Human fossils set European record
By Jonathan Amos
BBC News Online science staff
Fossils picked up in a Romanian bear cave are the oldest specimens yet found of modern humans in Europe, scientists say.
One of the items - a male, adult jawbone - has been dated to be between 34,000 and 36,000 years old.
The other pieces, which include the facial bone of an adolescent, are still being tested but are thought to be of a similar age.
This puts the fossils - from three different individuals - in a period in history when modern humans are believed to have shared the continent with Neanderthals, their now extinct hominid cousins.
Indeed, the researchers reporting the discoveries go so far as to suggest the fossils show some degree of hybridisation - they are possibly the result of interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals, they argue.
This is a position that drives a heated debate among scientists, many of whom doubt there was much mixing of the species.
These researchers point to DNA studies that indicate Neanderthals contributed little or nothing to the genes of humans living today.
The new finds, made in the Carpathian Mountains, are sure to prompt further argument.
They are detailed by Professor Erik Trinkaus and colleagues in two journals: the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Human Evolution.
The team says the fossils, while undeniably modern ( Homo sapiens ), display some features that are very primitive in nature, such as large molars.
"Both the lower jawbone and the upper jaw of the face have the same pattern in the cheek teeth - the wisdom teeth in particular are simply huge. They are bigger than just about anything else we have from the last 200,000 years," Professor Trinkaus told BBC News Online.
"The best explanation I can put on it is that when modern humans spread out of Africa, they interbred with local populations of archaic humans, including the Neanderthals," said the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St Louis, US.
"It shows us that the earliest 'modern Europeans' were considerably less modern than we normally consider them to be, and that significant human evolution in details of anatomy has taken place since they became established across Eurasia."
The fossils were originally discovered in February 2002 in Pestera cu Oase - translated as the "Cave With Bones" - by three Romanian cavers.
It is not known how they got into the cave, but Professor Trinkaus says one possibility is that early humans used the site as a mortuary for the ritual disposal of human bodies.
The currently most popular model for the emergence of modern humans ties their origin to Africa within the last 200,000 years.
This theory argues that a wave of Homo sapiens then swept out across the world to replace all other human-like species, including Neanderthals.
Some molecular studies have seemed to refute any possibility that mixing took place - they indicate that our last common ancestor existed before Neanderthals themselves arose.
"The problem with this whole debate is that we have so few specimens in Europe - it's hard to make a hard and fast case," commented Professor Clive Gamble, from the UK's Centre of the Archaeology of Human Origins.
"The genetic studies are quite convincing but we need more information and that makes these new fossils very interesting. I'm sure that what we deal with eventually is going to be a more wonderful mosaic."
In June this year, another group of scientists reported the discovery of the oldest ever modern human remains at Herto in Ethiopia. The skulls were said to be about 160,000 years old.
The previous oldest modern human remains in Europe are dated to about 30,000 years ago.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2003/09/22 22:19:27 GMT
© BBC MMIII
Bones from French cave show Neanderthals, Cro-Magnon hunted same prey
A 50,000-year record of mammals consumed by early humans in southwestern France indicates there was no major difference in the prey hunted by Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, according to a new study.
The paper, published in the online Journal of Archaeological Science, counters the idea proposed by some scientists that Cro-Magnon, who were physically similar to modern man, supplanted Neanderthals because they were more skilled hunters as a result of some evolutionary physical or mental advantage.
"This study suggests Cro-Magnon were not superior in getting food from the landscape," said lead author Donald Grayson, a University of Washington professor of archaeology. "We could detect no difference in diet, the animals they were hunting and the way they were hunting across this period of time, aside from those caused by climate change.
"So the takeover by Cro-Magnon does not seem to be related to hunting capability. There is no significant difference in large mammal use from Neanderthals to Cro-Magnon in this part of the world. The idea that Neanderthals were big, dumb brutes is hard for some people to drop. Cro-Magnon created the first cave art, but late Neanderthals made body ornaments, so the depth of cognitive difference between the two just is not clear."
The study also resurrects a nearly 50-year-old theory first proposed by Finnish paleontologist Björn Kurtén that modern humans played a role in the extinction of giant cave bears in Europe. Cro-Magnon may have been the original "apartment hunters" and displaced the bears by competing with them for the same caves the animals used for winter den sites.
