October 2002

No 238


There is a popular misconception that Middle Eastern deserts were once fertile because the climate was wetter in Roman times and that they lost their fertility because of mismanagement by man.


In fact, research by University of Leicester archaeologists, with colleagues from the Universities of Bournemouth and Exeter, shows that the situation was more complex than that - given that the climate was actually much the same in those days as it is now.


Two studies, one on the Libyan and one on the Jordanian desert, show that they were green and fertile because local communities managed the landscape imaginatively and efficiently by floodwater farming - trapping seasonal rainfall and diverting it into fields.


Professor Graeme Barker, who leads the research, explained: "Small-scale erosion did occur in Libya because of intensive farming methods, but this was limited by farmers' management of the landscape.   In these areas farming therefore continued for centuries without any serious environmental impact.


"In Jordan, on the other hand, local farmers stripped the landscape and caused enormous erosion.   So in two rather similar desert landscapes, both facing similar cultural situations and agricultural intensification to meet the demands of the Roman market, communities behaved differently and had very different impacts on the landscape."


In the case study of Jordan's Wadi Faynan area the situation was also made worse by mining and metal processing on such a scale that it was probably a key factor in the collapse of the Roman settlement there.


More sobering still is the thought that this pollution of the land from 2,000 years ago continues to create problems for the Bedouin people today.   Pollutants still get into the food chain through the crops they grow and the animals they graze.


Professor Barker concluded: "It is interesting that the Libyan example of good landscape management involved local people, managing their own land - 'bottom-up' decision-making - whereas the Wadi Faynan example of bad management and environmental pollution was a 'top-down' system of decision-making by Roman administrators backed by military force.  


"That has a certain resonance with the politics of development today!


"While archaeology can certainly be enjoyable - as the popularity of "Time Team" and "Meet the Ancestors" shows - it also has serious things to say about human societies: past, present and future."


NOTE TO EDITORS:   Further information is available from Professor Graeme Barker, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, telephone +44 (0)116 252 2612, facsimile +44 (0)116 252 5005, email gba@le.ac.uk


Ather Mirza

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University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH

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25 October 2002 21:20 BDST


Capital city of ancient superpower discovered

By David Keys Archaeology Correspondent

26 October 2002


British archaeologists have discovered a capital city of one of the ancient world's most mysterious superpowers.

The metropolis, covering more than a square mile, was the main western administrative centre of the ancient Median Empire, a vast Middle Eastern imperial state which flourished in the first half of the 6th century BC between the fall of the Assyrian empire and the rise of Persia.

The discovery reveals the sheer scale of the threat which would soon be posed to Europe by the ancient Middle East. For the Medes' westward ambitions led directly to the invasion of Greece in the early 5th century BC by their imperial heirs, the Persians.


The archaeologists, led by Dr Geoffrey Summers, found the Medes built their western capital, Pteria, on conquered land near the border of their empire. The metropolis was a huge citadel on a 5000ft mountain near what is now the Turkish town of Sorgun.

It had four miles of massive stone walls and hundreds of defensive towers. Seven monumental gateways and hundreds of buildings, including an imperial palace, have been found. But not one hole has been excavated. Dr Summers' team used remote sensing and geophysical survey techniques to map the metropolis to an accuracy of 10 centimetres.



The shipwrecks of Astypalaia give up their treasure troves


Crew members of the Aigaio and archaeologists bringing in their valuable haul.

By Effi Hadzioannidou - Kathimerini

When a fisherman from Astypalaia discovered a dark green object in the sea at a depth of more than 35 meters about two years ago, he had no idea it would make his fortune. For days he tried to solve the mystery, diving down repeatedly, risking his life in the deep water to bring up 40,000 ancient coins. Then he called the police, and eventually collected a reward of 120 million drachmas (350,000 euros), approved by the Central Archaeological Council.

Ekaterini Delaporta, director of the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities, told Kathimerini: “It was a highly significant shipwreck of a boat that was lost off Astypalaia in the third century AD, which was apparently carrying a large consignment of cash, presumably for military purposes. This shipwreck led to research over an extensive area and brought to light many similar naval tragedies.”

Next to the safe — unfortunately destroyed by the fisherman in his attempt to solve the mystery — was a lead sarcophagus of Syro-Palestinian craftsmanship. It is thought to have belonged to a Roman officer who died in the Middle East and was being brought home for burial.

