Neolithic village remains unearthed in E. China province


Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a neolithic village covering an area of 20,000 square meters in East China's Anhui Province.


Archaeologists have found a large number of clay urns, bowls and other utensils, together with some stone axes and implements during an excavation in Nangang Township in the western suburbs of the provincial capital Hefei.


The findings are invaluable for the study of the independent cultural system of Huaihe River valley, which is different from those of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys that have been regarded as the cradles of Chinese civilization, said Xi Weiqun, an expert who took part in the excavation.


Xi believes the ancient village, 180 meters by 120 meters, could date back some 4,000 years.


The site was unearthed during the exploration of an expressway linking Hefei, Huainan and Fuyang in Anhui Province.


Source: Xinhua



Egypt, Thousand-Year-Old Legacy Found

El Cairo, Apr 25 (Prensa Latina)


A discovery by a group of French and Egyptian archeologists Tuesday revealed that Egyptians enjoyed a public cooking service 3,200 years ago.


The traces of that ancient civilization were found in the city of Luxor, where Egyptians prepared meals for workers of the Pharaoh tombs, and where remains of a school for workers' children, a butcher and vegetable stores.


Expert Sabri Abdelaziz confirmed they served the workers bread, meat and vegetables.


According to Culture Minister Faruq Hosni, the kitchens were built in western Luxor, near the "Rameseum", funerary temple erected in honor of Pharaoh Ramses II (1304-1237 BCE).


During his reign, Ramses II enlarged the empire's power and reached his most overwhelming success with the war against the Hittites, a people settled in Anatolia, current Turkey.


The funerary temple in honor to this pharaoh contains hieroglyphics referring to his wife Nefereti, battles and successes.



Cornell study of ancient volcano, seeds and tree rings, suggests rewriting Late Bronze Age Mediterranean history

By Alex Kwan April 28, 2006


Separated in history by 100 years, the seafaring Minoans of Crete and the mercantile Canaanites of northern Egypt and the Levant (a large area of the Middle East) at the eastern end of the Mediterranean were never considered trading partners at the start of the Late Bronze Age. Until now.


Trenchmaster Vronwy Hankey and foreman Antonis Zidianakis excavate storage jars from the Minoan settlement Myrtos-Pyrgos. The jars were analyzed in the Cornell study using radiocarbon analyses.

Cultural links between the Aegean and Near Eastern civilizations will have to be reconsidered: A new Cornell University radiocarbon study of tree rings and seeds shows that the Santorini (or Thera) volcanic eruption, a central event in Aegean prehistory, occurred about 100 years earlier than previously thought.


The study team was led by Sturt Manning, a professor of classics and the incoming director of the Malcolm and Carolyn Wiener Laboratory for Aegean and Near Eastern Dendrochronology at Cornell. The team's findings are the cover story in the latest issue of Science (April 28).


The findings, which place the Santorini eruption in the late 17th century B.C., not 100 years later as long believed, may lead to a critical rewriting of Late Bronze Age history of Mediterranean civilizations that flourished about 3,600 years ago, Manning said.


The Santorini volcano, one of the largest eruptions in history, buried towns but left archaeological evidence in the surrounding Aegean Sea region. As a major second millennium B.C. event, the Santorini eruption has been a logical point for scientists to align Aegean and Near Eastern chronology, although the exact date of the eruption was not known.


A pumice quarry on Santorini shows the Minoan eruption pumice series. 

"Santorini is the Pompeii of the prehistoric Aegean, a time capsule and a marker horizon," said Manning. "If you could date it, then you could define a whole century of archaeological work and stitch together an absolute timeline."


In pursuit of this time stamp, Manning and colleagues analyzed 127 radiocarbon measurements from short-lived samples, including tree-ring fractions and harvested seeds that were collected in Santorini, Crete, Rhodes and Turkey. Those analyses, coupled with a complex statistical analysis, allowed Manning to assign precise calendar dates to the cultural phases in the Late Bronze Age.


"At the moment, the radiocarbon method is the only direct way of dating the eruption and the associated archaeology," said Manning, who puts Santorini's eruption in or just after the range 1660 to 1613 B.C. This date contradicts conventional estimates that linked Aegean styles in trade goods found in Egypt and the Near East to Egyptian inscriptions and records, which have long placed the event at around 1500 B.C.


To resolve the discrepancy, Manning suggests realigning the Aegean and Egyptian chronologies for the period 1700-1400 B.C. Parts of the existing archaeological chronology are strong and parts are weak, Manning noted, and the radiocarbon now calls for "a critical rethinking of hypotheses that have stood for nearly a century in the mid second millennium B.C."


