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Archaeology


Stone Pages > Archaeo News

Many thanks to the Stone Pages Archaeo News Podcast for the use of their podcasts for educational purposes. For those interested in Archeology I would strongly recommend subscribing to the podcast. Here is their RSS feed: http://www.stonepages.com/news/podcast.xml

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The Stone Pages website and its contents are © 1996-2003 Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi,
while all the images are © 1982-2003 Diego Meozzi (unless otherwise noted)

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All Teachers and Students are most welcome to use Stone Pages to produce printed matter for the above purposes, providing no financial transactions are involved. Please credit each page or photographs as follows:

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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07 January 2006

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Study traces Egyptians' stone-age roots

Ancient sites unearthed in Tibet

New lights on origin of Chinese civilization

Major Bronze Age tool discovery in Somerset

Neolithic baby boom

Throwing new light on the purpose of Stonehenge

Discovery of ancient mass graves in Burnt City

Hopes to recreate ancient trade route still float

Earliest Mayan writing found in pyramid

     Archeologists excavating a pyramid complex in the Guatemalan jungle have uncovered the earliest example of Mayan writing ever found, 10 bold hieroglyphs painted on plaster and stone. Newly discovered hieroglyphs show that the Maya were writing at a complex level 150 years earlier than previously thought. The glyphs, which date to about 250 BCE, were found on preserved painted walls and plaster fragments in the pyramidal structure known as Las Pinturas, in San Bartolo, Guatemala. Las Pinturas also yielded the previously oldest samples of Mayan writing, dating back to 100 BCE.
     These new glyphs are much more complex, project leader William Saturno of the University of New Hampshire said. "This is a full-blown and fully developed script," Saturno said. "Which is not to say that the Maya invented writing and not the Zapotec, but it does lead us to question the origins and the complexities of these origins." One thing seems certain: The Mayan style was not influenced by the Zapotecs. "It's not similar at all to Zapotec," Saturno said.
     A common problem with dating Mayan writing is that it is often on stone, which scientists can't accurately date using radiocarbon dating. Instead, they must use stylistic changes to date materials. However, Saturno and his team found these writings in a pyramid made in part with wood, which is carbon-based and can be dated with radiocarbon techniques. "The way the Maya built pyramids is by building one layer on top of another," Saturno said. "We have [the building where the writing was found] sandwiched between two other buildings. We can get a date from the building itself, but also a range from the other two."
     Taken together, these samples imply that the text was painted between 300 and 200 BCE. But it's likely that Mayan writing goes back a lot further, Saturno said.
     The glyphs, thin black paintings on off-white stucco, lay in a laboratory in an old house in the colonial city of Antigua. While the writing is mostly indecipherable, Saturno and his team claim one glyph could be an early version of the word "ajaw" or "ruler." The earliest writing in the region dates as far back as 600 BCE and was found in Mexico's Oaxaca valley, said Saturno, although that date is still debated by scholars. "The history of the origins of Mesoamerican writing are not resolved by this find," Saturno said. But the recent discoveries in Guatemala clearly show "that the full story has not yet been told."

