Earliest European 31,000 years old

Agençe France-Presse, Thursday, 19 May 2005


Fossilised human bones found in the Czech Republic have been dated back to some 31,000 years, which scientists say confirms them as the oldest known examples of Homo sapiens found in Europe.


Austrian and US scientists publish their carbon-dating results in today's issue of the journal Nature.


An upper jaw, teeth and the skull of a female were found in a cave in Moravia in the 19th century, but scientists have debated how old they are.


University of Vienna researcher Dr Eva Wild and colleagues used a technique called accelerator mass spectrometry to analyse carbon 14 isotopes in the dental remains.


These isotopes decay at a known rate, allowing scientists to calculate the age of a dead organism.


Wild's team suggests the teeth are about 31,000 radiocarbon years old, a yardstick that can be somewhat different from calendar years.


Radiocarbon years and calendar years tend to diverge and converge at different periods in prehistory, consistent with varying amounts of carbon 14 in the atmosphere.


The discrepancy is significant during this period in prehistory, and calibrating radiocarbon and calendar years is a matter of ongoing research.


How does this relate to Neanderthals?


The fossil's age, as calculated in this latest research, concurs with artefacts from other sites in Europe that have been carbon-dated to the same era.


The finding is important, because it could help solve the mystery of what happened to the Neanderthals, a species of hominid that predominated in Europe before anatomically modern man showed up.


One school of thought suggests the Neanderthals were wiped out by the smarter H. sapiens or lost the battle for food and habitat, then simply faded away.


But another theory suggests the two hominid species lived side by side for many thousands of years and may have intermingled, which implies there could be Neanderthal genes in the human gene pool today.



Public release date: 20-May-2005

Contact: Neil Schoenherr



Washington University in St. Louis


Oldest cranial, dental and postcranial fossils of early modern European humans confirmed

The human fossil evidence from the Mladec Caves in Moravia, Czech Republic, excavated more than 100 years ago, has been proven for the first time, through modern radiocarbon dating, to be the oldest cranial, dental and postcranial assemblage of early modern humans in Europe.

A team of researchers from the Natural History Museum in Vienna, from the University of Vienna in Austria and from the Washington University in St. Louis, USA recently conducted the first successful direct dating of the material. Several previous attempts to radiocarbon date the Mladec specimens directly have failed, but in the present attempt by using teeth as dating material reliable results were obtained.


The findings are documented in the May 19 issue of Nature.


"The dating results document that these samples are as old as we thought they should be," agree Maria Teschler-Nicola from the Natural History Museum in Vienna and Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, the two anthropologists involved in this study. "The Mladec samples date to around 31,000 years ago," reports Eva Maria Wild from the VERA (Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator) Laboratory at University of Vienna, where the radiocarbon dating has been performed. This is the oldest assemblage of modern humans in Europe which retains many portions of the skeleton plus archaeological objects from the Aurignacian period. Only two modern human specimens from a site in Romania, dated to ~35,000 years ago, are older. At Mladec there are multiple individuals - at least 5 or 6 represented. The dating shows that the Mladec assemblage is central to discussions of modern human emergence in Europe and the fate of the Neandertals.


The Mladc remains are universally accepted as those of early modern humans. However, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether they also exhibit distinctive archaic features, indicative of some degree of Neandertal ancestry, or are morphologically aligned solely with recent humans and therefore document only a dispersal of modern humans into Europe.


The radiocarbon dating of the Mladec assemblage confirms that they derived from the time period of the middle to late Aurignacian of Central Europe. Given the presence of multiple individuals, males and females, adult and immature with cranial, dental and postcranial elements, the Mladec assemblage becomes the oldest directly dated substantial assemblage of modern human remains in Europe.


