Revealed: the solicitor who fooled science with fossils of 'ancient' Piltdown Man

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

13 November 2003


Fifty years after one of the great fossil frauds was exposed, two academics believe they may have answered a question which has intrigued science: who faked Piltdown Man?


When the remains of an ancient man were found in a quarry in Sussex in 1911-12, scientists believed that they had found the "missing link" between humans and apes.


It was only in 1953 that dating evidence proved that Piltdown Man was not an ape-like human who lived more than 500,000 years ago. "He" had been made out of a medieval human skull and the jawbone of a modern ape.


In a public lecture to be given at the museum later this month, Professor Chris Stringer and Andy Currant will explain why they think the hoax of Piltdown Man was actually two frauds committed by two sets of people.


And they will name the man they believe was behind the original fraud - Charles Dawson, the solicitor and respected amateur geologist who found the skull and jawbone.


"We don't have the smoking gun, but we come close to reconstructing the sequence of events pretty well," Professor Stringer said. "Dawson found the first pieces and he was present when all the major finds were made at Piltdown. After he died, no more stuff turned up so for me Dawson was the prime suspect, although we don't know whether he did everything or whether he worked alone." Dawson presented his findings to the Geological Society in London in December 1912 with Arthur Smith Woodward, the keeper of geology at the Natural History Museum.


In Britain the scientific establishment backed the claims and Piltdown Man became a sensation.


In the same year that the fossil went on display at the Natural History Museum, a young priest called Teilhard de Chardin made another important find at Piltdown - a canine tooth that matched the original jawbone. The tooth fulfilled important predictions about the half-human, half-ape nature of the creature.


But then another highly unusual fossil was found. "It was a big piece of bone, it had obviously been well doctored, it was definitely deliberately stained and it had been chopped in a crude way," said Dr Currant. The artefact appeared to be a flat tool fashioned by Stone Age man from elephant bone. In fact, although it was a fossil, the cuts were made with a metal tool, Dr Currant said.


"Chris and I both believe that this was planted by somebody else. This was nothing to do with the original forgery. The only way of interpreting this is that this is somebody in the know saying, 'OK, we've rumbled you,'" he said.


13 November 2003 19:08



Fossil fools: Return to Piltdown

By Paul Rincon

BBC Science


The fossil remains of early humans are exceptionally rare. Scientists trying to reconstruct the evolutionary history of our species often have to draw long, dotted lines between a few key fossils.


So introducing a bogus ancestor into our family tree can throw the entire study of human evolution off course.


This is exactly what happened with the Piltdown skull, which was exposed as an elaborate hoax exactly 50 years ago this month.


Its discovery had generated frenzied excitement. Piltdown man was argued to be 500,000 years old and therefore an irrefutable "missing link" between humans and apes.


Only one fossil of such great antiquity was accepted by British scientists of the day - the Heidelberg jaw found in 1907. But Piltdown, named after the Sussex village where it was discovered, was more complete - and English to boot.

Practical joke


Plaudits were heaped on the amateur geologist Charles Dawson and his friend Arthur Smith Woodward, keeper of geology at the British (now Natural History) Museum, who had unearthed the fossil fragments together in the years 1911-15.


Thousands of text books would have to be revised because of the hoax, said the Daily Mirror


Piltdown had a large, human-like braincase, but its jaw was ape-like, fitting predictions about how our ancestors looked. Bones from a beaver, rhino and hippo were also found, along with supposed stone tools known as eoliths.

In 1914, a curious elephant bone implement was found under a hedge at Piltdown. One unidentified wag suggested that it looked like a cricket bat.

In fact, Piltdown man was a modern forgery and not even entirely male. The jaw belonged to a female orang-utan. The skull was human. Much of the material had been stained brown to make it look fossilised.


"The cricket bat was a joke - though Dawson and Woodward obviously didn't get it," says Dr Andy Currant, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London.


Piltdown was accepted as genuine until 1953, when scientists from Oxford University and the British Museum used chemical testing to prove it was a fake.

The high forehead and heavy jaw of Piltdown had reinforced misconceptions that human brains grew large at an early stage in our species' evolution. In 1925, a genuine fossil ancestor from South Africa was dismissed in England because it didn't look like Piltdown.


The hoaxers made other anatomical gaffes. They filed down molars in the jaw to remove obvious orang-utan dental traits, but were blissfully ignorant of the way human teeth wear down.


"Human teeth wear more on the buccal [cheek] side of the crown and not as much on the lingual [tongue] side," says Professor Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley.


The actor Ed Skelton plays Dawson in a new BBC Timewatch investigation

Where the hoaxers obtained their specimens is a mystery. One possible trail leads to the Natural History Museum. In 1911, the British Museum bought a collection of animal remains from Borneo. An original inventory appears to list the lower jaw of an orang-utan as missing.


Radiocarbon dating showed the human skull from Piltdown was less than 1,000 years old. Its unusual thickness suggests the owner suffered from Paget's disease, a hereditary thickening of bone.


A similar skull reportedly disappeared in the 1900s from Hastings Museum, an institution with which Charles Dawson had strong connections.

Dawson has long been prime suspect as the forger. But a clever piece of scientific detective work has implicated another character in the saga.


In 1976, an old canvas trunk belonging to Martin Hinton, a volunteer in Smith Woodward's geology department at the time of Piltdown, was found in the Natural History Museum.


It contained mammal bones and teeth stained a similar mahogany brown as the Piltdown material and carved like the cricket bat.



1911 - first skull fossils found

1912 - discoveries publicised

1914 - cricket bat surfaces

1915 - Charles Dawson dies

1949 - Piltdown ages queried

1953 - Fossil fakes unmasked


Palaeontologist Brian Gardiner has subjected the Piltdown bones and the Hinton items to a technique called flame atomic absorption.


The chemical signature of the Piltdown material matches Hinton's bones and teeth, suggesting they were stained using the same methods.


Gardiner believes this lays the blame squarely at Hinton's door. But not everyone is convinced.


