New Forest cemetery yields glass find
Thursday April 18, 2002
A rare glass bowl, thought to be 1,400 years old, has been excavated from an Anglo-Saxon burial ground, English Heritage announced today.
The late fifth or sixth century cemetery in the New Forest, Hampshire, was pinpointed after a member of the public using a metal detector found a Byzantine brass buckle at the site.
The area was then excavated for a live television broadcast carried out by Channel 4's Time Team last August.
The bowl was discovered inside one of six buckets buried with skeletons in the grave. It is now being examined at English Heritage's Centre for Archaeology at Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth along with the buckets, spearheads, knives, tweezers, shield bosses and copper alloy buckles. The skeletons are being examined at Bristol University.
David Miles, chief archaeologist at English Heritage, said the buckets as well as the glass bowl would have been placed in the graves with food and drink to enable those who had died to eat in the afterlife.
The excavation was particularly significant, he said, because it was unusual to find so many buckets within a multiple grave and this was the first time a glass bowl had been found inside a bucket.
The bowl itself originally came from the Rhineland and a buckle in the grave was embossed with garnets that probably originated from northern India, said Mr Miles.
The exotic nature of these artifacts showed that the people alongside whom they were buried were powerful members of the community - possibly a local king and his company.
Iron Age settlement discovered near Glasgow
Engineers working on a new road near Glasgow have uncovered the remains of an Iron Age settlement.
The 3,000-year-old hillside palisade was discovered while a survey was being carried out for the new orbital route near Titwood Road, Newton Mearns.
The site will not be preserved because thousands of years of farming have already caused significant damage to the remains.
The Herald reports experts believe an extended family would have lived at the site and are hoping fragments of pottery, metal and stone tools will be found.
Hugh McBrien, of the West of Scotland Archaeology Service, said: "We are meeting to discuss how much extra work needs to be done to excavate the site and get as much information as possible out of it so the road can go ahead without losing any important information about the past."
The road's construction is due to start in 2003.
Story filed: 10:12 Thursday 18th April 2002
Thousands of Inca Mummies Discovered
By Randolph E. Schmid
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, April 17, 2002; 2:07 PM
WASHINGTON –– Archaeologists say the discovery of thousands of Inca mummies could help solve some of the mysteries surrounding the ancient civilization.
The mummies unearthed in a shantytown near Lima, Peru, are "a perfect sample – each social class, each group of age is represented," said researcher Guillermo Cock.
The find "enables us to look into an Inca community, to study their life, their health, their culture," Cock said at a news conference at the National Geographic Society, which funded his study.
Some 2,200 individuals have been found, some bundled together in small groups with their possessions.
The bundles have yielded amazing discoveries, said Cock, including well-preserved individuals, a copper mask, a war club, hand-painted textiles and pottery.
The bodies were not embalmed, he said, but were mummified by placing them in dry soil packed with textiles that helped them dry out more quickly.
"The process, although natural, was intentional," he said.
Most of the bodies were placed in the fetal position, the common way for an Inca burial. Fewer than a half-dozen were laid out, Cock said, an indication that those burials occurred after the Spanish conquest around 1535.
One of the bundles included some 300 pounds of raw cotton, the body of an Inca noble – whom the scientists have called the Cotton King – and a baby, as well as 70 other items, including food, pottery, animal skins and corn to make a fermented drink known as chicha.
"Mummy bundles are like time capsules from the Inca," said Johan Reinhard, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. "The huge number of mummies from one period of time provides an unparalleled opportunity for new information about the Incas."
The burials are thought to have occurred between 1480 and 1535, with the site serving as a central cemetery for the Inca, who ruled a powerful South American empire before being conquered by the Spanish.
More than 50,000 artifacts have been retrieved, with many of the individuals – apparently elite members of Inca society – still wearing the headdress feathers that marked their rank.
Cock said the quantity of burials represents an unprecedented opportunity to solve some of the mysteries of the Inca. He said only a few of the bundles have been completely unwrapped, a lengthy and detailed process that will take years to complete on all the bundles.
Previous information on the Inca culture has come from scatterings of burials, most of only a few individuals, not enough to allow many firm conclusions about Inca ways.
