Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pits add to Stonehenge mystery

Researchers say they've found two pits to the east and west of Stonehenge that may have played a role in an ancient midsummer ceremony. The discovery suggests that the 5,000-year-old circle of stones we see today may represent just a few of the pieces in a larger geographical, astronomical and cultural puzzle.

The previously undetected pits could provide clues for solving the puzzle.

"These exciting finds indicate that even though Stonehenge was ultimately the most important monument in the landscape, it may at times not have been the only, or most important ritual focus, and the area of Stonehenge may have become significant as a sacred site at a much earlier date," Vince Gaffney, an archaeology professor at the University of Birmingham, said in a news release issued over the weekend.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Archaeological discovery provides evidence of a celestial procession at Stonehenge

Archaeologists led by the University of Birmingham with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection have discovered evidence of two huge pits positioned on celestial alignment at Stonehenge.
Shedding new light on the significant association of the monument with the sun, these pits may have contained tall stones, wooden posts or even fires to mark its rising and setting and could have defined a processional route used by agriculturalists to celebrate the passage of the sun across the sky at the summer solstice.

Positioned within the Cursus pathway, the pits are on alignment towards midsummer sunrise and sunset when viewed from the Heel Stone, the enigmatic stone standing just outside the entrance to Stonehenge. For the first time, this discovery may directly link the rituals and celestial phenomena at Stonehenge to activities within the Cursus.

The international archaeological survey team, led by the University of Birmingham’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA), with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna (LBI ArchPro) have also discovered a previously unknown gap in the middle of the northern side of the Cursus, which may have provided the main entrance and exit point for processions that took place within the pathway. Stretching from west to east, the Cursus is an immense linear enclosure, 100 metres wide and two and a half kilometres across, north of Stonehenge.

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When Humans First Plied the Deep Blue Sea

In a shallow cave on an island north of Australia, researchers have made a surprising discovery: the 42,000-year-old bones of tuna and sharks that were clearly brought there by human hands. The find, reported online today in Science, provides the strongest evidence yet that people were deep-sea fishing so long ago. And those maritime skills may have allowed the inhabitants of this region to colonize lands far and wide.

The earliest known boats, found in France and the Netherlands, are only 10,000 years old, but archaeologists know they don't tell the whole story. Wood and other common boat-building materials don't preserve well in the archaeological record. And the colonization of Australia and the nearby islands of Southeast Asia, which began at least 45,000 years ago, required sea crossings of at least 30 kilometers. Yet whether these early migrants put out to sea deliberately in boats or simply drifted with the tides in rafts meant for near-shore exploration has been a matter of fierce debate.

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Archaeologists make new Stonehenge 'sun worship' find

Two previously undiscovered pits have been found at Stonehenge which point to it once being used as a place of sun worship before the stones were erected.

The pits are positioned on celestial alignment at the site and may have contained stones, posts or fires to mark the rising and setting of the sun.

An international archaeological survey team found the pits as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project.

The team is using geophysical imaging techniques to investigate the site.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Earliest' evidence of human violence

A healed fracture discovered on an ancient skull from China may be the oldest documented evidence of violence between humans, a study has shown.

The individual, who lived 150,000-200,000 years ago, suffered blunt force trauma to the right temple - possibly from being hit with a projectile.

But the ancient hunter-gatherer - whose sex is unclear - survived to tell the tale: the injury was completely healed by the time of the person's death.

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Moreton-in-Marsh Stone Age axe find leads to seaside theory

A Stone Age hand axe which was found on a building site could help prove part of Gloucestershire was once "almost on the seaside", experts have said.

Archaeologists uncovered the finely-worked stone tool, which may be about 100,000 years old, on a housing development in Moreton-in-Marsh.

They said they believed it may have been used by cavemen on the shores of a lake that spanned across the Midlands.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bronze Age hoard found in Wiltshire field

A Bronze Age hoard of more than 100 objects dating back over 2,700 years has been discovered in west Wiltshire.

The objects, including weapons and tools, were found in October in a field near Tisbury by a metal detectorist.

His initial find, a spearhead, was reported to a finds liaison officer and the site excavated by archaeologists.

Adrian Green, from the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, said "it's the biggest hoard found in the county since the Salisbury Hoard in the 1980s."

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Neanderthals Vanished Because of Their Own Success, Suggests Study

Using data obtained from the archaeological record, a team of researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado, Denver, conducted experiments using complex computer modeling to analyze evidence of how human hunter-gatherers responded culturally and biologically to the dramatic changes that took place during the last Ice Age. The results showed, among other things, that the Neanderthals, thought by many scientists to have become extinct at least in part because of their inadaptability and inability to compete with the expanding presence of modern humans, may have actually been victims of their own success.

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Earliest Sample of Minoan Hieroglyphics Found in Western Crete

A four-sided red jasper sealstone is among the finds unearthed during this season’s excavation of the Minoan peak sanctuary at Vrysinas, located south of the city of Rethymnon.  The whole area was officially announced and included in the archaeological sites list by the Central Archaeological Council of Greece.