The continuing fascination with Piltdown, 50 years after it was exposed, stems partly from its status as an unsolved case.


The list of suspects is long and constantly expanding. One investigator has even accused Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - creator of Sherlock Holmes - of conceiving the hoax.



Professor Chris Stringer, palaeoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum and Andy Currant believe Charles Dawson was the main culprit, planting everything except perhaps the cricket bat.


Dawson was no stranger to archaeological forgeries. He exhibited bizarre phoney fossil toads and almost certainly forged two Roman tiles with rare inscriptions.


The joke: The "first Englishman" had a "cricket bat"


"Ninety-nine per cent of the evidence points towards Dawson. But Hinton might have been behind the cricket bat," says Currant.


"Whoever planted the cricket bat wasn't part of the original hoax and had a different message, namely: 'We're on to you and we're going to mess your site up,'" says Stringer.


This may have prompted the original forger to plant more human bones at a site nearby called Piltdown II. Dawson discovered these in 1915.


"Piltdown II was an attempt by the original forger to throw people off the original site. It was a reaction to the discovery of odd material they hadn't planted," adds Currant.


Whether Hinton planted all the material, or just some, he had a motive. He quarrelled with Smith Woodward over payment he said he was owed for an academic contract. He may have wanted to humiliate his boss as an act of revenge.


But Smith Woodward's arrogance and aloofness had made him many enemies in the British Museum, raising the possibility that others assisted Hinton in his vendetta.


At a dinner party in 1975, Kenneth Oakley, one of the team that exposed Piltdown in 1953, allegedly named Charles Chatwin as a conspirator. Chatwin was an assistant for Smith Woodward in the geology department at the time of Piltdown.


If the hoaxers could see the fuss still generated by their handiwork, they would no doubt be amused.


"Piltdown is a piece of nonsense which has used up a phenomenal amount of good time," says Currant.


"I'd like to see the 50th anniversary commemorated by the crushing of all the material and the burning of the Piltdown archive."


Piltdown Man: The Context And Exposure Of A Scientific Forgery is an exhibition that runs at the Natural History Museum from 25 November.


The fraud is also the subject of the Pfizer Annual Science Forum at the museum on the same date.


The BBC will broadcast its special Timewatch documentary on Piltdown Man on 21 November, on BBC Two at 2100 GMT



Early rock

Were some ancient sites designed to be acoustically, as well as visually, awe-inspiring?

Mark Pilkington

Thursday November 6, 2003

The Guardian


Ongoing research at Neolithic sites around the UK has revealed striking similarities in their acoustical properties. Key examples, both in Ireland, are

the huge passage tomb of Newgrange and the burial mound known as Cairn L at Loughcrew. These sites contain passageways leading to large circular chambers, and have a resonant frequency (at which sounds naturally echo and reverberate) of about 110hz - the frequency of the male baritone, the second lowest singing voice. Standing waves, whereby sounds are reflected off walls and superimposed on to one another, and other acoustic curiosities, have been observed in these and other sites. Stone circles including Avebury and Stonehenge also appear to reflect sound in distinctive ways.


Archaeologists have suggested that chanting, singing and drumming at these sites would have produced reverberating echoes that might have been interpreted as voices of spirits or gods; they may also have induced physiological and psychological changes in people, adding to their potency as sites of spiritual importance.


These acoustic discoveries may also shed light on some of the visual motifs etched into the walls of many ancient sites. Experiments in a replica of the Newgrange passage, at Princeton University, showed that if a site was smoky or misty, standing sound waves would become visible as they vibrated particles in the air. Could this visualising effect account for the zigzag and concentric ring markings on the chamber walls?


Intriguing acoustic effects have also been noted at sites in the Americas, from Anasazi kivas (ritual chambers) in New Mexico, to Chichen Itza on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Here, the famed Mayan pyramid of Kukulcan, or Quetzelcoatl, is known for the way the solstices and equinoxes are reflected in its stones, but professional acoustician David Lubman has observed another aspect to its design. If you clap in front of the pyramid, the sound is reflected back by its stone steps, sounding, Lubman claims, like the chirp of the quetzal bird, sacred to the Mayans.


Acoustic archaeology is a young field finally gaining academic respectability. New discoveries are made constantly, so next time you're at an ancient site, sing, clap your hands - and listen carefully.





COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The latest expeditions to ice caps in the high, tropical Peruvian Andes Mountains by Ohio State University scientists may shed light on a mysterious global climate change they believe occurred more than 5,000 years ago.


They hope that ice cores retrieved from two tropical ice caps there, as well as ancient plants retrieved from beneath the retreating glaciers, may contain clues that could link ancient events that changed daily life in South America, Europe and Asia.


Something happened 5,200 years ago that was abrupt and very large-scale, explained Lonnie Thompson, professor of geological sciences at Ohio State and researcher with the Byrd Polar Research Center.


As snow falls on these ice caps and is packed tightly over time, it forms stratigraphic layers indicating annual accumulations. Researchers can estimate the age of a core by counting these layers just as biologists date forests by counting tree rings.


In September, Thompson and his team returned from drilling ice cores from glaciers atop two peaks in Peru. They drilled three cores from Nevado Coropuna, a 6,425-meter (21,074-foot) extinct volcano in the Cordillera Occidental of the Andes in Southern Peru. Two of the cores were drilled at the crater rim and measured just over 34 meters (111.5 feet).


Based on our counting layers in the core at the drill site, we believe the shorter cores might date back at least 300 years, Thompson said.


The third core from coropuna was drilled directly over the crater at the mountains summit and measured 146.3 meters (479 feet). This core will likely provide the first annually resolved climate history for this region over at least the last 2,000 years.


There is a possibility that this core could contain glacial stage ice, he suspects, which could date it back more than 10,000 years.


These cores should provide a critical piece of the puzzle needed to understand climate variability in this region, Thompson said.


