Iron Age bones found on island
by Matt Pitman
Friday 04 July 2003
ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered a 2,500-year-old Iron Age settlement on Portland.
A group of skeletons in an ancient burial site, believed to be a cemetery, have been found near Broadcroft Quarry in Easton.
The skeletons - nine Iron Age Britons, four Romans and bones of a bird and a sheep - were discovered while archaeologists carried out surveying work on land owned by stone firm Hanson.
Experts believe the burial site is part of a wider Iron Age settlement with eight or nine Iron Age roundhouses thought to have been lived in by relatively poor adults.
The skeletons were found just a few feet under the surface and have now been removed for testing.
They are expected to return to Dorset next year for a public exhibition.
John Valentin, of AC Archaeology near Shaftesbury, said the graves were discovered as part of a major environmental study being carried out by Hanson, with a view to expanding Broadcroft Quarry.
He said: "This is a pretty unusual find and one we're excited about. We knew we could find some sort of a settlement in the area through our geophysical testing but we had no idea about the burial site whatsoever. This is a big surprise. The condition of the skeletons varied but the majority of them were excellent."
Among the other artefacts found were pottery, shells and a polished stone axe. The team intends to return to the site next year when they expect to uncover more Iron Age houses.
Mr Valentin added: "We believe the site we have worked in is part of a much bigger settlement perhaps featuring a cemetery to the south and eight or nine Iron Age roundhouses in the northern end of the field. We intend extending the site another 100 metres to the north next year to see what we can discover."
Susann Palmer, director of the Asso-ciation for Portland Archaeology, said the site was `a very important find'.
"I've inspected the site a few times and the majority of the skeletons were in very good condition. I hope the team are given the opportunity now to fully explore the site to see what else may be there."
Shahram Hakimzadeh, operations manager for Hanson, said the findings came because of a detailed environmental impact study being carried out across Portland by the firm.
He added: "The archaeological finds in our Broadcroft Quarry are very exciting and will enormously help to have a better understanding of the rich history of Portland, it's ancient inhabitants and their way of life.
"We are also grateful to the local population for their responsible attitude during the archaeological investigation and would like to thank then for the patience shown. The results will form part of a public document to be submitted to Dorset County Council in the near future."
Satellite Microwave Radar Finds Buried Objects
Wed July 9, 2003 06:08 PM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Microwave radar from satellites could be used to find buried archaeological treasures, underground buildings and even mass graves.
Scientists at Ben Gurion University in Israel have shown that such radar can see below the surface of dry ground and locate objects under tons of sand.
"Buried objects can be detected from airborne systems," Dan Blumberg, a researcher at the university, told New Scientist magazine on Wednesday.
He and his colleague Julian Daniels provided proof of the theory by burying squares of aluminum at varying depths in the Negev desert and using radar sensing from an aircraft to detect them.
The researchers said their findings suggest that ancient river routes lie under centuries of sand in the Sahara desert which could explain desert oases.
"Mapping river channels buried in sandy areas can improve our understanding of the geological and climatic history of the region," Daniels said.
The researchers are planning more studies with the longest possible microwave length which is called P-band to find objects buried deeper in the sand. So far they have delved only 40 centimeters (16 inches).
But they said the technique only works in very dry areas, about 15 percent of the Earth's surface, because liquid can absorb the radiation.
"Blumberg hopes that as well as archaeological remains, the method will in time be used to find fossils and geological structures," the magazine said, adding that it could show underground buildings, pipes and mass graves.
Man who lived 25,000 years ago
Wednesday July 9, 2003
Archaeologists have discovered the bones of a human who lived 25,000 years ago, in a cave on the outskirts of Beijing.
The bones were found in the village of Zhoukoudian near the site where the Peking Man fossils were discovered, Chinese newspapers and the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Excavations began in the cave in 2001 after forestry workers discovered fossilised animals there, the Chinese academy of sciences was reported to have said. The remains were believed to be those of an adult male, an estimated 25,000 years old.
Archaeologists found a human jaw with teeth, and bones from the shoulder, leg, arm and spine. Researchers also found remains of 26 animals in the cave, mostly deer and hedgehogs. Archaeologists have been excavating at sites in Zhoukoudian since the 1920s.