Cave art: men and women each did their own thing

Geoscience rediscovers Phoenicia's buried harbors

5,400 years ago, Andeans irrigated crops

    In the Andean foothills of Peru, not far from the Pacific coast, archaeologists have found what they say is evidence for the earliest known irrigated agriculture in the Americas. An analysis of four derelict canals, filled with silt and buried deep under sediments, showed that they were used to water cultivated fields 5,400 years ago, in one case possibly as early as 6,700 years ago, archaeologists reported in a recent issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
     Other scholars hailed the discovery as adding a new dimension to understanding the origins of civilization in the Andes. The canals are seen as the long-sought proof that irrigation technology was critical to the development of the earliest Peruvian civilization, one of the few major cultures in the ancient world to rise independent of outside influence.
     It was assumed that by 4,000 years ago, perhaps 1,000 years earlier, large-scale irrigation farming was well under way in Peru, as suggested by the indirect evidence of urban ruins of increasing size and architectural distinction. Their growth presumably depended on irrigation in the arid valleys and hills descending to coastal Peru. But the telling evidence of the canals had been missing.
     Then Tom D. Dillehay, an archaeologist at Vanderbilt University, started nosing around the Zaña Valley, about 40 miles from the ocean and more than 300 miles north of Lima. On the south side of the Nanchoc River, he and his team uncovered traces of the four canals, narrow and shallow, lined with stones and pebbles, extending from less than a mile to more than two miles in length. The canals ran near remains of houses, buried agricultural furrows, stone hoes and charred plants, including cotton, wild plums, beans and squash.
     The initial discovery was made in 1989, but it took years of further excavations, radiocarbon dating and other analysis before Dr. Dillehay felt ready to announce the find. "We wanted to make sure that the dates were correct and to find more early canals," Dr. Dillehay said. "There are now four sites with canals and probably more." The authors of the journal article said the system appeared to be a small-scale example of organized irrigation technology that "accompanied a mixed economy of incipient agriculturalists, plant collectors and hunters." They reported finding no evidence of a centralized bureaucracy to manage the canals or mechanical devices to control flow rates. But the people of the valley understood elementary hydrology. They laid out the canals to use gravity to deliver river water down gentle slopes to the cultivated fields.
     Craig Morris, a specialist in Peru archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History, who did not take part in the research, said, "Their use of slope and management of water flow shows again that ancient people were a lot smarter and more observant than we often give them credit for."
    Jonathan Haas, an archaeologist at the Field Museum in Chicago who has excavated urban sites elsewhere in Peru's coastal valleys, called the canal discovery "a difficult and brilliant piece of work." In their own excavations, Dr. Haas and Winifred Creamer of Northern Illinois University have uncovered remains of urban centers of a complex agricultural society that flourished 5,000 years ago in valleys in a region known as Norte Chico, or Little North. Such an arid region would have had to have irrigation to have agriculture, especially on an apparently large and prosperous scale.

Sources: Associated Press, The New York Times, Yahoo! News (3 January 2006), International Herald Tribune (5 January 2006)

Studies show Jiroft was ancient trade link

Bronze Age ditch found in Wiltshire

Iron Age 'bog bodies' unveiled in Ireland

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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29 December 2005

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French customs seize ancient treasures

8,000-year-old campsites unearthed in Texas

     A Texas Department of Transportation worker found multiple ancient campsites while working on a construction project in Williamson County (USA). The campsites date back some 8,000 years.
     Jonathan Budd, an archeologist who works for TxDOT, says sites like these are sometimes found during work on their projects, but this one is unique. "This in itself is extraordinary. This is found to be eligible for the National Register for Historic Places," said Budd. "We have significant archeological deposits here. For the last 7,000- 8,000 years you have multiple occupations like a birthday cake." Even though archeologists are focusing on an area that's 70 by 30 meters, they believe the campsite is much larger. And for the most part, the artifacts they're finding have been remarkably preserved. "For some reason, and we haven't really determined it yet, this was protected over the last 7-8,000 years.
      Scientists are hoping to learn how and when early Native Americans utilized the prehistoric landscape to scratch out a living. They're trying to keep the site a secret, but looters have already compromised a small section.
     Steve Carpenter, an archeologist helping TxDOT with the dig, says looting can destroy a site. "It has an adverse effect on our understanding of the entire site as a whole," he said. "People don't really know it's against the law."
     Archeologists say the looters are after prehistoric tools like a bifacial stone that was uncovered or a stone burin, which was used to make holes through animal hides. "They're fairly rare. That's the first one we've recovered from the site." The dig is expected to continue through the early part of February.

