New twist on out-of-Africa theory

Judy Skatssoon

ABC Science Online

Wednesday, 14 July  2004


Early humans made love, not war, according to new DNA analysis presented at a genetics conference that gives a new twist on the out-of-Africa hypothesis of human origins.


U.S. researcher Professor Alan Templeton of Washington University, St Louis, debunks the prevailing version of the out-of-Africa hypothesis, which says early humans migrated from Africa and wiped out Eurasian populations.


Instead, they bred, he told the Genetics Society of Australia's annual conference in Melbourne this week.


Templeton said his evidence didn't support the so-called replacement theory in which African hominids caused the extinction of other Homo species.


Instead, he said his analysis of the human genome showed prehistoric gene-swapping created a single evolutionary lineage beginning in Africa and ending where we are today.


He looked at mitochondrial DNA, as well as DNA on a range of chromosomes including X and Y.


"The genetic legacy of current humans is predominantly of African origin," he said.


Templeton is the first to suggest expansion out of Africa occurred in three waves: 2 million years ago, 800,000 years ago and 100,000 years ago.


The alternative view suggests that expansion out of Africa occurred twice and caused the genetic extinction of existing populations, with the colonisers later diversifying into separate races.


What about races?


But Templeton said this extinction never happened and a combination of movement and interbreeding meant diversification of races didn't occur.


"We really have to abandon the idea of race. It actually does not reflect the genetic differences we can now measure in an objective fashion."


Templeton said the differences between human populations today were based on geography not genetics.


This meant a Norwegian would be more closely related than a Fijian to someone from sub-Saharan Africa.


"We do see differences in different regions of the world but the best indicator of those differences is simply geographical distance and not things like skin colour."


Templeton said his data was inconclusive on whether interbreeding also occurred with Neanderthals.


But he said there was fossil evidence that this probably occurred, which would imply a bit of Neanderthal could live on in us all.


Australian geneticist Associate Professor Philip Batterham from the University of Melbourne said the research showed humanity was far more closely related that previously thought and that race was a cultural phenomenon.


Templeton's research was published in the journal Nature in March 2002.

For further information, please contact:

Lorna Branton

University of Sheffield




Posted By:

University of Sheffield

13 July 2004 ‘Sistine Chapel of the Ice Age’ found at Creswell Crags


A team of researchers led by the University of Sheffield and supported by English Heritage have found eighty 13,000-year-old carvings in limestone rock of Church Hole Cave, at Creswell Crags in Nottinghamshire. The carvings are a unique find and form the most elaborate cave art ceiling in the world.

The carvings, which appear on the ceiling of the cave, represent animal figures, including deer, bears, birds and possibly dancing women.

Dr Paul Pettitt, of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, led the research. He explains, “This find represents the most richly carved ceiling in the whole of cave art and shows a number of new themes and techniques. It also demonstrates that cave art is spread across a much wider geographical area than we originally thought.”

Dr Paul Bahn, a member of the research team and one of the world’s leading experts on Ice Age art explains, “We saw the figures during sunny mornings, when the cave was illuminated by a brilliant reflected light, which is how I presume they were supposed to be viewed. This type of carving is extremely rare on cave ceilings and is a significant find.”

Jon Humble, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for English Heritage said, “The people who lived in Creswell Crags some 13,000 years ago have quite literally carved out its place in prehistory, the present and indeed the future.”


Notes for editor

1. The discovery of cave art is the most important find from the British Palaeolithic since the discovery of 500,000 year old hominid remains from Boxgrove, West Sussex in the mid 1990s.

2. Most rock art in Britain is thought to be c.8,000 later than the Creswell discoveries, and typically occurs as a variety of engraved or pecked motifs on rock faces and boulders in open, non-cave situations. Recently English Heritage has provided funding to Bournemouth University to carry out a review of English rock art sites, to enable improved conservation measures.

3. The research and dissemination of information about the rock art at Creswell Crags is being undertaken as a partnership between the research team (Dr Paul Pettitt, Dr Sergio Ripoll, Dr Francisco Muńoz and Dr Paul Bahn), The University of Sheffield, English Heritage and Creswell Heritage Trust. This has included an international conference hosted at the community centre in Creswell village at Easter 2004.

