Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ring fort may have held Bronze Age sports arena

A MYSTERIOUS ring fort in Co Tipperary holds “massive potential for discoveries” according to archaeologists who have carried out the first survey of the site.

Their initial findings suggest that the site may have been used for Bronze Age sporting contests in an arena that is the ancient equivalent of Semple Stadium.

Archaeologists have long been curious about the origins of the Rathnadrinna Fort located about 3km south of the Rock of Cashel – one of Ireland’s most important heritage locations and seat of the High Kings of Munster.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

History in the Remaking

A temple complex in Turkey that predates even the pyramids is rewriting the story of human evolution.

They call it potbelly hill, after the soft, round contour of this final lookout in southeastern Turkey. To the north are forested mountains. East of the hill lies the biblical plain of Harran, and to the south is the Syrian border, visible 20 miles away, pointing toward the ancient lands of Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent, the region that gave rise to human civilization. And under our feet, according to archeologist Klaus Schmidt, are the stones that mark the spot—the exact spot—where humans began that ascent.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

How a hobbit is rewriting the history of the human race

The discovery of the bones of tiny primitive people on an Indonesian island six years ago stunned scientists. Now, further research suggests that the little apemen, not Homo erectus, were the first to leave Africa and colonise other parts of the world, reports Robin McKie

It remains one of the greatest human fossil discoveries of all time. The bones of a race of tiny primitive people, who used stone tools to hunt pony-sized elephants and battle huge Komodo dragons, were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004.

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First Minoan Shipwreck

Crete has seduced archaeologists for more than a century, luring them to its rocky shores with fantastic tales of legendary kings, cunning deities, and mythical creatures. The largest of the Greek islands, Crete was the land of the Minoans (3100-1050 B.C.), a Bronze Age civilization named after its first ruler, King Minos, the "master of the seas" who is said to have rid the waters of pirates. According to Thucydides, he also established the first thalassocracy, or maritime empire. The Minoans were renowned for their seafaring prowess, which opened trade routes with the powerful kingdoms of Egypt, Anatolia, and the Levant.

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Britain's oldest shipwreck discovered off Devonshire coast

A 3,000 year old Bronze Age trading vessel – the oldest shipwreck ever found in British waters – has been located off the coast of Devon in South West England.

It went down around 900 BC carrying a precious cargo of tin and copper ingots from the continent, and has lain undetected on the seabed in just eight to ten metres of water in a bay near Salcombe ever since. Experts have hailed the discovery – one of only four Bronze Age vessels found in British waters – as “extremely important,” and “genuinely exciting.”

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

3,000-year-old shipwreck shows European trade was thriving in Bronze Age

The discovery of one of the world's oldest shipwrecks shows that European trade was thriving even in the Bronze Age, according to experts.

The vessel, carrying copper and tin ingots used to make weapons and jewellery, sank off the coast near Salcombe in Devon and is thought to date from 900BC.

But it was only last year that the South West Maritime Archaeological Group, a team of amateur archaeologists, brought its cargo to the surface.

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On Crete, New Evidence of Very Ancient Mariners

Early humans, possibly even prehuman ancestors, appear to have been going to sea much longer than anyone had ever suspected.

That is the startling implication of discoveries made the last two summers on the Greek island of Crete. Stone tools found there, archaeologists say, are at least 130,000 years old, which is considered strong evidence for the earliest known seafaring in the Mediterranean and cause for rethinking the maritime capabilities of prehuman cultures.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Bronze Age shipwreck artefacts found near Salcombe

Experts have said 300 Bronze Age artefacts found in a shipwreck off the Devon coast could prove European trade thrived as far back as 3,000 years.

The artefacts, including copper and tin ingots, gold bracelets and a bronze sword, were found near Salcombe by amateur archaeologists last year.

Oxford University experts are now studying the objects.

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Bronze Age shipwreck found off Devon coast

One of the world's oldest shipwrecks has been discovered off the coast of Devon after lying on the seabed for almost 3,000 years.

The trading vessel was carrying an extremely valuable cargo of tin and hundreds of copper ingots from the Continent when it sank.

Experts say the "incredibly exciting" discovery provides new evidence about the extent and sophistication of Britain's links with Europe in the Bronze Age as well as the remarkable seafaring abilities of the people during the period.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Medway Neolithic megaliths

In the lower Medway valley, on both sides of the river, are a number of large sarsen stones which are collectively known as The Medway Megaliths. They were moved there between 2500-1700 BC and were part of Neolithic, chambered long barrows, which were ancient burial tombs.

The Medway Megaliths are the only groups of megaliths in eastern England. They consist of, on the east side of the River Medway: Kit's Coty House, Little Kit's Coty House, the Upper White Horse Stone, and the Coffin Stone. On the west side of the river are: the Coldrum Stones, Addington Long Barrow, and the Chestnuts Long Barrow.

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Analysis of hair DNA reveals ancient human's face

DNA analysis of human hair preserved in Greenland's permafrost has given clues as to what the owner looked like.

A study, published in the journal Nature, says the individual's genome is the oldest to have been sequenced from a modern human.