The second shipwreck was carrying a large consignment of everyday clay pots, which represent the first record of the full range of household pots used in the Roman era. Unfortunately, many of these pots have been damaged by “visitors” who were probably seeking money and who broke the jars and pots in their search for the coins.

The third shipwreck dates to the post-Byzantine era (10th-12th centuries). It was carrying amphorae and was found on a rocky islet off Astypalaia. The fourth one, also found nearby, sank in the third century BC. It was carrying exceptionally fine amphorae from Kos, containing wine or oil.

The remaining shipwrecks, all carrying amphorae, were found off Leipsoi and Leros.

One good piece of news from this research is that part of the hull of the boat carrying the consignment of money was retrieved. As Delaporta explained at the time: “Immediately after this boat struck the rock, it was buried beneath the sand. At the moment it is exceptionally difficult and costly to winch it up, since a major operation would have to be mounted to prepare the infrastructure to receive the hull. We have to find a tank to submerge the craft in, because when the soaked wood emerges from the water into the atmosphere it will disintegrate.”

The Ephorate of Marine Antiquities recently carried out this important project in concert with the National Center for Marine Research, which deployed the oceanography vessel Aigaio and its bathyscaphe Thetis.

The crew members and a team of archaeologists spent two weeks in the eastern Aegean, diving in the bathyscaphe to map shipwrecks in the area. Their collaboration will continue until they map all the shipwrecks in the Aegean and Ionian seas.

So far the guides to these shipwrecks have been fishermen and anonymous chronicles from Roman times. There have been systematic records of shipwrecks since the Byzantine era. But as the sea is a difficult place to research, cooperation with ordinary people who make their living from the sea is imperative.


Cannibalism Among Early Celts?

By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News


Oct. 25 — Possible evidence for cannibalism and witchcraft recently was found during excavation work at a site for Eton College's rowing course at Dorney Lake in Berkshire, England.

Five human leg bones displaying what could be signs of cannibalistic activity were unearthed at the site, which is now owned by Eton, a posh British secondary school favored by royals. The bones, dating from 2000-1000 B.C., may add to the growing body of evidence that the early Celts practiced cannibalism. Last year, similar bones from approximately the same time period were discovered in a cave at Alveston, South Gloucestershire.


Findings about the Eton excavation are published in the latest issue of Current Archaeology.

The Eton leg bones were described as having "smashed ends" and "signs of gnawing."

Tim Allen, author of the paper and a researcher with Oxford Archaeology, the firm responsible for the Eton dig, wrote, "Microscopic analyses showed clear traces of cut marks as well, suggesting that the bones had been deliberately defleshed and damaged before deposition."

Cannibalism generally is associated with religious activity, according to Mark Horton, an archaeologist at Bristol University in England. He discovered the Alveston bones last year.

The Eton bones were found with evidence supporting the theory that rituals took place at the Berkshire site, which consists of three islands flanked on the east by the River Thames and on the west by a small stream called Crest Brook. During the Bronze and Iron ages a number of bridges were constructed from the islands across the Thames.

"The bridges were not just structural, they also had a ritual element, for they appeared to be used as platforms for offerings," Allen wrote.

Upright wooden stakes with pots at their bases were found near the bridges. In addition to the human bones, animal skulls were found at a sandbank in the middle of a channel.

"We interpret all this as a deliberate burial rite, placing bodies or their bones on sandbanks or directly in the river," explained Allen.

Tim White, professor of integrative biology at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of the Princeton University Press Book Prehistoric Cannibalism, believes that it's possible cannibalism took place at the Eton site.

"Paola Villa and colleagues in France have published extensively on continental Neolithic and Bronze Age cannibalism," said White. "(However) damaged bones don't necessarily imply cannibalism; it is the nature and context of the damage that is important in warranting such claims."

White added that gnawing by dogs or other animals must be ruled out first.

Another finding indicates that the final early resident of the Eton site may have been an Anglo-Saxon 6th-7th century witch.

"(Her grave) was accompanied by a collection of objects including an amethyst pendant," wrote Allen. "Such isolated burials have been seen as wise women or witches kept separate from the community, or as foundation burials linking new settlements (such as nearby Saxon Boveny) with the distant past."


25 Oct 2002 17:07 BST


Crop-Lines May Show Iron Age Cattle Ranching


LONDON (Reuters) - Mysterious crop lines in rural England which have baffled experts for half a century are probably evidence of a massive Iron Age cattle-ranching industry, archaeologists said on Friday.

