Neolithic homes unearthed at roadside


A Bronze Age cemetery is one of a number of prehistoric settlements that have been discovered in County Down.


Neolithic homes, which date to 4000 BC, were also uncovered by archaeologists along the A1 road near Newry.


Evidence from the excavation is being preserved before work begins on upgrading the road at Loughbrickland.


Head archaeologist Kevin Beachus said the find, which he described as "significant" was far more then his team expected.


"We didn't expect quite so rich a find, we knew there would be something there or supposed there would be, but we had no idea it was going to be as wealthy as it is.


"The three neolithic houses which are about 6,000 years old, there are perhaps 30 maybe 35 in the entire UK known.


"We have got three of them, so they are very important.


"I think our findings are going to be used by universities, I would have thought, as a teaching aid for many years to come.


"The burials have been buried inside bronze age pots, each pot is buried in the centre of a circle or a ditch and then that is filled over the top."


The archaeologists, which were brought onto the site by the Roads Service, have only a few days to collect their findings before work begins on the project.


"I'm afraid the road is going to be bulldozing its way straight through the site in the next few days," said Mr Beachus.


However, he added that he was confident everything would be preserved in time and that future generations would learn a lot from the artefacts.


"I have got a wonderful team on site and I have no doubt that we will have it cleared by then."


Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2004/08/31 13:03:43 GMT




Did the First Americans Come From, Er, Australia?

Mon Sep 6, 9:24 AM ET

EXETER, England (Reuters)


Anthropologists stepped into a hornets' nest on Monday, revealing research that suggests the original inhabitants of America may in fact have come from what is now known as Australia.


The claim will be extremely unwelcome to today's native Americans who came overland from Siberia and say they were there first.


But Silvia Gonzalez from John Moores University in Liverpool said skeletal evidence pointed strongly to this unpalatable truth and hinted that recovered DNA would corroborate it.


"This is very contentious," Gonzalez, a Mexican, said with a smile at the annual meeting of the British association for the Advancement of Science. "They (native Americans) cannot claim to have been the first people there."


She said there was very strong evidence that the first migration came from Australia via Japan and Polynesia and down the Pacific Coast of America.


Skulls of a people with distinctively long and narrow heads discovered in Mexico and California predated by several thousand years the more rounded features of the skulls of native Americans.


One particularly well preserved skull of a long-face woman had been carbon dated to 12,700 years ago, whereas the oldest accurately dated native American skull was only about 9,000 years old.


"We have extracted her DNA. It is going to be a bomb," she said, declining to give details but adding that the tests carried out so far were being replicated to make sure they were accurate.


She said there were tales from Spanish missionaries of an isolated coastal community of long-face people in Baja California of a completely different race and rituals from other communities in America at the time.


These last survivors were wiped out by diseases imported by the Spanish conquerors, Gonzalez said.


The research is one of 11 different projects in America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East being funded over a four-year period by Britain's Natural Environment Research Council.


The projects, focusing on diet, dating and dispersal of people down the millennia in the face of climate change, aim to rewrite anthropology.


"We want to make headlines from heads," said Professor Clive Gamble of Southampton University. "DNA will give us a completely new map of the world and how we peopled it."


Headless skeletons found in Pacific graveyard.

30/08/2004. ABC News Online

[This is the print version of story http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200408/s1188374.htm]

Last Update: Monday, August 30, 2004. 8:05pm (AEST)


Archaeologists say they expect to gain valuable information from the oldest cemetery found in the Pacific islands.


A team from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra says 13 headless skeletons of the Lapita people have been unearthed in the 3000-year-old cemetery in Vanuatu.


Traces of the Lapita, considered the ancestors of all Pacific Islanders beyond the Solomons, have been found in more than 100 other archaeological digs across the region.


ANU archaeologist Matthew Spriggs says finding remains of Lapita people is so rare that, until the recent Vanuatu discovery, many archaeologists believed they must have buried their dead at sea.


