Public release date: 5-Jun-2006
Contact: Heidi Hardman
100,000 year-old DNA sequence allows new look at Neandertal's genetic diversity
A new neandertal haplotype was recovered from a 100,000 year old specimen from Scladina cave. It confirms that Neandertals and modern humans were only distant relatives but concomitantly reveals that...
By recovering and sequencing intact DNA from an especially ancient Neandertal specimen, researchers have found evidence suggesting that the genetic diversity among Neandertals was higher than previously thought. The findings also suggest that genetic diversity may have been higher in earlier Neandertal periods relative to later periods that approached the arrival of humans in Europe. Changes in genetic diversity over time are thought to reflect population events, such as low-population bottlenecks caused by disease or environmental change, as well as the influence of random genetic change. The findings are reported in the June 6th issue of Current Biology by a group of researchers including Ludovic Orlando and led by Catherine Hänni of Ecole Normale Supérieur in Lyon, France.
Neandertals were the only representatives of the genus Homo in Europe during most of the last 300,000 years, becoming extinct shortly after the arrival of modern humans on the continent around 30,000 years ago. Traces of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences still present in fossilized bones have been used in past studies in an effort to identify and track the potential genetic legacy of Neandertals among modern Europeans. Though such genetic continuity would have been the hallmark of interbreeding between modern humans and Neandertals at the time of their European coexistence, the mtDNA sequences from the nine neandertal specimens that have been analyzed to date – and that lived around the time of the cohabitation period – do not match those found among modern humans, suggesting that little, if any, interbreeding took place.
In their new work, Dr. Hänni and colleagues now report the oldest Neandertal mtDNA sequence ever recovered. The Neandertal specimen analyzed consists in a molar of a 10-12 year-old child that lived in the Meuse valley (Scladina cave, Belgium) around 100,000 years ago. The specimen yielded 123bp of mtDNA – a very short section of DNA by modern sequencing standards, but a technical feat considering the very ancient source of tissue. The reason for choosing such an old specimen was simple: it unambiguously predates the period when Neandertals cohabited with modern humans. By comparing this sequence with already published – and considerably younger – Neandertal sequences, the researchers sought to reveal whether the Neandertal mtDNA pool exhibited long-term stability or drastic modification around the time of cohabitation with modern humans. There was a second reason to pay attention on the Scladina molar: it has only been discovered very recently. This means that all individuals who have been in contact with it are known, and their DNA could be sequenced to detect any possible contamination of the Neandertal sample by modern human DNA.
The Neandertal sequence from Scladina confirms that Neandertals and modern humans were only distant relatives – Neandertal sequences are all closer to each other than to any known human sequence. But the study also reveals that the genetic diversity of Neandertals has been underestimated. Indeed, the mtDNA from the Scladina sample is more divergent relative to modern humans than is mtDNA from recent Neandertals, suggesting that Neandertals were a more genetically diverse group than previously thought.
Ludovic Orlando and Catherine Hänni of CNRS, UCB Lyon 1, and Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon in Lyon, France; Pierre Darlu of INSERM and Hôpital Paul Brousse in Villejuif, France; Michel Toussaint of Ministère de la région Wallone in Namur, Belgium; Dominique Bonjean of ASBL Archéologie Andennaise in Sclayn, Belgium; Marcel Otte of Université de Liège in Liège, Belgium.
Orlando et al.: "Correspondence: Revisiting Neandertal diversity with a 100,000 year old mtDNA sequence." Current Biology 16, R400-402, June 6, 2006. www.current-biology.com
Ancient engraved chessboards found on Great Wall
Archaeologists have found two ancient engraved chessboards probably used by soldiers on the Great Wall more than 700 years ago at Qinhuangdao, North China's Hebei Province.
The two boards, one for Chinese chess and the other for the ancient game "Tiger Eats Sheep", were engraved on a stone in front of a Great Wall beacon tower possibly in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), said officials with the provincial department of cultural relics.