In 1929, they found fossil remains of half-ape, half-human creatures that lived 250,000 to 500,000 years ago and became known as Peking Man. Most of those fossils disappeared during the second world war.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
ANCIENT CARVINGS COULD BE NATIONAL TREASURE
ANCIENT stone carvings found on Burntisland's Binn Hill have excited major interest among archaeologists.
As a result they look likely to be designated a scheduled ancient monument, given the same status as national treasures such as Edinburgh Castle.
And local enthusiasts hope it could prompt a fresh archaeological survey of the whole area, believing more discoveries could be waiting.
The object of such excitement is a set of rock carvings thought to be about 4000 years old and of a design rare in Scotland and almost unique in Fife.
Fife Council Archaeologist Douglas Speirs enthused: "It's fantastic – truly amazing. The carvings are what is called a cup and ring design on a large boulder, with a spiral carved out on a nearby rockface.
"They are about 4000 years old - which means they were already about 3000 years old when the famous carvings were made in the Wemyss Caves.
"We know of examples of this style mainly from Perthshire and Argyll, and even there they are rare, so to find one here in Fife is hugely important. The fact that one of the cup and ring marks has not been completed gives us confirmation of the method used to carve them."
The find has also excited Historic Scotland, which is set to declare the site a scheduled ancient monument, giving it the maximum legal protection from development or other damage.
Councillor William Leggatt has pushed for the site to be both recognised and protected since the discovery came to light.
"There's a lot more in Fife and I'm quite sure there is a lot more to find on the Binn Hill itself, because it has been an important site through the ages," he said.
The discovery was a tale in itself. Local men Colin Kilgour and Jock Moyes, who shared an interest in archaeology, came across a picture of cup and ring-marked stones at an exhibition.
"It was then we realised we had seen these markings before," explained Colin. When we were kids we used to play on the Binn Hill, and I remembered finding patterns just like that when we were building a gang hut. We went back and, sure enough, the carvings were still there
"We knew what the markings were, but had never imagined they would be so important.''
10 July 2003
Head-Smashed-In an archeological marvel
World Heritage Site reveals life, culture of earliest inhabitants
For CanWest News Service
Saturday, July 05, 2003
FORT MACLEOD - They say the history of the West was written from the saddle of a horse and the heart of an explorer, but long before Europeans explored and settled the West, the First Nations people who lived on the land kept its history.
For thousands of years, these people passed down history through countless generations as they sat around campfires in teepees -- a history that is found today in artifacts and legends preserved in native museums and historical sites.
Perhaps the best known of these sites is found in southern Alberta at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
Early native tribes used buffalo jumps as a creative method of hunting bison that once roamed in large herds across the Prairies. A series of obstacles were created to drive a small herd toward the edge of a natural cliff. As the herd approached the precipice, native hunters would jump out and drive the panicked animals in a stampede over the ledge.
Using this method, as many as 300 animals could be killed in a few minutes, providing ample supplies of meat and hides to sustain several tribes over the long winters. These bison were the lifeblood of native peoples.
The most famous buffalo jump, Head-Smashed-In, was used for more than 6,000 years. The cliffs at this site may have claimed the lives of more than 10,000 buffalo during that time and were in use two thousand years before the first pharaohs of Egypt were born and long before Stonehenge was conceived.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, it is one of the most significant archeological sites on this continent and offers insights into the history of the plains people who inhabited this region. A $10-million museum has been built right into the cliffs to preserve and display these artifacts and tell the history of these early inhabitants.
Surprisingly, the name "Head-Smashed-In" had nothing to do with the buffalo that were killed at this site but comes from the native name Estipah sikini kots. The name translates into "where he got his head smashed in."
According to legend, a young hunter once got too close to the kill and stood inside a hollow in the cliff to obtain a better view. Unfortunately for him, the kill was unusually good that year and his head was crushed between the rock and the buffalo carcasses as they piled up under the cliff. His body was later discovered and the cliff has ever after been named for him.
Our family decided to explore the museum and see the buffalo jump for ourselves. Almost invisible until you are right at the doorstep, the museum takes you on a trip through time.
We began our tour at the top of the museum where a doorway leads out to the buffalo jump. From the top of the ledge you can see the Old Man River basin, the Porcupine Hills, the Rocky Mountains and the wind-swept prairie. Buffalo were grazing in a pasture below, and if you blotted out the fences you could almost imagine yourself back in the early West.
Inside the museum, displays explained how the ice age affected the appearance of the land and the geology of the rock formations present. Other displays showed artifacts derived from the many archeological digs that have taken place over the years.
