First footprints of a Paleolithic man found in Asia


Footprints of a Paleolithic man, the first to be found in Asia, and fossilized animal tracks dating back to about 50,000 years ago were discovered on Cheju Island (Korea). More than 100 footprints of ancient man and thousands of horse, elephant, bird and deer fossil tracks were found in Namcheju-gun on the southern island province of Cheju and along the shores of the island's Andok-myon.


The fossils were discovered by Professor Kim Jung-yul of the Korean National University of Education last October. Footprints of Paleothic man are a rare sight and have been seen in only six other countries - Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Chile, France and Italy - to date.


The human footprints that Kim found are of 21-25 centimeters in length, and the imprints of the foot are clearer than those found in Kenya and Tanzania. Not only are the heel and ball of the foot evident in the imprints but the imprint of the medial arch is also explicit.


The Korean Culture Properties Administration is considering naming the area a national monument and has restricted entrance in an effort to preserve the fossils.


æSource: The Korea Times (6 February 2004)




South African rock art older than thought

Friday February 06, 2004 11:23 - (SA)


New radio-carbon dating technology shows some South African rock art to be three times older than previously believed, Newcastle University in the United Kingdom said.


A study by archaeologists at the institution estimated that rock art at the World Heritage Site of uKhahlamba-Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal could be 3,000 years old.


Their age was originally put at 1,000 years, university spokeswoman Claire Jordan said in a statement to Sapa.


Archaeologists from the Australian National University in Canberra participated in the study.


"The findings, published in the current edition of the academic journal South African Humanities, have major implications for our understanding of how the rock artists lived and the social changes that were taking place over the last three millennia," Jordan said.


The mountainous uKhahlamba-Drakensberg region was considered to be one of the best areas in the world for rock art.


It has the largest and most concentrated group of painting in Africa south of the Sahara, with over 40,000 paintings, said Jordan. 


San hunter-gatherers, who settled in the area about 8,000 years ago, created the artwork using mainly black, white, red and orange pigments.


"Until recently, archaeologists have struggled to tell exactly how old the paintings were, mainly because dating techniques have required larger samples for analysis than it has been possible to collect without destroying the art work," said Jordan.


The research team were able to analyse salt samples taken from the painted rocks using a highly-refined radio-carbon dating technique known as accelerator mass spectrometry. 


The results show some of the paintings are at least 3,000 years old.


Jordan said: "Experts suspect they could be even older due to the San people's long occupation of the area but say they need to carry out further tests to prove this theory."


Dr Aron Mazel, a South African researcher based at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, who carried out the work with Australian archaeologist Dr Alan Watchman, said: "This is a small but important step forward in the interpretation of some of the world's finest collection of rock art.


"The data will contribute to a much wider understanding of one of the key periods in South African and world history, the occupation of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg by the San hunter-gatherers.


"We hope to use this technique to date more of the paintings and organise them in chronological order in the hope that, like a family photograph album, they can tell us a little more about how life evolved for the San people during the several thousands of years they occupied the mountains.


"We are still in the early stages of exploiting this new technology but it's possible further investigation could reveal that some of the paintings could be even older than 3,000 years, especially as we knew the San people first occupied the area 8,000 years ago."


Dr Chris Chippindale, reader in archaeology at Cambridge University and professor with the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, said: "Dating is important to all archaeology and rock art has proved very hard to date.


"It looks as if the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg rock art sequence may be very long. Any new study which tells us reliably about its age is very much to be welcomed."




Archaeologists shed new light on African rock art


A huge collection of cave paintings in central South Africa, once dismissed as primitive scribblings, have turned out to be 2,000 years older than previously thought. Carbon-dating technology has revised the prehistory of the Drakensberg plateau in KwaZulu-Natal which has the largest and most concentrated collection of rock paintings in sub-Saharan Africa.


Archaeologists from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, working with a team from the Australian National University in Canberra, report that many of the 40,000 paintings in 500 caves and rock shelters are 3,000 years old. This revolutionises the previously accepted view that the artwork dated from about the second half of the 11th century which itself was an upward revision of 19th-century assumptions that the paintings were more relatively recent tribal work.