The researchers say the man, who lived 4,000 years ago, had brown eyes and thick dark hair, although he would have been prone to baldness.

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Bracelet found in Vale of Glamorgan is treasure trove

An Iron Age fragment found in a south Wales village last year is the missing half of a bracelet first discovered in 2005, say archaeologists.

Experts from National Museum Wales believe the two bracelets parts, unearthed at Boverton, Vale of Glamorgan, were buried together.

A matching join was found and the decoration, a repeating triangle and a line of dots, proved continuous.

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Why Humans Walk 'Flat-Footed'

Cats and dogs trot around on their toes, as do many other mammals. So why do humans and other great apes walk flat-footed? It is surprisingly energy efficient, a new study suggests.

It takes 53 percent more energy for humans to walk on the balls of their feet, and 83 percent more energy to toe-walk.

However, the energy savings don't apply to running. There's no difference, energy-wise, between landing on our heels and landing on the balls of our feet when we run, the scientists say.

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Sea levels erratic during latest ice age

Cave formations along the coast of an island in the Mediterranean Sea hold evidence that sea level can rise and fall abruptly during an ice age, a finding that casts some doubt on current notions about how those lengthy cold spells develop and progress.

At the height of an ice age, immense volumes of water are locked up in land-based ice sheets, and ocean levels can be as much as 130 meters below where they are today. By contrast, when that ice melts during warm periods, sea level can be a few meters higher than the modern-day standard, says Jeffrey Dorale, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Now, Dorale and his colleagues report in the Feb. 12 Science that during a brief interval well within the most recent ice age, sea level suddenly and inexplicably rose to a height more than one meter above today’s.

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Stonehenge "Hedge" Found, Shielded Secret Rituals?

Stonehenge may have been surrounded by a "Stonehedge" that blocked onlookers from seeing secret rituals, according to a new study.

Evidence for two encircling hedges—possibly thorn bushes—planted some 3,600 years ago was uncovered during a survey of the site by English Heritage, the government agency responsible for maintaining the monument in southern England.

The idea that Stonehedge was a shield against prying eyes isn’t yet firmly rooted, but it's archaeologists' leading theory. For instance the newfound banks are too low and unsubstantial to have had a defensive role.

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Archaeological 'Time Machine' Greatly Improves Accuracy of Early Radiocarbon Dating

Researchers at Queen's University have helped produce a new archaeological tool which could answer key questions in human evolution.

The new calibration curve, which extends back 50,000 years, is a major landmark in radiocarbon dating -- the method used by archaeologists and geoscientists to establish the age of carbon-based materials.

It could help research issues including the effect of climate change on human adaption and migrations.

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A hedge may have blocked onlookers from seeing secret rituals at Stonehenge

A new study has indicated that Stonehenge may have been surrounded by a hedge that blocked onlookers from seeing secret rituals.

According to National Geographic News, evidence for two encircling hedges-possibly thorn bushes-planted some 3,600 years ago, was uncovered during a survey of the site by English Heritage, the government agency responsible for maintaining the monument in southern England.

The idea that Stonehedge was a shield against prying eyes isn't yet firmly rooted, but it's archaeologists' leading theory.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Steak Dinners Go Back 2.5 Million Years

A new fossil skull of a bull confirms that beef has been "what's for dinner" since the dawn of humans.

The discovery of a new "missing link" species of bull dating to a million years ago in Eritrea pushes back the beef steak dinner to the very dawn of humans and cattle.

Although there is no evidence that early humans were actually herding early cattle 2.5 million years ago, the early humans and early cattle certainly shared the same landscape and beef was definitely on the menu all along, say researchers.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

'Stonehenge? It's more like a city garden'

Design watchdog hits out at plans for £20m visitor centre at megalithic jewel in England's cultural crown

Its footpaths are "tortuous", the roof likely to "channel wind and rain" and its myriad columns – meant to evoke a forest – are incongruous with the vast landscape surrounding it.

So says the government's design ­watchdog over plans for a controversial £20m visitor centre at Stonehenge, the megalithic jewel in England's cultural crown. CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, has criticised the design of the proposed centre, claiming the futuristic building by Denton Corker Marshall does little to enhance the 5,000-year-old standing stones which attract more than 800,000 visitors each year.

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£20m Stonehenge visitor centre criticised by Government design watchdog

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) believes the centre's "twee paths" are "more appropriate for an urban garden" and its "delicate roof" is unsuitable for the wind and rain that sweeps across the majestic Wiltshire plains where the stones stand.

Although the plans, by Australian architecture firm Denton Corker Marshall, have been approved by Wiltshire county council planners and are backed by local architects on the Wiltshire Design Forum, CABE said the "architectural approach" was wrong.

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Bog woman given a face

A 2000-year-old body found in a northeastern Jutland bog has received a makeover – coroner style The female known as the Auning Woman, found in a northeastern Jutland bog 1886, and housed at the Museum for Culture and History in...

The female known as the Auning Woman, found in a northeastern Jutland bog 1886, and housed at the Museum for Culture and History in Randers, has finally got a face.