Local Peigan interpreters explained the culture and lifestyle of their ancestors, who were the early tribes people who relied on the bison herds for their very existence. Many of the displays explained how they used each part of the animal to survive. Naturally, a special emphasis was placed on the methods used to hunt, including the buffalo jumps.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the tour was hearing the stories and seeing the artifacts relating to the virtual extinction of the buffalo with the arrival of the European settlers.
It took little more than 20 years for "civilization" to transform the Canadian West. Bison herds that once numbered in the tens of thousands were pushed to the brink of extinction, changing forever the lives of the people who relied on them for survival.
It's a story we'd been told before in history class, but never from the mouths of those most affected. Hearing their story brought new understanding that made us see the warmth, wisdom and beauty of their culture.
IF YOU GO
- Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is located 18 km west of Fort Macleod (about a one-hour drive southwest of Calgary). It takes between 11/2 and three hours to tour the buffalo jump and interpretive centre.
- The centre is open year-round. May to September hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Adult admission is $8.50, youth (7-17) $4 and families are $15.
- Guided tours are available for a small fee. Special archeological tours and cultural-program tours are also available for a $25 fee.
- Teepee camping is available during summer. Sleeping bags, firewood and a wood stove are provided. Rates start at $125 per night for up to 10 people. All-inclusive packages including traditional meals are also available. Phone 403-553-2731 for more information.
- Native drumming and dancing demonstrations take place Wednesday afternoons in July and August.
- For more information on Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, visit the Web site at: www.head-smashed-in.com.
Posted on Tue, Jul. 08, 2003
Archeologists stumble upon tomb of ancient Mexican civilization
BY HUGH DELLIOS
EL PALMILLO, Mexico - (KRT) - The team of archeologists waited anxiously as Linda Nicholas lowered her digital camera into the dark space behind the ancient stone door.
From their diggings, the crew from Chicago's Field Museum knew they had just uncovered a 1,500-year-old tomb from Oaxaca Valley's Zapotec civilization. But their suspense at what they would see inside the untouched vault was tempered by concerns that they would find more than jade and pots. One of their fears was that looters would come to their remote hilltop dig.
"The locals were always joking, `Oh, the treasure of Pancho Villa!' " said Gary Feinman, the team leader and chairman of the Field Museum's anthropology department. "I did not want to see gold."
In five summers atop this cactus-covered hill with the magnificent view, Feinman, Nicholas and their colleagues have been digging for a whole different kind of booty. They are after small clues to human history in the patios and walls they have uncovered in a terraced city that thrived more than a millennium before the Spanish conquest.
El Palmillo was home to a primitive, pre-wheel community that practiced ritual blood-letting, used stone tools that still litter the hillside and had a beauty ideal that included the flattening of heads with boards and drilling stone plugs into front teeth.
Ultimately, the rare tomb the team excavated in May would yield a single jade bead, two dozen unique pots and three badly decayed human skeletons. One of them was in a sitting position but had fallen over, while another collection of bones had been painted red and placed in a wall niche.
Yet, equally important to Feinman and his team was what they discovered on the surrounding terraces. There the team found an intricately designed residential community of symmetric retaining walls and 1,400 multi-roomed houses built from carefully cut stone around plastered patios, each with a fabulous valley view.
On the walls and roofs, Feinman believes the residents cultivated an array of cacti that provided them with food and textiles that allowed them to prosper in an area too dry to grow corn or much else. In fact, their primary staple was probably agave cactus, which the Spaniards later began distilling into mezcal.
Having boxed up and documented their finds for the season, the Field Museum team again is analyzing their data, looking for hints to the mysterious demise of the Zapotecs, a civilization that reached its zenith at Monte Alban near present-day Oaxaca 1,300 years ago.
"I didn't expect to find patios that were plastered. The people who lived here were amazing craftsmen," Feinman said, while hiking up the rocky, cactus-lined trail to the tomb site.
Under their broad-brimmed hats guarding against the intense sun, Feinman and Nicholas, who are married, and the rest of their team have become part of the landscape around El Palmillo. On the trails going up, goat herders greet them in Spanish, although the region's main dialect is still Zapotec.
In the shadows of mountains that disappear in the clouds, other pieces of the ancient culture survive. The local village is now in the valley, but peasants still mark their property lines with rows of tall cacti and occasionally wall their houses with cactus fronds.