The paintings at the world heritage site of uKhahlamba-Drakensberg - only discovered 150 years ago - use sophisticated red, orange, white and black pigments to portray animal and human scenes. The images include hunts in progress and close-ups of animals such as the eland - an antelope with spiral horns. Other pictures pose questions about the social and economic life of the artists, the San people, who moved into the Drakensberg 8,000 years ago and were gradually wiped out by the steady expansion of the European settlers across South Africa during the 1800s through a combination of disease, war and starvation. One intriguing picture is a procession of half-human, half-animal figures with human bodies, but hooves and animal faces and hair.


The dating breakthrough followed years of frustration over basic carbon dating which required samples too big too remove without destroying the paintings. The new study pioneered a technical improvement which uses accelerator mass spectrometry applied to salt samples taken from painted rock without causing damage. "We can now begin to match up the paintings with excavations in the rock shelters which we have already been able to date," archaeologist Aron Mazel said.


Sources: The Guardian, Reuters (7 February 2004)


Highway threatens stone circle in Japan


Plans to construct a highway in Hokkaido (Japan) have placed an exceptionally well-preserved stone circle excavated last year in Morimachi in danger of being lost forever. The stone monument eloquently depicts the spiritual world of people in the Jomon period (ca 10,000 BCE - ca 300 BCE) and the layers of volcanic ash from Mt. Komagatake that covered the site apparently preserved it.


The stone circle, excavated by Morimachi's local board of education, is located in the Washinoki Ruins No. 5, on a hill about 40 kilometers north of Hakodate. Funka Bay can be seen from the hill's crest. The Morimachi circle, which is actually oval in shape, is thought to date back to the late Jomon period, about 4,000 years ago. The monument consists of three circles of stones and is the largest in Hokkaido and one of the largest in the country. The outermost circle's diameter is 34-37 meters. Although its size is smaller than that of the Oyu stone circle in Kazuno, Akita Prefecture, which is a national heritage site and has a diameter of about 48 meters, the Morimachi stone circle is larger than the Oshiyoro stone circle in Otaru, Hokkaido, which is about 33 meters in diameter.


About 530 stones were used to make the Morimachi circle, including the riverside stones that make up its outer perimeter and the middle circle, where the stones are irregularly placed about 50 centimeters within the other. The inner circle's stones fill a space that is about four meters in diameter.


Some stone circles are believed to have been used as graveyards. But like the stone circle in the Komakino ruins, a national heritage site in Aomori Prefecture, the stone circle in Morimachi is not thought to be one of these. However, the remnants of a large pit were found at the southern side of the Morimachi stone circle and could have been a grave. About another 100 meters away from the site, is an area that some believe to have been a mass grave. "It's highly likely that the whole area was a gigantic ritual center for the Jomon people," said Yasushi Kosugi, an assistant professor of archeology at Hokkaido University.


As the excavation of the stone circle was initially undertaken to make a record of it before construction began on the highway, preserving the site is problematic. A tunnel must be dug beneath it, through which the new highway could be diverted. If such a tunnel will be created, two bridge supports that have already been completed would have to be discarded, which would increase the original budget for the project by several billion yen and extend the construction period by three or four years. The Morimachi mayor, who is also the vice president of a group promoting the construction of the highway in southern Hokkaido, has opposed preserving the site because its maintenance would be a burden for the town and the town needed to secure an emergency route in case Mt. Komagatake erupted. The Hokkaido Prefectural Board of Education urged the town to reconsider its position.


Towns and villages generally support the preservation of ancient sites, and Morimachi's case is unusual because the government is willing to preserve the ruins while the town is reluctant to do so. Tatsuo Kobayashi, a professor of archeology at Kokugakuin University, said: "The people in the Jomon period labored over something that didn't give them wealth. They left their mark here, which was preserved by nature. These stone circles are their declaration of being human."


Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun (4 February 2004)




Items 9,000 Years Past Use-By Date

Feb 10 2004

Co Antrim


ARCHAEOLOGISTS working for Tesco have dug up more than they bargained for at the site of the company's planned new supermarket in Ballymoney.

Hoping to discover traces of a medieval castle, believed to have once occupied the site, the archaeologists were amazed when they unearthed remains which date back some 9,000 years.


Fragments of clay pottery and flints have been found in what is thought to be the remnants of an ancient settlement from the Neolithic period. Scientists also uncovered a complete axehead and evidence of a possible structure.

