Earliest Domesticated Dogs Uncovered

By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

April 7, 2003


The skulls of two Stone Age dogs believed to be the earliest known canines on record have been found, according to a team of Russian scientists.

The dog duo, which lived approximately 14,000 years ago, appear to represent the first step of domestication from their wild wolf ancestors.

Mikhail Sablin, a scientist at the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, along with his colleague Gennady Khlopachev, analyzed the dog remains, which were found at the Eliseevichi I site in the Bryansk region of Russia's central plain, according to an Informnauka press agency release.


Secrets of a Stone Age Rambo

They thought they had found the corpse of an ancient shepherd, but the iceman from 5,300 years ago now turns out to have been a hi-tech warrior

Robin McKie

Sunday May 4, 2003

The Observer


When hikers spotted a corpse poking from the Schnalstal glacier in the Austrian-Italian Alps in 1991, they thought they had found the body of a lost climber.

Then researchers took a closer look and announced the iceman was an ancient shepherd, a primitive farm worker who had got lost in the mountains and had died of hypothermia.

Yet now, after 12 years of careful research, scientists have discovered the truth about Otzi the Iceman: that he was the Stone Age equivalent of a hi-tech trooper kitted with complex weapons and survival gear.

This is the startling picture revealed by scientists who have completed the full reconstruction of the oldest, best-preserved human body known to science. It shows that Otzi - named after the Otzal Alps, where his body was discovered - carried sophisticated armoury and wore warm, protective clothing that would have rivalled the fleeces and waterproof anoraks worn by mountaineers and soldiers today.

Otzi's equipment included a flint dagger, a longbow of yew, plants with powerful pharmaceutical properties, three layers of clothing made of deer and goat hides, a bearskin hat, a framed backpack, a copper axe, dried fruit and other foods wrapped in moss for protection and a fire-making kit that included flints and ores for making sparks.

In addition, the iceman had tattoo marks on his back that suggest he had undergone acupuncture while food experts concluded that his last meal was made up of goat meat and bread cooked in a charcoal oven.

'Otzi was extremely well equipped, each object fashioned from the material best suited to its purpose,' state the Otzi scientists in the latest issue of Scientific American. 'The items are testament to how intimately his people knew the rocks, fungi, plants and animals in their immediate surroundings.'

Far from being a poor shepherd who had got lost and wandered to a lonely, icy death, Otzi was well-armed and well-protected when he died. Some scientists believe he may have been murdered - a theory backed by Italian scientists' announcement, in 2001, that they had discovered an arrowhead in Otzi's back, just under his left shoulder. This has still to be verified by other researchers.

His body was originally discovered on a high ridge just inside the Italian border with Austria. Only later did scientists realise he was the oldest and best preserved mummy in the world.

Then a battle began between the two countries over ownership of his 5,300-year-old corpse, a dispute eventually won by Italy after it was decreed that Otzi's resting place lay a few hundred feet inside its side of the border.

Otzi now rests in a special chamber - in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano - in which his body is preserved in air chilled to minus 6C and kept at 99 per cent humidity.

Initial investigations revealed Otzi was about 5ft 2in tall, in his mid-forties, and probably had a beard. Then archaeologists revisited the site of the body's discovery to uncover new evidence while researchers began studying the seeds and plants he was carrying, the contents of his stomach, the state of his skin, nails and hair, the make-up of his weapons and composition of his clothes.

Analyses have forced researchers to overturn most of their initial ideas about Otzi's supposed primitive status, state the Scientific American authors: botanists Professor James Dickson, of Glasgow University and Klaus Oeggl of Innsbruck University, and ecologist Linda Handley of the Scottish Crop Research Institute at Invergowrie, near Dundee.

For example, they reveal that Otzi's longbow was made of yew - 'the best wood for such purpose because of its great tensile strength,' they say. Long bows of yew gave the English army its crucial advantage at Agincourt, a power Otzi and his people had discovered thousands of years earlier.

In addition, Otzi was found to have been carrying two pieces of birch bracket fungus, which is known to contain pharmacologically active compounds. In short, he had his own first-aid kit.

Then there was his clothing: leggings, loincloth and jacket made of deer and goat hide; a cape made of grass and the bark of the linden tree; a hat of bearskin; shoes insulated with grass, with bearskin soles and goatskin uppers. He was protected against Alpine weather.

Clearly, Stone Age Europeans were sophisticated individuals who exploited local resources and led lives that were far from brutish or short.

It is clear Otzi had been unwell: his fingernail growth patterns suggest he had been very ill three times in the last six months of his life. Austrian scientists have discovered he had become infested with intestinal parasitic worms that would have triggered diarrhoea and dysentery.

Dickson and colleagues have carried out studies of moss species in the region, and conclude - from the samples found in Otzi's backpack- that he probably came from Juval Castle to the South, where archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric settlements.