Archaeologists believe that soldiers from all parts of ancient China used to play chess to while away the time on the remote wall.
The chessboards were never mentioned in documents on the Great Wall or in local chronicles, said an official.
However, more work was needed to identify the exact date of the boards, he added.
Archaeologists have also found 17 Chinese characters in five lines engraved on a stone nearby, of which the names of two soldiers are still clear.
China's first emperor, Qinshihuang, founder of Qin Dynasty, had the Wall built as a defense by over one million workers in 12 years against attack by the Xiongnu, an ancient nationality in North China.
Rebuilt many times through the centuries, the wall stretches 6,000kilometers from Jiayuguan Pass in northwestern Gansu Province to end at Shanhaiguan Pass on the shores of Bohai Bay in the east.
UNESCO team to probe Bosnia's "ancient pyramid"
Mon Jun 5, 8:36 AM ET
SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia's mystery pyramid will now be probed and inspected by a team of experts from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
"We shall send a UNESCO expert team to Visoko to determine exactly what it is all about," UNESCO Secretary General Koichiro Matsuura said in an interview published on Monday in Dnevni Avaz newspaper.
Amateur archaeologist Semir Osmanagic has caused a stir with his find, although local and European archaeologists denounce it as nonsense.
Geologist Aly Abd Barakat, an Egyptian researcher sent by Cairo to assist Osmanagic's team last month, has said that the Visocica hill did appear to be a primitive man-made pyramid of uncertain age.
Barakat said huge stone blocks found on the three sides of the hill used the same type of artificial cement used in ancient Egyptian pyramids.
Osmanagic's team is also investigating the Pljesevica hill -- which he calls the Moon Pyramid -- as well as underground tunnels he believes connect three pyramids.
The researchers have also found a sandstone monolith in the underground tunnel with enigmatic symbols engraved on it, which will be sent to Egypt for analysis.
Osmanagic, who studied pyramids in central America for the past 15 years, said that satellite and radar analyses have revealed the perfect geometry of Visocica and precise alignment of its sides with four cardinal points.
British expert nixes Bosnia pyramid claim
By AIDA CERKEZ-ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer
Sat Jun 10, 7:03 PM ET
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - A British archaeologist on Friday rejected claims that a hill in central Bosnia is a man-made structure that many local residents insist is a pyramid.
Professor Anthony Harding, who is president of the European Association of Archaeologists, visited Visocica hill and said the formation was natural.
"Not any evidence at all has been found" to support the claim the site would be an archaeological site, he said.
No pyramids are known in Europe, and there are no records of any ancient civilization on the continent ever attempting to build one.
The pyramid theory was launched by an amateur researcher last year but it has been disputed by a number of local and international experts, who claim that at no time in Bosnia's history did the region have a civilization able to build monumental structures. They say the hill is simply a strange natural formation.
Nevertheless, Semir Osmanagic, the amateur Bosnian archaeologist who has been investigating Latin American pyramids for 15 years, organized excavations to Visocica, about 20 miles northwest of Sarajevo, in April.
His team — made up mostly of volunteers, found that the 2,120-foot hill has 45-degree slopes pointing toward the cardinal points and a flat top. Under layers of dirt, workers discovered a paved entrance plateau, entrances to tunnels and large stone blocks.
Egyptian geologist Aly Abd Alla Barakat, who arrived in May to check on Osmanagic's claims said the structure is "man made" and worth investigating.
"My opinion is that this is a type of pyramid, probably a primitive pyramid," said Barakat, a geologist from the Egyptian Mineral Resource Authority.
However, Harding, who said he visited the site briefly on Thursday and looked at the same stone blocks Barakat said were man made, said on Friday they were a natural formation.
"I've seen the site, in my opinion it is entirely natural," he told reporters in Sarajevo. Harding did not visit other sites in the area which Osmanagic and Barakat say are further evidence of the existence of pyramids in Bosnia, such as a tunnel leading to the top of Visocica or a stone pavement made of geometrically regular shaped pieces.