Coropuna is located on the first rise of the Andes, right above the Pacific Ocean, so the ice cores should record changes in the El Nino-La Nina cycle, a key component of climate variability.


Approximately 270 miles (434 kilometers) north and east of Coropuna lies the Quelccaya ice cap, a site that Thompson and his team have visited at least 18 times in the last few decades.


During this expedition, they drilled two cores from a new site on the north dome of the ice cap. They hope that the cores, measuring 128.6 meters (422 feet), will unveil an annual record of climate in this region dating back at least 1,000 years. At the ice cap summit, the team also retrieved a 168.7-meter (553-foot) core to bedrock that is expected to yield an annual record covering more than 2,000 years that will give them a high-resolution record of climatic and environmental conditions.


The deep core at the Coropuna crater site yielded other surprises. They found the body of a small insect, perfectly preserved and frozen in the ice 64 meters (210 feet) below the surface and three individual plant fragments retrieved from the 117-meter (384-foot) level in the core.


These finds are important since they will allow us to independently date the core at these levels using a different process, Thompson said. Both the insect and the plant material were probably carried from the Altiplano below to the summit site by thunderstorm winds.


In 2002, Thompsons team made a surprising find along the margin of the Quelccaya ice cap a remarkably preserved wetland plant that had been remarkably preserved under the ice. Later testing yielded viable DNA from the plant and dated it back 5,200 years ago.


This is a soft-bodied plant, he said. It had to be captured by a very large snowfall at the time, a snowfall and climate change that began very abruptly fast enough to capture a plant but not kill it. That is astounding.


We know the first plant could not have been exposed at any time during in that 5,200-year history or it would have decayed, he said.


This year, the researchers found a second plant near the southern tip of the ice field, some 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) south of their original plant find. Thompson believes that this second plant may provide important historical information about this site.


Subsequent carbon dating of the second plant showed that it had been buried for the last 2,200 years, a time when other records showed another abrupt climate change.

The size of the ice caps in this region is a vital key in understanding questions about global climate change. Since he first started monitoring Quelccaya, Thompson said the ice cap has been retreating exponentially.


When we started surveying in 1963, Quelccaya was retreating at a rate of 4.7 meters (15.4 feet) each year, he said. In more recent years, the rate of retreat has increased to as much as 205 meters (672 feet) annually more than 40 times as fast!


Thompson calls Quelccaya, the largest of all the tropical ice caps, the poster child for tropical glaciers. At least 70 percent of all tropical ice on the planet is trapped in Peruvian ice fields and glaciers. The annual melt from these ice packs provides drinking water and irrigation for millions of people, as well as refilling reservoirs that feed hydroelectric dams.


Thompson and his research team are in a race against time to retrieve cores from these ice caps in order to preserve the thousands of years of climatic history trapped inside. And at the top of their agenda is solving the puzzle of what occurred 5,200 years ago.


We know the climate was different then. Before that, the proportion of warm water flowing off the coast of Peru was much greater, he said, a key factor in fueling the El Nino/La Nina climate events affecting this part of the globe.


We know that the Ice Man, a preserved Neolithic hunter exposed by a retreating glacier in the European Alps, was trapped by the ice around 5,200 years ago, he said, and that had to occur very abruptly.


Earlier work by the Ohio State team on ice cores taken from Tanzanias Mount Kilimanjaro ice fields showed that a catastrophic drought had devastated the tropics around 5,200 years ago, a period of time when anthropologists believe THAT many people abandoned a nomadic lifestyle to form cities and social structures.


Those changes came abruptly and we know very little about abrupt climate change in the tropics.


If it happened in the past, it might happen again, he warned, and that type of abrupt event in todays world would mean worldwide chaos, both economically and socially. Today, 70 percent of the worlds 6.3 billion people live in the tropics.


This research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the Comer Foundation and Ohio State University.


Contact: Lonnie Thompson (614) 292-6652: Thompson.3@osu.edu.

Written by Earle Holland (614) 292-8384; Holland.8@osu.edu.



Ethiopian Obelisk Finally To Be returned

Cathy Majtenyi

10 Nov 2003, 14:31 UTC


The Ethiopian government says it is happy with plans to return an obelisk that Italian troops took from Ethiopia 66-years ago.


Italian workers are in the process of dismantling the obelisk, estimated to be two-thousand years old, which now sits in Rome. Italian troops stole the landmark from the northern city of Axum in 1937, when dictator Benito Mussolini ordered an invasion of Ethiopia.


The obelisk's return has been the subject of a bitter feud between Ethiopia and Italy for at least 50 years. Agreements to return the obelisk were made, and not honored, several times.


But now the obelisk, which was originally carved from one stone, is being taken apart in the same sections as it was transported in 66-years ago, in preparation for its journey back to Axum.


A spokesman for Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kinfe Nidaro, says the obelisk's return is deeply significant.


"It means just gaining back its (Ethiopia's) heritage, its history, its culture. It is just finding back what is lost, what is taken from it unjustly."


Mr. Nidaro says it was a long struggle for Ethiopians to get the obelisk back. He says he does not know the exact date the obelisk will arrive in Axum.


The return of antiquities is a big issue in many countries, as conquerors and former colonial powers are coming under pressure to return items to several countries in Africa and elsewhere.



Iron age torc is declared treasure

November 9, 2003 09:30


An Iron Age torc found in a Norfolk field has been declared treasure by a Norwich coroner.


The electrum twisted wire torc was turned up by farmer Owen Carter in July and is thought to date from between 250-200BC.


Mr Carter told the EDP that he initially had no idea of the significance of what he had found.


He said: "I tripped over it! I was loading some hay up that had been cultivated, and I felt it under my boot.


"I had a look at it and thought it was an old bit of wire. Then I realised it was one of those necklaces."


The gold and silver artefact, which has a 20cm diameter, is currently in the care of the British Museum in London, but Norwich Castle Museum is keen to acquire it.


