Settling in for a long winter's nap? In need of a memento mori to guard against the unbridled jollity of the season? Just want to explore the wonderful world of 3D scans, osteology, and bioarchaeology on the internet a little further? Sad that Santa probably isn't bringing you a T-Rex for Christmas? Well, just peak inside... [more inside]
Conflicting roles for old lead
The use of old lead for shielding increases the sensitivity of our most delicate experiments by orders of magnitude, an increase that is crucial when looking for a reaction that sheds light on new physics. Lead recovered from roofs, old plumbing, and even stained glass windows has been used, but Roman lead from a shipwreck is the best you can find.
In September, Italian archaeologists removed a slab door in Tarquinia and entered an untouched, newly discovered Etruscan tomb (Slideshow: Entry to Tomb, Pictures of Contents) There was much excitement to find the intact tomb of a high-status man - a warrior, a prince, a man of importance, with a lance, grave goods, and the remains of his wife. Or so it was trumpeted by the discovering team and the media. A month later … the figure on the wider slab with the lance turns out to be the female, and the man was on the other slab. Whoops! Judith Weingarten writes about the assumptions made before and after the osteological analysis (and Part II). [more inside]
Do you like obsessively cataloged information? Do you like abandoned, semi-abandoned, and/or semi-repopulated ghost towns? Do you like amazingly poor web design? Then you will love ghosttowns.com, an exhaustive collection of thousands of ghost towns in the US and Canada. Find out how to visit ghost towns, and then click on the map to find one near you!
Some sites are calling this the oldest brain found. However, there have been other finds and at least one major site in Florida that holds older remains. The trick now is to extract DNA and information that can aid in medical advances.
The BBC reports that 6000-year old clothing, bows and arrows have been found under melting snow in Norway. Earlier reports with different photos. Meanwhile, Archaeology has a longer article about "the race to to find, and save, ancient artifacts emerging from glaciers and ice patches in a warming world". And glacial archaeology is becoming so much of a thing that it's getting its own scholarly journal.
"But Freud had a second fear: a fear of Rome's layers. In formal treatises, he compared the psyche to an ancient city, with many layers of architecture built one on top of another, each replacing the last, but with the old structures still present underneath. In private writings he phrased this more personally, that he was terrified of ever visiting Rome because he was terrified of the idea of all the layers and layers and layers of destroyed structures hidden under the surface, at the same time present and absent, visible and invisible. He was, in a very deep way, absolutely right." [more inside]
"During the most recent ice age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because — unlike children — they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. But as farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that gave people the ability to produce lactase — and drink milk — throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition that could have sustained communities when harvests failed." - The Milk Revolution - how a single mutation expanded (some) of humanity's diet. (Nature.com)
Hey, remember when archaeologists discovered the remains of Richard III under a car park in Leicester? Well, apparently they also unearthed a stone coffin dated to at least a century before Richard. When it was opened, it was revealed to contain... another coffin, sealed and made of lead. None of us in the team have ever seen a lead coffin within a stone coffin before, says one of the archaeologists. Oh sure, it's probably just the remains of one of the founders of the monastery that used to be there, but if the movies have taught us anything, it's that if something is mysterious, it must also be evil, right?
CSI: Italian Renaissance. "Inside a lab in Pisa, forensics pathologist Gino Fornaciari and his team investigate 500-year-old cold cases." [Via]
Time Team's Mick Aston has passed away. Co-creator of the noted British archaeology series that ran from 1994 through 2012, Professor Michael Antony 'Mick' Aston popularized local archaology in the UK by presenting it in an easy to digest, accessible form. [more inside]
Paris Apartment opened for the first time in 70 years Including intriguing links to a scandalous Belle Époque art wold romance and a $3 million dollar painting. Subject of this AskMe last year but includes additional photos. [more inside]
Franck Goddio, an underwater archaeologist, shares the explorations of three recently re-discovered cities off the coast of Egypt, including Alexandria (1997 NOVA documentary *), Canopus, and Thonis-Heracleion (the Egyptian and Greek names for the city, not to be confused with the ancient Egyptian city of Tanis). A new documentary on Thonis-Heracleaion was produced for the Franco-German TV network, Arte, and you can watch the German version here. [more inside]
Some claim it is the worst video game ever. What is certain is that five million of them were dumped by Atari in a New Mexico landfill. Now, Fuel Industries, a Canadian film production company, has received permission from the city of Alamagordo, to unearth E.T.
In 1942 a British forest guard in Roopkund, India made an alarming discovery. Some 16,000 feet above sea level, at the bottom of a small valley, was a frozen lake absolutely full of skeletons.