Mr Spriggs says work at the site is being coordinated with the Vanuatu National Museum.


2004 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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French Egyptologists Defend Pyramid Theory

Saturday September 4, 2004 8:46 AM


Associated Press Writer


CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - A pair of French Egyptologists who suspect they have found a previously unknown chamber in the Great Pyramid urged Egypt's antiquities chief to reconsider letting them test their theory by drilling new holes in the 4,600-year-old structure.


Jean Yves Verd'hurt and fellow Frenchman Gilles Dormion, who has studied pyramid construction for more than 20 years, are expected to raise their views during the ninth International Congress of Egyptologists in Grenoble, France, which starts Monday. They also published a book about their theory this week.


Standing in their way is Zahi Hawass, the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, who heatedly rejected the theories during a Cairo press conference this week.


``There are 300 theories concerning hidden rooms and other things inside the pyramid, but if I let them all test their theories they will do untold damage to the pyramid, which was built with the blood of Egyptians,'' said Hawass. ``I will not let Egyptian blood be damaged by amateurs.''


He said earlier requests from the same pair were turned down in 1999 and 2003.


In their book, ``The Room of Cheops,'' Dormion and Verd'hurt write that 1988 study of an area below the queen's burial chamber in the pyramid found what appeared to be an 11-foot ``structure,'' according to the French magazine Science and Future.


``The study of this part of the pyramid was always neglected because there had been a grill to block access,'' they wrote. ``While we were working on ventilation in 1988, we were able to penetrate into the depths and study briefly but not enough to state anything essential.''


Verd'hurt laughed off Hawass' ``amateur'' tag, citing previous close relationships with Egyptian antiquities officials and work that he and Dormion had conducted in 1998 on the Medium pyramid south of Cairo, which dates back more than 4,500 years to the 4th pharaonic dynasty.


The work at Medium, according to Verd'hurt, led to the discovery of two rooms and two passages that had been previously ``undisturbed and unknown.'' They want to do similar work at the Great Pyramid, built by Khufu, a ruler also known as Cheops.


``To be sure of this process, we wanted to verify the result of our architectural works using a radar that confirmed the location of a passage and a system of closures. So I think that now we should at least take these results into account in order to go further in our work.''


Verd'hurt said Egyptian opposition to his theory is a ``shame.'' They are expected to raise the issue again with Hawass in Grenoble, but the Egyptian antiquities official said he will not speak to them.


Verd'hurt said he was disappointed by Hawass' refusal.


``It's true that Cheops arouses and attracts passions but, with regard to history, it's really too bad,'' he said. ``I think it's too bad that he doesn't sit down with us to let us explain ourselves.''


Associated Press reporter Kate Brumback in Paris contributed to this report.



Uncovering the secrets of the Great Pyramid

August 29 2004 at 01:18PM 

By Annick Benoist


Paris - Two French amateur archaelogists this week published a book in which they claim to have located the secret burial chamber of the Pyramid of Cheops near Cairo, the largest pyramid ever built.


According to the study of the Great Pyramid, a fourth, undiscovered room lies underneath its so-called Queen's chamber, and is likely to have been the burial chamber for Cheops, an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled from 2560 to 2532 BC.


Cheops' final resting place has never been found despite decades of investigation at the site, but the French researchers are being denied access to the pyramid to put their theory to the test.


Gilles Dormion, an architect by training, and Jean-Yves Verd'hurt, set out to probe the mysteries of the Great Pyramid with a first trip in 1986, returning to the site in 1998.


Using a technique called microgravimetry, which measures the density of materials, they discovered what appeared to be a cavity underneath the Queen's chamber, where they also found evidence that the stone tiling had been been moved at some point.


Japanese scientists later confirmed the existence of a cavity a few metres wide, using radar technology.


The French team suggests this is a corridor leading to a further chamber, hidden deep in the belly of the pyramid, which could be the elusive sepulchral room - but have been unable to put their theory to the test.