Contact information:

Univ. Prof. Dr. Eva Maria Wild

Institut für Isotopenforschung und Kernphysik der Universität Wien


Waehringer Strasse 17

A-1090 Wien, Austria

Tel.: +43-1-4277-51704

Fax: +43-1-4277-9517

E-mail: eva.maria.wild@univie.ac.at


Univ. Prof. Dr. Maria Teschler-Nicola

Anthropologische Abteilung

Naturhistorisches Museum Wien

Burgring 7, Postfach 417

A-1014 Wien, Austria

Tel.: 0043 1 52177-572 od. 239

Fax: 0043 1 52177-230

E-mail: maria.teschler@nhm-wien.ac.at


Prof. Erik Trinkaus

Department of Anthropology

Washington University

St. Louis, MO 63130, USA

Tel: 1-314-935-5207

Fax: 1-314-935-5207

E-mail: trinkaus@artsci.wustl.edu



German Scientists: Europe's Oldest Script Found in Bulgaria

Lifestyle: 18 May 2005, Wednesday.


Ancient tablets found in South Bulgaria are written in the oldest European script found ever, German scientists say.


The tablets, unearthed near the Southern town of Kardzhali, are over 35-centuries old, and bear the ancient script of the Cretan (Minoan) civilization, according to scientists from the University of Heidelberg, who examined the foundings. This is the Cretan writing, also known as Linear A script, which dates back to XV-XIV century B.C.


The discovery proves the theory of the Bulgarian archaeologists that the script on the foundings is one of the oldest known to humankind, the archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov announced Wednesday.


Ovcharov, who is heading the archaeological expedition in the ancient Perperikon complex near Kardzhali, called the discovery "revolutionary". It throws a completely different light on Bulgaria's history, he said in an interview for the National Television.



Thracian Owner of Gold Mask Axe-Chopped


The owner of the ancient gold mask – Thracian king Seutus III – has been chopped after his death, Bulgarian experts found, proving a theory for Thracians' funeral rituals. Photo by Kameliya Atanasova (Sofia News Agency)


Lifestyle: 17 May 2005, Tuesday.


The Thracian king Seutus III, whose gold mask was unearthed in 2004 by Bulgarian archaeologists, has been chopped with an axe after his death, an expert research showed.


According to archaeologists this discovery is pure sensation because it proves the theory that ancient Thracians used to chop into pieces their rulers' bodies and buried them in different places.


The discovery was made after an examination of the king's bones, which were found in a tomb near the Shipka Peak, southern Bulgaria in 2004.


Only his legs and lower jaw were found together with the 680 g gold mask.


In the summer of 2004 a group of Bulgarian archaeologists came upon an astounding founding of a whole Thracian treasure, including a gold ring, ornate silver, bronze and ceramic pieces. The gold mask, which was also found there, proved to be 2,500-year-old.


The whole collection will be displayed for the first time on Wednesday in the Archaeological Museum in Sofia.


Bulgaria's President Georgi Parvanov and the Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg will attend the opening of the new exposition marking the 100th anniversary of the museum.



Archaeologists uncover scene of human sacrifice

A gruesome sight has met archaeologists engaged in excavations in central China - an altar devoted to human sacrifice, complete with the remains of an unfortunate victim.


The discovery of the 7,000-year-old cult site, near Hongjiang city in Hunan province, may make it necessary to rewrite history, as it is the earliest human sacrificial site ever found in China.


According to local media, the fact that the sacrificial venue contained the skeleton of a human left no doubt in the archaeologists' minds what its original use had been.


Nearby was a separate sacrificial site for animals, with skeletons and bones of pigs, cattle, deer and tortoises.


Human sacrifice was central to early Chinese religion, as kings and emperors would regularly be buried along with their servants and concubines, who were sometimes killed first.





Thu 19 May 2005

2:11pm (UK)

Archaeologists Unearth 5,000-Year-Old Jars



Archaeologists uncovered a 5,000-year-old chamber believed to have been used for the burial rituals of Egypt’s first major pharaoh found a cache of 200 rough ceramic beer and wine jars, Egyptian authorities said today.


The mortuary enclosure of King Hur-Aha, the founder of Egypt’s First Dynasty, also included a cultic chapel where the floor and benches are stained with organic material – probably the remains of offerings made during rituals, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said.



“It is a very important discovery because it would provide us with new information about the First Dynasty,” Zahi Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told The Associated Press.


The mud-brick mortuary enclosure was discovered by a joint American excavation from Yale University, the Pennsylvania University Museum and New York University at Shunet El-Zebib, part of the pharaonic holy city of Abydos, where many of Egypt’s earlier pharaohs are buried, 240 miles south of Cairo.