Grayson and his colleague, Francoise Delpech, a French paleontologist at the Institut de Prehistoire et de Geologie du Quanternaire at the University of Bordeaux, examined the fossil record left in Grotte XVI, a cave above the Ceou River, near its confluence with the Dordogne River. The cave has a rich, dated archaeological sequence that extends from about 65,000 to about 12,000 years ago, spanning the time when Neanderthals flourished and died off and when Cro-Magnon moved into the region. Neanderthals disappeared from southwestern France around 35,000 years ago, although they survived longer in southern Spain and central Europe.
The researchers were most interested in the transition from the Middle to Upper Paleolithic, or Middle to Late Stone Age.
Neanderthals occupied Grotte XVI as far back as 65,000 years ago, perhaps longer. Between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago, people began making stone tools in France, including at Grotte XVI, that were more like those later fashioned by Cro-Magnon. However, human remains found with these tools at several sites, were Neanderthal, not Cro-Magnon. Similar tools but no human remains from this time period were found in Grotte XVI and people assumed to be Cro-Magnon did not occupy the cave until about 30,000 years ago.
The researchers examined more than 7,200 bones and teeth from large hoofed mammals that had been recovered from the cave. The animals – ungulates such as reindeer, red deer, roe deer, horses and chamois were the most common prey – were the mainstay of humans in this part of the world, according to Grayson.
He and Delpech found a remarkable dietary similarity over time. Throughout the 50,000-year record, each bone and tooth assemblage, regardless of the time period or the size of the sample involved, contained eight or nine species of ungulates, indicating that Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon both hunted a wide variety of game.
The only difference the researchers found was in the relative abundance of species, particularly reindeer, uncovered at the various levels in Grotte XVI. At the oldest dated level in the cave, reindeer remains accounted for 26 percent of the total. Red deer were the most common prey at this time, accounting for nearly 34 percent of the bones and teeth. However, as summer temperatures began to drop in Southwestern France, the reindeer numbers increased and became the prey of choice. By around 30,000 years ago, when Cro-Magnon moved into the region, reindeer accounted for 52 percent of the bones and teeth. And by around 12,500 years ago, during the last ice age, reindeer remains accounted for 94 percent of bones and teeth found in Grotte XVI.
Grayson and Delpech also looked at the cut marks left on bones to analyze how humans were butchering their food. They found little difference except, surprisingly, at the uppermost level, which corresponds to the last ice age.
"It is possible that because it was so cold, people were hard up for food," Grayson said. "The bones were very heavily butchered, which might be a sign of food stress. However, if this had occurred earlier during Neanderthal times, people would have said this is a sure sign that Neanderthals did not have the fine hand-eye coordination to do fine butchering."
In examining the Grotte XVI record, the researchers also found a sharp drop in the number of cave bears from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon times.
"Cave bears and humans may have been competing for the same living space and this may have led to their extinction," Grayson said. He added that it is not clear if the decline and eventual extinction of the bears was driven by an increase in the number of humans or increased human residence times in caves, or both.
"If we can understand the extinction of any animal from the past, such as the cave bear, it gives us a piece of evidence showing the importance of habitat to animals. The cave bear is one of the icons of the late Pleistocene Epoch, similar to the saber tooth cats and mammoths in North America. If further study supports Kurtén's argument, we finally may be in a position to confirm a human role in the extinction of a large Pleistocene mammal on a Northern Hemisphere continent."
For more information, contact Grayson at (206) 543-5587 or grayson at u.washington.edu or Delpech at 033-05-56-84-8890 or email@example.com
Earliest British cemetery dated
A cave in the Mendip Hills in southwest England has been revealed as the earliest scientifically dated cemetery in Britain.
The site at Aveline's Hole, near Burrington Combe, contained human bone fragments that have now been confirmed to be between roughly 10,200 and 10,400 years old.
The specimens - representing about 21 individuals - were originally removed from the cave in the early years of the 20th Century and were held in a museum in Bristol.
There, the collection was largely destroyed in a World War II bombing raid.
It is only recently that scientists have returned to the surviving bone and teeth samples to give them a proper assessment using modern methods.
David Miles, Chief Archaeologist of English Heritage which commissioned the dating, said: "The dates show that some people in Britain were burying their dead in a cemetery in the early Mesolithic period 4,000 years earlier than had previously been thought.
"Although late Mesolithic cemeteries have been found on the continent, none have been recognised over here."