Reasonably well-preserved when she popped up from the bog, the woman’s 2000-year-old skull was broken into several pieces.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Book your place at 'Portable Antiquities: Archaeology, Collecting, Metal Detecting' Conference

Registration is now open for the ‘Portable Antiquities: Archaeology, Collecting, Metal Detecting’ conference on 13th and 14th March 2010. This event is co-organised by the CBA and Newcastle University’s International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, and takes place at Newcastle University and the Great North Museum: Hancock.

The papers at this conference offer perspectives from a range of different interest groups, look at recent research, present case studies from around the UK and beyond, and ultimately offer views about what the future may hold for portable antiquities management. Much debate is anticipated at this timely event.

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Darwin descended from Cro-Magnon man

The father of evolution Charles Darwin was a direct descendant of the Cro-Magnon people, whose entry into Europe 30,000 years ago heralded the demise of Neanderthals, scientists revealed in Australia Thursday.

Darwin, who hypothesised that all humans evolved from common ancestors in his seminal 1859 work "On the Origin of Species", came from Haplogroup R1b, one of the most common European male lineages, said genealogist Spencer Wells.

"Men belonging to Haplogroup R1b are direct descendants of the Cro-Magnon people who, beginning 30,000 years ago, dominated the human expansion into Europe and heralded the demise of the Neanderthal species," Wells said.

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Stonehenge Road Closure

Support the proposed closure of the A344 road to motor traffic at Stonehenge!

Wiltshire County Council has advertised the proposed closure to motor vehicles of the A344 in the vicinity of Stonehenge. This will allow the road to be returned to grassland and has been a long-term goal for all those - including the CBA - who have campaigned to see improvements to the landscape setting of the Stones. Cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders will still have access and the former road line will link the Stones and the new visitor centre at Airman’s Corner.

Removing motorised traffic from the environment immediately around Stonehenge will be a huge improvement and allow its enjoyment in a more dignified and open setting. However, there are others who think the cars, lorries and motorbikes should still have the right to use the road as a short cut and to access the Byways along it.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Ancient tooth enamel defects linked with premature death

A study reveals ancient human teeth showing evidence that stressful events during early development are linked to shorter lifespans.

Anthropologist George Armelagos led a systematic review of defects in teeth enamel and early mortality.

He said: ‘Prehistoric remains are providing strong, physical evidence that people who acquired tooth enamel defects while in the womb or early childhood tended to die earlier.

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Stonehenge's secret: archaeologist uncovers evidence of encircling hedges

The Monty Python knights who craved a shrubbery were not so far off the historical mark: archaeologists have uncovered startling evidence of The Great Stonehenge Hedge.

Inevitably dubbed Stonehedge, the evidence from a new survey of the Stonehenge landscape suggests that 4,000 years ago the world's most famous prehistoric monument was surrounded by two circular hedges, planted on low concentric banks. The best guess of the archaeologists from English Heritage, who carried out the first detailed survey of the landscape of the monument since the Ordnance Survey maps of 1919, is that the hedges could have served as screens keeping even more secret from the crowd the ceremonies carried out by the elite allowed inside the stone circle.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Helman Tor: Bronze Age hut circle uncovered

A BRONZE Age hut circle near Lanlivery, on Helman Tor, has been revealed by conservationists.

Nine volunteers met at the Cornwall Wildlife Trust's largest nature reserve last Saturday, which takes in the tor and the surrounding 217 hectares (536 acres), and stripped back gorse to show off the monument.

Mid Cornwall reserves officer, Sean O'Hea said: "This is a really positive thing we are doing for the reserve. By stripping back the gorse, we are encouraging increased plant biodiversity and as a result we will see more butterflies and bird species eventually.

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Long lost theory on Silbury Hill is uncovered

Letters that lay undiscovered in national archives for more than 230 years suggest that Silbury Hill, the enigmatic man-made mound that stands between Marlborough and Beckhampton, may have originally be constructed around some sort of totem pole.

Historians have uncovered in the British Library in London letters written in 1776 that describe a 40ft-high pole which once stood at the centre of Silbury Hill. Europe’s largest man-made mound.

The letters detail an 18th century excavation into the centre of the man-made mound, where archaeologists discovered a long, thin cavity six inches wide and about 40ft deep.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Polish scientists say 3 Neanderthal teeth found

A team of Polish scientists said Monday they have discovered three Neanderthal teeth in a cave, a find they hope may shed light on how similar to modern humans our ancestors were.

Neanderthal artifacts have been unearthed in Poland before. But the teeth are the first bodily Neanderthal remains found in the country, according to Mikolaj Urbanowski, an archaeologist with Szczecin University and the project's lead researcher.

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The Megaliths of Northern Europe

When: Thursday, February 18th at 10am (tea and coffee from 9:30)

Where: Centre for Anthropology, British Museum

The British Museum’s Centre for Anthropology, in collaboration with the Royal Anthropological Institute, will be continuing its series of encounters between authors and their reviewers with a seminar discussion between Dr. Magdalena Midgley, author of The Megaliths of Northern Europe, and Prof. Chris Scarre, who reviewed the work for JRAI.

This is a free event.

Bookings/enquiries by email: SMarianski(AT)