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http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-10/fm-ced100206.php#

Public release date: 9-Oct-2006

Contact: Greg Borzo

gborzo@fieldmuseum.org

312-665-7106

Field Museum

 

Compelling evidence demonstrates that 'Hobbit' fossil does not represent a new species of hominid

 

Most complete, interdisciplinary study published on raging controversy about fossil found in Flores, Indonesia

 

CHICAGO -- What may well turn out to be the definitive work in a debate that has been raging in palaeoanthropology for two years will be published in the November 2006 issue of Anatomical Record.

 

The new research comprehensively and convincingly makes the case that the small skull discovered in Flores, Indonesia, in 2003 does not represent a new species of hominid, as was claimed in a study published in Nature in 2004. Instead, the skull is most likely that of a small-bodied modern human who suffered from a genetic condition known as microcephaly, which is characterized by a small head.

 

"It's no accident that this supposedly new species of hominid was dubbed the 'Hobbit;'" said Robert R. Martin, PhD, Curator of Biological Anthropology at the Field Museum and lead author of the paper. "It is simply fanciful to imagine that this fossil represents anything other than a modern human." The new study is the most wide-ranging, multidisciplinary assessment of the problems associated with the interpretation of the 18,000-year-old Flores hominid yet to be published. The authors include experts on:

 

    * scaling effects of body size, notably with respect to the brain: Dr. Martin and Ann M. MacLarnon, PhD, School of Human & Life Sciences, Roehampton University in London;

    * clinical and genetic aspects of human microcephaly: William B. Dobyns, PhD, Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago; and

    * stone tools: James Phillips, PhD, Departments of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Field Museum.

 

Skull cast and cast of the endocranial cavity (endocast) from a 32-year old woman who had the body size of a 12-year-old child. She lived in Lesotho, a county in Southern Africa,...

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This is just one of four separate research teams that have recently published evidence indicating concluding that the Flores hominid is far more likely to be a small-bodied modern human suffering from a microcephaly than a new species derived from Homo erectus, as was claimed in the original Nature paper.

 

Significantly, the second most recent publication to conclude that the "Hobbit" was microcephalic--another multidimensional study that was published in the September 5, 2006, issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences--includes a co-author who was also a co-author of the original publication in Nature. That scientist, R.P. Soejono of the National Archaeological Research Center in Jakarta, Indonesia, now writes that the Flores hominid was microcephalic rather than a new hominid species.

 

Rewriting science

The starting point for the new research in Anatomical Record was the realization that the brain of the Flores skull (at 400 cc, the size of a grapefruit and less than one-third of the normal size for a modern human) is simply too small to fit anything previously known about human brain evolution. In addition, the stone tools found at the same site include types of tools that have only been reported for our own species, Homo sapiens.

 

Brain size of the Flores hominid, originally called Homo floresiensis, is known only from the main specimen discovered there, the LB1 skeleton. Skeletal fragments have been attributed to eight other individuals, but nothing can be said about their brain sizes. (They are small-bodied, but that has never been at issue.)

 

The new exhaustive research shows that the LB1 brain is simply too small to have been derived from H. erectus by evolutionary dwarfing, as was claimed by those who discovered it. In fact, the size of the brain corresponds very closely to the average value for modern human microcephalics. Microcephaly is a term that covers many conditions. There are more than 400 different human genes for which mutations can result in small brain size. Accordingly, there is a correspondingly wide range of different syndromes that are recognized in clinical practice. Many syndromes involve pronounced deficits ("low-functioning microcephaly"), but some have milder effects ("high-functioning microcephaly"), permitting survival into adulthood and a surprising degree of behavioral competence in certain cases. Microcephaly is often associated with severely reduced stature, but some microcephalics have relatively normal body size.

This graph shows the cranial capacities in cubic centimeters for 118 fossil hominids plotted against time, extending back almost 3.5 million years. The arrow indicates the highly incongruous value reported in Nature by...

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Because the LB1 skeleton is clearly that of an adult, it should obviously be compared with "high-functioning" modern human microcephalics rather than with "low-functioning" microcephalics who died early. The new study shows that skulls and brain casts from two modern human microcephalics who survived into adulthood are actually quite similar to those of the LB1 specimen. This supports the likelihood that LB1 was microcephalic.

 

Also, it has been claimed that LB1 had unusually large teeth ("megadonty"). However, it turns out that the teeth are not particularly large, after allowing for the expected effect of dwarfing. They are actually closely similar in size to those of a modern human microcephalic.

 

Another area of controversy concerns the stone tools discovered in association with the Flores fossils. Initially, the discoverers claimed that the tools were sophisticated, as indeed they are. More recently, continuity has been claimed with tools from Mata Menge on Flores that are purportedly 800,000 years ago. This is simply implausible, according to the authors of the new research.

