Disaster may have killed ancients

By Paul Rincon

BBC News Online science staff


The remains of 28 early humans found buried at the bottom of a cave shaft in northern Spain may belong to a group that died suddenly in a "catastrophe".

Experts conducted an analysis to determine whether it was likely the bodies accumulated in the shaft over years or were dumped at the same time.

They concluded the 400,000-year-old death chamber may have held the victims of a disease outbreak or a massacre.

The study details are published in the Journal of Anthropological Research.

"We still don't know how they died. But what does seem increasingly clear is that the death of these people could have been simultaneous," Jose Bermudez de Castro, co-director of the Atapuerca excavation, told BBC News Online.

If you look at the 7,500 civilians that were killed at Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia, you get the same age profile

Dr Andrew Chamberlain, University of Sheffield

The remains were recovered from a 14m-long shaft called Sima de los Huesos (the pit of bones) in the caves of Atapuerca, near the town of Burgos.

Atapuerca contains one of the richest records of prehistoric human occupation in Europe.

The bodies in the pit belong to a hominid species called Homo heidelbergensis . Some people think this species could have been the common ancestor of the Neanderthals and modern humans ( Homo sapiens ), although Professor Bermudez de Castro believes it was just ancestral to the Neanderthals.

Death and disasters

However, exactly how the bodies came to be deposited at the bottom of the shaft has always perplexed and intrigued those researchers that have excavated the site.

Professor Bermudez de Castro and his colleagues considered whether the remains in the pit fitted an attrition profile, in which individuals die one by one over long periods; or a catastrophic one, in which the dead cover the age spectrum of a population.


Natural disasters, violence, epidemics of diseases such as influenza or bubonic plague and occasionally famine can be responsible for catastrophic mortality profiles.

The team compared the mortality profile of the Atapuerca remains with 26 other Homo heidelbergensis hominid remains from across Europe.

The proportion of individuals between the ages of 11 and 20 was 64% compared with just 39% for the other European sample.

"This corresponds best with a group of people who all died at the same time - a catastrophic profile," said Professor Bermudez de Castro.

"The only problem with this model is that we are missing the infants. But it is certainly a more rational model than the attritional one."

Victims of conflict?

Other scientists have suggested that carnivores could have removed the bones of infants, although this is difficult to prove.

Dr Andrew Chamberlain, a biological anthropologist at the University of Sheffield, UK, agreed with this broad assessment of the mortality profile.

"This profile is very similar to the kind of one you get in conflicts, with people who fight and die in battle; you get this peak of teenagers and young adults.

"But in that young age group - there are more females than males. With combat mortality, the deaths are nearly all males.

"The other way you can get this age profile is deaths of non-combatants. If you look at the 7,500 civilians that were killed at Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia, you get the same age profile.

"You could have one group of hominids attacking the other, with very large numbers killed. The problem is that we just don't know enough about the social behaviour of these early humans."

Professor Bermudez de Castro predicts that it will be difficult to progress further with efforts to understand how the Atapuerca hominids died.

"Skull 5 has a serious infection in his face. It's possible that he could have died from it, but the truth is we don't know," he explained.

"There are also signs of trauma in other individuals and it is possible that these traumas caused their deaths. But it is very difficult to give these people a death certificate."

Story from BBC NEWS:



Published: 2004/05/19 08:59:51 GMT





20 May 2004


WITH interest in the fabled city of Troy sweeping the world, a West Norfolk man believes he can prove it existed – and challenge popular belief about where it stood.


The release of Hollywood's latest blockbuster about the Trojan War closely followed the completion of two years of research by John Crowe into Greek history, literature and a dusty, unmapped hill in western Turkey.

Mr Crowe (65), of North Runcton Lodge, North Runcton, now hopes his detailed study and findings will cause an international sensation in their own right.

Troy is generally supposed to have been located at Hisarlik, in north west Turkey, on a site which has been undergoing archaeological exploration for more than a century.

Another possible site was identified in 1980 by an Australian archaeologist, John Lascelles, who went on to write a book entitled Troy: The World Deceived.

Mr Crowe read his book during a visit to Australia in 2002, and said: "It changed my life. I have been working on building up his case and getting academic support for it ever since."

He has also visited and photographed the area he now believes was the true site of Troy – at Bergama, about a hundred miles south of Hisarlik.

The story of the Trojan War and beautiful Queen Helen – whose face is said to have launched a thousand Greek ships against Troy – came from the epic Iliad written by Greek poet Homer.

Mr Crowe said Homer's work included many geographical clues and other pointers to where Troy was situated.

"Unlike at Hisarlik, almost all Homer's features at Troy and on its plains, including springs, hills and tomb mounds, are still there today at Bergama – exactly as he described them," he added.

A retired civil engineer, Mr Crowe has been researching and writing a 200-page thesis detailing his findings since moving to West Norfolk two years ago.

This is now undergoing academic appraisal by a top Oxford scholar, and Mr Crowe is eagerly awaiting his opinion as to whether the document deserves a wider audience.

In his own mind, he is already convinced. "I believe that, between us, John Lascelles and I now have a pretty well watertight case," he added.



Troy's Fallen!

May 14, 2004

by Mark Rose

How do all the Troy productions stack up?

