Friday, June 28, 2013

Vandals graffiti Bronze Age standing stone

A Bronze Age standing stone in the Brecon Beacons National Park has been vandalised. The Maen Llia standing stone, a Scheduled Ancient Monument situated between Heol Senni and Ystradfellte, has been defaced, with graffiti daubed on the protected stone.

Vandals graffiti Bronze Age standing stone
The Maen Llia standing stone, a Scheduled Ancient Monument situated between Heol Senni and Ystradfellte, has been defaced, with graffiti daubed on the protected stone [Credit: WalesOnline]
The iconic 3.7 metre tall standing stone attracts visitors from around the world and is recognised as a site of national archaeological importance. It is likely that the stone was erected in the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age between 2500 and 1800 BC.

Brecon Beacons National Park Authority is currently working with Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, and landowners to arrange for the graffiti to be sensitively removed.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Horse Fossil Yields Astonishingly Old Genome—Are Similarly Ancient Human Genomes Next?

Horse fossil dating to around 700,000 years ago has yielded the oldest complete genome yet. Image: D. G. Froese

Researchers have recovered DNA from a nearly 700,000-year-old horse fossil and assembled a draft of the animal’s genome from it. It is the oldest complete genome to date by a long shot–hundreds of thousands of years older than the previous record holder, which came from an archaic human that lived around 80,000 years ago. The genome elucidates the evolution of modern horses and their relatives, and raises the question of whether scientists might someday be able to obtain similarly ancient genomes of human ancestors.
Ludovic Orlando of the University of Copenhagen and his colleagues extracted the DNA from a foot bone found at the site of Thistle Creek in Canada’s Yukon Territory in permafrost dating to between 560,000 and 780,000 years ago, which falls within the so-called early Middle Pleistocene time period. They then mapped the fragments of DNA they obtained against the genome of a modern horse to piece together a draft of the ancient horse’s genome.
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Dig for Iron Age hill fort in Ely, Cardiff

Archaeologists are starting a dig in Cardiff at what is being classed as a significant Iron Age hill fort. Limited trial excavations at the fort in Ely, next to a link road from the M4 in the west of the city, took place last year. Evidence of Iron Age pottery was found along with Bronze Age and Roman activity as well as Norman ringwork. 

Dig for Iron Age hill fort in Ely, Cardiff
Dig for Iron Age hill fort in Ely, Cardiff
Above: View of Iron Age hill fort at n Ely, Cardiff; Below: An impression of the Ely hillfort
[Credit: Caer Heritage Project]
The Norman fort is next to a 13th Century church which is now a fragile ruin. It is believed the fort was once a stronghold of the powerful Silurian tribe who inhabited this part of Wales before the arrival of the Romans.

Dr Dave Wyatt, a lecturer in early medieval history and community outreach at Cardiff University, is behind the project.

"People have know about it for quite a long time but what's interesting is that no-ones ever thought to research it," he told BBC Radio Wales.

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Origins of human throwing unlocked

Throwing at high speeds is unique to humans and it helped Homo erectus to hunt two millions years ago, scientists have said

Early humans evolved to throw about two millions years ago, according to new research.
Anatomy changes found in the extinct species Homo erectus allowed this ability to evolve.
Archaeological evidence suggests hunting intensified during this time, which scientists now attribute to the ability to throw.
Researchers tell the journal Nature that the ability helped early hunters to evolve and migrate around the globe.
The ability to throw at very high speeds is unique to humans. We can throw much faster than our closest living relative - the chimpanzee - which can only reach speeds of 20mph compared to 90mph that many professional athletes can reach.
To investigate the evolutionary development of the ability to throw, scientists first had to understand the biomechanics of throwing today.
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Saving Cleopatra's Needle

'Eye on the Needle' is a documentary about Cleopatra's Needle on London's Embankment. Currently in pre-production, the film is presented by Dr Paul Harrison and directed by Edward Scott-Clarke. This is a short film to compliment our sponsume page (, which we are using to raise funds for the film. 

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dig starts at Iron Age hill fort in Caerau, Cardiff

Archaeologists have begun the first dig at an Iron Age hill fort above the Caerau housing estate in Cardiff.
Experts say it is one of the most significant of its kind in Europe, and re-writes history, proving the area was an important stronghold long before the Romans came.
Nick Palit went to view the dig and spoke to Dr Oliver Davies from Cardiff University.
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Monday, June 24, 2013


Artefacts from the African Middle Stone Age (MSA; ∼200 to ∼50 ka), provide us with the first glimpses of modern human art and culture. Approximately 50 ka, one or more subgroups of modern humans expanded from Africa to populate the rest of the world.
Significant behavioural change accompanied this expansion, and archaeologists commonly seek its roots during this period. Recognizable art objects and “jewellery” become common only in sites that postdate the MSA in Africa and Eurasia, but some MSA sites contain possible precursors, including abstractly incised fragments of ochre and perforated mollusc shells interpreted as beads.

