Prehistoric cave art discovered

Kim Willsher in Paris

Wednesday February 8, 2006

The Guardian


An amateur caver has discovered prehistoric human remains and cave art in western France believed to date back 27,000 years, several thousand years older than the world-famous paintings at Lascaux. As well as wall markings including that of a hand in cobalt blue, Gerard Jourdy, 63, said he had found animal and human remains in the cave in the Vilhonneur forest, 12 miles east of Angoulême.

The discovery was made in November but kept secret while the site was sealed and the find examined and verified. Mr Jourdy said he also saw a sculpture of a face made from a stalactite, though experts are still verifying this claim, according to the news agency AFP.


"In a small chamber I found the bones of two hyenas - complete skeletons, which is rare. And I saw human bones amid the debris - tibias, vertebrae and shoulder blades," he told AFP. "Then in the bigger chamber there was this hand - very beautiful, delicate ... in cobalt blue."

The French culture ministry has confirmed the findings, that were described as exceptional because of their age. But a spokesman said the paintings were not as spectacular as those in the Cosquer and Chauvet caves in the Ardeche or the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne.


Lascaux, discovered in 1940, is believed to date from around 17000 BC. Mr Jourdy insisted the "sculpture" was in the shape of a human face made from calcite that had formed a stalactite.


Michel Bilaud, the governor of Carente department, said: "There are traces of human occupation. There are bones and there are lines on the wall. There is a print of a hand. But for the rest, it's just marks."



French caver makes historic find 


A French caver has discovered prehistoric cave art believed to date back 27,000 years - older than the famous Lascaux paintings.

Gerard Jourdy, 63, said he found human and animal remains in the chamber in the Vilhonneur forest, in caves once used to dispose of animal carcasses.


The paintings included a hand in cobalt blue, he told AFP news agency.


The discovery was made in November, but kept secret while initial examinations were carried out.


Mr Jourdy also said he saw a sculpture of a face made from a stalactite - which would be a scientific first for the era, but experts were dubious about this claim, AFP says.


"In a small chamber I found the bones of two hyenas - complete skeletons, which is rare. And I saw human bones amid the debris - tibias, vertebrae and shoulder-blades," he told the news agency.


"Then in the bigger chamber there was this hand - very beautiful, very delicate. There was just the one in cobalt blue. When you come into the chamber it is like it is greeting you. It's incredible."


The French culture ministry confirmed the findings, but a spokesman said that although the discovery was of interest, the paintings were not as spectacular as those in the Cosquer and Chauvet caves in the Ardeche.


The Lascaux Caves, in the Dordogne, are among the best known and most important prehistoric sites of Stone Age cave art.


Experts think the caves were used for hunting rituals and shamanistic rites, and it is thought that the first paintings were done some 17,000 years ago.



Public release date: 15-Feb-2006

Contact: Skip Derra



Arizona State University


Early human ancestors walked on the wild side

Tempe, Ariz. -- Arizona State University anthropologist and Institute of Human Origins researcher Gary Schwartz, along with fellow anthropologist Dan Gebo from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, have studied fossil anklebones of some early ancestors of modern humans and discovered that they walked on the wild side.

It seems some of our earliest ancestors possessed a rather unsteady stride due to subtle anatomical differences. Schwartz and Gebo's findings will be published in the April 2006 edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, but the article is available online at www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/112169244.


Schwartz and Gebo looked at seven anklebones from a variety of early human ancestors found in eastern and southern Africa and compared them to samples taken from modern humans, chimpanzees and gorillas. The research led them to two significant conclusions.


First, certain ancestral anklebones that were thought by some to be "half ape, half human" were found to be much more similar to humans, confirming these specimens were obligate bipeds--in other words, they most likely walked on two feet in a manner similar to how we walk today.


The second discovery was that although the samples were certainly from bipeds, there were structural differences in some of the anklebones that indicated they would have walked a little differently than modern humans. Specifically, an ancestral species commonly referred to as robust australopithecines appear to have been a little knock-kneed.