Historical conservation society English Heritage said the lines across more than six miles of chalky hillside near the small village of Weaverthorpe in the northern Yorkshire Wolds, could date back to a 2nd century BC cattle business.

"Essentially we are looking at the remains of a highly sophisticated cattle business... rather than small scale peasant farming," said English Heritage aerial investigator Dave MacLeod.

"It paints a vastly different picture of the Iron Age. These people were engaged in specialized farming and had the stability, resources and expertise to ranch on a much bigger scale than most people realize" he added.

Huge 100-yard wide funnels inside the crop lines suggest thousands of cattle were being driven up and out to the higher pasture to graze and brought down for water twice a day, MacLeod said.

The funnels are believed to be part of a much bigger system stretching over 12 miles.

MacLeod and three other archaeologists are to present their findings in the BBC television series Time Flyers next Thursday.

The program will show how latest techniques of aerial archaeology, combined with ground excavations, were used to examine the lines in the crops.

Previous theories about the crop lines included the idea that they were part of a Celtic purification ritual.


Big-time ranching in Yorkshire BC

ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they have solved a 50-year-old riddle about Iron Age remains in the Yorkshire Wolds.

For years they were puzzled by lines stretching more than 16 miles across chalky hillside near the village of Weaverthorpe.

Thought to be Iron Age crop markings, the lines are now believed to be the remains of a huge cattle ranching operation dating from the second century BC.

The lines were discovered by aerial photography in the 1950s and baffled experts until English Heritage aerial investigator Dave MacLeod – working with three other archaeologists, Mark Horton, of Bristol University, Jo Caruth, of Suffolk County Council, and Melanie Giles, of University College, Dublin – took another look.

"Essentially we are looking at the remains of a highly-sophisticated cattle business that is more reminiscent of the High Chaparral, rather than small-scale peasant farming," said Mr MacLeod.

"Clearly thousands of cattle were being herded.

"Looking at our aerial photographs we can see that the Yorkshire Wolds are covered in a mass of ancient markings, hinting that the rural population 2,000 years ago wasn't too much different from that today.

"It paints a vastly different picture of the Iron Age. These people were engaged in specialised farming and had the stability, resources and expertise to ranch on a much bigger scale than most people realise."

The archaeologists will reveal their findings in the BBC2 series Time Flyers in a programme titled Reading Between the Lines, to be broadcast on Thursday.

The Time Flyers team used aerial archaeology techniques combined with ground excavations to examine the lines.

Some of the more fanciful theories for the interconnecting lines, which are broken by huge "funnels", gaps 100m wide, suggested they were part of a Celtic purification ritual which involved cattle being driven between fires.

"The funnels channelled livestock into broad droveways leading down to the settlements along the Gypsey Race, which is still the only reliable water source on the Wolds," said Mr MacLeod.

"The cattle would have been driven back up and out of the funnels to the higher pasture to graze and brought down for water twice a day. We think the funnels are part of a much bigger system stretching over 20km."

He added: "None of these structures survive above ground, so the only way we can understand the scale of what we are dealing with is through interpretation and mapping of thousands of aerial photographs."

The lines seen in growing crops are the remnants of 6ft-wide ditches.

25 October 2002


Rare Roman shrine Experts unearth 'significant' carving

Oct 25 2002

By Rachel Newton, Daily Post Staff


A ROMAN tombstone bearing the image of a woman reclining on a couch has been unearthed on the site of an ancient settlement in Chester.

The sandstone sculpture was discovered by archaeologists excavating land at Heron-bridge, two miles south of the city centre.

It shows the head of a female figure on a couch below a section of garland. On her shoulder rests the hand of a larger figure which has disappeared.

It is believed to be a memorial to a man and his wife, or possibly to a man and child, dating from the third century.

Experts say the tombstone is a well preserved example of a Roman "funerary banquet" which shows the dead person as a semi-divine figure feasting in the afterlife.

About 10 examples have been found in Chester but experts say this one is particularly notable.

Peter Carrington, senior archeologist at Chester City Council, said: "There is an extra curve in the post at the end of the couch, there is no room for an inscription and the stone is thinner than normal.

"All this suggests it might have had another purpose as well as a headstone, but exactly what is a mystery."