 

"Nobody has even claimed cultural continuity in stone tool technology over such a long period (800,000 to 18,000 years ago)," Dr. Phillips said. "To do so ignores the significance of tools found with the LB1 skeleton that were made with the advanced prepared-core technique, otherwise confined to Neanderthals and modern humans."

 

There has been too much media hype and not enough sound scientific evaluation surrounding this discovery, Dr. Martin concluded. "Science needs more balance and less acrimony as we continue to unravel this discovery."

 

Digital images available:

 

• Compare these skulls

On the left is the LB1 skull, found on the Indonesian island of Flores. It is the basis for claims that the Flores fossils represent a new species of hominid, or humanlike primate. Note, however, that this skull is very similar to the one on the right (from the Royal College of Surgeons in London) of a modern adult human who suffered from microcephaly. The close similarity between these two skulls, which are drawn to the same scale, indicates that the LB1 skull from Flores could well be that of a modern human microcephalic rather than representing a new hominid species. Drawing by Jill Seagard, Courtesy of The Field Museum

 

• Modern adult with microcephaly – Royal College of Surgeons

Skull cast and cast of the endocranial cavity (endocast) from the Royal College of Surgeons in London of a modern adult human who suffered from microcephaly. It is strikingly similar to the following skull and endocast of a 32-year-old microcephalic woman. Together, the two specimens provide evidence that the LB1 skull from Flores, which is so similar to these two specimens, could also have been a microcephalic adult. Photo by John Weinstein, Courtesy of The Field Museum (Negative # Z94438_07Ad)

 

• Another modern adult with microcephaly – Lesotho woman

Skull cast and cast of the endocranial cavity (endocast) from a 32-year old woman who had the body size of a 12-year-old child. She lived in Lesotho, a county in Southern Africa, and these casts are part of The Field Museum's collection (Accession Nos. A219679 And A219680). This specimen and the one above have a relatively normal exterior appearance despite their very small size. Together they demonstrate that the LB1 skull from Flores could also have been an adult who suffered from microcephaly. Photo by John Weinstein, Courtesy of The Field Museum (Negative # Z94438_01Ad)

 

• Graph showing outlier

This graph shows the cranial capacities in cubic centimeters for 118 fossil hominids plotted against time, extending back almost 3.5 million years. The arrow indicates the highly incongruous value reported in Nature by Brown et al. in 2004 for H. floresiensis, described as an insular dwarf derived from Homo erectus. The relatively tiny brain size only 18,000 years ago does not fit into known patterns of hominid brain size and development. It is "off the chart." Graph by Robert D. Martin, Courtesy of The Field Museum

 

• Robert D. Martin

Robert D. Marin, PhD, Curator of Biological Anthropology at The Field Museum, has devoted his career to studying primate development and evolution. In his quest to achieve a reliable reconstruction of primate evolutionary history, Dr. Martin has studied an extensive array of characteristics in the living species, including anatomical features, physiology, chromosomes and DNA. Dr. Martin has been particularly interested in the brain and reproductive biology, as these systems have been of special importance in primate evolution. With skeletal features, it is possible to include the fossil evidence and thus to include geological time in the picture. By studying living primates in the field in the forests of Africa, Madagascar, Brazil and Panama, Dr. Martin has also been able to include behavior and ecology in an overall synthesis. That synthesis was first presented in his textbook Primate Origins and Evolution, published by Princeton University Press in 1990. Since then, he has been working on refinements in several different directions. Photo by John Weinstein, Courtesy of The Field Museum (Negative # GN90075_36Ac)

 

• Jim Phillips

James Phillips, PhD, Departments of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Field Museum, is an expert on stone tools. Initially, the discoverers of the Flores fossils claimed that the tools found in association with the fossils were sophisticated, as indeed they are. More recently, continuity has been claimed with tools from Mata Menge on Flores that are purportedly 800,000 years ago. This is simply implausible, according to the authors of the new research. "Nobody has even claimed cultural continuity in stone tool technology over such a long period (800,000 to 18,000 years ago)," Dr. Phillips said. "To do so ignores the significance of tools found with the LB1 skeleton that were made with the advanced prepared-core technique, otherwise confined to Neanderthals and modern humans."

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20061003/sc_afp/syriafrancearchaeology_061003175654;_ylt=AigOcQw2rQa7vI6t990NmH1FeQoB;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

Archaeologists find 11-millennium-old building in Syria

Tue Oct 3, 1:56 PM ET

 

DAMASCUS (AFP) - Archaeologists said they have discovered an 11-millennium-old building with on the banks of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.

 

"A remarkable discovery has just been uncovered of a large circular building dating back to 8,800 BC near (the locality of) Ja'de," the head of the French archaeologal team that made the find told AFP.

 

The building, much larger than normal houses, "had a collective use, probably for all of the village or a group," Eric Coqueugniot said.

 

"A part of this community building takes the shape of the head of a bull and retains painted decorations, the oldest known in the Middle East," he said.

