Monday, July 27, 2020

3,000-year-old house remains unearthed in Belgium

Credit: Aron Archaeological Research Agency

Sebastiaan Augustin of Aron, the organisation that is carrying out the archaeological project: “We encountered the floorplan of a house dating from the Iron Age. We can date it to between 770 and 430 before the Common Era. That’s before the Romans got here.

A little further to the east we found a ring of a ditch with pieces of charcoal. It dates from between 1,600 and 1,500 before the Common Era. That’s the middle of the Bronze Age. That’s quite a bit older than the house and may form part of a grave monument.”

“It’s always nice when we find things like this. It doesn’t really surprise us. The Haspengouw area has always been very suitable for farming. It is nice to see that even before the Romans villas like these can be found in our area."

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Sunday, July 26, 2020

Well-preserved mammoth skeleton found in Siberian lake

Russian scientists are working to retrieve the well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth, which has some ligaments still attached to it, from a lake in northern Siberia.

Fragments of the skeleton were found by local reindeer herders in the shallows of Pechevalavato Lake on the Yamalo-Nenets region a few days ago. They found part of the animal’s skull, the lower jaw, several ribs, and a foot fragment with sinews still intact.

Woolly mammoths are thought to have died out around 10,000 years ago, although scientists think small groups of them may have lived on longer in Alaska and on Russia’s Wrangel Island off the Siberian coast.

Russian television stations on Friday showed scientists looking for fragments of the skeleton in the lakeside silt.

Scientists have retrieved more bones and also located more massive fragments protruding from the silt. They said it would take significant time and special equipment to recover the rest of the skeleton — if it had all survived in position.

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Friday, July 24, 2020

Subterranean Scans Reveal New Mysteries at an Ancient Irish ‘Fort’

The hilltop remains of Navan Fort, an Iron Age site that a new paper argues has a broader history than previously thought.

Navan Fort is perched on an Irish hilltop, but some of its history hides beneath the soil.

ON A COLD AND WET day in March 2018, a van crammed with equipment and Scottish and Irish archaeologists rolled up alongside Navan Fort, a prominent hilltop settlement in Northern Ireland that’s not far from the modern border with Ireland. A ringed enclosure that sits on a tall hill in the countryside, Navan Fort is easy to pick out. It was one of the ceremonial centers of pre-Gaelic Ireland, and even has a visitor’s center today. But that March, the archaeologists were seeking remains that didn’t meet the eye.

Lo and behold, they found some. According to their recent study, published in the open-access Oxford Journal of Archaeology, the physical footprint and outsized role of Navan Fort may have been even larger and more lasting than previously thought. Using a combination of non-invasive archaeological surveys—one that measured the magnetic properties of the soil, and another that measures how the dirt conducts electricity—the team found the remnants of subterranean structures, suggesting that the site was occupied earlier than previously believed. They also found evidence of habitation much later than previously thought, clear through to the arrival of St. Patrick in the area, and the patron saint’s founding of the local ecclesiastical see.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

New light cast on Scotland's Bronze Age mountain dwellers on Arran

Radiocarbon dating of a piece of burnt wood found at the site in Glen Rosa has concluded that the house was occupied around 1,400BC. Picture: Frame Creates

Radiocarbon dating of a piece of burnt wood found at the site in Glen Rosa has concluded that the house was occupied around 1,400BC in what has been described as an “exciting” discovery by National Trust for Scotland, which led the dig at the site.

The roundhouse, which was built in Coire a’ Bhradain, which sits some 384 metres above sea level and is the highest known Iron Age site on the island.

It is now believed the roundhouse, which measured around six-metres wide, was used as temporary shelter during deer hunting trips through ‘the Bowman’s Pass’ at the top of the coire.

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Scientists find new evidence of massive tsunami that devastated ancient Britain in 6200BC

The North Sea, Storegga underwater landslide event run-out, associated deposit locations
and core ELF001A [Credit: Gaffney et al. 2020]

Evidence of the catastrophic event has already been found in onshore sediments in Western Scandinavia, the Faroe Isles, northeast Britain, Denmark and Greenland but now for the first time confirmation of the event has been found on the UK’s southern coasts.

The giant tsunami, known as the Storegga Slide, was caused when an area of seabed the size of Scotland (measuring some 80,000sq km and around 3,200 cubic km) shifted suddenly.

This triggered huge waves that would have brought devastation to an inhabited ancient land bridge, which once existed between the UK and mainland Europe - an area known as Doggerland - that is now submerged beneath the North Sea.

