Sunday, October 22, 2017

TWO ARCHAEOLOGISTS REVEAL HOW CIVILIZATIONS COLLAPSE THEN AND NOW AND HOW ANCIENTS PAINTED THEIR SCULPTURES

By Anne W. Semmes

Sentinel Correspondent

Archaeologist Dr. Eric Cline before his talk at the Bryam Shubert Library, shows his new book, “Three Stones Make a Wall,” that gives the history of archaeology from an amateur pursuit to its cutting-edge science with descriptions of the major archaeological sites and discoveries.

Some 40 attendees on Sept. 16 were made privy to the probable causes of how civilization collapsed in history’s “first Dark age,” in the 12th century BCE as shared by Dr. Eric Cline, professor of classics and anthropology at George Washington University, and author of, “1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed.” That collapse told Cline had some startling examples of causes that are present with us now.

Cline has spent 30 seasons excavating often in the areas of the nine civilizations he focused on in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. A slide showed the connectedness of those civilizations, including Egyptians, Babylonians, Minoans, and Assyrians, with the caption, “Here, we are considering a globalized world system with multiple civilizations all interacting and at least partially dependent upon each other.”

Then came the perfect storm: the onslaught of the “Sea Peoples”- warrior groups overrunning countries and kingdoms by land and sea, then drought, famine, invaders, and earthquakes that brought down those civilizations 3,500 years ago in the late bronze age.

He pointed to how the 300-year drought’s effect on the Myceneans was similar to the havoc brought on in Syria with a four-year drought that began in 2006. With drought came famine, and with earthquakes, said Cline, “Sites were destroyed — and skeletons found under fallen doorways in Mycenae.”

These events had brought important trade to a standstill between the civilizations, “from Egypt to Crete to Messina.” How rich that trade was Cline described in the famous Uluburun sunken ship excavated off the coast of Turkey. “Eight different cultures were found…10 tons of copper that would have furnished 300 soldiers…Ingots of cobalt blue raw glass.”

Cline sees the same global connectedness today.“There are only a few instances in history of such globalized world systems; the one in place during the Late Bronze Age and the one in place today,” Cline said.

He sees also the same problems, and “drought is at the top of the list.” “Studying this collapse is more relevant than you first suspect.” Cline’s warnings as spelled out in his book are apparently hitting a nerve – his lecture on the subject of his book given a year ago has been viewed on YouTube close to a million times.

Professor Kathy Schwab of Fairfield University had earlier given an equally unsettling while informative talk on the new reality of her subject, “Color in Ancient Greek Sculpture.” “We’re going to talk about pigments used on ancient sculpture,” she eased into her talk with a slide of the brilliant colors sourced from Malachite, Golden Ocher, Azurite, Red Ocher, Cinnabar, and Hematite.

For those who equate classical antiquity with white marble, imagine seeing the Parthenon in technicolor. Schwab, who spends her research seasons in Athens, Greece, described her plan for drawn color reconstructions of the Parthenon Metopes (her specialty) — though there’s a question of what color goes where.

“You see here,” she said, “how every surface is colored, even the skin, with yellow, ochre, and red mixed in.” Schwab whose expertise includes ancient Greek hairstyles, shared that “Acropolis maiden’s hairstyles have a residue of red, then brown. Painters created lights and darks in the hair, and even eyelids were painted.

“In ancient Egyptian art, color showed gender. Reddish for men, a light buff yellow to white for females. Bronze Age tattoos had color. A Mycenean sphinx had tattooed rosettes and tattoos.” In a recent news story Schwab spied a Syrian woman refugee with tattoos on her face similar to those used in 1,300 BCE. “There is a longevity of these traditions,” she noted.

And yet, “There is no evidence of paint on bronze,” she said, “only paint on marble. Paint protects the art – just like our house. Marble is protected by paint.”

“Bringing color in creates a different narrative,” Schwab concluded, and, “More and more museums are trying to find ways for visitors to understand this.” She pointed to the efforts of German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkman to change that narrative with his extensive color reconstructions of Greek and Roman statuary that have toured the world. Time Magazine had addressed the public response with, “The exhibition forces you to look at ancient sculpture in a totally new way.”










STONEHENGE BUILDERS BROUGHT FOOD IN FROM SCOTLAND

The "army of builders" of Stonehenge ate animals brought from as far away as the north east of Scotland, according to a new exhibition at the famous Neolithic site in Wiltshire.

Analysis of pig and cattle teeth has revealed some of the animals were from as far as 500 miles away.
The "Feast! Food at Stonehenge" exhibition includes the skull of an aurochs, an extinct species of cattle. It is aimed at allowing visitors to explore diet from 4,500 years ago.

Raising the ancient stones was an incredible feat but so too was feeding the army of builders.
"Our exhibition reveals just how this was done. The displays reveal research and stories from a "feeding Stonehenge" project, which has been exploring the lives of the people who lived at the nearby settlement of Durrington Walls.

Monday, October 09, 2017

DEAD SEA SCROLLS ARE COMING UP AS FORGERIES


A Bedouin shepherd hears pottery break as he throws stones into a cave while searching for lost sheep among arid cliffs abutting the Dead Sea. He enters the cave and uncovers the find of the 20th century — 2,000-year-old Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls, then the earliest written record of the Bible.

Seven decades have passed since that Hollywood-esque discovery of some 900 manuscripts and up to 50,000 fragments in the 11 caves of Qumran. Now, accusations of dozens of million-dollar forgeries make for a worthy sequel.

It’s a whodunit involving a complex network of high-stakes deals with dubious provenance, and perhaps even academic obfuscation. The process by which the forgeries are being manufactured has yet to be fully exposed. The motive is entirely clear: The tiniest of ancient snippets sells for well over $100,000 per fragment in these private off-the-books sales.