Heronbridge, situated on the south bank of the River Dee on the Roman road to Whitchurch, was discovered to be the site of a major Roman town in 1931.

The tombstone was found by chance during a Chester Archaeological Society dig.

The team was trying to locate a suspected Roman dock when they came across a rock-cut grave on the river bank.

The tombstone was discovered in the backfill of one of the graves but the site had been ransacked by grave-robbers and only bone fragments were found. Any valuables buried with the bodies had been taken.

Although thought to be only a minor burial site, experts say the discovery is very significant.

Mr Carrington said: "Research has shown Roman burial sites tend to be on the outskirts of towns so it was entirely unexpected to find one so central to a settlement.

"When you consider there is a shortage of Roman cemeteries discovered in Chester it suggests we have a lot more to learn about the burial habits of the Romans."

Heronbridge is also thought to have defensive structures from the Middle Ages or Civil War periods.

The Roman tombstone is now on display at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester alongside others discovered in the district...SUPL:


Viking remains found in field

manchester news


VIKING longships sailed up the Mersey - and Norsemen may have settled on land between Altrincham and Lymm.


The evidence of a Norse "invasion" has been discovered on a site already rich in finds from Bronze Age and Roman settlements dating back thousands of years.


The Viking connection was revealed by archaeologist James Balme, whose metal-detecting work led to a previously-unknown Roman fortlet in Warburton, Cheshire.


During a new dig, he has now discovered a rare Viking buckle with a "wonderful runic design" dating back to the 10th century.


As a bonus, James has also uncovered a 1st century bronze Roman military pendant from the uniform of a Roman soldier who once patrolled the fortlet at Warburton.


He is being helped by Brian Lomas and Paul Watson, who are both members of the Warburton Heritage Fund, set up to promote research into the ancient history of the village.

James and his team are currently involved with excavations with South Trafford Archaeological Group and the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit.


They will work on the site until December, then it will be closed until next spring.


The most recent finds indicate the Vikings navigated the River Mersey, landing at Warburton and possibly settling at the site of the former Bronze Age and Roman settlements.


"Strategically, this was clearly an important location," said James, who made his first discoveries on the farmer's field more than two years ago. He added: "Ploughing often tends to disturb the soil and with the importance of the Warburton site in particular, it is imperative that any artefacts which may be dragged towards the surface are recovered before any further damage can occur.


"The latest finds are another example of the ancient history of the area coming to life and give us an even clearer picture of activity in the village," he said.


"It has always been accepted that Vikings may well have occupied Warburton village during the 10th century, but this is the first solid piece of evidence ever to be recovered.


"The Roman military pendant is extremely important, as it has come from a Roman soldier based at the Roman fortlet and is identical to ones found at North Shields Roman fort.


"This proves beyond all doubt that the Roman army did indeed control the Warburton area back in the 1st century."


The work on the site has been filmed and will soon be released on video. The ultimate aim is to create a heritage centre in the area.


For regular updates on the work, visit www.warburtonvillage.co.uk


New website records hidden heritage

Members of the public reported more than 37,000 archaeological objects to a government scheme during 2000, according to a report out this week. It coincides with the launch of a new website recording finds in England and Wales.

Jewellery, coins and prehistoric household items were among the 37,518 archaeological objects reported to a government scheme during 2000. Before the scheme's introduction in 1997, many of these would have gone unreported, and their importance to our history lost forever.

The finds were reported under the Portable Antiquities Scheme - a voluntary scheme for recording archaeological objects found by members of the public. It was set up to promote the recording of chance finds.

Items found in 2000 have led to the discovery of several important archaeological sites, including an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Hampshire and a post-Medieval kiln site in Dorset.

The Portable Antiquities annual report for 2000-2001 also highlights the success of a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to extend the scheme to all parts of England and Wales from 2003. Lottery funding, together with money from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will ensure the Scheme's future until at least 2006.

Arts Minister Tessa Blackstone said:

"The Portable Antiquities Scheme has been a resounding success since its introduction in 1997. The country's archaeology is its hidden heritage, providing a priceless - and irreplaceable - record of the culture and social history of this island."

Extra info...

A new Portable Antiquities website -www.finds.org.uk - is available now. The on-line database holds information about some 30,000 finds, offering an important research tool for both academics and the public.