Source: KVUE News (28 December 2005)

Ancient tomb restored in Abu Dhabi

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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19 December 2005

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Rampart work closes Iron Age fort

Skulls raise questions on first Americans

     A 10-year study of ancient human skulls from Brazil provides new evidence that two distinct populations of prehistoric people settled the Americas more than 12,000 years ago — a finding that raises new questions about the identity and origins of the first Americans. Brazilian researchers say physical features of the skulls excavated from several limestone caves near Lagoa Santa in central Brazil differ sharply from the ancestors of today's Native Americans, who are thought to have migrated from Siberia to North America at the end of the last Ice Age.
     "These earliest South Americans tend to be more similar to present-day Australians, Melanesians and sub-Saharan Africans," Brazilian anthropologist Walter Neves reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Neves said the findings suggest a "complex scenario in regards to the influx of humans to the New World," but he skirted controversial new theories that the first people to reach the Americas came by boat from Asia, the South Pacific or perhaps even Europe, rather than crossing a land bridge spanning the Bering Strait, as most archaeologists believe. "No transoceanic migration is necessary to explain our findings," he said. Instead, he said the South American population might have come by the same route used by the ancestors of modern Native Americans.
      The age of the Lagoa Santa skulls does not clearly establish which of the two populations entered the Americas first — or when — but Neves said it is plausible to think that the South American population arrived first and then moved, or was pushed southward by the Asian ancestors of present-day Native Americans, whose genetic makeup and linguistic patterns today are dominant in both continents' native peoples. Some genetic studies comparing ancient remains and modern humans have suggested there might have been anywhere from one to four separate migrations of prehistoric peoples to the Americas.
     Human skeletal remains older than 8,000 years are rare in the Americas, but isolated examples of skulls with seemingly "un-Asian" features have been found and reported in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Florida and California. But the analysis by Neves, of the University of Sao Paulo's Laboratory of Human Evolution, and his colleague Mark Hubbe is the first to look comprehensively at a large number of remains from a single location. Neves says individual skulls may vary widely, but in the aggregate, the 81 South American skulls show a clear pattern that differs markedly from the features of modern Native Americans. He says today's Native Americans and their ancestors have narrow and long skulls, squarish jaws, and relatively high noses and eye sockets. The South American skulls tend to have short and wide skulls, jutting jaws, and relatively low noses and eye sockets.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (13 December 2005)

Ancient humans brought bottle gourds to the Americas from Asia

     Thick-skinned bottle gourds widely used as containers by prehistoric peoples were likely brought to the Americas some 10,000 years ago by individuals who arrived from Asia, according to a new genetic comparison of modern bottle gourds with gourds found at archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere. The finding solves a longstanding archaeological enigma by explaining how a domesticated variant of a species native to Africa ended up millennia ago in places as far removed as modern-day Florida, Kentucky, Mexico and Peru.
      The work, by a team of anthropologists and biologists from Harvard University, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, Massey University in New Zealand and the University of Maine, appears this week on the web site of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
      Integrating genetics and archaeology, the researchers assembled a collection of ancient remnants of bottle gourds from across the Americas. They then identified key genetic markers from the DNA of both the ancient gourds and their modern counterparts in Asia and Africa before comparing the plants' genetic make-up to determine the origins of the New World gourds.
      "For 150 years, the dominant theory has been that bottle gourds, which are quite buoyant and have no known wild progenitors in the Americas, floated across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa and were picked up and used as containers by people here," says Noreen Tuross, the Landon T. Clay Professor of Scientific Archaeology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "Much to our surprise, we found that in every case the gourds found in the Americas were a genetic match with modern gourds found in Asia, not Africa. This suggests quite strongly that the gourds that were used as containers in the Americas for thousands of years before the advent of pottery were brought over from Asia."
      The researchers say it's possible the domesticated gourds were conveyed to North America by people who arrived from Asia in boats or who walked across an ancient land bridge between the continents, or that the gourds floated across the Bering Strait after being transported by humans from their native Africa to far northeastern Asia. "These people did not arrive here empty-handed; they brought a domesticated plant and dogs with them. They arrived with important tools necessary to survive and thrive on a new continent, including some knowledge of and experience with plant domestication," says co-author Bruce Smith of the Smithsonian Institution.
      Thought to have originated in Africa, bottle gourds (Lagenaria sicereria) have been grown worldwide for thousands of years. The gourds have little food value but their strong, hard-shelled fruits were long prized as containers, musical instruments and fishing floats. This lightweight "container crop" would have been particularly useful to human societies before the advent of pottery and settled village life, and was apparently domesticated thousands of years before any plant was domesticated for food purposes.
      Radiocarbon dating indicates that bottle gourds were present in the Americas by 10,000 years ago and widespread by 8,000 years ago. Some of the specimens studied by the team were not only the oldest bottle gourds ever found but also quite possibly the oldest plant DNA ever analyzed. The newest of their archaeological samples, a specimen found in Kentucky, was just 1,000 years old - suggesting the gourds were used in the New World as containers for at least 9,000 years.