Was population growth the driver of change?

Researchers had previously theorised that it was an increase in population that drove behavioural innovations which in turn led to the creation of these artefacts and eventually, the expansion out of Africa. However, by examining mollusc shells from Stone Age sites, Richard Klein of Stanford University and Teresa Steele of University of California, Davis, have determined that a significant population increase did not occur until the Later Stone Age (LSA), after the out of Africa migration had already begun. Their research appears in the June 2013 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Snail genes reveals human migration to Ireland

A common garden snail gives insight into human migration to Ireland

A genetic similarity between snail fossils found in Ireland and the Eastern Pyrenees suggests humans migrated from southern Europe to Ireland 8,000 years ago.
The slimy creatures in Ireland today are almost identical to snails in Southern France and Northern Spain.
Whether an accidental visitor on a ship or brought along as a snack, the boat they were carried on did not appear to stop in Britain.
The findings are published in PLOS One.
As Britain emerged from the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago, sea levels rose and landslides are thought to have triggered a great tsunami. Britain was transformed into an island, separated from mainland Europe and Ireland.
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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Heritage & Science: Working Together in the CARE of Rock Art

Ancient rock art is under threat due to climate change, and a project has been launched to develop methods to enable everyone to contribute to its protection. The CARE project is a collaboration between heritage and science research interests at Newcastle University and Queen's University Belfast. Its primary objective is to co-produce a user-friendly, non-intrusive Condition Assessment Risk Evaluation (CARE) toolkit for gathering and organising information essential for the long-term safeguarding of ancient rock art that exists out in the open. 

Heritage and science working together ensures that heritage management resources and techniques are underpinned by solid scientific research so that conservation and management approaches are more effective. In the case of open-air rock art, or possibly any open-air stone structure, this means that the rock can be analysed in order to discern those environmental factors that are the cause of decay, as well as the influence of factors such as climate change. Scientific research has been carried out to determine the major risk factors for open air rock art and further field work will be undertaken throughout the project's life span to firm up this scientific evidence.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Serbia: ancient tombs discovered from 2,500 years ago

BELGRADE, JUNE 12 - The skeletel remains of ancient warriors with spears and daggers have been uncovered in an archeological site during the construction of the Corridor 10 highway project in south-east Serbia.

According to experts the remains date back 2,500 years and were found in the ancient district of Pirot named Suburbium where the ancient Roman road, Via Militaris, headed to what is now the border of modern day Bulgaria.

''We have found three skeletal remains of warriors with spears, daggers and bronze ornaments, and decorations of various kinds,'' said Mirjana Blagojevic, archeologist from Serbia's institute for the protection of cultural patrimony.

Predrag Pejic, archeologist from the Ponisavlje Museum of Pirot, said this was a very important discovery.

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The Iceman Suffered Brain Damage Before Death

An injury to the head, not an arrow wound, may have killed Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old mummy found in the Italian Alps, says a new paleoproteomic study into the brain of Europe’s oldest natural human mummy.
The protein investigation appears to support a 2007 research into the mummy’s brain. The study pointed to a cerebral trauma as the cause of death.
At that time, the research relied on a CAT scan of the mummy’s brain, which showed two dark-colored areas at the back of the cerebrum. The injury added to the already known arrowhead wound on the shoulder and wounds on the hand.
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3,500-year-old house unearthed in central Turkey

The remains of a house dating back 3,500 years have been uncovered during excavations in the central Anatolian province of Kırıkkale's Karakeçili district.

3,500-year-old house unearthed in central Turkey
Japanese archaeologist Kimiyashi Matsumura explains the recent
finds to Turkish officials [Credit: HaberMonitor]
Headed by Kimiyashi Matsumura, a Japanese archaeology professor at Kırşehir University, the excavations have been unearthing antiquities and ancient settlements since 2009. The area has been declared a protected site, and the police and gendarmerie provide security. Kırıkkale officials are planning to turn the site into an open museum after the digs are finished.

Stone houses were discovered during the excavations. Matsumura told reporters this week that the ancient settlements at the site date back to the Hittite civilization. “This is part of one of their big cities. Kızılırmak [River] passes by it. All kinds of commercial routes were built around Kızılırmak at the time. This city was established along a very important commercial route. I believe this research will culminate in important results,” the archaeologist said.