It's getting crowded at Troy these days. In addition to the motion picture with Brad Pitt as Achilles, there are at least four television programs out there. There's the movie, there's History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, something on A&E, and there's In Search of the Trojan War. Here's a review of some of these. (See Manfred Korfmann's article "Was there a Trojan War?" on this website for the real story.)

Troy is a violent film. Homer's great poem the Iliad is cut and hacked mercilessly in it, while the evidence of the archaeological record is helpless before its onslaught. Where to start in discussing this? Let's do this critique in just three paragraphs (it could go on for pages): the archaeology, the story, then briefly the movie as a movie.


I'll start with the archaeology because it is in a sense window dressing for the story of the Trojan War. The Iliad is the most powerful of the cycle of epic poems that together tell of the war from start to finish, and it is one of the greatest works of literature. Like any great story, you could transfer it to other settings, other times or places, and remain true to it (like Romeo and Juliet being rewritten as West Side Story). So archaeology here is providing the setting or context, and presumably the filmmakers intended something to match what Homer described. Homer, who belongs in the eighth century B.C., told of events long before, around 1200 B.C., toward the end of the Late Bronze, which is when the ancient Greeks said the Trojan War took place. So we might expect some unity in the archaeological setting, with things matching what we know about material culture in the Aegean world ca. 1200 B.C., but instead we get a chronological train wreck. I'll limit myself to a few of the most outrageous examples: the ships look to be of eighth-century design (see photos); statues that litter the Troy of this film are pretty ghastly creations that are apparently inspired by sixth- and fifth-century B.C. sculptures (see photos); Trojan princesses in one scene sport jewelry that belongs in the Early Bronze Age, a full millennium before this story takes place; and coins are dutifully placed on the eyes of all the heroes who get killed in the movie, never mind that coins won't be invented for another five or six centuries. We might also expect some correspondence between the physical setting of the movie and the places it takes us, such as Troy. The city of Troy is increasingly well known and we have a good idea of its appearance, thanks to the Troia Projekt (University of Tubingen and University of Cincinnati) excavation and the virtual reality based on it; the filmmakers, however, must have wanted something more spectacular (see photos). Troy's intimidating outer wall in the film, which I take to be 40 or 50 feet in height with higher towers, is a fiction (they didn't have siege engines for battering down walls in the Late Bronze Age, so walls on that scale would have been a colossal waste). There's evidence for a ditch enclosing the lower city at Troy, but here drama trumps reality. So the archaeology in this film is a double miss in terms of unity of time and place. Some of the inaccuracies are understandable from the point of view of the filmmakers--having Achilles standing below 50-foot-tall walls and calling out for Hektor may make for a better shot than having him stand on the far side of a ditch. But others of these errors, like the coins, are just ugly; they don't help the movie. Why not get it right? And it was a relief to see that many of the silly statues are smashed during the sack of Troy (an especially goofy Apollo statue gets it early in the film, providing a light moment).

Clearly Homer had the story of the Trojan War wrong and it had to be rewritten, to judge by changes (I can't say improvements) this movie makes. Homer says it took ten years, but here it is three weeks with the famous quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles taking place on day one. Hektor kills Menelaos and Ajax on day two of the war (Homer's having Menelaos surviving the war and returning to live happily in Sparta with Helen is awkward, and the suicide of Ajax isn't really needed for this movie). On the night of day two, the Trojans unleash their secret weapon: Great Balls of Fire! Day three, Hektor is such a good guy that after he kills Patroklos, the young protege of Achilles, he suggests everybody knock off for the rest of the day. By the end of day four, Achilles kills Hektor and Priam can come and beg for his son's body. Where Homer took more than nine years, the film gets it all done in just four days. For the grand finale, the filmmakers aren't satisfied with just the horse and the sack of Troy. In the epics, Achilles is dead and gone by the time the wooden horse is built, but here he is still alive so he can search for his love interest, Briseis. Attacked by Agamemnon, Briseis kills him (never mind the ancient tale of Agamemnon returning to Greece to be killed by his unfaithful wife Clytemnestra and then be avenged by his children Orestes and Electra). Paris then shoots Achilles with arrows (five or six, I lost count) before scampering off with his love interest, Helen, to live the simple life somewhere--maybe subsisting on nuts and twigs on the slopes of Mount Ida. That's right! Helen and Paris get to run away! Homer had it wrong! Hektor's wife Andromache makes good her escape, with their son, too. Best of all, Paris gives the "sword of Troy" to Aeneas who also escapes and sets out to found Rome. 'Tis a far, far happier ending than Homer and the ancients devised (mostly enslavement, death, revenge, and the like). Those are the main points where the script is unlike any other telling of thee Trojan War, but there's lots more: Achilles doesn't come to the army as depicted, Briseis is a slave not a priestess of Apollo, etc., etc., etc. What's the impact of all this rewriting? Homer's Iliad is a profound work about what it is to be human; this is not. Homer's message is here diluted by a rather insipid rendering of boy-meets girl, and the narrative of the epics is shuffled about drastically in many places for little effect.

