'Flores man not a new species'

November 06 2004 at 02:13PM 


Jakarta - A leading Indonesian scientist on Saturday challenged the widely publicised theory that fossilised bones found on the eastern island of Flores were from a previously unknown species of human.


Professor Teuku Jacob, chief palaeontologist from the state Gajah Mada University, will carry out tests to prove the fossils are from a sub-species of homo sapiens - "an ordinary human being, just like us".


"It is not a new species. It is a sub-species of homo sapiens classified under the Austrolomelanesid race. If it's not a new species, why should it be given a new name?" the professor said.


Australian scientists last month made world headlines by announcing the discovery of a new twig in mankind's family tree, 'homo floriensis', a one-metre hominid with a grapefruit-sized skull.


Their theory, published in the British weekly scientific journal Nature, was that it was the smallest of the 10 known species of the genus Homo, the hominid that arose out of Africa about 2,5 million years ago.


Jacob said his team will aim to prove that the skeleton is from a 25 to 30-year-old omnivorous sub-species of man, not a 30-year-old female from the new species as previously announced.


They believe the skeleton's small skull is related to mental defects rather than being evidence that it is a different species.


In an intriguing development last month, researcher Bert Roberts of the University of Wollongong told the Australian newspaper that the new skeleton sounded remarkably similar to the Ebu Gogo, strange hairy little people that legend says lived on Flores. - Sapa-AFP





From The Economist print edition

Archaeologists may have found what was once the biggest city in Italy


REAL archaeology bears about as much resemblance to an Indiana Jones movie as real spying bears to James Bond. Excavation—at least if it is to be meaningfully different from grave robbing—is a matter of painstaking trowel work, not gung-ho gold-grabbing. But there is still a glimmer of the grave robber in many archaeologists, and the search for a juicy royal tomb can stimulate more than just rational, scientific instincts.


Few tombs would be juicier than that of Lars Porsena, an Etruscan king who ruled in central Italy around 500BC. Porsena's tomb has been sought for centuries in the rubble under the Tuscan city of Chiusi, which is believed by most authorities to stand on the site of Porsena's capital, Clusium. No sign of it, however, has ever been found. And that, according to Giuseppe Centauro, of the University of Florence, is because everybody is looking in the wrong place.


Lars Porsena's place in history was ensured by his interference in the revolution that made Rome a republic. The last Roman king, Lucius Tarquinius, nicknamed “Superbus” because of his arrogance, was Etruscan. When he was deposed by the revolutionaries, he appealed to Porsena for help. There are conflicting accounts of whether Porsena succeeded in capturing and ruling Rome, or was forced to make peace with the revolutionaries. Either way, most of those accounts agree that he was eventually buried in a fabulous tomb near his home city of Camars, or Clusium as the Romans called it.


The Etruscans were big on tombs—constructing entire cities for the dead to inhabit—but Porsena's was supposedly the biggest of the lot. It was, according to one ancient source, a monument of rectangular masonry with a square base whose sides were 90 metres (about 300 feet) long and 15 metres high. On this base stood five pyramids, four at the corners and one in the centre, and the points of these pyramids supported a ring from which hung bells whose sound reached for miles when stirred by the wind. From this level rose five more pyramids, and from these another five.


Chiusi was clearly once an Etruscan city, but the evidence that it was actually Clusium boils down to the fact that the two names mean the same thing (“closed”). Such nominative determinism is hardly conclusive. Dr Centauro prefers his evidence to be wrought in stone, and he thinks the most persuasive pile of masonry around is actually on a mountainside near Florence.


At the moment, he is awaiting permission from the authorities to start digging there. But the above-ground remains convince him that he has found the real site of Clusium. He believes he has identified two concentric walls 17km (about ten miles) in circumference—certainly big enough to qualify as the biggest city in Italy before the rise of Rome, which is the reputation that Clusium had.


Such a site has not, of course, completely escaped archaeological attention in the past. A dig in an outlying part of it known as Gonfienti has been under way since 1998. Gabriella Poggesi, the archaeologist in charge of the Gonfienti dig, has unearthed the foundations of what was evidently a wealthy settlement on the banks of the Bisenzio river. She has also found evidence of great damage, probably from a flood that swept through in 480BC, after which the houses were abandoned.


