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]
Xaasaa Cheege Ts'eniin is a very special toddler. Approximately 11,500 years ago, the child spent at least one summer with family at a seasonal base camp in the Tanana Valley, located in what we now know as Alaska. Earlier this week, archaeologists announced their discovery of the child's cremated remains in ancient fire pit amidst an excavation of a circular semi-subterranean home. DNA testing of the remains could reveal genetic connections to the modern Athabascans. In addition, the find could yield new insight into the Paleo-Indians who traveled the Bering Strait, and the migration patterns of some of the indigenous people of North America. While little Xaaxaa only lived about three years, the toddler's remains, now the earliest human remains ever discovered in the North American arctic, ensure little Xaaxaa will be remembered for years to come.
This year's archaeology awards do provide a great opportunity to learn ancient secrets. There is lost treasure, forgotten murders, a mysterious Anchorite condemmed to a life of confinement and the forbidden spaces at the heart one of the holiest temples in stone age Europe.
Did the Scots visit Iceland? New research reveals island inhabited 70 years before Vikings thought to have arrived
Did the Scots visit Iceland? New research reveals island inhabited 70 years before Vikings thought to have arrived. This appears to be the first physical evidence that confirms the stories of celitc monks being on the island when the Norse arrived.
World's Oldest Optical Illusion Found? A 15,000 year old piece of an atlatl (spear chucker) shows definite signs of being a Gestalt shift optical illusion (as demonstrated here, here, and in the classic duck/rabbit picture). Although not as well defined as modern optical illusions (like the really tripped out Neave Strobe), it likely demonstrates a stage of cognitive awareness in human psychological development.
Should-we-eat-it-filter: A 2,400-year-old vat of soup has been discovered in China. [more inside]
Mr Mowatt said he had always wondered what lay under an 8ft stone in the garden and eventually curiosity got the better of him, "On the screen... I could clearly see what I thought was a white skull, with two eye sockets, looking back at me." [more inside]
The German Archaeological Institute has a website detailing their excavations at Hattusa, formerly the capital of the Hittite Empire. There is a brief summary of the city's history to get you started, or a somewhat more detailed one if you're feeling keen. [more inside]
Old school hardware hacker, Postscript enthusiast, electronics writer, woo debunker, all around geek, and now amateur archaeologist Don Lancaster (prev 1, 2) needs you. And maybe some of your nerdy gadgets. [more inside]
Bull-Killer, Sun Lord. "Foreign religions grew rapidly in the 1st-century A.D. Roman Empire, including worship of Jesus Christ, the Egyptian goddess Isis, and an eastern sun god, Mithras."
Ten thousand tourists have tramped above the spot where the latest find has just been made. Other archeologists, looking for the needle entrance to the royal tomb of Tutankhamen in the limestone haystack of el Qorn, came within a few feet of where, after sixteen years of labor, the late Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Howard Carter found their reward. National Geographic republished the photos (flash gallery) and the text of the 1923 account of the opening of the tomb of King Tutankhamun. [more inside]
Tibetans May Be Fastest Evolutionary Adapters Ever. "A group of scientists in China, Denmark and the U.S. recently documented the fastest genetic change observed in humans. According to their findings, Tibetan adaption to high altitude might have taken just 3,000 years. That's a flash, in terms of evolutionary time, but it's one that's in dispute."
Ever since the famed Lucy skeleton was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, there have been some unanswered questions. She was very tiny, and some researchers claimed it was unlikely that she (and, by extension, Australopithecus afarensis) could walk. Although other specimens were found throughout the 70s, none were more than bone fragments. Recently, researchers announced that they found another partial skeleton, and they believe it proves that afarensis was bipedal.
Could any of you in the US please check your attics?
There are some unique finds that tell us about the early lives of people. But of course there are other ways...
"So I called my dad over and about five metres away he started swearing, and I was like 'what did I do wrong?' and he's like, 'nothing, nothing - you found a hominid'."The remarkable remains of two ancient human-like creatures (hominids) have been found in South Africa. Some researchers dispute that the fossils are of an unknown human species, but others say they may help fill a key gap in the fossil record of human evolution. [more inside]
Information-age math finds code in ancient Scottish symbols. "The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843. The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland."
Laying bare the gratuitous assumptions of the patriarchal historical narrative. A weblog entry from the Aristasian Empire, of which a history and some kinnies [NSFW]. • Gobekli Tepe [previously] • Aristasia [previously]
We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
CyArk is a non-profit which makes three-dimensional scans of archaeological sites with lasers in effort to digitally preserve them. It currently has 27 projects, including Chichén Itzá, Angkor Wat, Anasazi Pueblos in Mesa Verde, Thebes, Rapa Nui and the Royal Tombs at Kasubi. There's quite a lot of material about Cyark online, including profiles Wired Science, a lecture by founder Ben Kacyra at Google as well as an article in Archaeology and an article by two CyArk employees in Professional Surveyor describing how they work.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is using crowdsourcing to determine the best images, crops and enlargements of items in its online database. [more inside]