"It is still a hypothesis, but everything adds up and points to the same conclusion. We need the authorisation to carry out a search," Dormion was quoted as saying by the French newspaper Liberation.


Egyptian authorities are currently denying them access to the pyramid on the grounds that neither is a specialist - although their project has the backing of a top French academic.


Many pharaohs built their own pyramid for their mummified body to be preserved away from human view and sacrilege.


According to the French pair, none of the pyramid's three existing rooms would have been strong enough to qualify as a royal burial chamber Nwhich needs to withstand the test of centuries.


In the so-called King's room, at the top of a steep shaft reaching up inside the pyramid, they point to deep cracks in the massive granite blocks that form the chamber's ceiling as evidence of this.


The Queen's chamber, meanwhile, cannot be sealed off, meaning it could not have been used as a burial chamber, while work on the third known room was abandoned before it was completed.


The Pyramid of Cheops, greatest of the three pyramids at Gizeh, stands 147 metres tall and 230,34 metres across. It is 2,34 million cubic metres in size, and weighs more than 4,7 million tons. - Sapa-AFP



A sleeping giant lies under Afghan sands 

By JULIE M. BOWLES, Los Angeles Times

First published: Tuesday, August 31, 2004


BAMIAN, Afghanistan -- Archaeologist Zemaryalai Tarzi can barely bring himself to look at the ravaged cliff face where two ancient Buddhas towered until the Taliban infamously blasted them to bits.


"For me, everything there is over," Tarzi says, pointing toward the heap of peach-colored dust and chunks of rock that used to be one of the massive statues. "It hurts my heart to go there and see what has been lost."


But the scientist, who began his career in the sleepy valley in Afghanistan's central highlands more than 35 years ago, isn't letting the destruction get the best of him. He has turned his back on the cliff, stuck his trowel in the earth and is on the hunt for a magnificent relic perhaps five times as large as the ones that incurred the Taliban's wrath: the long-lost sleeping Buddha of Bamian.


"We are digging," Tarzi says, "to find the greatest statue in the world."


According to the writings of a Chinese pilgrim who reported seeing the reclining Buddha in the year 629, it stretched 1,000 feet. Today, the pilgrim's brief, 1,375-year-old account remains the most detailed description of the sleeping Buddha.


The statue, probably constructed in the late sixth century, hasn't been seen in hundreds of years. If Tarzi succeeds in locating it, the discovery would mean more than uncovering the largest known statue of Buddha. It could be a psychic balm and a financial boon for Afghanistan, easing guilt over the Taliban's acts. "I do not want to dig just to wash away the shame of the Taliban," he said. "I am doing this for the people of Bamian and because I love what I am doing. Bamian is part of my country, and when I die, part of me will be here."



Romany Gypsies came out of India

News in Science - Romany Gypsies came out of India - 06/09/2004

[This is the print version of story http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1191889.htm]

Anna Salleh

ABC Science Online

Monday, 6 September  2004


Legend has it that European Gypsies came from Egypt but a new genetic study has shown they came from a small population that emerged from ancestors in India around 1000 years ago.


The research, by Professor Luba Kalaydjieva of the University of Western Australia and team, looked at the origins of eight to 10 million people in Europe commonly known as Gypsies.


Roma, Romani or Romany are other names for this community, which has featured in movies such as Latcho Drom.


"[The research] is the best evidence yet of the Indian origins of the Gypsies," the researchers write in an article published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Human Genetics.


The researchers were first alerted to the idea that the Romany may be descended from a small founder population when they discovered that certain genetic mutations in the population were shared in people who were not directly related.


This occurs in other groups that have developed from small founder populations such as the Finns, Ashkenazi Jews, the population of Quebec in Canada and possibly the Australian island state of Tasmania, Kalaydjieva, told ABC Science Online.


Kalaydjieva and team have been studying the genetics of Romany people for over 10 years.


