www.archaeology.ws/archive

Who killed the Neanderthals?

DOUGLAS PALMER

 

It is possibly the longest-running murder mystery of them all. What, or even who, killed humankind's nearest relatives, the Neanderthals who once roamed Europe before dying out almost 30,000 years ago?

 

Suspects have ranged from the climate to humans themselves, and the mystery has deeply divided experts. Now 30 scientists have come together to publish the most definitive answer yet to this enigma. They say Neanderthals simply did not have the technological know-how to survive the increasingly harsh winters. And intriguingly, rather than being Neanderthal killers, the original human settlers of Europe almost suffered the same fate.

 

Led by Tjeerd van Andel of the University of Cambridge, a team of archaeologists, anthropologists, geologists and climate modellers have compiled a vast new set of biological, environmental and social evidence on life between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. It includes data from sediment cores and 400 or so archaeological sites, and information gleaned from fossil bones and stone tools. To this they have added the most up-to-date climate models, and radiometric dates of human and Neanderthal sites and artefacts.

 

The result is a definitive series of maps covering climate change over time, the appearance of animal and plant populations, and how human and Neanderthal communities migrated with the seasons. The resolution is so good that, for the first time, researchers can reliably trace the movements of both hominid species.

Ice cores recovered from Greenland in the 1970s show that Europe's climate varied hugely during the last ice age, especially in the period between 70,000 and 20,000 years ago. Cold glacial periods were punctuated by warmer times, and the average temperature could rise and fall several degrees within a decade or so. Studies of permafrost patterns, the remains of small animals and pollen grains, as well as fossil bones, show that such changes had a dramatic effect on the flora and fauna of the time, including Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. The maps show that, facing temperatures that plummeted to -10 ◦C in winter (see Map), Neanderthals retreated south from northern Europe 30,000 years ago, a migration which coincided exactly with the southern march of the ice sheets (Neanderthal and Modern Humans in the European Landscape of the Last Glaciation: Archaeological Results of the Stage 3 Project).

 

It is surprising "the extent to which Neanderthals seem to have been deterred by the cold, and retreated as the going got tough," says archaeologist William Davies, a co-editor of the report based at University of Southampton, UK. The maps also reveal that the earliest modern humans, the Aurignacian people, who appeared around 40,000 years ago, could not cope with the glacial cold either. They retreated south until 25,000 years ago when they were reduced to a few refuges, such as southwest France and the shores of the Black Sea. The new maps show that even at the height of the last glacial period, 18,000 to around 22,000 years ago, continental Europe supported extensive grasslands which were fodder for huge numbers of migrant animals such as reindeer and bison. The archaeological evidence strongly suggests that both hominids coexisted in southern Europe for thousands of years, but competed for ever diminishing resources. And that might have been the end for both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals but for the arrival of the technologically advanced Gravettians. The Gravettians appeared in eastern Europe 29,000 to 30,000 years ago complete with flash new tools, such as javelin-like throwing spears and fishing nets, which allowed them to catch a greater range of prey. They also had clothing to keep the cold out, such as sewn furs and woven textiles, and possibly more specialised social structures. Their ability to tough out the colder climes dominating Europe 18,000 to 25,000 years ago revitalised the human population. The Neanderthals, however, without either new blood or new technology, found it impossible to survive and died out, probably around 28,000 years ago.

 

For Neanderthal expert Paul Pettitt of the University of Sheffield, UK, the evidence that climate adversely affected the Aurignacian people as much as the Neanderthals is fascinating. When the going got tough in northern Europe, says Pettitt, both adopted a "get out of the kitchen strategy". In contrast, Gravettians used their technological prowess "to reorganise the way the kitchen was used". Pettitt says that step was just as revolutionary as becoming modern Homo sapiens in the first place.

www.ananova.com

 

Neanderthals 'were frozen out of existence'

Scientists say Neanderthals, the human species that once lived alongside our ancestors, were probably frozen out of existence.