"We noticed that in the specimens of robust australopithecines, there were characteristics of the anklebone that would have affected its bipedal locomotion," Schwartz said. "By looking at the location where the shin bone rides across the anklebone, we found that the shin bones would have been angled inward."


Robust australopithecines, which lived approximately two million years ago, are distinct from modern humans in a number of ways, including larger teeth, more heavily-built skulls, massive muscles for chewing and smaller brain size, but it was thought that their foot bones were not very different from our own, Schwartz said. Schwartz and Gebo's findings suggest that was not the case at all, contradicting the common wisdom that bipedalism was a rather stable, unwavering trait once it evolved in human ancestors.


"While we know a lot about how teeth and facial structures changed over time, it was thought that once our ancestors became bipedal, there were few, if any, changes in the ankle associated with walking on two legs," Schwartz said. "Now we know there were slightly different ways to be bipedal."


Another question is whether bipedalism evolved once and quickly became a dominant feature of hominins--humans, chimps and their extinct ancestors--or if it arose many times in different lineages. Schwartz said the results from the new research supports the idea that it arose only once in an ancestral species.


"The skeletal modifications associated with bipedalism represent a phenomenal reorganization of one's anatomy," Schwartz said. "It is unlikely that it could have evolved independently in multiple hominin lineages."


Still, even if it only evolved once, the new research suggests there was a lot of tinkering within subsequent lineages.


"Think of the robust australopithecines as having developed a variation on the theme of bipedalism," Schwartz said. "Undoubtedly, it was not as efficient as the way we walk today, but it might have conferred some other evolutionary advantages."


Just what those advantages might have been remains a big unknown, Schwartz said, but finding out is the next big step for his research.


"Scientists have long been fascinated with robust australopithecines because they were so distinctive from the neck up," Schwartz said. "Now we have evidence that they were interesting from the knee down as well."




Gary Schwartz, (480) 727-8684

Media contacts:

Mike Price, (480) 965-9690

Skip Derra, (480) 965-4823



Most cave art the work of teens, not shamans - A landmark study of Paleolithic art


10 February 2006


FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- Long accustomed to lifting mammoth bones from mudbanks and museum shelves and making sketches from cave art to gather details about Pleistocene animal anatomy, renowned paleobiologist and artist R. Dale Guthrie offers a fascinating and controversial interpretation of ancient cave art in his new book “The Nature of Paleolithic Art.”


This ancient art was made during the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 to 35,000 years ago, and has typically been the purview of art historians and anthropologists, many of whom view Paleolithic art as done by accomplished shaman-artists. “This assumption may be true of a few of the best known and better-drawn images, but these are a small proportion of preserved Paleolithic art,” Guthrie said.


Using new forensic techniques on fossil handprints of the artists and examining thousands of images, “I found that all ages and both sexes were making art, not just the senior male shamans,” Guthrie said. These included hundreds of prints made as ocher, manganese, or clay negatives and a few positive prints made with pigments or mud applied to hands that were then placed on cave surfaces.


“The possibility that adolescent giggles and snickers may have echoed in dark cave passages as often as the rhythm of a shaman’s chant demeans neither artists nor art,” writes Guthrie.


“I was using Paleolithic art both to appreciate the colorful renditions and to find useful and interesting details about Pleistocene animal anatomy,” said Guthrie, professor emeritus of the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. A symposium of Paleolithic art scholars in 1979 “... set me on a new course of trying to place Paleolithic art in a larger dimension of natural history and linking artistic behavior to our evolutionary past,” writes Guthrie.


The book, which contains more than 3,000 images all drawn by Guthrie, is about more than art. It’s about good parenting, children, romantic love, lust, play, graffiti, risk-proneness, missing shields, hour-glass figures, striped horses, seas of grasses, and cold dry winds – it’s about life on the margins of the Ice Age Mammoth Steppe.