The enclosure in believed to be where the body of King Hur-Aha was kept during burial rituals. His tomb is nearby in Abydos, though it’s not known whether he was buried there.


The enclosure also included three rectangular tombs with wooden ceilings covered with reed matting – one with a well-preserved skeleton of a woman and another tomb with remains of human bones. Hawass said experts were trying to identify the remains. The enclosure also had a chamber of pots with hieroglyphs indicating they were made during the reign of Hur-Aha.


Hur-Aha, who ruled around 3100 B.C. – some 500 years before the pyramids were built – is considered the first pharaoh of the First Dynasty, the first royal family to control both Upper and Lower Egypt in a unified kingdom. But little is known of the era.


Later Egyptian dynasties came to identify Abydos as the burial site of the god Osiris.


The beer and wine jars were found in excavations along the walls of the mortuary enclosure of King Khasekhemwy, a Second Dynasty pharaoh who ruled around 2700 B.C.




Roman conquerors had woolly socks 

The sartorial elegance of the Italians has been shattered, with news that woolly socks helped their ancestors' conquest of northern England.

The evidence has emerged among archaeological objects found in the River Tees at Piercebridge, near Darlington in County Durham.


Among the items was an unusual Roman razor handle, made of copper alloy and in the shape of a human leg and foot.


The 5cm high foot is wearing a sandal with a thick woollen sock underneath.


According to Philippa Walton, a finds liaison officer at Newcastle University's Museum of Antiquities, the Romans may well have been putting comfort before style.


She said: "It is quite funny really that the soldiers were wearing these thick woolly socks.


"It could have been the fashion for a Roman soldier or it could have been because of the tough northern cold."


Ms Walton said that other discoveries from the period also appear to prove that style was the last thing on a Roman's mind or foot while on duty in the North East.


"There was a letter found at the Roman fort at Vindolanda, on Hadrian's Wall, from a soldier writing home asking for more socks," she said.


"This may suggest the soldiers were more concerned about keeping out the cold."





Story from BBC NEWS:



Published: 2005/05/19 15:06:13 GMT





New Roman find could delay bypass

Published on 21/05/2005, EXCLUSIVE by Mark Preskett


AN UNDISCOVERED stretch of Hadrian’s Wall has been unearthed by archaeologists on the route of the £30 million Carlisle Northern Development by-pass.


The team of archaeologists from Cumbria County Council have discovered a section of the Roman wall and fragments of ancient pottery on the banks of the River Eden near Stainton, west of Carlisle. The discovery is directly on the line of the planned Northern Development Route and could mean further delays to the long-awaited by-pass – now more than three years late.


The Northern Development Route (CNDR), which will provide a vital link between West Cumbria and the M6, should have opened last December. Work on the road, which is seen as crucial in relieving crippling traffic congestion in Carlisle, was to start in 2006 and be complete in 2008.


A county council spokesman said archaeologists had found several fragments of Roman pottery. He said: “A single course of flat stones was also discovered, which is likely to have been the base of the wall, and on the southern side of the wall there was clear evidence of the vallum – an earthwork mound and ditch. The position of the new find broadly matches the assumed line of Hadrian’s Wall west of the city.”


County archaeologist Richard Newman described the historic find as “significant.” He said: “Before this find we did not know whether the wall survived to the immediate west of Carlisle.”


The council is now in talks with English Heritage, the Government’s adviser on the historic environment, to decide what to do next.


The council spokesman admitted the find did have potential implications for the CNDR timetable, but said it was too early to assess what these might be.


He said: “A full report to be published next week. It remains Cumbria County Council’s intention, as far as possible, to press ahead with the start of construction of the CNDR in 2006.”


Once the report is published, the council will have to decide whether to continue the build on the existing route or re-route the road around the archaeological site.


Cumbria County Council is currently assessing bids for the CNDR contract from four companies. The bill for building the by-pass is estimated at around £30 million.


The cost of the 30-year PFI contract, including maintaining the parts of the existing road network, is expected to be around £100 million.



1:37pm (UK)

Archaeologists Unearth Britain's Own Miniature Coliseum

By Emma Gunby, PA


Archaeologists have discovered evidence of Britain’s own miniature Coliseum, it was revealed today.