 

Mystery surrounds the extinction of the Neanderthals, which abruptly vanished from Europe almost 30,000 years ago. The effects of climate and failure to compete with Homo sapiens are two theories that have deeply divided experts.

Now a team of scientists, led by lTjeerd van Andel from the University of Cambridge, has pointed to the harsh winters of the last ice age as being the chief reason why the Neanderthals died out.

 

Their study suggests Neanderthals did not have the right clothes or technological know-how to deal with the cold, and that there is evidence that the first early modern humans almost suffered the same fate.

 

The team of archaeologists, anthropologists, geologists and climate modellers compiled a vast new set of evidence on life between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

 

Ice cores from Greenland showed that Europe's climate varied hugely during the last ice age, especially in the period between 70,000 and 20,000 years ago. Cold glacial periods were punctuated by warmer times, and the average temperature could rise and fall several degrees within a decade.

 

Studies of permafrost patterns, the remains of small animals, pollen grains and fossils, showed that the changes had a tremendous effect on the flora and fauna of the time. Neanderthals and early modern humans were not immune to these effects, New Scientist magazine reported.

 

Facing temperatures that plummeted to minus 10C in winter, Neanderthals retreated south from northern Europe and the advancing ice sheets 30,000 years ago. The extent to which the Neanderthals were deterred by the cold surprised the team.

 

But the scientists discovered that the Aurignacian people, the earliest modern humans, who appeared about 40,000 years ago, did not seem able to cope with the cold either. They retreated south too, co-existing with the Neanderthals in southern Europe for thousands of years.

 

Both struggled to compete for ever diminishing resources, and neither may have survived were it not for the arrival of a more advanced race of humans.

Story filed: 19:05 Wednesday 21st January 2004

 

 

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994586

Big chill killed off the Neanderthals

19:00 21 January 04

Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.

 

It is possibly the longest-running murder mystery of them all. What, or even who, killed humankind's nearest relatives, the Neanderthals who once roamed Europe before dying out almost 30,000 years ago?

 

Suspects have ranged from the climate to humans themselves, and the mystery has deeply divided experts. Now 30 scientists have come together to publish the most definitive answer yet to this enigma.

 

They say Neanderthals simply did not have the technological know-how to survive the increasingly harsh winters. And intriguingly, rather than being Neanderthal killers, the original human settlers of Europe almost suffered the same fate.

 

Led by Tjeerd van Andel of the University of Cambridge, a team of archaeologists, anthropologists, geologists and climate modellers have compiled a vast new set of biological, environmental and social evidence on life between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

It includes data from sediment cores and 400 or so archaeological sites, and information gleaned from fossil bones and stone tools. To this they have added the most up-to-date climate models, and radiometric dates of human and Neanderthal sites and artefacts.

 

The result is a definitive series of maps covering climate change over time, the appearance of animal and plant populations, and how human and Neanderthal communities migrated with the seasons. The resolution is so good that, for the first time, researchers can reliably trace the movements of both hominid species.

Ice cores recovered from Greenland in the 1970s show that Europe's climate varied hugely during the last ice age, especially in the period between 70,000 and 20,000 years ago. Cold glacial periods were punctuated by warmer times, and the average temperature could rise and fall several degrees within a decade or so.

 

Studies of permafrost patterns, the remains of small animals and pollen grains, as well as fossil bones, show that such changes had a dramatic effect on the flora and fauna of the time, including Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

The maps show that, facing temperatures that plummeted to -10°C in winter (see map), Neanderthals retreated south from northern Europe 30,000 years ago, a migration which coincided exactly with the southern march of the ice sheets (Neanderthal and Modern Humans in the European Landscape of the Last Glaciation: Archaeological Results of the Stage 3 Project).

 

It is surprising "the extent to which Neanderthals seem to have been deterred by the cold, and retreated as the going got tough," says archaeologist William Davies, a co-editor of the report based at University of Southampton, UK.