Guthrie will present a free public seminar on The Nature of Paleolithic Art, Friday, February 24, at 3:30 p.m. in Elvey Auditorium on the UAF campus. Seminar information available at: www.iab.uaf.edu/events/events.php



Dale Guthrie, Professor Emeritus, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 907.479.6034, ffrdg@uaf.edu


Marie Gilbert, Publications and Information Coordinator, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 907.474.7412, marie.gilbert@uaf.edu.



Pharaonic tomb find stuns Egypt 


Archaeologists have discovered an intact, ancient Egyptian tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the first since King Tutankhamun's was found in 1922.

A University of Memphis-led team found the previously unknown tomb complete with sarcophagi and five mummies.


The archaeologists have not yet been able to identify them.


But Egypt's chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass says they "might be royals or nobles" moved from "original graves to protect them from grave robbers".


"We don't really know what kind of people are inside but I do believe they look royal. Maybe they are kings or queens or nobles," he told Reuters news agency.


Bob Partridge, of Ancient Egypt magazine, said it could possibly be the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, who co-ruled Egypt between 1379 and 1358 BC. Her tomb has never been found.


"Nefertiti was probably buried to the north of Egypt at a place called Akhetaten," he told BBC News24.


"It's believed that the burials there, which included Nefertiti and some of her daughters, were brought back to the Theban area, and the Valley of the Kings would be the obvious place."


The Valley of the Kings, near the city of Luxor in southern Egypt, was used for burials for around 500 years from 1540BC onwards.


Surprise find


The newly-found tomb is thought to date from the 18th Pharaonic Dynasty, the first dynasty of the New Kingdom which ruled between 1539BC and 1292BC and made its capital in Thebes, now Luxor.


It is the 63rd tomb to be discovered since the valley was first mapped in the 18th century, and was unexpectedly found only five metres away from King Tutankhamun's.


The team of archaeologists had not been looking for it.


"The excavation team was focused on the tomb of a 19th Dynasty pharaoh, King Amenmesses," Patricia Podzorski, curator of Egyptian Art at the University of Memphis, told the BBC's World Tonight.


"They were working in front of the tomb looking for foundation deposits possibly related to that tomb, and clearing away some workmen's huts from the 19th Dynasty that were both to the left and right side of the tomb," she explained.


"Underneath these workmen's huts, they found a shaft."


Four metres below the ground was a single chamber containing sarcophagi with coloured funerary masks and more than 20 large storage jars bearing Pharaonic seals.


The sarcophagi were buried rapidly in the small tomb for an unknown reason.


The discovery has come as a surprise to many, Ms Podzorski said.


"People have been saying the valley was done for 100 years," she said.


"They said it before Howard Carter found King Tutankhamun's tomb and they said it after. But, obviously, they are still wrong."



First peek at ancient tomb

By Nic Fleming, London

February 12, 2006


THEY have lain undisturbed in their pitch black resting place five metres under the ground for more than three millennia.


The five mummies in wooden sarcophagi and coloured funeral masks from the 18th pharaonic dynasty were found in the first tomb to be unearthed in Egypt's Valley of the Kings since that of King Tutankhamun in 1922. Entombed with them in the underground chamber measuring four metres by 5.2 metres are 20 sealed clay jars, probably containing food and wine.


On Friday, journalists were for the first time allowed to peek around a partly opened door at the scene, frozen in time for around 3000 years.


Remarkably, the discovery was made by accident at the end of last year, while American archaeologists were investigating the previously known tomb of 19th-dynasty Pharaoh Amenmesses.


Beneath workmen's huts from this tomb they found a deep pit leading to a narrow shaft, which in turn led to a stone doorway.


The door was partly opened last week to reveal the simple burial place, believed to be from the first dynasty of the New Kingdom, which ruled between 1539BC and 1292BC and had its capital in Thebes, the present city of Luxor. One of the coffins had toppled towards the door, revealing its white painted face, and another was partly open, showing a brown cloth covering the mummy inside.


The tomb, the 63rd discovered since the valley was first mapped in the 18th century, was found just metres from that of Tutankhamen, the boy king who became the best known of ancient Egypt's pharaohs, and whose resting place was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in November 1922.