Coroner William Armstrong quoted a report from British Museum expert Dr JD Hill, which said: "The discovery adds to the growing number of Iron Age torcs that are a feature of the county.


"We can suggest it was made between 250-200BC, but it is not possible to be more precise than that."


It was not yet possible to place a value on the torc, as it is still being assessed by the British Museum.


The landowner attended the treasure inquest and confirmed that the treasure finder had had permission to be on his land.


The precise location of the site in south-west Norfolk is not being revealed.


The inquest also declared as treasure:








Ancient City, 'Little Rome' Discovered

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News


Nov. 10, 2003 — After 10 years of digging, "Little Rome," as the great Roman orator Cicero called it, is coming to light near Naples, in what could be the most important discovery of an ancient Roman town since the excavation of lava-entombed Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 18th century.


The ancient town of Puteoli, once one of the major trading ports of the Mediterranean, has been found under Rione Terra, a stout promontory in Pozzuoli, just 8 miles west of Naples.


Known to Italians as the birthplace of movie star Sophia Loren, Pozzuoli is a pleasant seaside resort surrounded by volcanic hills. But under palaces and hotels lies an ancient city with streets, temples and exceptionally preserved buildings — in no way inferior to those of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.


"Puteoli lies encased in the foundations of the city built in the 16th century by the Spanish, who at that time ruled the kingdom of Naples. Bringing it to light is a very difficult task. As we excavate, we need to use steel beams to support the new buildings on the top level," chief archaeologist Costanza Gialanella told Discovery News.


So far, the archaeologists have unearthed a street network from 194 B.C. — when a Roman colony of just 300 men was established on the massive tufa promontory dominating the Gulf of Naples — and buildings dating to different periods, mainly related to the rule of emperors Augustus and Nero.


Remains of the ancient town walls, stretches of the decumani and cardines (avenues and streets) flanked by tabernae (inns), small private altars, flour mills, deep wells, vaulted storage rooms, as well as various findings including stone heads used to decorate fountains and splendid statues, have emerged.

Located on the ground floor of residential buildings, inns are one of the most frequent sights in the ancient town. Most of them date back to the rule of Emperor Augustus in the first century A.D., Puteoli's golden age.


"Basically, this town was the port of ancient Rome. Travelers did not stop at the tabernae only to eat. Music and dances, dice gambling and even love encounters were arranged by the inn's owner," Gialanella said.


The most imposing and spectacular find is the temple of Augustus, a white marble temple built by the architect Lucius Cocceius Auctus on the site of the ancient Roman colony's Capitolium.


Archaeologists have fully brought to light the temple's beautiful Corinthian columns and walls, on which excavation began in 1964. At that time, a fire destroyed the Baroque church that the Spanish built over the temple, revealing parts of the ancient structure.


The fire wasn't Pozzuoli's only disaster. Replaced by Ostia as the main trading port of Rome in the second century A.D., the town began its decline in the following centuries.


In 1538, the Monte Nuovo volcano erupted, swallowing up the nearby village of Tripergole and scaring away Pozzuoli's population. This gave the Spanish rulers the opportunity to build a new city, in their own style, on top of the ancient Puteoli.


Repopulated, Pozzuli was again abandoned in 1970, when the bradyseismic activity of the volcanic Phlegraean area caused the ground to rise and fall.

Again repopulated, Pozzuoli could become a major archaeological attraction in years to come.


"The next step will be to unearth the ancient residential area," Gialanella said.

A little part of Puteoli is already open to public, who can visit it during the weekends.


"It is a brilliant archaeological work, really unique. We get to know a town with intense building activity, rather similar to modern cities in which shops are on the ground floors of residential buildings," Fausto Zevi of La Sapienza University in Rome and an authority on Pozzuoli, told Discovery News.



Stunning capital of Xia Dynasty unearthed

www.chinaview.cn 2003-11-11 10:01:11


    BEIJING, Nov 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Chinese archaeologists recently found a large-scale building foundation in Erlitou Ruins of Yanshi, central China's Henan Province, which belongs to the later period of Xia Dynasty. The discovery, the first of its kind in China, again excited the archaeological field after the heated discussion on the division of Xia and Shang dynasties .


 "The site causes great concern because it was founded at the key moment when the Xia Dynasty (c. 2100 BC - c. 1600 BC) was replaced by the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC - c. 1100 BC)," said Dr. Xu Hong, head of the Erlitou Archaeological Team under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Was it built by people of the Xia or the Shang? Further excavation will help find the final resolution and provide new materials for periodization of the two dynasties."


    The Erlitou Ruins were discovered by Chinese scholars in their field research of Xia culture. In the following 40 years’ outdoor excavation, they obtained rich relics and references. As a result, the Erlitou Ruins were confirmed as the ruins of an important capital existing between the Xia and Shang dynasties. The first-hand information and scientific materials laid a solid foundation for the research of Xia culture. Meanwhile, since its discovery, disputes about it have never ended.


    Situated in the central area of the Xia Dynasty as shown in historical records chronologized as in the Xia Dynasty, the Erlitou Ruins naturally became a key site in the exploration of the Xia culture as well as the division between Xia and Shang dynasties. The question remaining is whether it is a Xia-dynasty capital or the Shang capital Xibo.


     Disputes also center on the nature of the Erlitou culture. Some think it featured Xia culture in early period and Shang culture in later period, while others believe it was of pure Xia culture.


    After the periodization of the Xia, Shang and Zhou (c. 1100 BC - 221 BC) was completed, more and more experts tended to believe Erlitou was a site of Xia ruins and it once served as the capital during the dynasty’s middle and later periods.


    "This means people can almost touch the pulse of China's first dynasty. I say 'almost' because many mysteries about the Erlitou Ruins remain unsolved," Dr. Xu Hong said. "We've got only an outline of the information it has provided, such as the internal layout, evolution process, culture, social life, organizational structure and ethnics, of this capital."