Harding said that although he had not seen the stone pavement, by looking at photographs, "I would not believe it to be archaeological. It looks to me as a natural stone pavement." He did not visit the tunnel either.
But Barakat, an expert in the stone blocks used to build ancient pyramids in Egypt, has recommended more experts visit the site. An archaeologist from Egypt is scheduled to visit the site this month.
The theory of a pyramid has sparked intense interest in Bosnia, with local residents seeking to cash in on the craze; restaurants serve meals in triangle-shaped plates, artisans make pyramid-shaped wooden key-chains, shopkeepers sell T-shirts saying "I have a pyramid in my backyard."
When asked to comment on Harding's statement, Mario Gerussi, the director of Osmanagic's team leading the excavations, said the team had not been informed of the timing of Harding's visit and that none of the staff at the site had seen him there.
Harding specializes in the European Bronze Age, and has led excavations in Poland and the Czech Republic as well as in Britain.
A handout photo shows the Antikythera Mechanism (R), a mysterious bronze device recovered from a Roman-era shipwreck located in 1900, and its x-ray made by a Greek-British team of scientists at the Athens National Archaeological Museum. Photograph:X-TEK GROUP/AFP/Getty Images
Were Greeks 1,400 years ahead of their time?
FOR decades, researchers have been baffled by the intricate bronze mechanism of wheels and dials created 80 years before the birth of Christ.
The "Antikythera Mechanism" was discovered damaged and fragmented on the wreck of a cargo ship off the tiny Greek island of Antikythera in 1900.
Now, a joint British-Greek research team has found a hidden ancient Greek inscription on the device, which it thinks could unlock the mystery.
The team believes the Antikythera Mechanism may be the world's oldest computer, used by the Greeks to predict the motion of the planets.
The researchers say the device indicates a technical sophistication that would not be replicated for millennia and may also be based on principles of a heliocentric, or sun-centred, universe - a view of the cosmos that was not accepted by astronomers until the Renaissance.
The Greek and British scientists used three-dimensional X-ray technology to make visible inscriptions that have gone unseen for 2,000 years.
Mike Edmunds, an astrophysicist at Cardiff University, who is heading the British team, said: "The real question is, 'What was the device actually for?' Was it a used to predict calendars? Was it simply a teaching tool? The new text we have discovered should help answer these questions".
The mechanism contains over 30 bronze wheels and dials and was probably operated by hand, Mr Edmunds said. The most prominent appraisal of the mechanism's purpose was put forward in 2002 by Michael Wright, the curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum in London, who said it was used to track the movements of all the celestial bodies known to the Greeks: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Mr Wright's theory is that the device was created in an academy founded by the Stoic philosopher Poseidonios on the Greek island of Rhodes. The writings of the 1st-century BC orator and philosopher Cicero - himself a former student of Poseidonios - cite a device with similarities to the mechanism.
Xenophon Moussas, a researcher at Athens University, said the newly discovered text seems to confirm that the mechanism was used to track planetary bodies. The researchers are looking at whether the device placed the sun, not the earth, at the centre of the solar system.
He said: "It is a puzzle concerning astronomical and mathematical knowledge in antiquity. The mechanism could rewrite certain chapters in this area."
Yanis Bitsakis, also of Athens University, added: "The challenge is to place this device into a scientific context, as it comes almost out of nowhere ... and flies in the face of established theory that considers the ancient Greeks were lacking in applied technical knowledge."
Mr Edmunds said the researchers were prepared for an onslaught of conspiracy theories. "There's no indication that the device is anything we wouldn't expect of the Greeks or something that would require an extra-terrestrial explanation.
"I think it is a great testament to the sophistication of the Greeks and how far they advanced before the jackboot of the Romans came through."
A timeshift in the history of astronomy
IF THE Antikythera Mechanism turns out to have been a machine for showing the movements of the planets around the sun, it would greatly alter our understanding of the history of astronomy.
Although at least one Greek thinker posited a heliocentric view of the solar system, the dominant view at the time was Aristotle's - that the Earth was the centre of the universe and that everything rotated around it in perfect, circular orbits.
