Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Archaeologists looking for Stonehenge origins 'are digging in wrong place'

One of the mysteries of Stonehenge is how some of its stones were brought from Pembrokeshire in Wales to Wiltshire. Photograph: I Capture Photography/Alamy
For almost a century archaeologists have been braving the wind and rain on an exposed Welsh hillside in an attempt to solve one of the key mysteries of Stonehenge.
But new research about to be published suggests that over the decades they may have been chipping away at the wrong rocky outcrop on thePreseli Hills in Pembrokeshire.
The work in the hills is a crucial element in the understanding ofStonehenge because it is generally accepted that the bluestones that form part of the ancient Wiltshire monument came from this remote spot in south-west Wales. One of the many huge puzzles remains how the bluestone from Wales travelled 190 miles to the heart of south-west England.
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Spanish excavations in Can Sadurní cave (Begues, Barcelona) have discovered four human skeletons dated to about 6,400 years ago. The skeletal remains of the individuals are particularly important as they are in a very good state of preservation.
An archaeological campaign carried out previously identified other individuals which were not so well preserved but belong to the same stratigraphic layer.
Archaeologists excavating  in 1999, also discovered within the cave, evidence for the earliest European beer, which may have been included as part of  the death ritual.
Excavations at Can Sadurní are carried out by Col·lectiu per la Investigació de la Prehistòria i l’Arqueologia del Garraf-Ordal (CIPAG), together with the Seminar of Studies and Prehistoric Research (SERP) of the University of Barcelona.

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6,400 year-old burials found in Spanish cave

Excavations in Can Sadurní cave (Begues, Barcelona) have discovered four human skeletons dated at about 6,400 years ago which were buried following an unknown ritual in the Iberian Peninsula. Few caves have necropolis dated at such an ancient period: the beginning of Middle Neolithic.

6,400 year-old burials found in Spanish cave
In the case of the remains which have just been found, a light landslide from the outer part took place when corpses were quite complete or they had just began the decomposition process; it protected corpses, so they have remained in the position in which they were buried [Credit: University of Barcelona]
In addition, remains are particularly important as they are nearly complete. In fact, a campaign carried out previously identified some buried bodies, which were not so well preserved but belong to the same sepulchral layer, and the most ancient European remains of beer consumption. Excavations at Can Sadurní are carried out by Col·lectiu per la Investigació de la Prehistòria i l’Arqueologia del Garraf-Ordal (CIPAG), together with the Seminar of Studies and Prehistoric Research (SERP) of the UB.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013


In a further study of Neanderthal occupation at Abri du Maras, Ardèche in France, the evidence is stacking up to support the view that this group was behaviourally flexible and capable of creating a variety of sophisticated tools including projectile points and more importantly, cord and string.
Fibrous materials that can be used to create cords are difficult to find in the archaeological record and have usually rotted away, so the oldest known string dated back only 30,000 years.  However, perforations in small stone and tooth artefacts as well as shells from other Neanderthal sites in France suggested the pieces had once been threaded on string and worn as pendants.
Bruce Hardy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, explains that “The wear patterns provide circumstantial evidence of early use of string, but the evidence is not definitive.”  These items could also have been threaded onto animal sinew.

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Another piece in Stonehenge rock source puzzle

The chances of Stonehenge's spotted dolerites not coming from Carn Goedog are 'infinitesimally small'

Research to be published this month may bring us a step closer to understanding how bluestones from Pembrokeshire ended up at Stonehenge.
Scientists from Aberystwyth University, University College London and National Museum of Wales have located the specific outcrop, Carn Goedog, in the Preseli Mountains.
This is where the distinctive spotted dolerites originated.
The findings are to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Geologist Herbert Henry Thomas first proposed in 1923 that the rocks which form the giant inner ring were specifically quarried for Stonehenge by Neolithic man around 5,000 years ago, and were hauled to Wiltshire via land and sea.
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Deformed, Pointy Skull from Dark Ages Unearthed in France

A woman's deformed skull was found in one of the tombs, which dates to around 1,650 years ago.

The skeleton of an ancient aristocratic woman whose head was warped into a deformed, pointy shape has been unearthed in a necropolis in France.

The necropolis, found in the Alsace region of France, contains 38 tombs that span more than 4,000 years, from the Stone Age to the Dark Ages.