 

"The multi-coloured geometrical paintings" that decorate the building would be displayed at the museum of Aleppo, in northern Syria, he added.

 

"Many hunting weapons, domestic tools ... were discovered at this level. The majority of these tools are made of flint and very few are of obsidian (volcanic stone)," he said.

 

Coqueugniot heads the team of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France's largest scientific establishment, which has led the excavation work at the site for the past 15 years.

 

http://www.mrt.com.mk/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1213&Itemid=33

Forgotten Macedonian Venice Reveals Pre-Historic Artifacts     

Monday, 02 October 2006 

 

For decades now, the Cultural Center in Resen has housed boats, some 4,000 years old.  They belonged to the Prespa inhabitants of the Stone Age, and were discovered on the shores of Lake Prespa.

 

“In my 28 years as a professional, I have never heard of these boats, explains Dimitar Mucevski, an archeologist from Resen.  “I know of foreign archeologists discovering such wooden boats in the pharaohs’ tombs, but I was not aware of such treasures here in Macedonia.  These boats are made out of a single tree trunk,” further elaborates Mucevski.

 

Two years ago some locals contributed to the conservation of the boats dating from the Neolithic Period, and now the three can be seen in Resen free of charge.

 

Mucevski told us that the boats were discovered near the village of Nakolec.  The locals say that similar artifacts are regularly washed up on the shores, but that there are not any sufficient funds or human resources available to conduct an archeological search.

 

Stone Age boats in Nakolec!  We decide to take a trip to this Prespa village.  It is situated on the southern most part of the lake, at 850 meters above sea level, between Dolno Dupeni and Ljubojno.  The village was on the very edge of the lake once; today, the water has withdrawn almost 1 kilometer.

 

Will we be able to find the Stone Age domiciles that have been hidden in the lake’s depth for centuries?  Experts say that oxygen-deprived wood, located under water, under ground, or frozen, may remain intact for centuries.  The three boats we saw in Resen are about 5 meters long.  At the bottom, one can see the carvings that mark out the individual seats.

 

Nakolec is quiet.  It is almost 3:00pm, and there is not a single soul on the streets; all hiding away from the summer heat.  We finally come across Risto, a 35-year-old man who has lived his entire life in Nakolec.  During our conversation, the cruel reality of things is exposed:

 

“No big deal.  We have had many items like that washed up on shore for years, but they have all been rotting for some time.  Nobody even remembers how many different items there have been.”

 

I am reminded of a statement by archeologist Viktor Lilcik, who said that, out of some 10,000 archeological locations, Macedonia has protected only about 150.  However, this prehistoric location is not recorded anywhere.

 

“You see that church over there?  Twenty years ago, the water went all the way up to it.  After it was drained, many wooden items came up there.  Go and see for yourself, but I doubt you will find anything there now,” Risto informs us.

 

We go there, walking upon what once was the lake’s bottom.  We find nothing.  Not a single spike or sign of the boats and artifacts that have been washed up there in the past years.  We return home, even though, under our very own feet, we may be leaving behind the gondolas of the prehistoric fishermen.

 

Nakolec -- the Macedonian Venice

 

The three boats, dating from the beginning of the New Stone Age period (ca 2000 BC) were carved out of a type of evergreen tree trunks.  It is a type of tree typical for the Prespa region, and in particular to the Golem Grad Island.

 

Up until 1960, the lake came up into the village, and the church of St. Nicholas was literally in the water.  People would go by boat to the church to light up a candle and fish in their yards, tells us Vera Tudzarovska.

 

The village itself was originally under water, and some 100 years earlier, the houses were erected on wooden pillars.

 

“Between the houses there were water canals, and people would move about in boats.  It all looked a little bit like Venice.  The name of the village is incredibly appropriate,” says Vera. [Nakolec, 'na' -- on; 'kolec' -- spike/pillar, means on a spike, or on a wooden pillar]

 

Today, Nakolec is a site of villas, visited sporadically by its owners when they come back from the United State for their vacation.  People want to restore the old Nakolec and turn it into a big tourist attraction.  Some say that there are photographs of the old village.  They urge the government to make a plan for this restoration and re-galvanize the region's tourism and economy.

 

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2389056,00.html

Bronze Age canoe makes its first journey in more than 3,000 years

From Our Staff

 

A Bronze Age canoe discovered during work on a gas pipeline made its first journey for more than 3,000 years yesterday when it was moved from west Wales to Newport for restoration.

 

Stonehenge was in its infancy when the one-tonne artefact, formed from a single trunk of oak and believed to be a dug-out canoe — but which may possibly be a cooking trough — last saw the light of day.

 

It was spotted by an archaeologist monitoring construction work on a National Grid gas pipeline between Milford Haven and Aberdulais. Surveys had identified the area near Milford Haven as a likely site for Bronze Age activity.