The two-tier stone built structure, in Chester, which dates back to 100AD, hosted gladiatorial contests, floggings and public executions.


Experts say the amphitheatre is the only one of its kind in Britain and the new evidence proves that Chester must have been an important site within the Roman Empire.


Dan Garner, senior archaeologist for Chester City Council, said: “Previous findings have suggested that the amphitheatre was a two-tier structure, but it was always believed the second tier was made of timber.


“We have now discovered the upper level was actually made of stone and stood about ten metres (33ft) high.


“It would have looked like a mini Coliseum and had a seating capacity of around 10,000 to 12,000.


“The extra tier would have been added as the popularity of the amphitheatre grew, a bit like adding an extra tier at Old Trafford.


“It would have been a very impressive structure.”


English Heritage archaeologist Tony Wilmott, who has also been working on the site, said the existence of such a structure in Chester was a mystery.


He said: “It obviously means that Chester was a very important place but why, we don’t know.”


One of the theories is that the Roman emperor Septumus Severus was planning to use the city as a base for an invasion of Ireland.


If successful, Chester would have become the provincial capital of the new arm of the Roman Empire.


As such, it would have needed a large amphitheatre to provide entertainment for its large population, which would have included high profile political and military figures.


The dig also discovered that the Roman theatregoers were fans of tacky novelty souvenirs.


Among the discoveries is part of a bowl, which dates back to the second century, featuring images of gladiators.


The items were probably sold from wooden market stalls outside the arena.


Mr Wilmott, who discovered the bowl, said: “These were basically mass-produced, cheap souvenirs.


“The spectators would watch the event and then buy a bowl featuring their favourite gladiator.


“We recently went to the Roman amphitheatre in Arles, in France, and bought a similar item, a novelty ashtray in the shape of the amphitheatre.


“So here we are 1,800 years later and we are still buying the same cheap souvenirs as the Romans did.”


The archaeologists have also discovered the remains of Roman “fast food” spare ribs, chicken bones, and coriander and poppy seeds.


The findings of the dig have added weight to calls for the amphitheatre to be explored further.


Controversy surrounds the site, which is partially obscured by a former convent, which dates back to the 18th century, and a modern court complex, which was opened in 2000.


Mr Garner said: “It is a bit of a political hot potato. Some people want the buildings torn down to reveal the rest of the amphitheatre, but other people oppose it, especially as the former convent is a Grade II-listed building.


“I am staying apolitical on the matter, but obviously the more significant finds that are made adds more weight to the calls for them to be knocked down.”


The findings of the dig, which is part of a three-year joint project between the city council and English Heritage, will be used to determine the ultimate fate of the rest of the site.


The second-year dig begins in June and is expected to attract more than 40,000 visitors to the city.



Amphitheater fans enjoyed fast-food too May 20 2005

By David Holmes, Chester Chronicle


FOOTBALL wouldn't be the same without the obligatory burger vans and stalls selling cheap scarves outside the ground.


But the latest finds by archae-ologists working at Chester Amphitheatre suggest things may not have changed much in the last 2,000 years.


The dig, jointly carried out by English Heritage and Chester City Council, has uncovered a large number of animal bones discarded by fast-food loving spectators in the 8,000 seater stadium.


Experts have also discovered remains of a number of miniature bowls, decorated with pictures of gladiators, which may have been sold as cheap souvenirs to fans.


English Heritage archaeologist Tony Wilmott said: 'In many ways nothing's changed. People liked fast food snacks and throwaway souvenirs just as sports fans do today.


'One of the interesting things about this dig is what we've been able to find out about the area immediately outside the amphitheatre.


'This suggests there were a number of a small short-lived timber buildings around the edge which would have been used to sell these sort of things to fans on their way in.'


The dig has revealed for the first time that Chester had two amphitheatres both made of stone.


The first amphitheatre dates from 100AD and is believed to have held 5,000 spectators. The second, which replaced the original on the same site, contained a number of extra tiers and had a capacity of 7-8,000. It is not yet known when this was built.


Dan Garner, an archaeologist with Chester City Council, said: 'Any thoughts that Chester's amphitheatre was used purely for military purposes such as military tattoos or drill practice can now be firmly banished.