It was not until 1,400 years later that Copernicus and Galileo conclusively proved the heliocentric view, which greatly altered man's understanding of his importance and position in the universe.
Their work was met with stern resistance, as the Church believed the Aristotlean view - which put humanity at the centre of the cosmos - was integral to man's direct relation to God.
Researchers are now searching for clues that the Antikythera Mechanism might have been governed by heliocentric principles. If they are successful, it would suggest the heliocentric world-view was more accepted by the Greeks than thought.
This article: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=838112006
Last updated: 07-Jun-06 16:43 BST
Tombs of Roman foes discovered
Terracotta, daggers and jewelry in Abruzzo necropolis
(ANSA) - L'Aquila, June 7
Fresh tombs of one of Rome's most implacable foes have been discovered in Italy's mountainous Abruzzo region .
Some of the tombs have been dated to the Second Century BC, when Rome was still trying to subdue the warlike peoples that lived in the region .
Others date as far back as the 8th century BC, before Rome was founded .
A particularly interesting find was a 2nd-Century BC chamber tomb containing terracotta ware, jewelry and a dagger .
"It's fascinating to see how these people used to leave the dead with the objects they used in life: lances and swords for warriors and weaving and household tools for the women," said Abruzzo culture chief Elisabetta Mura .
Abruzzo archaeological official Vincenzo D'Ercole said the new tombs had been located thanks to aerial photographs provided by the Italian Air Force .
"We've known about the tomb site for some time. It's huge - some 2,000 square metres. So we asked the Air Force to give us a hand in spotting tombs" .
Roman legions were continually harried by warriors sweeping down from the Abruzzo hills .
Eventually Rome had to come to an agreement with the tribes, giving up their ambitions of conquest.
Third century Roman inscriptions discovered in the Basque Country
Archaeologists in the site of Iruña-Veleia have discovered an epigraphic set "among the most important of the Roman world" with drawings from the third century and a representation of a Calvary.
Archaeological site in Iruña-Veleia
Multimedia Archaelogical discovery in Iruña-Veleia
Archaeologists in the site of Iruña-Veleia have discovered an epigraphic set "among the most important of the Roman world," with a series of 270 inscriptions and drawings from the 3rd century and a representation of a Calvary, "the most ancient known up to this moment."
The managers of the archaeological site, located near the Alavan town of Nanclares de Oca, have officially unveiled these findings, identified and analysed last summer.
The tools with the inscriptions and drawings, most of them ceramics, were found in a room of the "Domus de pompeia valentina," one of the urban residences of the old city of Veleia, built up in the last quarter of the first century and inhabited until the fifth century.
A 57-square metre room was found in that town, sealed as in a "time capsule with its contents untouched," and inside there were feeding remains and fragments of different recipients and other tools that had been used for writing.
The Egypt expert of the University of Barcelona Montserrat Rius has explained that some Latin inscriptions refer to the ancient Egyptian history and its divinities, and has noted there are also hieroglyphic inscriptions "with a perfect layout" that make experts think they were taught to children.
In the findings, the "early and extraordinary testimonies of Christianisation" stand out. For instance, the presentation of a Calvary, "the most ancient known up to this moment," a small piece "between eight and ten square centimetres."
Archaeologists also highlighted that "this is one of the most important epigraphic sets in the Roman world," as important as those in Pompeii, Rome or Vindolanda (northern England).
The Times June 09, 2006
Stone table of royal power lunch found in seat of democracy
By Lewis Smith
A section of the King's Table, which was buried beneath Westminster Hall after the Restoration (MUSEUM OF LONDON)
SECTIONS of the King’s Table, a symbol of royal power until it was smashed by Oliver Cromwell, have been found beneath the floor of the Palace of Westminster.
The elaborately carved stone table was used by kings and queens from the 13th century for coronation feasts and state banquets but disappeared under Puritan rule.