In this recent study, which will be published in the October issue of the journal, the researchers analysed five genetic mutations linked to certain diseases, such as the neuromuscular disorder myasthenia.


The aim was to try and estimate when the original founder population arose and when it split off into different groups of Romany.


The researchers studied the diversity of the chromosomes that carry the genetic markers. Over successive generations, the region around the genetic markers become more and more diverse.


By applying a known rate of genetic change in DNA, the researchers worked out the founder population emerged from the ancestral population 32 to 40 generations ago, or 800 to 1000 years ago.


As well as looking at over 1100 samples of Romany from Europe, they studied six samples from India and found that the similarity in genetic markers supported the theory that the founder group, of perhaps under 1000 people, came from India.


The idea that Romany people came from India was first proposed 200 years ago based on similarities between their language and the Indian language Sanskrit, said Kalaydjieva. But such studies were inconclusive.


"There are quite a few examples where a population adopts a language but this does not necessarily mean its biological roots belong to the same place as the larger population that speaks this language," she said.


"So from the biological point of view we have provided we have provided the best evidence so far that this is indeed a population that derives from the Indian subcontinent."


Kalaydjieva and team's analysis of disease genetic markers supported the scientists' previous research on male and female genetic markers.


"It all points in the same direction," she said.


Kalaydjieva said scientists commonly used the term "Gypsy" but this was politically and historically loaded.


"Initially Gypsies were called Gypsies because Europeans believed, and this was a legend that the Gypsies maintained themselves, that they came from Egypt," she said.


But she said Gypsies had been persecuted due to superstition, racism and prejudice. The term Gypsy had become increasingly given a pejorative meaning, being used to describe a social category with a wandering nomadic way of life, rather than a biological population. Many people from that group now preferred to be called Roma, Romani or Romany.


She said the term Romani or Romany, strictly speaking linguistically and historically, described Balkan Gypsies. These people were a sub-group of European Gypsies and the scientific term Gypsy was a more generic term to cover the biological population.


Today people descended from European Gypsies live all over the world, even Australia. In Bulgaria alone there are at least 50 groups with different traditions, cultures, dialects and adopted religions.


2004 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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Danes prepare to invade England again in replica of Viking ship

Tue Aug 31, 8:06 PM ET 


COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - The Vikings are preparing to cross the North Sea again.


Queen Margrethe of Denmark, whose ancestors once raided continental Europe and the British Isles, is expected to christen a replica of a 1,000-year-old Viking ship Saturday that was built with a more peaceful purpose.


Plans are for a crew of 60 men to sail the vessel, which builders said is the world's longest Viking ship reconstruction, to Britain and Ireland in 2007 along the routes once used by marauding Norsemen.


Crew members will study how Viking ships, among the most advanced vessels of their era, behave at sea. They're also planning to exchange knowledge with their British and Irish colleagues about the Viking warriors who once ruled over large parts of northern Europe and traded with merchants as far away as Central Asia.


The ship is a replica of a vessel believed to have been built in 1042 by a Norse chieftain in Dublin, which was founded by Vikings. The original is housed along with four similar vessels in the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, 40 kilometres west of Copenhagen.


"We recreated their tools and built it exactly like the Vikings built their ships," museum curator Martin Brandt Djupdraet said.


Craftsmen working since 2000 on the 30-metre-long and nearly four-metre-wide ship have used hammers, chisels, knives, spoon bits and axes made by a blacksmith to resemble Viking tools. They also used 7,000 hand-forged iron rivets.


To keep it as authentic as possible, a 120-square-metre flax sail was woven, and two kilometres of rigging was made from 387 kilograms of linden bast rope and 174 kilograms of horse hair - the equivalent of 600 horse tails. About 600 litres of tar made from resinous pine trees was used to treat the vessel built with wood from 340 oak trees.


The Carlsberg brewery donated the equivalent of $2.25 million Cdn to the project.