 

The artefact was lifted in a custom-built crate on to a lorry for the journey to Newport, where it was submerged in a tank of water to protect the ancient wood from the ravages of oxygen.

 

Neil Fairburn, a National Grid archaeologist, said he hoped that the canoe would be exhibited near Milford. “It is an awesome find,” he said.

 

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article1816823.ece

Mummies of 'cloud warriors' tribe found in Peruvian cave

By Daniel Howden

Published: 07 October 2006

 

Archaeologists in Peru have discovered an underground burial vault that could unlock the mystery of a pre-Colombian tribe known as the "warriors of the clouds".

 

The Chachapoyas commanded a vast kingdom stretching across the Andes to the fringe of Peru's northern Amazon jungle until they were conquered by the Incas in the 15th century.

 

The Incan empire was itself overrun soon after by the Spanish, and details of the Chachapoyas and their way of life were lost or destroyed in the widespread pillaging that followed.

 

Now a team of archaeologists, working on a tip-off from a local farmer, have uncovered a burial site in a 820ft-deep cave. The researchers have so far found five mummies, two of which are intact with skin and hair, as well as ceramics, textiles and wall paintings, the expedition's leader, Herman Corbera, told Reuters.

 

"This is a discovery of transcendental importance. We have found these five mummies but there could be many more," Mr Corbera said. "We think this is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region."

 

The tribe's own name is unknown. The word Chachapoyas is thought to come from the Quechua for "cloud people", and is the name by which they were known to the Incas, because of the cloud forests they inhabited in what is now northern Peru. A white-skinned people who were famed as ferocious fighters, the Chachapoyas held out against the Incans, who ruled an empire stretching from southern Chile to northern Ecuador until their conquest by the Spanish.

 

Today, the Cloud People are best known for their stone citadel, Kuelap, with more than 400 buildings and massive exterior stone walls, which is often referred to as the Machu Picchu of the north.

 

Mr Corbera said the walls in the limestone cave near the mummies were covered with paintings of faces and warrior-like figures which may have been drawn to ward off intruders and evil spirits.

 

"The remote site for this cemetery tells us that the Chachapoyas had enormous respect for their ancestors because they hid them away for protection," Mr Corbera said. "Locals call the cave Iyacyecuj, or Enchanted Water in Quechua, because of its spiritual importance and its underground rivers.

 

"The idea now is to turn this cave into a museum, but we've got a huge amount of research to do first and protecting the site is a big issue."

 

Archaeologists in Peru have discovered an underground burial vault that could unlock the mystery of a pre-Colombian tribe known as the "warriors of the clouds".

 

The Chachapoyas commanded a vast kingdom stretching across the Andes to the fringe of Peru's northern Amazon jungle until they were conquered by the Incas in the 15th century.

 

The Incan empire was itself overrun soon after by the Spanish, and details of the Chachapoyas and their way of life were lost or destroyed in the widespread pillaging that followed.

 

Now a team of archaeologists, working on a tip-off from a local farmer, have uncovered a burial site in a 820ft-deep cave. The researchers have so far found five mummies, two of which are intact with skin and hair, as well as ceramics, textiles and wall paintings, the expedition's leader, Herman Corbera, told Reuters.

 

"This is a discovery of transcendental importance. We have found these five mummies but there could be many more," Mr Corbera said. "We think this is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region."

 

The tribe's own name is unknown. The word Chachapoyas is thought to come from the Quechua for "cloud people", and is the name by which they were known to the Incas, because of the cloud forests they inhabited in what is now northern Peru. A white-skinned people who were famed as ferocious fighters, the Chachapoyas held out against the Incans, who ruled an empire stretching from southern Chile to northern Ecuador until their conquest by the Spanish.

 

Today, the Cloud People are best known for their stone citadel, Kuelap, with more than 400 buildings and massive exterior stone walls, which is often referred to as the Machu Picchu of the north.

 

Mr Corbera said the walls in the limestone cave near the mummies were covered with paintings of faces and warrior-like figures which may have been drawn to ward off intruders and evil spirits.

 

"The remote site for this cemetery tells us that the Chachapoyas had enormous respect for their ancestors because they hid them away for protection," Mr Corbera said. "Locals call the cave Iyacyecuj, or Enchanted Water in Quechua, because of its spiritual importance and its underground rivers.

 

"The idea now is to turn this cave into a museum, but we've got a huge amount of research to do first and protecting the site is a big issue."

 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200610/s1757142.htm

Last Update: Friday, October 6, 2006. 1:26pm (AEST)

Archeologists have uncovered a 600-year-old, large underground cemetery belonging to a Peruvian warrior culture. (Reuters)

Archaeologists uncover ancient burial cave of warrior tribe in Peru

 

Archaeologists have uncovered a 600-year-old, large underground cemetery belonging to a Peruvian warrior culture.

 

It is thought to be the first discovery of its kind.