The mystery still to be resolved concerns Otzi's identity. He was not a shepherd: as the scientists say, 'no wool was on or around his person, no dead collie by his feet, no crook in his hand'. He was not a hunter: his bow was unstrung and most of his arrows lacked heads.

'Other early ideas about Otzi are that he was an outlaw, a trader, a shaman or a warrior. None of these has any solid basis, unless the piece of fungus he was carrying had medicinal or spiritual use for shamans,' they conclude.



(AGI) - Bologna, Italy, May 6


The incredible wealth of the Etruscan burial ground, which was found and studied in recent years in the Arnoaldi family land in Bologna, was already renown in Roman times. Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered the true opulence which had already attracted tomb raiders. Even those ancient Roman tomb raiders decided to steal from those tombs which had particularly precious objects for life after death.

   The archaeologist from Bologna, Roberto Macellari, toady presented his study, a two volume text called "The Etruscan Burial Ground on the Arnoaldi Land in Bologna", on the archaeological site, in the Museo Civico in Bologna. "It is extremely interesting that tomb raiders were present in ancient roman times, when the wealth of the necropolis was already renown", said Macellari.

   Strangely enough, the ancient tomb raiders left study material which is more interesting than the one stolen. Together with vase fragments, whose contents was stolen, the archaeologists found an ancient roman metal spade left behind by one of the tomb raiders.

   Apart from these incredible findings concerning the raiding techniques in ancient Rome, the largest amount ever of funeral stele (typical of Etruscan culture, not all of which had inscriptions) were found in the 155 sepulchral complexes studied in the Arnoaldi necropolis up till now.

   The two volumes presented today by Macellari contained a lot of material as well as the names of the various families and the social classes in the burial ground. (AGI)

061148 MAG 03


Ancient Find Opens Window on Past

May 6 2003

By Anne Palmer

STONES and bones and ancient pottery and glass discovered by archaeologists at Dungannon's Castle Hill have opened a unique window on the past.

The prominent historic hill-top site, once home to the exiled O'Neill clan, was used more recently as a police and Army base.

Dungannon council had begun discussions over the future of the site, partly owned by the Orange Order and the DoE Water Service, before the discovery was made.

The council launched its Return of the Earls project last year, embracing Dungannon's role in the Flight of the Earls, during which Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, fled the clutches of Lord Mountjoy.

During the dig, archaeologists unearthed more than 3,000 artifacts at what has been hailed as one of Ulster's richest sites.

The historic yield included animal bones, many with butchery marks; oyster shells; wild boar teeth; fish and bird bones and pottery possibly dating from the 12th century.

Finely-made wine glasses and window glass were also found at the site, as well as hand-made iron nails and an iron trigger from a musket.

Chiselled stones were discovered as well as portions of globular wine bottles typical of the 16th and 17th century.

It is believed the stones were part of an arched doorway and window distinctly from late medieval times.

Robert Chappel, site director of Northern Archaeological Consultancy Ltd, said that his team had not anticipated such a find.

"It has provided an unprecedented insight into the life of the O'Neill clan, going back as early as the 14th century," he said.

The items will help provide some insight into the diet of the time.

Stone wall structures which were unearthed may have been used for defences and it is thought a ditch was used for disposal of food waste.

Tunnels located at the site are believed to have been used by servants.

Local historian Pat John Rafferty, who has researched the history of the O'Neill clan and subsequent owners of the site, like Sir Arthur Chichester-Clark who built a 17th century castle there, is calling for the entire site to be excavated. He said that Castle Hill, which has provided a snapshot of everyday life through the ages, should now be developed as a museum.


Roman villa unearthed

May 2, 2003 20:04

A ROMAN villa has been excavated on the outskirts of Stowmarket.


After four years of archaeological investigation and excavations at Crest Nicholson's Cedars Park development, the remains of a Roman villa dating back to the second century AD have been identified and recorded.


Crest Nicholson has funded a series of field investigations, post-excavation work and archive deposition, in collaboration with Suffolk County Council and the Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust, in advance of the next phase of residential development on the site.


This year archaeological excavations at Cedars Park revealed an Iron Age settlement and a Roman villa with its farming estate on the crest of the hill.


Suffolk County Council archaeological officer, Judith Plouviez, said: "It is unusual to find a relatively well-preserved villa in the area and it has given archaeologists the chance to excavate an entire agricultural landscape, spanning the prehistoric and Roman periods.


"This was a small villa, represents someone of a reasonable status, although not exceptional, a well-to-do landowner in the Roman period."


Archaeologists from the Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust also found a group of Iron Age roundhouses dated to between 200BC and AD43 at the centre of a patchwork of agricultural fields.


They found the querns that Iron Age people used to grind their grain, some of the smoke-blackened ceramic pots used for cooking and the remains of the animals they ate, including cattle and roe deer.