Source: EurekAlert! (13 December 2005)

Ancient Chinese may have worn necklaces 20,000 years ago

Iron Age temple discovered in Iran

Vandals painted the Swastika Stone

Several finds unearthed on Irish road route

5000-year-old twin grave unearthed in Burnt City

Oldest large-scale warfare found in Syria

2,300-2,500 years old tombs discovered in Vietnam

New row erupts at site near Thornborough henges

Shedding light on dark age of Cyprus archaeology

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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4 December 2005

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Wine may have been produced as far back as the Neolithic

Prehistoric settlements found in Greece

Ancient canals reveal underpinnings of early Andean civilization

     Canals discovered in the Peruvian Andes dating back over 5,400 years offer long-sought proof that irrigation was at the heart of the development of one of the earth’s first civilizations. The discovery by Vanderbilt University anthropologist Tom Dillehay and his colleagues, Herbert Eling, Instituto Naciona de Anthropolotica e Historia in Coahulila, Mexico, and Jack Rossen, Ithaca College, was reported in the Nov. 22 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
      The anthropologists discovered the canals in Peru's upper middle Zana Valley, approximately 60km east of the Pacific coast. Preliminary results indicate one of the canals is over 6,700 years old, while another has been confirmed to be over 5,400 years old. They are the oldest such canals yet discovered in South America.
      "One of the signatures of the beginning of civilization and complex society is intensive agriculture, where you have not only crops but also irrigation technology," Dillehay, distinguished professor of anthropology and chair of the department, said. "That element — irrigation technology — was always missing in archaeological findings of early Andean civilization. We found it by looking farther up the valley away from the coastal plains and by excavating deeply."
      Anthropologists had presumed that the canals that helped support early Andean civilization had lain closer to the surface and were hence destroyed by human activity and nature over time. Dillehay and his team found that the canals had not been destroyed but had been buried by sediment. The team made its initial discovery of the canal system in 1989 and has been working since to uncover the broader picture of the canals and the civilization that they supported.
      "Our findings indicate that people were building these canals and creating artificial wetlands—essentially garden plots—in the Andes over 5,400 years ago," Dillehay said. "This was an important moment for this civilization as it established a codependency between the crops and the people, which allowed and encouraged larger groups of people to begin to settle down in one place," Dillehay added.
      The team uncovered four canals ranging in length from one to four km. The canals are narrow, symmetric, shallow and U-shaped. They were lined with stones and small pebbles, and appear to be individually designed to take advantage of different periods of water availability. The canals were built along the edge of a terrace above a nearby stream and used gravity to deliver water downhill to the agricultural fields. A striking feature of the canals is that they are located on a very slight slope, indicating that their builders were able to engineer them to function hydraulically in a relatively sophisticated manner. All domestic sites found in the area lie within 2.5 km of the canals and share tools, structures, dietary remains and other features, indicating they were part of the same society.