Looking at this simply as a movie, and this is purely personal reaction, some of the characters were well portrayed others not so well portrayed. Hektor and Andromache are okay; Helen gets better over the course of the film. Paris is acceptable. Priam (Peter O'Toole) looks a bit like a stunned mullet in some scenes. Brad Pitt seems to try very hard as Achilles. But his lines are sometimes not so good ("Let no man forget how menacing we are," he exclaims, in case the audience needs reminding) and maybe the role was beyond him, or at least the Achilles of Homer was beyond him. This movie is not great, which doesn't mean it might not make pots of money, but given $200 million to play with, the filmmaker could have come up with something better. Hopefully some people might actually be inspired to read the Iliad after seeing this. But the few that do will be far outnumbered by the millions who see this film and leave the theater thinking they have seen something that reflects the time and place and events that inspired Homer. Granted that a summer blockbuster is not the same as a documentary, this film could have been more accurate and truer to Homer without sacrificing mass appeal.


Take one Archaic kouros figure, add the Zeus Olympias by Pheidas, shake, and hey presto! You get whatever is behind Peter O'Toole!

HIstory Channel's "The True Story of Troy" will be broadcast on Sunday, May 16 at 8:00 p.m. It has some very nice elements and a few misleading or otherwise not so good ones. They did talk to the right people. There are nice sections on current work at Troy featuring excavation director Manfred Korfmann and his colleagues in field at the site, and discussion about who found the site with Susan Allen, champion of its true discoverer, Frank Calvert, over Heinrich Schliemann. Others who appear include Getzel Cohen of the University of Cincinnati, who gives lots of background information, and classicist Robert Garland who is filmed by a campfire on a beach. Highlights include the work at Troy, early film of oral poets in the Balkans, discussion of human sacrifice in the Late Bronze Age, and Garland's fireside chat about the Iliad. A U.S. Army general, who specializes in the study of ancient warfare, comments on the Homeric code of honor. Less satisfactory is the hamfisted and oversimplified comparison of the Trojan War with Iraq. There's also some problems with props: the so-called mask of Agamemnon and inlaid daggers from Mycenae are centuries too early for the Trojan War, but appear over and over. There are some ancient and historical images of the war--vase paintings, mosaics, and such--but the documentary relies too much on costumed actors. Some are re-enacted scenes (the sacrifice of Iphigenia, with an inlaid dagger; Schliemann adorning his wife with the Trojan gold jewelry). Then there are mood bits (lots of red-lighted battle scenes, one overly used of some guy twirling a couple of swords as he spins around) that are over the top. The re-enactments can be annoying beyond overuse. For example, University of Cincinnati scholars Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis are shown at the Mycenaean palace site of Pylos discussing evidence for a bull sacrifice and feast. Unfortunately the scene dissolves to a re-creation that's pretty much a toga party. But there's good stuff here--listen to what the various archaeologists have to say, and listen to Garland's thoughts about the <ILIAD< i>(you'll get there what you won't get from the Troy film).

National Geographic's Beyond the Movie: Troy, a DVD that came out in April, is available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the like ($24.98). It is a very slick production. The scholars involved include Jack Davis and C. Brian Rose of the University of Cincinnati (the latter co-directs the current excavations at Troy), and Eric Cline, a specialist in trade in the Late Bronze Age. Highlights include Rose explaining the archaeological evidence at Troy--two destruction levels in the Late Bronze Age, the second with arrowheads indicating it was caused by an attack rather than a fire or earthquake--and how that fits into what we know about the Late Bronze Age and what Homer describes. Cline makes the interesting suggestion that the Trojan Horse might have been a reference to an earthquake, since Poseidon--the sea god who is also known as "Earthshaker"--had the horse as his particular animal (like Athena and her owl). Also nice are clips from the 1930s excavation of the site. Not so nice are re-enactments, especially the duel between Achilles and Hektor wearing brightly polished armor as they hack at each other with shiny steel swords. The production ends with an unparalleled cloud of purple prose ("Everything Schliemann touched seemed to turn to gold, but everything this gold touched seemed to fall.")

If you choose to see Troy, enjoy the movie, but leave your copy of Homer and your archaeological texts at home. Either the History Channel or National Geographic production will get you closer to reality, though neither is without flaws. For more on the movie Troy look for the commentary soon to be posted on the Archaeological Institute of America's website by C. Brian Rose, one of the directors of the current excavations at the site and a professor at the University of Cincinnati, and see the Troia Projekt site.





Athens, 14 May 2004 (19:25 UTC+2)


The ship “Kerinia II Eleftheria” sailed into the port of Piraeus this afternoon. It is a ship of historic value as its original was built in the 4th century BC. Its crew will deliver the gifts of Cyprus and the islands it has visited along the way to the city of Athens, the host of the 2004 Olympic Games.


The ancient builders of the ship used timber from the Aegean island of Samos to build it and probably they also came from Samos. The ship was sunk in 370BC near the coasts of Kerinia in Cyprus. Andreas Kariolou, a diver from Kerinia, found the ship at the bottom of the sea and the operation for its recovery got underway in 1967 by two US universities, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas.


It was reassembled and now is being kept in Kerinia under the protection of UNICEF. It has a great archaeological and shipbuilding value because it is the only ancient ship that was found and recovered with its cargo intact, namely 404 amphoras from the islands of Rhodes and Samos and from the city of Korinth in central Greece.