Archaeologists who made the discovery do not know whose mummies are within the sarcophagi. Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's supreme council of antiquities, said: "Maybe they are mummies of kings or queens or nobles, we don't know. But it's definitely someone connected to the royal family."


The discovery has shown that, despite the use of the latest imaging technology and the visits of dozens of archaeologists, the long-held belief that there is nothing left to excavate in the Valley of the Kings is mistaken.


Over coming days, the team led by Otto Schaden from the University of Memphis will clear some of the rubble from the bottom of the shaft before opening the door and entering the chamber.



Tutankhamen liked his wine white

16 February 2006

From New Scientist Print Edition


 IT SEEMS that Tutankhamen, the teenage king of ancient Egypt, sloped off to the afterlife with a good supply of fine white wine. It's a surprising discovery, considering there is no record of white wine in Egypt until the 3rd century AD, 1600 years after the young pharaoh died.


Rosa Lamuela-Raventós and her colleagues from the University of Barcelona, Spain, used liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to analyse the residue from six of the jars in Tutankhamen's tomb. All contained tartaric acid, a chemical characteristic of grapes, but only one contained syringic acid, found in the skin of red grapes. It's this skin that gives red wine its colour.


The absence of the chemical in the other five jars suggests the wine in them was white. Because it is unlikely Egyptian wine makers would have removed red grape skins to create white wines as modern wine makers do, white grapes probably did exist in Tutankhamen's time.


In ancient Egypt, red wine was placed in tombs to accompany people into the afterlife. Now it appears that white wine was on the menu too.


"It must have been considered a very good drink," says Lamuela-Raventós, whose findings are reported in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.


From issue 2539 of New Scientist magazine, 16 February 2006, page 22



Enigmatic discovery

The discovery of a red granite head of a king with Nubian features in the precinct of Amenhotep III's temple on Luxor's West Bank has puzzled Egyptologists

Nevine El-Aref


The red granite colossal of King Amenhotep III 

Face to face with ancient royals


"This really is a very surprising discovery," Hourig Sourouzian, director of the German conservation project for the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III's temple, told Al-Ahram Weekly. She explained that since excavation of the site began in 1998 the mission had consistently stumbled upon homogenous New Kingdom statuaries until last week, when a well-preserved red granite royal head with Kushite features -- full cheeks and bulging lips -- was unearthed.


The 50-cm-tall head was found among several decaying granite block on a sandstone slab at the north end of the temple. Its top and right side were damaged, the nose was lightly chipped and the chin was broken. "It is a very beautiful head wearing a nemes (regal headdress)," says Sourouzian, who asserts that it does not belong to the area where it lay buried.


"If this head belongs to the Kushite period of the 25th dynasty, which is seven dynasties later than the reign of Amenhotep III, why is it deposited here?" Sourouzian asks. She says this leads one to suggest that it was deliberately moved from its original location and hidden for later retrieval. "It may possibly have been deposited here at the beginning of the 19th century by the agent of the British Council, [Henry] Salt, who recovered and sent abroad several statues from this temple," she says. "Or maybe it is a much younger deposit, in the first half of the 20th century, when antiquities dealers made illegal diggings and deals in the Theban region before the inspectorate of the Antiquities Service was established on the West Bank."


While digging trenches for a project to remove water from the western part of the temple precinct the team unearthed two 3,400-year-old statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet. One is a black granite legless statue featuring the goddess of war standing and holding a papyrus in her hand. The other is a diorite bust of a colossal statue crowned with a diadem encircled by a uraeus headdress. The face of this statue is well preserved and only the back pillar is damaged. Both statues were brought immediately to the temporary site laboratory for primary cleaning and conservation.


"These are not the only Sekhmet statues found," says Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA. Hawass says numerous Sekhmet statues have been found over the centuries at the Amenhotep III temple site, with the German mission unearthing 20 of them, but the latest one is the largest of all.


Next day while digging the southern part of the peristyle court of the temple, workers uncovered a red granite head of a colossal statue of Amenhotep III. It is a very well preserved head featuring the king's entire face but the crown and the beard are yet missing.