'Human remains recovered during the present excavations and earlier work at the site in the 1930s and 1960s clearly demonstrates people were meeting a rather brutal end in Chester's arena.


'In fact the sort of scenes immortalised by the blockbuster movie Gladiator are probably not that far removed from the sort of entertainment Chester's residents could have expected to see in the second century AD.' david.holmes@cheshirenews.co.uk


Contact point Chester Amphitheatre is on BBC 2's Time-watch at 9pm tonight (Friday). The Amphitheatre Project web-site can viewed at www.chesteramphitheatre.co.uk 



Did the Vikings drive natives from the isles?



VIKING settlers may have "ethnically cleansed" Scotland's islands, waging a genocidal campaign against native Pictish tribes as they arrived, according to evidence uncovered by archaeologists.

Excavations on Orkney could finally settle a centuries-old historical debate over whether the Norsemen integrated with indigenous locals or slaughtered them at the dawn of the last millennium.

Work at Langskaill farm, in Westray, shows signs of a Pictish culture vanish abruptly with the arrival of the Scandinavians, underlining the theory that the Northern Isles were taken violently.

The dig uncovered remains dating from the early Iron Age through to the fourteenth century, with the pre-Norse evidence disappearing suddenly as the settlers arrived in larger numbers.

A Viking-Norse longhouse was unearthed, which was built directly over an earlier earth house and part of a Pictish house, probably indicating a takeover of the site and adjoining lands.

Olwyn Owen, a senior inspector of ancient monuments with Historic Scotland, which was one of the excavation's sponsors, said: "This site shows a very clear change of material culture but it doesn't show what actually happened to the Picts. That is very difficult to prove."

In recent years, the image of the Vikings has been transformed from bloodthirsty pagan savages to that of sophisticated merchants with exceptional navigational and engineering skills. The finds on Orkney, however, are expected to reopen the entire debate.

Brian Smith, an archivist at Shetland Islands Council, said the new evidence was a further hint of some sort of displacement of the native population.

He said: "(Langskaill) lends a local dimension to the idea that there was strife.

"All that the archaeologists (in favour of the integration theory) have to argue is the fact that some Pictish detritus has been found in Norse archaeological levels, and that there is a stone in Bressay in Shetland that some think contains Norse and Celtic words.

"In the first case, co-existence is of course not the only explanation.

"In the second, doubt has been expressed by the experts about the alleged linguistic material on the Bressay stone, and there is no way of getting a precise date for it."

Ms Owen said archaeology may be unable to provide a complete picture of the process of Viking settlement.

She said: "There is a danger that the argument becomes too simplistic with one group arguing the Vikings slaughtered in order to take the island over and the other maintaining they started living peacefully. It may not be that simple."

The finds inside the earth house related to the two main periods of use. The Iron Age remains comprised mainly of soil deposits, but there were also a number of pieces of whale bone and stone tools.

The later Viking-Norse period deposits included midden, made up of shells, fishbones, fragments of soapstone vessels and human coprolites or fossilised excrement.



Ancient bathing habits unearthed 


The "baths" are thought to date to after the civil war

Archaeologists restoring a 17th Century castle in Derbyshire believe they may have uncovered Britain's first bathroom built after the Dark Ages.

Repair works at Bolsover have unearthed remains built after the fall of the Roman Empire.


Two chambers - one thought to be a boiler room to heat bath water - are thought to date after the collapse of cleaning habits in the Middle Ages.


They were found in an abandoned outbuilding at the castle.


Immersion in warm water was thought to be a way of treating infertility at the time

John Burditt, English Heritage


Sir William Cavendish (1593 - 1676) started the fashion for "bathing rooms" at the castle on returning to England after the Civil War.


He was exiled to the continent following Oliver Cromwell's victory but is thought to have brought back his Parisian washing habits to the UK after the restoration of Charles II to the throne.


Experts believe it may have had other uses as well.


John Burditt, of English Heritage, which is restoring the castle, said: "We are finding more out about Sir William Cavendish and his use of the castle.


"A lot of the rooms were used for dalliances of various kinds."


Sir William, who had five children by his first marriage, is thought to have introduced the baths to help his second wife, Lady Madge, in conceiving.


"Immersion in warm water was thought to be a way of treating infertility at the time," said Mr Burditt.