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The clues to ancient humans hidden beneath the sea

Submerged in eleven metres of water sits a landscape that could contain tantalising clues to Britain’s earliest farmers. It’s also at serious threat from erosion by the sea - meaning a race against time to discover and preserve as much as possible.

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Iron Age Butter Identified in Scotland

(Courtesy of The Scottish Crannog Centre)

According to a report in The Scotsman, researchers have recovered a 2,500-year-old wooden dish from Loch Tay, a freshwater lake in Scotland’s central highlands. Chisel marks are still visible on the dish, which is thought to have fallen into the water with one of the at least 17 crannogs, or Iron Age wooden houses that once stood on stilts at the site. “Because of the fantastic anaerobic conditions, where there is very little light, oxygen, or bacteria to break down anything organic, you get this type of sealed environment,” explained archaeologist Rich Hiden of the Scottish Crannog Centre.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Neolithic “Venus of Egerszeg” Unearthed in Hungary

ZALAEGERSZEG, HUNGARY—Hungary Today reports that researchers from the Göcsej Museum unearthed a fragment of a 6,500-year-old figurine at the site of a large Lengyel settlement at a construction site in western Hungary. Named the “Venus of Egerszeg,” the sculpted clay fragment depicts a woman’s torso. The researchers suggest that the figure was deliberately broken into small pieces as part of a fertility rite. Other ceramic fragments, some of which had been painted yellow, red, and white, and stone tools were also recovered. To read about a 23,000-year-old Gravettian Venus figurine recently found in France, go to "Artifact." 

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6500-Year-Old Statuette ‘Venus of Egerszeg’ Showcased

Archaeologists at the Göcsej Museum found fragments of a 6,500-year-old idol, an artistically detailed female clay statue from the Lengyel culture – an archaeological culture of the European Neolithic period, centered on the Middle Danube in Central Europe – during excavations related to the construction of the Zalaegerszeg Automotive Test Track. It has been named ‘Venus of Egerszeg’ and according to the museum, it will be the most impressive piece of the virtual exhibition presenting the prehistory of Zalaegerszeg and Zala county.

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Neanderthal extinction in Western Mediterranean area not caused by climate change

Stalagmites are ecellent paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental archives
[Credit: O. Lacarbonara]

The study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, focused on the Murge karst plateau in Puglia, where Neanderthals and Homo sapiens lived together for at least three thousand years, from about 45,000 to 42,000 years ago. A period during which data extracted from stalagmites do not show significant climate change.

"The Apulian area we are researching emerges as a 'climate niche' during the transition between Neanderthal and Modern Man," explains researcher Andrea Columbu, the first author of the study. "It is therefore unlikely that drastic changes in climate have led to the disappearance of Neanderthals in Apulia and, by extension, in similar Mediterranean climatic areas".

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Attard's 3000-year-old cart ruts covered to be 'preserved'

These ancient cart ruts have been buried under the new road being built in Attard despite appeals to incorporate them into the project, although they have been preserved for future study. 
Photos: Daniel Cilia

Recently discovered cart ruts in Attard - proof that Mdina Road has been a popular thoroughfare for thousands of years - are being reburied out of sight under the Central Link Project.

Infrastructure Malta (IM) said that the cart ruts will not be damaged and will be “preserved for future studies”.

The cart ruts, in the Wied Inċita area, may date back to the prehistoric Bronze Age (2,500 to 750BC) and seem to have been used for several centuries, including in the classical era. They are the only known cart ruts in the area.

The Archaeological Society Malta and Din l-Art Ħelwa have strongly urged IM to redesign the road alignment, in close consultation with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, to allow the cart ruts to remain visible.

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Archaeologists discover evidence of Iron Age settlement at housing site in St Neots

Archaeology dig at Wintringham Park in St Neots reveals evidence of Iron Age

Evidence of the Iron Age, including 17 ancient roundhouses, has been discovered during an archaeology dig in St Neots.

As part of the site preparation work at the Wintringham Park site, on the eastern edge of St Neots, extensive archaeological investigations have been carried out.

Due to the nature of its work and the ability to social distance, Cambridge-based Oxford Archaeology East has been able to continue to work at Wintringham through the Coronavirus pandemic. It has opened up around 85 per cent (10.5hectares) of Phase One of the development and unearthed a vast array of discoveries, mostly from the Iron Age period.

The Iron Age marks a significant milestone in human history as the discovery of iron, and how to use it to create tools, transformed lives. The ability to make tools made farming easier than before and settlements started to grow in size. A standard Iron Age roundhouse would have been a circular building (usually 10-15m in diameter) with a conical thatched roof; the ultimate open plan living with life revolving around a central open-hearth fire used for warmth, light and cooking.