In 1984, the Greek institute for the protection of naval heritage in Greece in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas attempted to build a replica of the ancient ship to be able to study the ancient shipbuilding art and shipping. And this way, the ship “Kerinia II” was built.


“Kerinia II” has traveled around the world and because of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the expulsion of the people of Kerinia from their city, the ship became a live ambassador making the world aware of the problems of Cyprus and especially, the Turkish occupied Keniria.



Hundreds of Mummies Found in Egyptian Caves

Nancy Gupton

For National Geographic News

May 19, 2004


An underground maze found packed with mummies was most likely an ancient multifamily cemetery, Egypt's top archaeologist said.

A French team made the recent discovery of hundreds of mummies crammed into deep shafts and corridors at Saqqara, 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Cairo.




In this 1989 photograph workers inspect a tomb in Saqqara, Egypt. Recently, archaeologists uncovered hundreds of mummies in a maze of underground shafts in Saqqara. "Saqqara may be the only site in Egypt where, if you dig anywhere, you will find something," top Egypt archaeologist Zahi Hawass said.


Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta


Zahi Hawass's new books, Hidden Treasures of Ancient Egypt and Curse of the Pharaohs, are available from National Geographic Books.

Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said the burial site was used for many centuries, from the 26th dynasty (664-525 B.C.) through the end of the Ptolemaic period in 30 B.C.

"Each family dug a shaft about 30 feet [9 meters deep] and buried all the members of the family there. Each shaft may represent a family of this period," he said.

Some of the mummies were wrapped in linen and encased in sealed coffins and stone sarcophagi. At least one of the coffins was covered with gold, said Hawass, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

The team, led by Christiane Ziegler, made the find when looking for an Old Kingdom (2575-2150 B.C.) tomb first found by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette in the mid-1800s. Blocks from the tomb are on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, but the tomb itself has been lost.

Saqqara is one of Egypt's richest archaeological sites. As the cemetery for the ancient capital city of Memphis, Saqqara's burials span 3,000 years and 31 dynasties.

"Saqqara may be the only site in Egypt where, if you dig anywhere, you will find something," Hawass said. "It was used from the very beginning of Egyptian history until the very end."

Finding Lost Treasures

During his tenure as head of the SCA, Hawass has placed special emphasis on recovering lost and stolen artifacts. In the past two years about 500 artifacts have been returned to Egypt.

"Antiquities dealing is becoming a big business," he said. "We hope that the world will cooperate with us to stop this smuggling. These monuments do not belong to us only, but to the whole world."

Hawass's detectives have also found treasures previously unknown to them.

"Many of the objects are from illegal excavations, so we have no way of knowing about them," he said. "By going onto the Internet and going through the basements of museums, we find many pieces about which we know nothing."

Hidden Treasures of Ancient Egypt, one of two new books from Hawass, features rarely seen antiquities, many of which were found forgotten in warehouses or the Egyptian Museum's basement.

The artifacts—which include painted statues, bronze sculptures or cats, jeweled pendants, and a prosthetic toe—were found, dusted off, and brought together for a new exhibition at the museum.

Another new book from Hawass, Curse of the Pharaohs, is targeted for children ages ten and up. Hawass considers education—for children and for all Egyptians—a top priority.

"Native Egyptians should know about their heritage and history," he said. "This will help us make them understand that the Egyptians once were the most advanced civilization in terms of science, art, technology, and language.

"Education will help them, when they visit a site, to take care of the monuments, not to touch them or damage them, and preserve it for the future. We have to keep Egypt today like yesterday."

Hidden Treasures of Ancient Egypt and Curse of the Pharaohs are available from National Geographic Books.



Halley's comet portrayed on ancient coin

Heather Catchpole

ABC Science Online

Wednesday, 19 May  2004


Could the star shape on the king's crown be Halley's comet?

A rare ancient coin may feature an early record of Halley's comet, researchers say.


The coin features the head of the Armenian king Tigranes II the Great, who reigned from 95 to 55 BC. A symbol on his crown that features a star with a curved tail may represent the passage of Halley's comet in 87 BC, say the Armenian and Italian researchers.


Their research will be published in Astronomy & Geophysics, a journal of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Halley's comet, which was last visible in 1986, has cropped up periodically in the Earth's history, with regular observations in 1531, 1607 and 1682.


This led Edmond Halley to declare in 1705 that this was the same comet, with an orbit taking it past the Earth about every 76 years. He predicted successfully it would return in 1758, and the comet was named after him.


Now researchers have found further evidence that the comet was significant thousands of years before Halley was born.


Tigranes could have seen Halley's comet when it passed closest to the Sun on 6 August in 87 BC, according to the researchers, who said the comet would have been a "most recordable event".


The appearance of the comet in Armenia, which borders Turkey and Iran, could be useful to date the coin accurately. While the coin dates back to before 83 BC, when Tigranes conquered the ancient city of Antioch, the capital city of Syria at the time, researchers do not know its precise date.


Halley's comet is a ball of dirty snow and ice about 15 kilometres long. Like other comets that periodically pass the Earth, it has a highly eccentric orbit that changes as the larger planets pull at its orbit.