WHEN THEY LIVED
Last ice age was ending
Dry land from UK to France
Cave 80-100 km from sea
Landscape of tough grasses
Trees included birches, pines
The old age of the specimens meant Aveline's Hole was of international significance, Dr Miles said. It would revise our ideas about the organisation of society in Mesolithic times, he added.
A sealed cave at Aveline's Hole was first recorded in 1797, when there were reports of between 70 and 100 skeletons lying on the floor side by side.
However, by 1914, when the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society (UBSS) began excavating the site, only the remains from the 21 individuals were found.
Early reports described a "ceremonial burial" with a skeleton on a disused hearth, together with red ochre, animal teeth - some perforated as though for use as a necklace or amulet - and a set of fossil ammonites.
The specimens were taken to Bristol, where they were displayed on the ground floor of the UBSS museum, only to suffer extensive bomb damage in November 1940.
Most of the collection plus all the excavation records were destroyed.
The new radiocarbon measurements were undertaken as part of a comprehensive re-analysis of the remaining specimens in a project headed by Dr Rick Schulting of Queen's University, Belfast.
Dr Schulting said: "We know very little about Mesolithic society as few remains have been found that supply sufficient information. Aveline's Hole is giving us the opportunity to reconstruct something of the diet, health and life-style of these enigmatic people."
Already it has been established that the Aveline's Hole people came from close by, based on the levels of strontium found in their remains and the local environment.
The analysis has indicated that the adults in the group, which also included young children and two infants, were only about five feet tall and slightly built.
They do not appear to have lived to a ripe old age, as few molars show the extreme wear to be expected from elderly hunter-gatherers' teeth.
As well as signs of osteoarthritis in an elbow, scientists have spotted lines in teeth indicating repeated periods of poor nutrition or chronic illness in childhood.
HOW THEY LIVED
Nomadic but locally based
Stone tools called microliths
Tests reveal poor nutrition
About 5ft tall; short-lived
There is little evidence of fish in their diet - even fresh water varieties.
Aveline's Hole would have been much further from the sea than it is now.
Britain had not long been released from the grip of extensive ice cover.
Although the world's oceans were rising, it is thought there was still a land corridor between the UK and France, and the local people would have been able to walk directly north, across what is now the Bristol Channel, to Wales.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2003/09/23 08:03:11 GMT
© BBC MMIII
UK's oldest cemetery identified
Wednesday September 24, 2003
A narrow cave in a gorge in Somerset has been identified as the oldest cemetery in Britain, used by generations of people from one area in the Mendips just after the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.
Scientific tests, released yesterday, showed it had been sealed and abandoned more than 6,000 years before the first stone of the pyramids of Egypt was laid. The site, Aveline's Hole, is unique in Britain and earlier than anything similar on mainland Europe.
According to legend it was found in 1797 by two boys so determined to catch the rabbit they were chasing, that they took a pickaxe to the hole in the rock it escaped through and found a cavern full of skeletons.
Some accounts say that up to 100 skeletons were found neatly laid out in rows but tourists and amateur archaeologists flocked to the site, and the bones were scattered. Hundreds were stored at Bristol University but destroyed by a bomb during the second world war. Fragments survived there and in other museum collections.
Peter Marshall of English Heritage's scientific dating service, which commissioned the first comprehensive tests on the bones, said the results were remarkable. "People in early Mesolithic Britain were creating what we can recognise as a cemetery thousands of years earlier than has previously been thought. Although late Mesolithic cemeteries have been found on the continent, none have been recognised over here," he said.
The tests showed that the men, women and children buried in the cave were small and strong and ate meat. They rarely lived to be older than 50 and were tormented with bad teeth, rheumatic pains and osteoarthritis.
Race to save ancient fort site hit by massive fire
AN emergency meeting has been called to save an Iron Age fort in East Lothian threatened by a massive blaze which has burned for a fortnight.
Council bosses and environment watchdogs are drawing up an action plan to salvage the fort and hidden archaeological treasures on Traprain Law which may have been destroyed by the huge grass fire.
Firefighters have been battling every day for two weeks to control the fire, thought to have been sparked by a discarded cigarette, which is continuing to burn underground. The hill has been closed until fire chiefs and council bosses are sure the blaze is completely out.
East Lothian Council officials and Scottish Natural Heritage are drawing up an action plan to determine the extent of the damage to archaeological treasures and botanical life. Due to the intense heat, archaeologists from East Lothian Council and Historic Scotland have been unable to get close enough to accurately gauge the damage.