Cock and his team have worked for three years, trying to stay ahead of development in the area known to archaeologists as Puruchuco-Huaquerones. It is called Tupac Amaru by the 1,240 families living there. People began to settle there in 1989 after fleeing guerrilla activity in the Peruvian highlands.
Development of the shantytown is releasing thousands of gallons a day of liquids, including sewage, into the streets, where it can seep into the burials below, damaging mummies that have been well preserved for nearly 500 years.
A few mummy bundles were first discovered at Puruchuco in 1956, but the site was not explored. In 1985 some 70 test pits were excavated and 24 burials reported. Cock and his team of up to 18 specialists, mostly Peruvians, began work there in 1999, supported by National Geographic.
While there are thought to be hundreds of bodies remaining, Cock has no immediate plans for more digs in Puruchuco, as houses cover most of the untapped areas.
A National Geographic Society television special on the discovery will be broadcast on public television May 15.
National Geographic: http://www.nationalgeographic.com
© 2002 The Associated Press
Shanty town mummies may solve riddle of the Incas
Necropolis yields insights into South America's mighty empire
Tim Radford, science editor
Thursday April 18, 2002
More than 2,000 mummies found under a shanty town in Peru could answer questions about the enigmatic Inca civilisation which collapsed with the European invasion of South America.
They were unearthed in a vast necropolis or cemetery discovered on the outskirts of modern Lima, used from about 1480 to 1535. Some cloth wrappings contained as many as seven dried and preserved bodies, as well as funerary objects and provisions for the afterlife.
Altogether, researchers have found more than 50,000 objects which could begin to answer questions about the elite that once ruled 10 million in an empire that stretched from Colombia to Chile.
"We estimate we have human remains belonging to between 2,200 and 2,400 individuals, which is an incredible number for this kind of excavation," said Guillermo Cock, who led the research project.
"We are studying to determine who they were, age and sex, growth and development, nutrition, illnesses they suffered from, the causes of death, the genetic relationship among individuals, and even what kind of work they did. The physical anthropologists will be able to find answers to all these questions in the marks that muscles leave in the bone."
The site is known to the researchers as Puruchuco-Huaquerones, but the 1,240 familes who began to settle there after fleeing guerrilla activity in 1989, call it Tupac Amaru.
When bulldozers arrived in 1998 to begin to clear the site for development, the archaeologists began their frantic three year excavation. Although some bodies were in good condition, preserved in a light, sandy soil with a high potash level, others had begun to deteriorate. Settlers in the shanty town dumped 40,000 gallons of sewage a day into the soil. Mummies which had lain undisturbed for 500 years began to decompose.
Professor Cock and his colleagues got backing from the National Geographic Society in Washington - the National Geographic channel in the UK will screen a documentary Inca Mummies: Secrets of a Lost Empire at 8pm on May 19 - and the townspeople joined in the dig.
The narrow streets became trenches that separated the makeshift homes. A dusty playground in front of the school proved to be a burial ground for the ruling Inca elite, and the scientists excavated 120 mummy bundles, including many falsas cabezas or "false heads" - bundles decorated to look like human heads.
The discovery could provide a new picture of the Inca culture, which briefly united 100 nations. The burials, many of them apparently of weavers, tell a story of a stable culture.
"We always understood the Inca were a superstructure on top of society. Here, we don't see that. Here, we see the common people, the really poor people, incorporating Inca culture. This sample provides a laboratory: we have people from all ages, all ranks of society," said Prof Cock.
"The Inca were supposed to have conquered that area between 1476 and 1480. And no sooner have they arrived than they seem to have really benefited society. Most of the tool kits we have are for textile working. The Incas regarded textiles as the most prestigious valuables, and a key element in reward. We may be confronted with a single group here, a group of weavers and textile workers closely associated with Inca power."
The scientists calculate they may have found no more than 40% of the bodies. Many may never be recovered. Much of the site had already been damaged.
"Imagine working in an area where there is no sewer," said Prof Cock. "All the water, brought in by trucks, is contaminated and must be boiled to make it drinkable. The squatters of Tupac Amaru have adapted to these conditions, but we did not. We were all afflicted with stomach problems, skin infections, colds and flu."
