Earlier this year, Underwater explorer Barry Clifford claimed to have found the Santa Maria, one of Christopher Columbus' three ships, off the coast of Haiti. But a few days ago, A UNESCO mission of experts has concluded that a shipwreck is actually from a much later period, citing the bronze or copper fasteners found on the site that point to shipbuilding techniques of the late 17th or 18th centuries, and the journal of Columbus (translated text online; Archive.org scan of the 1893 translation from the Hakluyt Society), which indicates that this wreck is too far from the shore to be the La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción. Despite this setback, Haiti will continue to search for the historic shipwreck.
Alison Atkin is a Ph.D. student in osteoarchaeology at the University of Sheffield, studying plague cemeteries. Her research is presented in this quirky, hand-drawn poster. Don't miss GIFs of the interactive panels at her blog, Deathsplanation.
"More than five centuries after Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria, was wrecked in the Caribbean, archaeological investigators think they may have discovered the vessel’s long-lost remains – lying at the bottom of the sea off the north coast of Haiti."
The Corona Atlas of the Middle East uses spy satellite imagery to reveal as many as 10,000 previously unknown archaeological sites.
The Swahili Coast and its culture in the medieval period (roughly the tenth to fifteenth centuries) is relatively little studied, compared with other cultures of its size and influence, though it represents a key node in the development of global trade before the European Age of Discovery. Its history is known in broad strokes, but less is known about how the medieval Swahili lived and how they incorporated influences—from religion to architecture—from across the Indian Ocean world. Fleisher and his codirector, Stephanie Wynne-Jones of the University of York, looked for a site that would allow them to examine such questions in detail. “We had an inkling Songo Mnara would be that site,” he says, “but it has completely exceeded our expectations. --
In May 2008, while excavating around the castle, the archaeologists of Bristol University made a surprising discovery. They have unearthed two graves side by side. In both of them they have found the rests of the body of an armored knight, and above it in one grave the well preserved skeleton of a horse, while in the other the fragments of iron objects which, seen from above, resembled… a bicycle.[more inside]
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]
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]
"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]
CSI: Italian Renaissance. "Inside a lab in Pisa, forensics pathologist Gino Fornaciari and his team investigate 500-year-old cold cases." [Via]
"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]
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?"
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!
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.
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]
Photographs and more photographs of the ancient city of Palmyra, seat of the Palmyrene Empire and home to Queen Zenobia.
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.
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]
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.
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]
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."
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?
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."
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]
Rome's Ancient Aqueduct Found. "The long-sought aqueduct that delivered fresh, clean water to Rome nearly 2,000 years ago, is found beneath a pig pasture northwest of the Italian city."
The Seljuk Han in Anatolia has tons of information about and pictures of the caravanserai, inns for caravans, built by the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm in what is now Turkey. The Seljuk caravanserai, called hans, were a vital resource for trade from the middle ages to recent times. The website, by Katherine Branning, explains what a han is, their origins, their function in trade, what life there was like and much more. The site also features 39 individual hans, such as the Kadin Han, now a furniture store, Dibi Delik Han, which is undergoing restoration, Zazadin Han, which has been restored already, and the spectacular Sultan Han Kayseri. For an academic survey of Seljuk hans, here's Ayşıl Tükel Yavuz' The concepts that shape Anatolian Seljuq caravanserais [pdf, automatic download].
Man from the Margin: Cao Cao and the Three Kingdoms You'll perhaps have read or watched reports that archaeologists believe they have found the tomb of Cao Cao (曹操) (of course, not everyone agrees with the identification). Warrior, strategist, statesman and poet, Cao Cao lives on in the cultural memory of China, a by-word for cunning and of course a central character in the great historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms and hence also recent John Woo blockbuster Red Cliff. To understand the man in his historical context, there's little better in English than the 1990 George Ernest Morrison Lecture in Ethnology given by now-retired Professor Rafe de Crespigny, one of the foremost Western scholars of the Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms periods of Chinese history. He makes several of his vastly erudite essays on Chinese history available at the ANU's website.
Bogus! Why do fakes get made? Why do people fall for hoaxes? Greed, pride, revenge, nationalism, pranks, and gullibility mix in an archaeological setting. Archaeology Magazine examines eight classic cases, and more.
Native American Sites in the City of Philadelphia is a superbly illustrated exposition of the historical development of Philadelphia, with a focus on those few surviving Native American sites which lie under the urban fabric. Lots more excellent Public Archaeology is available from the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum. Bonus link: Philly's lost creeks and streams. [more inside]
Knossos: Fakes, Facts, and Mystery. "The masterpieces of Minoan art are not what they seem... The truth is that these famous icons are largely modern. As any sharp-eyed visitor to the Heraklion museum can spot, what survives of the original paintings amounts in most cases to no more than a few square inches. The rest is more or less imaginative reconstruction, commissioned in the first half of the twentieth century by Sir Arthur Evans, the British excavator of the palace of Knossos (and the man who coined the term 'Minoan' for this prehistoric Cretan civilization, after the mythical King Minos who is said to have held the throne there). As a general rule of thumb, the more famous the image now is, the less of it is actually ancient."
The Roman Empire's Lost Highway: French amateur archaeologist Bruno Tassan fights to preserve a neglected 2,000-year-old ancient interstate in southern Provence.
AronRa has done some really nice YouTube vids on science (previously). In this latest vlog An Archaeological Moment in Time, he take(s) a look at how different societies are advancing at different rates on the same date in the distant past.
Waterlines is a new online exhibit from the excellent Burke Museum at the University of Washington, Seattle. It tells the story of the land underlying Seattle, one of the United States' most geologically active city sites, and of the human attempts to engineer this landform. Closely related are the archaeology of West Point and Coast Salish Villages of Puget Sound (e.g., read the story of North Wind and Storm Wind).
Scholars at odds over mysterious Indus script. The Indus script is the collection of symbols found on artifacts from the Harappan civilization, which flourished in what is now eastern Pakistan and western India between 2,600 and 1,900 B.C. A new analysis using pattern-analyzing software suggests that the script may constitute a genuine written language. [Via]
Why do mummies scream? Are screaming mummies really testaments to horrific deaths? Or are they the result of natural processes, botched or ad hoc mummification jobs, or the depredations of tomb robbers? Archaeology Online examines the science and history behind the gape-mouthed "masks of agony" seen on some mummies, and explores their portrayal in entertainment and pop culture. The article includes lots of interesting and informative additional links.
The Ancient World's Longest Underground Aqueduct. "Roman engineers chipped an aqueduct through more than 100 kilometers of stone to connect water to cities in the ancient province of Syria. The monumental effort took more than a century, says the German researcher who discovered it." How Did the Romans Accomplish Such a Feat? [Via]
Riding with the first cowboys – in 3500 BC. Horses were tamed a millennium earlier than previously thought. [Via]
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