Heritage officer Biddy Simpson said she was hoping to get a team together to carry out a survey as soon as the site is safe.
She is concerned that the site has been badly damaged and the fire could have exposed new archaeological finds to the elements.
"It is really difficult to say how much damage will have been caused, but the fire will almost certainly have exposed new finds which will start to deteriorate rapidly if the ash covering them is blown away."
Patches of fire continue to flare up and it is thought only heavy rainfall will extinguish the fire completely.
Five fire crews and 28 firefighters from Haddington and East Linton stations were called out to Traprain Law when the fire broke out two weeks ago.
Chariot proves Iron Age links with Europe
September 25 2003
ARCHAEOLOGISTS studying an ancient chariot burial have found evidence that Iron Age Scots had far closer ties with Europe than previously thought.
Experts examining the unprecedented find at Newbridge, west of Edinburgh, have proved it is the oldest chariot in the UK and uncovered great similarities between the vehicle and associated burial rites found on the Continent, indicating a close familiarity with mainland European practices.
Dr Stephen Carter, director of Headland Archaeology of Edinburgh, and Fraser Hunter of the department of archaeology at the National Museums of Scotland, also confirmed many more chariot burials may be dotted around Scotland.
The Newbridge find, which has been described as the "Ferrari of the Iron Age", is the first chariot burial to be found in Britain outside of East Yorkshire and has been carbon-dated to around 570-370 BC.
Dr Carter said: "We are stressing the continental connection because the Yorkshire burial rites were significantly different. There, they dismantled the chariot and placed the person in or under the body of the vehicle. In the Newbridge burial, the rite was identical to the ones carried out in Belgium and France, where the complete vehicle was buried.
He explained the significance of the discovery, which could transform historians' view of Iron Age Britons.
"Scotland is often seen as being at the fringe of Iron Age Europe, cut off from the mainstream. This evidence reminds us that there were great connections between Scotland and Europe in prehistory, especially by sea," Dr Carter said.
The Celtic chariot, or cart, was unearthed at a building site close to the M8 in Edinburgh in 2001. It is in a condition never seen before in the UK, with its metal fittings intact after thousands of years.
Excavations showed wheels 0.8 metres in diameter, an axle of 1.4 metres, and a pole extending from the axle measuring three metres, although the wooden chassis has disintegrated.
The lack of distinctive European suspension fittings indicates that the Newbridge chariot is a British vehicle and not an import. Work on the chariot has shown that Scotland at the time was a fully integral part of the Celtic culture dominant in north-west Europe.
Another Celtic discovery – a human skull – found in Lancashire in 1958 has been reconstructed to reveal the face of a young man sacrificed to the gods almost 2000 years ago.
Forty-five years after the severed head was found in Worsley Moss, Dr John Prag, archaeologist of the Manchester Museum, and Caroline Wilkinson, a facial anthropologist, reconstructed the battered skull to reveal the features of a strong, young victim.
Dr Prag said the finished face fits the profile of classic bog sacrifices. "He was just the sort of man you would choose – the best you could offer the gods."
WARRIOR QUEEN IS UNEARTHED
10:30 - 20 September 2003
A 1,500-year-old Anglo-Saxon "warrior queen" has been found buried just two feet under the surface of a county field.
Lincolnshire's own 6ft tall "Boadicea" has been described as one of the best Anglo-Saxon finds of its kind in the county.
She was still holding her shield and had a dagger at her side when she was found. On either side of her at the site just outside Lincoln were the remains of a man and a woman who were possibly her attendants.
The woman was wearing an amber necklace and had her feet bound together with rope. The male companion was buried with his hand over a pot.
The exceptional discovery was originally made by a man with a metal detector.
Mystery surrounds the identity of the 6ft tall warrior queen.
Her ancient Briton predecessor Boadicea led a rebellion against the Romans in 61AD. After the Romans left England in 410AD tribal conflict was rife and the mystery queen might have fallen victim to this.
All the bones and artefacts discovered at the scene are now being examined by independent conservator Wessex Archaeology and at a later date will be brought back to the City and County Museum in Friars Lane.
Lincolnshire County Council archaeologist Adam Daubney said that there was an enormous sense of excitement when the bodies were unearthed.
"Any discovery from Anglo-Saxon times is important for Lincolnshire because this era of history is not as well documented as other periods," he said.