Since 2002, the world’s private antiquities markets have been saturated with certified millennia-old leather inscribed with biblical verses by what, on expert inspection, appears to be a modern hand. This has led some scholars to believe one or more of their own has gone rogue and created a proliferation of fakes that are being peddled to a growing number of Evangelical Christian collectors.

The Museum of the Bible, set to open this November in Washington, DC, is foremost among those collectors who have been “duped,” to the tune of millions of dollars, scholars say. A series of recent articles in respected academic journals calls into question the authenticity of at least half a dozen in its trove of tiny scroll fragments.

Among those raising awareness of the allegedly forged fragments is paleographer Dr. Kipp Davis, a research fellow at Trinity Western University and associate of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at TWU.
“There is a growing emerging consensus among Dead Sea Scroll scholars that many of the fragments in the private collections are fakes,” Davis told The Times of Israel. In his latest article, “Caves of Dispute,” published in the Brill Dead Sea Discoveries series this month, Davis found that at least six of the Museum of the Bible’s 13 published fragments are forgeries.

In conversation with The Times of Israel, Davis said while he is convinced that six of the fragments are forgeries, “that number could be higher. There are people out there that think that all 13 of the fragments are fake. I’m not quite there, but I have colleagues who are fairly sure they are forgeries.”
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IN GAZA, HAMAS LEVELS AN ANCIENT TREASURE

Palestinian and French archaeologists began excavating Gaza's earliest archaeological site nearly 20 years ago, unearthing what they believe is a rare 4,500-year-old Bronze Age settlement.

But over protests that grew recently, Gaza's Hamas rulers have systematically destroyed the work since seizing power a decade ago, allowing the flattening of this hill on the southern tip of Gaza City to make way for construction projects, and later military bases. In its newest project, Hamas-supported bulldozers are flattening the last remnants of excavation.

"There is a clear destruction of a very important archaeological site," said Palestinian archaeology and history professor Mouin Sadeq, who led three excavations at the site along with French archaeologist Pierre de Miroschedji after its accidental discovery in 1998. "I don't know why the destruction of the site was approved."

Tel Es-Sakan (hill of ash) was the largest Canaanite city between Palestine and Egypt, according to Sadeq. It was named after the great amount of ash found during the excavations, which suggests the settlement was burnt either naturally or in a war.

Archaeologists found the 10-hectare (25-acre) hill to be hiding a fortified settlement built centuries before pharaonic rule in Egypt, and 1,000 years before the pyramids. But the excavations stopped in 2002 due to security concerns.

Now it is destroyed all around. It's among the earliest sites indicating the emergence of the "urban society" concept in the Near East, when communities were transforming from farming villages around 4,000 BC, and it was on trade routes between Egypt and the Levant, according to Humbert.

Humbert shared an aerial photo from 2000 showing patterns of walls from atop the mound. The area "was the first city of Palestine to have a city wall," he said. Now, "the field work you see in the photo is totally destroyed."



Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-gaza-hamas-ancient-treasure.html#jCp

POSSIBLE AILEXANDER THE GREAT SITE 200 MILES NORTHEAST OF BAGHDAD HAS BEEN ABANDONED

The discoveries of two statues may help to prove this was once a thriving hub founded by one of the ancient world's most powerful rulers—Alexander the Great. Until recently the dig, some 330 kilometers (200 miles) northwest of Baghdad, was buzzing with activity as a team of 15 archaeologists from both Iraq and abroad worked under the stewardship of the British Museum in London to uncover more invaluable treasures.

But now the site is silent as the foreign experts—two Britons and a Hungarian—packed up and left last week to avoid becoming stranded after a spat between Iraq's central government and the Kurdish authorities over a disputed independence referendum that saw Baghdad cut international air links to the region. "This is the first time researchers from abroad have had to leave," said student Rzgar Qader Boskiny, who has been working on a neighboring dig."They even stayed here when the Islamic State group came near," he said referring to the jihadists.

The sudden disappearance of foreign experts has left Nuraddini guarding Qalatga Darband. That is a major job for the self-taught man from the nearby town of Ranya who in 2013 helped to guide foreign researchers to the 60-hectare site perched on the edge of a lake.

Archaeologists who have been working on the site describe the find as "exceptional", but it will take the British Museum project years longer to determine if it genuinely was linked to Alexander the Great.
Some believe it could be a major city from Alexander's empire that was lost from historical records for millennia. But even if those hopes prove unfounded, it is still an important find.

The lakeside site was discovered by a team of Iraqi and British archaeologists led by experts from the British Museum. "It was a strategic town, maybe even a provincial capital, that controlled the routes linking different worlds—Mesopotamia, Persia and Ancient Greece," said Jessica Giraud, the head of French archaeological mission in the region.

While the hunt for more clues about Qalatga Darband has ground to a halt, it was assistance from an unlikely source flying overhead that helped experts hone in on the ruins. Archaeologists used declassified images taken by the CIA's Cold War spy satellite program in the 1960s to help them survey the site and better focus their explorations. An image of the area from 1967, seen by AFP, shows the outlines of ancient walls, roads and what appears to be a large building that researchers think was a fort and a temple.

A joint French-Iraqi mission to map archaeological finds has already found some 354 sites in the region.Experts put the density of finds down to fertility of the land and the fact that the area was at the crossroads of major kingdoms.