"Although a crack traverses its right side, the head is considered the most complete, well preserved and most beautiful portrait of king Amenhotep III," said Sourouzian.


Other colossal heads had been previously discovered in Kom el Hettan by previous excavators, like the one in the Luxor Museum, but they are all partially damaged.


The head belongs to one of a series of colossal statues of the king, which surrounded the peristyle court of the great mortuary temple of Amenhotep III. They have all been destroyed over centuries, the last remains lie under the road which covers half of the southern portico of the court.


With the help of some 80 workmen the team succeeded in pulling from under the water level the monumental foot of a quartzite colossus of Amenhotep III, which was found in 2002 at the second pylon of his temple at Kom Al-Hittan. In 2003, the German team discovered the queen behind the right leg of the royal colossus, and last season they lifted the torso of the colossal statue 3.12m above the level where he had fallen, bringing it above the water. However the block with the foot, which was detached from the torso in antiquity, remained at a lower level. The base of the statue is inscribed with the names of Amenhotep III, and decorated with representations of people from the south. It is now out of the reach of ground water and placed on a higher level in preparation for reassembly with other blocks of the statue base. The method for pulling is exactly as in Pharaonic times, with rolls sliding on wooden beams and with the help of 80 workmen and two foremen. The block is about two metres high, and weighs approximately five tons.




by Roz Tappenden 17/02/2006


The excavation took place in 2004. © Cambria Archaeology


New research on an excavated Bronze Age burial mound in south Wales has revealed links to funeral sites as far away as the Orkney Islands.


The burial mound on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire was unearthed by Cambria Archaeology in 2004 after it was feared that the weather and visitors to the area were causing permanent damage to the site.


Fan Foel from Llanddeusant. © Cambria Archaeology


Archaeologists discovered a large rectangular stone cist at the centre of the mound containing the cremated bones of a young child, a pottery urn, a bone pin and several flint tools.


The cist also contained the cremated bones of two pigs and what is though to be a dog. Research revealed that second later burial took place at the site, which was added to the side of the mound.


 Radiocarbon dating found the bones to be 4000-years-old. © Cambria Archaeology


New analysis on the soil surrounding the site, undertaken by the University of Lampeter, has identified microscopic pollen grains, indicating that the burial was accompanied by a floral tribute of meadowsweet.


The same burial rituals, with cremated bone, pottery and meadowsweet flowers in a stone cist, have been found as far away as Orkney and Perthshire in Scotland.


The pottery urn was unearthed in the excavation. © Cambria Archaeology


Adam Gwilt, curator of the Bronze and Iron Age Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru said: "It gives a tenderness to otherwise remote and impersonal burial rites."


The pollen analysis also revealed important information about the type of vegetation in the area 4000 years ago when Myddfai and Llanddeusant were dotted with small farming communities.


 The burial mound would have been visible to the scattered faming communities that once occupied the landscape. © Cambria Archaeology


Astrid Caseldine, of the University of Lampeter, said: "The landscape was already largely open heath land and grassland when the cairn was built, however, there was also evidence that the heath land had been deliberately burnt, which may represent ritual activity associated with the burials."



Greek Hiker Finds 6,500-Year-Old Pendant



THESSALONIKI, Greece Feb 16, 2006 (AP)— A Greek hiker found a 6,500-year-old gold pendant in a field and handed it over to authorities, an archaeologist said Thursday.


The flat, roughly ring-shaped prehistoric pendant probably had religious significance and would have been worn on a necklace by a prominent member of society.


Only three such gold artifacts have been discovered during organized digs, archaeologist Georgia Karamitrou-Mendesidi, head of the Greek archaeological service in the northern region where the discovery was made, told The Associated Press.


"It belongs to the Neolithic period, about which we know very little regarding the use of metals, particularly gold," she said. "The fact that it is made of gold indicates that these people were highly advanced, producing significant works of art."