4. The Creswell Heritage Trust is an independent charitable Trust supported by Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire County Councils, Lafarge Lime, Severn Trent Water, English Heritage and English Nature. The Trust’s patrons are Professor David Bellamy and Sir Martin Doughty. The Trust works closely with a number of professional and scientific bodies including Sheffield University and the British Museum.



Study Finds Craftsmen Might Be Neanderthal

Archaeologists Reexamine Bones From Ancient Cave

By Guy Gugliotta

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, July 8, 2004; Page A03

For decades, evidence from ancient caves suggested that the world's first works of art were created by modern humans when they arrived in Europe about 40,000 years ago, but new research has revived the possibility that the early craftsmen may have been Neanderthals.

Archaeologists using modern dating techniques showed that the supposedly ancient remains of modern humans found buried in a cave in Vogelherd, in southwest Germany, were only between 3,900 and 5,000 years old, far younger than the lovely figurines that someone carved inside the cave more than 30,000 years ago.

Vogelherd, world famous since its discovery in 1931, was the last significant site that had directly linked modern humans with "Aurignacian" artwork and tools from the period between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago when humankind first made objects with aesthetic as well as utilitarian purposes.

"Vogelherd has dated young, like several other sites," said paleoanthropologist Nicholas J. Conard of Germany's University of Tubingen. "Now we're in the uncomfortable position of having a question and no answers."

The Aurignacian culture encompasses several millenniums when modern humans coexisted in Europe with Neanderthals, the Ice Age predecessors who had lived there for at least 100,000 years.

Neanderthals became extinct about 30,000 years ago. How this happened -- whether through disease, intermarriage or obliteration by their cleverer successors -- is one of anthropology's persistent mysteries.

"For years, the thinking was that in the Aurignacian -- with its evidence of art, musical instruments and ornaments -- we were dealing with people like you and me," Conard said in a telephone interview from his Tubingen office. "If Neanderthals were doing it, that would be a shock."

But possible. "This is a good thing, because it shows that maybe you should be careful what you take for granted," said University of California paleoanthropologist Clark Howell, in a telephone interview from Berkeley. "I would argue that there are still a few bits and pieces [of human remains] that have passed all the tests. They are not Neanderthal, but they're not conclusive, either."

Conard, reporting in this week's issue of the journal Nature with co-authors Pieter M. Grootes of the University of Kiel and Fred H. Smith of Loyola University of Chicago, reexamined the work of Gustav Riek, the pre-World War II German archaeologist who excavated Vogelherd before modern radiocarbon and spectrographic dating methods were invented.

Previously dated animal bones from the cave were more than 30,000 years old -- contemporary with a dozen figurines found in the cave. "There's no question they're Aurignacian," Conard said. "The figurines are mammoth, wooly rhinos, horses, reindeer -- Ice Age animals."

The human remains, however -- a skull, a jawbone, a thigh, an upper arm and two vertebrae -- proved to be much younger, "intrusive" objects buried beneath the older artifacts. "Riek was very famous, but it seems clear that while he was digging, he messed it up," Conard said. "I have no reason to believe he falsified his results."

Conard described the Vogelherd cave as the "last linchpin" tying modern humans to Aurignacian artifacts. Without Vogelherd, experts are left in an odd situation in which there are no significant human remains -- modern or Neanderthal -- that can be linked to any Aurignacian artifacts.

"It's amazing how few human remains there are," said University of Arizona archaeologist Steven Kuhn, reached by telephone in Ankara, Turkey, where he is working on an excavation. "It could be a change in burial custom. Or it could be that we just haven't found the sites."

He said his own excavation would not resolve the dispute: "It's a 40,000-year-old site with lots of ornaments," he said. "But there are no human fossils associated with it. We wish we knew who lived there."

Kuhn was skeptical about the possibility that Neanderthals created the early artwork, noting that for tens of thousands of years in Europe "they're not doing this, then suddenly they are? It points to something extraordinary happening, either the arrival of modern humans or something else" as yet unknown.