    "The final solution to the mysteries of Erlitou culture and Xia culture still depends on more historical witnesses, such as the creation of characters," Xu said. "With further investigation, excavation and research on the Erlitou Ruins, people will better understand the significance of the ruins in exploring the source of Chinese culture, Chinese early civilization and formation of state."


    Under the No.2 site of Erlitou Ruins, which is the foundation of a large-scale palace complex, archaeologists recently discovered a new site of rammed earth, which indicates an earlier, larger and more complicated structure once existed there. It pushes the age of China earliest palace complex back 100 years.


    According to Dr. Xu Hong, the site, encoded No.3, should belong to early-period Erlitou culture. To date, it has been confirmed that the structure was about 150 meters long, and its major body comprises at least three courtyards.


    Before the discovery, archaeologists believed the No.1 and No.2 sites of Erlitou were the earliest large-scale palaces in China, leading to the conclusion that the early period palace was simple in structure and usually had one gate and one courtyard. The excavation of No.3 site, however, made them change minds.


    The Erlitou Ruins, dating back 3,850-3,550 years, were found in 1959. As early as in 1978, archaeologists had noticed large-scale rammed earth under the No.2 palace site and decided to explore its scale, structure and date. In recent years, the Erlitou Archaeological Team has focused their field work on early buildings of Erlitou and its relationship with later buildings. Since autumn 2001, more than 3,000 square meters have been excavated.

    The result is the discovery of the more complicated No.3 and No.5 palace sites, which sit side by side, one in the east, the other in the west. Under the passageway between them, there is a 100-meter-long wooden-structured drainage culvert.


    In the middle and south courtyards of No.3 site, archaeologists also found rows of medium-sized tombs, of which five have been cleaned up. All of the tombs are paved with cinnabar and traces of coffins can still be seen. Burial articles unearthed include bronze, jade, lacquer and white pottery ware as well as glazed pottery inlayed with turquoise and artifacts made from seashells. Many items, such as white pottery in shape of wide-rimmed bamboo hat, jade ornament looking like a bird's head, large vessel inlayed with turquoise and ornament composed of nearly 100 gear-like holed clams, had never been seen before.


    The discovery of the tombs with so many aristocrats is of great significance to the study of the nature of No.3 site and the burial ceremonies of the Erlitou culture.


     In the past half a century, Chinese archaeologists have dedicated themselves to seeking relics of the Xia Dynasty and their work centers on western Henan Province. Historical records show the western part of Henan Province was the central area for activities in the Xia Dynasty. In 1959, historian Xu Xusheng found the large ruins of Erlitou in Yanshi of western Henan Province. Since then, three generations of archaeologists have conducted more than 40 excavations.


    Research proves this was the largest living community in China and even in East Asia in the first half of c. 2000 BC. It boasted the earliest palace building group of China, earliest bronze sacrificial vessel group and earliest bronze smelting workshop. It is the earliest capital city which can be confirmed to date.


    Dr. Xu Hong, head of the Erlitou Archaeological Team under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, stresses the academic significance of the work: it helps better understand the nature of Erlitou Ruins as a capital, the emergence of city, and the early form of state.


    The palaces in the Erlitou Ruins had three avenues: the one in the east was nearly 700 meters long, the other two in the north and south were over 300 meters each, with a distance of 400 meters between them. Also, several paths were discovered in the palace area. Between No.1 and No.2 sites, large areas of earth, hundreds square meters of pebble and some rammed-earth foundations were found.


    The latest exploration and excavation show the palace ruins were distributed in a northwest-southeast trend along the ancient Yiluo River. The longest distance from east to west was 2,400 meters, and that from north to south, 1,900 meters. The northern part of it had been damaged by the Luohe River, with only a three-square-kilometer area left. The most important part was the highland in the southeast, with palace foundation ruins, bronze smelting workshop ruins and medium-sized tombs. The western part of it was relatively low and used to be common residential areas. On the edge of the eastern part a ditch extending 500 meters intermittently was found. It was believed to be a ditch providing earth for construction or pottery making in the past. Also, it formed the eastern border of the palace.


    Erlitou is a common village on the northern bank of the Luohe River, Henan Province. Few has known it was the location of the capital of China's first dynasty, Xia between c.1900 BC to c. 1600 BC. It witnessed the prosperity of the Xia and the transmission from the Xia to the Shang. However, the memory about the Chinese nation seemed to dim from people's mind and some even doubted if there had been such a brilliance.


    In the 20th century, the discovery of inscriptions on tortoise shells or animal bones and excavation of the Yin Ruins of Anyang proved the existence of the Shang Dynasty. This greatly encouraged Chinese scholars, who hoped to restore the real appearance of the Xia Dynasty by seeking relevant relics.


    Since Erlitou was discovered by Xu Xusheng and his archaeological team in 1959, Chinese archaeologists have entered a new stage in the exploration of the Xia culture.


    The continuous excavation brought to light ruins of large-scale palace foundations, large-scale bronze smelting workshop, pottery making and bone article workshops as well as buildings related to religious sacrifice, 400 tombs, sets of bronze and jade sacrificial vessels. All these have proven Erlitou was the earliest capital ever founded in China.


    Along with new discoveries, the disputes over Xia culture and the division of the Xia and Shang dynasties have heated up again, attracting both domestic and overseas scholars. The periodization of the Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties greatly promoted the study of Xia culture. The initial building of the Shang city in Yanshi has been confirmed as a boundary mark between the Xia and Shang dynasties, and Erlitou Ruins, a capital of the Xia Dynasty. More and more scholars begin to accept the view that the mainstay of Erlitou culture was Xia culture.


    Now the exploration on the source of Chinese civilization and Xia culture is still going on. Dr. Xu Hong, as well as other scholars devoted to this study, is fully confident of the future: "The discovery of the Yin Ruins astounded the world in the 20th century. We believe the Erlitou Ruins will lead the study of Chinese ancient civilization to a new stage in the 21st century."



Vietnam uncovers hidden treasure

By Clare Arthurs



A massive archaeological find has delayed the construction of Vietnam's first ever purpose-built parliament house.