 

The maps also reveal that the earliest modern humans, the Aurignacian people, who appeared around 40,000 years ago, could not cope with the glacial cold either. They retreated south until 25,000 years ago when they were reduced to a few refuges, such as southwest France and the shores of the Black Sea.

The new maps show that even at the height of the last glacial period, 18,000 to around 22,000 years ago, continental Europe supported extensive grasslands which were fodder for huge numbers of migrant animals such as reindeer and bison.

 

The archaeological evidence strongly suggests that both hominids coexisted in southern Europe for thousands of years, but competed for ever diminishing resources. And that might have been the end for both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals but for the arrival of the technologically advanced Gravettians.

The Gravettians appeared in eastern Europe 29,000 to 30,000 years ago complete with flash new tools, such as javelin-like throwing spears and fishing nets, which allowed them to catch a greater range of prey.

 

They also had clothing to keep the cold out, such as sewn furs and woven textiles, and possibly more specialised social structures. Their ability to tough out the colder climes dominating Europe 18,000 to 25,000 years ago revitalised the human population.

 

The Neanderthals, however, without either new blood or new technology, found it impossible to survive and died out, probably around 28,000 years ago.

For Neanderthal expert Paul Pettitt of the University of Sheffield, UK, the evidence that climate adversely affected the Aurignacian people as much as the Neanderthals is fascinating. When the going got tough in northern Europe, says Pettitt, both adopted a "get out of the kitchen strategy".

 

In contrast, Gravettians used their technological prowess "to reorganise the way the kitchen was used". Pettitt says that step was just as revolutionary as becoming modern Homo sapiens in the first place.

Douglas Palmer

 

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040120/ap_on_sc/ghost_village_1

Team to Study Alaskan Ghost Village

By RACHEL D'ORO, Associated Press Writer

 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Returning for the first time in three decades to the crumbling Eskimo village where she was born, Helen Pushruk was struck by how much more rugged it was than she remembered.

 

"It was scary, you know, real steep," Pushruk, 76, recalled of her 1983 visit to King Island, a village built on stilts. "Every time I went to the top of the island, I thought, `Gee, we were just like monkeys.'"

 

But it was home, and like so many other elders, Pushruk would like to go back for another look at the community that was abandoned almost 40 years ago and is now just a ghost town.

 

Now she will get that chance, thanks to Oregon State University anthropologists who are launching a four-year study of King Island and its former inhabitants.

The project is being funded by a $517,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (news - web sites). Researchers plan to document the oral history of former villagers while training Inupiat young people to collect samples for a scientific look at the vegetation and wildlife of the island, a tiny spot in the Bering Sea about 625 miles northwest of Anchorage.

 

"There are things elders know that they can teach to the western scientists. They have a pretty intimate knowledge of how their environment worked," said Deanna Kingston, the lead researcher and a descendant of King Island villagers.

"My oldest uncle was said to be able to predict the weather from the top of King Island," Kingston said. "He would go up there to observe the conditions and then tell the others that `in three days, it will be safe to cross to the mainland.' And sure enough, in three days, they could cross."

 

Next summer, researchers will scout the 2 1/2-mile island to see if any of the buildings are stable enough to serve as quarters for about 50 participants, including 10 scientists and 15 elders. If not, they will use tents during field research the following two summers. In the fourth year, Kingston hopes to produce DVDs documenting place names and stories, village and burial sites, wildlife and vegetation.

 

Volunteers will be enlisted to help frail elders get around the rocky terrain. It is crucial to have old-timers along because they gave names to every rock, nook and cranny, Kingston learned. Most of the names reflect a bountiful subsistence lifestyle: "qaluaqtuik" is a place to hook tom cods, "taiyaguk" is where birds called crested auklets might be found. The Inupiaq word for the island is Ugiuvak, which means "a place for winter."

 

"I've heard King Island called a place next door to heaven," Kingston said. "People say it was special because it provided them with a variety of food, including greens, fish, birds, sea mammals and berries."