New York University's Randall White, working this summer in France, also noted the growing evidence that while Neanderthals sometimes buried their dead in their homes, they never buried them with artifacts. He added that there is virtually no evidence that Neanderthals made artwork in any context.

"There is no association of Neanderthal remains with Aurignacian artifacts," White said in a telephone interview from Bordeaux. But, he added, "that said, it would not surprise me to find some."

He acknowledged that the Vogelherd findings had somewhat undercut the argument in favor of modern humans as the ancient artisans.

"We don't understand what [modern humans] did with their dead," White said. "Maybe you don't bury them, but you transform them into ornaments instead. Or maybe you take them out to the woods and bury them there. We'd never find them."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company






A TWO-thousand-year-old child's skeleton has been found in a 'time team' dig at Worksop - hailed as one of the most significant archaeological finds in the region for years.


The child was still adorned with bangles and bracelets, and is believed to be from a high-ranking Iron Age tribe which flourished during the Roman occupation.

The site on Raymoth Lane, Gateford, is being excavated by Polish expert Alex Cetera before more than 200 Barratt homes are built on top of it.

He has been joined by archaeologists from Britain and abroad to find more details of the occupants, who lived there in a lavish stronghold in the first or second century AD.

The skeleton of the child, who was aged around nine or ten, was found in a crouched position with bracelets looped over its tiny arm.

Ursilla Spence, senior archaeologist for Nottinghamshire County Council, said the discovery was very exciting.

"We simply did not expect to find anything like this. The bones have been taken to Lincoln for tests," she said.

"It is impossible to say at this stage if it was a boy or a girl or what the cause of death was. But we do know this was a 'high status' burial because of the objects that were buried with the body."

Also clear is the Roman influence on the burial - the Romans would have buried children and old people close to their homes so they could still be 'part of the family'.

The dig has discovered that the tribe living on the site probably had close links with the Romans and traded in what would have been the luxury goods of the period.

It is possible the tribal leaders could have included powerful chiefs, similar to Boudicca or Cartimandua.

Remains of an imposing entrance to the compound have been unearthed - but the experts have been baffled by evidence that suggests the area was later cleared and abandoned.

Local volunteers have been working alongside the specialists and Barratt are funding the project.

The site was discovered using aerial photos which showed a D-shaped compound on a prime defensive outcrop, and traces of a large roundhouse inside.

Early excavations produced quality pottery and coins from the middle Roman period, indicating the tribe had considerable wealth and influence.

The site has attracted unwelcome attention from relic hunters with metal detectors, and security had to be increased.

An open day is being held at the site, off the B6040, this Friday from 10am to 7pm, with guided tours and a chance to see the artefacts uncovered so far.


07 July 2004



Ancient Skeleton Collection Yields Cancer Clues

John Pickrell

for National Geographic News

July 13, 2004


A new study of over 3,000 human skeletons in a Croatian archaeological collection suggests that cancer is more common today than at any point in humankind's history, the report's authors say.

A team of Croatian archaeologists and medics studied ancient human remains dating from 5,300 B.C. to the mid-19th century. The bones, which came from 21 archaeological sites scattered around the eastern European country, are stored at the Skeletal Collection of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb.


Seeking a snapshot of historic human cancer rates over seven millennia, a team of archaeologists and medics examined 3,160 skeletons in a collection at the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Above, a femur, or thigh bone, shows signs of a benign tumor around the joint.


Examining the ancient skeletons, researchers found scant evidence of the telltale imprints that some cancers leave.

"While cancer is the number one or two killer in most developed countries today, it was very rare in antiquity," said Mario Slaus, who led the study. Slaus is an anthropologist with the department of archaeology at the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

"Archaeological populations had little to fear from cancer," he said. "Other infectious diseases where significantly more likely to result in death or affect their quality of life."

Slaus and his colleague presented their study's findings at a meeting of the European Association of Cancer Research in Innsbruck, Austria, earlier this month.

The researchers argue that cancer is more common today because people now have much longer life spans than they did just a few centuries ago. In Croatia, for example, the current average life expectancy is around 74 years. But the average age of death found in the archaeological remains that researchers studied was just 36 years.