She said the pendant, measuring rough 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches, was picked up last year near the town of Ptolemaida, about 90 miles southwest of the northern city of Thessaloniki. Karamitrou-Mendesidi is to present the artifact at a three-day archaeological conference that opened Thursday in Thessaloniki.


Greek police confiscated a hoard of 33 similar pieces of hammered gold jewelry from smugglers in 1997.


The woman who found the pendant did not want a reward and wished to remain anonymous, Karamitrou-Mendesidi said.


Similar finds have been excavated in modern Turkey and the Balkans, particularly in Bulgaria.


Around 4500 B.C., when the pendant was made, Greece's early Neolithic farming settlements were consolidating into structured trading centers with a developed knowledge of metalworking.


In November, archaeologists announced the discovery of two prehistoric farming settlements dating back as early as 6000 B.C. in the Ptolemaida region.


The settlement digs uncovered burial sites, clay and stone figurines of humans and animals, pottery and stone tools.


Another 25 prehistoric settlements have been found in the area.



Trove of Teutonic weapons uncovered in Krusne Hory region

[09-02-2006] By Jan Velinger, Martina Schneibergova

It's not unusual in this country to come across weapons caches dating back to the Second World War. But, finding a pile of javelin tips, parts of shields and a sword dating back to the 2nd century A.D., doesn't happen every day.


According to museum officials in the north Bohemian town of Chomutov it was a find that almost "never happened": a trove of twenty-two Teutonic items, weapons or parts of shields, dating back 1,800 years, that one finder almost failed to report. Roughly six months ago, the finder, a local man, discovered the items on a walk through nearby forests: they lay uncovered in a quiet grove. He gathered the items up and - apparently not realising their immense value - stored them in his cellar. Only later did it occur to him to hand in the rust-covered items to officials at the local museum. This week archaeologist Lenka Onderkova explained the importance of the find:

"It is a remarkable find but not because of individual items but because of the number of items found. Germanic tribes regularly buried important warriors together with their swords, or spears, or bits of broken shield, but in this case what's unusual is the high number of items found at a single site. The number of objects found - and their variety in this case - is what makes this find important."

 The only previous and comparable such discovery in Czech lands took place in the 1950s, a case that is still discussed by academics today.

"The only similar such find took place in Eastern Bohemia. But, it was not without controversy. To this day it has been a matter of debate whether that find was a destroyed burial site, or a place for sacrifice. There they found far less: for example just four spears compared to the eleven at Krusne Hory. The latest find could be truly unique."

 The Krusne Hory find certainly includes more items: twenty-two separate pieces including shield handles, pike tips, and an iron sword of typical Teutonic design. But, the find could have revealed more: archaeologists were reportedly upset - understandably- by the fact that the local who made the discovery not only removed the items from the area, but waited so long to report his find. That complicated matters. Viewing the site and seeing the original positioning of the items, could have been invaluable, likely revealing more about the items' long-dead owners and the circumstances of their burial, than the weapons do on their own. Given the delay, archaeologists were no longer able to decipher, for example, why the items were originally placed in such a shallow grave.

On one thing specialists do agree: found at high altitude, far from the nearest settlement or the nearest river, this must have been a ritual burial site. A final, quiet resting place for Teutonic warriors.





10:51 - 14 February 2006 


Experts believe they have discovered the remains of the largest-ever Roman building found in Leicester.


The dwelling, thought to be a second century town house is 230ft long - equivalent to 15 terraced houses.


Archeologists believe it could have been a hotel for Roman officials visiting the city.


Alternatively, it could have been a large home for a wealthy family.


The discovery was made in Vine Street, in the city centre - yards from the former St Margaret's Baths site, where archaeologists recently found the skeletons of 1,300 people in a medieval cemetery.


Evidence of Roman existence in the area was first reported in May last year, when experts thought they had found the remains of a wealthy family's townhouse.


But the excavation has proved much larger than originally thought.


Richard Buckley, director of University of Leicester Archaeology Services, said his team had not expected such a large discovery.