Source: NewsWise (29 November 2005)

Nuragic remains recovered in Porto Torres

Study treads on footprint claim

     In July, researchers in England claimed the prints proved that humans were in the Americas 40,000 years ago — much earlier than the accepted date of 11,500 years ago. But Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and an adjunct professor at University of California-Berkeley, says the prints are about 1.3 million years old. "You're really only left with two possibilities," Renne said. "One is that they are really old hominids — shockingly old — or they're not footprints."
      Earlier this year, a British-Mexican team led by Dr Silvia Gonzalez of Liverpool John Moores University announced that the site at Valsequillo Lake near Puebla in southern Mexico likely contained the oldest evidence of human occupation in the Americas. The researchers hypothesized that early hunters walked across ash freshly deposited near a lake by volcanoes that are still active. The so-called footprints, subsequently covered by more ash and inundated by lake waters, eventually turned to rock. The researchers used several methods to date minerals and fossils from above, below and on the footprint layer itself. Radiocarbon dating was carried out on shells and animal bones in the sequences, and mammoth teeth were dated using a technique called electron spin resonance.
      They obtained dates for lake sediments incorporated into the ash by a technique called optically stimulated luminescence. The results converged on the highly controversial date of 40,000 years. Under the traditional view, the first Americans trekked from Siberia to Alaska across a land bridge that linked these land masses at the end of the last ice age (between about 10,000 and 12,500 years ago).
      But Paul Renne, a geochronologist at Stanford University, and colleagues have now used argon dating and palaeomagnetic analysis to show that the so-called Xalnene basaltic tuff on which the purported footprints were found was in fact far older even than Dr Gonzalez and her team suggested. The results show the tuff is 1.3 million years old. The footprints would therefore predate the first known appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa by more than a million years.
      "This casts serious doubt on whether those marks are human footprints," co-author Michael Waters, of Texas A&M University, said.
      Although some scientists have conceded it is possible that archaic humans such as Homo erectus could have made it to the Americas, the possibility is considered remote in the extreme. "If you look at the original work that was presented, there was an optically stimulated luminescence technique. That technique cannot be used to date that sort of material - it should never have been applied," said Dr Waters. The Texas A&M researcher also criticised the use of radiocarbon dating on shells from the sequences: "Freshwater shell is notorious for producing erroneous ages."
      Dr Gonzalez said her team would be submitting a formal scientific response for publication in an academic journal. She added she would not rule out the possibility that her theory was correct without doing further research. "The new finding doesn't necessarily mean that (1.3 million years ago) is the correct date. The results would need to be replicated to make sure that everything makes sense," Gonzalez said. She also said part of the problem in verifying the dates of the deposits in Mexico's Valsaquillo Basin is the amount of different materials in the particles. "But the fact that that is the case doesn't automatically mean that they aren't footprints," Gonzalez said. Her team has funding to do further analysis in the basin for the next three years.
      Dr Waters said he thought the marks were actually left over from quarrying: "The Xalnene tuff is a lithified volcanic ash. The locals go out there and quarry it for building material," he explained. "What you're seeing in the depressions is where the metal tools are diveting into the tuff. Every time it rains, water collects in the depressions, sediments collect in them and they weather out into oddball shapes."

Sources: Associated Press, EurekAlert!, Yahoo! News (30 November 2005), BBC News (1 December 2005)

Wollemi rock art shows Aboriginal Dreaming

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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27 November 2005

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Suffolk County to reinter ancient bones near Indian site

Chile's prehistoric mummies possibly done in by arsenic

Rock art sites in Colorado

     When people think of petroglyphs in the USA, they often think of Utah and New Mexico. In fact, a surprising amount of rock art exists in neighboring Garfield County (Colorado). And there may be a lot more yet to be found.
      Andrea Brogan, an archaeologist with the White River National Forest, said few people seem to be aware of the amount of rock art that is close to home. She was surprised herself to learn how much has been discovered in western Garfield County. In fact, prehistoric people have left a pictorial history of themselves in the area. "I think we're just sort of scraping the tip of the iceberg by what we see out there. I know there's more out there and there's clues about the people," Brogan said.
      Brogan has taken an interest in Oni Butterfly's efforts to protect rock art on her property in the Dry Hollow area south of Silt, about 80 miles west of Vail, after meeting Butterfly while cross-country skiing on the Flat Tops. Now that Butterfly's canyon is protected from development, the rock art there is the first Brogan is aware of south of Silt and Rifle to have some sort of protection. But she knows of other property owners in that area who also are considering seeking protection for rock art on their land. Brogan thinks some of the artwork is as much as 4,000 years old.
      Some other local rock art sites are in the Mamm Creek area, and on a spot along the Grand Hogback north of Silt. A higher-elevation site is in Sweetwater east of Glenwood Canyon. There is a pithouse in the Battlement Mesa area, and rock art has been found in Glade Park on the Uncompahgre Plateau, and in abundance in the Dinosaur National Park region.
      Some local rock art is in pristine condition, which might be attributed to its being on private property. By contrast, vandals have damaged the Sweetwater site.
      The prehistoric people who lived in the area are called the Uncompahgre, a branch of the Utes. Some of the artwork shows deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Other petroglyphs are a complete mystery to Brogan, and among these are some concentric circles that look like targets.