Longer human life spans enable slow-developing cancers to appear.

Boney Tumors

The cancer rate in both the developed and developing world continues to increase year by year.

Most cancers are restricted to organs and other soft tissues, but several types leave evidence in the skeleton. While primary tumors of bone, which develop initially in the bone itself, are rare today, secondary metastatic bone tumors are relatively common.

These secondary bone tumors occur when cancers in other soft tissues migrate and form tumors, or metastasize, in the skeleton. They are often found in people who develop cancer later in life.

Both primary and secondary metastatic bone cancer are recognizable as malformations that can be spotted in skeletal remains.

Slaus and his colleagues used this knowledge during their quest to understand the prevalence of cancer through seven millennia of Croatian human history. The team analyzed the bones of 3,160 people held in the Skeletal Collection of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts for both types of tumor.

When researchers ran across something that looked like an unusual growth or scarring in a skeleton, they examined the bones more closely with x-rays and CTscans.

What the scientists found was much the same as has been demonstrated in other archaeological remains: The incidence of cancer was very low. This was particularly true for metastatic bone cancers, the type common in older cancer victims today.

Leprosy More Common

The researchers found benign tumors in four skeletal remains. Tumors were found on the femurs, or thigh bones, of a teenager from a fourth-century necropolis in the town of Mursa, a former Roman colony.

Evidence of a benign tumor was also discovered in the bones of a three- to four-year-old child unearthed in a medieval cemetery near Zagreb.

Another tumor was found in the femur of the remains of man in his 40s found in an 11th-century cemetery in the town of Lobor.

Researchers also discovered tumor signs in the skull of a 50- to 60-year-old man whose remains date to the third or fourth century B.C. and were found on the island of Vis, in the Adriatic Sea.

"The low frequency of [cancer] in the Croatian Skeletal Collection is characteristic for archaeological material," Slaus said. He believes the most likely explanation for the total lack of secondary metastatic bone tumors is that the mean age of death of the specimens is 36 years of age.

While cancer evidence was rare in the remains researchers examined, signs of other diseases, such as syphilis, tuberculosis, and leprosy—which damage bone as well as soft tissue—were much more common.

Slaus notes that cancer would have been as unusual and strange in historical societies as leprosy would seem to us today.

"Star of the Show"

This "fascinating" collection of Croatian skeletons "should prove a valuable resource for other studies," Bruce Rothschild commented. An expert on studying disease in ancient bones, Rothschild is a skeletal pathologist at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown. "The authors have a tremendous opportunity with the collection they describe," he said.

Rothschild said that in the roughly 30,000 skeletons from archaeological sites he has examined, cancer—particularly the secondary metastatic form—has also been extremely rare. The pathologist cautions, however, that many metastatic cancers might not cause obvious malformation in the bone and would initially require x-raying to detect.

Speaking of his study, Slaus said, "The bone collection is the real star of the show." Since his study was completed, the number of skeletons has already increased to more than 4,000. The resource continues to grow.

The remains are now being used to study the frequency and distribution of other afflictions and premature deaths, from arthritis and dental disease to fractures and even possible murders.

Slaus said, "Taken together, all of these data helped to corroborate or disprove various archaeological or historic theories and also provide important data not available through other sources."

The unique skeleton collection is now helping to paint an extraordinarily detailed picture of eastern European life and health throughout the ages.



Bones reveal chubby monks aplenty

Martin Wainwright

Thursday July 15, 2004

The Guardian


The full truth about one of Britain's favourite historical fatties has been tracked down by a three-year study of overweight medieval monks.

Robin Hood's companion Friar Tuck had hundreds of real-life counterparts, according to a newly published analysis of skeletons in three monastic burial sites in London.

Suet, lard and butter were wolfed down in "startling quantities" by the closed communities, whose abbots often depended on arranging large and regular helpings to keep their flocks under control.

"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach and this seems specially to have been the case with monks," said Philippa Patrick, of the Institute of Archaeology, at University College, London. "They were taking in about 6,000 calories a day, and 4,500 even when they were fasting."