Aegean and Near Eastern cultures, including the Minoan, Mycenaean and Anatolian civilizations, are fundamental building blocks for Greek and European early history. The new findings stretch Aegean chronology by 100 years, a move that could mean alliances and intercultural influences that were previously thought improbable.


The new results were bolstered by a dendrochronology and radiocarbon study, led by Danish geologist Walter Friedrich and published in the same issue of Science, which dated an olive branch severed during the Santorini eruption and arrived independently at a late 17th century B.C. dating.


This work, Manning added, continues Cornell's leading role in developing a secure chronology for the Aegean and Near East headed by Professor Peter Kuniholm, who founded the Aegean Dendrochronology Project 30 years ago. "I came to Cornell in 1976 with half a suitcase of wood. Now we have an entire storeroom with some 40,000 archived pieces that cover some 7,500 years," said Kuniholm.


Graduate student Alex Kwan is a writer intern with the Cornell News Service.



Late Bronze Age in Aegean a Century Older, Study Says (Update1)

April 27 (Bloomberg) -- Radiocarbon dating pushes some events in the middle of the second millennium B.C. 100 years back into the past, possibly revising history in the Aegean Sea area near Greece and Turkey, a study in tomorrow's Science said.


``A new story may be written on the origins of early classical and Aegean civilization, which effectively becomes much of Western civilization,'' said Stuart Manning, a Cornell University professor of classics.


The findings concern a critical time for development of Late Bronze Age cultures in the Aegean, Cyprus, Anatolia and others and may change how cultural relations are viewed in the period, said Manning, the lead investigator, in a telephone interview from London. The conclusion solves one of the big challenges to archeologists in the past 30 years, he said.


One of the world's largest volcanic eruptions also occurred on Santorini during that time, turning it from an Aegean isle into an outer rim of islands and affecting climate as far away as Ireland and California, according to evidence cited in the study. Santorini is part of Greece.


A separate study in Science placed the Santorini explosion at 1627 to 1600 B.C. instead of late 1500 B.C., using the branch of an olive tree on the island ``killed by the eruption and covered by 14 inches of brimstone,'' said Jan Heinemeier, director of the AMS C14 Dating Centre at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, in an interview today.


``We have for the first time a very precise and direct date for the Minoan eruption,'' said lead investigator Walter Freidrich, associate professor of geology at the University of Aarhus, in a phone interview today.


The Aegean Late Bronze Age traditionally includes the height of New Palace civilization on Crete, new coastal policies on Cyprus and the Shaft Grave period on Greece's mainland, the researchers of the first study wrote.


The investigators tested a large database of 100 new samples including seeds and wood spanning several centuries and performed a sophisticated statistical analysis, Manning said. Radiocarbon dating hasn't been precise enough until recent years to prove such a point, he said. Study sponsors included the U.K.'s National Environmental Research Council.


The study's date for the eruption was in a range of about 1660 to 1613 B.C., the researchers said.


People studying the Late Bronze Age period traditionally have based their chronologies on the examination of ceramics and other ancient artifacts and by comparing them to similar items from Egypt, Manning said. Those dates are inconsistent with the new findings, the researchers said.


The new timeline places a number of events before about 1600 B.C., including the formation and high point of the New Palace period on Crete, the Shaft Grave period on the Greek mainland, and the Middle to late Cypriot period on Cyprus, the scientists said. The New Palace era, when Crete dominated Aegean trade and culture, stretched across more than 250 years, they wrote.


The chronology also shows those eras are contemporary with Egypt when it was controlled by a Canaanite dynasty with links to the Levant, not the earlier New Kingdom Dynasty, they said.


``There's been 30 years of controversy in this field,'' Manning said. ``There will be plenty of scientists lined up to be interviewed in the next week or so, happily enough, to say, `Well, this is just impossible.'''


To contact the reporter on this story:

Theresa Barry in Washington at  Tbarry2@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: April 27, 2006 19:00 EDT 



Olive branch clue to how Minoans were wiped out

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Published: 28 April 2006


A single olive branch may have solved one of ancient history's most enduring mysteries: when and why did the great Minoan civilisation of the Mediterranean come to a sudden end?


The branch was buried during a cataclysmic volcanic eruption on the Aegean island of Thera - now known as Santorini - and scientists believe they can date the precise moment of the tree's death.


Knowing when the Thera eruption happened is important because the explsion was so powerful that it almost certainly caused the collapse of the Minoan civilisation, centred on the island of Crete, 60 miles away. Vulcanologists believe the explosion generated violent tsunamis that destroyed Crete's ports, threw thousands of tons of ash and pumice into the atmosphere and created a "nuclear winter" that led to successive crop failures in the region.


Scientists have detected ash from the explosion as far away as Greenland, the Black Sea and Egypt. They have also discovered signs of frost damage caused by the volcano on preserved plant material excavated in Ireland and California.


