Sunday, April 26, 2015

Reindeer Antlers Suggest Viking Age Began With Trade


Antlers from Norwegian reindeer have been unearthed in Ribe, the oldest commercial center in Denmark. The antlers have been dated to A.D. 725, some 70 years before the Viking raid on the Lindisfarne monastery in northern England. “The Viking Age becomes a phenomenon in Western Europe because the Vikings learned to use maritime mobility to their advantage. They learned to master sailing to such an extent that they get to the coast of England where the locals don’t expect anything. They come quickly, plunder the unprepared victims, and leave again—a sort of hit and run,” Søren Sindbæk of Aarhus University toldScience Nordic. The Norwegian reindeer antlers suggest that Norway’s earliest so-called Vikings developed their maritime skills through trade. “Now we can prove that shipping between Norway and the market town of Ribe was established prior to the Viking era, and trade networks helped to create the incentives and the knowledge of the sea, which made the Viking raids possible. It is the first time that we can clearly link two very important phenomena, the lock and key if you like, of the Viking Age,” he said. For more, see "The First Vikings."

Read the rest of this article...

The Viking Age began in Denmark


The story of the Vikings begins in the year 793 AD, after Norwegian Vikings landed in England on the first official Viking raid. To this day, these fierce raids are the most famous of Viking stories. Now, a new study suggests a more peaceful start to Viking seafaring -- and it all began in Denmark.


 Ribe in Denmark: Scandinavia's first town and central to the beginning  of the Viking Age
[Credit: visitribe.dk] 

Three archaeologists from the University of Aarhus (Denmark) and the University of York (UK) have shown that maritime voyages from Norway to Ribe, the oldest commercial centre in Denmark, occurred long before the Viking age officially began. 

The study shows that early Vikings travelled to Ribe in South Denmark as early as 725 AD. 

The researchers discovered deer antlers in the oldest archaeological deposits of Ribe’s old marketplace and they turned out to be the remains of Norwegian reindeer.

Read the rest of this article...

Cremated human bones in pot found in Crossrail dig suggest gruesome ritual

 A Roman shackle – one of the mass of Roman and medieval objects found during excavations at the Crossrail site near Liverpool Street station. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Almost 2,000 years ago somebody neatly packed cremated human bones into an old cooking pot, put the lid on, and set it by the banks of a smelly little urban river, the Walbrook in London. The discovery has deepened the mystery of scores of Roman skulls found nearby, polished till they gleam by tumbling among the pebbles of the riverbed.
It had been suggested that the skulls ended up in the river – which vanished into culverts centuries ago – by accident, eroded out of a Roman cemetery and washed downstream until they came to rest at bends in the bank. The new finds suggest a grimmer explanation.
Jay Carver, Crossrail’s lead archaeologist on the site yards from the bustling commuters at Liverpool Street station, said the thrifty reuse of the old pot, and its deliberate placing by the river, will force archaeologists to look again at the skulls found in this excavation and generations of previous digs around the river.
Read the rest of this article...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New Thoughts on Neanderthal Cooking



Neanderthals went extinct in most of Europe around 40,000 years ago, some 5,000 years after the arrival of the first modern humans. “The issue of Neanderthal extinction is very complex, and very little is agreed upon,” Anna Goldfield of Boston University said at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, reported in Live Science. She thinks that mastery of fire may have given modern humans an advantage over Neanderthals in the struggle for survival. Cooking would have provided modern humans with more calories from the same amount of food, and it kills bacteria, making the food safer to eat.

Read the rest of this article...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Rare Roman owl clasp found on Danish island


A 2,000-year-old bronze and enamel clasp has been unearthed south of the town of Nexø on the island of Bornholm. Shaped like an owl, the bronze and enamel button has large orange eyes and colourful wings. 


A rare owl clasp has been found on Bornholm  [Credit: Bornholm's Museum] 

“There are very few of these types of buttons,” said archaeologist Christina Seehusen from Bornholms Museum. “It is likely that someone travelling to the island carried it there.” 

The owl was produced in regions along the Roman frontier that ran along the Danube and the Rhine at the time, so it may originate from ancient Cologne or another nearby town. The clasp was usually worn by men to hold their cloaks closed, so it is possible that a man from the island was a Germanic mercenary in the Roman army and brought the owl back to Bornholm with him. 