The British Museum project began last autumn and is set to run until 2020, but the current disruptions could mean delays in answering questions surrounding Qalatga Darband.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-iraq-flight-halts-lost-ancient.html#jCp

Saturday, October 07, 2017

PALMYRA -- PRESENT CONDITION AFTER BEING PARTIALLY DESTROYED BY ISLAMIC STATE

Historic artifacts have survived throughout Syria’s rich history but have taken its place amongst an array of those damaged during the six-year war in the country The ancient city of Palmyra, which was seized and destroyed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2015, had swung back under the Syrian government’s control early March. The“wounded” artifacts in the city are now being healed at the National Museum of Damascus. One of them is the Lion of Al-Lat, which symbolizes a goddess.

Once a destination for tourists from around the world, mostly from Turkey, the National Museum of Damascus is now abandoned. There are only two to three students apart from us. Our guide said tourists had stopped coming since 2011, when the civil war began. The museum, which was opened in 1936, is undergoing restoration right now. Restoration was launched with the thought that the war will end and tourists will begin coming again. Historic artifacts from various parts of Syria are being displayed in its garden. The Lion of Al-Lat is the newest guest.

A local of Palmyra, the lion is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The 2,000-year-old ancient city changed hands several times between the Syrian government and ISIL, with the jihadist group destroying the city most extensively in 2015. Conflicts still continue in the city.

The Lion of Al-Lat, found in pieces by Syrian soldiers, was rescued and carried to museums in Damascus nearly six months ago. The lion was discovered by Polish archaeologists in 1977. Now it is being restored by Polish archaeologists in the museum’s garden. While its pieces are tried to be attached to each other, the lion’s condition is heartbreaking. Next to the lion are other artifacts rescued from Daraa and Kuneytr. Waiting for their fate in the garden, they are from the ravaged Hurran Valley. They were seized by soldiers while they were being smuggled abroad through Lebanon and Jordan. Their new home will be the National Museum of Damascus.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

ROMAN BRONZE ARTIFACTS -- A HOARD -- FOUND IN SOUTWEST ENGLAND

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review, two men discovered a hoard of Roman bronze artifacts in southwest England. Archaeologist Kurt Adams, Gloucestershire and Avon finds liaison officer, said the hoard dates to the fourth century A.D. and includes items that may have been deliberately broken, including small vessel fittings. A detailed statue of a standing dog with an open mouth was found intact. The “licking dog” may have been connected to a Roman healing temple located on what are now the grounds at Lydney Park, a nearby seventeenth-century country estate, or perhaps another undiscovered temple.

LOST CITY WITH TIES TO ALEXANDER THE GREAT FOUND BY DRONES

With the help of drones, archaeologists discovered a lost city with ties to Alexander the Great, according to the British Museum in London.

Qalatga Darband, an ancient city located in what is now Iraqi Kurdistan, lies along the Darband-I Rania, or a pass at the Zagros Mountains. What’s so significant about this path? Besides being a historic route from Mesopotamia to Iran, Alexander the Great traveled the path more than 2,000 years ago.

Declassified spy satellite images from the 1960s first gave explorers a glance at this city, which had never been deeply explored. In addition to ground surveying, researchers used drones to take images. The team discovered buried buildings after analyzing images taken via drone, according to the British Museum.

Archaeologists are increasingly deploying drones to aid their research. Drones are great alternatives to traditional aerial imaging methods, like airplanes or balloons, because they are often cheaper and allow for almost instant processing of gathered data.

ONCE ISIS RETREATED, TERRIBLE DESTRUCTION HAS BEEN DISCOVERED

Videos released by ISIS showed terrible acts of vandalism -- its members smashing artifacts at Mosul Museum and blowing up parts of the site of the Assyrian capital of Nimrud.

Archaeologists returning to areas recaptured from ISIS have found other ancient sites turned into parking lots, statues smashed and manuscripts disappeared.

But there is good news too - with ISIS having failed to destroy many artifacts, previously undiscovered treasures found amid the ruins, and the first modern explorations of sites it never captured revealing exciting new finds.

Magnificent winged bulls which guarded the entrance to the Nergal Gate have been mutilated and Nebi Yunus, the site of a palace, has suffered far greater damage than expected and is in danger of collapse because of tunnelling.

But among all this dreadful news is a glimmer of something positive. At Nebi Yunus, it seems that ISIS was driven out just in time.

Iraqi forces found a network of tunnels, largely following the course of ancient sculptures which lined the palace walls. Tunnels dug by ISIS in an attempt to find antiquities, or serve as communications routes, revealed unseen artifacts. While these tunnels have hugely damaged the archaeology of the mound, ISIS did not have time to loot or destroy these sculptures.

The discoveries in the tunnels - reliefs, sculptures, and cuneiform slabs - are spectacular.
The reliefs are truly exceptional, depicting religious and cultic scenes, priests, and what appears to be a demigoddess or a high-priestess.

About 20 miles south of Mosul is Nimrud, the Assyrian city of Kalhu - a great city between 1350 and 610 BC. Excavations at Nimrud began in the mid-19th Century and continued until 1992, revealing some of the most important monuments of Assyrian art.

Since March 2015 the site has been systematically destroyed by ISIS - with about 80% of it lost.
IS leveled the Ziggurat - a stepped pyramid which was once more than 34m high - with heavy machines, its features now lost or hidden in rubble.

It also destroyed the lamassus - winged bull sculptures - in the nearby Ishtar temple and destroyed the entrance of the Nabu Temple, along with the fish-cloaked statues which flanked it. Bulldozers and explosives were used to destroy the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, king of Assyria from 883 to 859 BC. ISIS posted a video in April 2015 showing parts of Nimrud being blown up

Iraqi archaeologist Faleh Noman, who undertook British Museum training and has been appointed by the Iraqi government to lead assessment of the sites, found "barbaric" destruction. "The main entrance to the palace leading to the throne room has been completely destroyed and the lamassu demolished. "The wall reliefs and lamassu of the second gateway have also been damaged, with only one large wall relief remaining intact." Inside the palace, he found that sledgehammers have been used to damage reliefs.