Archeology: Damnation of Crystal Skulls

He who reveals the secret will die


17:57 2002-10-14


The skull was first discovered by the expedition headed by famous English archeologist F. Albert Mitchell-Hedges in Central America in 1927. Before that, the archeologist started clearing an ancient maya settlement in a damp tropical jungle in Yucatan (British Honduras at that time and currently Belize) in 1924. It was decided to burn down 33 hectares of forest covering the ancient constructions of the settlement to make the archeological dig easier. When the smoke lifted, the expedition saw amazing ruins of a stone pyramid, city walls, and a huge amphitheatre capable to seating thousands of spectators. The ancient settlement was called Lubaantun: The Place of the Fallen Stones.


After three years, Mitchell-Hedges organized another expedition; he took his daughter Anna with him, but, at that moment, the archeologist hardly supposed that the girl would be a lucky talisman for the expedition. On the day of her 17th birthday, in April 1927, Anna discovered a strange item under the debris of an ancient altar. That was a natural sized human skull made of a rock crystal and wonderfully polished. The skull lacked its lower jaw, which was found dozens meters from the site three months later. The crystal details could be moved with the help of perfect, smooth joints on the skull and easily moved with every touch. Those who touched the skull experienced rather strange feelings.


Anna was the first to experience strange things. The girl put the skull near her bed before going to sleep. Anna said that she dreamed of the life of Indians who had lived thousands years ago, and the girl could describe the dream in detail.


At first, Anna didn’t attribute the strange dream to the crystal skull. However, strange dreams haunted the girl each time she had the skull near her bed. New dreams brought more new details about the life of Indians, details unknown even to scientists. When the skull was removed from the bedroom, there were no strange dreams. And they recommenced as soon as the strange find was taken back to Anna’s room. The girl heard Indians talking and watched their everyday life and sacrifice rituals.


After the death of her father, at the beginning of the 1960s, Anna decided to give the strange skull to scientists for investigations. She believed that the skull was too perfect to have been made by the Indian civilizations living before the Columbus discoveries.


First, art critic Frank Dordland started investigating the strange skull. After a closer investigation, he discovered that the skull had a complicated system of lenses, prisms, and channels, creating unusual optical effects. The investigator was surprised to discover no signs of processing on the skull’s perfectly polished surface. They couldn’t be seen even with a microscope. Frank Dordland even addressed Hewlett-Packard, the famous company that specialized in crystal oscillators at that time, for a competent examination of the crystal.


The results were shocking not only for the scientist himself. The research by Hewlett-Packard in 1964 in a special laboratory revealed that the skull had been made long before the first civilizations appeared in that part of America where the skull was found. In addition, rock crystal of such perfect quality couldn’t be found in that area. The most amazing thing was that the ancient skull weighing 5.13 kg, 203.4 mm long and 125.4 wide had been made of a whole crystal. This fact contradicted the laws of physics.


Hewlett-Packard experts analyzed the skull and discovered that it consisted of three or four joints grown together. After close analysis, they found out that the skull had been cut of one piece of crystal, together with the lower jaw. The rock crystal has a hardness that is slightly lower than that of topaz, corundum, and diamond; it can be cut with diamonds only. It is astonishing, but the ancient Indians managed to cut it somehow, and even made a lower jaw with the joints. Someone had made the skull of a whole crystal so carefully that it seemed that nobody had ever touched it. A kind of a prism was found at the back bottom of the skull; any ray of light that strikes the eye-sockets is reflected there. If you look into the eye-sockets, you may see the whole room reflected.


Hewlett-Packard experts say that the skull had been made regardless of all laws and rules. They surprisingly said: “The damned thing can't exist at all. Those who had done it had no idea of crystallography or of fiber optics. The people completely ignored the axis of symmetry, which was to prevent the crystal from splitting during processing. It is strange why it didn’t split at that!” No matter how unbelievable it may seem, the strange crystal skull can be seen in the Museum of American Indians.


What is more astonishing, the Hewlett-Packard experts confirmed that not the slightest signs of mechanical processing could be found on the skull’s surface, even the slightest scratches left by polishing. Experts are sure that it would have taken hundreds of years to polish this extremely hard material so perfectly.


This opinion was confirmed by a recent finding, about which FATE magazine published in August 1996. A woman from Colorado, US, rode about her ranch near Creston in the winter of 1994 when she suddenly came across something shining. When she picked it up, she saw it was a human skull made of glass or crystal. It is strange, but the skull was crumpled and twisted so that it seemed it had been plastic before it became solid. It is still a mystery where the skull came from and why it was so mutilated. (It should be mentioned that UFOs frequently haunt that part of the state; unexplainable cattle mutilations are registered there at that.)