• The first Incas were a noble family which ruled Cuzco in Peru's high Andes in 1200 AD.
• Conquest began with the emperor Pachcuti - "he who transforms the earth" - in 1438. His 40,000 descendants ruled 100 nations and 10 million subjects.
• At its height, the Inca empire stretched 2,500 miles from Colombia to Chile, and from the Pacific to the Amazon.
• Subject people paid with labour and built roads, fortresses, temples, canals and crop terraces. Inca nobles amassed legendary wealth.
• The imperial language was Quechua, religion was based on sun worship. Priests practised human sacrifice.
• The last emperor, Atahuallpa, died at the hands of Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador, who arrived in 1535 with 200 men.
Ancient graves found
By Jim Donnelly
BCT senior staff writer
Apr 18, 2002 - BURLINGTON CITY –
For more than three centuries, they lay undisturbed beneath a busy street and railroad as a community grew and matured above them.
Their presence was discovered about two weeks ago when a backhoe used to install underground communications cables for the NJ Transit light-rail project along Broad Street bit into the pavement. It unearthed the remains of what could be some of the earliest European settlers to live in the area that later became Burlington City.
A few bones were found at the site two weeks ago and taken away for analysis by an archaeologist.
Work continued on the rail line. On Monday, a crew of excavation contractors looking for additional bones on Broad Street near Wood Street made another discovery.
Those who saw it said the skeletal remains of up to seven people were found in rudimentary graves about 4 feet below the surface of the street. An anthropological analysis is under way to determine how long they may have been buried, but their final resting place will remain intact. They were measured and photographed, and yesterday crews were repaving the street above them.
The graves were found on a stretch of Broad Street about 40 feet long and 10 feet wide east of Wood Street. Two of the city's oldest cemeteries are across Broad Street from the excavation site. They are at St. Mary's Episcopal Church and at the Friends Meeting House.
However, the remains did not come from either cemetery, said the Rev. Connor Haynes, pastor of St. Mary's, who spoke to the archaeologist about the find.
"The oldest part of our cemetery dates back to about 1695," said Rev. Haynes, whose parish will mark its 300th anniversary in November. "Based on my conversation (with the archaeologist), they apparently found several burial sites of the European type, not Native American because they used coffins, that apparently date back to the mid-17th century."
Burlington City was formally founded in 1677, a year after a ship carrying English settlers docked along the Delaware River. Virtually all of the city's known gravesites were established after that.
Rev. Haynes and others in the city are speculating that the remains found along Broad Street may be those of Swedes who were the first whites to arrive in the area, probably around 1640.
Some of the dirt at the excavation site was discolored, indicating the presence of long-decomposed wood. Other dirt showed oxidized metal, probably from disintegrated coffin nails, Rev. Haynes said.
"It's an exceedingly fascinating story," Rev. Haynes said. "Broad Street was laid out in 1683. There have been sewer lines, water lines, electrical lines and a railroad built, and they were never found. I could have never guessed there would be a burial ground in the middle of Broad Street."
Locust Avenue resident Dave Koveloski watched the remains uncovered.
"The archaeologist had a brush," Koveloski said. "She unearthed the skull and then brushed away the dirt until the rib cage was exposed."
Charles Ingoglia, a spokesman for the NJ Transit light-rail project, said an anthropological report on the remains could be completed today. He said that after examining the remains, the construction crews began covering them again, work that was being completed yesterday.
"You're dealing with people's resting places," Ingoglia said. "They need to be treated as graves."
The New York City-based archaeologist Joan Geismar was hired by Bechtel Corp., prime contractotr for the rail line, in case significant artifacts were found during construction.
"You know you're going to be working in areas of historical importance," Ingoglia said. "An archaeologist is a really invaluable member of your team."
Churchill's secret wartime bunker revealed
A secret London bunker built for Winston Churchill in case the Nazis invaded has been unveiled to the public for the first time.
The underground citadel, a replica of the famous Cabinet War Rooms in central London, was one of the best kept secrets of the Second World War.
While the Whitehall bunker was preserved as a museum, its cousin in the northern suburb of Neasden has languished behind closed doors.