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New research shows climate was the key factor impacting the movement of the first farmers across Europe

The four major axes of expansion of the Neolithic migration, with key dates noted
[Credit: University of Roehampton]

The research, a collaboration between the University of Roehampton, the University of Cambridge and several other institutions, combined archaeological data with palaeoclimatic reconstructions to show for the first time that climate dramatically impacted the migration of people across Europe, causing a dramatic slowdown between 6,100 BCE and 4,500 BCE.

The research team, including Dr. Lia Betti, Senior Lecturer of the University of Roehampton, assembled a large database of the first arrival dates of Neolithic farmers across the continent and studied the speed of their migration in relation to climatic reconstructions of the time. They also re-analysed ancient DNA data to understand the interaction between early farmers and local hunter-gatherers.

They discovered migration started quickly out of south-eastern Europe, with Neolithic farmers pushing out the existing hunter-gatherer population. This was demonstrated by how little the DNA of the two groups mixed. As they moved north, the climate became less suitable for the crops they had bought with them. Their pace of movement slowed, changing how they interacted with local hunter-gatherers, which can be seen through increased genetic admixture of the two groups.

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Navan Fort: Researchers believe 'huge' religious structures found

Archaeologists believe they have uncovered evidence of Iron Age Temples and other religious complexes.

Research teams believe they have found evidence of "absolutely huge" religious structures at Navan Fort outside Armagh city.

Armagh is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, home to both Catholic and Anglican archbishops.

But before the arrival of Christianity in the fifth century it was a place of huge religious importance.

Archaeologists believe they have uncovered evidence of Iron Age temples and other religious complexes.

The research teams from Queen's University Belfast (QUB) and the University of Aberdeen have been using magnetic gradiometry and an electrical resistance survey to help find potential structures at the site.

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Klima war der Schlüsselfaktor bei der Ausbreitung der ersten Bauern in Europa

Die vier Hauptausdehnungsachsen der neolithischen Migration in Europa.
Karte: University of Roehampton

Das Forschungsteam stellte eine große Datenbank mit den ersten Ankunftsdaten neolithischer Bauern auf dem ganzen Kontinent zusammen und untersuchte die Geschwindigkeit ihrer Wanderung im Zusammenhang mit klimatischen Rekonstruktionen der damaligen Zeit. Sie analysierten auch alte DNA-Daten erneut, um die Interaktion zwischen frühen Bauern und lokalen Jägern und Sammlern besser zu verstehen.

Dabei stellten die Wissenschaftler fest, dass die Migration von Südosteuropa aus schnell begann, wobei die neolithischen Bauern die bestehende Jäger-Sammler-Population verdrängten. Dies zeigte sich daran, wie wenig sich die DNA der beiden Gruppen vermischte. Als sie nach Norden zogen, wurde das Klima weniger geeignet für die Feldfrüchte, die sie mit sie mit sich brachten. Die Ausbreitungsgeschwindigkeit verlangsamte sich und veränderte die Art und Weise, wie die Neuankömmlinge mit den lokalen Jägern und Sammlern interagierten, was sich an der zunehmenden genetischen Vermischung der beiden Gruppen ablesen lässt.

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Late Neolithic Monument

(Anthony Murphy)

Brú na Bóinne, or the Palace of the Boyne, on Ireland’s east coast, features an astounding concentration of prehistoric monuments. More than 90 are known in all, and summer 2018’s scorching weather has added yet another—only traces of which were seen in a previous lidar survey. Located just north of the River Boyne, the new monument dates to 2900–2500 B.C. and became visible in pits, postholes, and sections of ditch.

The monument, which likely served as a site for rituals, features a circular double ditch broken up into sections. The entire complex is surrounded by a double ring of timber posts. “The posts may have been connected in some way to create a wall or fence,” says archaeologist Stephen Davis of University College Dublin. Sectioned ditches are nearly unknown in the late Neolithic, according to Davis, and while double rings of posts dating to the period have been found in Scotland, they had never before been found in Ireland. A box-shaped structure on the monument’s western side once had particularly large posts, and may have served as an entrance. Davis notes that the newly discovered monument probably had some relationship to another one just to its southeast, which also appeared this summer as a wide, desiccated ring marking what was once an earthen or stone bank.

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Evidence of Iron Age temples uncovered at Navan Fort

Archaeologists believe they have uncovered evidence of Iron Age temples and residences of early kings of Ulster at Navan Fort.

Archaeologists believe they have uncovered “significant” evidence of Iron Age temples and residences of early kings of Ulster at Navan Fort, close to Armagh City.