Walter Friedrich, of the University of Aarhus in Denmark, and his colleagues have analysed the olive branch's growth rings and combined the findings with radiocarbon dating to show the tree must have died between 1627BC and 1600BC.


"It is important to have a very precise date for the explosion because this eruption is a global time marker. If we can date it precisely we have an important tool to correlate the times of different cultures," Dr Friedrich said.


Tom Pfeiffer, a student of Dr Friedrich, discovered the olive branch buried inside a rock face formed from volcanic debris. The researchers are convinced the tree was alive when it was smothered. The scientists found 72 growth rings, including the final year's ring, inside the branch. Using radiocarbon dating, they worked out the year of the tree's death to an accuracy of 13 years each way.


The study, published in the journal Science, suggests Thera blew apart a century or so prior to the conventional date when the Minoan civilisation was thought to have gone into demise, based on evidence from archaeological objects. The scientists suggest it is highly unlikely the Minoans were able to survive the environmental impact of the eruption, which meant their civilisation ended 100 to 150 years earlier than thought. This would mean the Minoan civilisation was not contemporary with the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt - which began in the 16th century BC - as many archaeologists believed.


A separate study published in Science by Professor Sturt Manning of Cornell University in New York shows radiocarbon dating of 127 objects recovered from the Theran town of Akrotiri - which was buried by the eruption - support the findings.


Professor Colin Renfrew, a Cambridge archaeologist, said the studies appeared to provide convincing evidence to put a firm date on the eruption in Thera.



Smugglers destroy Iron Age cemetery south of Tehran


Tehran Times Culture Desk


TEHRAN -- An Iron Age cemetery in southern Tehran Province has been severely damaged by smugglers, the Persian service of CHN reported on Wednesday.


The cemetery at Pardis Tepe near Varamin was excavated by a team of archaeologists from the University of Tehran and Britain’s University of Leicester and University of Bradford last year but was left without any guards or protective fences.


“Unfortunately, due to the lack of any measures to safeguard the site, the Iron Age graves discovered during the excavations have been demolished by unknown persons and have been obliterated forever from Iran’s ancient history,” said Hassan Fazeli Nashli, the head of the team that excavated the site.


The human bones and artifacts discovered during the excavations have been scattered on the ground at the site.


“A lot of time and money were spent on the excavation and research, but many graves from the Iron Age -- an important period in archaeological studies -- have been demolished. For example, it took twenty days of hard work to excavate a grave containing an Iron Age couple, but the grave has been destroyed and the skeletons have been irrevocably damaged,” he explained.


He said that the Varamin Governor’s Office and the local police were responsible for guarding the site, adding, “As an expert, I have carried out my duties at the site… Officials and the people should have protected the site.”


Varamin Governor Hamid Nik-Hemmat expressed regret over what happened and ordered all relevant organizations to make efforts to increase the level of security at Varamin cultural heritage sites.


“Illegal excavations rarely occur at Varamin’s ancient sites. However, very serious measures will soon be taken to prevent such events from recurring in the city because it is one of the history- making cities of Iran near Tehran which must protect its cultural status,” he said.


According to Nik-Hemmat, the police are investigating the case in order to arrest the culprits.


Pardis Tepe also contains sites dating back to the sixth and fifth millennia BC. Several pottery kilns, a potter’s wheel, a spindle, and many grey shards have been discovered at the site during previous excavations.



Religious site could reveal cult secrets

By Kevin Barnes


Archaeologists hope to uncover a glimpse of the mysteries of cult worship in Roman Britain by excavating a vast religious complex in Ewell, writes Kevin Barnes.


A series of deep shafts found cut into chalk bedrock at Hatch Furlong gave researchers the clue that a ritual site existed there about 1,900 years ago.


Over the next fortnight an expert team led by Harvey Sheldon of Birkbeck College, London, intends to unearth the sacred stone building lying near the Ewell bypass.


Although similar temple complexes have been discovered in Britain, the dig may provide new evidence about Roman religion.


Ewell was the largest Roman settlement in Surrey, divided by Stane Street, a mayjor flint road between Chichester and London.


It is believed that weary travellers would refresh their spirits at springs in Ewell before making offerings to native deities.


In the 1840s evidence for a cult centre emerged as pottery vessels, wares, coins and dog bones were retrieved from the 30ft shafts. Many of the finds are exhibited now at the Museum of London.


The latest project will ensure the National Trust can manage effectively land given as a wildflower area not "a lost Roman ritual site full of votive gifts".


Caroline Thackray, the trust's territory archaeologist, said: "This is a great opportunity for us to learn more about the mysteries of this place using modern techniques."