Iraqi forces recaptured Nimrud from ISIS in November 2016. Across the Mosul region alone, Iraqi officials believe that at least 66 sites were destroyed. There has also been looting, with many of the tunnels dug by the extremists carved out with the aim of finding antiquities to sell on the black market: heritage turned into weaponry.

Monday, September 11, 2017

HUMAN SKELETON FOUND NEAR TULUM, MEXICO, SUGGESTS HUMANS IN THE AMERICAS IN 13,000 YEARS AGO


Analysis of a skeleton found in the Chan Hol cave near Tulum, Mexico suggests human settlement in the Americas occurred in the late Pleistocene era.

Scientists have long debated about when humans first settled in the Americas. While osteological evidence of early settlers is fragmentary, researchers have previously discovered and dated well-preserved prehistoric human skeletons in caves in Tulum in Southern Mexico.

To learn more about America's early settlers, Stinnesbeck and colleagues examined human skeletal remains found in the Chan Hol cave near Tulum. The researchers dated the skeleton by analyzing the Uranium, Carbon and Oxygen isotopes found in its bones and in the stalagmite which had grown through its pelvic bone.

The researchers' isotopic analysis dated the skeleton to approximately 13,000 years before present. This finding suggests that the Chan Hol cave was accessed during the late Pleistocene, providing one of oldest examples of a human settler in the Americas. While the researchers acknowledge that changes in climate over time may have influenced the dating of the skeleton, future research could potentially disentangle how climate impacted the Chan Hol archaeological record.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-08-human-settlement-americas-late-pleistocene.html#jCp

ANCIENT GREAT HOUSES BUILT IN FOUR CORNERS REGION ARE BEING INVESTIGATED


Near Mancos, Colorado, on the site of a former auto-repair shop here, broken stone walls mark the site of a 900-year-old village that may yield new insights into an ancient desert culture. The ruins are what remains of two “great houses” — apartment buildings, essentially — that formed a northern outpost of a civilization based at Chaco Canyon, about 100 miles away in northwestern New Mexico.

Archaeologists from the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, in nearby Cortez, have just begun the first systematic excavation of this site in an effort to learn how its residents lived in the early 1100s, and how they related to the wider Chaco culture. In particular, the Northern Chaco Outliers Project aims to determine when the village was occupied, how many people lived there, and whether they did so during an extended drought of 1130-1180, which may have accelerated a northward movement of people from Chaco.

The project is the first in many years to systematically excavate any of about 250 great houses that were built in the region known as Four Corners, said John Kantner, an archaeologist at the University of North Florida. “We have so little understanding of the role of great houses and the relationship between others and Chaco Canyon itself,” said Dr. Kantner, who excavated Blue J, another Chaco-related site in New Mexico.

The project here has the potential to “fill in the gaps about the outlying great houses,” he said.

ROMAN CAVALRY BARRACKS UNEARTHED NEAR HADRIANS WALL DATING TO ABOUT 2,000 YEARS AGO WITH THOUSANDS OF ARTIFACTS

Archaeologists are likening the discovery to winning the lottery. A Roman cavalry barracks has been unearthed near Hadrian’s Wall, complete with extraordinary military and personal possessions left behind by soldiers and their families almost 2,000 years ago. A treasure trove of thousands of artifacts dating from the early second century has been excavated over the past fortnight. The find is significant not just because of its size and pristine state, but also for its contribution to the history of Hadrian’s Wall, showing the military build-up that led to its construction in AD122. The barracks pre-dates the wall: the Romans already had a huge military presence in the area, keeping the local population under control.

“The native Britons took an opportunity, when the emperor Trajan died in AD117, to rebel,” says Andrew Birley, who heads the archaeological team. “The soldiers stationed in the north before the wall was built became involved in fighting and were very vulnerable. The evidence we have from this [find] shows the incredibly rich and diverse lifestyle these people had.”

Archaeologists stumbled on the site by chance and have been taken aback by finds in a remarkable state of preservation. These include two extremely rare cavalry swords – one of them complete, still with its wooden scabbard, hilt and pommel – and two wooden toy swords. One has a gemstone in its pommel. As well as other weapons, including cavalry lances, arrowheads and ballista bolts – all left behind on the floors – there are combs, bath clogs, shoes, stylus pens, hairpins and brooches. Sections of beautifully woven cloth have also been unearthed. They may have come from garments and have yet to be tested.

There are also two wooden tablets covered in marks made in black ink. They are thought to be letters, but their contents have yet to be deciphered as they were rushed into a conservation laboratory to ensure their survival.

The barracks, that dates from AD105, was found beneath the fourth-century stone fort of Vindolanda, south of Hadrian’s Wall near Hexham, Northumberland. It is one of the site’s earliest barracks. Hadrian did not begin his 73-mile defensive barrier – to guard the north-western frontier of the province of Britain from invaders – until 122.

The artifacts survived because they were concealed beneath a concrete floor laid by the Romans about 30 years after the barracks was abandoned, shortly before 120. The concrete created oxygen-free conditions that helped preserve materials such as wood, leather and textiles, which would otherwise have rotted away. There is a huge range of stuff – their hair combs, pots, wooden spoons, bowls, weapons, bits of armor, and their cavalry bling.

“Even for us, it’s very unusual to get things like complete Roman swords, sitting on the ground in their scabbards with their handles and their pommels. We were slightly dumbfounded by that. Then, to find another complete sword in another room next door only two meters away, two wooden swords and a host of other cavalry equipment, all in beautiful condition, is just terrific. “Archaeologists would never expect to find a Roman cavalry sword in any context, because it’s like a modern-day soldier leaving his barracks and dumping his rifle on the floor … This is a very expensive thing. So why leave [it] behind?”