But arguably the most exciting find was the Roman villa, which was probably built about AD120 out of flint stone with a red tiled roof.


Surrounded by rectangular fields leading down to the river, it might have been the centre of a farming estate.


The inhabitants of the villa estate used a lot of Roman pottery, which was once produced in Stowmarket, West Stow, Wattisfield and Pakenham.


Crest Nicholson will be displaying some artefacts from the dig in a marketing suite, scheduled to open in July.


Volunteers' Roman find

VOLUNTEERS from the Friends of Verulamium Park unearthed more than they bargained for when they discovered the remains of an ancient tower block in the park.

A 15-strong group of volunteers came across the bastion while they were de-weeding the Roman Wall, which once enclosed the Roman city of Verulamium in AD200.

English Heritage, guardians of the 120-metre long wall, said the bastion would have been used as launch pad for a large catapult mechanism known as a ballista.

The bastion, which would have stood at around 15 to 20ft high, is opposite the London Gate and would have doubled up as a watch tower for Roman soldiers protecting the city.

Ms Ros Niblett, St Albans District Council's archaeologist, said the bastion is one of two along the length of the wall. She said the council were aware of their existence, but that they had been concealed from public view by moss and weeds.

Mr Tony Billing of the Friends said: "I don't think it's been seen in its full glory in my lifetime in St Albans. It's in remarkable condition you can see some of the original tiles. It's quite a marvellous rediscovery."

The Friends have been carefully clearing away the build-up of soil, weeds, moss, trees and ivy on the Roman wall since March.

Once completed in the summer, English Heritage will decide whether any further conservation or repair work is required and park visitors will be able to see the ancient stone and flint work clearly.

The Roman wall runs along an Anglo-Saxon walkway, which stretches from King Harry Lane to the lake. Conservation of the wall and the bastion ensures its survival for years to come.

15:50 Wednesday 30th April 2003



Aboriginal remains will be returned to their ancestors



THE remains of Aboriginal Australians which were held at a museum at Edinburgh University are finally to be laid to rest by their tribal descendants.

Elders from the Ngarrindjeri people of South Australia attended a low-key ceremony in Canberra yesterday where the remains of about 300 of their ancestors were returned to them.

The remains - which ended up at Edinburgh University, the Royal College of Surgeons in London and at the Australian Museum in Sydney - will now be taken to tribal lands south-east of Adelaide, where ceremonies will be performed tomorrow to welcome them before they are laid to rest.

This is the largest single repatriation of remains, many of which were taken by Victorian and Edwardian collectors for scientific study.

Campaigners claim that up to 20,000 Aboriginal bodies were taken and Aboriginal leaders say 5000 to 8000 sets of remains are still being held by museums in the UK. Other museums and collections in Austria, Germany, and Russia have yet to be targeted.

Edinburgh University began handing back the remains of 330 Aborigines from the Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna people in 1991, with the final number returned three years ago.

A university spokeswoman said: "We felt it was appropriate to return these remains to representatives of the cultures from which they came. We are pleased that they will now be laid to rest in their tribal lands."

The Ngarrindjeri remains were originally taken from 27 grave sites between 1898 and 1906. They were collected by or for Dr William Ramsay Smith, Adelaide's controversial city coroner, whose collecting practices were condemned at the time. He shipped most of the remains to Edinburgh University.

Dawn Casey, director of the National Museum of Australia, which arranged for the repatriation of the remains, said: "This is a vital role for the National Museum and an important recognition of the right of the Ngarrindjeri people to have control over the remains of their ancestors."

Tom Trevorrow, chairman of the Ngarrindjeri Heritage Committee, said: "The return of our old people to their true resting places is a significant step but only one step in the continuing journey for justice that the Ngarrindjeri must travel."



May 5 2003

VIKINGS were responsible for introducing ironing to Scotland.

The pillaging Scandinavians were surprisingly conscious of their appearance and regularly smoothed their clothes.

Excavations across Scotland have revealed evidence that the Nordic warriors used ironing boards and smoothing stones to make the job easier.

Dr Euan MacKie, of Glasgow University, said he found out about the ironing culture by chance 10 years ago, when his colleague's child found a piece of a whalebone on the Hebridean island of North Uist.

He said: "It is probably right to say Vikings introduced ironing to Scotland.

"The archaeological findings from before the Viking era have produced no evidence of similar activity.

"But only a few of their ironing boards and smoothing balls have been found here.

"The ones that have been discovered have been in female burial sites, which suggests women did most of the ironing.

"Vikings tend to be known as murderous invaders and vandals but that was just the wild part of them."

It is believed ironing was initially introduced in areas where Vikings settled, such as Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and Caithness.

An excavation in Orkney uncovered a 950AD Viking whalebone ironing board from a burial ship.

And it was identified as an early version because similar equipment was still being used in Norway during the early 19th century.