The museum opened in 1969 to house the five 11th-century ships archeologists excavated from a drained part of the Roskilde Fjord. Since then, they have assembled thousands of timber fragments from the five vessels on metal skeletons. Eventually, they started constructing real-size replicas of the ships.


"Over the years, we have acquired a unique knowledge and experience on building Viking ships," Brandt Djupdraet said.


The ships were sunk in the fjord around 1060, likely as a blockade against assailants, or a toll barrier for merchant ships. Around the year 1000, Roskilde was the headquarters of Viking kings Canute the Great and Sweyn Estridsen.


On Saturday, oarsmen will take Margrethe - who traces her lineage back to the 10th-century Viking king Gorm the Old - on a brief tour of the fjord aboard the ship. The mast, sail and rigging will be mounted afterward.


The precise route and program for the Britain and Ireland trips have not been decided yet.


Before heading west, the crew will test the manoeuvrability of the ship and get used to the many hours of rowing, eating and drinking on board. The actual journey is expected to take two weeks, Brandt Djupdraet said.


"One thing is to sail in a calm fjord, another thing is to sail in rough weather at sea," he said.


"The crew also will have to get used to live together in a very limited area."



Seeking the Santa Maria


When Christopher Columbus "discovered" America in 1492, he piloted one of history's most storied ships, the Santa Maria.

Yet when the great mariner returned in glory to Spain in 1493, he had left behind his flagship and more than a third of his men.


On Christmas Eve, 1492, the Santa Maria had wrecked on a Caribbean sandbar. The loss of his largest vessel forced Columbus to leave 39 sailors behind with friendly Taino Indians governed by chief Guacanagari in what is now northern Haiti.


Columbus instructed his men to build a fort, explore the area, look for gold and treat the indigenous people with respect. And Columbus kept his promise to return in less than a year. But what he found was the burned remains of a fort, a scorched Taino village and not one of his men alive.


Five centuries later, archaeologists and explorers are seeking the remains of the Santa Maria and the site of Europe's first accidental colony in the Americas, named La Navidad.


And if they find one, they may be led to the other: Columbus's writings put the site of the Santa Maria's demise and the location of the La Navidad fort about 4.2 nautical miles apart. Furthermore, Columbus ordered the stranded men to take planks from the scuttled Santa Maria to help build their fortification. If they followed his order, might evidence of the ship still exist on land?


Historical archaeologist Kathleen Deagan has conducted field excavations in northern Haiti for 25 years, some of the time looking for just such evidence. Already, she believes she has confirmed the location of La Navidad. Among the excavated finds dated to around the time of Columbus: tiny fragments of pigs' teeth and a rat's jaw. Rats and swine were brought to the Americas by Europeans.


"We always like to think of it as the first rat to leave a sinking ship in America," says Deagan, the distinguished research curator of archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and an adjunct professor of anthropology, history and Latin American studies at the University of Florida.


Meanwhile, explorer Barry Clifford has been looking for the remains of the Santa Maria in the shallow waters off the nearby coast. But could any part of a 15th-century wooden boat have survived more than 500 years in the salty Atlantic? Perhaps the most likely remnants would be rock ballast, which if found could be traced to rock sources in Europe.



Dig at ruins of stronghold uncovers unknown tower

Fri 27 Aug 2004



HISTORY is again being re-written by archaeologists who have made another discovery about a landmark stronghold that was once the seat of the earls of Caithness.


It had already been discovered that the site in Caithness was built a century earlier than was previously thought, and that two ruins - Castle Sinclair and Girnigoe Castle - are part of the same structure.


Now archaeologists have unearthed a previously unrecorded feature of the medieval castle near Wick.


This week they have started to expose an eight-metre long section of a stone tower - or barbican - on ground directly opposite the west gatehouse of the structure now known as Sinclair Girnigoe Castle.


The find was made while the specialist three-strong team from York University were preparing the site for the start of work to conserve the former clifftop stronghold at Noss Head.