It represented the power and authority of the monarch in the same way as the King’s Bench, a court, and the King’s Privy Wardrobe, also known as the Jewel Tower.
A new table was made in the 17th century after the Restoration but the original remained missing. Archaeologists have now found large sections of at least four of the arched marble trestles that supported the tabletop, which they calculate to have been about 19ft long.
They were buried beneath the floor of Westminster Hall, apparently as a symbol of the return of royal power after the fall of the Commonwealth. When Cromwell came to power the table was removed from the Palace and broken up to mark the destruction of the monarchy.
The discovery of several pieces in excavations this year, reported in British Archaeology magazine today, confirms a theory that during the Restoration the remains of the table were retrieved. Archaeologists hope to put the pieces on display in Westminster Hall. The broken pieces were placed in the foundations of a dais built in the 17th century in Westminster Hall, which was used by James II at his coronation banquet.
Phil Emery, a consultant archaeological engineer, said: “It’s the iconic symbol of royal power. Its significance is underlined by the haste with which it was replaced at the restoration of the monarchy.
“People often ask us what’s the most exciting thing we’ve found. At last I have the unequivocal answer. It doesn’t get more significant than this.” Among the monarchs known to have sat at it are Edward I and Henry VIII. King Henry used it for feasts after his marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.
Edward I, the king who took the Stone of Scone from Scotland and was dubbed the Hammer of the Scots, is the first monarch known to have used it, but the mid 13th- century style of carving suggests that it could date back to Henry III.
In the 1960s a piece of the table was recovered from beneath the floor of Westminster Hall but until this year’s finds it could not be confirmed whether the fragment had been placed there intentionally.
Chris Thomas, of the Museum of London, said that the find was also important because of the rarity of stone furniture surviving for more than 700 years. “You get altars in churches but that’s about it,” he said.
Earthquake evidence at cathedral
Proof revealed that Ely Cathedral stood against an earthquake
An earthquake 500 years ago is believed to have damaged one of the region's oldest and best preserved cathedrals.
Studies published by English Heritage show evidence of an earthquake that destroyed part of Ely Cathedral.
Studies of timber tree rings reveal repair work in the south transept from about AD 1425/6.
The cause of damage is likely to have been an undated earthquake. Research also reveals the oldest timbers date back almost 1,000 years to AD1043-1068.
Derek Hamilton, scientific dating specialist at English Heritage, said: "During the 1980s and 1990s, when recording work started, we realised that Ely Cathedral was one of the best preserved monastic complexes in the country.
"We then commissioned this more comprehensive study, which has not only enhanced our overall understanding of these buildings, but has ultimately provided important evidence for the likely timing of the 15th century earthquake."
Timber from Baltic
Experts from the Nottingham University tree-ring dating laboratory, who were brought in to carry out the study, also discovered that timbers from the cathedral, prior's complex and infirmary ranged in date from the 11th Century through to the late 18th Century.
The research not only provided dates for the roof timbers but evidence of where the wood originated.
Jane Kennedy, cathedral surveyor, said: "The oldest samples analysed were from the west tower turrets, which showed that the trees used had been felled in the period AD 1043-1068.
"These timbers may have come from the original Romanesque cathedral built on the site.
"Huge amounts of timber were needed and with very little available in the surrounding Fens, which were still flood plains, it all had to be sourced from outside the local area."
It is likely timbers were procured from distant sources during the 14th and 15th centuries, some imported most likely from the Baltic States, providing information about trade and the role of King's Lynn as an important port.
Ancient rock art may depict exploding star
By Ker Than
Tuesday, June 6, 2006; Posted: 8:08 p.m. EDT (00:08 GMT)
A petroglyph possibly depicting the supernova of A.D. 1006.
A rock carving discovered in Arizona might depict an ancient star explosion seen by Native Americans a thousand years ago, scientists announced today.
If confirmed, the rock carving, or "petroglyph" would be the only known record in the Americas of the well-known supernova of the year 1006.
