea levels around 11,500 years ago.

An interdisciplinary, international team of scientists has now brought this pleasant cradle of humankind back to life in a special collection of articles that reconstruct the paleoecology of the Paleo-Agulhas Plain, a now-drowned landscape on the southern tip of Africa that was high and dry during glacial phases of the last 2 million years.

“These Pleistocene glacial periods would have presented a very different resource landscape for early modern human hunter-gatherers than the landscape found in modern Cape coastal lowlands, and may have been instrumental in shaping the evolution of early modern humans,” said Janet Franklin, a distinguished professor of biogeography in the department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside, an associate member of the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa, and co-author of several of the papers.

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Study suggests remnants of human migration paths exist underwater at 'choke points'

Artist’s re-creation of the first human migration to North America from across the Bering Sea
[Credit: DEA Picture Library/Deagostini/Getty Images]

Today, sea-level rise is a great concern of humanity as climate change warms the planet and melts ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Indeed, great coastal cities around the world like Miami and New Orleans could be underwater later in this century. But oceans have been rising for thousands of years, and this isn't the first time they have claimed land once settled by people. A new paper published in Geographical Review shows evidence vital to understanding human prehistory beneath the seas in places that were dry during the Last Glacial Maximum. Indeed, this paper informs one of the "hottest mysteries" in science: the debate over when the first Asians peopled North America.

The researchers behind the paper studied "choke points" -- narrow land corridors, called isthmuses but often better known for the canals that cross them, or constricted ocean passages, called straits. Typically isthmuses would have been wider 20,000 years ago due to lower sea levels, and some straits did not even exist back then.

"We looked at nine global choke points -- Bering Strait, Isthmus of Panama, Bosporus and Dardanelles, Strait of Gibraltar, straits of Sicily and Messina, Isthmus of Suez, Bab al Mandab, Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Malacca -- to see what each was like 20,000 years ago when more water was tied up in ice sheets and glaciers," said lead author Jerry Dobson, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Kansas and president emeritus of the American Geographical Society. "During the Last Glacial Maximum, the ocean surface was 410 feet lower than today. So, worldwide the amount of land that has been lost since the glaciers melted is equivalent to South America."

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Ancient Tap O' Noth hillfort in Aberdeenshire one of 'largest ever'

Tap O' Noth overlooks Rhynie

A hillfort in Aberdeenshire is one of the largest ancient settlements ever discovered in Scotland, researchers have said.

University of Aberdeen archaeologists say 4,000 people may have lived in more than 800 huts perched high on the Tap O' Noth near Rhynie.

Many had thought it dated from the Bronze or Iron Age.

The team said carbon dating suggested it was likely to be Pictish, dating back as far as the third century AD.

They believe at its height it may have rivalled the largest known post-Roman settlements in Europe.

Archaeologists from the university have conducted extensive fieldwork in the surrounding area since 2011.

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6000 Jahre altes Gerstenmalz vom Bodensee

Ein schalenförmiges verkohltes Getreideprodukt von Hornstaad-Hörnle. (Abb: Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden / L. Kubiak-Martens [])

Stammt das älteste Bier Europas aus Baden-Württemberg?

Einem internationalen Forscherteam unter der Leitung des Archäobotanikers Dr. Andreas Heiss (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften) ist es gelungen, gemälzte Gerste in prähistorischen Gefäßen aus Pfahlbausiedlungen am Bodensee nachzuweisen. Die Forschungsergebnisse bestätigen, dass malzhaltige Getränke bereits im 4. Jahrtausend vor Christus in Baden-Württemberg zubereitet wurden.

Bisher galten keltische Fundstellen des 5. bis 4. Jahrhunderts vor Christus, ebenso im heutigen Baden-Württemberg, als älteste Brauereien Mitteleuropas. Weltweit stammen die ältesten Brauereinachweise bisher aus Israel mit Datierungen aus dem 12. Jahrtausend vor Christus.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Coronavirus: Lockdown boost for archaeology as amateurs uncover Roman remains

The technology can 'strip away' vegetation and modern features to reveal what is underneath

Self-isolating volunteers analyse aerial survey maps to reveal ancient roads and settlements.