Arthritis in knees, hips and fingertips showed that the often under-employed monks were seriously obese.

Ms Patrick, whose findings were revealed to the International Medieval Congress, meeting in Leeds, said: "Their meals were full of saturated fats. They were five times more likely to suffer from obesity than their secular contemporaries, including wealthy merchants or courtiers."

The reckless scoffing was in clear breach of St Benedict's austere rules laid down probably in 530, which warned: "There must be no danger of overeating, so that no monk is overtaken by indigestion, for there is nothing so opposed to Christian life as overeating."

Critics, such as Peter the Venerable, who slated monks for "wearing furs and eating fat", were advised however that Benedict had also warned about grumbling: "Brethren would indeed grumble if deprived of the food to which they are accustomed."

The skeletal data, from 300 sets of bones found at Tower Hill, Bermondsey, and Merton abbeys, includes information on a medical condition known now as Dish (diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis) triggered by overeating and a rich diet. "The marks of Dish keep appearing on their skeletons. It forms a coating on the spine like candlewax dripping down the side," said Ms Patrick.

The findings tally with satire that developed a keener edge after the Black Death and food shortages. Friar Tuck was only one of many fat fictional characters based on medieval churchmen by resentful lay storytellers.

The new evidence backs records from Westminster Abbey, showing that six eggs a day was normal for monks. In the middle ages, monkish obesity was Europe-wide. The Portuguese Cistercians had a test: monks unable to squeeze through a certain doorway at Alcobaca monastery's dining room had to fast while slimmer colleagues tucked into "pastry in vast abundance".

Friar's tucker

A 13th century Cluniac friar's possible daily intake based on Ms Patrick's studies:

11am-1pm Three eggs, boiled or fried in lard. Vegetable porridge with beans, leeks, carrots and other produce of monastery garden. Pork chops, bacon, and mutton. Capon, duck and goose with oranges. Half pound of bread, to use as sop. Peaches, strawberries and bilberries with egg flan. Four pints of small (watery) beer.

4-6pm Mutton gruel with garlic and onions. Posset of egg, milk and figs. Venison with rowanberries, figs, sloes, hazelnuts and apple. Stewed eels, herring, pike, dolphin, lamphreys, salmon, cod and trout. Half pound of bread as sop, sometimes soaked in dripping or lard. Syllabubs of fruit. Four pints of ale. Flagon of sack or other French, Spanish or Portuguese wine.



Archaelogists unearth sacred worshipping site

Archaeologists have been excavating a sacred worshipping site since the middle of June, unearthing many valuable historic secrets near Ho Dynasty’s Citadel in the north central province of Thanh Hoa.

The site is 20,000sq.m, and is located 2.5km from the Ho Dynasty’s Citadel at Don Son Mountain (also known as Dun Mountain) in the Vinh Thanh Commune, which is in the Vinh Loc District.

Archaeologists from the Viet Nam Archaeology Institute and Ethnology Reservation Institute found from the first digs three floors with a small palace where kings would lead a few days of strict diet before worshipping ceremonies.

Examining results at four places around the site show the remains of stone walls, gates, roof tiles, and floor tiles with complex decoration patterns of the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400).

On the southwest side of the site, where the excavation hole is, they found a stone wall 25m long and pieces of tiles, brick and baked clay, 50 by 50cm and 50 by 48cm, decorated with figures of dragons, lotus petals and chrysanthemum similar to relics found in the Thang Long Citadel, which was under the Tran Dynasty.

On the east side of the site, they discovered two gate foundations that prove that the gate was 1.5m wide. Archaeologists believe this is the east gate leading to the upper, round floor of the worshipping site.

The southern excavation hole unearthed the remains of a staircase leading to the top floor. They are still unsure exactly how many staircases lead to this floor.

"Up to now, we consider this site as the most intact worshipping site in the country, and certainly the most valuable of its kind," said archaeologist Nguyen Hong Kien from the Ethnology Reservation Institute.

