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]
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."
Virtual hacking is cool but place hacking makes it core again, brachiating across scaffolding to get the shot on your Digital SLR that maximizes your flickr stats, raking in the google adsense cash and conforming to a zerowork ethos if we get pro at it. Sleep in ruins, sell your photos of disgusting shit to tourists. Rinse off in a petrol station sink and repeat. We are the nerds that finally walked away from their computers and we are behind that scaffolding covering the building you ignore everyday when you walk by it going to work, we just loved on that place like no one has in 20 years. We are psychotopological terrorists and we will shove that masterlock up your ass.A "reformed archaeologist" talks about exploration of urban ruins. Modern urban ruins.
An expert in Elizabethan handwriting is attempting to decipher the inscriptions on a 400-year-old slate tablet discovered by archaeologists working at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. Want to take a crack at it yourself? First, you're going to want to take English Handwriting, 1500-1700: An Online Course. Then, keep your skills sharp with a daily dose of Early Modern Paleography. (This week's images will be well known to a certain MeFite.)
Zahi Hawass, bombastic if nothing else, is proving successful in his ongoing push to repatriate Egyptian artifacts that may or may not have been illegally removed from the country. The Tetiky friezes were returned from France; next on the agenda are the iconic Nefertiti bust [MP3 audio], which is currently housed in Berlin’s Neues Museum, and the Rosetta Stone, which has lived at the British Museum for over two centuries.
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].
Fascinated by the Orient An exhibition of the letters, photographs and maps bequeathed to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences by the great explorer, archaeologist, geographer and Sanskritist Sir Marc Aurel Stein. Journeyer in the footsteps of Alexander, explorer of Central Asia and West China, surveyor of the antiquities of India and Iran; after a long life of journeying through and studying central Asia, Aurel Stein found his final rest in Kabul. He is also remembered for rediscovering the oldest dated printed book still in existence, a copy of the Diamond Sutra in the caves at Mogao. That the latter and many thousands of other manuscripts collected by Stein now reside in the British Library is of course, like his other 'treasure hunting', not without controversy.
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.
Digital Karnak documents and digitally reconstructs "one of the largest temple complexes in the world." The site includes digital models, photographs, a "time map" (allowing you to see alterations to the site under different pharoahs), and video. For projects devoted to more specific areas of the temple complex, see the Karnak Great Hypostyle Hall Project (University of Memphis) and the Mut Precinct (Brooklyn Museum).
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]
A companion to one of Europe's most eminent prehistoric monuments has been discovered just a mile away. Bluehenge has the same rough configuration as its sister site, Stonehenge, but with 27 stones instead of 56. It is speculated that the stones of Bluehenge may have been moved to aid in the making of Stonehenge. [more inside]
Plastered Skulls! In the Middle East in the early Neolithic, one common burial practice involved digging up a previously-buried body, removing the skull, and using plaster over the skull itself to sculpt an image of the face of the deceased. Many seem to think these skulls were made as a form of ancestor-worship, but some disagree. Three such skulls were discovered a little over a year ago at Yiftah’el, in the lower Galilee. Here's a short article about the find. Here's a brief overview of prehistoric and early historic art, which features a really swell picture of a plastered skull.
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."
Archaeologists find graveyard of sunken Roman ships. Information on how such a shipwreck is discovered available from the Aurora Trust site.
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.
Ancient Venus rewrites history books: Female figure was carved from a mammoth tusk 35,000 years ago. [Via]
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.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has put 675 reels of archival 16 mm film online via the Internet Archive. Most of the film is unedited, and stems either from Museum research, or was donated by interested amateurs. Much of it is silent, reflecting the technology of the day. One highlight are the four surviving reels of the long-running TV show 'What in the World" (look for the episode starring Vincent Price), but the archive is full of other hidden gems, such as the 1950s archaeological expedition to Tikal, a 1940 film "A 1000 Mile Road Trip Across America", and Glimpses of Life Among the Catawba and Cherokee Indians of the Carolinas (1927). The films are downloadable in various formats, including MPEG2, Ogg Video, and 512Kb MPEG4. Happy browsing! via.
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]
3D laser scanning offers a fly-through view of the Eighth Wonder of the World. Carved directly into volcanic bedrock, the churches of Lalibela were built during the Zagwe Dynasty (1137-1270). YouTube video of the church and local villagers.