He said: "The surprising thing is that we didn't expect any Roman activity here in this side of the city. We certainly did not expect this sort of density of population.


"Until this development, this part of Leicester is blank on Roman history and this shows there was industrial, residential and commercial activity over this part of town.


"The good thing is that it remains in good enough condition for a good analysis."


The town house is at the junction of two streets with rooms arranged around a central courtyard, served by several corridors with some containing fragments of mosaic pavements.


One of the rooms is equipped with a hypocaust, an ancient central heating system, thought to be part of a small bath suite with a plunge bath.


Another large Roman building, 98ft long, from the third century was also discovered. The unusually thick walls, around 1.2 metres , suggests it could be a public building used for storage.


Mr Buckley said: "We also found two lead seals marked with the initials of the sixth and 20th legion in both areas.


"No doubt this will help us to understand the era and period a bit more and this is a significant find for the city.


"The site is still being examined and we believe it will still be a few months before we have finished our dig."


The area of the discovery is to form a new multi-storey car park for the £350 million Shires development.


Chris Wardle, a city archaeologist, said: "We knew Leicester was a Roman city but the findings suggests that part of town was intensely occupied.."



Viking smile suggests Norse were vain warriors

Updated Wed. Feb. 15 2006 10:10 AM ET

Associated Press


STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Viking raids gave Norsemen a reputation in medieval Europe as bloodthirsty marauders. Recent archaeological finds show they may also have been vain - caring as much for the brilliance of their teeth as the bite of their swords.


A study of skeletal remains from 1,000-year-old burial sites in southern Sweden suggests some Norsemen used iron files to carve grooves into their teeth, probably to insert colourful decorations, anthropologist Caroline Arcini said.


She believes the grooves, which she found in the teeth of 10 per cent of male skeletons but none of the women, were either pure decoration or meant to show affiliation to a social class or trade group.


Tooth filing was widespread among Indian tribes in America at the time, but Arcini's discovery is the first indication it was also used among medieval Europeans.


Although researchers believe the Vikings were the first Europeans to reach America in the 11th century, Arcini said her discoveries don't necessarily mean the two cultures exchanged ideas on dentistry.


"It is probably just a coincidence," she said. "Things pop up in different places in the world without there necessarily having been any contact."


The Vikings entered recorded history in the late eighth century, when they set out in their long ships to raid the coasts of northern Europe. Starting out as minor expeditions by adventurous chieftains, the raids eventually escalated into full-scale invasions in England and northern France led by Norwegian and Danish kings and earls.


Swedish Vikings headed east, crossing the Baltic Sea and sailing up the rivers of Russia and reaching as far as Constantinople.


Arcini's study, first published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, found horizontal grooves across the upper front teeth of 24 men in 557 skeletal remains of men and women at four grave sites.


The grooves, often in pairs or triplets, were too carefully made to be the result of chance, she said.


Arcini, who works for the Swedish National Heritage Board, said it was unclear what colours were used to fill the grooves, but it was likely black or red.


"I think it was rather pretty," she said. "What they had in common was that they had to laugh pretty hard" for the teeth to be visible because the grooves were quite high up.


Arcini hopes further studies will reveal where the practice arose and how it spread.



1,400-year-old moccasin found in Canadian glacier

Thu Feb 16, 6:41 PM ET


VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Archeologists studying melting alpine ice for clues on early life in Canada's North have uncovered a 1,400-year-old moccasin, officials said on Thursday.


Researchers at first thought the artifact found in the southwest Yukon in 2003 was a hunter's bag, but after cleaning and reassembling the hide they realized it was the oldest aboriginal moccasin ever found in Canada.


The discovery is considered especially important because it far predates any European trade contact with the region, and it likely belonged to the early Athapaskan people who lived in the boreal forests.


"It is a significant addition to the wealth of archeological artifacts that have been found at Yukon ice patches," Yukon Culture Minister Elaine Taylor said in a news release.


Researchers studying melting ice patches under a joint program between the territory and local aboriginal groups have uncovered more than 180 hunting-related artifacts since the effort began in 1997.