He recalled feeling “quite emotional” over the discovery: “You can work as an archaeologist your entire life on Roman military sites and never expect, or imagine, seeing such a rare thing, even at Vindolanda. It felt like the team winning a form of archaeological lottery, and we knew we had something very rare and special before us.”

Hidden in this soil, they went on to find, were the timber walls and floors, fences, pots and animal bones from the abandoned barracks. To their astonishment, excavating about 3.5 meters down, they uncovered eight rooms, with stables for horses, and living accommodation, with ovens and fireplaces. They believe that the base was home to more than 1,000 soldiers and probably many thousands more dependants, including slaves. The Romans had covered over this early barracks with concrete and heavy clay foundations before building another above it. At Vindolanda, garrisons would arrive, build their forts and destroy them when leaving.

Cavalry swords are very rare, even across the north-west provinces of the Roman empire, he said, partly because they are so thin. “They’re very light, a couple of feet long, designed to slash somebody as you’re riding past, with a wickedly sharp blade and a point.”
Other finds include copper alloy cavalry fitments for saddles, strap junctions and harnesses. They are in such fine condition that they still shine and are almost completely free of corrosion. The strap junctions are preserved so beautifully, he said, that they have all their alloy links – incredibly rare survivals. Much of the pottery has graffiti, from which the archaeologists hope to work out the names and stories of some of the people who lived here.

Quite why so much valuable material was left behind has yet to be discovered. One theory is that the barracks was abandoned in a hurry. Birley said: “There was strife. This is the precursor to Hadrian coming to the UK to build his wall. This is the British rebellion. So you can imagine a scenario where the guys and girls at Vindolanda are told: ‘We need to leave in a hurry, just take what you can carry.’ If it’s your sword or your child, you grab the child.”

NEW EVIDENCE ABOUT MASADA AND WHO WAS ACTUALLY THERE.. DIFFERENT THAN HEROD'S ANCIENT TALE


In February 2017, Stiebel headed the first excavations atop Masada in over a decade. He and his team broke ground at some previously untouched areas of the site, including an untouched section of Herod’s fresco and mosaic-bedecked northern palace in search of its garden, a collapsed cave believed to possibly house rare scrolls, the Byzantine monastery, and open areas of the plateau once used for agriculture.

Cutting-edge archaeological techniques helped glean a more detailed picture of the past that would have been impossible during Yadin’s time. The picture emerging from these new data about Masada’s inhabitants is far more complex than previously assumed. “It’s not one monolithic group,” Stiebel explained, describing the people living at Masada before its fall as a “very vibrant community of 50 shades of gray” of Judea.

“We have the opportunity to truly see the people, and this is very rare for an archaeologist,” he said. Among them are women and children, who are too often underrepresented in the archaeological record. Through archaeology, the study of the material culture found on Masada, architecture and a restudying of Josephus, he and his team can even pick out where different groups originated from before coming to Masada. “We know people by name, we know people by profession. We can learn about the way this group of rebels lived,” he said.

Stiebel was loath to disclose too many particulars about his team’s finds until they could be published in a scientific journal. He divulged, however, that he and his team have managed to extract “tremendous amounts of data” from the newly excavated areas of the site by adopting a multidisciplinary approach. Beyond the typical archaeological methods, the co-operation with team of archaeobotanists and archaeozoologists enable them to learn about Masadans’ diet, studied pollen samples to learn what crops they raised, and scrutinized metal and ceramic fragments, testing the latter for clues in 2,000-year-old residues.

These techniques have allowed Stiebel to determine that the Jewish rebels subsisted on food they cultivated atop the mountain, and grew cattle and goats. He also determined that a century before the rebels arrived, King Herod imported fine wine that originated from a vineyard in southern Italy.

The extreme aridity atop Masada, which was largely vacant following the siege (except for 200 years of occupation by Byzantine monks), permits preservation of artifacts “beyond words.” Previous excavations have turned up delicate organic materials: wood, parchment, leather and human hair. Stiebel’s latest dig in February yielded additional potsherds bearing Hebrew inscriptions of Masada’s final Jewish residents.

These discoveries have helped shed light on the day-to-day lives of Masada’s Judean refugees, offering a glimpse at a cross-section of Jewish society during a critical period. Excavating at Masada sheds light not only on its inhabitants, but also on the people who lived in Jerusalem and Judea in the nascent years of Christianity, and the twilight of Jewish independence.

Stiebel plans to publish at least two papers describing the results of these digs in greater detail in the near future, and the Tel Aviv University team will be returning to Masada for another season of excavations in February 2018.

Read more: http://forward.com/news/382132/exclusive-new-archaeology-shows-refugee-camp-not-just-rebels-atop-masada/

EGYPT HAS NEW TOMB OF A JEWELER THAT HOPES TO REVIVE TOURISM INDUSTRY



After five months of digging under an unforgiving sun, a team of Egyptian archaeologists unearthed the tomb belonging to the goldsmith who had lived in the desert province of Luxor. The jeweler, who lived during the 18th dynasty (about 1567 B.C. to 1320 B.C.), had dedicated his work to Amon-Re, the most powerful deity at the time. Amenemhat’s tomb was found in Draa Abul-Naga, a necropolis for noblemen and rulers near the Valley of the Kings, on the left bank of the Nile River.

The discovery was a relatively modest one, but in a country that has been trying to revive its tourism industry, which has been decimated by political strife and terrorist attacks after the 2011 uprising, officials announced the find with fanfare. “This find is important for marketing,” Egypt’s antiquities minister, Khaled el-Enany, said at a news conference outside the tomb on Saturday. “This is exactly what Egypt needs.”