Reports from the capital, Hanoi, say that some 2 million items have been unearthed on the proposed site of the new National Assembly building.

The finds, which date back to the 7th Century, were put on display for the first time on Tuesday.


Behind high walls and under striped plastic sheeting, the digging has been under way for months.


But the extent of the find has just now been revealed - artefacts pre-dating the establishment of Thang Long, or modern day Hanoi, as the "city of the rising dragon".


Out of the mud have come the remains of ornate pavilions, tall pillars and delicate ceramics covered in the mythical phoenix and writhing dragons.


In typical secretive style, the authorities have spoken little about the plans for a new parliament house.


Ahead of the recent announcement that German architects had been chosen to design the complex, the BBC was refused access to the site - and parliamentarians were not allowed to talk about the project.


It sits in communist Vietnam's heartland - historic Ba Dinh in old Hanoi, where the founder of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, lies entombed.


It now appears the siting of the new parliament, which was to have been under construction by the end of the year, will have to be rethought.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2003/11/11 16:21:55 GMT




Vietnam Unveils Ancient Artifacts from Excavation

Tue 11 November, 2003 07:24

By Christina Toh-Pantin

HANOI (Reuters) - Ancient terracotta dragons, phoenix statues and ceramic urns unearthed from a royal compound accidentally discovered where Vietnam's new parliament was being built were put on display for the first time on Tuesday.

In its first international briefing at the site, the Ministry of Information and Culture displayed some of the estimated two million items that have been uncovered since excavation began in December 2002 in the capital Hanoi.


The discovery provided a glimpse into the lives of nobility in Hoang Thanh, or the royal city, that was part of a sixth century town later renamed Thang Long or "ascending dragon."


Deep wells, ornate pavilions and bases for mighty pillars were found along with the more mundane rubbish dumps and tiled drains. Some gold jewelry, decorated swords and a cannon were also retrieved along with skeletal remains from a later period.


Construction on the National Assembly building was halted after workers stumbled upon the items -- some of which date from the seventh century. Experts have determined the site is layered with antiquities from a number of dynasties, including the Le, Ly, Tran and Nguyen.


The discoveries "increase our pride in the nation," Minister of Culture and Information Pham Quang Nghi told reporters and embassy representatives Tuesday.


He was speaking behind two long tables displaying items such as the head of a phoenix, writhing dragons on leaf-shaped ornamental roof tiles and ceramic bowls glazed with flowers and other designs.



The dragon motif, also popular in China as representative of the emperor, may reflect the ancient capital's name.


Legend says that in 1010 when King Ly Cong Uan moved the citadel to the current site of Hanoi he saw a dragon ascending to the clouds, and thus named his capital Thang Long.


Experts say the tally of items could go much higher than the estimated two million once work is finished in three or four months.


Access to the site has been strictly controlled, with foreign media not permitted to visit. Its total area, located near revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, is 40,000 square meters (430,400 square feet).


Slides showed nine skeletons discovered in graves. Two were children aged eight or nine, one was a woman estimated to be from the 19th century with three bowls placed around her head, and several others appeared to have met violent ends.


Four skeletons were discovered in one grave, with one having its hands tied behind and fragments of bullets with the bones. They were estimated to be from the 18th or 19th century.


At its peak, up to 1,600 workers were working on the site, said Tong Trung Tin, an academic expert and head of the excavation.


He said Vietnam had not yet asked for foreign help on the huge find. Among the discoveries are bowls from China and Japan.


The location of the new parliament hall has yet to be decided, but the ruling Politburo has said the national conference building that was to be built on the excavation site will be put on the outskirts of the city.



Workmen uncover rare Viking grave


WORKMEN laying sewer pipes could help to rewrite history after they stumbled across an exceptional and extremely rare grave of a Viking woman.


For hundreds of years people walked over a small piece of land in the Adwick le Street area near Doncaster unaware that a few feet down lay the remains of the Norwegian-born Viking


No one knew of her existence until workmen began digging to lay the sewer pipes.


They discovered her skeleton still wearing Viking clothing with burial implements clutched in her hands. The grave had clearly not been touched since the day she was laid in the ground – probably some time in the late 800s.


Experts, who announced her discovery at Doncaster Museum yesterday, said this was one of the most significant finds in the town's history. It is also an extremely important find nationally as it is the first find in England of a female Viking burial of a Norse woman.


The only other piece of Viking history discovered in Doncaster was a war axe dating from the ninth century, which was discovered by the Victorians over 100 years ago.


This is now in Newcastle Museum of Antiquities. So far, no other Viking finds have been made in Doncaster. Peter Robinson, keeper of archaeology at the museum, said: "This is a very important and special find. We knew the Vikings had been in Doncaster but had very little evidence of it.


"The only antiquity was the axe and the only other indication was in some of the local names – like Barnby Dun. Anything ending in "by" indicates a Scandinavian settlement, while Dun probably means on the River Don. It does make sense the Vikings would have settled here because of the water.


"Our view of the Vikings is bloodthirsty men who raped, pillaged and plundered. But this find could indicate Vikings living side-by-side with the Anglo Saxons, although not necessarily within the same community, as Adwick le Street is a Saxon name."


However, it is not yet clear how the woman came to have her final resting place in that area. She may well have died while en route to somewhere else, like York, and been buried where she fell.


It is believed the woman was at least 45 years old at the time of her death. She was buried with grave goods – an iron knife and an iron key, a decorated bronze bowl and two oval tortoise-shaped brooches.


These were the typical accompaniments of women's burials found in the Scandinavian homelands, which meant the experts were able to date the burial around the period AD 860-900, a period when Norwegian (Norse Viking) kings ruled over the old Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, with their administrative centre based in York.


However, one of the most significant finds in the burial chamber was the rare set of "tortoise" brooches.