A housing association that owns the complex, which is codenamed Paddock, has now decided to admit visitors for a couple of days each year.
Network Housing Group laid on a jazz band and a Vera Lynn impersonator as the first guests squeezed through one of only two remaining entrances - a tiny doorway between two semis in Brook Road.
Maria Michael, marketing manager for Network, said the bunker had already proved extremely popular.
She said: "We were only planning to run tours on the hour or couple of hours but we have had to put more on already. People are very interested in the history, particularly local residents. They just can't believe it when they see this huge complex beneath them that they didn't even know was there."
Paddock was meant to be Churchill's last refuge if the Battle of Britain had been lost and German bombers had forced him to abandon the seat of Government. The Whitehall war rooms were not built to withstand a direct hit, so the new version was made completely bombproof.
Designed to accommodate the entire war cabinet and 200 staff, Paddock lies 40ft below ground with an outer covering of steel-reinforced concrete three-and-a-half feet thick. It was so secret that in his memoirs Churchill only described it as "near Hampstead" and even King George VI was not told exactly where it was located.
Churchill, however, was said to hate Paddock and only used it once, for a trial run. The site then lay largely forgotten for more than half a century and a few years ago Network secured permission to build 37 homes on top of it.
Story filed: 13:05 Tuesday 16th April 2002
Undelivered letter read 2,000 years late
A 2,000-year-old undelivered letter has been discovered amid ancient Chinese ruins.
The letter has provided evidence of China's oldest post office at the Xuanquanzhi Ruins in the north-west province of Gansu.
The letter, written on silk, was being sent by a friend in the remote western region to an inland area of China.
The site where it was found is located near the famous Dunhuang Mogao Grottos, on the ancient Silk Road.
The Straits Times, reporting the Xinhua news agency, says the writer described life as hard and asked his friend to buy him some goods.
Archaeologists say it is the most well-preserved letter from the Han Dynasty (206BC to 220AD) ever found.
Story filed: 12:02 Wednesday 17th April 2002
Thor Heyerdahl dies
Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
The renowned Norwegian explorer and archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl has died of cancer at the age of 87.
He passed away in his family home at Colla Micheri, northern Italy, after a long illness.
Heyerdahl had undergone surgery last year, but it failed to halt his disease. He was admitted to hospital in March when the cancer spread to his brain.
We seem to believe the ocean is endless... we use it like a sewer
Heyerdahl will be forever remembered as the Kon-Tiki man. In 1947 he skippered the tiny balsawood raft on a 6,000 kilometre journey from Peru to Polynesia.
It proved, he said, that ancient cultures could have sailed to, and populated, the South Pacific.
Thor Heyerdahl was born in Southern Norway in 1914. After studying zoology and geography at university he married and, in 1936, travelled with his new wife to the Marquesan archipelago in Pacific.
He spent a year in the Marquesas, living off the land and studying the local flora and fauna of this remote island group, the population of which included a man whose father was a cannibal.
However, he soon became more interested in how Polynesia had been originally populated. He realised that the Pacific currents ran from east to west and that many local plants were identical to those of South America.
He served with the Free Norwegian Forces during the Second World War
During the World War II, he returned home to fight for the Free Norwegian Forces in his occupied homeland: highly dangerous work which saw him decorated for bravery.
The Kon-Tiki expedition caught the imagination of a world enduring post-war austerity. The film of the expedition won Thor Heyerdahl an Oscar for best documentary, the book sold 60 million copies worldwide.
He followed his epic journey with archaeological expeditions in the Pacific aimed at finding artefacts left by ancient South Americans.
In 1953 he travelled to the Galapagos Islands, 100 miles west of Ecuador. Here he found large quantities of ceramic pottery which could be traced to Indian cultures of Ecuador and Peru.
In 1955 and 1956, Thor Heyerdahl conducted the first co-ordinated excavations of Easter Island, the abandoned island whose many carved heads stand sentinel on the Pacific. Again, he found indications of early visitors from South America.
In 1970 he crossed the Atlantic in a papyrus craft, Ra II after the original Ra had disintegrated shortly after it set out. The journey, which ended in triumph in the West Indies turned the idea that Columbus was the first transatlantic navigator on its head.