The sealstone, which is carved on all four surfaces with characters of the Minoan Hieroglyphic script, constitutes the sole evidence to date for the presence of this earliest Minoan style of writing in Western Crete.

The excavation, which began in 2004, is conducted by the Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities under the supervision of the archaeologist Helena Papadopoulou in collaboration with Prof. Iris Tzachili from the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Crete.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Archeologists Discover Huge Ancient Greek Commercial Area On Island of Sicily

The Greeks were not always in such dire financial straits as today. German archeologists have discovered a very large commercial area from the ancient Greek era during excavations on Sicily.

Led by Professor Dr. Martin Bentz, archeologists at the University of Bonn began unearthing one of Greek antiquity's largest craftsmen's quarters in the Greek colonial city of Selinunte (7th-3rd century B.C.) on the island of Sicily during two excavation campaigns in September 2010 and in the fall of 2011.

The project is conducted in collaboration with the Italian authorities and the German Archaeological Institute. Its goal is to study an area of daily life in ancient cities that has hitherto received little attention.

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Bulgarian archaeological site destroyed by bulldozers

An archaeological site in Bulgaria, including remnants of a village said to date back 8000 years, has been destroyed by bulldozers, allegedly the work of a construction company building part of a new road from Bulgaria to Greece.

The destruction means that archaeologists have lost thousands of years of history, Bulgarian National Television reported.

A special commission from the Ministry of Culture is inspecting the damage to the site, near Momchilgrad, and police are investigating.

Zharin Velichkov, chief inspector at the Ministry of Culture’s national institute for immovable cultural heritage, said that the site had individual layers dating back thousands of years, believed to reach back as far as 6000 BCE.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bronze Age burial site excavated on Dartmoor

An early Bronze Age burial cist containing cremated bones and material dating back 4,000 years has been excavated on Dartmoor.

Archaeologists uncovered items from the site on Whitehorse Hill including a woven bag or basket and amber beads.

Cists are stone-built chests which are used for the burial of ashes.

Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) said the discovery could be one of the most important archaeological finds in 100 years.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Twigs suggest Assynt site 'genuine Iron Age broch'

Radiocarbon dating of burnt twigs found inside an ancient building in Assynt suggest its interior remained untouched after it was built in the Iron Age.

Brochs were often modified during later periods of use. One at Nybster in Caithness has evidence of possible Pictish and medieval occupation.

The dating of twigs possibly used for woven mats points to the Assynt site remaining unaltered until it collapsed.

The broch at Clachtoll was built using stones weighing up to 100kg each.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

A question of style: Reading rock art using art history

Ancient engravings and drawings are present all around the world. They are witnesses of people’s journeys through time and space. While their original meaning is lost, they still tell stories about their creator, about the content, about the climate and the environment of that time.

About rock art

Contrary to common assumptions, rock art is not only restricted to the Ice Age. It is a phenomenon that has survived until today. In northern Europe it mostly appears in the form of graffiti, which can be found nearly everywhere people have passed.

Although the meaning and purpose of today’s rock art is most probably different from ancient forms, the methodological approach to their study is similar. Researchers commonly refrain from explaining rock art’s meaning, since there is no absolute proof to any given hypotheses.

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New dating of cave site upsets Neanderthal theory

Members of our species (Homo sapiens) arrived in Europe several millennia earlier than previously thought. This was the conclusion by a team of researchers, after carrying out a re-analyses of two ancient deciduous teeth.

These teeth were discovered in 1964 in the “Grotta del Cavallo”, a cave in southern Italy. Since their discovery they have been attributed to Neanderthals, but this new study suggests they belong to anatomically modern humans. Chronometric analysis, carried out by the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford, shows that the layers within which the teeth were found date to ~43,000-45,000 cal BP. This means that the human remains are older than any other known European modern humans. The research work was published in the renowned science journal Nature.

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Prehistoric Men Scarred, Pierced, Tattooed Privates

Men in prehistoric Europe scarred, pierced and tattooed their penises, likely for ritualistic and social group reasons, according to a new study.

Analysis of phallic decorations in Paleolithic art, described in the December issue of The Journal of Urology, may also show evidence of the world's first known surgery performed on a male genital organ. The alteration, or surgery, might have just been for ornamental purposes, or a piercing, the researchers suggest.

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Ground-breaking technology shows no second chamber at Newgrange

The technology used in an attempt to find out whether a second passage tomb, which may also be aligned with a solstice event, exists at Newgrange had proved its worth during experimentation by a Slovakian team of scientists who visited the Boyne Valley, an Irish archaeologist said this week.

Dr Conor Brady, archaeologist and lecturer at Dundalk Institute of Technology, who lives at Slane, said that while there would be no "dramatic announcements" about discovery of a second chamber at Newgrange at this stage, the microgravitational technology used in the experiments had proven valuable to archaeologists and scientists.