Archaeology expert Penelope Rogers, who researched their significance, said: "The oval 'tortoise' brooches are of exceptional importance, as they are typologically the earliest examples to be found in this country and the first to be excavated under controlled archeological conditions.


"The last pair to be excavated was an antiquarian find from 1867. They are exclusively Scandinavian in origin and formed a standard part of the dress of freeborn Norse women, and would therefore have been brought over to England from Scandinavia."


She said it was possible the Viking woman came to this country as a political exile, or an economic migrant, or perhaps with her husband, and settled on the outskirts of Doncaster.


She said: "She bears testament to the fact that the Vikings were not just marauding warriors but also settlers with families who sought a peaceful farming existence away from the turbulence and troubles of the Viking homelands."


The finds from the Viking burial will feature as one of the star attractions in a new gallery at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery.



12 November 2003



That sinking feeling once more for the 'Mary Rose'

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

10 November 2003


One was the pride of Henry VIII's fleet of warships, the other was the favourite of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Yet both vessels suffered the ignominy of sinking in sight of land and in full view of an astonished public.


After centuries of languishing on the seabed, the Mary Rose and the Vasa were each brought to the surface and painstakingly restored by marine conservationists. Tens of millions of pounds have been devoted to both projects.

The Vasa, which sank in Stockholm harbour in 1628, was raised in 1961, dried out and put on public display in 1990.


Meanwhile, the Mary Rose, which sank off Portsmouth in 1545 and which was raised in 1982, is still being prepared for the drying process with constant sprays of preservative.


A threat now hangs over the future of both ships. Scientists have detected a significant build-up of sulphuric acid within the timbers of the Vasa, and they fear the Mary Rose may suffer the same fate once it too has dried out.


If the problem in the Vasa goes unchecked, specialists believe the ship's immense timbers could eventually turn to dust, making a mockery of the immense effort that has gone into her restoration.


To divert this, scientists involved with the Mary Rose are about to help their Swedish counterparts assess the scale of the problem. They hope to find a way of preventing the otherwise inevitable destruction of the Vasa and, in doing so, learn how to stop the same fate befalling the Mary Rose.


The threat to the Vasa was realised when Magnus Sandström, professor of structural chemistry at Stockholm University, diagnosed the build-up of acid in the ship's timbers. Museum staff have since identified nearly 1,000 acidified areas within the 1,210-ton ship.

Professor Sandström said the acid would eat away at the cellulose fibres of the wood, gradually eroding the tensile strength of the timbers until they bent, disintegrated or simply dissolved. "Eventually we'll have very soft wood and it won't look like a ship any more, but this will take time. How long, we just don't know."


The problem stems from a build-up of hydrogen sulphide within the timbers of the Vasa during the three centuries it spent buried in the polluted silt of Stockholm harbour.


When the ship was event-ually dried out, the sulphide within the wood became exposed to oxygen, turning it into highly corrosive sulphuric acid.


In normal circumstances the chemical reaction would occur very slowly. But the Vasa was peppered with up to 5,500 new iron rods to hold the ship together during its restoration - and iron acts as a catalyst, speeding the oxidation of sulphide to acid.


Even if all the rods could be replaced with stainless steel or titanium bolts, Professor Sandström saidthe original 17th- century iron used to build ship had essentially dissolved into her timbers.


The very physical process that had preserved the Vasa and the Mary Rose - a salt-water environment devoid of oxygen - was the one that ultimately caused the acidic problem. "The irony leaves a sour after-taste," Professor Sandström said.

Rodney Eaton, a microbiologist from Portsmouth University, is working with an Anglo-Swedish team of bacterial specialists to assess whether there is still microbial activity within the Vasa.


One fear was that the supposedly dry timbers of the Swedish warship may just be moist enough to allow sulphur- oxidising colonies of bacteria to survive, thereby accelerating acidification, Dr Eaton said.


"The Vasa is a dry ship, whereas the Mary Rose is still being saturated, so any mistakes made in Sweden can be possibly avoided," he said.


Meanwhile, tests on the Mary Rose had revealed that the Tudor warship was suffering from the presence of "considerable amounts" of sulphur within her timbers, Professor Sandström said.


"We cannot say for sure, but let's say the possibilities are there that you'll have the same kind of problem," he said.


The 700-ton Mary Rose is smaller, older and less visually spectacular than the well-preserved Vasa, but shared the same fate on the seabed.


A spokeswoman for the Mary Rose Trust said there were important differences in the way the two ships were restored that could affect how the sulphur problem developed. For example, the Mary Rose had its iron bolts replaced with titanium, and continual rinsing may have removed some of the iron.


Neverthless, most of the Mary Rose's original iron nails have dissolved, dispersing the catalyst within her timbers.


And the discovery of quant-ities of sulphur within her timbers must prompt the question of whether her fate is now inextricable linked with that of her sister ship in Stockholm.


The spokeswoman said: "I can't rule it out because we don't have enough information. That's why we're undertaking the research."


Built to honour, sunk by folly

The Mary Rose

• The pride of the Tudor fleet and a particular favourite of the Tudor king Henry VIII, who named her after his younger sister, Princess Mary.

• One of the first warships to be able to fire a broadside, which meant that it became one of the most formidable ships of its time.

• Sank of Portsmouth on 19 July 1545 in front of Henry VIII who was watching an engagement with the French Navy.

• The reason for her demise appears to be overload or mishandling, rather than a direct hit by a French warship.

• Disovered in 1971 by marine archaeologists and raised in 1982, a feat witnessed on live television.


• The pride of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, who ordered one of the world's biggest warships as much for status as for effect.

• Armed with 64 guns on two decks, the Vasa was an imposing sight with highly ornate carvings and decorative woodwork.

• Sank off Stockholm within minutes of its maiden voyage 10 August 1628, due to its top-heavy upper gundeck and narrow hull causing instability.

• Discovered in 1956, she was eventually salvaged in 1961, an event broadcast live on Swedish television. It took nearly 30 years to restore her fully.