Eight years he skippered another ship, the Tigris, on a journey from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, down the Persian Gulf to Oman, Pakistan and, then, across the Indian Ocean to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
The five month journey was meant to show how the ancient Sumerians could have travelled widely.
When, in Djibouti, the Tigris was prevented from entering the Red Sea by local conflicts, Heyerdahl burned it in a poignant protest against war. A committed internationalist, he always travelled with a multinational crew and always flew the flag of the United Nations.
Thor Heyerdahl's expeditions fostered a close understanding of the global environment and he voiced his concern at the increasing problem of pollution which he had encountered even in the middle of the world's oceans.
"We seem to believe the ocean is endless," he said, "but we use it like a sewer."
Latterly, he had spent many years in South America, supervising the excavation of the largest complex of pyramids in South America at Tacume in Peru.
Critics claim that Thor Heyerdahl's views were wrong and that his archaeological and research methods left much to be desired. He countered that his many expeditions, backed up by the artefacts which he had found scattered throughout Polynesia, proved his case.
He said the world's oceans should be treated as one vast highway. That was how, he claimed, that ancient civilisations saw them. Modern people, he said, should be more ready to think in ancient terms.
Thor Heyerdahl's controversial beliefs on human migration may have cut across the conventional wisdom of his time, but his pioneering spirit and continuing quest for understanding endeared him to millions.
The man who sailed to fame on Kon-Tiki is dying after a life filled with high adventure and scientific controversy
Sunday April 14, 2002
As a boy he lay in bed and looked through the windows of the family's wooden cabin at the blue sky and, far below, the still blue waters of the Norwegian fjord. He dreamt of distant seas and distant peoples. This weekend he lies dying in his home on the Italian Riviera, watching the waves and the clouds once again and, no doubt, dreaming still of far-off oceans.
Within days, it is likely that Thor Heyerdahl - explorer, scientist, ecologist and adventurer - will be dead. Last week he refused further treatment on an inoperable and spreading brain tumour and returned from hospital to his home in the resort of Colla Micheri near Alassio with his family and fourth wife, Jacqueline, a former Miss France, to 'rest in peace'.
His son, Thor Heyerdahl Jnr, described his father's condition as 'very weak'. 'It is just a matter of time now,' he added.
It is 66 years since Heyerdahl, then 22, and his 20-year-old first wife tried to escape from civilisation by moving to the South Pacific island of Fatu-Hiva in the Marquesas.
Fatu-Hiva, so remote that the its inhabitants were unaware of the First World War until long after it had finished, was, the couple hoped, a tropical paradise where they would be cut off from the modern world and its technology and could return to nature.
To finance this utopian adventure, they gained the support of their wealthy parents, a rich wine merchant and the University of Oslo, though their projects were remarkably fuzzy.
'I was to visit some isolated Pacific island group and study how the local animals had found their way there,' Heyerdahl wrote later.
Predictably, they found that the Marquesas were not a paradise, and their own existence there was anything but utopian. The people were riddled with tuberculosis, venereal disease and elephantiasis. Isolating themselves from the locals as far as possible, the Heyerdahls built a bamboo cabin to live in, but soon became depressed with their dreary vegetarian diet and began to sprout alarming boils and sores. To reach the nearest doctor, they had to cross the notoriously stormy stretch between two islands in a patched-up lifeboat and nearly died in high seas.
When they returned to Fatu-Hiva after a month's absence, they found that the jungle had destroyed their bamboo cabin so they moved to a cave by the sea.
Heyerdahl admitted that the project of returning to nature was a fiasco. 'There is nothing for modern man to return to,' he gloomily commented. His one solid achievement was to interview the last Marquesan cannibal, who told him that of all the portions of 'long pig' he had eaten the tastiest was the forearm of a white woman.
Yet the eight-month stay on Fatu-Hiva merely whetted Heyerdahl's appetite. The young zoologist had to wait for the end of the Second World War, in which he fought with the Free Norwegian Forces, and a divorce from his first wife, before launching the Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947 to put the theories he had developed during his previous trip to the test.