Lockdown has given archaeology an unexpected boost with volunteers finding previously unrecorded Roman, prehistoric and medieval sites from the comfort of their own homes.

In a project coordinated by a team at Exeter University, enthusiastic amateurs have been analysing images derived from Lidar (light detection and ranging) data - laser technology used during aerial surveys to produce highly detailed topographical maps.

Modern vegetation and buildings can be digitally removed, allowing archaeologists to look at the shape of the land surface to find the remains of archaeological earthworks.

The data is being systematically examined and cross-referenced with records of known archaeology and historic maps, meaning the total of new discoveries regularly changes.

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Archeologists discover prehistoric sites – while working from home

A probable Iron Age or Roman enclosed settlement (indicated by red arrows) and an associated field system (inidicated by blue arrows), which is hidden beneath woodland but has been revealed by volunteers using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data during lockdown. (Credits: PA)

Dozens of previously-unrecorded Roman, prehistoric and medieval sites have been discovered by archaeology volunteers based at home during the coronavirus lockdown. Digging may be on hold due to the pandemic, but the team have found parts of two Roman roads, around 30 prehistoric or Roman large embanked settlement enclosures, and some 20 prehistoric burial mounds, as well as the remains of hundreds of medieval farms, field systems and quarries. 

Those leading the project believe they will make many more discoveries in the coming weeks. 

The team are analysing images derived from LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Archaeologists find Neolithic quay near Newgrange

The quay was discovered near Newgrange GETTY

The archaeologists told a conference that they had discovered "features that were clearly manmade" under the surface of the River Boyne.

Archaeologists may have uncovered a 5,000-year-old quay on the bottom of the River Boyne, near the famous Newgrange Neolithic passage grave. 

Annalisa Christie, of University College Dublin, and Dr. Kieran Westley, of the University of Ulster, carried out the sonar study at the end of February. 

The scientists made the discovery close to the Brú na Bóinne complex in County Meath, which contains about 100 Neolithic monuments, including the passage graves at Newgrange, Dowth, and Knowth. 

Brú na Bóinne is one of the most important Neolithic sites in the world and it looks as though scientists have made yet another discovery close to the historic area. 

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Humans and Neanderthals 'co-existed in Europe for far longer than thought'

Stone artefacts found at Bacho Kiro cave. Photograph: Tsenka Tsanova/SWNS

Cave objects suggest modern humans and Neanderthals shared continent for several thousand years

Modern humans were present in Europe at least 46,000 years ago, according to new research on objects found in Bulgaria, meaning they overlapped with Neanderthals for far longer than previously thought.

Researchers say remains and tools found at a cave called Bacho Kiro reveal that modern humans and Neanderthals were present at the same time in Europe for several thousand years, giving them ample time for biological and cultural interaction.

“Our work in Bacho Kiro shows there is a time overlap of maybe 8,000 years between the arrival of the first wave of modern humans in eastern Europe and the final extinction of Neanderthals in the far west of Europe,” said Prof Jean-Jacques Hublin, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, a co-author of the research, adding that that was far longer than previously thought. Some scholars have suggested a period of not more than 3,000 years.

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Monday, May 11, 2020

1,700-year-old board game found in Norwegian burial mound

The burial cairn site [Credit: UiB]

This April, the University Museum of Bergen, excavated the remains of a small Early Iron Age grave cairn at Ytre Fosse, Western Norway. The location is spectacular, overlooking Alversund and the “Indre Skipsleia”, a part of the old shipping lane, Nordvegen, – which gave Norway its name. The whole area is dotted with monumental grave mounds on both sides of Alversund, symbols of an Iron Age political landscape and the power and control of goods and travels along the Norwegian coast. 

The grave turned out to be a cremation patch containing 3 ceramic pots, a bronze pin, burnt glass and 18 gaming pieces and an elongated dice. The dice is of a very rare type, exclusive for Roman Iron Age (AD 1 - 400). In Scandinavia, similar dices are found in the famous Vimose weapon-offering site at Fyn, Denmark.

At Vimose also the gaming board was preserved, giving a unique view into Early Iron Age board games among the Germanic tribes in Scandinavia. Board games, inspired by the Roman game Ludus latrunculorum, seems to have been played amongst the elite in Roman Iron Age Scandinavia. These games are also the forerunner to the more famous Viking Age (AD 750-1050) board game Hnefatafl.