"In other parts of Lincolnshire we have found two large Saxon burial sites at Loveden Hill and Ruskington.
"But one of the interesting things about this is that a total of four shields have been found.
"The shield would have been originally made from wood but the boss - which held the handle in place - was made of iron and this has survived."
The Channel Four television programme Time Team carried out the excavation and the programme is due to be broadcast next spring.
The owner of the land on which the burial site was discovered asked not to be named to avoid the venue's location becoming common knowledge.
He said: "Two years ago a discovery of a brooch was made on the site which was unmistakably Anglo-Saxon. It was incredibly exciting to discover the burial site."
Councillor Marianne Overton, a member of Navenby Archaeology Group which assisted Time Team with the excavation, helped out at the three-day dig which took place between Tuesday and Thursday last week.
"What struck me was that there are possibly a great many more sites like this across the county," she said.
"When you actually see the venue and are able to imagine what life would have been like then you get a strong sense of the history of the county in which we live."
Let us wait and see what the archaeologists themselves say before judging.
The two newspaper accounts were a little muddled to say the least, and it
is less than clear whether the weapons were actually associated with the
female burial or her companions - or indeed whether it was really a single
triple internment or three adjacent and intercutting graves. The articles
sound as if they were largely gathered from second-hand information (like
the mention of a pot "deliberately made with holes in it so it could not be
used again" [eh?]).
Is this not largely sensationalist gender-role-switching wishful thinking
driven (again) by the 'Xena warrior princess syndrome'?
Anyway, even if she was buried with weapons we should not let the 'Xena
syndrome' lead us to assume that it was she that bore them in life. The
intention of those that buried her with them might merely have been that she
was to take them to somebody already in the afterlife (husband?) who was
there for some reason without them. A sort of a reverse cenotaph.
Also I would have thought an amber bead necklace unlikely in a grave of the
middle of the fifth century (Yvonne's "1500 b.p."), they surely tend to be
associated more with burials of about a century later.
Amazonian find stuns researchers
By Thomas H. Maugh II
Los Angeles Times
Deep in the Amazon forest of Brazil, archaeologists have found a network of 1,000-year-old towns and villages that refutes two long-held notions: that the pre-Columbian tropical rain forest was a pristine environment that had not been altered by humans, and that the rain forest could not support a complex, sophisticated society.
A 15-mile-square region at the headwaters of the Xingu River contains at least 19 villages that are sited at regular intervals and share the same circular design. The villages are connected by a system of broad, parallel highways, Florida researchers reported in yesterday's issue of Science.
The Xinguano people who occupied the area not only built the complex towns but also dramatically altered the forest to meet their needs, clearing large areas to plant orchards and cassava while preserving other areas as a source of wood, medicine and animals.
Researchers have theorized for 10 to 20 years that such societies were possible in Amazonia, said archaeologist Jim Petersen of the University of Vermont, "but this is the first proof."
The new findings are a crucial part of "a growing body of evidence that Amazonia could support reasonably large villages and complex societies," added archaeologist Robert Carneiro of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
The region today is composed primarily of small villages with populations of fewer than 150 people, each of which is independent of other settlements.
Before the current work, most of the Xinguano remaining in the region were not even aware of the accomplishments of their ancestors before the population was decimated by diseases brought by the invading Spanish in the 16th century, said archaeologist Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida, who led the research.
Current attitudes about the region were shaped nearly 50 years ago by researchers such as archaeologist Betty Meggers of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, whose research led her to conclude that the Amazon basin was a "counterfeit paradise."
Despite the seeming abundance of plants and wildlife in the rain forest, she said, the soil in the region is so poor that it could not support the intensive agriculture necessary for the establishment of large communities.
Little evidence has been collected to refute that idea, Petersen said, largely because the Amazon area — roughly the size of the United States — is one of the "last poorly known archaeological regions on the face of the Earth."
Heckenberger estimates that more than 50 percent of the forest in the region was cut down and replaced with fruit orchards and fields of cassava, which grows better in the poor soil than most other crops.
He speculates that the Xinguano got about 80 percent of their calories from the cassava, which is still prepared today in much the same fashion as it was in the pre-Columbian era. The remainder of the diet was composed primarily of fruit and fish.
The 19 villages, occupied between roughly A.D. 800 and A.D. 1600, were arranged in two large clusters, each supporting populations of 2,500 to 5,000 people. Residential areas in the villages were dispersed in a large circle around an empty hub, which probably was ceremonial, Heckenberger said.