Lining the highway is one small mezcal dealer after another. Business depends on the trickle of tourists coming up the road, and that is why many residents are eager to see whether the archaeologists can make the area more interesting to outsiders and help keep the local youths from departing for the United States.
"Here, it's pure mezcal," said Pablo Hernandez Jimenez, 74, a farmer who has guarded the Field Museum's dig site for the last five years along with his grandson, Giovanni, 10.
"People here say, `How nice that they have come,' that something nice will be done for our town," he said. "It will mean more tourists."
Feinman said it's difficult to know the relationship between the ancient hill dwellers and today's valley people. The 16th Century Spanish conquest was a time of such turmoil, displacement and disease that it is not known how many locals survived or how many new people moved through the area, he said.
But, as the archaeologists envision it, the ancient Zapotecs built so many terraces on the El Palmillo hill that it could have looked like a huge layer cake. It was a large condo complex that housed at least 5,000 people, along with their domesticated dogs, turkeys and honeybees.
The theory that the Zapotecs lived off cacti is supported by the fact that Nicholas found all eight types of agave plant on the hill, whereas the adjacent hill has only two. The archaeologists believe the cacti now carpeting the slopes are remnants of the Zapotecs' cultivation.
Feinman, 51, and Nicholas, 52, an adjunct Field Museum curator, said they came to Oaxaca interested in whether the economy and the architecture of the Zapotecs offered clues to the society's disappearance. While the valley is known for its ruins at Monte Alban and Mitla, few everyday houses had been excavated and documented.
In fact, they never set out to dig tombs, nor the mounds and public buildings toward the top of the hill. That would entail a whole other set of permits and requirements to preserve and secure whatever they found.
They stumbled upon the tomb beneath a patio this year after noticing patchwork in the paving of one terrace. Then they discovered a staircase, and then the heavy stone door slightly ajar but not removed since the family closed it 15 centuries ago.
Feinman said they considered not excavating the tomb, and consulted with local Mexican officials in charge of ruins preservation over how to proceed. But in the end, they decided that word would spread too fast and that they should be the first ones inside.
"We had a fear that if we didn't dig it now, we would come back next year and it would be looted," Nicholas said.
The team is now speaking with local officials and village residents about establishing a community museum to showcase their finds and possibly a botanical park around the hill to showcase the unique cacti. But holding equal space with the bones and pots from the tomb will be their findings from the terrace patios.
"You've got to look at the houses," Feinman said. "Looking into a tomb that nobody has touched in 1,500 years is a very exciting and very challenging thing, but it's not just about the elaborate or the rich. It's about how people lived their life."
© 2003, Chicago Tribune.
Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicago.tribune.com
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
STANFORD ARCHEOLOGISTS DIGGING UP PRESIDIO ARTIFACTS
POSTED: 5:07 p.m. PDT July 10, 2003
SAN FRANCISCO -- Stanford University archeologists excavating a San Francisco military landmark hope to better understand the living conditions and history of women in Spanish colonial and Mexican California.
"Women are not represented in historic records very much and archaeology is one of the few ways that we can learn what their daily lives were like," said Dr. Barbara Voss who is leading the team that began excavating on Wednesday.
The team is excavating an area of the Presidio called El Polin Springs, where known archaeological deposits may date to the Spanish colonial and Mexican period between 1776 and 1848.
Researchers also hopes to increase understanding of the interactions between colonial and native populations in 18th and 19th century California.
The Presidio, located just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, was for thousands of years home to the Ohlone Americans Indians.
It then served as a military post under the flags of Spain from 1776 to 1822, Mexico from 1822 to 1848, and the United States from 1848 to 1994, according to the National Park Service Web site.
Voss hopes her findings will provide information about women's participation in colonial military ventures and the roles they played in the development of San Francisco.
"There are written records about the people who lived here but since they were illiterate we don't have many records from their perspectives," Voss said.
Archaeologists have already found fragments of clay roof tile, pieces of household pottery, bottle glass and animal bones, Voss said. She said many artifacts are very close to the surface because they seem to have been moved by gophers.
The six-week excavation is the first of a 5-year project, Voss said.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Unit wins wreck contract
Archaeologists are to start studying shipwrecks off the Isles of Scilly.
They will map the locations of the sunken vessels and try to establish whether their preservation is under threat.