The tomb’s main chamber had statues of Amenemhat and his wife seated on chairs, according to Mostafa Waziri, the archaeologist who led the dig. One statue shows her wearing a long dress and wig. A smaller statue, discovered between the couple, depicts one of their sons.


The chamber also contained pottery, wooden funerary masks and ushabti figurines, which are small blue, black or white statues that ancient Egyptians placed in tombs to serve the dead in the afterlife.





NEADERTHALS FOUND IN CROATIA OLDER THAN ORIGINALLY THOUGHT THAT BRINGS UP NEW FACTS


The Neanderthal remains were originally found in the cave approximately 40 years ago and have been tested for age several times. They have also been the subject of much speculation, as it was thought that the remains represented the last of the Neanderthals in that part of Europe and that they existed for a short period of time in close proximity to modern humans.

Initial testing suggested the remains were approximately 28,000 to 29,000 years old. More recent tests have put them at 32,000 to 34,000 years old. Both time frames coincide with the arrival of modern humans into the area, keeping alive the theory that the two groups mixed, both physically and socially. But now, using what is being described as a more accurate technique, the group with this new effort has found that the remains are older than thought.

The new technique, called ZooMS involves radiocarbon dating hydroxyproline—an amino acid taken from collagen samples found in bone remains. The team also purified the collagen to remove contaminants. The researchers report that the new technique indicates that the remains—all four samples—were approximately 40,000 years old. This new finding puts the Neanderthal in the cave well before the arrival of modern humans, thus, there could not have been mixing of the two.

The researchers also studied other artifacts from the cave, including other animal bones, and found that the artifacts were a mixed bag, representing a timeline of thousands of years. The animal bones, they found, were from bears. This has led the team to conclude that the reason more modern artifacts were found with older artifacts is because of bears mixing them up.

The researchers conclude by claiming their study has shown that the Neanderthals at the Vindija cave did not overlap in time with modern humans, and thus were not the final holdout that many have suggested.


Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-09-dating-neanderthal-vindija-cave-older.html#jCp

Monday, September 04, 2017

NEOLITHIC BURIAL, MORE THAN 5,000 YEARS OLD NEAR STONEHENGE, WILL BE INVESTIGATED

A Neolithic burial mound near Stonehenge could contain human remains more than 5,000 years old, experts say. The monument lies in Pewsey Vale, halfway between Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire, and was identified in aerial photographs and followed up by geophysical survey imagery.

As part of the University's final Archaeology Field School, students and staff, with the support of volunteers from the area, have investigated the site of a Neolithic long barrow burial mound in a place known as Cat's Brain - the first to be fully investigated in Wiltshire in half a century.

The monument, which predates nearby Marden Henge by over 1,000 years, is believed it could contain human remains buried there in about 3,600 BCE. The Cat's Brain long barrow, found in the middle of a farmer's field, consists of two ditches flanking what appears to be a central building. This may have been covered with a mound made of the earth dug from the ditches, but has been ploughed flat over many centuries.

Dr Jim Leary, director of the university's archaeology field school, said: "Opportunities to fully investigate long barrows are virtually unknown in recent times and this represents a fantastic chance to carefully excavate one using the very latest techniques and technology. Discovering the buried remains of what could be the ancestors of those who built Stonehenge would be the cherry on the cake of an amazing project."

Dr Leary's co-director, Amanda Clarke, said: "This incredible discovery of one of the UK's first monuments offers a rare glimpse into this important period in history. We are setting foot inside a significant building that has lain forgotten and hidden for thousands of years."

In addition to the Cat's Brain long barrow site, the University of Reading's Archaeology Field School is working at Marden henge, the largest henge in the country, built around 2,400 BC, also within the Vale of Pewsey. Little archaeological work has been carried out in the Vale, especially compared with the well-known nearby sites of Avebury and Stonehenge. The project aims to fill this gap in our knowledge and highlight the importance of the area in the Neolithic period.

Edited from BBC News, PhysOrg (12 July 2017)
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AVEBURY STONE CIRCLE HAS NEW FIND

Avebury is a massive monument, largely created during the 3rd millennium BCE. Its perimeter is a 420 meter diameter earthwork, within which is the world's largest known stone circle - a ring of around 100 standing stones which itself encloses two inner stone circles, each constructed around one of two huge megalithic structures known as the Cove and the Obelisk. The Obelisk was recorded in the 18th century as the largest stone at Avebury, but was later destroyed.

A square formation has been discovered within the Neolithic stone circle at Avebury, the village 130 kilometers west of London. Archaeologists believe the hidden stones, discovered using ground-penetrating radar, were one of the earliest structures at the site, and may have commemorated a Neolithic building dating to around 3500 BCE.

Previously archaeologists had speculated that the 330 meter diameter outer stone circle - the largest in Europe - preceded its enclosed features. The latest work suggests that a wooden building seeded the monument, a series of stone structures place around it over hundreds of years.

According to Mark Gillings, an archaeologist at the University of Leicester: "Our working interpretation is that the house is the first thing. It falls into ruin but they're still remembering and respecting it. They put a square around it about 3000 BC and then the circles."

Clues to the existence of a square structure, each side of which was around 30 meters in length, were first discovered by Alexander Keiller, who excavated in 1939, revealing a number of small standing stones in a line close to the former location of a 6-meter upright stone known as the Obelisk. Keiller's excavation also uncovered postholes and grooves, indicating that a building had once been there, which he supposed was medieval.

When the newly discovered square was compared with Keiller's notes it was found that the stones were centered on and aligned with the building, suggesting Neolithic origin. Similar Neolithic buildings have been discovered recently at other sites.