Astronomer Vince Ford from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Canberra's Australian National University said the comet would have been bigger and brighter 2000 years ago.


"As comets come round the Sun they lose a lot of material, up to 10%," he said.


Although Halley's comet wasn't losing that much, it would still get smaller over time as the Sun burnt away icy dust and gas.


Like other comets that return within 200 years, Halley's comet is thought to come from the Kuiper belt, a disc of comets and icy planets including Pluto, which periodically sends icy material hurtling into the solar system.


Ford said the oldest confirmed observation of Halley's comet was from Chinese recordings on 25 May in 240 BC.


Art had often been the source of evidence of sightings of Halley's comet, he said.


For example, the Bayeux tapestry depicted the comet in the lead up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. But art had also mislead astronomers, Ford said.


"Giotto painted it into his nativity scene, probably because he has recently seen Halley's comet and he was impressed," Ford said. "But the comet only appeared in 12 BC, way before the birth of Jesus."



Ancient pre-Inca graveyard found

Thu 20 May, 2004 04:34

By Monica Vargas

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - A well-preserved graveyard possibly 1,000 years old has been discovered at an archaeological complex of Inca and pre-Inca temples on the outskirts of the Peruvian capital, experts say.

Archaeologists this week unearthed the remains of 30 people, including 19 still intact as mummies, dating from between 1000 and 1500, making them some of the oldest mummies ever found in Peru.

They said the discovery was "exceptional" because the site had not been plundered by grave robbers and that some of the dead were religious sacrifices.

"It is an exceptional discovery that shows the remains of several cultures buried on top of each other. According to our calculations they date from between 1000 and 1500," archaeologist Peter Eeckhout of Brussels Free University, who led the excavation project, told reporters on Wednesday.

It was not clear to which cultures the mummies belonged but they were likely to have been farmers and craftsmen who lived before the Inca empire five centuries ago.

The graveyard, which stretches over a 200-square-metre area, is within the boundaries of the Pachacamac archaeological complex 19 miles south of Lima and its discovery follows weeks of digs by archaeologists.

The Pachacamac temple complex has been looted for valuable artefacts many times over since the first significant discoveries of mummies there over a century ago.

In the latest discovery, four of the mummies probably died as sacrifices and were either buried alive, killed by blows to the head or strangled, archaeologists said.

Holding up the remains of a 2-year-old boy, British archaeologist Lawrence Owens said: "The position of the body and the remains of his faeces indicate he tried unsuccessfully to free himself from the burial bundle and was buried alive."

Another of those sacrificed was a 12-year-old boy whose skull was cracked at the front, probably by a heavy blow.

"We found a tumi knife close to the body and its size corresponds with that of the skull fracture," Owens said.

"If you ask me if this was a ritual sacrifice, I would say yes," he added. A mummified 35-year-old man with a rope around his neck was also among the four sacrificed, Owens said.

Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of mummies in recent years that mostly date from the Inca culture, including about 2,000 unearthed from under a shantytown near the capital in 2002. In February, two mummies predating the Incas were found under a school in southern Peru.


Finding a civilization: Glen Carbon dig unearths pre-Cahokia community

By Angela Fornelli

Of the Post-Dispatch



The glass and steel skyline of St. Louis rises just 10 miles from the excavation pits in Glen Carbon, where archaeologists are sifting through the soil for pottery shards and flint chips, clues to another civilization that vanished a millennium ago.


The 1 1/2-acre excavation site is one of only a few sites in the Metro East area dating to the end of the Woodland period. The village that archaeologists are poring over preceded the Mississippian culture, which produced the fabled Cahokia Mounds near Collinsville.


The end of the Woodland period is "a time period we don't know much about," said Thomas Emerson of Champaign, Ill., director of the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program, which is conducting the excavation. "The events that took place a bit before (Cahokia) are kind of a mystery to us."


Archaeologists began excavating the area last fall, when landowner Ken Knoll sought permission to build on his 72 acres at the northwestern corner of Illinois Routes 157 and 162. Plans call for a mix of senior housing and retail businesses on the site.


State and federal laws mandate developers to protect archaeological sites before building. Archaeologists first identified the site in the 1960s when Interstate 270 was being built. But it wasn't until the 1970s that laws took effect to protect archaeologically significant sites. As a result, part of the community was lost to the construction.


Although they knew about the site, archaeologists have been surprised to find such a large and structured community, said Brad Koldehoff of Belleville, regional coordinator for the group.


He estimates that the community consisted of 12 houses, two courtyards and 167 storage or cooking pits.


"There was a house right here," Koldehoff says while pointing to a rectangular pit in the ground. "Over there, we found a post, so we think we have a courtyard," where about five houses circled.


Koldehoff can imagine life in this community as he looks across the excavation pits: He can see smoke wafting through the air as women boil corn in the fire pits. He can see kids playing a game in the field and men sharpening their hoe blades to prepare for the summer harvest.


They would live in houses made of thatch and wood. They would be in tune with the rhythms of the seasons and depend heavily on growing crops such as corn and squash. And they would often use bows and arrows to hunt deer and smaller animals.