Academics from Northern Irish, Scottish and German institutes say they have found indications of “a vast temple complex and ceremonial centre of prehistoric Europe”, as well as the first evidence of continued medieval activity during the period when Navan Fort was associated with the kingship of Ulster.

The discovery was made adjacent to the Navan Fort visitor centre which is associated with Cúchulainn, the Red Branch Knights and the Ulster Cycle of tales. It is also associated with Conchobar Mac Nessa, King of Ulster, Deirdre of the Sorrows and her warrior lover Naoise.

The research was conducted using a non-invasive survey, led by Dr Patrick Gleeson, senior lecturer in archaeology at the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast and his team of colleagues from the University of Aberdeen and the German Archaeological Institute, Frankfurt.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Prehistoric ocher mine in Mexico delights archaeologists

A diver collecting samples in the ocher mine

An ancient ocher mine discovered in submerged caves on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has given insights into the lives of some of the first inhabitants of the Americas. The site goes back around 12,000 years.

Researchers in Mexico have published findings over a huge ancient ocher mine lying in caves filled with water beneath Yucatan Pensinsula.

In an article published on Friday in the journal Science Advances, scientists said more than 100 dives totaling more than 600 hours had been carried out at the site, during which a large number of mining artifacts were discovered. Divers explored some 4.3 miles (7 km) of subterranean passages in three separate cave systems.

Operations to mine ocher at the site in what is now Quintana Roo state began some 12,000 years ago, as human populations first spread through the region, and went on for about 2,000 years.

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Australian scientists discover ancient underwater Aboriginal sites

Australia’s first underwater archaeological sites off its west coast dating to more than 7,000 years ago will help with the understanding of the cultural and technology development of its first peoples, scientists said Thursday.

Archaeologists in Western Australia discovered hundreds of stone tools made by aboriginal people when the seabed was dry, at two ancient sites now submerged in the Dampier Archipelago.

While the region is well known for its rich ancient history and its rock-art carvings, the two sites are the first confirmed underwater locations holding evidence of human civilization on Australia’s continental shelf.

“The future work that we will be doing is ... to look at the skill, the technology, how they made these tools, to see if they represent a different cultural approach to tool making that we haven’t yet identified in Australia,” marine geoscientist Mick O’Leary, a co-director of the project, told Reuters.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

11,000-year-old mine in underwater cave surprises archaeologists

A diver examines stones stacked into a pile by ancient miners who extracted ocher pigment at La Mina, a site deep inside a cave in Yucatán, Mexico between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Rising seas later flooded the cave, preserving the evidence of mining for thousands of years.

In the spring of 2017, a pair of divers shimmied fin-first through a narrow passageway in a water-filled cave beneath Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. They had already swum for nearly half a mile through the cave system, winding around spires of rock jutting from the ceiling and floor, when they finally arrived at the threshold that spanned a mere 28 inches across.

In the chamber that lay beyond the tiny passage was an ancient scene preserved in stunning detail: an 11,000-year-old mining site for red ocher pigments, complete with tools and fire pits. The mine, described in a new study published today in Science Advances, is one of the few archaeological sites to reveal where and how ancient humans extracted the vibrant pigments that have been put to a host of uses around the world, including mortuary rituals, cave painting, and even sunscreen.

“I’ve spent a lot of time imagining the different ways that people in the past have gone about collecting mineral pigments,” says study author Brandi MacDonald, an archaeologist at the University of Missouri and expert on ocher pigments. “But being able to see it like this in such an interesting state of preservation, it just kind of blew me away.”

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Underwater caves in Mexico preserve one of the world’s oldest ochre mines

A diver examines a rock pile thought to be an ancient navigational marker inside a 12,000-year-old ochre mine in Quintana Roo, Mexico. © CINDAQ.ORG

Crouching as she wound her way through a pinched underground corridor, a young woman grasped a torch in one hand, soot blackening the craggy ceiling above her. Guided by stacks of stones deeper and deeper in the darkness of the cave, she finally spied her prize: a blood-red vein of rock in the fire-lit wall. It would be 10,000 years before another pair of eyes saw it again.

Now the blood-red rock—a treasured crimson mineral known as ochre—has been found again, this time by underwater divers who were the first people in tens of centuries to return to these now-submerged caves. Scientists have confirmed that the site, now part of a coastal cave system in Quintana Roo, Mexico, is one of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest known ochre mining sites. Ochre, which was used for rock art, body decoration, tanning animal hides, and possibly medicine, was a prize miners would go to great lengths to obtain, from the jungles of Mesoamerica to the grasslands of Africa.

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