This, Dr Centauro believes, is all grist to his theory. In his view, this riverside settlement was an affluent suburb situated on reclaimed land outside the city walls. He thinks it was built to cope with later expansion, and is younger than the site he now calls Clusium.


The outer walls of the main site are three metres thick, several metres high, uncemented and regular in construction. From the style of the masonry, Dr Centauro is convinced the remains are Etruscan. At corners where they have collapsed, small rooms are visible. These, he thinks, would have accommodated the sentries who manned the watchtowers.


So where is the tomb? And is it unlooted? Sadly for goldbugs, its riches are probably gone. In 89BC Cornelius Sulla, a Roman general, sacked Clusium and razed it to the ground. But if the ancient descriptions of the tomb are even a pale reflection of the truth, that amount of masonry is unlikely to have wandered far. So if Dr Centauro's hunch is right, and this is Clusium, the old king's secret may soon be dug up.




Wal-Mart opened its controversial store near the famous Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan northeast of Mexico City. The first shoppers entered the store after months of controversy and protests against the US retail giant, which many felt was desecrating the key historic site. The National Institute of Archaeology and History however cleared the store to open after determining the site did not contain important ruins. The store, called Bodega Aurrera, cost $7m and employs 185 people. Local officials estimated it would benefit some 350,000 people. The ancient city of Teotihuacan, located 50km north of Mexico City, ranks among the country's most popular tourist destinations. 



Giant hail killed more than 200 in Himalayas

By David Orr

(Filed: 07/11/2004)


For 60 years the skeletal remains of more than 200 people, discovered in 1942 close to the glacial Roopkund Lake in the remote Himalayan Gahrwal region, have puzzled historians, scientists and archaeologists. Were they soldiers killed in battle, royal pilgrims who lost their way and succumbed to hypothermia, or Tibetan traders who died of a mysterious illness?


Now, the first forensic investigation of one of the area's most enduring mysteries has concluded that hundreds of nomads - whose frozen corpses are being disgorged from ice high in the mountain - were killed by one of the most lethal hailstorms in history.


Scientists commissioned by the National Geographic television channel to examine the corpses have discovered that they date from the 9th century - and believe that they died from sharp blows to their skulls, almost certainly by giant hailstones. "We were amazed by what we found," said Dr Pramod Joglekar, a bio-archaeologist at Deccan College, Pune, who was among the team who visited the site 16,500ft above sea level.


"In addition to skeletons, we discovered bodies with the flesh intact, perfectly preserved in the icy ground. We could see their hair and nails as well as pieces of clothing."


The most startling discovery was that many of those who died suffered fractured skulls. "We retrieved a number of skulls which showed short, deep cracks," said Dr Subhash Walimbe, a physical anthropologist at the college. "These were caused not by a landslide or an avalanche but by blunt, round objects about the size of cricket balls."


The team, whose findings will be broadcast in Britain next month, concluded that hailstones were the most likely cause of the injuries after consulting Himalayan historians and meteorological records.


Prof Wolfgang Sax, an anthropologist at Heidelberg University in Germany, cited a traditional song among Himalayan women that describes a goddess so enraged at outsiders who defiled her mountain sanctuary that she rained death upon them by flinging hailstones "hard as iron".


According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the heaviest hailstones on record weighed up to 2.2lb and killed 92 people in Bangladesh in 1986.


The National Geographic team believes that those who died at Roopkund were caught in a similar hailstorm from which they were unable to find cover. The balls of ice would have been falling at more than 100mph, killing some victims instantly. Others would have fallen, stunned and injured, and died soon afterwards of hypothermia.


"The only plausible explanation for so many people sustaining such similar injuries at the same time is something that fell from the sky," said Dr Walimbe. "The injuries were all to the top of the skull and not to other bones in the body, so they must have come from above. Our view is that death was caused by extremely large hailstones."


The scientists found glass bangles, indicating the presence of women, in addition to a ring, spear, leather shoes and bamboo staves. They estimate that as many as 600 bodies may still be buried in snow and ice by the lake.