 

Kingston, 39, an assistant professor of anthropology, is half Inupiat. Her mother was born on King Island and shared early memories Kingston hopes to validate during her field research. For example, she hopes to find a cave that kept meat frozen year round.

 

"Each family had its own spot in the cave," Kingston said. "It may be iced over after 40 years. But there may also still be meat caches in there."

 

The island was named in 1778 by British explorer Capt. James Cook for James King, a member of his party. It is unclear how long Inupiats lived there.

 

A century ago, about 200 people dwelled in walrus-skin homes tacked to the face of the cliffs. They hunted walrus, seal and seabirds and collected berries and plants. Every summer, they traveled by kayak and skin boat to the mainland 40 miles away, camping near Nome, where they sold ivory carvings. Pushruk recalled the trip taking 12 hours.

 

Starting in the 1950s, fewer people returned to King Island. The 1960 census counted only 49 residents. The 1970 census found none. King Island is among 16 federally recognized Alaska Native villages that are deserted or used as seasonal camps.

 

Today, many former King Island residents and their descendants live in Nome.

Kingston said several factors contributed to the demise of King Island. Pregnant women chose to stay in Nome, where there were doctors. Many of the men were drafted during World War II. In the late 1940s and '50s, tuberculosis killed some people and hospitalized others. And paying jobs became available elsewhere.

Looking back, Pushruk said life on King Island was difficult, given its isolation and the harsh storms. The family relied on whale blubber for lighting their weatherbeaten wooden house. She remembers having to melt snow and ice to wash clothes, hours spent bending over to pick salmon berries and greens, and endless climbing.

 

In the early 1950s, when she was 27, Pushruk was stricken with TB and left the island for a hospital in Sitka. Her oldest sister and her grandmother died of the disease.

 

Pushruk was hospitalized for 2 1/2 years and decided she had had enough of King Island. She now lives in Palmer, a town of more than 5,000, about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage.

 

"I love living where you can push a button to do things, like washing dishes in a washing machine," she said.

 

Still, Pushruk cannot turn down an opportunity to revisit with the researchers: "If they pick me I would go, maybe for the last time."

 

www.ananova.com

Complete mammoth skull found in gravel pit

 

A complete mammoth skull - only the second to be found in Britain - has been discovered in a gravel pit.

 

The skull is estimated to be about 50,000 years old and was found in the Cotswold Water Park, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire.

 

The ice age specimen was unearthed on January 11 by Dr Neville Hollingworth, a palaeontologist who works at the Natural Environment Research Council in Swindon.

 

"The skull is exquisite," Dr Hollingworth said. "It is very finely preserved and almost looks like modern bone. It could have been buried last week. This is definitely my best find in 20 years of collecting fossils. I am amazed."

 

Dr Hollingworth was digging at the gravel pit with his colleague, Dr Mark O'Dell. He said: "A few fragments of ice age mammal bones had been found at the pit recently so a lot of digging was going on there but we didn't expect to find anything like this. It is quite amazing.

"I saw a small piece of bone sticking out at the side of this clay face which had gravel in it. I started to dig and it got bigger and bigger so I asked my colleague to help. Then seven hours later we uncovered a complete mammoth skull.

"I realised I was facing a mammoth problem of getting it home. Fortunately it just fitted in the boot of my car." He said the skull, weighing 80-100kg, was now in his garden covered in bubble wrap.

 

Dr Adrian Lister, a mammoth expert from University College London, has carried out a preliminary analysis of the skull. He believes the mammoth was a middle aged female aged between 25 and 40 years old, which probably weighed between six and eight tonnes.

 

The tusks, which would have been up to 8ft long, were missing from the skull and Dr Hollingworth now plans to look for these in the quarry, which is currently flooded with rainwater. He believes the excellent preservation of the skull suggested the mammoth could have died in a flood.