Source: Vail Daily (24 November 2005)

Chile's prehistoric mummies possibly done in by arsenic

     Living in the harsh desert of northern Chile's Pacific coast more than 7,000 years ago, the Chinchorro fishing tribe mysteriously began mummifying dead babies - removing internal organs, cleaning bones, stuffing and sewing up the skin, putting wigs and clay masks on them. The Chinchorro mummies are the oldest known artificially preserved dead, dating thousands of years before Egyptian mummies, and the life quest of the archeologists who study them is to discover why this early society developed such a complex death ritual.
      Archeologist Bernardo Arriaza, who studies the Chinchorro at the University of Tarapaca in Chile's northernmost city Arica, launched a daring new theory this year. Arriaza says high levels of arsenic in the water in the region, which persist to this day, meant more premature births, stillbirths, spontaneous abortions and higher infant mortality among the Chinchorro. He posits the Chinchorro began preserving dead babies to express personal and community grief and later began mummifying adults as well, and the practice became more elaborate.
      Since the 1960s archeologists have excavated more than 100 delicate, diminutive bodies, many preserved intentionally. They were stuffed with plants and sea grasses and decorated with clay. They have also found fishing hooks, baskets and sea shells used as pallets, still stained with the red and black paint used to decorate the mummies.
      The Chinchorro were hunter-gatherers who lived at river mouths, fishing with spears, hooks and nets and building their movable shelters from sea-lion pelts and bones. Their primitive life without domesticated animals, pottery, agriculture or metallurgy contrasts with the elaborate mummification they developed.
      The practice lasted more than 3,000 years and went through different stages before the Chinchorro society disappeared about 2000 BCE. The earliest mummies were like statues covered with unbaked black clay. Thousands of years later the treatment of the skin and bones became more elaborate and the Chinchorro began finishing their mummies with red ochre paint on open-mouthed masks.
      The University of Tarapaca is struggling with scarce funds to preserve the dozens of mummies already dug up, no money to excavate new ones and nowhere to put them either. "We have a research policy and we order our academics not to dig. They have to do their research on the existing material," said Hector Gonzalez, head of the university's anthropology department, which runs a small museum at San Miguel de Azapa outside Arica. The museum's warehouse - off limits to the public - holds 42 of the anthropology department's 130 mummies. There's no money for controlling temperature or humidity to stem deterioration. However, the museum recently received $750,000 from the university and the local government to build a new building that will house many of the Chinchorro mummies in a new exhibit so that visitors can finally view them.
      Despite the no-excavation rule, mummies keep popping up around Arica, where a salty, dry climate has preserved burial grounds for millennia. Digging for a hotel in downtown Arica earlier this year, construction workers came across a large cemetery. The hotel project was halted and the university agreed to purchase the land and turn it into an on-site museum to avoid moving the fragile mummies.
      Arriaza's colleague at the University of Tarapaca, archeologist Vivien Standen, is now investigating the quartz spearheads embedded in some of the mummies' bones and evidence of blows to the left side of their faces, and developing a theory about possible ritual violence. What she and Arriaza are sure about is that the mummified bodies became religious art - statues with a spiritual meaning - after the Chinchorro spent months preparing them. "They lived with them a while, they probably took the mummies from place to place with them" before eventually placing them in simple collective tombs, Standen said.