Geoff Carter's radical view of building in the ancient world, especially the archaeology of the lost timber built environment of Southern England. It is new research into of prehistory of architectureWith the ultimate conclusion that Stonehenge is the remains of a roofed shelter. [more inside]
An archaeological excavation led by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has been quietly uncovering a site on the now-lost Walbrook River which they have dubbed the Pompeii of the north. [more inside]
They were the finest European swords the day, superior to almost any other on the battlefields of the Viking Age. Made from steel no one in Europe would know how to make until the Industrial Revolution. Stronger, more flexible, almost magical in combat, engraved with the mysterious name "+ULFBERH+T" by unknown makers, these swords were the both fearsome weapons and incredibly expensive prestige possessions. Only 171 have every been identified. And no one had made one from start to finish, using only hand tools, for over 900 years. [more inside]
The World’s Oldest Pornography. The Kangjiashimenji Petroglyphs in the Tien Shan Mountains: A Fertility Ritual Tableau.
"The stubby (or steinie) in many ways embodied all that was solid and stoic in the Canadian character. Think of the two adjectives most appropriately applied to it - "tough" and "squat" - and what it also brings to mind are the great goalies of that era, those stalwart unbreakable warriors who worked between the pipes." - Ian Coutts Brew North. [more inside]
The possibility that a lot of the alleged "saunas" found in Viking settlements may actually have been brew houses, is just one of the topic discussed at the 7th expermental archaeology conference just held in Cardiff. [more inside]
Amateur archaeologist and "forensic hairdresser" Janet Stephens has discovered how to recreate the Seni Crines, the elaborately braided hairstyle worn by the vestal virgins. Don't miss Stephens' other classical hairstyle videos.
Historically, archaeologists have largely ignored acoustical science as a tool for archaeological discovery. This is changing with the advent of acoustic archaeology. “Could the Maya have intentionally coded the sound of their sacred bird into the pyramid architecture? I think it is possible.” Hear it for yourself in this video. While this is a pretty astounding feat of architectural engineering, it’s by no means the only example of archaeoacoustics that can be found at Chichen Itza, amongst the mayan people, or throughout the many other cultures who’ve built structures that integrate unique auditory phenomenon to stimulate the senses. [previously]/[previously] [more inside]
Searching for Doggerland. "For decades North Sea boatmen have been dragging up traces of a vanished world in their nets. Now archaeologists are asking a timely question: What happens to people as their homeland disappears beneath a rising tide?"
Not-Hurricane Sandy turned over a hundred-year-old tree — that had grown through a body buried a hundred years before THAT. " A homeless woman made a spooky Halloween’s eve discovery on the Upper Green: bones from a centuries-old human body unearthed by a giant oak tree toppled by Superstorm Sandy."
Golden Buddha, Hidden Copper. "Twelve years after the Taliban blew up the world-famous Bamiyan Buddhas, a Chinese mining firm -- developing one of the world's largest copper deposits -- threatens to destroy another of Afghanistan's archeological treasures." Campaign to Save Mes Aynak.
Wiki Loves Monuments: "World's largest photo contest" seeks to create a visual record of world monuments and historic sites on the Wikimedia Commons. The USA version focuses on sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Canadian version here. If you don't see your country among the 30 participating so far, you can volunteer!
Google Street View has sent people on bicycles around 30 major archaeological sites in Mexico, including Chichen Itza, Palenque, Monte Alban, Teotihuacan, Tulum, Cobá, and more. You can go right up to (but not up) the pyramids. For me, seeing the tourists and the souvenir vendors is part of the fun. Daniel Hernandez at the LA Times has some more good links.
In Siberia, several frozen human burials dating to 2,500 years ago have intact skin with elaborate tattoos. Warning: link contains graphic pictures of dead people.
A Guide to Houses No Gentleman Would Frequent, and more artifacts of history and archaeology that shed some light on the largely-unwritten world of nineteenth-century prostitution in Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Paris, among other locales. Lest it appear too amusingly salacious, the miserable side.