Read the rest of this article...

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Thermoluminescence dating refined


Thermoluminescence is used extensively in archaeology and the earth sciences to date artefacts and rocks. When exposed to radiation quartz, a material found in nature, emits light proportional to the energy it absorbs. Replicating the very low dose of background radiation from natural sources present in quartz is a key precondition for precise and accurate dating results. 


Luminescing pottery [Credit: KHS HSIE] 

Italian scientists have now developed a method to control the accuracy of the dose calibrations delivered to the samples during laboratory irradiation with heavy particles, replicating natural radiation exposure. 

These findings have just been published by Lara Palla from the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), Italy, and colleagues in a paper in EPJ Plus. Using oxygen and lithium ions from the Tandem accelerator at INFN LABEC in Florence, they found that their measurements were accurate to within 1%, despite large fluctuations in the irradiation beam. 

Read the rest of this article...

Turin Shroud goes back on display at city's cathedral


The Turin Shroud has gone back on public display in the Italian city's cathedral, after a break of five years.
The 4.4-metre-long (14-ft) cloth is on show until 24 June.
Viewings are free but must be booked. One million people have already signed up.
Some devotees believe the shroud is the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. Sceptics point to carbon dating that suggests it is a medieval forgery from the 1300s.

Read the rest of this article...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Understanding popular Latin of Roman Hispania through graffiti on pottery

'Sigillata' pottery, from Roman times, was manufactured with a mould and sometimes stamped with figures and patterns.  Credit: Universitat de València

Te University of Valencia is studying the popular Latin of Roman Hispania through the graffiti found on 'terra sigillata' ceramic ware. As part of this approach, analyses of the graffiti kept in the Spanish Royal Academy of History have just been started with a recent publication in the journal Lucentum: Anales de la Universidad de Alicante'.

'Research focuses on the words written on the surface of these everyday ceramic pieces which can provide linguistic data, but also territorial and ethnological information', says the author of the work, Josep Montesinos, professor of Art History at the Faculty of Geography and History. Xaverio Ballester, professor in the Department of Classical Philology at the University of Valencia is also part of the team.

Read the rest of this article...

South Iceland Cave Made before Settlement

Kverkahellir is close to Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

Archaeologist Kristján Ahronson has concluded that Kverkarhellir, a manmade cave between waterfall Seljalandsfoss and farm Seljaland in South Iceland, was partly created around 800 AD, before the settlement of Iceland, which, according to sources, began in 874.
Ahronson presented the results of his analysis of volcanic ash layers from around the cave, among other findings, covered in his book Into the Ocean, at the University of Iceland yesterday, RÚV reports.
“We are about to identify a large dump of material that looks like waste material from construction and dates to around 800 or so,” Ahronson explained. “Kverkahellir, along with Seljalandshellir, is remarkable as it is part of a number of cave sites in southern Iceland, manngerðir hellar [‘manmade caves’], that are marked by cross sculpture.”
Read the rest of this article...

Study report revisits cave of prehistoric cannibals



In 2012, a detailed report of prehistoric cannibalism in Gough’s cave in Cheddar Gorge (Somerset), UK, attracted media attention with thenews that a group of prehistoric humans, otherwise known as Magdalenians, systematically and ritualistically consumed and utilized the remains of members of their own group about 14,700 years ago.   
Now, a new report published in the Journal of Human Evolution sheds additional light on the discovery, narrowing the time frame in which the cannibalistic events took place and the extent of the activity.
Read the rest of this article...

More Evidence of Cannibalism Found in Gough’s Cave

(The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London)

Ancient human remains from Gough’s Cave, located in southwest England, exhibit signs of a sophisticated culture of butchering and carving of human remains, according to scientists from the Natural History Museum of London, University College London, and IPHES and the Universitat Rovira I Virgili in Spain. In 2011, scientists from the museum announced that the earliest-known skull cups had been found in Gough’s Cave. “We’ve identified a far greater degree of human modification than recorded in earlier research. We’ve found undoubting evidence for defleshing, disarticulation, human chewing, crushing of spongy bone, and the cracking of bones to extract marrow,” Silvia Bello of the Natural History Museum said in a press release. 