11:00 - 10 November 2003


Archaeologists have looked deep into Bristol's past at a site that will be covered when work starts on the £200 million second phase of regenerating Temple Quay. New houses, modern waterfront apartments and a host of shops, offices and restaurants will soon cover the derelict land that lies between the existing Temple Quay office area, close to Temple Meads station, and Gardiner Haskins.


But the site, just outside where the medieval city walls were, has played an important role in the city's commercial history since the late 17th century and archaeological research was necessary before it was lost.


Majella Lynch, construction manager at developers Castlemore Securities, said: "The Temple Quay Two site has seen some interesting developments over the past 300 years, so we are working closely with the city archaeologist's department at Bristol City Council to ensure that a full evaluation of the area is carried out.


"It is important that we have a complete record of the area's history before we start building the next chapter."


To that end Castlemore Securities commissioned consultants at specialist firm CPM to evaluate and document the site.


They worked with documents including a 1742 map of the area made by John Rocque and an 1828 plan by Ashmead and commissioned AOC Archaeology to dig 10 trenches to see what was left of historic features.


They found an area that they believe could have been used for drying bricks before firing at a brickyard shown in Rocque's map.


They will also be looking to find out what is left of features marked on the map including the brickyard pool, a building marked as being on its west bank as well as a piggery.


A four metre high wall has been found in one of the trenches near Avon Street.


Sally Randell, of CPM, said: "This is a very interesting find, we think this wall relates to a boundary shown on Ashmeads plan of 1828.


"It is likely to date from the early to mid-18th century and was probably constructed to reclaim marshy land."


CPM will also be investigating the remains and the impact of industrial development on the site in the 19th century.


The Avonside Iron Works was founded on the former brickyard site in 1837 to build locomotives for the Great Western Railway.





Row over fate of first world war trench unearthed on Belgian motorway route

Ian Black at Track X, Flanders

Tuesday November 11, 2003

The Guardian


Two startlingly white leg bones, a pair of decomposing boots, muddy buttons and a handful of rusting bullets are all that are left of one unknown British soldier whose remains lie in a Belgian field.


As the dead are remembered today at November 11 events, new finds are fuelling a bitter row over whether a motorway extension should be allowed to erase a first world war trench system uncovered by archeaologists.


The planned motorway extension follows the frontline that settled across Flanders in 1914 and saw three terrible battles with countless bloody skirmishes in between until the armistice exactly 85 years ago.


Flemish archaeologists who excavated an area just yards from where the four-lane A19 peters out into the flat beet fields round Ypres, have uncovered a well-preserved trench system that shows how methods evolved over time: by 1917, trenches are deeper, with corrugated iron revetments and wooden frames, zig-zagging to provide better cover from German fire.


Norbert Clarysee, a Belgian digger, had just unearthed a section of slatted duckboard, laid across the bottom of a waterlogged dugout yesterday, as the Track X site - its designation on trench maps of the time - was opened up for inspection.


This bleak spot was the jumping off point for the third battle of Ypres in October 1917, when 10,000-12,000 allied troops died on the first day alone. "This is a very important site," said Marc Dewilde, chief archaeologist for west Flanders. "If the road must go through then I will recommend that the whole route be fully researched."


Poppies and wooden crosses adorn a low earth mound that contains the remains of a Northumberland Fusilier, identified but not yet named by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is possible that the same man's leg bones, boots and buttons lie in the nearby shallow crater where they were unearthed last Thursday.


"Either he was blown apart and fell into a shell hole or was blown into the air and dropped here," said Peter Doyle, a battlefield archaeologist.


Nigel Steel, head of research at the Imperial War Museum in London, said: "People think that soldiers were heroically shot like in the movies. But a lot of first world war casualties were just ripped apart."


Three Royal Sussex soldiers and a Frenchman have also been identified from personal numbers etched on to bandoliers or cartridge pouches.


The dig is taking place because of lobbying by the British all-party war graves and battlefield heritage group, which wants the Flemish authorities to make sure they know exactly what they are doing before allowing the A19 to carry on for the final 10 miles to Ostend.


Historians and other experts insist that the issue is not just about finding bodies or remains and giving them a decent burial, but about preserving what is left of the war that created modern Europe. "Because of the importance of this site to the British people, we need to be reassured that there really is no alternative," Mr Steel said.


Barry Murphy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said: "If the Belgian archaeologists find an enormous amount of human remains or intact trench systems or anything else deemed of historical value, it would a crying shame for future generations if it was obliterated by a motorway. They might think again."


Hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth troops lie in 140 cemeteries dotted across the landscape, but 80,000 still remain unaccounted for, their names carved on the Menin Gate in Ypres and at the vast Tyne Cot cemetery, close to the "hell" of the battle of Passchendaele.


"There are 50,000 names on the Menin Gate and 30,000 more at Passchendaele," Mr Dewilde said. "They are still missing and they must be lying somewhere."



Work starts on nuclear bunker


English Heritage is spending £250,000 on restoring an atomic bunker in York to ensure its survival as the nation's most complete cold war relic.


The aim is to offer young people and future generations a snapshot into the tensions and architecture of the time and provide the city with one if its most unusual visitor attractions.


Work is well underway on the semi-submerged structure and will take four months to complete.


English Heritage, which owns the site, in the grounds of the former Shelley House, on Acomb Road, has joined forces with the Cold War Conservation Trust and the Civil Defence Preservation Trust to form a steering group to guide the restoration work.


Built as a reporting hub to gather details on nuclear explosions.

Operated by the Royal Observer Corps.

Abandoned in 1991 with the fall of the Iron Curtain.


David Fraser, English Heritage, Director for Yorkshire, said: "The nuclear bunker stands as a reminder that history is being made all the time.


"It's a very complex restoration project because there's no template for this kind of work. We're working through problems and hope to get the bunker near to its operational status."


Repairs will include electrical rewiring, providing limited disabled access and getting a "radiation proof" sewage system back to working order.


An opening ceremony is planned for spring 2004