Public release date: 24-Aug-2006

Contact: Hannah Johnson



University of Bristol

How modern were European Neanderthals?


Neandertals were much more like modern humans than had been previously thought, according to a re-examination of finds from one of the most famous palaeolithic sites in Europe by Bristol University archaeologist, Professor Joao Zilhao, and his French colleagues.


Professor Zilhao has been able to show that sophisticated artefacts such as decorated bone points and personal ornaments found in the Châtelperronian culture of France and Spain were genuinely associated with Neandertals around 44,000 years ago, rather than acquired from modern humans who might have been living nearby. His findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) USA.


The site from which this Neandertal culture derives its name is the Grotte de Fées at Châtelperron in Central France, first excavated in the 1840s. It has been one of the most important and controversial places to understand how modern humans that had previously moved out of Africa replaced the Neandertals, often portrayed as more 'primitive'. In the conventional interpretation of the rock strata of the site, the cave was thought to have evidence of both modern human and Neandertal occupation in interleaved layers. The fact that Neandertals came back to the site after modern humans had lived in it for quite some time would prove the long-term contemporaneity of the two groups, and validate the notion that the cultural novelties seen among the latest Neandertals represented immitation or borrowing, not innovation.


Now archaeologists can show that the Grotte des Fées stratigraphic pattern is illusory because the supposedly Neandertal levels overlying those belonging to the modern human Aurignacian culture are in fact backdirt from nineteenth-century fossil hunting. According to Professor Zilhao and his team, this adds to the evidence from other sites in the region that the Neandertals already had the capacity for symbolic thinking before the arrival of the modern humans into western Europe, which has been radiocarbon dated to around 40,000 years ago.


Professor Zilhao said: "This discovery, along with research on the rock strata at other cave sites, has huge implications for how we view the European Neandertals and, more widely, human evolution. The differences between Neandertals and modern humans may be much less than had been previously thought, suggesting that human cognition and symbolic thinking may date back to before the two sub-species split around 400,000 years ago."



Neanderthals: Still in Our Genes?

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News


Aug. 22, 2006 — Individuals of European descent may be 5 percent Neanderthal, while West Africans could be related to an archaic human population, according to a recent study of genes of people from Yoruba and individuals living in Utah with ancestry from Northern and Western Europe.


Since both groups spread, the find suggests we all have a bit of archaic DNA in our genes. This counters the view that modern humans left Africa and replaced all other existing hominid populations.


"Instead of a population that left Africa 100,000 years ago and replaced all other archaic human groups, we propose that this population interacted with another population that had been in Europe for much longer, maybe 400,000 years," co-author Vincent Plagnol told Discovery News.


Plagnol, a researcher in the Department of Molecular and Computational Biology at the University of Southern California, and colleague Jeffrey Wall analyzed patterns of ancestral linkage in 135 modern individuals.


Using statistics and computer modeling, they focused on linkage disequilibriums, or sections within genes that did not make sense if only modern human matings were considered. The missing genetic links only fit if some other hominid population was introduced into the model, according to the paper, which was published in PLoS Genetics.


"We considered the data from modern human DNA and fitted a model to explain what we see," explained Plagnol. "We found that a simple model cannot explain the data if we do not add an ‘ancestral population.’ If this population did not cross with modern humans — or almost did not —  the effect is too small to explain the data. We find that a rate of 5 percent is what is needed to explain what we see."


The researchers agree with recent studies that concluded Neanderthals did not contribute any mitochondrial DNA — genetic material that is passed from mothers to children. However, they say other portions of the European genome, such as those associated with nuclear DNA, may still harbor the Neanderthal imprint.


Plagnol said different parts of the genome have different ancestry, so an individual could have a fraction of a certain chromosome that was inherited from a Neanderthal, but then possess "very typical homo sapiens mtDNA."


The scientists are not certain what early human group could have contributed to West African DNA, but both Europeans and Africans in the study showed about the same 5 percent archaic contribution. Neanderthals are believed to have originated in Africa around 400,000 years ago, but they left and then settled in Europe, hence the apparent lack of interaction with modern humans in Africa.


Alan Templeton, professor of Evolutionary and Population Programs at the University of Michigan, also conducted DNA studies and came to similar conclusions.


"The humans who were in Africa and the humans who were in Eurasia were regularly interchanging genes," he said, "there was interbreeding and when humans came out of Africa 100,000 years ago they did not replace these other human populations in Eurasia."


New technologies are being developed to sequence nuclear DNA from fossils, so in the near future, scientists may learn more about how modern human genes compare with those of archaic humans, like Neanderthals.




By Graham Spicer    23/08/2006


Creswell Crags is a limestone gorge containing important evidence of Ice Age life. Photo Creswell Heritage Trust


Archaeologists searching for clues about Ice Age artists have completed a major excavation in Nottinghamshire, unearthing more than 1,000 finds.