"Dramatic" New Maya Temple Found, Covered With Giant Faces (SLNatGeo)
The ‘Cyrus the Great Cylinder’, is an artifact of the Persian Empire from the 6th century BCE inscribed in Babylonian (Akkadian) cuneiform on a clay cylinder, which has been widely, falsely claimed as the first known recorded declaration of human rights, issued by the emperor Cyrus the Great. (Translation of the text.) A recent TED talk by Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum and host of the BBC's History of the World in 100 Objects, previously) discusses the Cylinder, and places it into historical perspective: 2600 Years of History in One Object. [more inside]
Massive 1,100+ year old Maya site discovered in Georgia's mountains The archaeological site would have been particularly attractive to Mayas because it contains an apparently dormant volcano fumarole that reaches down into the bowels of the earth. People of One Fire researchers have been aware since 2010 that when the English arrived in the Southeast, there were numerous Native American towns named Itsate in Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and western North Carolina. They were also aware that both the Itza Mayas of Central America and the Hitchiti Creeks of the Southeast actually called themselves Itsate . . . and pronounced the word the same way. The Itsate Creeks used many Maya and Totonac words. Their architecture was identical to that of Maya commoners. The pottery at Ocmulgee National Monument (c 900 AD) in central Georgia is virtually identical to the Maya Plain Red pottery made by Maya Commoners.
Photographs and more photographs of the ancient city of Palmyra, seat of the Palmyrene Empire and home to Queen Zenobia.
Libyan Desert Glass is strewn over an area of hundreds of square kilometers in the Great Sand Sea, a region desolate even by the high standards of the Sahara. As one account of a recent trip to acquire Libyan Desert Glass puts it: "Out there, death sits on your shoulder like a vulture." While some would have you believe that Libyan Desert Glass is evidence of ancient atomic warfare, it is probably evidence of a massive meteorite or comet explosion nearly thirty million years ago, similar to Tunguska, but much bigger. The stone age Aterian peoples made tools from it, but the remoteness and inhospitality of the Great Sand Sea has ensured that until recent times it has mostly been undisturbed. However, a breast ornament buried in Tutankhamen's tomb has a scarab made from Libyan Desert Glass, the only piece made of the material to have been found by Egyptologists, and how Tutankhamen's jewelers acquired it has remained a mystery. Until now. [Previously]
In Tonsberg, Norway, they are building a Viking Ship. By hand, using the same tools and processes the vikings used. [more inside]
Machine guns still firing, 70 years later. The BBC's Dan Snow joins in an dig in Ireland to uncover a Spitfire mk2, hoping to find one o the machine guns in reasonable conditions. They find six, and then it's time to see if they still work. Okay so they stripped the six to rebuild just one good one, and used modern .303 calibre ammo as opposed to the ammo in the ground, but hey. 70 years and still spitting fire. Of course the WWII in me will point out that the mk V's Hispano cannons were far more effective, but hey, that's not romantic enough for a modern news bulletin.
The Easter Island Statue Project: a glimpse at what's going on from the neck down.
In 2008 a letter was excavated during an archaeological dig of a Peruvian colonial town abandoned for unknown reasons around the turn of the 18th Century. On the back of that letter were recorded several numbers and their names in a dead tongue, lost in the upheaval following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Even though this may be the only remnant of an entire language, there is quite a bit that linguists can glean from these fragments. For a brief overview of the findings of research by a joint American-Peruvian research group, read here. And here is the full journal article, which places these numbers in their historical and linguistic context.
Prof. Michael Coe, an expert on the Maya, discusses the challenges facing Mormon archaeologists investigating the historical truth of the Book of Mormon. [more inside]
A court-mandated opening of some secret chambers at the Sree Padmanabhaswami temple in Kerala - family temple of the ruling royals of the former Kingdom of Travancore - has led to the discovery of a treasure estimated to be worth billions of dollars.
The Beer Archaeologist. "Biomolecular archaeologist" Dr. Patrick McGovern has unearthed millennia-old alcohol recipes and ancient medicinals, "by analyzing residues in ancient pottery. Now he's working with brewer Sam Calagione, (of Discovery Channel's Brew Masters, (autoplaying video)) whose pub Dogfish Head serves up beers based on recipes that are thousands of years old." (Via) [more inside]
Archaeologists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History have used a remote-controlled microcamera to explore a 1500-year-old sealed Mayan burial chamber at the Palenque archaeological site in Chiapas, Mexico. Story in English from the Guardian but be sure to click on "Fotos" at the first link.
"We come up with two new mysteries for every one that we solve," he [Schmidt] says. Still, he has already drawn some conclusions. "Twenty years ago everyone believed civilization was driven by ecological forces," Schmidt says. "I think what we are learning is that civilization is a product of the human mind." - Charles C. Mann writes about Göbekli Tepe for National Geographic.
Lewis R. Binford, one of the most influential American archaeologists of the last half-century and an early advocate of a more scientific approach to investigating ancient cultures, died on April 11 at his home in Kirksville, Mo. He was 79. [more inside]