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2,200-year-old Celtic village discovered in Hungary

Aerial view of the site showing excavated houses 
[Credit: Andriko Lajos, Deri Museum, Pelta Bt]

Archaeologists from the museum made the discovery during a rescue excavation prior to a construction project in the area of the Tocoskert housing estate, at the end of Derek Street.

The late Iron Age village, probably dating to the third-second centuries BC, occupies approximately 8,000-square-metre on the eastern bank of the Toco stream, which slopes slightly towards the watercourse.

Archaeologists have managed to excavate several rectangular houses, measuring twelve to thirteen square feet in area, as well as numerous artefacts, including ceramics, objects made of bone, iron and clay, as well as the remains both domesticated and wild animals.

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A Wedding Photographer Took an Online Archaeology Class During Lockdown—and May Have Discovered a Lost Stonehenge-Like Structure

Wedding photographer Chris Sedden spotted what could possibly be traces of a newly discovered henge in the village of Swarkestone in south Derbyshire in an aerial photograph. 
Photo courtesy of Google Earth.

Excavations may be paused, but discoveries are still being made thanks to aerial photography and high-tech scans that are available online.

Excavations around the world have ceased activity as archaeologists observe widespread stay-at-home orders. But that didn’t stop a British wedding photographer from making an intriguing archaeological discovery of his own—without ever leaving his house.

Chris Sedden found himself out of work during the shutdown as government restrictions put an end to weddings and other large gatherings. But the break in his normal routine afforded Sedden the opportunity to put on his amateur archaeology hat and spend hours pouring over images of the terrain surrounding his home in southern Derbyshire.

As he scanned along the River Trent, near the village of Swarkestone, he noticed something strange. “I thought, ‘what’s that? It looks a bit odd, and a bit round,’” Sedden told the Guardian.

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Climate change could unlock Ice Age bugs that spark the world’s next pandemic

Humans could be exposed to ‘eradicated’ or completely new microbes because of climate change thawing (Picture: Getty)

Dr Dennis Carroll – who appears in the Netflix documentary Pandemic – said we should be ‘should be exceedingly cautious about underestimating the potential threats’ that reborn germs could pose. Speaking exclusively to, Dr Carroll – dubbed ‘the man who saw the pandemic coming’ – also warned that diseases spread from wildlife should also be seen as a global health concern following the coronavirus outbreak. His intervention comes as scientists today published new research on how rising temperatures melting ‘permafrost’ Arctic soil could give a new lease of life to dormant microbes. Those bacteria and viruses, frozen for thousands of years, could potentially include diseases which humanity has previously ‘eradicated’ – and ones we have never encountered. Dr Carroll explained: ‘The world is faced with the very real prospect that ancient microbes which have long lay dormant beneath the frozen tundra will be given a new life with climate change and the thawing of the Arctic north. 

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Stone Tools Show How Humans Survived a Supervolcano Eruption 74,000 Years Ago

(Chris Clor/Getty Images)

Of all the volcanic eruptions to shake our planet in the last 2 million years, the Toba super-eruption in Sumatra, Indonesia, was one of the most colossal. But it may not have been the global catastrophe we once thought it was.

The massive eruption happened roughly 74,000 years ago, spewing roughly 1,000 times as much rock as the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens. For a while there, some thought the fall-out was so extreme, it triggered a decade-long "volcanic winter" and a millenia-long glacial period.

This so-called Toba catastrophe theory left the global human population with just a few thousand survivors. Except, that's probably an exaggeration.

In recent times, archaeological evidence in Asia and Africa has suggested that while the eruption was indeed tremendous, the consequences were not so apocalyptic after all, and it certainly didn't leave humans on the brink of extinction.

Now, an ancient and "unchanging" stone tool industry, uncovered at Dhaba in northern India, suggests instead that humans have been present in the Middle Son Valley for roughly 80,000 years, both before and after the Toba eruption.

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

Previously unknown cliff ring fort discovered by drone operator in Clare

image: Matthew Kelly

A PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN cliff ring fort has been discovered in Co Clare by a drone operator during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Matthew Kelly was operating a drone near Crag, Lahinch when he made the archaeological find.