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Edited from The Guardian (29 June 2017), Arts & Humanities Research Council
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ROCK ART VIEWED IIN THE MOONLIGHT SHOW THAT THEY WERE VIEWED EVEN MORE AT NIGHT THAN IN DAYTIME T

A new investigation of the stone age rock art panel at Hendraburnick Quoit in Cornwall, southwest England, found nearly ten times the number of markings when viewed in moonlight or very low sunlight from the south east. The researchers also discovered that pieces of white quartz which would have reflected moonlight or firelight had been deliberately smashed up around the site.

Study leader Dr Andy Jones, of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit says: "I think the new marks show that this site was used at night and it is likely that other megalithic sites were as well. We were aware there were some cup and ring marks on the rocks but we were there on a sunny afternoon and noticed it was casting shadows on others which nobody had seen before.

When we went out to do some imaging at night, when the camera flashed we suddenly saw more and more art, which suggested that it was meant to be seen at night and in the moonlight. Then when you think about the quartz smashed around, which would have caused flashes and luminescence, suddenly you see that these images would have emerged out of the dark.

Stonehenge does have markings, and I think that many more would be found at sites across the country if people were to look at them in different light."

Hendraburnick Quoit is a large propped 'axe-shaped' stone that was set upon a low platform of slates on Hendraburnick Down, near Davidstow, around 11 kilometres east of the promontory site of Tintagel Castle. Dr Jones believes the stone was dragged up from the valley in the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, around 2,500 BCE.

Previous studies had recorded 13 cup marks, but Dr Jones and colleague Thomas Goskar found 105 engravings under low-angled light, which now makes it the most highly decorated and complex example of rock art known in southern England.

Edited from The Telegraph (7 July 2017)
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HUNDREDS OF STONE TOMBS DISCOVERED IN JORDAN

Hundreds of ancient stone tombs have been discovered in Jebel Qurma, south of Damascus, in a 'black desert' stretching across northeastern Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Many are covered by stone cairns, while others are more complex 'tower tombs'. Tomb robbers have pillaged many of the burials, but archaeologists have found clues to how human life changed in the region over the course of millennia.

Project leader Peter Akkermans, of Leiden University in the Netherlands, writes that: "While the foci of daily living and domestic activity were in secluded areas at the foot of the basaltic uplands or in the deep valleys through which wadis run, it appears that the preferential areas for the disposal of the dead were on the surrounding high plateaus and the summits of the basalt hills."

The team found evidence suggesting that between the late third millennium BCE and the early first millennium BCE, few people lived in Jebel Qurma. A cemetery that contains about 50 cairns stopped being used around 4,000 years ago, which seems to coincide with a large scale withdrawal of people from the region.

Until very recently it was believed that people did not return to Jebel Qurma until the mid or late first millennium BCE, but recent research reveals that the area was re-inhabited in the early first millennium BCE by people who did not use pottery. Another possibility is that people were living in Jebel Qurma, but their remains have yet to be found.

In the late first millennium BCE, the inhabitants began building 'tower tombs', a type both larger and more difficult to construct than the earlier cairns. Some towers are up to 5 meters in diameter and 1.5 meters high, with straight facades made of large, flattened basalt slabs weighing 300 kilos. Initially, Akkermans thought the tower tombs were built for elite members of the society, but recent fieldwork reveals the type is common in the both the local area and the desert region as a whole.

Edited from Jebel Qurma, LiveScience (13 July 2017)
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ROCK SHELTERS WITH SOUND REFLECTIONS ATTRACTED ROCK ARTISTS

Researchers say that members of early farming communities in in the central Mediterranean preferred to paint images in rock shelters where sounds bounced off walls and into the surrounding countryside. Archaeologist Margarita Diaz-Andreu of the University of Barcelona and colleagues report that in landscapes with many potential rock art sites, "the few shelters chosen to be painted were those that have special acoustic properties."

Diaz-Andreu's team studied two rock art sites generally dated to between approximately 6,500 and 5,000 years ago. In southeastern France, at the kilometer-long cliff site of Baume Brune, only eight of the forty-three naturally formed cavities in the cliff contain paintings, which include treelike figures and horned animals. On the east coast of Italy, in the Valle d'Ividoro, at an 800-meter-long section of a gorge, only three of eleven natural shelters contain painted images.

The researchers popped balloons in front of each rock-shelter, recording the sound waves from various locations and distances. Three-dimensional slow-motion depictions of echoes revealed that at both sites, shelters with rock paintings displayed better echoing properties than undecorated shelters, and that shelters with the best echoes had the highest number of paintings.

In a separate study of paintings in northern Finland dated to between around 7,200 and 3,000 years ago, music archaeologist Riitta Rainio of the University of Helsinki and her colleagues found that echoes from steep rock cliffs bordering three lakes also attracted ancient artists. She and her colleagues recorded from boats on the lakes.

Similarly, at the Grotte de Niaux in southwestern France, archaeologist Paul Pettitt of Durham University in England observes that many roughly 14,000 to 12,000 year-old animal drawings and engravings are concentrated in a cathedral-like chamber where sounds echo loudly.

Edited from Science News (26 June 2017)
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ISLE OF MAN IN THE IRISH SEA HAS FINDS OF 160 ROUND BARROWS


A team of archaeologists, students, and local volunteers have for the past twelve months been investigating prehistoric mounds in fields south of Kirk Michael, a village in the north of the Isle of Man - the island in the Irish Sea famous for its annual motorcycle race. The site overlooks the sea with good views of both Scotland and Ireland.

The Isle of Man is home to over 160 round barrows - human burial sites found throughout the British Isles and in continental Europe. First appearing around 3800-3600 BCE, different kinds of round mounds were built sporadically during the Neolithic period and in large numbers during the Early Bronze Age.