The possibility that Newgrange could have a second passage tomb, which may also be aligned with a solstice event, was being explored by a team of Irish and Slovakians archaeologists using ground-breaking technology.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spotted Horses in Cave Art Weren’t Just a Figment, DNA Shows

Roughly 25,000 years ago in what is now southwestern France, human beings walked deep into a cave and left their enduring marks. Using materials like sticks, charcoal and iron oxides, they painted images of animals on the cave walls and ceilings — lions and mammoths and spotted horses, walking and grazing and congregating in herds.

Today, the art at the Pech-Merle cave, and in hundreds of others across Europe, is a striking testimony to human creativity well before modern times
But what were these cave paintings, exactly? Were prehistoric artists simply sketching what they saw each day on the landscape? Or were the images more symbolic, diverging from reality or representing rare or even mystical creatures? Such questions have divided archaeologists for years.

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Archaeologists Find Habitation Sites in Port of Rotterdam

The site of what is now Rotterdam’s Yangtzehaven was inhabited by humans in the Middle Stone Age. At a depth of 20 metres, in the sea bed, unique underwater archaeological investigation found traces of bone, flint and charcoal from around 7000 BC. These finds are the very first scientific proof that humans lived at this spot in the Early and Middle Stone Age. Up to now, very little was known about this period in particular, the Early and Middle Mesolithic, so far to the west of the Netherlands.

The striking results were announced yesterday by the Port of Rotterdam Authority and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. The Port Authority’s Project Organisation Maasvlakte 2 is responsible for the expansion of the port in the form of Maasvlakte 2. The archaeological investigation that is being conducted is part of a series of studies being carried out in connection with the construction of Maasvlakte 2. Delltares, Bureau Oudheidkundig Onderzoek Rotterdam (Archaeological Research Office) and the Archeologisch Dienstencentrum (Archaeological Service Centre) are among the parties involved in these studies. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands is guiding the research and is the supervisory authority.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Human Ancestor 'Family' May Not Have Been Related

A famous trail of footprints once thought to have been left behind by a family of three human ancestors may have actually been made by four individuals traveling at different times.

In a new examination of Laetoli in northern Tanzania, where a 3.6-million-year-old track of footprints of the bipedal human ancestor Australopithecus is preserved, researchers now argue that the classic understanding of this site is mistaken. The footprints have been buried since the mid-1990s for preservation, but a section recently opened for study as Tanzanian officials make plans for a museum on the site.

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Prehistoric Cave Paintings of Horses Were Spot-On, Say Scientists

Long thought by many as possible abstract or symbolic expressions as opposed to representations of real animals, the famous paleolithic horse paintings found in caves such as Lascaux and Chauvet in France likely reflect what the prehistoric humans actually saw in their natural environment, suggests researchers who conducted a recent DNA study.

To reach this conclusion, scientists constituting an international team of researchers in the UK, Germany, USA, Spain, Russia and Mexico genotyped and analyzed nine coat-color types in 31 pre-domestic (wild) horses dating as far back as 35,000 years ago from bone specimens in 15 different locations spread across an area that included Siberia, Eastern and Western Europe, and the Iberian Peninsula.

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Ancient horses' spotted history reflected in cave art

Scientists have found evidence that leopard-spotted horses roamed Europe 25,000 years ago alongside humans. 

Until now, studies had only recovered the DNA of black and brown coloured coats from fossil specimens.

New genetic evidence suggests "dappled" horses depicted in European cave art were inspired by real life, and are less symbolic than previously thought.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Archaeologists unearth treasure trove from across the ages in Argyll

A ROUTINE archaeological survey at a planned housing development has uncovered a treasure trove of Iron and Bronze Age artefacts.

The find, on a hillside near Oban, includes a Neolithic axe-head dating back 5,000 to 6,000 years, three roundhouses around 2,500 to 3,000 years old and the remains of an 18th-century farmstead and metalwork store.

Other objects include a hoard of stone tools dating back 3,000 years, hundreds of fragments of Bronze Age and late 18th- century pottery, plus a clay pipe from around 1760-1820.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Humans ventured as far as Torquay more than 40,000 years ago

The early humans were pioneers who took advantage of a temporary warm spell to visit Britain during the last ice age

A fragment of human jaw unearthed in a prehistoric cave in Torquay is the earliest evidence of modern humans in north-west Europe, scientists say.

The tiny piece of upper jaw was excavated from Kents Cave on the town's border in the 1920s but its significance was not fully realised until scientists checked its age with advanced techniques that have only now become available.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ancient artefacts unearthed in Tisbury

A MAJOR hoard of ancient artefacts has been unearthed near Tisbury.

A metal detector enthusiast located more than 100 bronze items, thought to be about 2,700 years old, on a farmland site which is being kept secret.

Having first found a spearhead, he decided not to disturb the ground and notified archaeologists, who were able to conduct a meticulous excavation.

The finds, from the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age, include tools such as chisels, axe heads and gouges, and weapons including fragments of a sword and scabbard and more spearheads.

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