Their dead were probably laid on elevated wooden platforms rather than buried. Koldehoff said this site is strictly a village site and no remains of the dead have been found. Earlier Woodland cultures did bury their dead in mounds, but their mounds were much smaller than those the later Mississippians built mainly for ceremonies and residences for the elite.


What happened to the village is unclear. Koldehoff theorized that villagers may have simply relocated or were absorbed by the then-rapidly growing Mississippian culture at Cahokia Mounds.


Eventually, soil washed off the nearby bluff and buried the remains of the village. Because later inhabitants of the land didn't dig down that far, the site provides a "snapshot in time" for archaeologists, Koldehoff said.


"It's sealed off from the later Mississippian culture," Koldehoff said. "It's not mixed in like when somebody moves into an old farmstead and you get stuff from the 1800s mixed in with the 2000s."


Thus far, the archaeologists have found broken pottery, charcoal for burning fires, flint chips from arrowheads and broken ax heads.


Koldehoff said analysis of these items, particularly of the pottery decoration and material, gives archaeologists clues to what time period the culture existed.


"It's like how every few years, cars change," he said. "You can tell the difference between a car from the '50s and '40s."


Koldehoff said the site is also helpful in learning more about the culture because archaeologists are able to see the boundaries of the community.


"How a city or village is organized and how big it is gives us clues to how complex their society was," he said.


Like the later Mississippian culture, the Woodland culture built mounds although they were mostly for burial. Archaeologists debate whether people of this period, formally called the Terminal Late Woodland period, eventually became part of the Mississippian culture, Koldehoff said. He said one of their research goals is to determine similarities and differences between the cultures to bring more information to this debate.


Koldehoff said archaeologists will be excavating the site for the next two to three months. The artifacts will eventually become part of the state's collection.

Reporter Angela Fornelli

E-mail: afornelli@post-dispatch.com

Phone: 618-659-3634




11:00 - 19 May 2004


Martin Hesp visits a famous castle to find out how an obscure painting has thrown light upon a garden that disappeared without trace IT was like a scene from the TV programme Time Team. In a field under a castle, camera crews ducked here and there filming men walking up and down rope-marked grids wielding strange devices.


But there was no Tony Robinson on hand at Dunster yesterday to interpret the secrets of the field, just a man holding some rather obscure looking photographs.


"These prove it existed," cried the archaeologist, waving the photos at the assembled men and women of the media. "They prove it beyond doubt."


It was hard for the TV and newspaper journalists to comprehend the abstract looking photos, but the archaeologist's enthusiasm seemed reasonable enough in the circumstances. The images had been taken by resistivity metres and magnometers - both instruments capable of seeing invisible things buried underground. And the pictures were definitely showing the right shapes in the right places.


Yesterday's tests were conducted by the National Trust (which owns the field and the castle) after an obscure painting of Dunster recently came to light. Dated 1735, and believed to be the work of local artist George Wood, the painting shows a large formal garden lying to the north of the castle.


"A member of the public brought it to our attention," said the trust's Alex Brannen. "It shows a rectangular walled garden divided by pathways and entered by an ornate gateway. Also shown is a pavilion building supported on columns with flanking flights of stairs giving access to the first floor where visitors might view the layout of the garden below."


The site is now covered in long grass and cow-pats - there is no trace whatsoever of a formal garden - so could it have been a mere flight of fancy on the part of the artist?


"There is also a painting in Dunster Castle itself which appears to show a formal garden, but which has been subsequently painted out," explained Mr Brannen. "And a plan in the Somerset Records Office from the Luttrell archive also seems to confirm the theory."


But before the trust could officially rewrite the castle's history, some scientific evidence was needed - hence yesterday's tests.


"So many of these gardens didn't actually happen," said trust archaeologist Martin Papworth. "We wanted to be able to say that it really did exist for sure.


And now we have the evidence," he smiled, waving the photographs. "You can see where the flat area is and there's an embankment - we reckon the width fits exactly with what we see on the painting."


Formal gardens were all the rage in the early 18th century, but then along came Capability Brown and suddenly landscaped parklands were in vogue. This change in horticultural fashion coincided with transfer of power at the castle.


Mr Papworth explained: "In 1737, Alexander Luttrell died, leaving the castle to his daughter Margaret. She married Henry Fownes who subsequently carried out many changes. It is quite likely that a decaying formal garden may have been swept away by Henry in the late 18th century."


Does the trust have any plans to reinstate the garden? "I wouldn't have thought so," Mr Papworth replied. "The Trust does not have the money to recreate such a thing - and formal gardens require a lot of maintenance."



Survey of commons maps buried history

Martin Wainwright

Thursday May 20, 2004

The Guardian


One of the last great mysteries of Britain's past is being unravelled by archaeologists in the first ever survey of the "people's land" - urban commons that have been protected from development for up to 1,000 years.

Significant finds are expected from up to four years' research into swaths of open space close to the heart of some of the country's busiest cities and towns, from undisturbed bronze age burial sites to temporary medieval fairgrounds.

Archaeologists using satellite mapping techniques moved on to one of the most promising sites yesterday - the network of three large commons which almost encircle the Yorkshire market town of Beverley. Traces of the original 18th-century local racecourse have already been detected by aerial surveys, along with telltale signs of bronze and iron age barrows.