English Heritage has commissioned the study from Cornwall County Council's Historic Environment Service, formerly known as the Archaeology Unit.
The unit has won a six-month contract to look at all wrecks within a 12 nautical mile limit around the islands.
The archaeologists are also inviting comments on wrecks from the Isles of Scilly Council and local people.
At the moment, a list of about 715 shipwrecks is held by the National Monuments Records Centre in Swindon.
But there are thought to be about 300 more.
The project should be completed by December when the results will be sent to English Heritage.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2003/07/10 05:35:49 GMT
© BBC MMIII
Search for massive haul of sunken treasure to resume
Archaeologists are hoping to lower a robot to the ocean floor near Spain to explore a 17th-century British shipwreck believed to contain treasure.
The HMS Sussex was leading a British fleet into the Mediterranean Sea for a war against France when it sank in a severe storm in 1694 with 500 men and 80 guns aboard.
Historians believe the 157-foot warship was also carrying nine tons of gold coins aimed at buying the loyalty of a potential ally in southeastern France.
If the wreckage found off Gibraltar is the Sussex, it is estimated the robot could recover anywhere from $500 million to $4 billion, officials say.
Under international law, such vessels remain the property of the government that controlled them while in operation.
A deal to recover the Sussex was reached earlier this year by the British government and a US-based company, Odyssey Marine Exploration.
© Associated Press
Story filed: 09:06 Thursday 10th July 2003
Posted on Mon, Jul. 07, 2003
Turks and Caicos roots sought in 1841 shipwreck
BY MIKE TONER
Cox News Service
A Spanish slave ship, wrecked on a West Indies reef in 1841, soon may provide the British colony of Turks and Caicos with a rare, direct link to its African roots.
Although many residents of the nearby Caribbean trace their ancestry to Africa, few populations are so closely tied to a single accident of history.
Archivists and archaeologists say that many of the 20,000 residents of the Turks and Caicos are direct descendants of 193 African men and women who were shipwrecked there more than a century and a half ago.
''This is a real roots story,'' said Nigel Sadler, director of the Turks and Caicos Museum.
As the southernmost islands of the Bahamas archipelago, the Turks and Caicos have long been a backwater.
The islands initially were settled by pro-British cotton growers who fled there with their slaves from Georgia and South Carolina after the American Revolution. But the boll weevil made short work of the cotton plantations, and the islands -- today one of Britain's few remaining West Indies possessions -- have languished in quiet obscurity.
Now archaeologists and archivists are piecing together one forgotten chapter of the islands' past -- the story of a Spanish brigantine, the Trouvadore.
The ship was bound for Cuba with a crew of 20 and a cargo of slaves when, after a month at sea, it struck a reef and sank near Middle Caicos.
''Over the years, a lot of ships have probably ended up on that reef,'' said Donald Keith, director of Ships of Discovery, a Texas-based organization that specializes in marine archaeology. ``That's open Atlantic Ocean out there, and there's nothing between that reef and Africa except wind and water.''
Although thousands of slave ships plied the Atlantic, few have been found and even fewer professionally excavated. Opportunities to link a specific shipwreck with where African slaves settled are rarer still.
FREE AFTER A YEAR
Historical accounts show that all but one of the Africans aboard the Trouvadore survived. Because Britain, by 1841, had abolished slavery in its colonies, the ship's crew wound up in jail, and the slaves -- after a year's ''apprenticeship'' in the islands' salt industry -- went free.
Sadler, the museum director, says the reported location of the wreck -- a rocky promontory called Breezy Point -- is near the present-day settlement of Bambarra.
The name of the town is identical to that of the former African kingdom of Bambarra, along the Niger River in West Africa.
''Bambarra is the only settlement in Turks and Caicos with an African name, suggesting strong links with first-generation Africans,'' Sadler said.
With a place of origin and a final destination, museum officials hope they eventually will be able to find other ties between the people of Turks and Caicos and West Africa.
They are studying cultural traditions on Middle Caicos and looking for African influences in the thatched roofs used on some buildings, in hats and baskets that local women weave, or in local music that residents call Ripsaw.
In the next year, researchers also hope to launch a search for the shipwreck itself.
Many Caicos shipwrecks have been torn apart by treasure hunters, but Sadler says the lack of anything of commercial value aboard the Trouvadore may help protect the real treasure -- tangible trappings of the 19th century slave trade and the lost roots of a colony that time forgot.