 

Scientists will attempt to assess the age of the specimen using radiocarbon dating and use it to study the evolution of mammoths. The skull is expected to go on display at the Gateway Centre at the Cotswold Water Park. The only other specimen discovered in the UK is displayed in the Natural History Museum in London.

 

Story filed: 20:34 Tuesday 20th January 2004

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/3409531.stm

Bid to find lost Persian armada

By Paul Rincon

BBC News Online science staff

 

Archaeologists have embarked on an epic search for an ancient fleet of Persian ships that was destroyed in a violent storm off Greece in 492 BC.

 

The team will search for sunken remains of the armada - sent by Persian king Darius to invade Greece - which was annihilated before reaching its target.

Waters off Mount Athos in northern Greece, the site of the disaster, have yielded two helmets and a spear-butt.

 

Experts will return to the site in June to look for more remains of the fleet.

"This is an extraordinarily target-rich area for ancient shipwrecks," Dr Robert Hohlfelder, a maritime archaeologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, US, told BBC News Online.

 

The amphoras presumably come from a shipwreck

 

"Usually, when shipwrecks are found, the archaeologists are asked to create the history around them. We have the history, now we've got to find the shipwrecks."

 

An account of the 492 BC disaster is related in The Histories, by the 5th Century BC Greek writer Herodotus. He says the ships were smashed against Mount Athos.

 

Last year, the team discovered a shipwreck containing amphoras, pottery containers used for transporting foodstuffs. How, if at all, this wreck relates to the disaster is not known.

 

The archaeologists also found a bronze spear-butt, called a sauroter, at a site where, in 1999, local fisherman raised two Greek classical helmets from the seafloor.

 

The sauroter was found in the possession of an octopus, which had dragged the spear-butt inside a jar in which it had made its sea-floor home.

 

The survey could help resolve arguments about how triremes - ancient galley warships used by the Persians and Greeks - were constructed.

 

The sauroter, held by Katerina Dellaporta, fitted a spear

 

In trireme battles, victory hinged on slamming other ships with a heavy bronze ram on the front of the ship.

 

Not a single trireme wreck has ever been found and archaeologists on the survey are divided over the likelihood of finding one on this expedition.

 

"We will not find a trireme. They contained very little ballast so they floated. Although the rams may have sunk," team member Michael Wedde told BBC News Online.

 

Classical texts refer to triremes being rescued, towed to dry land and repaired to be reused.

 

"There's some question over whether they sank," said Dr Shelley Wachsmann of Texas A&M University in College Station, US. "Most ships we find have cargoes because those bring them to the bottom,"

 

Archaeologists explored the ocean floor using a submersible

 

But Dr Hohlfelder said there was a possibility a trireme could have sunk to the sea bed: "Underwater archaeologists have wish lists. A trireme is certainly one of the top ones on most people's lists. And I think this is one of the best places to look for them."

It is also possible that supply ships - which supported the warships - were carried to the bottom, weighed down by their cargoes.

 

The project is a collaboration between the Canadian Institute of Archaeology and the Greek Archaeological Service.

 

Katerina Dellaporta, of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in Greece, and Dr Wachsmann are leading the research.

 

Around 20,000 men were lost in the disaster, which shook Persia at a time when it had its sights on assimilating mainland Greece within its empire.

 

http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=111001&command=displayContent&sourceNode=111000&contentPK=8563397

FANCY A HOLIDAY... ...TO THE IRON AGE?

10:30 - 21 January 2004

 

Holidaymakers will be able to spend a week living in the Iron Age at a new tourist attraction being planned in the Forest of Dean.

 

Tourists will give up their clothes and modern items and dress in costume and spend time living in the village of Cinderbury. They will sleep in primitive huts and will have to cook for themselves, mine ore, make tools and weapons and look after the village's animals.

 

Mobile phones and watches will be confiscated and the project website says that "make-up, jewellery, hair products and perfumes are strongly discouraged and will possibly be mocked".

 

The living history project is being created near Clearwell.