Rich valley

The Obernai region where the remains were found contains a river and rich, fertile soil, which has attracted people for thousands of years, Philippe Lefranc, an archaeologist who excavated the Stone Age burials, wrote in an email.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

DNA hint of European origin for dogs

Some dog-looking remains are more than 30,000 years old

The results of a DNA study suggest that dogs were domesticated in Europe.
No-one doubts that "man's best friend" is an evolutionary off-shoot of the grey wolf, but scientists have long argued over the precise timing and location for their emergence.
The new research, based on a genetic analysis of ancient and modern dog and wolf samples, points to a European origin at least 18,000 years ago.
Olaf Thalmann and colleagues report the investigation in Science magazine.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The discovery of 3 cists found within close proximity to one another has intrigued archaeologists. One of the cists contained the burial of a juvenile, while the other two were completely devoid of human remains.
The investigation began in April 2012 after a rectangular stone cist was accidentally damaged by ploughing at Blairbuy Farm in Dumfries and Galloway, southwest Scotland.   A team from GUARD Archaeology, led by Warren Bailie, was sent to investigate by Historic Scotland and it was during the excavation process that the other two cists were uncovered; one rectangular and one roughly oval in shape.

Juvenile burial

There were no artefacts present with the burial from cist 1 and no evidence of botanical offerings. The dead juvenile had been placed in a crouch position, facing north with its head resting on the left hand and the right hand placed near the pelvis.

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Dig sheds light on prehistoric Cambridge

A huge archaeological dig on the edge of Cambridge has uncovered evidence of people living in the area in prehistoric times.

Dig sheds light on prehistoric Cambridge
Excavations at Countryside Properties Great Kneighton development on the southern fringe of Cambridge have uncovered prehistoric activity stretching back over 5,000 years [Credit: Cambridge News]
In what is described as the largest single excavation undertaken in the city, experts have uncovered traces of field systems, enclosures and settlements dating back to the Middle Bronze Age - 3,500 years ago.

Finds include pottery and metalwork, among them a bronze spearhead, and a variety of body parts, including human skulls.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Corrard gold torc – Bronze Age jewellery with a twist to the tale

The Corrard gold torc. © National Museums Northern Ireland: Collection Ulster Museum

Dr Greer Ramsey, Curator,
National Museums Northern Ireland
I am not sure if this happens to anyone else, but my work routine seems to revolve around how quickly I can get the computer turned on in the morning to view my inbox of emails. Then of course the ‘ping’ of incoming mail catches my eye at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. I know that I should not let it distract me from whatever I am doing but it inevitably does.
Such was the case when I received an attached image of an object to identify that was found at Corrard in County Fermanagh. With a click of the mouse the most intriguing artefact materialised on screen – a Bronze Age torc, quite simply the most fantastic single item of prehistoric gold jewellery ever found in Northern Ireland.
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Monday, November 4, 2013

6,000 years of occupation revealed at French site

In advance of the construction of an industrial business park by the associated communes of Pays de Sainte Odile, Inrap has just finished a large excavation at Obernai, under the curation of the State (DRAC Alsace).

6,000 years of occupation revealed at French site
Deliberately distorted skull unearthed in a necropolis of the Late Empire
in Obernai (Bas-Rhin), 2013 [Credit: © Denis Gliksman, Inrap]
Across more than 7.5 hectares, Neolithic, Gallic, Gallo-Roman and Merovingian societies succeeded each other through time. The excavation of this site sheds new light on the cultural evolution and population movements over nearly 6 millennia, as well as on the territorial organisation of Alsace.

Around 6900 years ago: a Neolithic necropolis 

In the south-eastern part of the excavated area, the archaeologists uncovered a funerary sector containing around twenty graves. The oldest of them date from 4900 to 4750 BC. Another sector yielded around fifteen additional Neolithic graves. Most of the deceased were adorned with pendants and bracelets composed of small limestone or mother-of-pearl beads. One of them was wearing two stone ring-disks.

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Resourceful Neanderthals in France

How "smart" were the Neanderthals, really? The question has been at the center of scholarly debate for decades. But the findings of recent research, including archaeological investigations at a site known as Abri du Maras, near Ardèche, southeastern France, have yielded clues that may expand the known repertoir of tools and behaviors that Neanderthals used to survive in the world that existed about 74,000 years ago. 

An international team of scientists from France, the U.S. and Spain recently conducted residue analysis and zooarchaeological analysis on stone tools and other materials, including otherwise perishable materials such as wood fragments, recovered from excavations at the archaeological site of Abri du Maras in France's Middle Rhône Valley.
What they found was enlightening. 
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