The team is led by Doctors Rachel Crellin, a native of the island who now lectures in Archaeology at Leicester University, and Chris Fowler, a lecturer at Newcastle University. Finds so far include the collar of what is believed to be a burial urn of the type commonly found upside down on top of human ashes.

Among other artifacts are a number of flint tools, one of which is a scraper with beveled edges used to remove fat from animal hides.
The team has been running workshops for local schoolchildren and offering daily tours for the public. Heritage Open Days are scheduled for the autumn.
Doctor Crellin says a burial mound of this type has not been excavated on the island for some time, and hopes modern techniques will reveal specific new information about the site, and about prehistory on the island generally.

Edited from IOM Today (21 July 2017)
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DENISOVANS -- ARE THEY PART OF OUR ANCIENT LINEAGE?

During the time of one of our ancient ancestors, the Neanderthals, there also lived a long extinct hominid known as Denisovan. While very little is known about Denisovans, we do know that we share some common DNA and that they might have contributed a positive factor to our immune system. They also shared a common DNA with their Neanderthal cousins.

Until recently our total knowledge of Denisovans has been based on two teeth and a finger bone, which were all found in a cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. There has now been a exciting fourth find, that of a baby tooth, on the same site back in November, 2015. Extensive research has now been carried out on the tooth by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

The tooth was found in a sedimentary layer which has been dated at between 128,000 and 227,000 years old, pre-dating previous Denisovan finds by between 50,000 and 100,000 years! To put this in perspective this time span would indicate that the Denisovans had occupied the site for a longer period than modern humans have occupied Europe.

Vivian Slon, from the Institute, is quoted as saying "Such a long span of time increases the chances that the Denisovans and the Neanderthals may have interacted and interbred". The main point of note is that all Denisovan finds so far have emanated from one site. Without further finds from other locations the researchers are unable to determine whether the finds so far represent the entire spectrum of Denisovan genetic diversity or are an isolated branch.

Edited from LiveScience (10 July 2017)
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[1 image]ere Denisovans an isolated part of our lineage?

Monday, August 28, 2017

SOME 400 VIKING OBJECTS STOLEN FROM A NORWEGIAN MUSEUM

Some 400 Viking objects were stolen from a Norwegian museum at some time over the weekend of Aug. 11-13, the museum's director said describing the loss as "immeasurable". "If the stolen objects are not returned, this is by far the most terrible event in the 200 years of Norwegian museum history," the director of the University Museum of Bergen in southwestern Norway, Henrik von Achen, told AFP.

The items, most of them small metal objects like jewelry, "do not have monetary value attached to them" and the value of the metal itself "is also quite small," he said. "Yet the great and immeasurable loss is connected to the cultural history value of the items, which exceeds the monetary value many times over," he added.

Thieves were able to enter the museum on the seventh floor via scaffolding on the building's facade. The stolen objects had been temporarily placed there ahead of a planned transfer to a more secure location on Aug. 14. Norwegian police are investigating the case together with their international counterparts.

Meanwhile, the museum was surveying all of the stolen objects and posting photos of them on social media sites so "that the items become well-known and hence more difficult to sell and easier to spot," von Achen said.

BABYLONIAN CLAY TABLET (3700 YEAR OLD) IS WORLD'S OLDEST AND MOST ACCURATE TRIGONOMETRIC TABLE

Sydney scientists have discovered the purpose of a famous 3700-year old Babylonian clay tablet, revealing it is the world's oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, possibly used by ancient mathematical scribes to calculate how to construct palaces and temples and build canals. The new research shows the Babylonians, not the Greeks, were the first to study trigonometry - the study of triangles - and reveals an ancient mathematical sophistication that had been hidden until now.

Known as Plimpton 322, the small tablet was discovered in the early 1900s in what is now southern Iraq by archaeologist, academic, diplomat and antiquities dealer Edgar Banks, the person on whom the fictional character Indiana Jones was based. It has four columns and 15 rows of numbers written on it in the cuneiform script of the time using a base 60, or sexagesimal, system.

The UNSW Science research provides an alternative to the widely-accepted view that the tablet was a teacher's aid for checking students' solutions of quadratic problems. "Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles. It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius.

The new study by Dr Mansfield and UNSW Associate Professor Norman Wildberger is published in Historia Mathematica, the official journal of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics. A trigonometric table allows you to use one known ratio of the sides of a right-angle triangle to determine the other two unknown ratios. The Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived about 120 years BC, has long been regarded as the father of trigonometry, with his "table of chords" on a circle considered the oldest trigonometric table. "Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1000 years," says Dr Wildberger. "It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own."

"A treasure-trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us." Dr Mansfield read about Plimpton 322 by chance when preparing material for first year mathematics students at UNSW. He and Dr Wildberger decided to study Babylonian mathematics and examine the different historical interpretations of the tablet's meaning after realizing that it had parallels with the rational trigonometry of Dr Wildberger's book Divine Proportions: Rational Trigonometry to Universal Geometry.


The left-hand edge of the tablet is broken and the UNSW researchers build on previous research to present new mathematical evidence that there were originally 6 columns and that the tablet was meant to be completed with 38 rows. They also demonstrate how the ancient scribes, who used a base 60 numerical arithmetic similar to our time clock, rather than the base 10 number system we use, could have generated the numbers on the tablet using their mathematical techniques.


"Plimpton 322 was a powerful tool that could have been used for surveying fields or making architectural calculations to build palaces, temples or step pyramids," says Dr Mansfield. The tablet, which is thought to have come from the ancient Sumerian city of Larsa, has been dated to between 1822 and 1762 BC. It is now in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University in New York. The name is derived from Pythagoras' theorem of right-angle triangles which states that the square of the hypotenuse (the diagonal side opposite the right angle) is the sum of the squares of the other two sides.