Team leader Justin Garner-Lahire said the discovery of the barbican was not entirely by chance. "We suspected the presence of a western barbican but were not sure if we would find anything."


He and colleagues Lisa Smith and Toby Simpson came upon the structure immediately after digging up the top layer of turf. Made of the same stone as the late 14th century castle, it faces the west gatehouse on the other side of a steep gulley, which would have served as the moat.


Mr Garner-Lahire said the enclosure would have been built to help protect the drawbridge in the event of a raid, and it is probable there is another barbican to the east of the site.


The discovery further enhances the international importance of the castle. He said: "The site was originally thought to contain two castles and date from the post-medieval Scottish Renaissance period. Our work has pushed it back 100 years to medieval times, and shown that it was a single castle."


As well as excavating the barbican, work will be done to preserve the feature chimney stack and entrance archway in the outer bailey.


The 400,000 scheme marks the first building work for 300 years on the castle which was named on a World Monuments Fund (WMF) list of the world's most endangered heritage sites - along with the Great Wall of China and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.


Malcolm Sinclair, the 20th Earl of Caithness, who put the building in the care of a trust, has been promoting an international appeal to raise more than 1 million to preserve the site.


The earl said the discovery of the barbican is an exciting development.


This article:




Welcome to Heritage Open Days 2004

10th - 13th September


Heritage Open Days celebrates England's architecture and culture by allowing visitors free access to interesting properties that are either not usually open, or would normally charge an entrance fee. Heritage Open Days also includes tours, events and activities that focus on local architecture and culture. Heritage Open Days 2004 will run from 10th-13th September, with places all over England taking part.


Organised by volunteers - usually property owners or managers - for local people, Heritage Open Days is England's biggest and most popular voluntary cultural event, attracting some 800,000 people every year. The Civic Trust gives central co-ordination and a national voice to the event, which is made possible by funding and support from English Heritage.


Heritage Open Days provides visitors with a unique opportunity to explore and enjoy these sometimes hidden, often curious and always interesting places in English cities, towns and villages - and completely free of charge.


Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive, English Heritage, says: Heritage Open Days has become an important part of the heritage calendar, allowing everyone, wherever they live and whatever their background, to enjoy, understand and feel a part of the country's rich and diverse cultural heritage.


Nigel Burton, Chairman of the Civic Trust says: Heritage Open Days is about people and places; it celebrates community and reflects the importance of the built environment in our lives and to our quality of life. It is organised by local people who dedicate their spare time to opening properties and staging activities, and it is their knowledge and enthusiasm that makes Heritage Open Days happen.


Latest news:

Heritage Open Days highlights online now


Explore Heritage Open Days with Pevsner City Guides


The Heritage Open Days 2004 launch took place on September 1st at St George's Hall in the World Heritage City of Liverpool. For images click here


Heritage Open Days 2004 promotional poster and flyer available now


Summer 2004 Newsletter


To find out about London Open House, Doors Open Days in Scotland and European Heritage Days in Wales and Northern Ireland visit www.heritagedays.net



Bullocks 'ate' vintage plane


Vintage aviation enthusiasts who left their plane in a farmer's field returned to find it being eaten by cattle.


The trio left their 1948 Auster J1-N plane in a farmer's field near Hereford while they went for lunch in a nearby pub.


But when they returned, they discovered their cherished plane had itself been lunch for a herd of Herefordshire bullocks, reports the Daily Telegraph.


The bullocks caused thousands of pounds worth of damage by chewing a large hole in the fuselage.


Mike Jones, 66, a former police officer from Bristol, said: "We usually land in farmers' fields, but this is the first time something like this has happened.


"When the farmer found out he put up barbed wire to protect the plane from further damage, but the cows broke it down to eat some more.


"It might have been the white colour that attracted them. The wings are covered with chemicals, so maybe all these cows were on a high."


The plane had to be dismantled and taken home on a trailer.