Historians and social anthropologists decided to find out more about the strange skulls. Very soon, they came across an ancient Indian legend saying that there had been thirteen crystal skulls of the Goddess of Death; they had been kept separately from each other under the strict control of pagan priests and special warriors.


Searches for more skulls started; some of them were found in museums and some in private collections not only in the USA, but in Mexico, Brazil, France, Mongolia, and in Tibet. There were more than 13 skulls found. However, not all of them were as perfect as Mitchell-Hedges’ was. Very likely, those were just later attempts to create something similar to the original skulls that were believed to have been gifts by God to the people.


Make no bones about it

Oct 31 2002

By Jim Guthrie, Evening Mail


Ice Age remains of a woolly rhino which could be 40,000 years old have been found in a Midland quarry and experts say the discovery is of international importance.

Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham were called in to investigate after the massive skull of the animal was unearthed at Whitemoor Hayes quarry alongside the A38 at Alrewas, near Lichfield.

Stunned quarry worker Ray Davies alerted bosses when he pulled up the skull in the bucket of an excavator he was driving.

Half of a woolly rhino skeleton and two more skulls were found among sand and gravel being excavated to supply Midland construction sites.

"Archaeologists we called in are very excited about these finds," said Andi Hodgson, of Lafarge Aggregates.

"They say they are of international significance."

Experts said the animals, believed to have died 30,000-40,000 years ago, would have weighed about 1.5 tonnes.

Woolly rhinos had two huge horns and roamed across an area stretching from eastern Asia to the British Isles.

University of Birmingham archaeologist Gary Coates said: "I have been working at Whitemore Hay quarry for five years and have excavated everything from prehistoric burial grounds to Roman farmsteads.

"This find was totally unexpected.""

Experts said the bones were exceptionally well preserved.

Excavations at Alrewas have also uncovered the remains of a mammoth, reindeer, wild horses and a wolf, as well as plants and beetles.

The finds, which have been donated to the Natural History Museum, in London, have provided a picture of the freezing environment in which the animals lived and died.


Hill Of Tara "Should Be Declared World Heritage Site"


The Hill of Tara and surrounding area should be declared a World Heritage Site, claims archaeologist and lecturer Conor Newman.


Mr Newman is one of Ireland's leading experts on Tara, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland, which is a popular tourist attraction, drawing around 100,000 visitors a year.


Mr Newman has expressed concern that the proposed route of the new M3 Motorway in Meath, which will pass very close to the Hill, will destroy several significant archaeological sites in the vicinity, including "dozens of monuments."

An Bord Pleanala is currently holding a hearing into objections to the route.


Four Ice Age woolly rhinos unearthed

By Cahal Milmo

31 October 2002


Archaeologists yesterday hailed one of the finest discoveries of Ice Age remains in recent decades after a quarryman accidentally unearthed the fossilised skeletons of four woolly rhinos.

The skull of one of the prehistoric beasts was dug up by an excavator at a gravel pit in Whitemoor Haye, Staffordshire, three weeks ago. Scientists led by a team from the University of Birmingham unearthed the rest of the 40,000-year-old animal's 7ft skeleton and completed the excavations of three more rhinos yesterday. To add to their haul, described as remarkably well preserved, they also dug up remains of a mammoth, reindeer, wild horse and wolf as well as plants and beetles.

The fossilised skeleton of the first rhino, which weighs one and a half tonnes, is being studied by palaeontologists at the Natural History Museum in London, where it will eventually go on display. The rhino remains, which are thought to have been frozen almost immediately after the animals died, are so well preserved that traces of the last meals – plant materials – are still sticking to their teeth.

Andy Currant, of the Natural History Museum, said: "This is the best example of a woolly rhino I have seen. It's the best single palaeontological find since the 1960s by quite a long way. It's the best find of a woolly rhino in Britain for at least 100 years."

A spokesman for Lafarge Aggregates, which owns the site, said it had been unearthed by an excavator driver, Ray Davies. "He hit something that he knew wasn't gravel and saw this huge skull in his bucket. He couldn't believe it."

Woolly rhinos, which grew up to 11ft long, began roaming the earth nearly two million years ago, but were extinct by the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years later.