Read the rest of this article...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pictish fort found off Aberdeenshire coast


Archaeologists have uncovered a "very significant" Pictish fort after scaling a remote sea stack off the coast of Aberdeenshire. 


Archaeologists believe they have uncovered a Pictish fort off the coast  of Aberdeenshire 
[Credit: BBC] 

The team from the University of Aberdeen believe the ancient remains could be one of many along the coast south of Stonehaven. 

It is the first time an official excavation has been carried out there. 

Pictish symbol stones were said to be found on the Dunnicaer sea stack by locals in the 19th Century.

Read the rest of this article...

Ältester Nachweis von Pilzen als Nahrungsmittel


Untersuchungen von altem Zahnstein ergaben, dass Menschen bereits in der Altsteinzeit Pflanzen und Pilze konsumierten.

Über die Nahrungsgewohnheiten der Menschen, die im Jungpaläolithikum, dem jüngeren Abschnitt der Altsteinzeit vor 18.000 bis 12.000 Jahren während der archäologischen Kulturstufe des Magdaléniens lebten, ist nur wenig bekannt. Besonders schwer lassen sich pflanzliche Nahrungsstoffe nachweisen, denn sie hinterlassen nur geringe Spuren im menschlichen Körper. Unter der Leitung von Robert Power vom Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie in Leipzig hat ein internationales Forscherteam den uralten Zahnstein von Menschen aus dem Magdalénien untersucht, deren Überreste man in der El Mirón-Höhle in Spanien ausgegraben hatte. Die Forscher konnten nachweisen, dass diese Menschen bereits im Jungpaläolithikum zusätzlich zu anderen Nahrungsbestandteilen auch verschiedene pflanzliche Nahrungsstoffe und Pilze auf der Speisekarte hatten.

Read the rest of this article...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Burials from Rockbourne Roman villa re-examined


Lower jaw deformities from birth, a missing right hand and foot bones, trepanning to exorcise “bad spirits” and a lonely burial were the lot of a middle-aged Saxon or early medieval man found face down in a shallow grave, say archaeologists investigating skeletons found at a Hampshire Roman villa during the 1960s. 


A reconstruction of the skull of a man found weighed down  in a lonely grave at Hampshire's largest Roman villa  [Credit: © Hampshire Cultural Trust] 

The latter of two male discoveries at Rockbourne, near the town of Fordingbridge on the River Avon, was originally found in 1965. 

Analysts believe the community would have buried him in a lonely place and weighed him down with stones after viewing a deformity on the left hand side of his jaw as a sign of his troubles and a potentially evil influence.

Read the rest of this article...

Metal detectorist unearths 'exceptional' Roman finds


Archaeological finds dating back to AD 200 have been discovered in a field near Royston. The artefacts, which form part of a burial, probably of a wealthy and cosmopolitan individual, are a unique find in Britain and experts in ancient finds are already clamouring to study these rare objects. 


One of the smashed but complete mosaic glass dishes from Alexandria, Egypt  [Credit: North Hertfordshire District Council] 

Discovered late last year by a local metal detectorist in a field in Kelshall, a complete Roman jug was the first thing to be found. A bronze dish, a larger jug and then a third jug were soon uncovered. Realising this was an important find it was reported and Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, North Hertfordshire District Council’s (NHDC) Archaeology and Outreach Officer, decided that it would be a good idea to investigate further.

Read the rest of this article...

Palaeolithic remains show cannibalistic habits of human ancestors


Aalysis of ancient cadavers recovered at a famous archaeological site confirm the existence of a sophisticated culture of butchering and carving human remains, according to a team of scientists from the Natural History Museum, University College London, and a number of Spanish universities.

Gough's Cave in Somerset was thought to have given up all its secrets when excavations ended in 1992, yet research on human bones from the site has continued in the decades since. After its discovery in the 1880s, the site was developed as a show cave and largely emptied of sediment, at times with minimal archaeological supervision. The excavations uncovered intensively-processed human bones intermingled with abundant butchered large mammal remains and a diverse range of flint, bone, antler, and ivory artefacts.
New radiocarbon techniques have revealed remains were deposited over a very short period of time, possibly during a series of seasonal occupations, about 14,700 years ago.

Read the rest of this article...