 

Although corporate funds are still needed it is hoped the village will be open by May.

 

Project boss Jasper Blake said: "The village came about in a weird kind of way. I have now been doing archaeology in the area for 10 years with different groups and I love working in this area but I wanted to earn a living doing it.

 

"One of the guys from the Dean Archaeology Group is a living history buff and he had been talking about building a roundhouse up on land in Clearwell.

 

"I visited other places which are commercial operations and I thought I could do it with this place. We now have our plot of land and have made a deal with the landowner and we are pretty well ready to put in a planning application.

 

"One of the key things is to open ourselves up to corporate sponsorship. This is going to be a high profile, media friendly project and there is nothing much like it anywhere else in the country so we expect interest to be high."

 

To get off the ground the project needs around £100,000 which will enable it to be established.

 

Mr Blake added: "If we get corporate interest there is no reason why we can't be open by May.

 

"There is no way that we could get the whole thing built ready for then, but part of the experience will be to get people to get involved with building some of the roundhouses and help build it up as a living community."

 

Mr Blake explained that although there were no remains of Iron Age huts in the Forest they would be using a template of what is known about roundhouses and use local materials to build them.

 

Having stayed in one himself during an outing with an Iron Age re-enactment group, Mr Blake said: "It is great, it is obviously communal and they are very warm and comfortable.

 

"It is the camaraderie that makes it special - you are all in it together, you sit around the fire and cook your food together.

 

"It is so quiet and peaceful and you can get away from the distractions of modern life, televisions and mobile phones."

 

Cinderbury will also be open for day visitors who can see how those living in the village are coping and it will also be available for use by schools."

•  For more information about Cinderbury or for anyone interested in funding the project go to www.cinderbury.co.uk

 

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20040112/naples.html

Ancient Port Found Below Naples

By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

 

Jan. 15, 2004 — Italian archaeologists have discovered the ancient port of Neapolis during excavation work for a new subway in Naples, they announced at a news conference this week.

 

Extending into the heart of present-day Naples, the second-century port was found 13 meters (43 feet) beneath one of the city's main squares, not far from the 13th-century Maschio Angioino fortress.

 

Evidence for the ancient Mediterranean port included a 10-meter (33-foot) ship, wooden pieces belonging to piers, and various items.

 

"We have gathered hundreds of them, all very well preserved. They had probably fallen off the ships while being unloaded. These objects will help us to shed light on the ancient city's everyday life, not to mention the possibility of studying the circulation of goods. We have found ceramics from various areas in the Mediterranean," Daniela Giampaola, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation, told Discovery News.

 

Among the items are coins, glass bottles still uncorked with the organic material perfectly preserved, intact amphorae and soles of seafarers' shoes, probably tossed away when they were no longer good.

 

Also found by the ship were seafarer's tools, such as needles to darn the nets, ropes, nails, hooks, stone anchors, and ancient lamps to attract fish at night.

Sand gradually covered Neapolis' port until it disappeared in the fourth century. Trapped in mud, the ship seems to be in excellent condition, thanks to the silt that, producing an airless environment, prevented decomposition.

 

"Most probably, the ship sank due to storms and floods. It will take at least six months to take it out of the mud, " Giampaola said.

 

Hoping to come across other important discoveries, in the next months Giampaola's team will follow the subway work and excavate deeper.

 

Indeed, the subway project has revealed other important findings elsewhere in the city, such as the remains of a building also dating to the Roman Empire, and a 12th-century fountain.

 

"We know that Naples was an important harbor, but till now have not been able to recover any physical evidence. The discovery of a sunken ship with its cargo is exciting, and it is to be hoped that more evidence of the port will emerge from future work," Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, director of the British School at Rome, an authority on ancient Roman history, told Discovery News.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/3401473.stm

Rescue for medieval salt ship

 

Archaeologists are preparing to rescue a medieval salt ship that has been buried beneath mud in Cheshire for nearly 700 years.