Peter Bowen, the head archaeologist on the site, claims the majority of the finds date back to about 3000BC, but he believes some of their discoveries may even predate that by a further 4000 years, to 7000BC, a period known as Mesolithic.


"It is possible that this site has produced these finds as it as at the foot of higher ground, which may have provided shelter and security,'' he said.


"It is also close to a river, which could have provided fish and fresh water for settlers and any animals they may have kept.''

Work on the new £9 million store is still on track for a summer opening but Mr Bowen has welcomed the opportunity to excavate the site before it is covered over.


"In some ways, it's strange that we have had the opportunity to find out more about the history of this area because a new supermarket is being built, but that's how history happens - through change.''

"It is vital that sites are explored, excavated if necessary, documented and preserved properly if further information is not to be lost forever.''

Ross Campbell, Tesco's development manager, admitted this is the first occasion that anything significant has been discovered at one of their Northern Ireland sites.


"By working closely with both our own archaeologists and those from the Environment and Heritage Service, we have been able to develop an appropriate preservation plan so that these items will remain safe for many more years to come,'' he said.






Copper Age Village Found in Northern Bulgaria

Lifestyle: 9 February 2004, Monday.


A village from the Copper Age was found in northern Bulgaria. The village is situated just 800 metes away from the place where the bridge Vidin -Kalafat is to be built.


The archaeological treasure was found near the Antimovo village when a study in connection to the Danube Bridge 2 construction was made.


The ancient village is not within the road-bed of the bridge, but all necessary measures for its preservation will be taken, engineer Kostantin Zhiponov, one of the people dealing with the construction of the bridge said, cited by the local radio Gama.


Some of the finds will be transported to the archeological museum in the town. More researches will be launched in the spring of 2004.




3000-year-old buildings discovered

(By a staff reporter)

9 February 2004


SHARJAH - An Australian-American archaeological team hosted by the Antiquities Directorate of the Sharjah Department of Culture and Information from December 2003 till last month, conducted detailed inspections of the Iron Age site found earlier in Muweileh in Sharjah.


The site, located 15km west of Sharjah city, has already revealed substantial evidence for a 3000-year old settlement which is one of the largest sites dating back to that age discovered so far in the United Arab Emirates. Previous finds included the oldest writing found in the UAE, the oldest Iron-Age artifacts and many buildings including a columned hall that must have functioned as the centre of an economic and political power within the settlement.This season’s excavations, the eighth at the same site, revealed several buildings inside the fortification wall, said a spokesperson of the department. “Previously, we had assumed that the central area of the site consisted of an open courtyard, but it appears that it is not the case,” the spokesperson said, adding that the recent excavations also revealed a new gateway in the eastern side of the settlement. “

This was constructed from stone and had a hardened plaster floor and had evidence for holes for large wooden doors. Several complete painted vessels and some iron artifacts were found associated with this gateway. To the south, a new building adjoining the fortification was also unearthed. This house is larger than most at the site and had plastered floors. A stone incense burner was found on the floor of one of the rooms of this building,” he said.


He said the joint team found evidence throughout all these buildings of a fiery destruction that brought the settlement to an end around 750BC. “This conclusion was drawn from the fact that a lot of archaeological materials have been discovered including pots, clay ovens, animal bones, burnt dates and date-seeds and shells that would have been obtained by the old inhabitants from the coast for eating,” the spokesperson observed, revealing that continued analysis of these finds will provide unparalleled data on how people lived 3000 years ago in Sharjah.


“It is now clear that the ancient settlement of Muweileh was larger and more complicated than we originally thought. We look forward to continued research at the site with the support and collaboration of Sharjah Archaeological Museum,” said a spokesperson for the Australian-American team.

Meanwhile, a Spanish Archaeological expedition from Otonoma University arrived in Sharjah last week to conduct excavations at Ak Thaquiba site in Al Madam Plain.


The Spanish team will focus on resuming excavations of ancient canals of water springs discovered last season in addition to digging other parts of this agricultural settlement which dates back to the first millennium B.C.



Ethiopian obelisk needs ride back home from Italy

February 10, 2004


ROME -- Wanted: An airplane strong enough to carry the 70-ton pieces of an ancient obelisk back to Ethiopia, nearly seven decades after Italian Fascist forces hauled the monument out of Africa.