Triggered by threats of development to much urban common land, the English Heritage survey is expected to bolster the sometimes fragile protection given to the patches of green. Mitch Pollington, an archaeological investigator for English Heritage, said: "Commons are archaeological encyclopaedias. They were intensively used for all sorts of activities, from communal gatherings like country fairs or political rallies to military rifle ranges in wartime.

"Features like the remains of Beverley racecourse have survived because they escaped modern ploughing, and that's also helped to preserve much older, prehistoric landmarks."

The survey has started to dig and map other commons in Lincoln, Doncaster and York, where mysterious zigzags on Walmgate Stray have been shown by tests to be practice trenches for soldiers bound for the western front.

"One of things which opened our eyes was a preliminary survey of Newcastle's famous Town Moor a few years ago," said Peter Topping who is heading the survey. "We discovered all sorts of unexpected things on what most people just see as a nice but empty space, including evidence of quarries and even mines."



Uncovering city's historic past

Excavations revealing part of Belfast's maritime past have been described as some of the most exciting in the city's archaeological history.

A section of a 19th century bridge which spanned the old docks in Belfast city centre has been uncovered during work on a major retail development.

Archaeologists have discovered the arch of Edward Bridge, later known as Mays Bridge, which dates from the early 1800s on the site of the Victoria Square development.

The scheme, which has seen several sites in the area excavated, is the largest archaeological intervention that has ever happened in Belfast's historic core.

The team involved have hailed the bridge as highly significant as it is the first time such a construction has been uncovered in an excavation in the city.

Audrey Gahan, managing director of one of the archaeological groups involved - Gahan and Long, told BBC News Online what had been found.

"This is one of the bridges that spanned across the dock and we have the arch, the spring of the bridge which is constructed of stone and red brick," she said.

"It dates to the beginning of the 19th century, the early 1800s, so it is pretty significant," she said.

"It is the first time that a bridge like this has been uncovered in an excavation in Belfast so it is pretty important."

This exercise was a major engineering feat to create a new dock in the centre of Belfast on land that had previously been foreshore and very much backwater

John O'Keefe

Environment and Heritage Service

The dig, which began in April, is expected to continue until July with various sites throughout the development being examined.

"We have been exposing the dock in various stages through Victoria Square," added Ms Gahan.

"We have only just really started this trench so we still have a fair bit to go down to expose the lower levels of the bridge - we have got about another metre."

Independent archaeological consultant Nancy Rosenberg said a detailed account of the bridge would be recorded but none of the original construction could be preserved.

"We will make a full record of it and then it will be removed because this is going to be the entrance to the underground car park so we have not got much chance of keeping it where it is," she told BBC News Online.

Cutting edge technology is being employed for the first time in Northern Ireland to ensure the detail and significance of the excavation are not lost.

River wall

"We are actually using quite a hi-tech method of recording it," said Ms Rosenberg.

"Three dimensional scanning allows us very rapidly to record it and it gives the three dimensions so that you can look at the structure from any angle which is quite new.

"It is the first time it is being used in an archaeological excavation so it is cutting edge."

Other discoveries made by the team include the wall of the dock, which extends back to Ann Street, along with earlier land reclamations and a river wall which dates between 1715 and 1750.

John O'Keeffe, an archaeologist at the Environment and Heritage Service, said the excavations so far had been some of the most exciting in Belfast's archaeological history.

"One of the biggest issues of Belfast is that it grew massively from the beginning of the 19th century to the end of the century," he said.

"It grew from something like 20,000 people in the late 1800s to well over 300,000 people by the close of the century so it was a major period of growth.

"These features are associated with the time that that growth is just about to happen and it is tied in with the early industry of the time, it is tied in with new land developments

"This exercise was a major engineering feat to create a new dock in the centre of Belfast on land that had previously been foreshore and very much backwater.

But the thing is the dock itself was only active for maybe about 20 or 30 years and it fell out of use, either commercially it did not succeed or there was some other reason that it didn't last in use.

Victoria Street was built through in the late 19th century and it massively changed the shape of the area.

"So what we are getting a chance to look at here is part of Belfast's early commerce and industry, part of its association with the River Lagan itself and by extension, its trade links, both within the province and throughout Ireland and further afield across the Irish Sea and into Britain.

"It is the first time that we have had a chance to record these things and it really gives us a sense of understanding about how this part of Belfast developed."

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2004/05/14 15:12:54 GMT




Date Published: Thursday 20 May 2004

The body of evidence...

by Lynn Jackson

INVESTIGATIVE teams have been searching for a dead body in Dorset this week... but don't have nightmares.

The body is fake and the investigators are students brushing up their forensic skills.

Masters students on a forensic archaeology course at Bournemouth University have taken to the field to put their theory into practice on a simulated hunt for a buried corpse at Down Farm near Sixpenny Handley.

A fake body was buried in a field some months ago to allow grass to grow over and cover the site before students turned up with their scientific equipment.

Teams have to ensure the area is kept secure to avoid contamination of any evidence they find, as forensic archaeologists are often called to offer expert testimony during murder trials.

And it's not all mock finds they dig up on the exercise.

Some students have unearthed animal bones buried underground as they tried to locate the hidden body.