His discovery came two years after he previously uncovered a group of 5000-year-old forts in Dundalk, Co Louth

Kelly’s latest find had not been previously recorded in the National Monuments Service (NMS) database, but has since been officially added.

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Neanderthal Flute – Divje Babe Flute

The world’s oldest Musical Instrument – Divje Babe Flute

The Divje Babe Flute is made from the bone of a cave bear femur, and it is pierced by holes that have the spacing and alignment of a flute. It is possibly the world’s oldest known musical instrument, and some archeologists believe that Neanderthals made it.

Divje Babe is the oldest known archaeological site in Slovenia. The cave is 45 meters (148 ft) long and up to 15 meters (49 ft) wide and is near Cerkno and the Idrijca River in Slovenia.

Researchers have uncovered more than 600 archaeological items in at least ten levels, including twenty hearths and the skeletal remains of cave bears.

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Neandertals were choosy about making bone tools

Evidence continues to mount that the Neandertals, who lived in Europe and Asia until about 40,000 years ago, were more sophisticated people than once thought. A new study from UC Davis shows that Neandertals chose to use bones from specific animals to make a tool for specific purpose: working hides into leather.

Naomi Martisius, research associate in the Department of Anthropology, studied Neandertal tools from sites in southern France for her doctoral research. The Neandertals left behind a tool called a lissoir, a piece of animal rib with a smoothed tip used to rub animal hides to make them into leather. These lissoirs are often worn so smooth that it's impossible to tell which animal they came from just by looking at them.

Martisius and colleagues used highly sensitive mass spectrometry to look at residues of collagen protein from the bones. The method is called ZooMS, or zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry. The technique breaks up samples into fragments that can be identified by their mass to charge ratio and used to reconstruct the original molecule.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Archaeologists have discovered unknown forts in Greater Poland

Taczanow Stonghold – Image Credit : Maksym Mackiewicz

Ten newly discovered forts have been revealed by archaeologists applying aerial photography and magnetic measurements in south-eastern Wielkopolska, Poland.
Several sites had been mentioned in historical literature, but their location had remained unknown, as many monuments in the region had been leveled in recent decades due to high levels of agricultural activity.

PAP project manager, archaeologist Maksym Mackiewicz said: “In the region, we have over one hundred forts of various forms from different periods. The discovery is a surprise because this area was quite well recognised in terms of archaeology. This is due to the availability of increasingly new methods we use.”

Most of the recently documented forts have been examined by archaeologists carrying out field observations. The research team found pottery sherds from various periods that date from the early Iron Age to the late Middle Ages.

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Archaeology offers clues to pandemic rebounds from the past

As the COVID-19 pandemic redefines what we think of as "normal," archaeology and ancient history can provide some consolation about the great adaptability of our species.

Flinders University archaeologist and ancient historian Dr. Ania Kotarba points to responses of extreme historical events that have threatened homo sapiens in the past as evidence that society—and the economy—can, and will, spring back again.

Dr. Kotarba researches global connectivity in the past through studying ancient international trade routes and human adaptation to extreme change.

She says the processes of urbanization, population growth and proto-globalization in the ancient world initially allowed outbreaks of infectious diseases and epidemics. These often surprisingly resulted in boosting the economy.

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Where and When Did Humans Domesticate Horses?

In the increasingly urbanized world, few people still ride horses for reasons beyond sport or leisure. However, on horseback, people, goods and ideas moved across vast distances, shaping the power structures and social systems of the premechanized era. From the trade routes of the Silk Road or the great Mongol Empire to the equestrian nations of the American Great Plains, horses were the engines of the ancient world.

Where, when and how did humans first domesticate horses?

Tracing the origins of horse domestication in the prehistoric era has proven to be an exceedingly difficult task. Horses – and the people who care for them – tend to live in remote, dry or cold grassland regions, moving often and leaving only ephemeral marks in the archaeological record. In the steppes, pampas and plains of the world, historic records are often ambiguous or absent, archaeological sites are poorly investigated and research is published in a variety languages.

At the heart of the issue is a more basic struggle: How can you distinguish a “domestic” animal from its wild cousin? What does it even mean to be “domesticated”? And can scientists trace this process in archaeological sites that are thousands of years old and often consist of nothing more than piles of discarded bones?