Sources: Reuters (24 November 2005)

Suffolk County to reinter ancient bones near Indian site

Ridgeway story in the spotlight

A rush to excavate ancient Iranian sites

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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13 November 2005

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Ancient burial mounds unearthed in Armenia

A solution to save Silbury Hill from disaster

Rare pottery kiln discovered in Mongolia

Earliest known rendering of the Hebrew alphabet found

Saipan may be Pacific's oldest archaeological site

DNA shows first Europeans were hunters not farmers

Pennsylvania hunters may use prehistoric weapon

     An ancient weapon that struck fear in the hearts of Spanish conquistadors, and that some think was used to slay woolly mammoths in Florida, may soon be added to the arsenal available to Pennsylvania (USA) hunters.
      The state Game Commission is drafting proposed regulations to allow hunters to use the atlatl, a small wooden device used to propel a 6-foot-long dart as fast as 80 mph. The commission could vote to legalize its use as early as January. It's unclear which animals atlatlists may be allowed to hunt, but the proposal is being pushed by people who want to kill deer with a handmade weapon of Stone Age design. The name, usually pronounced AT-lad-ul, is derived from an Aztec word for “throwing board.”
      In Alabama, one of a handful of states that allows the use of atlatls for hunting or fishing, few hunters use them during deer season, said Allan Andress, the chief fish and game enforcement officer for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Even spear hunters—Alabama game law also allows spears— outnumber those using atlatls. "As you might imagine, it’s not something that most people have the skill or the patience for," Andress said.
      To use an atlatl, throwers hook arrow-like hunting darts into the end of the atlatl, which is generally a wooden piece about 2 feet long. The leverage of the atlatl allows them to throw the 5- to 8-foot darts much farther than they could throw a spear.
     There is evidence that the weapons were used more than 8,000 years ago in Pennsylvania, said Kurt Carr, an archaeologist with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Prehistoric atlatls have a distinctive counterweight feature called a winged banner stone that has helped confirm their existence at digs in Huntingdon and Bucks counties, among other places, said Carr. Atlatl use goes back as far as 12,000 years elsewhere in North America and far longer in Europe.
      If the commission gives preliminary approval in January, a final vote in April could clear the way for atlatl hunting in Pennsylvania late next year.

Source: Associated Press, CBS 3 (12 November 2005)

[Note: see the 12 January 2006 issue for an update]

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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2 November 2005

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3000-year-old warrior still fighting at Gohar-Tappeh

Bosnian explorer finds 'Europe's first pyramids'

Oldest dragon totem found

Dig near Tucson uncovers ancient settlement

     Archeologists are finding the people who lived in this area northwest of Tucson, Arizona (USA) three thousand years ago have more in common with us than we might think.
      One thing that's fairly obvious, they came here because water was plentiful. "You have water coming off of the slopes of the Tortolita and the Tucson Mountains, and this is where the Santa Cruz sort of spreads out, and so this would be a really prime place for agriculture," explains Michael Cook, the Archeology Project Manager for Westland Resources, Inc.
     It worked well for a time. Archeologists believe a big flood, similar in scale to the one in 1983, forced these ancient people to move, about 2,800 years ago. Finding the artifacts, roughly seven feet below the surface, hasn't been all that easy. Sometimes, a subtle difference in the soil catches the eye, and it helps to use the ears too.
     What they're finding is teaching us a lot, as to how they stored food: big pits underneath with small openings on top, plenty of space and easy to cover. They're finding food itself, some of the oldest corn found in southern Arizona.
      They've also found spear tips for the hunters and figurines, some of them painted, maybe the oldest in southern Arizona. They've been found along with burnt antlers, suggesting some sort of ritual. They're made of clay, but they haven't been heated, presumably because people weren't building kilns yet.
      The ancient people were nonetheless skillful. "They knew exactly what they were doing," said Jeff Charest, an archeologist digging at the site. "Food, shelter, water, stuff we have problems with today, getting water for the community, they had it all figured out."