Bone samples collected at the site were sent to the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit of Oxford University, where the date of death was established about AD 850 - 400 years earlier than supposed.


The team has yet to resolve the identity of the nomads. DNA from tissue samples suggested that the group was closely related. One match pointed to a community of high-caste Brahmins in central India.


The investigators agreed that the victims were Hindu pilgrims from the plains, rather than the mountains, because of their large size and good health.


"The skeletons are of large and rugged people," said Dr Dibyendukanti Bhattacharya of Delhi University. "They are more like the actors John Wayne or Anthony Quinn. Only a few have the characteristics of the Mongoloid hill people of the Himalayas."


All Welcome: 10,000 Signatures and Submission Delivered Regarding Hill of Tara and M3 Motorway by redjade Wednesday, Nov 3 2004, 1:51pm



ALL WELCOME: Delegation to Hand-Deliver 10,000 Signatures and Submission to Minister Roche Regarding Hill of Tara and M3 Motorway?






?Delegation to Hand-Deliver 10,000 Signatures and Submission to Minister Roche Regarding Hill of Tara and M3 Motorway?


A large delegation from Save Tara Skryne Valley group (STSV) will hand-deliver a written submission, including 10,000 petition signatures, to Minister for Heritage, Mr. Dick Roche, at the Custom House, at 11.30am Friday, 5th November. A statement, concerning imminent litigation, will also be made at that time.


The submission also contains statements written on behalf of over 10,000 international historians and archaeologists, calling for re-routing of the M3 motorway, which needlessly passes through the Hill of Tara national monument. Signatories include the Archaeological Institute of America, the European Association of Archaeologists and members of the Government-funded Discovery Programme.


Minister Roche is currently considering a recent request from the National Roads Authority (NRA) and Meath County Council to give ?directions? under the new National Monuments Act, 2004, to begin excavations of over 40 archaeological sites in the Hill of Tara region. A decision is ?imminent? according to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the Minister is asked to consult with Minister Cullen and find an alternative.


The submission puts Minister Roche on notice that legal action is set to commence if he proceeds, and calls on him to refuse directions and to send the proposal back to planning. It contains legal, historical and archaeological expert testimony that the NRA has made a fundamental error in failing to recognise that the motorway passes through the Hill of Tara national monument. It also lists alternatives, which include: re-routing the road, putting in bypasses of major towns on the N3 and re-opening the Navan-Dublin railway.


Vincent Salafia, Public Relations Officer for STSV says:


?It is critical that the public make their views known to Minister Roche before he makes this decision. He is legally bound to consider their submissions. They can do it a number of ways:


- Join the delegation to the Custom House on Friday, 5 Nov at 11.30am - Mail a letter to Minister Roche at Custom House, Dublin 1 - Telephone Department of Environment Press Office, Tel: (01) 888 2638


- Email: minister@environ.ie - Sign online petition at http://www.taraskryne.org


According to spokesperson, Dr. Muireann Ni Bhrolchain:


?Our campaign has already marshalled huge international support, from the likes of Stuart Townsend and Charlize Theroon. If Minister Roche gives the go-ahead, this will only increase. We want to sit down with the Minister and see if there is any way out of this stalemate.?




- Please view the signatures on the petition at www.taraskryne.org - High-resolution images and full submission available by request.



Vincent Salafia 087-132-3365

Dr. Muireann Ni Bhrolchain 087-924-9510





By Libby Bruce


ONE of Britain's richest businessmen is set to do battle with thousands of rabbits in a bid to protect Scotland's foremost Roman remains.


UK-based billionaire Mohammed Al Tajir is locked in talks with Historic Scotland following damning reports on the deteriorating state of the 2000-year-old Ardoch Fort on his estate at Braco.


Archaeologist Dr David Woolliscroft has worked periodically at the Roman Fort since the 1980s. And he has now warned that unless the rabbits which infest the site are brought under control, their continuing burrowing will see the Roman remains collapse and crumble.