 

After a tip-off from a farmer in Peru's northern Amazon jungle, archaeologists from Peru's National Culture Institute last week found the 250-metre deep cave that was used for burial and worship by the Chachapoyas tribe.

 

Herman Corbera, the expedition's leader and regional cultural director, says so far archaeologists have found five mummies, two of which are intact with skin and hair, as well as ceramics, textiles and wall paintings.

 

"This is a discovery of transcendental importance," he said.

 

"We have found these five mummies but I believe there could be many more.

 

"We think this is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region."

 

The Chachapoyas, a white-skinned tribe known as the 'cloud people' by the Incas because of the cloud forests they inhabited in northern Peru, ruled the area from around 800 AD to around 1475, when they were conquered by the Incas.

 

But their strong resistance to the Incas, who built an empire ranging from northern Ecuador to southern Chile from the 1400s until the Spanish conquest of the 1530s, earned them a reputation as great warriors.

 

They are best-known today by tourists for their stone citadel Kuelap, near the modern town of Chachapoyas.

 

In 1996, archaeologists found six ancient burial houses containing several mummies, thought to belong to the Chachapoyas.

 

"The remote site for this cemetery tells us that the Chachapoyas had enormous respect for their ancestors because they hid them away for protection," Mr Corbera said.

 

"Locals call the cave Iyacyecuj, or Enchanted Water in Quechua, because of its spiritual importance and its underground rivers."

 

Mr Corbera says the walls in the limestone cave near the mummies are covered with wall paintings of faces and warrior-like figures that may have been drawn to ward off intruders and evil spirits.

 

"The idea now is to turn this cave into a museum, but we've got a huge amount of research to do first and protecting the site is a big issue," Mr Corbera said, adding that looters have already vandalised a small part of the cave in search of mummies or gold.

 

Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of mummies in Peru in recent years, mostly from the Inca culture five centuries ago, including about 2,000 unearthed from under a shantytown near the capital, Lima, in 2002.

 

One of Peru's most famous mummies is "Juanita the Ice Maiden," a girl preserved in ice on a mountain.

 

-Reuters

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/10/061005-aztecs.html

Aztec Temple Found in Mexico City "Exceptional," Experts Say

Stefan Lovgren

for National Geographic News

October 5, 2006

 

Archaeologists working in the heart of Mexico City have discovered an altar and a monolith that date back more than 500 years to Aztec times.

 

The finds may be one of the most significant Aztec discoveries in years.

 

The altar depicts the Aztec rain god Tlaloc and was uncovered last weekend at the Aztec main temple, Templo Mayor, near mexico City's central Zocalo Square.

 

The 11-foot (3.5-meter) monolith, which is still mostly buried, is potentially the more important discovery. Some archaeologists speculate the stone slab could be part of an entrance to an underground chamber.

 

"This is a really impressive and exceptional Aztec monolith," said Leonardo López Luján, an archaeologist at the Museo del Templo Mayor.

 

The Aztec empire encompassed much of modern-day central Mexico. It reached its height about 500 years ago.

 

The Aztec were a deeply religious people who built monumental works. Templo Mayor, or the Great Temple, was the biggest pyramid of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.

 

Spanish conquistadors destroyed the temple when they razed the city in 1521. Mexico City is built on top of the ruins of Tenochtitlan.

 

The temple was first excavated in 1978 after electricity workers found a giant carving of an Aztec goddess at the site. Remains of the lower portions of the temple complex, buried underneath the city, have since been unearthed.

 

A team of archaeologists led by Álvaro Barrera discovered the altar and monolith on the western side of the temple site.

 

The altar, which probably dates back to the kingdom of Motecuhzoma I (1440-1469), is made of stone and earth and covered with stucco. It has a frieze of the god Tlaloc and another figure depicting an agricultural deity.

 

Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility, was greatly feared among the Aztec, who drowned children to appease him.

 

"This is another fabulous discovery from the Great Temple precinct, and there are bound to be many more buried objects yet unearthed," said Susan Gillespie, an Aztec expert at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

 

"What is significant about this find is the early date of the altar frieze, evidenced by the cruder style of the bas-relief compared to the many late Aztec sculptures that have been recovered," she added.

 

"With such finds archaeologists can begin to more firmly trace the changes in state-sponsored religious practices at the Great Temple."

 

The giant monolith, meanwhile, is believed to be standing in its original position. The rectangular piece is still partly buried, and archaeologists can only see one of its sides.

 

López Luján estimates that the stone, which he says comes from the Chiquihuite stone formation north of Mexico City, could weigh as much as 12 tons (11 metric tons).

 

The monolith corresponds to the last phase of the Aztec empire, from 1487 to 1520.

 

"It is a typical monument of Aztec imperial style," López Luján said.

 

The upper face of the monolith has deep carvings.

 

"Taking into account its position, the form, and what I can see from a side, it should represent the Earth God (Tlaltecuhtli), the Earth Goddess (Tlaltecuhtli, Coatlicue), or a nocturnal deity such as Itzpaplotl of Coatlicue," López Luján said.