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Sardis, Salihli, Turkey

THE RUINS OF SARDIS ARE located in what is now the small town of Sart in Turkey. What is today an archaeological site filled with ancient buildings was once the grand capital of the kingdom of Lydia. The Lydian kingdom flourished in the Iron Age, until it was conquered by Cyrus the Great, king of Achaemenid Persia, in 546 B.C. 

Two centuries later, Sardis surrendered to Alexander the Great, then fell into the hands of the Romans, and then was conquered by the Byzantine Empire. A rivalry with the Seljuk Turks followed, around which time the city’s decline began. In 1402, when the city was captured by the Turco-Mongol warlord Timur (also known as Tamerlane), it had been all but destroyed and was left to ruin until archaeological excavations began in the 19th century.

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How did Iron Age Society Cope with Crisis?

The Cairns Broch looking across to the North Sea

There can be no doubt that we are experiencing a major international crisis that affects all our lives, all of the time at the moment.

It would appear that this crisis may indeed change the way we do things for some considerable time and may even change our society permanently.

As a society we are aided in our understanding of the Covid-19 emergency and the way we can address the social, economic and political effects through our use of technology…..but what of society in the Iron Age? How did they cope with emergencies that affected their way of life? Did they change their way of doing things permanently?

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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

DNA analysis sheds light on whalebone use in Iron Age Orkney

The Cairns broch, looking across to the North Sea. 
[Image: Andrew Hollingrake / UHI Archaeology Institute]

Recent DNA analysis of whalebone artefacts found at The Cairns, Orkney, has shed light on the relationship between these marine mammals and the site’s Iron Age community, as well as hinting why the large local broch may have been demolished in the 2nd century AD.

Excavations at The Cairns, near Winwick Bay on South Ronaldsay, Orkney, have been carried out by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) since 2006. These investigations have uncovered the remains of an Iron Age stone tower, or broch, which was deliberately dismantled (see CA 275) as well as later Iron Age structures. The site has also yielded a variety of artefacts, more than 30 of which were made of whalebone – this included a large vessel that had been carved from a whale vertebra (see CA 323), found just outside the broch’s entrance and containing the lower jawbone of an older man who died c.AD 120–240.

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Let the Dice Roll! 1,700 Year Old Board Game Found in Early Iron-Age Norwegian Burial Mound

Sensasjonelt funn i Alver. – Dette er statusgjenstander som vitner om kontakt med Romerriket, sier arkeolog.

Board games of this kind indicate broad contacts with the Roman Empire, researchers say.

Game chips and dice have been found in an early Iron Age tomb in northern Hordland in Norway.

The discovery dates from the early Iron Age (circa 300 AD) in a burial mound at Ytre Fosse near Alversund in the municipality of Alver in connection with plot development. A total of 13 whole and five broken game chips were unearthed, complete with a die.

The place is close to the narrow strait Alverstraumen, which was a central point on the maritime way between the north and south, the so-called “Nordvegen”, or “North Way”, which gave Norway its name.

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Sur les bords de l’Isle, à Boulazac en Dordogne, l'Inrap a fouillé le site de Landry et révélé les vestiges d'un campement de chasseurs solutréens, dont un remarquable dépôt de plaquettes de schiste gravées de motifs figuratifs ou géométriques 

À Boulazac, près de Périgueux en Dordogne, le site de plein-air du Solutréen de Landry est localisé à moins de 200 mètres au sud de la rivière l’Isle. Fouillé en 2011-2012, il a livré les vestiges d’un campement de chasseurs solutréens, conservés dans une séquence stratigraphique limoneuse datée entre 27000 ans et 16000 ans. Seuls les objets lithiques étaient préservés, les éventuels déchets et objets en matières organiques ayant été détruits après enfouissement.

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Menschliche Schädelkalotte aus dem Bodensee ist jetzt datiert

Schädelfund im Bodensee 
(Foto Tobias Pflederer, Bayr. Gesellschaft für Unterwasserarchäologie e.V.)