"Cavendish had the resources and room to make this possible on a large scale."



New life for Elizabeth I's 'lost' garden 430 years on

By Nick Britten, (Filed: 21/05/2005)


An elaborate "lost" garden created in 1575 for Queen Elizabeth I is to be restored after archaeologists stumbled across its ruins.


Experts believe that the find will provide some of the most important clues on garden construction of that era that they have ever seen.


The garden was created in 1575

The garden, which has intrigued experts for decades, was created at Kenilworth Castle, Warwicks, by Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, specifically for the Queen, but all surviving elements of it were thought to have been lost.


Last year, archaeologists from English Heritage found evidence of its foundations underneath the current garden, including rubble that made up a 4ft central fountain.


They also came across the edges of the garden, a sill-beam structure that they believe supported one of the arbours, and a soil layer indicating levelling work made in preparation for the grounds' initial construction.


Detailed descriptions made at the time will help restore it to its 16th-century glory.


John Watkins, the head of gardens and landscape at English Heritage, said: "We aim to produce a very interesting representation of the original garden.


"It proves the scale and proportion of the current garden, built in 1975 as a model of the original, is completely wrong."


Kenilworth, England's largest ruined castle, was bestowed on Dudley by Elizabeth I in 1563. As thanks, and to lavish hospitality on the Queen, Dudley transformed the castle, including creating the garden for Elizabeth's 19-day visit in July 1575. The pageantry and extravagant festivities Dudley laid on eclipsed anything seen in England before. After the Civil War, the castle was burnt down and fell into ruin.


A new garden was laid in 1975, which was thought to be modelled, poorly as it turns out, on the original.


Experts have worked out that the Elizabethan garden contained a 10ft terrace and lots of iconology including obelisks, spheres and the Dudley family sign, a white bear holding a ragged staff.


Split into four quarters, it contained a bejewelled aviary, two arbours and pyramids. Upon the fountain were two athletes standing back to back, holding spheres. Because tests showed that the roots of trees laid in the current garden are starting to damage archaeological deposits, experts are in hurry to carry out a full excavation, which will begin in July.


That will reveal further information of the whereabouts of the statues, obelisks and sculptures.


Evidence of planting, however, is unlikely to have survived, although Robert Laneham, a gentleman usher to the Earl, detailed some of the fruit trees and plants in letters written at the time that the garden was created.


Reconstruction will begin in summer 2006 with a target public opening date of Easter 2007.


Mr Watkins said: "When the current garden was built in the 1970s no surviving evidence of the Elizabethan garden was found but, since then, garden archaeological technology has improved considerably. Even then, it was a great surprise to find what we did. With the elements of the original being disturbed, it is important to act now."


English Heritage is spending £2.5 million on the redevelopment of the castle. It will include restoration of the garden, the 16th-century gatehouse and an exhibition.



Archaeologists Find Relics at Ga. Fort

By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press Writer

Fri May 20, 9:01 AM ET


SAVANNAH, Ga. - On a narrow peninsula along Georgia's marshy coast, archaeologists have uncovered relics from a forgotten piece of American history — the fort where British and U.S. troops waged the final battle of the War of 1812.


Point Peter, where cannons once pointed from the city of St. Marys toward Cumberland Island, fell to British forces days after Gen. Andrew Jackson's victory in the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815.


The fort was burned down by British troops and its remains had been buried until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers required an archaeological survey by developers of Cumberland Harbour, a 1,014-acre waterfront subdivision being built on the site. Only a state historical marker, placed on the site in 1953, pointed out the fort's location.


"A few historians knew about this. But this event, which is really significant in the War of 1812, is mostly forgotten to the public," said Scott Butler, who led the excavation for the Atlanta archaeology firm Brockington and Associates. "We're trying to change that."


Six months of digging in Georgia's southeast corner turned up more than 67,000 artifacts from Point Peter's barracks, latrine and well.


Butler's team found an 1803 rifle missing only its barrel, musket balls, uniform buttons, pocket knives, bone dice used for gambling, spoons and forks as well as many shards of pottery.


Animal bones found in a buried trash pile indicate soldiers at Point Peter spiced up their diet of military rations by catching fish, rabbits, raccoons and possums.