Engineers dismantled the 1,700-year-old Axum Obelisk at the end of last year from where it stood since 1937 near the Circus Maximus in central Rome after the Fascist invasion of Ethiopia.


Divided into three sections, the obelisk is in storage near a Rome airport.

''We are waiting for an airplane'' that can accommodate the weight of the obelisk, said Eshetu Yisma of the Ethiopian Embassy in Rome on Monday.

Each section of the obelisk weighs 70 to 80 tons, Yisma said. The three pieces will be transported individually and reassembled at their original location in Axum, northern Ethiopia.


The Italian government has agreed to pay for the transportation.

Ethiopian officials have demanded the return of the obelisk for decades.

Italy agreed to send the monument back in 1998, but a border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea put those plans on hold.




History right on tap

Feb 6 2004

By Tony Henderson Environment Editor, The Journal


There was a surprise in the pipeline for archaeologists on a Roman fort dig at Vindolanda in Northumberland.


They unearthed 30 yards of wooden mains which fed the fort with water from nearby springs.


And to their amazement, the mains were still working and carrying water - almost 2,000 years after they were first installed.


"The fact that they were still working is quite incredible but it was also a nuisance because they flooded the excavation trenches which had to be pumped out every day," said Robin Birley, director of excavations at Vindolanda.


The pipes had been created by drilling huge lengths of alder, which were joined together by oak pegs.


"There were no nails or iron. Everything was done by joinery which fitted perfectly," said Robin.


The pipes were found under the floor of what is believed to be a hospital from around 100AD.

It is thought the mains network fed spring water to individual buildings in the fort - a system which did not return to parts of Northumberland until the 19th Century.

The dig has also revealed that something was afoot in the fort itself when it came to the soldiers and their relationships. It has been generally believed that women were not allowed to stay inside the fort with the troops.


But the dig has uncovered a total of 238 boots and shoes - and half of them belonged to women and children. "There doesn't seem to be much doubt that there are women and children in the barracks," said Robin.


Vindolanda become famous through the discovery of about 1,700 examples of writing tablets which give a remarkable insight into life on the Roman frontier.

Now, with the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Vindolanda Trust has bought 15 acres of farmland adjoining the fort.


A magnetometer survey has shown that there are significant remains beneath this land.


Robin said: "It seems that there is a vast amount of activity and everything under the sun out there - workshops, industrial activity, houses and burials."


The new land doubles the area available for excavation. Around 800 people lived on the site for 350 years and Robin reckons that the original 13-acre sort site will take another 150 years alone to excavate.



Dig to begin on city fire station site


A dig will begin later this year on a site in the West End of Newcastle which is in the Hadrian's Wall corridor.


The land is occupied by the Westgate Fire Station, which was built in 1964 on the junction of Westgate Road and Wingrove Road.


The fire station is being replaced by a new purpose-built facility at Rye Hill. The archaeological trenching (archaeological evaluation) is being conducted by the archaeology department of Tyne and Wear Museums.


Newcastle City Council cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport Ged Bell said: "The Roman Wall could run either through the northern part of the site or in front of the site under the forecourt or road." The course of the associated military road and vallum - or ditch - also runs through the site.



Easter Island culture seeks to survive

Polynesians guard language, customs

By Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times, 2/8/2004


EASTER ISLAND, Chile -- Evelyn Hucke wants her son to speak in the language of the king who settled this remote island more than a millennium ago, the same Polynesian tongue spoken by the people who carved the totemic statues that rise above the powder-blue waters of the South Pacific.


Hucke, 30, grew up speaking that language, known as Rapa Nui. But as she walks the streets of Hanga Roa, Easter Island's only town, she hears the Polynesian-faced children chattering and arguing in Spanish, the language of the island's current rulers, the Chileans.


Every day is a linguistic battle for Hucke as she fights the cartoons beamed in from South America, the Spanish repartee at the grocery store and in the island's only schoolyard.


"Ko ai a Hotu Matu'a?" she asked her 7-year-old. Obediently, he answered in the same language: "He was the first king who came here."


Often called the loneliest place on earth, Easter Island is now caught up in the swirling changes of globalization and is on the front line of a broader effort to preserve the world's endangered languages.