It is thought that the site of the quarry may have been an Ice Age watering hole beside what became the river Trent, explaining why so many different species were found in one location.


China unearths remains of 8,200-year-old village

Tuesday, October  29, 2002. Posted: 16:03:46 (AEDT)


The remains of a village thought to date back 8,200 years has been unearthed by archaeologists in China's Inner Mongolia region.


The state-run China Daily newspaper reports the primitive settlement, found in Chifeng in the far north of the country, is the largest and best preserved early village ever found in China, .


So far 11 rectangular houses and 10 tombs have been explored and archaeologists believe the village contains a total of 150 houses, divided into three areas.


The paper says previous excavations in the same area have unearthed dwellings housing tombs, as well as household utensils and artefacts made from jade, the oldest such items found.


The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says it is possible to distinguish the status of some residents of the village based on the structures unearthed.


It says one home would have been owned by a particularly powerful villager as it covered the largest area and had its own individual architectural style, including six symmetrical columns.


30 Oct 2002 21:52 BST


Peru finds pre-Inca ruins beneath Lake Titicaca

By Monica Vargas

LIMA, Peru (Reuters)


Peruvian divers have found pre-Inca stairways, ramps and walls beneath the waters of Lake Titicaca, but experts say the discoveries are not the remains of a legendary lost city.

"The remains were found at a depth of between 6.5 and 26 feet (2 and 8 metres) on the eastern side of the lake. ... They are built with interlocking stones," oceanic engineer and expedition member Gustavo Villavicencio told Reuters on Wednesday.

Lake Titicaca, a sweeping expanse of brilliant blue water high in the Andes at an altitude of 12,540 feet (3,823 metres), is shared by Peru and Bolivia. The world's highest navigable lake, it attracts flocks of visitors a year to see its floating reed islands, Aymara-speaking Indians and Inca ruins.

According to tradition, the Inca sun god, Manco Capac and his sister, Mama Ocllo, sprang from Lake Titicaca to found the city of Cusco and the Inca dynasty that held sway over a swathe of Latin America from Colombia to Chile for more than three centuries until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

But Villavicencio said the discoveries -- made in the past two weeks by a team of navy divers and oceanographic experts -- were not the vestiges of a lost underwater world.

"There are studies that show that the lake used to be ... around 66 to 98 feet (20 to 30 metres) lower, and that was where ancient Peruvians built," he said.

As well as the algae-covered pre-Inca ruins, the divers also found a stone platform on which fragments of ceramics and bits of llama bones were recovered.

"Everything suggests it was a place where offerings were made, a sacred site," Villavicencio said.

Archaeologists consulted by the expedition said they could be remains of the Tiahuanaco culture, which flourished in the ninth and tenth centuries, and was known for its stone work.

Poking 10 feet (3 metres) out of the middle of the lake, the team also found what they dubbed the "mystery rock" that measures 66 feet (20 metres) across.

A stone statue in the shape of a llama was found on the rock, which divers nicknamed after seeing how lightning always struck it during storms, Villavicencio said.

The expedition also located the remains of the first iron-hulled ship that sailed on Lake Titicaca in the 19th century and which sank beneath its icy waters in 1876 near the tourist islands of Taquile and Amantani.



A Slave Ship's Sordid Secrets

By Collin Nash and Martin C. Evans

Staff Writers


For almost three centuries, the Henrietta Marie held her sordid secrets clutched to her rotting bosom, many fathoms below the Caribbean's undulant surface.

But now, in Hempstead, remnants of the sailing ship are whispering long-withheld stories of the kidnapped Africans once held captive beneath her wooden decks.

Shackles, guns, pewter merchandise, glass beads, a ship's bell and other artifacts from what authorities believe to be the oldest slaver recovered, and one of only a handful salvaged in the Americas, will be unveiled to the public today at the African American Museum in Hempstead.

"It puts a name and a face to those who invested in the slave trade," said museum director Willie Houston. "It's not so much about slavery itself as it is about the people who were involved in this saga."

On Wednesday, Anna Mohamad, of Freeport, was among a handful of people invited to preview the exhibit, which features a diorama depicting kidnapped Africans shackled in a fetid ship's hold during the harrowing voyage from Africa to the Caribbean.

"I felt a presence, although they were only statues," said Mohamad. "Seeing them lying there in this dark abyss of total disconnect, I could relate to the inner turmoil and physical discomfort they endured."