 

The 26ft-long ship was carved out of a single oak tree and experts say it is of national importance.

 

The vessel, which was discovered during work on a building site, was originally used to store brine as part of a medieval salt works in the centre of Nantwich.

The brine would have then been boiled to extract the salt, which was a highly prized commodity at the time.

 

Examination of the tree rings will give a true age of the ship but experts are confident about their initial estimate that it dates back to the 1300s.

 

Just two years ago archaeologists working nearby on a similar housing plot found the site of a 2000-year-old Roman salt works.

 

The process of preserving medieval timbers is complicated, say experts.

The most famous find - the Mary Rose - is sprayed with water to stop the wood from falling apart.

 

After 700 years under mud, exposure to oxygen is the biggest threat to the salt ship.

 

The rescue operation is costing more than £100,000.

 

The ship needs to be kept wet until it can be lifted out over the next few days.

 

It will then be freeze dried before eventually going on display in a local museum.

 

http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=67725&command=displayContent&sourceNode=67252&contentPK=8551164

MEDIEVAL GEM UNCOVERED AT HOUSING SITE

09:54 - 20 January 2004

 

From the knee-deep mud of a site earmarked for new housing, an archaeological gem has been unearthed in South Cheshire. Experts have extracted the remains of a medieval 'salt ship' from a muddy dig site in the heart of Nantwich.

 

The eight-metre vessel, carved from a tree trunk, would have been used in the salt-making process as a reservoir to store brine before boiling to extract salt.

 

A grant of £104,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund has helped fund the excavation of the ship's resting place on the site of a medieval saltworks in Welsh Row.

 

Now it has been removed from the ground, the wooden structure will be transported to the laboratories of York Archaeological Trust, where the wood will be treated with a light wax and then freeze-dried to preserve it.

 

When the two-year treatment is complete, the ship will be the subject of a permanent exhibition at Nantwich Museum, exploring its remarkable story.

 

Welsh Row lies on the west bank of the River Weaver and is thought to have originated as a medieval suburb of Nantwich.

 

The excavation project, carried out by Earthworks Archaeological Services, was led by Cheshire County Council in partnership with Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, Nantwich Town Council and Nantwich Museum Trust - all of which have contributed funding or assistance.

 

County councillor Elspeth Wallace said: "Cheshire's roots are in salt-making and the salt ship is a remarkable piece of evidence of these ancient industrial processes.

 

"I would like to thank everyone whose hard work and dedication has ensured this very special artefact can be saved.

 

"I must express my gratitude to the site developers, Schofield Brothers, of Nantwich, who funded the excavations and agreed to delay their work schedule while funds were raised to save the salt ship.

 

"This truly magnificent example of the town's heritage can now be enjoyed for generations to come."

 

Local county councillor Arthur Moran said: "In Nantwich we have been fortunate to unearth a great deal of evidence of our town's heritage as a salt centre dating back to Roman times.

 

"The salt ship, however, must count as one of the most spectacular finds and I am delighted it is to be saved for posterity."

 

As the project progresses updates can be found on the Nantwich Museum website at www.nantwichmuseum.org.uk .

 

 

http://test.thecourier.co.uk/output/2004/01/17/newsstory5537076t0.asp

Excavations offer insight into medieval Perth

 

A TUNEFUL discovery has been exciting archaeologists in Perth as just part of a find-filled year at digs around the town.

 

The experts from the locally-based Scottish Urban Archaeology Trust, working with Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, are now custodians of Perth’s earliest-known musical instrument.

 

The small flute, believed to be made of a shin bone and to date from medieval times, was found during the excavation of the site of Gillies of Broughty Ferry’s planned store at Skinnergate.

 

The ongoing redevelopment of the former site of the Lemon Tree restaurant has allowed a rare opportunity for controlled excavation of Perth’s earliest streets, according to heritage trust archaeologist David Strachan.