"This is certainly nationally significant because of the events at St. Marys, but also because we know so little archaeologically about the War of 1812," said David Crass, Georgia's state archaeologist. "And it was such a different war from the American Revolution and the Civil War."


Built in 1796 at St. Marys, then the southernmost U.S. city on the eastern seaboard, Point Peter was armed with a battery of eight cannons at the tip of a 2-mile-long peninsula less than a mile wide. While defending the coast from invasion, the fort also trained American militiamen.


In the War of 1812, which actually lasted until 1815, America waged its last conflict against foreign invaders and settled any doubts about the fledgling nation's permanent independence from Great Britain.


Point Peter became a little-known footnote compared with battles at Chesapeake Bay and New Orleans, the torching of Washington and the bombardment of Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star Spangled Banner."


Butler's team pieced together the history of Point Peter from documents scattered from Washington's National Archives to the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah and papers kept in St. Marys.


"It took a lot of digging for us to come up with these specifics," said Connie Huddleston, who is compiling the team's findings for an exhibit in St. Marys. "I think it was just overlooked because the Battle of New Orleans was so embedded in everyone's mind as the end of the war."


Two days after Jackson's victory at New Orleans, as many as 1,500 British troops landed on Cumberland Island off the Georgia coast on Jan. 10, 1815. Though the British had signed the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve, officially ending the war, word had not yet spread to commanders in the U.S.


On Jan. 13, about 600 British troops attacked Point Peter, overwhelming its 130 soldiers. The British seized St. Marys, looted jewelry and fine China from its residents, and burned the fort. It was never used again as a military outpost.


"They burned all the buildings at Point Peter, they took the cannons," Butler said. "It was described by an American officer who came there in 1818 as a poor and dreary, miserable place."


Butler and his team wrapped up its excavation in December. After cleaning and cataloging artifacts in metro Atlanta, they hope to have the St. Marys exhibit ready for the Fourth of July.


New homes will soon cover much of Point Peter. But the developer, the Land Resource Companies of Atlanta, plans to include a memorial park as a reminder of the long-forgotten fort.



Cave art hoax hits British Museum 


The British Museum said the rock was "in keeping with the other exhibits"

Fake prehistoric rock art of a caveman with a shopping trolley has been hung on the walls of the British Museum.

The rock was put there by art prankster Banksy, who has previously put works in galleries in London and New York.


A British Museum spokeswoman said they were "seeing the lighter side of it". She said it went unnoticed for one or two days but Banksy said three days.


Banksy also hung a sign saying the cave art showed "early man venturing towards the out-of-town hunting grounds".


It read: "This finely preserved example of primitive art dates from the Post-Catatonic era.


It looked very much in keeping with the other exhibits, the explanatory text was quite similar


British Museum spokeswoman

"The artist responsible is known to have created a substantial body of work across South East of England under the moniker Banksymus Maximus but little else is known about him.


"Most art of this type has unfortunately not survived. The majority is destroyed by zealous municipal officials who fail to recognise the artistic merit and historical value of daubing on walls."


Banksy is best-known as a graffiti artist who has attracted a cult following for stencilled designs that satirise authority and modern society.


He hung his own art in the Tate Britain in London in October 2003, which was not noticed until it fell to the ground, and has done the same in four New York galleries.


Banksy has previously stuck a painting to the wall of Tate Britain


The British Museum praised the way his rock was hung and the style of the sign, which was "very similar" to their own design.


A spokesperson for Banksy said he sneaked the work into the museum on Monday and it was found on Wednesday.


He ran a competition on his website for fans to have their photographs taken with the rock, offering a shopping trolley as a prize.


A British Museum spokeswoman said: "We're reasonably confident that it hadn't been up for that long, maybe a couple of days.


  We have loaned the rock to Banksy but we are still in the process of deciding what to do with it


British Museum spokeswoman

"It looked very much in keeping with the other exhibits, the explanatory text was quite similar."


It is now being exhibited at Banksy's new show, Outside Institute, which opens in London on Friday. It will have a sign saying it is "on loan from the British Museum".


The British Museum spokesperson said they were expecting it back when Outside Institute ends in June.


"He has said to us that we can keep it," she said.