The carving was discovered in White Tanks Regional Park just outside Phoenix, in an area believed to have been occupied by a group of Native Americans called the Hohokam from about 500 to 1100 A.D.
The finding is being announced today at the 208th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Calgary, Canada.
In the spring of 1006, stargazers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe recorded the birth of a "new star" above the southern horizon of the night sky, in the constellation Lupus, just south of Scorpio.
Unknown to them, what those ancient astronomers were actually witnessing was the swan song of a star as it blew itself apart in a violent explosion called a supernova.
Although nearly invisible today, the supernova of 1006, or SN 1006, was perhaps the brightest stellar event ever to occur in recorded human history. At its peak, the supernova was about the quarter the brightness of the moon, so radiant that people could have read by its light at midnight, scientists say.
The Hohokam petroglyph depicts symbols of a scorpion and stars that match a model showing the relative positions of the supernova with respect to the constellation Scorpius. The model was created by John Barentine, an astronomer at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico and Gilbert Esquerdo, a research assistant at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona.
"If confirmed, this discovery supports the idea that ancient Native Americans were aware of changes in the night sky and moved to commemorate them in their cultural record," said Barentine, who studies Southwest archeology as a hobby.
Astronomer by day
Barentine thinks the finding could also help archeologists date other petroglyphs in the Southwest and elsewhere in the world. Dating art made by prehistoric Native Americans has traditionally been difficult because many did not have a written language and shared little in common with the culture and folklore of tribes that came later.
"Quantitative methods such as carbon-14 dating are alternative means to assign ages to works of prehistoric art, but they lack precision of more than a few decades, so any depiction in art that can be fixed to a specific year is extremely valuable," Barentine said.
A similar petroglyph discovered near Penasco Blanco in Chaco Canyon National Monument, New Mexico is also believed to represent a supernova, but one that occurred later, on July 4, 1054.
World War II bomber found in Mojave Desert
An aviation archaeologist discovered the lost wreckage of a World War II bomber in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
A military recovery mission is underway with the discovery of decades-old bones.
“It's very, very...it's an emotional experience,” said U.S. Marines Captain George Murphy. “Even though we didn't know these men personally, we share a common experience.”
On April 09, 1944, a B-24D Bomber went down during a training mission just southwest of the then Mojave Marine Corps Air Station.
The coroner issued death certificates to the families of all ten men on board. And, the cause of the crash was listed as pilot error.
Now, 60 years later, the site has been cleaned up and all but forgotten.
Until, amateur wreck chaser Don Jordan set out to find the site five years ago, and stumbled on it last summer.
“He did finally find it and posted it on his Website,” said Kelly Cowan Kern County Deputy Coroner.
“And, then the niece of the radio operator of this particular plane read that and asked Mr. Jordan to retrieve some sand and some sort of artifact for her,” said Cowan.
Jordan honored her request.
He also called in members of the POW and MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) out of Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, after finding several bone fragments.
The command setup shop over a month ago and has carefully unearthed personal artifacts like zippers, and dog tags and even more skeletal remains.
Back then, witnesses said the plane hit nose first in the location where recovery teams are now digging.
Whatever the team finds will be taken back to the base in Hawaii for identification, including DNA analysis of the bone fragments.
The team's archaeologist said its part of their pledge.
“It may take 60 years, but we will return home every fallen service member, back,” said Dr. William Belcher Forensic Archeologist.
Stories in the latest edition of ‘British Archaeology’
King’s table found in Westminster Palace
During refurbishment of the great medieval Westminster Hall by Gifford for the Parliamentary Works Services Directorate, archaeologists found carved stones that have been identified as parts of the king’s table first recorded in the reign of Edward 1 (1272–1307). A new top was bought for Edward II’s coronation, and it was used at Henry VIII’s coronation. As a symbol of royal power, the table was smashed and buried during the Commonwealth (1649–60), and replaced with a new table when the monarchy was restored.