 

Some archaeologists speculate it could lead into an underground chamber.

 

"The importance of the monolith is what we are going to discover," Alberto Diaz, a member of the archeological team, told the Reuters news agency.

 

"It's likely that it is part of a chamber, of some offering. We won't know until we get close. First we have to get the stone out."

 

http://fullcoverage.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061006/ap_on_sc/mexico_archaeology_discovery_4;_ylt=AqoHnZQYxOTXYk4Bmeq6luFFeQoB;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

Researchers in Mexico discover sculpture

 

By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer Thu Oct 5, 8:00 PM ET

 

MEXICO CITY - Researchers said Thursday they have unearthed what may be one of the earliest calendar entries in Meso-America, massive stone sculpture that suggests women held important status roles in pre-Hispanic culture.

 

The monolithic design depicts two decapitated women. Markings on top of the figures appear to depict an entry from, or part of, a 13-month lunar calendar, said archaeologist Guillermo Ahuja, who led the excavation of the monument.

 

"This would be the first depiction of a calendar or calendar elements in such an early time period," Ahuja said.

 

The monolith, which measures more than 25 feet and weighs about 20 tons, was found in March 2005 at the Tantoc ruins in San Luis Potosi state, near Mexico's northern Gulf coast, by construction workers.

 

Ahuja theorized that the stone's glyph-like inscriptions were carved sometime around 700 B.C., likely by the Huasteco culture and may predate other early calendars by hundreds of years.

 

That feasibility of the theory — not yet published in scientific journals — depends on whether the markings really are glyphs or calendar entries, and whether they really are that old.

 

"The earliest calendrical inscriptions that we know of for certain come from Oaxaca ... and they date to no earlier than 500 B.C.," said E. Wyllys Andrews, an archaeology professor at Tulane University. "Finding this in the Huasteca (region) at 700 B.C. would be a real stretch."

 

The lunar calendar has frequently been associated with female figures. The site where the stone was found was also a sacred area and burial ground occupied by the graves of 14 females, whose pottery offerings depicted women.

 

"This suggest that women played very important roles, not only as priestesses, but politically as well," Ahuja said.

 

Luciano Cedillo, director of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History — which employs Ahuja — called the find "important and surprising."

 

The announcement came four days after archaeologists in Mexico City discovered a smaller monolith near Mexico City's main square, but the sculpture on that monument cannot yet be read because much of the stone remains buried.

 

The smaller monolith — it measures about 3.5 yards on its longest side — was probably erected in the closing years of the Aztec empire, between 1502 and 1521, when the Spaniards conquered Mexico.

 

Cedillo said the earth covering the stone could be removed by sometime next week, at which point experts could examine and evaluate the carvings, which some researchers believe could be dedicated to Tlaloc, a rain god.

 

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-10/ucl-hst100306.php

Public release date: 3-Oct-2006

Contact: Judith H Moore

judith.moore@ucl.ac.uk

44-020-767-97678

University College London

Humble shoelace tag carried more currency than gold on Columbus's travels

 

The humble device that prevents shoelaces from fraying was deemed to be worth more than gold by the indigenous Cubans who traded with Columbus's fleet, a study led by UCL (University College London) archaeologists has discovered.

 

Reporting in next month's edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science, the researchers analysed burial material – such as beads and pendants – excavated from one of the largest burial sites in northeast Cuba. To their surprise very little gold was discovered, despite its relative abundance in the region. Instead, the most common artefacts were small metal tubes made of brass that were often threaded into necklaces.

 

While brass making was widespread in medieval and earlier Europe, no evidence exists of brass production in America by indigenous people in the Caribbean – known as Taíno – before the arrival of the Europeans. Using microstructural and chemical analysis, the researchers were able to prove the brass originated in Germany.

 

Columbus's 1492 Spanish fleet was the first European presence to arrive in Cuba and radiocarbon dating shows remains from the burial site at El Chorro de Maíta, Cuba date from a few decades after the conquest. Columbus's diaries also mention the trade of lacetags.

 

A review of relevant literature and paintings from European sources revealed that the most likely origin of the tubes was not beads but strung together lacetags, or aglets, from European clothing. From the 15th century onwards, these were used to prevent the ends of laces from fraying, and to ease threading in the points for fastening clothes such as doublets and hose. Examples of such usage include a 1636 portrait of William Style of Langley (Tate Gallery, London), which depicts the use of aglets in his waist to secure his trousers through his jacket. Original lacetags excavated from across London that date back to the 13th century can also be found in the Museum of London's Archaeological Archive.