Challenged by a contemptuous academic to prove that mankind could have populated the Polynesian Islands from the east, rather than from Malaysia, Heyerdahl built a balsawood raft and, with six Norwegian crewmen, sailed 4,300 miles across the Pacific from Peru. The trip turned him into a star.
It coincided with the development of media technology that allowed the expedition to film themselves. The book of the hazardous 101-day journey was a bestseller. Translated into 67 languages, it sold 20 million copies and the film, in a bleak postwar world starved of entertainment, was a massive hit.
Fame made Heyerdahl a fortune and many enemies. Established anthropologists attacked his theories and methodology. The esoteric world of transoceanic migration studies and its offshoots in genetics have still yet to form a consensus about Heyerdahl's ideas. Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University and a leading authority on DNA and human evolution, told The Observer that modern techniques had shown that Heyerdahl was completely wrong.
'It's a shame because I had rather hoped he, as such a colourful character, was right, but with new techniques you can show the Polynesians did not come from the Americas. The movement was from the west,' Sykes said.
Contemporary defenders say that critics have misunderstood Heyerdahl's work.
'Thor was saying that the people of Polynesia came originally from Asia, but had travelled via the western coast of America and approached the islands from that side. They had followed the prevailing currents,' said Dr Don Ryan, an archaeologist at the Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, who has worked closely with Heyerdahl over the past five years. 'And Thor proved that point.'
Ryan also defends Heyerdahl against accusations of 'stunt archaeology'. 'It's as if you have to wear a lab coat to be a scientist,' he said. 'Thor employed a very dramatic form of experimental archaeology. It may have been spectacular but was rooted in very serious and scholarly study.'
But critics have never bothered Heyerdahl. After the Kon-Tiki he turned his attention to the Galapagos and the mystery of the stone statues on Easter Island, where he used legends and oral tradition in an attempt to discover why a former civilisation on the remote Pacific island came to a sudden end. The resulting book - Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island - was another bestseller, much to his detractors' chagrin.
In 1969 the Ra expeditions returned to the theme of sea-crossing, this time using reed boats modelled on Ancient Egyptian patterns and launched from Morocco to sail to the Caribbean. 'We tested the papyrus reeds in our bathtub,' Heyerdahl recalled at the Foyle's lunch held in his honour two years ago.
Neither did age mellow him. Two years ago he pronounced that a giant pyramid-shaped structure in Sicily could have been built by ancient sun-worshippers. Italian archaeologists said it was a giant pile of rocks cleared from the fields. Most recently, Heyerdahl claimed the Vikings did not come from Norway but were ancestors of Russian Cossacks who fled north, led by the original historical figure on whom the legend of the Norse god Odin was based.
Whatever the veracity of his theories, Heyerdahl has inspired generations of explorers. Sir Ranulph Fiennes told The Observer that he remembered watching the Kon-Tiki films: 'For me, as an impressionable young man in the Fifties, he was number one. We could see these amazing pictures of these tiny boats almost sinking on these huge waves.'
Other role models for Fiennes were Sir Wilfred Thesiger, who explored the Empty Quarter of Arabia and the Hindu Kush, and Sir Vivien Fuchs, the Antarctic explorer. Fuchs is dead and Thesiger is now 91.
'There is a sense of a generation passing,' said Fiennes. 'They were all wonderful in their time. Heyerdahl himself was a real detective, an Inspector Morse of the ocean. When he set off on the Kon-Tiki he had very little to go on but his own intuition. It was fantastically brave.'
Heyerdahl, who has had five children, has spent his final years with Jacqueline in Tenerife, developing theories about possible parallels between step pyramids in Peru, Mexico and Tenerife itself. One recent idea is that a cataclysmic event - perhaps a great flood that occurred about 5,000 years ago - acted as a catalyst for the development of civilisations all over the globe.
Ryan said that Heyerdahl had been deeply affected by the rise of totalitarianism and violence in the Europe of his youth. Writing in The Observer in 1974, Heyerdahl described his feelings on leaving Fatu-Hiva in 1938.
'We hated going back to civilisation,' he wrote. 'But we had to do it. We were sure then, and I still am, that the only place where it is possible to find nature is within yourself. There it is, unchanged, now as always.'