The individual villages were about 1-˝ to 2 miles apart, connected by straight roadways that were as much as 150 feet wide, some with high mounds or "curbs" along their edges. The team also found excavated ditches in and around the ancient settlements, bridges, artificial river obstructions and ponds, raised causeways, canals and other structures, many of which are in use today.
"They are organized in a way that suggests a sophisticated knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and other sciences," Heckenberger said. "It's not earth-shattering compared to what was going on in the rest of the world at the same time, but nobody expected it in the Amazon."
Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company
HISTORIC DIG BEGINS AT HARBOURSIDE SITE
BY STEVE GRANT
11:00 - 24 September 2003
Work has started to unearth the hidden mysteries of Canon's Marsh. The first of a series of trenches has been dug at the harbourside site so archaeologists can uncover medieval artefacts thought to be buried there.
The work is being done by Cotswold Archaeology, one of the region's largest independent archaeological companies, on behalf of developers Crest Nicholson, ahead of the regeneration of the harbourside site.
Simon Cox, Cotswold Archaeology's project manager, said: "We are beginning our survey on the site next to the Lloyds TSB building, which, from the evidence of 18th-century plans, we believe was the site of the medieval waterfront, and a sea bank that protected the marsh from flooding by the River Avon.
"Exploring the sea bank will be a fascinating experience. If it has not been flattened or removed in the past, this historic sea bank, and particularly the adjacent waterfront, could be rich in medieval remains such as waterlogged timbers, leather goods, pottery and other artefacts.
"What makes this project particularly interesting is that this is the first time this part of Canon's Marsh has been investigated by archaeologists."
Ian Cawley, Crest Nicholson development director, said members of the public would be able to learn more about the finds as the project progressed.
Mr Cawley said: "It is enthralling to turn our attention from the creation of a vibrant future for this important Bristol site, and step back in time, imagining how this land at the edge of the harbour has been used through the centuries of the city's history.
"As we work with the team of archaeologists in planning the site investigations over the next six months, on our agenda will be plans to keep the public informed of the survey and provide them with access to any finds."
Hut in Antarctica makes list of endangered sites
Wed 24 September, 2003 22:03 BST
By Gary Hill
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 1908 explorer's hut in Antarctica, ancient palaces in war-torn Iraq, aboriginal rock carvings in Australia and Battersea Power Station in London are among the 100 Most Endangered Sites listed for conservation by the World Monuments Fund.
Probably the most famous sites on the fifth such biennial list, selected from hundreds of local nominations by 10 international experts, are the Great Wall of China and the New York neighbourhood attacked on September 11, 2001.
The 2004 World Monuments Watch (http://www.wmf.org) for the first time encompasses all seven continents. It includes 80 sites never before listed, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday. The group is "close to perfect" in its record of saving sites, said John Stubbs, vice president for projects, so almost all the delisted sites were successfully preserved.
In addition to Ernest Shackleton's expedition hut in Antarctica and the Dampier rock art complex in Australia, unusual first-timers on the list include the entire steam-powered former railway system of Paraguay and the remote mud-and-thatch cliff villages of the Dogon people in Mali.
Threats to the endangered sites range from natural disaster and ageing to human neglect, "inappropriate development," tourists, government policies and war.
In the last category, the Nineveh and Nimrud Palaces in Iraq, Afghanistan's Ghazni Minarets and archaeological remains of a city born nearly 4,000 years ago near the present-day Palestinian city of Nablus all offer special problems for the preservationists because of the dangers of war, Stubbs said.
"We really can't work in places where it's unsafe for the various experts that might go in and indeed locals that might participate. All of our projects are designed to be by, for and about the locals as much as possible. It's still much too chaotic in Iraq to begin to do some physical repair and restoration work." However, planning has begun, he said.
Lower Manhattan was added to the endangered list immediately after the 9/11 attacks to ensure there was a preservationist perspective to the rebuilding. "Let's make sure to do it in a sensible way that respects the fact that lower Manhattan's one of the most intense historical sites in the whole of the New World," said Stubbs.
Of the 100 sites, the United States and Mexico have six each. China and Turkey have five, while India, Peru and the United Kingdom have four. Europe has 33, the Americas 31, Africa and the Middle East 18, Asia 16, and Australia and Antarctica one apiece.