A team from the University of Sheffield and The British Museum conducted the dig in Church Hole cave at Creswell Crags between August 7 and 18 2006, the site of the only British discovery of Ice Age rock art.


The rock art discoveries, made in 2003 and 2004, are one of the most important finds from the Palaeolithic era in Britain, dating back 13,000 years. Other rock art has been found in Britain, but was mostly made some 8,000 years after the animal and bird images found at Creswell.


Church Hole had been excavated in the 19th century, and the latest dig aimed to first explore the Victorian ‘spoil heap’ of discarded earth and materials outside the cave.


Dr Paul Pettitt, leading the project, explained: “We know that Church Hole was excavated very rapidly by the Victorians in the 1870s, and as a result very little is known about the animals and people who inhabited this cave during the Ice Age.”


The team have now been able to find the original Ice Age sediments below and examine the bones and artefacts from that period and later. The finds indicate that there has been activity at the gorge since the Ice Age onwards with later remains from the Roman and medieval ages and beyond.

photo of several trays laid out on the grass with small objects in them  


Many bones of now extinct animals were found, like the leg bone of an arctic hare (not found in Britain since the end of the last Ice Age) and teeth of hyenas, which would have used Church Hole as a den some 25,000 years ago.


There was also a reindeer antler showing signs of being gnawed by hyenas, a mammoth tooth, woolly rhino bones and evidence of human flint working and tools.


A fragment of an awl, used for piercing animal hide and made from the tibia of an arctic hare, was found to have regular scratch marks on it, akin to the lines on a ruler. A similar find at Cheddar Gorge like this one indicates that the people who lived at Creswell Crags may be of the same group of hunter-gatherers.


Another fascinating discovery was of a deeply engraved stone, thought to be a ‘nine men’s morris’ board – a game of possibly Egyptian origin popular in the Roman and medieval periods. Further analysis will be carried out to date it to one of those periods.


There was one possible find of Ice Age art, which researchers will be examining further, and the excavation will provide the archaeologists with enough information to plan a further major dig at the site next year.


The last Ice Age started about 50,000 years ago and ended around 8,000 BC. Ice covered Britain as far south as Wales and the midlands and the south was frozen tundra. Temperatures were about minus eight degrees Celsius.

photo of a rock art stag       


Some 80 items of rock art were found - the outlines of this stag have been highlighted. Photo Creswell Heritage Trust


More than 80 engraved figures were found in the soft limestone at Church Hole during the 2003 and 2004 research. Subjects include horses, bison, birds and stags and are similar to those found in continental Europe.


Creswell Crags is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Site of Special Scientific Interest and could also become a World Heritage Site. Creswell Heritage Trust was also awarded £4.2m from the Heritage Lottery Fund in January 2005 to create a new museum and education centre.


Creswell Crags Museum and Education Centre

Creswell Heritage Trust, Crags Road, Welbeck, Worksop, S80 3LH, Nottinghamshire, England

T: 01909 720378

Open: February-October Every Day 10.30am-16.30pm November-January (inclusive) Sundays Only 10.30am-16.30pm



Cavemen had their own sheds

Jennifer Viegas

Discovery News

Friday, 25 August 2006


Neolithic cave

Archaeological evidence from ancient dung suggests that the people who lived here kept sheep or goats (Image: Hellenic Ministry of Culture)

The discovery of a neolithic complex of caves in Greece suggests not all cavemen were club-wielding, nomadic hunter-gatherers, but included some farmers and shepherds.


They even had the Stone Age equivalent of a toolshed.


Evidence of such homebody cave dwellers comes from a recent excavation of a cave complex dating from 5300-3900 BC.


The abode features plastered floors and evidence of crop-growing and an attached stable nearby.


"This household was self-contained," says Dr Panagiotis Karkanas, who conducted the excavation of the Kouveleiki caves, located on the cliffs of a shallow valley in the southern Peloponnese.


"I believe that the site was an ordinary household. The people were living there, cooking, sleeping, etc, probably during the whole year. They were both farmers and shepherds," says Karkanas, an archaeologist at the Ephoreia of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology in Athens.


Karkanas came to this conclusion after studying objects uncovered within the caves and after performing a detailed microanalysis of the cave sediments.


Findings will be published in the November issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.


The complex consists of two caves, the first of which is divided into two chambers by several rock blocks that appear to have fallen from the roof before the caves were inhabited.


The cavemen used this natural divide to their advantage, since one of the fallen rocks was curved and straightened to resemble a wall, which created a corridor between the two chambers.


Burnt manure found in the front chamber suggests a few animals, probably sheep and goats, were housed there. Karkanas says the animals were probably "milkers or very young".


Cereal husks and residue found within the dung indicates the cave dwellers probably farmed the land in front of the caves.


He points out that farming in Greece started at about 6500 BC, at the beginning of the Neolithic era, or the New Stone Age.