Source: Kold News (28 October 2005)

Greenhouse effect occurred 5,000 years ago

Polynesian cemetery unlocks ancient burial secrets

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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23 October 2005

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Public asked for views on ancient hillfort

Archaeologists to excavate prehistoric sites in Iran

Mysterious grave found in Gohar Tepe, Iran

Protecting Maltese heritage

Archeologist urges Lake Worth to preserve its past

Art to raise Ridgeway's profile

Native Americans mounds in Ohio hold history

Squatters, Scribble Threaten Peru's Nazca Lines

     The latest threat to Nazca, the vast U.N. World Heritage site where the enigmatic shapes and lines, stylized figures of birds and animals were etched in the desert some 2,000 years ago, is a camp of around 30 shacks that appeared in August. The rudimentary straw-matting huts are pitched in the dry earth on the fringe of a protected area that covers 111,200 acres. Directly below them is an ancient burial site still pitted by long-ago scars of tomb raiders hunting for priceless textiles, pottery or jewels to steal.
     The lines - one of Peru's top tourist attractions and only properly visible from the air - were made by clearing away surface shale or piling it up onto other stones when the Roman Empire still existed. But there are signs modern vandals have been at work. One giant trapezoid, which is not on the usual tourist aerial overview, has graffiti scrawled all over it. Nearby, someone has also drawn a penis - a recent addition, judging by how the newly disturbed earth stands out brightly against the gray of the plain.
     "Everyone thinks we're exaggerating when we say the lines are being irreparably damaged, but I'd like them to see the amount of graffiti on these lines," said Eduardo Herran, chief pilot at Aerocondor, who flies over Nazca almost daily. The squatters - who have been reported to the police but say they have nowhere else to go - have invaded the edge of the Nazca no-go area. Although the shacks are far from Nazca's most emblematic figures, like the monkey with the spiral tail, archeologists fear they will spread unless people are evicted.
     However, tomb raiders remain one of Nazca's top threats. From the air, it looks like some areas have been machine gunned because of the clusters of craters dug over the decades. Herran said a textile from the Paracas civilization, when archeologists say the earliest lines in Nazca and those in neighboring Palpa were made, could fetch $1 million. The Paracas culture ran from about 500 BCE to 200 BCE and Nazca from about 100 BCE to 650 CE. Among other dangers, Herran said he had seen goat tracks 10 yards (meters) from the head of the famous hummingbird figure.
      Protection is increasingly urgent as the area reveals more treasures. For example several largely unknown Paracas-era figures on the Nazca plain, including one like two monkeys and another like a fish or snake, came to light in September. "Everything that has been preserved by the desert is being destroyed now by man -- by agriculture, expansion of housing and destruction of archeological sites," warned Giuseppe Orefici, an Italian archeologist excavating the Nazca ceremonial site and pyramids of Cahuachi.
     The Nazca lines were declared a U.N. heritage site in 1994 -- six decades after a lizard figure was chopped in two by the construction of the Pan-American highway. Further damage occurred later when electricity towers were installed, close to at least one figure.
     "Wherever you tread in Nazca there are archeological remains, evidence of cemeteries as well as lines," said historian Josue Lancho. And just treading is trouble. The plain is partly covered by scree but the earth underneath is peculiarly spongy, making even the faintest footprints or marks virtually indelible. That is why the Nazca and Palpa lines have survived virtually intact for some 2,000 years. But it is also why half-century-old tire tracks are now part of the scenery.
      Helaine Silverman, an authority on Nazca at the University of Illinois, said more should be done. The authorities "plead a lack of funds but it's really a lack of will," she said. Only a couple of watchmen on motorbikes patrol Nazca, one of Peru's top tourist attractions. One, Humberto Cancho, said he had found people dumping a truckload of trash inside the protected area.

Source: Reuters (19 October 2005)

Occult pratices at an ancient site

Neolithic cemetery, artifacts unearthed in Sahara

Carved stone intrigues Scottish archaeologists

Ancient ritual cauldron unearthed in Bulgaria

Courtesy Paola Arosio/Diego Meozzi - Stone Pages (www.stonepages.com)


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