Phil Emery, Gifford
020 7940 2800
Liz Parratt, parliamentary press office
020 7219 1708
OTHER STORIES INCLUDE
* Prehistoric tomb marked midsummer sunrise on Anglesey
Archaeologist Steve Burrow has sensationally proved that the famous neolithic tomb of Bryn Celli Ddu (c3000BC) is aligned on the midsummer sunrise. It joins Stonehenge and the tombs of Maes Howe, Orkney and Newgrange, Co Meath in a select group of neolithic religious monuments aligned on the solstice axis. His video of the sun rising into the tomb’s burial chamber is screening at National Museum Wales from this Friday.
In a separate development at the same tomb, new radiocarbon dates show that a row of postholes once thought to be contemporary with the tomb are over 6,000 years old. A row of mesolithic-era posts that once stood near Stonehenge was previously thought to be unique.
Steve Burrow, curator of neolithic archaeology Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
029 2057 3229
Sian James, press office Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
029 2057 3185
www.walespast.com – 250,000 years of life in Wales
* DNA – Roma in England 400 years earlier than thought
Historians and linguists agree that the first Romani people reached Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. But scientists studying ancient migrations sampled skeletons from Norwich and found Romani DNA dating from before 1066. The new DNA study was conducted on an Anglo-Saxon cemetery excavated by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit near the Norman castle 15 years ago. The Romani individual was a young man who would have inherited his distinctive traits from his mother. Töpf and Hoelzel suggest she is unlikely to represent an early wave of migration, preferring a possible explanation that she was a slave captured in the east.
Ana Töpf and Rus Hoelzel, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Liz Popescu, excavation director now at Cambridge Archaeological Field Unit
Brian Ayers, director Norfolk Archaeological Unit
* Shrewsbury’s lost medieval bridge found
Investigations on the proposed site of Shrewsbury’s new arts complex have revealed arches and bastions of the Welsh Bridge, demolished in 1795 when a new bridge was built downstream. It was on this bridge that bailiff Thomas Mytton defied the future Henry VII as he tried to cross into England en route to depose Richard III. Mytton said Henry would have to cross over his dead body, but fellow burghers had a quiet word and Mytton lay in the road for Henry to step over and pass through. Henry later met Richard at Bosworth.
Jon King, Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council
Richard Hughes, archaeological consultant at Arups
020 7636 1531
Bruce Watson, Museum of London Archaeology Service
020 7410 2235
* Stonehenge photographed from the air 100 years ago
The UK’s first air photo of an archaeological monument was taken from a military balloon at Stonehenge in 1906. In a feature looking at the story behind the images, we publish a third photo taken at the same time but only recently rediscovered at the Society of Antiquaries.
Martyn Barber, English Heritage Aerial Survey
Jayne Phenton, Society of Antiquaries of London
020 7479 7080
* Unique evidence for early farming villages in Cornwall
Excavated 50 years ago but only now being analysed and published, a succession of bronze age farmsteads and fields was preserved at Gwithian in sand dunes, with unique soil marks of ploughs and spades dating from 1800–1000BC.
Jacky Nowakowski, Historic Environment Service Cornwall County Council
* Air photography transforms story of ancient Scotland
Celebrating 30 years of flying, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland describes some of the many discoveries of ancient sites across the country, and the new technologies being used to study the photos.
Dave Cowley, RCAHMS, Edinburgh
0131 662 1456
* Was Nero a British hero?
Prehistorian Miles Russell has a controversial theory about Roman Britain. Contrary to popular myth, he says, Nero was highly regarded in Britain, and celebrated with major statues. Russell says several Roman heads, including a famous bronze sculpture from Suffolk said to be emperor Claudius, are in fact of Nero.
Miles Russell, senior lecturer in archaeology Bournemouth University
* Thousands of buried coins tell story of sacrifice and politics
Unique numbers of iron age silver and gold coins were buried on a Leicestershire hilltop c50BC–AD50, with bones of sacrificed pigs.
Vicki Priest, University of Leicester Archaeological Services
0116 252 2848
Ian Leins, curator of iron age and Roman coins, the British Museum
Jeremy Hill, the British Museum