He added that the Nguyen Dynasty built the Nam Giao worshipping site in Hue between 1802-1819, later than the one they recently unearthed; it was later destroyed and rebuilt. A similar site was built in Ha Noi under the Le Dynasty in the middle of the 15th century, but has been completely destroyed. If it remained, it would be at the end of Ba Trieu Street.

The Ho Citadel in Thanh Hoa, of the Ho Dynasty, was built in 1402, according to the book Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu (The Complete History of Dai Viet). Archaeologists have not, however, found the round level of the Ho Citadel in Thanh Hoa.

Kien said that a worshipping site of this kind consists of two levels, the lower in square form, representing humans and the earth; the upper level is round, representing heaven.

He added that the sacred site located in La Thanh (the area surrounding the Ho Citadel), which was used to raise bamboo trees.

The Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu mentions that under feudal reigns, every three years there was a great heaven worshipping ceremony, every two years there was a medium-size ceremony, and every year there was a small ceremony.

"This new excavation plays an important role in Ho reign citadel relics," said Kien. "There is a road running through the excavation area that ought to be blocked for a period to facilitate our project, so that we can understand better the Ho reign—a rather short period, 1400-1407, but one that left important marks in the nation’s history." — VNS



Posted on Mon, Jul. 12, 2004

Archaeologists unearth first town incorporated by African-American


St. Louis Post-Dispatch


PIKE COUNTY, Ill. - (KRT) - The tale of a small Illinois town, extinct for nearly 100 years, is being rebuilt and retold piece by piece.

Last month, an archaeological team of 15 people from around the country finished the first of a three-phase excavation of a rolling farm field about 35 miles southeast of Quincy, Ill.

The team spent five weeks digging thousands of artifacts from the 42-acre prairie grass pasture once known as New Philadelphia - the first town in the United States incorporated by an African-American.

"Our goal is to make this place a part of the national public memory," said Paul Shackel, an anthropology professor at the University of Maryland and lead archaeologist on the New Philadelphia site. "I think this is a very important step."

Local historians cite Brooklyn, Ill., as being the oldest African-American city. Black residents settled in Brooklyn (then known as Lovejoy) as early as the 1830s, but the town was not incorporated until after the Civil War.

New Philadelphia's history began with Francis "Free Frank" McWorter, a black slave from Kentucky who earned enough money mining saltpeter to buy his freedom. McWorter bought, subdivided and sold 42 acres in Pike County and incorporated it in 1836 - a time when much of the country was segregated. He used the revenue from the parcels of land to buy the freedom of 16 of his family members so they could join him in Illinois.

Shackel said that McWorter's efforts helped shape a rare, racially integrated community. By 1870, more than a third of the town's 170 people were black, he said. It became a commercial hub for traders, carpenters, shoemakers and blacksmiths until 1868, when the railroad was routed several miles north. The move choked the town's small economy.

"That was the death knell of the town," Shackel said. "It was strangled. And people slowly left."

By 1900, just six households remained. Years later, the land - and the town's heritage with it - was plowed over, as if it never existed.

The archaeological team of three investigators and 12 college students was handpicked from around the country. The project, set to end in 2006, is sponsored by the National Research Foundation and is a collaboration of the University of Maryland, the University of Illinois-Springfield, the Illinois State Museum in Springfield and the nonprofit New Philadelphia Association. Shackel said he hopes to add the site to the National Register of Historic Places. Two student archaeological teams will resume excavations for the next two summers.

The project began in fall 2002 with a series of weekend surveys that unearthed more than 7,000 artifacts, including broken ceramic bits, glass shards and rusted nails.

Archaeologists have uncovered what they think is a mortar pit used for mixing lime and the remnants of what could have been a basement garbage pit.

They also found a miniature pewter pitcher and spoon from a child's tea or dollhouse set and an 1898 Indian Head penny.

The findings are promising for future discoveries, said Terry Martin, the curator of anthropology at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield.

"There's good potential for lots of social history via our archaeological study," he said. Dana Blount, 23, who majors in history at Alabama's Tuskegee University, said she was drawn to the project because of McWorter's compelling story.

"To me, it's putting the pieces together and being at the bottom level of who and what was here," Blount said. "It's about being a part of history."