Archaeologists and Native Americans race against the border fence. The REAL ID act authorized government agencies to bulldoze long-standing environmental, cultural and anthropological standards. But a team of activists worked delicately behind the scenes to win millions of dollars in federal funding and the go-ahead for a last-ditch effort to study ancient artifacts. Archaeologists have faced similarly rushed projects elsewhere along the fence route.
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]
The Digital Archaeological Atlas of the Holy Land is a comprehensive spatially-referenced database of current archaeological knowledge of all periods of Levantine history and prehistory. Spatial search is a good entry point, as are the Palestine Exploration Fund historic maps. You can also search by time period or dig into the many ancient Empires of the area. Or just look at everything in the database. The site is a work in progress, but a cool one powered by a consortium of over 30 professional archaeologists. May require Google Maps. via
In 1939, a 13-year-old boy discovered New Zealand's most significant archaeological site—the remains of a 700-year-old Māori village on the Wairau Bar, Marlborough ... [more inside]
Amazing Archaeological Discovery! Hair-metal fans said to be stunned.
The digital collection of the Tokyo National Museum is full of wonder. TNM is the oldest museum in Japan and collects archaeological objects and art from Japan as well as other parts of Asia. The collection can be browsed by type or region. Here are some of my favorites: Buddha's life, The name "Korin" given to pupil, Tale of Matsuranomiya, Coquettish type, Tea caddy in shape of bucket with handle, Mirror, design of sea and island, Traditionary identified as Minamoto no Yoritomo, Seated Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri) and attendants, Sword mounting of kazari-tachi type and (my current desktop background) Figures under a tree. This is but a small sampling of all that can be found in the digital collection
At dawn on the winter solstice, the passage and chamber of the megalithic passage tomb at Newgrange are illuminated for 17 minutes by a shaft of sunlight entering through the roofbox above the entrance. The builders of Newgrange achieved this precise alignment over 5,000 years ago, 1,000 years before Stonehenge. You can watch the sunrise illumination on a live webcast between 08:30 and 09:30 UTC on Sunday, December 21st.
Everything you wanted to know about pre-Columbian Central America but were afraid to ask lest your heart get ripped out and offered to Quetzalcoatl
The Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies is your one-stop shop for pre-Columbian Central America awesomeness. There are so, so many wondrous things on that site, I don't quite know where to begin. I suppose John Pohl's scholarly introduction is a natural place to start. But maybe you just don't have time to read anything and just want to dive into pretty, pretty pictures. Perhaps the most user-friendly databases are Justin Kerr's photographs Maya Vases (e.g. 1, 2, 3) and Pre-Columbian Portfolio (e.g. 1, 2a, 2b, 3). From there you can delve into the collection of Linda Schele's photographs (e.g. 1, 2) and drawings (e.g. 1, 2, 3). There are more image databases but let me direct you to the collection of old Maya, Aztec and Mixtec books which are simply stunning (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4 [last link pdf]). You can read more about Mayan and Mixtec codices and download high resolution versions of the entire books. There are also Maya dictionaries, glyph guides, linguistic maps and a who's who. There is also classic Mayan and Aztec poetry in translation. I'm telling you, that's not even half of what this amazing site has to offer.
Archaeologists find a pottery fragment with the oldest known example of written Hebrew at the Elah Fortress(YT) in Israel - or maybe not [more inside]
Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? "Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, Turkey's stunning Gobekli Tepe upends the conventional view of the rise of civilization."
Witches of Cornwall. "Macabre evidence of age-old spells surfaces in an archaeologist's front yard." [Via]
Akhetaten (a.k.a. Amarna) was the city built by Pharaoh Akhenaten, famous for his monotheistic beliefs and his queen, Nefertiti and son, Tutankhamun. The Amarna Letters has translations of correspondence sent to the Akhenaten, but a trove of it was found at the Amarna site. During his reign a distinctive style of art rose to prominence, only to vanish after his death. The Boston MFA has 40 objects from the era in its collection. Perhaps the most famous of the cultural artifacts of Akhenaten is the Great Hymn to Aten (hieroglyphics, four different English translations: 1, 2, 3, 4). This poem was set to music by Philip Glass for his opera Akhnaten (information about the opera). Some see direct parallels between The Great Hymn to Aten and Psalm 104. Though it was billed as a new beginning, like many utopias, Amarna was no haven for the regular folk who lived there.
What caused the Viking Age? It has long been a source of, er, conflict among Nordic scholars. A new study ($ub-only) suggests the Viking Age was triggered by a shortage of women (lack of).