Every year, more languages pass into extinction. In the Chilean archipelago north of the Strait of Magellan, the last dozen or so speakers of the Kawesqar Indian language are aged. Inevitably, Kawesqar will join Kunza and Selknam on the list of Chile's dead languages.


Only an end to "Chileanization," local leaders here say, can rescue Rapa Nui -- the term applies to the language, the 2,000 people who speak it and the island itself. Rapa Nui leaders want political autonomy from Chile or independence so they can control the migration of Spanish-speaking "Continentals" to the island.

Saving Rapa Nui has become an obsession for a handful of people here, including a pair of California linguists who have spent nearly three decades helping create a Rapa Nui literature, and a former medical worker who became a schoolteacher and launched the island's first Rapa Nui "immersion" program.

"You realize something of your people is being lost, the spirit of our people," said Virginia Haoa, who runs the immersion classes for students from kindergarten through fourth grade.


For Haoa and others, saving Rapa Nui means saving Easter Island's uniqueness -- "our culture, our cosmology, our way of being," Haoa said. If Rapa Nui dies, so will a living connection to ancestors who built an exotic, mysterious civilization on an island just a few miles wide in a vast, otherwise empty stretch of the Pacific, 2,300 miles from the South American mainland.


For now, there are still Easter Islanders who can tell you, in Rapa Nui, stories that have been passed down for generations about Hotu Matu'a, who, around AD 400, arrived with seven explorers from the land called Hiva to settle this place. You can still talk to people whose grandfathers were part of the Birdman cult that raised one of the last of the island's 800 famed, imposing "moai" statues. It was later shipped off to the British Museum in London.


"What we've kept alive [of our culture] has been entirely on our own initiative," said Alfonso Rapu, 61, who in the 1960s led one of the most important protests against Chilean rule, escaping an arrest warrant by hiding in the island's caves.

Intermarriage with Chilean Continentals, he said, might soon do away with many of the 39 surnames associated with the island's tribes. Chile has ruled the island since one of its admirals arrived here in 1888, signing a treaty with its last king, who residents believe was later poisoned in the Chilean city of Valparaiso.

Until recently, geographic isolation kept alive the Rapa Nui language -- a rhythmic tongue with few hard consonants -- despite the small number of people speaking it.


But these days, the peak of tourist season brings four flights weekly from Santiago, Chile's capital. Taxi drivers who have relocated from Santiago cruise up and down Atamu Tekena Avenue in Hanga Roa, in search of fares.

"Word has gotten out in Chile that you can make dollars easy on Easter Island," said Hucke, a member of the self-appointed "Rapa Nui parliament," which is pushing to have the island's status placed on the agenda of a United Nations committee on colonization. "They come to try their luck. They aren't interested when we tell them our culture is being destroyed."


Chileans are currently as free to come to Easter Island as Americans are to move to Hawaii.


"The constitution of Chile is killing my culture and my identity," said Petero Edmunds, the mayor of Hanga Roa and the island's only popularly elected official. "We are a millenarian culture that existed long before Chile did. And the only way to protect that culture is by regulating migration."


Edmunds and other leaders head to Santiago several times a year to negotiate autonomy with the authorities. Islanders hope to eventually achieve a status similar to their oceanic neighbors in French Polynesia, which was granted self-rule in 1984.


"We are Polynesians," said activist Mario Tuki Hey, expressing an opinion shared by most anthropologists. "It's only an accident that makes us part of Chile."

There is a growing consensus on the mainland that Easter Island deserves a different status from other isolated corners of the Chilean state.


"There is unanimity in the idea that certain places, like an island located in the middle of the Pacific, should receive special treatment," said Senator Jaime Orpis, a member of the conservative Independent Democratic Union who was part of a Chilean senate commission that visited the island in September. "They should have autonomy."


Senator Carlos Ominami of the Socialist Party said such a status would probably be based on that of the Galapagos Islands, which are allowed to control migration from Ecuador and charge a visitors' fee to raise money for development.


The Easter Island negotiations have dragged on for at least a year. For the time being, the island remains simply another administrative subdivision of the city of Valparaiso, Chile's main Pacific port.


"We are as far from Valparaiso as Los Angeles is from Miami," Edmunds said. "It does not make sense that I have to call Valparaiso to get the money to fill a pothole or to have a Chilean bureaucrat tell me in what language I should educate my children."


© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.