Nicole Armistead, a former bridge builder, is trustee of New Philadelphia Land Trust, which owns the 42-acre pasture. Armistead is also vice president of the New Philadelphia Association and has lived on a farm next to the site since 1988. She said her goal is to raise awareness of New Philadelphia history and someday transform the land into a museum and full-time archaeological site.

"I can just picture these pioneer people," she said. "They either had to make it themselves, build it themselves or find it - themselves. I wonder what made this town so unique that allowed these blacks and whites to come together to live."

Accepting the challenge of finding out is Richard Fairley, 20, who begins his junior year at Lane College in Jackson, Tenn. Fairley is among the 15 team members cleaning and cataloging the findings at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield.

"Being an African-American, it's helped me a lot in learning about my heritage and background of `Free Frank,'" said Fairley. He was enthusiastic about the team's finding of a tiny pewter spoon. "That whole spoon was in the ground that way. I always say, `If these things could talk.'"


© 2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.



July 13, 2004

Intriguing weekend of gunpowder, gladiators and gruesome bones

By Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent

DO YOU want to make a Roman battle standard or visit a gunpowder factory? Meet a Celtic warrior or find out how TV archaeology programmes are made? Then next weekend’s National Archaeology Days (NAD) are for you, with events at nearly 180 venues across England and Wales on July 17 and 18.

Co-ordinated by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) but organised at grassroots by local and national museums and other bodies, NAD are aimed at children of all ages, and at adults who have never lost, or have found, a curiosity about the past. Many of the events are free, while others make a small charge.

In Cornwall and Devon, the Museum of Submarine Telegraphy near Penzance is offering a walk through St Levan’s past in the Porthcurno area, and the Trewortha Farm Bronze Age Village near Launceston has prehistoric activities, including spinning, flint-knapping and coin making. At the opposite end of England, the Chesters and Corbridge Roman sites on Hadrian’s Wall have tours of their collections and chances to see conservators at work.

English Heritage is running a plethora of programmes at its Fort Cumberland base near Portsmouth, including an Archaeological Trail “which takes families through the processes of archaeology”, a series of talks, including several on the hardware of D-Day, and demonstrations ranging from gladiatorial combat to underwater archaeology. The Museum of London has a similarly wide range of activities, grouped around the theme of “People from the Past”: skeletons of early Londoners will be on display in “Secrets of the Dead” on Saturday and Sunday, and on the Sunday visiting experts from Cambridge and Manchester Universities will lecture on tracing ancestry by DNA and on facial reconstructions.

Other venues open in London include the Roman amphitheatre below Guildhall, the Billingsgate Roman baths, and a “dig” for children aged five and over, excavating real objects with the help of professional archaeologists, at the museum’s Mortimer Wheeler House.

In London’s suburbs, the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill and the Syon Park dig in Brentford will be open, as will the Harrow Museum, Forty Hall in Enfield, and Ottakar’s Bookshop in Staines, which is offering “Roman Fun and Games for all the family”. Rocket-making and firing are demonstrated at the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey in Essex, while at the Museum of Kent Life, near Maidstone, Julian Richards, of the television series Meet the Ancestors, talks about how the programmes are made.

Almost every county has at least one venue offering activities to explain our past and show how exciting it can be to find out about it: all are listed on the CBA website, along with contact details for the individual event organisers.




Poo power could light up museum

Updated 15 July 2004, 08.01


Bosses at London's Science Museum have come up with an unusual way to save money on electricity - poo power!

Three million people visit the museum every year and museum staff think their waste could help power the building.

There are a couple of different ways poo power could work, and it could make enough power for 15,000 lightbulbs.

Head of the Museum Jon Tucker, 43, said: "with free admission it would be a great way for visitors to give something back to the Museum."

Try the science quiz

The museum is always looking at new ways to keep bills low and has recently fitted solar panels into the roof.

The idea has come from some new research in the US called microbial fuel cells.

They use electrically charged particles in bacteria from waste to power an electric circuit.

In Australia pig waste is used to power some farms and in Thailand scientists are trying to work out how to make cars powered by our waste.