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Ötzis »dunkle« Geheimnisse

Der Querschnitt durch Ötzis Schädel zeigt das gut erhaltene Gehirn. Markiert sind die Stellen der Probenentnahme. (Quelle: Krankenhaus Bozen/Abteilung für Radiodiagnostik)

Aus einer stecknadelkopfgroßen Gehirnprobe der weltberühmten Gletscherleiche konnte ein Forscherteam Proteine extrahieren und untersuchen. Die Ergebnisse untermauern die Vermutung, dass Ötzi unmittelbar vor seinem Tod eine Gehirnverletzung erlitt.

Nach der Entschlüsselung von Ötzis Genom, seines Erbgutes, gelang nun einem Forscherteam der Europäischen Akademie in Bozen (EURAC), der Universität des Saarlandes, der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel und anderen Partnern ein weiterer Meilenstein in der Mumienforschung: Aus einer stecknadelkopfgroßen Gehirnprobe der weltberühmten Gletscherleiche konnte das Team Proteine extrahieren und untersuchen und so weitere Hinweise auf eine angebliche Gehirnverletzung Ötzis erhalten.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Iceman Mummy Suffered Head Blow Before Death

Ötzi the Iceman, Europe's oldest mummy, likely suffered a head injury before he died roughly 5,300 years ago, according to a new protein analysis of his brain tissue.

Ever since a pair of hikers stumbled upon his astonishingly well-preserved frozen body in the Alps in 1991, Ötzi has become one of the most-studied ancient human specimens. His face, last meal, clothing and genome have been reconstructed — all contributing to a picture of Ötzi as a 45-year-old, hide-wearing, tattooed agriculturalistwho was a native of Central Europe and suffered from heart disease, joint pain, tooth decay and probably Lyme disease before he died.

None of those conditions, however, directly led to his demise. A wound reveals Ötzi was hit in the shoulder with a deadly artery-piercing arrow, and an undigested meal in the Iceman's stomach suggests he was ambushed, researchers say. [Mummy Melodrama: Top 9 Secrets About Otzi the Iceman]
A few years ago, a CAT scan showed dark spots at the back of the mummy's cerebrum, indicating Ötzi also suffered a blow to the head that knocked his brain against the back of his skull during the fatal attack.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Prehistoric henge unearthed in Kent

An “incredible” prehistoric henge has been unearthed during an archeological dig in Sittingbourne. The Bronze Age find at the Meads in Sonora Fields is the first of its kind to be confirmed and excavated in Swale.

Prehistoric henge unearthed in Kent
An aerial view of the site [Credit: Canterbury Archaeological Trust]
Experts said the Neolithic monument “would have been a significant feature on the landscape”, and its discovery centuries later at the centre of a busy housing estate could turn into a future mecca for historians.

Dr John Hammond, a specialist in prehistory at Canterbury Archeological Trust, which carried out the work, said: “This is an incredibly important site. It’s the second confirmed henge monument to be found in Kent [the first was in Ringlemere near Sandwich] and dates back to the period of Stone Henge. It’s incredibly exciting and we look forward to finding out more about how our ancestors lived 5,000 years ago. At the moment it’s a site of regional importance, but in two years’ time we could be talking about one of national importance.”

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Neanderthal clues to cancer origins

A Neanderthal living 120,000 years ago had a cancer that is common today, according to a fossil study.

A fossilised Neanderthal rib found in a shallow cave at Krapina, Croatia, shows signs of a bone tumour.

The discovery is the oldest evidence yet of a tumour in the human fossil record, say US scientists.

The research, published in the journal PLOS One, gives clues to the complex history of cancer in humans.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Archaeologists find evidence French winemaking had roots in Italy

The earliest evidence of wine in France suggests that it came from Italy, and that it was mixed with basil, thyme and other herbs, according to new research.

French consumption of wine has sunk to a new record low with the average adult now consuming barely a glass a day, a major consumption survey has found.

This early wine may have been used as medicine, and likely was imbibed by the wealthy and powerful before eventually becoming a popular beverage enjoyed by the masses, researchers said.
The artefacts found at the French port site of Lattara, near the southern city of Montpellier, suggest that winemaking took root in France as early as 500 BC, as a result of libations and traditions introduced by the ancient Etruscans in what is now Italy.
The analysis in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is based on ancient wine containers and a limestone press brought by seafaring Etruscan travellers.
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3000-year-old dolmens throw light on last rites

In a discovery that is expected to throw light on burial or funeral practices in the Southern parts of the state in the pre-historic era, a group of archaeologists on Sunday found four dolmens (portal tombs) that are believed to be more than 3,000 years old at Amairkaradu near the Western Ghats in Palani.