Die Überreste eines alten menschlichen Schädels stammen aus der späten Bronzezeit und liefern Hinweise auf eine bislang unentdeckte Siedlung am Ufer des bayerischen Bodensees. Die Suche danach soll 2020 fortgesetzt werden.

Nach der radiometrischen Analyse steht jetzt das Alter der 2019 bei Wasserburg aus dem Bodensee geborgenen Schädelkalotte fest: Sie stammt aus dem 10. bis 9. Jahrhundert vor Christus und gehörte wahrscheinlich zu einer Frau. Damit sind die menschlichen Knochen ungefähr 200 Jahre jünger als der Einbaum, der im Jahr zuvor nur 70 Meter entfernt aus der Eschbachbucht gezogen worden war. Trotz des Altersunterschieds deuten die Knochen auf eine bronzezeitliche Siedlung oder einen Bestattungsplatz in der näheren Umgebung hin.

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Monday, May 4, 2020

Lost Bronze Age hill forts discovered in Devon

The 100ft wide circle on a hilltop above Berry Pomeroy (Image: Darren Murray)

Amateur archaeologist and photographer Darren Murray believes he has discovered two hidden ancient monuments during lockdown by using his local knowledge and a new type of laser light technology.

The county archaeologist is now looking into the find. Darren, a well-known local photographer from Brixham, says there are two previously undiscovered Bronze Age hilltop forts on the outskirts of Paignton. He used a LIDAR computer programme which has traced lost Mayan pyramids in the jungles of South America. It works by revealing in 3D the shape of the ground beneath the trees.

Darren also used photography filters which made previously hard to spot details leap out. His photographs reveal in detail the exciting 100ft wide structures. He believes they are clear pictures of uni-vellate single ring fortresses, possibly built by the Dumnonii tribe which inhabited Devon and Cornwall.

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Sunday, May 3, 2020

Ancient Greeks May Have Used World’s First Computer to Predict the Future

The Antikythera Mechanism known as the world’s oldest computer. 
(Credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

After Greek sponge divers stumbled on the wreck of an ancient ship off the coast of the island of Antikythera in 1901, excavations recovered a massive haul of treasures including glassware, ceramics, furniture, jewelry and statues of both marble and bronze. By far the most stunning artifact recovered, however, was a mangled, fragmented jumble of bronze gears and plates, all encrusted with centuries’ worth of sediment.

Dating to the first century B.C., the so-called Antikythera mechanism stands as one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries ever made. It has been called the world’s first mechanical computer, showcasing the engineering prowess of the ancient Greeks as well as their impressive knowledge of astronomy. Nothing else like it would emerge for more than 1,000 years.

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Plastered Human Skulls from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Age

This Plastered Human Skull is a reconstructed human skull that was made in the ancient Levant about 9,000 BC in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period.

It represents one of the oldest forms of art in the Middle East and the earliest examples of sculptural portraiture in the history of art.

This prehistoric artifact is representative of the earliest forms of burial practices in the southern Levant and demonstrates that some cultures took great care in burying their ancestors below their homes.

The human skull was removed from the body, and its cavities filled with plaster and painted. To create more life-like faces, shells were inset for eyes, and paint was used to represent facial features, hair, and mustaches.

This burial practice may represent an early form of ancestor worship, where the plastered skulls were used to commemorate and respect family ancestors. Other experts argue that the plastered skulls could be linked to the practice of headhunting, and used as trophies.

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Saturday, May 2, 2020

4,200-year-old burial of Bronze Age chieftain discovered under UK skate park

Archaeologists excavate the Bronze Age burials at Lechlade Skate Park in southwestern England.
(Image: © Foundations Archaeology)

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a Bronze Age chieftain buried with profound wealth: Instead of receiving just one cattle "head and hoof" offering in his grave, a prize item reserved for VIP burials of that age, the chieftain had four such offerings.

Even more confounding was the discovery of another burial near the chieftain's remains, that of an older man buried in a seated position, according to Foundations Archaeology, a British-based archaeological consultancy. The older man was buried with one head and hoof offering and nothing else, said Andy Hood, an archaeologist with Foundations Archaeology, who helped excavate the site.

"One of the mysteries is, what was the relationship between those two men?" Hood told Live Science. The two likely had some type of social bond, but it's unclear why they were buried so close to each other, he said.

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