The Roman expert from Liverpool University claims rabbits have already devastated important archaeological relics all across Britain. Now time is running out at Ardoch Fort and the defensive line of the Gask Ridge with rabbits threatening defences that kept hoards of marauding Picts at bay.


"The situation is now very serious indeed," said Dr Woolliscroft.


"Ardoch Fort and the watchtowers and fortifications along the Gask ridge were built in the late first century and pre-date Hadrian's Wall by about 50 years. The frontier was the prototype for all Britain's Roman defensive walls and is an important and precious piece of our history and its importance has been recognised by Historic Scotland's drive to have it designated a World Heritage site.


"We must stabilise what is there and then work to give it the recognition it deserves," he added. "It would be a tragedy to let rabbits destroy thousands of years of history. If these furry creatures are left as custodians of Ardoch Fort it could eventually become virtually useless as an archaeological site."


Yesterday, local MSP Roseanna Cunningham called site owner Al Tajir to task claiming his "cavalier attitude" to Scotland's best preserved Roman fort was placing a national treasure in imminent and irreversible danger.


"There is massive potential for rabbits to cause untold damage to this extremely important historical site and I hope that Mohammed Al Tajir will reach an agreement soon with Historic Scotland about how they can be controlled," said Ms Cunningham.


"Ardoch Fort is one of the most important remnants of the Roman presence in Scotland," she added. "At a time when we are pushing to have the Gask Frontier recognised as a World Heritage site, it is an absolute disgrace that it should be treated in such a cavalier fashion."


Ms Cunningham claimed Al Tajir's failure to control rabbit populations since taking over Blackford Farms estate in the early 1970s was causing widespread problems. The Arab businessman, who owns Strathearn-based international mineral water giant Highland Spring, is worth around £2 billion and features in 13th place on the UK rich list.


"The problem is that this particular landowner is infamous for having allowed his land to become overrun with rabbits," slammed Ms Cunningham, "and this has caused immense difficulties over the years - not only for Ardoch Fort but




Medieval mystery under the Maltsters

Published on 06/11/2004


Dig this: Archaeologists Patricia Crompron, Kevin Murphy and Frank Giecco at the medieval complex

By Anna Burdett


AN 800-YEAR mystery surrounding medieval Carlisle has been solved after a major discovery under a city pub.


Archaeologists uncovered a 12th century bronze-working complex complete with workshop and furnaces under the former Maltsters Arms in John Street, Caldewgate.


And they suspect that the city’s medieval church is buried under a pay and display car park next-door.


Frank Giecco of North Pennine Archaeology said until now medieval Carlisle had been a blank and the discovery would re-write the archaeological map of the city.


The 200-year-old pub was demolished in preparation for a development of student accommodation by Northern Developments, spending £30,000 on the four-week dig.


Experts have found a large timber workshop and three furnaces on the site.


The workshop would have been a hive of activity employing skilled craftsmen producing bronze objects such as broaches and buckles for local folk.


Mr Giecco said the find was of major regional importance and it could be unique in Britain.


He said: “At first we thought bronze could have been smelted here, which would have made it internationally important.


“Tests are being carried out but this is looking unlikely now.”


Experts from Bradford and York Universities have visited the site and are said to be very excited by the finds.


Large quantities of medieval pottery have been unearthed along with broaches and belt buckles from the period.


A Neolithic stone axe, dating back to 750 BC has also been found along with musket balls that might have been used during the siege on the city by Bonnie Prince Charlie.


Small fragments of coloured glass on the site are believed to be from a church thought to be buried under the John Street pay and display car park.


Northern Developments’ managing director Martyn Boak said the company was considering donating the artifacts to the Tullie House museum.




Date: 04-11-2004-

16th century toilet uncovered under Eyre Square taxi-rank



Archaeologists monitoring the Eyre Square refurbishment works have discovered an almost unknown building in the north of the square along with the city's earliest public lavatory.


As part of the ongoing Eyre Square enhancement scheme a number of archaeological test excavations have been carried out by the Moore Group Environmental and Archaeological Consultants on behalf of the Galway City Council.


The focus of the excavations on the taxi rank have also uncovered a substantial stone building. It may date from the late 1600s to the early 1700s. However it does not appear on the famous 1651 pictorial map of Galway and so could be of a later date. It appears on an 1818 map of Galway but was gone by the mid 19th century.