Many on the course will go on to work alongside police forces all over the world who are hunting for people they believe may have been killed some time ago. Previous students have also joined the teams investigating mass graves in Bosnia and Iraq.

First published: May 20



Baseball dated back to 1791

Officials and historians in the US state of Massachusetts have released a 213-year-old document they believe is the earliest written reference to baseball.

A 1791 bylaw aimed to protect the windows in the town of Pittsfield's new meeting house - by banning baseball within 80 yards of the building.

The bylaw would have been written before 1839, the long debunked date when baseball was thought to have been invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York.

The document, released on Tuesday, has been verified by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Massachusetts.

"This is a wonderful story," the National Baseball Hall of Fame chief curator Ted Spencer said.

"This is a great piece of history in the development of the game."

'Not born anywhere'

A generation ago, the popular belief was that baseball was invented in 1839.

Later evidence suggested it was in 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Subsequently, a New York University librarian found two newspaper references to some form of "base ball" in 1823 in New York City, the New York Times reported.

Historian John Thorn was researching the origins of baseball when he found a reference to the bylaw in an 1869 book on Pittsfield's history.

"It's clear that not only was baseball played here in 1791, but it was rampant... enough to have an ordinance against it," Mr Thorn said.

Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden

James Ruberto

The original document was located, verified and displayed at a news conference.

"Pittsfield is baseball's Garden of Eden," the city's Mayor, James Ruberto, said.

But experts say it may be impossible to say exactly where and when baseball was born.

"There's no way of pinpointing where the game was first played," said a spokesman for the Hall of Fame.

"Baseball wasn't really born anywhere."

If the Pittsfield group's document is authentic, it would be "incredibly monumental", he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2004/05/13 12:40:02 GMT




La Voz: The Voice of De Anza College, Cupertino, California

Kisstory in action

Humanity has always loved locking lips


by: Owen Ray - A+E Editor

May 10, 2004

Locking lips with someone you love, or at least someone you think is really hot, is something that all of us savor. We spend our loneliest days and nights dreaming of what it might be like to gently press our lips against those of someone we have a secret crush on. Those of us who are lucky enough to be involved in a fulfilling, loving relationship may spend days and nights away from our significant others, longing for the familiar feel and taste of their mouths.

Kissing someone incites a feeling, that certain fuzzy rush of hormones into the gut that cannot be reproduced by any of our other day-to-day activities. Bungee jumping, skydiving and heroin combined could not possibly compare to the feeling of a passionate smooch.

Swapping spit actually consumes about 336 hours, or 20,160 minutes, of the average person's life. That time could not be possibly spent in a better way. OK, there are a few better ways, but you usually have to kiss to get there anyway.

With all of the time people spend kissing, thinking about kissing and practicing kissing their hands so they don't screw it up on the first date, nobody thinks much about where this erotic practice originated.

There are many theories as to where the romantic kiss originated and the tales range from totally disgusting to downright practical.

The earliest and most repulsive possible origin of kissing is believed to be the practice of mothers chewing up food and pushing it into their babies' mouths with their tongues. The would've loved the convenient two-ounce jars of vegetable mush that we feed our offspring today. How exactly this maternal regurgitation turned into a romantic practice of any sort, we do not know. Those damn scientists are either crazy or totally full of BS.

While on the vomit-inducing side of kisstory, it is worth exploring the possibility that humans may have picked up kissing from watching their monkey buddies go at it. According to Frans De Waal of Emory University, kissing with tongue contact is common in bonobos, a kind of pygmy chimpanzee. Watching apes kiss could certainly cause some sparks to fly. For Neanderthals, anyway.

Less revolting, yet more practical than romantic, is the ever-popular theory that the Romans are the ones that blessed us with the practice of kissing. The Romans kissed each other hello and kissed their leaders' robes and jewelry as a sign of respect. Good thing we don't have to make out with our leaders' rings and suits now. Who knows what Bill Clinton's hands and clothes may have had on them.

Some also claim Roman men kissed their wives when they arrived home from battle to see if they have been dipping into their wine stash. How romantic.

The first erotic kiss may have been exchanged in India around 1500 B.C., said Dr. Vaughn Bryant Jr. in a Chicago Tribune article. This comes as no surprise, seeing that there were references to kissing in the original Kama Sutra, written in India over 1500 years ago.

There are also some biological factors that contribute to our desire to suck face. The act of kissing signals our brain to produce the hormone oxytocin, the chemical that produces that "tummy full of fuzzy squirrel tails" feeling we all enjoy so much.

Making out creates feelings so strong, there have been laws written to prevent oral exchanges, some of which still stand today.

In 1903, the Minnesota legislature introduced a bill that declared, "It shall be unlawful for one person to kiss another unless he has proved that he is free from contagious disease and further that a certificate from a physician declaring a person to have a weak heart, shall continue a bar to the indulgence of kissing."

As if it isn't already cold enough in Minnesota. Indiana has a law on the books that makes it illegal for a man with a moustache to "habitually kiss human beings." True, moustaches do suck, but at least Indiana lawmakers were nice enough to say nothing to prevent their mustachioed residents from making out with farm animals.

Now you can comfortably make out all night, now that you know about the regurgitating mothers, brown-nosing Romans and hot primates that may have given us our favorite form of foreplay.