Joysetta Pearce, a Freeport genealogist who helped persuade Hempstead officials to bring the exhibit to Long Island after seeing it in Memphis, said, "I can imagine from the perspective of a mother the heart-pounding sense of panic they must have felt, and the total loss of control not knowing what was going to happen next."

The Henrietta Marie, an 80-foot, 120-ton sailing vessel, was part of a steady stream of merchant ships that over three centuries ferried an estimated 15 million people toward slavery in the Americas beginning in the 1500s.

Financed by a consortium of London investors, the ship left for Africa's Guinea Coast in September of 1699. Once there, the ship traded glass beads, pewter dishes and raw iron for about 250 captives, who were herded below deck and shackled in tight rows. Almost a quarter of them died in the fetid hold or were thrown overboard during the three-month Middle Passage, victims of gangrene, dysentery, scurvy or dehydration.

Depression, contaminated water, parasites and human waste collected in the cramped hold further sapped the will and health of the captives.

The ship arrived in Jamaica in 1700, one year after one of democracy's greatest philosophers, John Locke, an investor in the slave-trading Royal African Company, drafted the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, which brought European-style feudalism to America.

As he neared landfall, Captain Thomas Chamberlain ordered his crew to prod his captives from the hold.

To make them look healthy before they were led to market, they were fed and shaved, their wounds were tended and their skins oiled. Historians believe the human cargo of 190 grossed more than $400,000. Packed with sugar, cotton, wood and indigo, the ship made its way back toward England, only to founder in a storm off the coast of Key West, Fla. It lay hidden on the sea bed until 1972.

But the exhibit, now in it's 23rd stop since it's 1995 debut at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, is not without its critics.

Hempstead activist Rassan Hoskins said the word "slave" and other language used in the exhibit can be harmful by implying that subservience was an innate condition of Africans, rather than a condition imposed on resisting captives.

"My overarching concern is what I regard as derogatory language used to identify our condition as slaves, and how that would affect students who would come to see the exhibit," said Hoskins, director of the National Afrikan/African American Maafa Remembrance Center in Hempstead. "Why do we have the focus on the Henrietta Marie, as opposed to our ancestors who were captured and whipped aboard."

Still, Nassau County officials are hoping the exhibit will bring greater visibility to a museum whose mission since it opened in 1985 has been to elucidate the African-American experience.

"Slavery in America ended only after people of different backgrounds worked together and fought together to end it," Houston said. "So this exhibit is something not only for black people, but something that all Long Islanders should see."


Nelson's Nile heroes unearthed

Helena Smith on Nelson's Island

Monday October 28, 2002

The Guardian


Two hundred years after the Napoleonic wars, the graves of some of those who fought under England's most famous sea captain, Horatio Nelson, have been found on a tiny, scrub-covered island off the Egyptian coast.

Colin White, a naval historian, said: "The discovery will throw a new light on an unknown part of the Battle of the Nile as well as the 1801 landing in Egypt, which really is one of the most important and successful amphibious operations the Royal Navy has ever mounted on a hostile coast."

Last week Nick Slope, the vice-chairman of the London-based Nelson Society, arrived on the island, which guards the northern approach to Aboukir bay, the site of both clashes. His mission: to excavate those graves most threatened by soil erosion and the picnickers who flock to the sandy outpost in summer.

So far six bodies have been unearthed, along with military buttons, clasps and, in one case, an unfired lead musket ball. With the exception of two officers, interred in wooden coffins, all are believed to be sailors and marines.

The 1798 battle of the Nile established Nelson as the pre-eminent admiral of his time. Napoleon's fleet was sent to the bottom, bar a few craft that managed to flee.

The finds came to light during a search for Ptolemaic ruins. Egyptologist Paolo Gallo chanced upon the first skeleton - an unfired musket ball lodged below its left shoulder, its hands crossed over, skull cocked to the side.

Mr Slope spent the next six months at the public records office in Kew, south-west London, leafing through the logs and muster books of the ships involved in both battles. He assembled a list of those he thinks are buried on the island.

This summer he identified one officer, Lawrence Graves, a midshipman, who served on HMS Goliath and died during the battle of the Nile. "It was a Eureka moment finding that name," he said.

The Royal Navy has said it will assist in reinterring the bodies, possibly with full military honours, in the British war cemetery in Egypt's port city of Alexandria.