 

Dr Marcos Martinón-Torres, of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, who led the research, explains: "Early chroniclers report that pure gold, or caona, was considered the least valuable metal amongst indigenous Cubans, significantly less esteemed and less sacred than copper-based alloys. Allegedly, the smell and iridescence of brass was what made it particularly appealing. If we couple this with the contrasting eagerness of the Spanish for plundering noble metals, then we have a paramount factor explaining the scarcity of gold in the cemetery at El Chorro de Maíta, and the relative abundance of brass.

 

"It would have been impossible for the first Europeans arriving in the Caribbean to envisage the colossal value that their metal would accomplish in trade with the indigenous population. Accordingly, one could not expect them to have loaded up their ships with unnecessarily large amounts of metals. Upon arrival, with virtually any metal gadget becoming precious amongst the Taíno, European conquerors would have traded anything they had at hand, including the cheap and dispensable lacetags. Moreover, these had a suitable shape for threading and turning into visible pendants. Functional European brass was thus conceptually transformed, not only, into an ornament but it conveyed supernatural powers to the wearer."

 

Located in the Banes area of the Holguín province, El Chorro de Maíta is well known as one of the largest archaeological sites in northeast Cuba. During the 1980s, 120 skeletons were excavated, of which 25 per cent were found with burial goods thought to signify their wealth or position in Taínos society. Alongside ornaments made of stone, pearl, resin and coral, three types of metal objects were identified. Initial analysis by archaeologist Roberto Valcárcel Rojas of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment in La Habana, Cuba, found they were composed of gold and two types of alloy, gold-copper-silver and zinc-rich copper alloys – or brass.

 

The lack of more sophisticated technical equipment and expertise prevented further analysis until Mr Valcárcel visited the unique on-site facilities in the UCL Institute of Archaeology last year, where scanning electron microscopy and X-ray microanalytical techniques were applied to the artefacts.

 

"The key to deciphering where metals come from is to look at their geochemical signature," explains Dr Martinón-Torres. "The technology to exploit copper and silver was unknown to the Taíno but was in common use on mainland South American, which strongly suggests that the alloy was imported from within America. However, brass production was unknown outside Europe.

 

"Brass is an alloy composed of copper and zinc but, depending on where the constitute metals come from, they also have traces of other elements. Using techniques equivalent to looking at the DNA of the metal we were able to show that minute iron, lead and tin impurities were consistent with brass objects from Nuremberg at this time.

 

"Although we lack detailed information on the supply of brass in 16th century Spain, it seems very plausible that the German metal used for these tubes could have reached Spain via established commercial routes before being brought to Cuba."

 

Professor Thilo Rehren, of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, and senior author of the study, says: "Acquiring gold of the New World quickly became one of the major aspirations of the European colonists, and ethnohistorical accounts highlight how they endeavoured to liaise with the emerging local elites to barter for their circulating gold and exploit some of their other natural resources. The relationship between Europeans and Americans, in which metals seem to have played a very significant role, dramatically affected the later history of both peoples. The removal of noble metals had a significant impact on the later economy and goes some way to explaining why Europe is rich today compared with Cuba."

 

Roy Stephenson, the Museum of London's archaeological archive manager, added: "This is fascinating work carried out by UCL which will shed light on what appears to be quite dreary and repetitive finds, but in reality tells a compelling story about international trade."

###

 

Notes to editors

 

1. The paper, 'Metals, microanalysis and meaning: a study of metal objects excavated from the indigenous cemetery of El Chorro de Maíta, Cuba' will be published in the November edition of Journal of Archaeological Science. The authors are: Marcos Martinón-Torres (a), Roberto Valcárcel Rojas (b), Jago Cooper (a), Thilo Rehren (a)

 

(a) Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 31–34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK (b) Departamento Centro-Oriental de Arqueología, Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Medio Ambiente, Holguín, Cuba

 

2. HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGES ARE AVALIABLE ON REQUEST. For images of lacetags, please contact the UCL press office: +44 (0)20 7679 7678. For permission to reproduce the 1636 portrait of William Style of Langley (Tate Gallery, London), please contact the Tate Picture library on: +44 (0) 20 7887 8871

 

3. For further information, please contact:

 

Dr Marcos Martinón-Torres, UCL Institute of Archaeology, Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 7496, Mobile: +44 (0) 077345 371 53, Email: m.martinon-torres@ucl.ac.uk

 

Roberto Valcárcel Rojas, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Email: roberto121968@yahoo.es

 

Roy Stephenson, Museum of London's archaeological archive manager, Tel: +44 (0)7490 3955, Email: RStephenson@museumoflondon.org.uk

 

4. Related events at the Museum of London's Archaeological Archive:

 

Friday 27 and Saturday 28 October: Ritual and Superstition Explore the rituals and superstitions of past Londoners. Talk to specialists and handle objects behind the scenes at the Museum of London's Archaeological Archive (ages 16+) 10.30 AM (5 hours)

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/5408262.stm

Workmen unearth 3,600 Roman coins

 

The coins are being kept safe by Kent County Council

 

A digger being used by workmen on a building site in Kent has unearthed 3,600 bronze Roman coins dating from AD330 to AD348.