History in the making as first dig at Halton Castle in nearly 30 years announced

Halton Castle is to host its first archaeological dig in nearly 30 years and residents have been invited to take part.
More than 50 archaeology fans packed into a Runcorn church hall on Tuesday night to find out details about the first excavation at Halton Castle in nearly 30 years.
The dig is due to take place in July and will give residents a chance to take part in uncovering the secrets hidden beneath the soil.
St Mary’s Church Hall on Castle Road hosted the meeting.
Participants will receive basic training under the guidance of professional archaeologists from Salford University.
Read the rest of this article...

Julius Caesar may have suffered mini-strokes, study finds


Roman emperor Julius Caesar may have suffered a series of mini-strokes, explaining his dark mood in later life, according to doctors at London's Imperial College.
Caesar, who lived from 100 to 44 BC, has long been the focus of medical debate, with the common assumption being that he suffered from epilepsy.
But  from the London university have reexamined his symptoms, which included vertigo, dizziness and , and concluded that he may have in fact suffered from a cardiovascular complaint.
"To date, possible cardiovascular explanations have always been ruled out on the grounds that until his death he was supposedly otherwise physically well during both private and stately affairs," said an excerpt of the study written by Francesco Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian.
Read the rest of this article...

Complex cognition shaped the Stone Age hand axe, study shows


Emory Health Sciences—The ability to make a Lower Paleolithic hand axe depends on complex cognitive control by the prefrontal cortex, including the "central executive" function of working memory, a new study finds.
PLOS ONE published the results, which counter theories that Stone Age hand axes are simple tools that don't involve higher-order executive function of the brain.
"For the first time, we've showed a relationship between the degree of prefrontal brain activity, the ability to make technological judgments, and success in actually making stone tools," says Dietrich Stout, an experimental archeologist atEmory University and the leader of the study. "The findings are relevant to ongoing debates about the origins of modern human cognition, and the role of technological and social complexity in brain evolution across species."
Read the rest of this article...

Neanderthals manipulated the bodies of adults and children shortly after death


Since the Marillac site in France was unearthed, the discovery of fossil remains of animals (90% belonging to reindeer), humans and Mousterian tools has enabled the site to be identified as a hunting area for Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). But the most surprising thing about the site is the presence of a large quantity of bone remains of these hominids, many of which are yet to be analysed.

Now, a study published in the ‘American Journal of Physical Anthropology’ has for the first time analysed the fragments of three individuals found between 1967 and 1980 at the French site dating back some 57,600 years. These are an incomplete diaphysis (middle part of long bones) of a right radius, another of a left fibula and the majority of a right femur. The latter belonged to a child.

Read the rest of this article...

Monticello, un établissement métallurgique néolithique




Watch the video...

Britain’s Oldest Cremated Human Bone Discovered


It had been thought that the nomadic hunter-gatherers of Britain’s Mesolithic period may have abandoned their dead, but a deposit containing cremated human bone was uncovered by a team from Oxford Archaeology in southeastern England. The bone probably represents at least one adult, whose remains were recovered with a large amount of charcoal, perhaps from a pyre that would have had to have reached a high temperature to achieve the complete combustion of the corpse. “We were expecting this cremation to date to the Bronze Age: we were so surprised when the first radiocarbon date came back as Mesolithic that we did two more to double check!” said Nick Gilmour, excavation leader. Sharp flint blades were found in the same pit, and although they were not finished tools, they could have been used for cutting. Three similar Mesolithic cremations are known in Ireland, and several have been found in continental Europe. For another find dating to this period, see "Beachcombing in the Mesolithic."

Read the rest of this article...

Remains of medieval knight discovered in UK Cathedral


The battered remains of a medieval man uncovered at a famous cathedral hint that he may have been a Norman knight with a proclivity for jousting. 


The skeleton of the medieval man, a possible knight, in his stone grave  [Credit: Headland Archaeology] The man may have participated in a form of jousting called tourney, in which men rode atop their horses and attacked one another, in large groups, with blunted weapons. 

Archaeologists uncovered the man's skeleton, along with about 2,500 others — including a person who had leprosy and a woman with a severed hand — buried at Hereford Cathedral in the United Kingdom. The cathedral was built in the 12th century and served as a place of worship and a burial ground in the following centuries, said Andy Boucher, a regional manager at Headland Archaeology, a commercial archaeology company that works with construction companies in the United Kingdom.

Read the rest of this article...