"What is its meaning and importance? Who were Ewell's earlier inhabitants? And what was the reason for the chalk shafts that seem so bizarre to us today?


"We look forward to sharing a greater understanding and interpretation of our site with the local and wider academic community."


The excavation is supported by Surrey County Council, Epsom & Ewell History and Archaeology Society, Surrey Archaeological Society and the Council for British Archaeology South.


Local people can tour the site during two open days on May 5 and 6. Talks and an exhibition are planned at Bourne Hall Museum in Ewell later this month, from where leaflets with directions to the site are being distributed next weekend.


In September, Birkbeck College will run an archaeology course at Ewell Court House.


l For more local news go to our website www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk and click on Epsom Guardian.


12:44pm Friday 28th April 2006



Surprise finds at school site dig 


A corn drying kiln was one of the most prominent discoveries

Several important finds have been made at an archaeological dig on the site of the proposed new school in Lockerbie.

It was decided to survey the area after information was received by the council suggesting it could be an area containing buried remains.


The dig unearthed a cremation urn from about 1900 BC and what is believed to be an early Bronze Age grave.


Remains of a 5,500-year-old timber building and an Anglian Hall from about 700 AD were also discovered.


"The excavations have already given a real insight into the several thousand years of human history in just one small area of the region," said council archaeologist Jane Brann.


"There is a real concentration of prehistoric archaeological sites known in the Lockerbie area showing it had much to offer our distant ancestors.


"The finding of an Anglian Hall is a real surprise.


"Now, off-site analysis will add the detail of everyday life to these findings and relate these features to the wider picture of Scottish archaeology."



Orkney's '2,000-year-old murder' 


A body found in Orkney was likely to have been a murder victim dating back as far as 2,000 years, it has emerged.

The skeleton of the man was found during an Iron Age site excavation at Mine Howe, Tankerness.


Tests have now revealed that the body met with a violent death and had been dumped in a shallow grave.


Experts believe it dates from between 100 BC and 100 AD and now hope to establish more about where the man came from and what may have happened.


A complete skeleton was revealed and experts sent the remains - of a man aged between 25 and 35 - for analysis.


The cause of death came as a surprise as the man had numerous violent wounds on his bones and internal organs would also have been damaged.


Nick Card, of the Orkney Archaeological Trust (Oat), has been co-directing the excavations and said the findings were a surprise.


He told the BBC Scotland news website: "When the body was uncovered there was a lot of interest but we said it would not be a murder victim.


"It came as quite a big shock when we got the report back."


The man's left shoulder blade had a diamond shape puncture wound which appeared to have been caused by a high velocity blow perhaps caused by a spear or arrow.


Experts hope to find out more after the surprise murder news


Cut marks were clustered on the left side of the body on his ribs, shoulder, hand and arm.


The nature of these cuts suggested they had been delivered by a sharp, metal weapon, probably a short sword or long dagger, wielded with some force.


Put together, it suggested that the possible spear injury was the first wound, inflicted from some distance behind, perhaps to slow him down.


The attacker, standing beside or slightly behind him, then slashed at the victim while he raised his left arm in a final attempt to fend off the blows.


The victim was then dumped in the shallow grave.


It is not know whether the man was murdered at Mine Howe, or killed elsewhere and brought to the site - perhaps as a sacrifice or offering.


Mr Card said: "All the indications are that rather than a formal burial this was a totally different kettle of fish.


"It's been there roughly 2,000 years. There will be more samples taken and hopefully we will be able to say if it was a local person or from further afield."


Historic Scotland and Orkney Islands Council provided extra funding for the excavation.



Oldest football to take cup trip 


The ball is made from a pig's bladder

The world's oldest football is being sent to Germany for the World Cup.

The 450-year-old ball will form the centrepiece of an exhibition on the history of the sport.


Staff at its current home in Stirling's Smith Museum are preparing the delicate artefact for its trip to the Museum fur Volkerkunde in Hamburg.


The ball was once the property of Mary Queen of Scots and museum bosses in Germany were keen to display it after deeming it the oldest in existence.


"The Germans have decided, from all the evidence, that our ball is the oldest football in the world and it will be the centrepiece of this huge exhibition," said the Smith Museum's collection manager Michael McGinnes.


The 16th century ball is made from a pig's bladder and the cover constructed from pieces of thick leather, possibly deer, and tightly laced together.


Mr McGinnes added: "We can't prove that Mary Queen of Scots played with the ball but it is of that date."


Mr McGinnes will take the ball on a flight from Prestwick to Lubeck Airport, near Hamburg, in the early hours of Thursday morning.


Once in Germany, the ball will receive a traditional Scots welcome by being piped into the exhibition.


It will remain overseas for the duration of this summer's World Cup and it is expected to be returned home in mid-September