 

Archaeologists from Kent County Council (KCC) were called to the site in the Medway Valley after the digger arm overturned a pot containing the coins.

 

"The workmen saw all these coins come pouring out of the digger bucket," said Maidstone Museum's Laura McLean.

 

They will be transferred to the British Museum for cleaning and recording.

 

It is then hoped the hoard of coins can be put on display in Kent.

 

The county council's Andrew Richardson said: "In four years of dealing with all the treasure in Kent I have never dealt with anything on this scale.

 

"The remarkable thing is that someone has gathered these coins together and stashed them because they were no longer legal tender."

 

Dr Richardson said the coins featured the head of Roman Emperor Constantine and other powerful figures from the time.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/5406236.stm

Roman mosaics found on Quantocks

 

The find is described as "an unexpected and exciting discovery"

Archaeologists working on the Quantock Hills in Somerset have uncovered evidence of a substantial Roman villa with a mosaic floor in the main room.

 

The findings are part of a six-year study carried out on six separate sites around the area.

 

The dig team said the villa at Yarford is one of the most westerly villas with mosaic floors found in Roman Britain.

 

It was subjected to three seasons of excavation but has since been buried again to protect it for the future.

 

The excavation was jointly carried out by the University of Winchester, Somerset County Council and English Heritage.

 

Dr Keith Wilkinson, from Winchester University, said: "This was an unexpected and exciting discovery and was an important and significant site on this part of the Quantock Hills.

 

"If there is one villa, then the chances are that others will be found in due course."

 

Also discovered at the Yarford dig is a large prehistoric site dating from the Iron Age around 500 BC.

 

http://www.northamptontoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=255&ArticleID=1809242

Digging for secrets of the Mount

AN archaeological dig intended to uncover the hidden secrets of Towcester's Bury Mount will get underway later this month, with history buffs wanting to find ancient Roman roads and buildings.

The first phase of the organised dig will start on Monday, October 16, following the clearing of trees and bushes over the summer.

Organisers hope more Roman roads and buildings may be discovered between Watling Street and the Roman town wall that cuts across the east side of the site.

Brian Giggins, of Towcester and District Local History Society, said: "We are hoping the investigation will identify the width and depth of the great medieval ditch that surrounded Bury Mount, and will show how this was re-dug during the civil war when royalist canons were dragged to the top of the mount to protect the east of the town from attacks by the Parliamentarian garrison at Northampton."

Northamptonshire Archaeology has been contracted by South Northamptonshire Council to investigate the Moat Lane site for six to eight weeks.

Mark Strawbridge, the council's conservation officer, told the Chronicle & Echo the second phase of work will start in the new year.

This will investigate the junction of Northampton Road with Watling Street, where trade would have taken place.

Mr Strawbridge said: "That crossroads in the middle of town was in its day a major interchange. The richness of archaeological remains is likely to be great there."

Formal plans to regenerate the rest of the Moat Lane site have not yet been agreed, but it may become part of a development with a riverside walk, shops and cultural facilities.

The mount is an 11th century Norman motte but it is thought there was a building on the site at least as far back as the Roman period, when Towcester was settled as a Roman garrison town, and possibly earlier.

The history society has produced a booklet on Bury Mount Castle, available at the Towcester Tearooms.

emma.rees@northantsnews.co.uk

06 October 2006

 

http://fullcoverage.yahoo.com/s/space/20061004/sc_space/shipwreckoffhawaiiwas1870scargoship;_ylt=Agi6AMpPOLNC5_qZgNOcXpNFeQoB;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

Shipwreck Off Hawaii Was 1870s Cargo Ship

LiveScience Staff

 

LiveScience.com Wed Oct 4, 3:45 PM ET

 

Marine archaeologists today confirmed the identity of a shipwreck discovered July 3 in the waters of the recently designated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.

Click to learn more...

 

The remains, found at Kure Atoll, are those of the Dunnottar Castle, a 258-foot iron-hulled cargo ship built in 1874. [Images: 1, 2]

 

"The Dunnottar Castle is an incredible heritage resource from the days of the sailing ships like the Falls of Clyde, Balcalutha and Star of India, when our maritime commerce was driven by steel masts and canvas, and by wind power and human hands," said Hans Van Tilburg, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine archeologist.

 

NOAA researchers working from the ship Hi'ialakai confirmed the wreck's identity following its initial discovery by a volunteer with the state of Hawaii division of forestry and wildlife, Brad Vanderlip.

 

Home ported in Scotland, the Dunnottar Castle was bound from Sydney, Australia, to Wilmington, Calif., with a load of coal when it struck a reef at full speed.

 

During the recent 28-day expedition, marine archaeologists with the NOAA Maritime Heritage Program also investigated other shipwrecks, including a 19th-century American whaling ship and a

U.S. Navy side-wheel steamer lost in 1870.