Jim Higgins, the council's heritage officer, told the Galway Advertiser that the building is something of an enigma. He said it was built on land owned by the Galway Corporation and may have been built for military purposes. He said much research into council records will have to be made before the exact use of the building can be established.


The toilet is just outside the building and features a plank of wood with a hole. It dates from the 17th century. Two ash pits and a boundary wall were found nearby.


Also being excavated is the thick deposit of organic material. It spreads from the Liam Mellows statue to the lower end of the Bank of Ireland and seems to have been a deposit of waste with huge quantities of bone oyster shell, food remains, straw, wood, and other waste dumped into an area known as The Pool which is shown in the 1651 map.


Also 10 human skeletons have been found around the square, some associated with the gallows near where the Liam Mellows statue was located. Remains of 16th and 17th century pottery, large amounts of wood off-cuts and shavings from a carpenter's workshop, worn out shoes, and leathers used from the cutting of new shoes have also been found.


Excavations have also led to the discovery of mediaeval pottery, clay pipes, and objects like amber beads imported from the Baltic area.


According to Higgins such finds were to be expected. He says many people came to the port of Galway to buy amber beads for the making of rosaries and necklaces from Spanish sailors who visited the port in the 17th and 18th centuries.


The results of the excavations will be published and will eventually be shown in the new Galway City Museum, currently under construction. The remaining archaeology will be protected and covered over for work that may take place in the future.



Tue 2 Nov 2004

Demolition reveals home of eccentric evolutionary




THE remains of a house occupied by one of Edinburgh’s most respected 18th-century judges and the pioneer of evolutionary theory have been uncovered by archaeologists amid the demolition of Old Town vaults.


Experts believe the home - one of many buried for more than a century underneath the Waverley Station car park in New Street - was that of the eccentric Lord Monboddo.


The site, which also includes Victorian vaults covering more than 8,000 square metres, is being cleared to make way for new city council headquarters being built at New Street and East Market Street.


Archives suggest the area was the location of grand residences for 18th-century luminaries such as the lawyer and philosopher Lord Kames, man of letters Lord Hailes and colonel Sir Philip Ainslie.


Archaeologists have excavated substantial foundations which they believe may form part of the house belonging to Lord Monboddo, whose 1773 book Of the Origin and Progress of Language expressed evolutionary theory almost a century before Charles Darwin.


Experts have also been examining the Waverley Vaults, a series of underground brick and stone chambers built in the 1890s and used as a store for goods coming into the station. The vaults are currently exposed by the demolition work.


The city archaeologist, John Lawson, said: "This work is an important opportunity to record a part of Edinburgh’s rich industrial heritage. The discovery of the foundations for several substantial buildings, including one most likely that of Lord Monboddo’s house, builds on the work we completed on the Cowgate fire site and broadens our understanding of the life and personalities of 17th and 18th-century Edinburgh."


David McDonald, the director of heritage group, the Cockburn Association, said: "The finds are fascinating from a social history perspective.


"Lord Monboddo was known for his eccentric ways. Once on a rainy day he is remembered to have come out of court and placed his wig in his sedan chair to protect it from the rain and walked home. He was also a friend of Robert Burns.


"Lord Kames proposed building the North Bridge in 1754 but was opposed by builders who were extending the city towards the south. Construction of the first North Bridge began in 1763."


Historian Jan-Andrew Henderson, whose book The Emperor’s New Kilt includes a chapter about Lord Monboddo, said: "He was an extraordinary figure. When he said man was derived from animals and that orang-utans were capable of speech he was ridiculed.


"But he was right - almost a century before Charles Darwin. Ironically, he is buried in an unmarked grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard a very short distance from where Darwin studied."


The excavation has been done by AOC Archaeology Group for Stannifer Development Ltd on behalf of Morley Fund Management. The building that will form the council’s new headquarters, due to open in 2006, is being developed by Morley Fund Management on behalf of Norwich Union Life and Pension (NULAP) and will be leased to the council for 20 years.