 

Also found were two soapstone brooch moulds, plus a fascinating insight into the building practices of days gone by.

 

During a hand excavation of a new lift shaft, the experts found up to 14 floor levels from medieval houses on top of each other.

 

The sequence started directly below the demolished building, and from initial analysis of the pottery it would appear there is little more than 100 years between the earliest and latest floor levels.

 

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20040119/columbus.html

DNA Results Could ID Columbus

By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

 

Jan. 21, 2004 — The long-standing cultural dispute over Christopher Columbus' final resting place could take a new turn as further DNA tests are carried out by an Italian university.

 

DNA technology will be applied by the University of Pavia's laboratories to fragments of bones now kept in a box in the university's library. The remains come from Santo Domingo, one of Columbus' debated burial places.

 

"They were given by the bishop of Santo Domingo to Pavia University in 1880, as it was thought that Columbus studied here. They could be enough to conduct DNA tests," Anna Maria Campanini Stella, director of the university library, told Discovery News.

 

Though the analysis would destroy the remnants, the Italian investigation could solve forever Columbus' riddle. Is Columbus buried in the Gothic cathedral of Santa Maria in Seville, the city from where he set sail in 1492, or is he resting under a cross-shaped lighthouse in Santo Domingo, where he made his historic landfall in the New World?

 

The man who discovered America travelled as much after his death as in his life. In his testament, Columbus requested his remains to be taken to what is today the Dominican Republic. Yet he was initially buried in the Castilian city of Valladolid, where he died on May 20, 1506.

He remained there only three years as his bones were disinterred and moved to Seville's Carthusian monastery. In 1537 they were finally sent for burial in Santo Domingo, along with the body of his legitimate son, Diego.

 

But in 1795, the French took control of the island and the Spaniards then moved Columbus' bones to Havana, Cuba. In 1898, when the Spaniards were thrown out of Cuba, the remains were taken back to Seville and buried in the cathedral.

 

The debate began when a box bearing the inscription "illustrious and enlightened male Don Cristobal Colon" and containing bone fragments was found in Santo Domingo's cathedral in 1877.

 

According to the Dominicans, in 1795 the Spaniards took the wrong body, that of Columbus' son Diego, buried nearby.

 

In the attempt to solve the mystery, Spanish scientists exhumed this summer Columbus' supposed remains in Seville Cathedral, as well as those of his brother Diego and his son Hernando.

 

Granada University expert José Antonio Lorente Acosta is now conducting DNA analysis to find out whether the two sets of bones are related to those of Hernando, whose identity is certain.

 

"We are in touch with Dr. Lorente and are waiting for his results, which should possibly come within two-three months. If the Seville DNA doesn't match, then our investigation could be resolutive," Campanini Stella said.

 

Since authorities in Santo Domingo have not allowed the exhumation of the remains buried under the lighthouse, DNA tests on the bones in Pavia could provide a definitive answer to the Caribbean tomb.

 

DNA tests could also reveal whether Columbus was Spanish or Italian — the son of Genoese wool trader Domenico Colombo or the illegitimate son of Spain's Prince of Viana.

 

Pavia University would also verify a third hypothesis, that Columbus was the son of Pope Innocent VIII.

 

"The physical resemblance between the two is really impressive," Ruggero Marino, who formulated the claim in a book on Columbus' Vatican links, told Discovery News.

 

According to Marino, Innocent VIII would have dispatched Columbus on his voyage of discovery hoping to use the gold of the New World to fund Crusades. But at his death, his successor Alexander VI, the Spanish-born Borgia Pope, would have covered up the origins of the venture, giving credits to the Spanish throne.

 

"The problem of Columbus' remains has so many dark points. The new claim on Innocent VIII is intriguing. We must remember that when Columbus was born in 1451, Giovan Battista Cybo, the future Pope Innocent VIII, was bishop of Savona, some 40 kilometers westward of Genoa," Cuban expert Miguel Esquivel, author of several books on Columbus, told Discovery News.