3000-year-old dolmens throw light on last rites
The site where four 3,000-year-old dolmens were found by an archaeological team near the Western Ghats, close to Palani in Dindigul district, on Sunday [Credit: Indian Express]
V. Narayanamoorthy, Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Research Institute, who led the team that discovered the relics, told Express that the find confirms Palani’s importance as a major site that has several traces of ancient history.

“For the past five months, we found many inscriptions and stone structures in Palani,” Narayanamoorthy affirmed. He explained that the dolmens would help archaeologists understand ancient funeral rites that had long existed in Tamil Nadu.

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New Biomolecular Archaeological Evidence Points to the Beginnings of Viniculture in France

This is an ancient pressing platform from Lattara, seen from above. Note the spout for drawing off a liquid. It was raised off the courtyard floor by four stones. Masses of grape remains were found nearby. (Credit: Photograph courtesy of Michael Py, copyright l'Unité de Fouilles et de Recherches Archéologiques de Lattes.)

France is renowned the world over as a leader in the crafts of viticulture and winemaking -- but the beginnings of French viniculture have been largely unknown, until now.

Imported ancient Etruscan amphoras and a limestone press platform, discovered at the ancient port site of Lattara in southern France, have provided the earliest known biomolecular archaeological evidence of grape wine and winemaking -- and point to the beginnings of a Celtic or Gallic vinicultural industry in France circa 500-400 BCE. Details of the discovery are published as "The Beginning of Viniculture in France" in the June 3, 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Dr. Patrick McGovern, Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press, 2006) is the lead author on the paper, which was researched and written in collaboration with colleagues from France and the United States.

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Bronze Age boats 'more sophisticated' than assumed

Conservation work has started on eight preserved and extremely rare Bronze Age log boats excavated from a brick manufacturing clay quarry near Peterborough.
The 3,500-year-old boats were discovered in 2011 and will be conserved using techniques pioneered for the Mary Rose.
Jo Black went to meet some of the people behind the project.
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Peterborough Bronze Age boats conservation begins

Emma Turvey works on Bronze Age long boat; Bronze Age long boat in quarry; Ian Panter with boat in cold storage at Flag Fen

Eight 4,000-year-old boats found in a quarry in Cambridgeshire are being preserved with the same techniques used on the Mary Rose Tudor warship.
The vessels were discovered by archaeologists as they excavated a section of a quarry at Must Farm near Peterborough in 2011.
The boats are being kept in cold storage at Flag Fen, where they will be sprayed with a special wax.
The two-year project will stop the ancient timbers from degrading.
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Preserving a piece of history

One of the Bronze Age boats being preserved. Photo: ITV News Anglia
Eight Bronze Age wooden boats discovered in a quarry in Peterborough are now being conserved at the city's Flag Fen archaeological centre.
The 4,000 year old vessels are being kept cold and wet to stop them from deteriorating.
The boats are being treated with the same chemical process that preserved the Tudor warship, the Mary Rose.
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Sunday, June 2, 2013

How prehistoric people expressed creativity and identity

Research by archaeologists at the University of Southampton and the Natural History Museum Vienna  will be showcased in London at a special prehistoric fashion show event – staged as part of an international Humanities festival, ‘The Time and the Place’.
Clothing and jewellery displayed on the catwalk will demonstrate findings of a three-year collaborative research project called ‘Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe’ (CinBA).

Making the leap

The project explores how prehistoric people dressed and expressed creativity and identity through pottery, metalwork and textiles during the period 1800-500 BC.
University of Southampton archaeologist Dr Jo Sofaer, who is leading CinBA, says:  “I’m interested in finding out what drove Bronze Age people to make the leap from clothing which was purely functional – to using clothes, along with metalwork and accessories, as a form of expression.
“It is well understood that the Bronze Age saw huge advances in techniques to produce clothes, pottery and metal objects, but the wealth of creativity employed when making these goods is little recognised or researched.
“The clothing collections we’ll be exhibiting at the fashion show demonstrate the intricate weaves, patterns and striking colours prehistoric people used in their dress.”

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Ape-like feet 'found in study of museum visitors'

Bonobo on branch

Bonobos have bendy feet to help them grip branches
Scientists have discovered that about one in thirteen people have flexible ape-like feet.
A team studied the feet of 398 visitors to the Boston Museum of Science.
The results show differences in foot bone structure similar to those seen in fossils of a member of the human lineage from two million years ago.
It is hoped the research, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, will establish how that creature moved.
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