The shed

This nearby cave was probably used as a shed (Image: Hellenic Ministry of Culture)

In the first cave he found fine painted pottery, polished axes, spindle whirls, clay and marble figurines, grinders and a collection of obsidian, chert and quartz tools.


The dark, back 'room', measuring about 150 square metres, appears to have been the main area of habitation. Evidence for hearth fires was found. And the floor was plastered with a mixture of burnt dung and red clay.


Karkanas suggests this type of plaster was unusual for the time, though it became popular later, and is still used today.


"Plaster made of dung, sometimes burnt, and clay is common today in some villages in Africa and India," he says.


He says the second cave "was probably used as a complementary activity area", sort of the prehistoric version of a tool shed.


Nine human burials discovered within the caves suggests some people may have lived their entire lives at the site.


Moving to the caves


Curtis Runnels, professor of archaeology at Boston University, says he finds Karkanas' paper to be "both informative and convincing".


"The move to caves came for many reason, among which was the reorganisation of the economy during this period to emphasise sheep and goat herding," he says.


"Part of the change was a focus on the production of wool and hair for textiles, which were traded for imported materials, possibly exotic flint or obsidian."


Runnels thinks people who wanted to practice both farming and herding moved to caves in the somewhat remote, agriculturally marginal regions.


Then, as the new find suggests, they settled down.



The Times      August 21, 2006

Notebook: Archaeology

Aegean’s ritual prehistory

By Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent


THE prehistoric marble sculptures of the Cyclades are noted for their spare, elegant lines: they are also notorious for being in large part looted, with few having a known archaeological provenance, and for attracting the attentions of fakers. Recent discoveries on the island of Keros have shown that these enigmatic figurines, and the stone bowls made from the same marble, arguably by the same artists, were deposited in rituals equally puzzling.


Cycladic art dates to the third millennium BC, a product of the society which arose in the Aegean islands not long before Minoan Crete and then Mycenaean Greece emerged as Europe’s first literate civilisations. Originally thought rather crude, its figurines — ranging from hand-sized to more than a metre in height — gained stature in the eyes of collectors as the taste for simplicity in modern sculpture developed in the last century.


Their role in Ancient Cycladic society remained a mystery; research this summer on the island of Keros by a team led by Professor Colin Renfrew, of Cambridge University, has provided a wealth of quite literally hard evidence, although its significance is as yet unclear.


In 1963 Professor Renfrew, then a student, visited the island and “was staggered to pick up on the surface numerous fragments of marble bowls and figurines”. Looters moved in on Keros, and in the 1970s the “Keros Hoard” was cited as the origin of many unprovenanced pieces sold on the art market.


The “Keros Enigma” was that, while many scholars felt that the looted pieces had come from an ancient cemetery, none had ever been discovered: one grave was known, together with settlement remains on the neighbouring islet of Daskalio. A massive deposit, thought to have contained thousands of figurine and bowl fragments, was also known to have been looted in the 1960s.


Some ascribed the fragmentary condition of most pieces to looters, but Professor Renfrew, noting the lack of joinable fragments and the apparently ancient and weathered nature of the fracture surfaces, believed that they had been deposited already broken. Excavations this year at the site of Daskalio Kavos confirmed his thesis.


The team reported to the Greek authorities that “the discovery of a further, undisturbed, special deposit followed by its careful excavation shows that all the material found was already broken in fragments before it became buried in Ancient times.”


“The rarity of joining pieces, as well as the different degrees of weathering, make clear that they were broken elsewhere and brought, already in fragmentary form, to the exceptionally rich deposit.”


The cemetery interpretation is excluded by the lack of human remains. Pottery, such as the spouted “sauce boats”, was brought in from islands including Naxos, Syros and Amorgos, and possibly from the Greek mainland. Professor Renfrew believes that the figurines and bowls had equally diverse origins. The overall quantity of fine pottery and marble objects found at Daskalio Kavos “rivals the total from all the known Cycladic cemeteries.”


The site can therefore be recognised as “the first major ritual centre of Aegean prehistory”, antedating the Mycenaean shrine on the island of Milos excavated by Professor Renfrew some years ago.



Christian zealots destroy ancient Arctic petroglyphs

Randy Boswell

CanWest News Service

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Canada's only major Arctic petroglyph site -- a 1,500-year-old gallery of mysterious faces carved into a soapstone ridge on a tiny island off of Quebec's northern coast -- has been ransacked by vandals in what the region's top archeologist suspects was a religiously motivated attack by devout Christians from a nearby Inuit community.


For years, heritage advocates have sought special protection for the ancient etchings at Qajartalik Island, located about one hour by boat from the 500-resident village of Kangiqsujuaq. Experts believe they were created by the extinct Dorset culture, an artistically advanced civilization that occupied much of the eastern Arctic before they were killed or driven away by the Thule ancestors of modern Inuit.


More than 170 mask-like images, animal shapes and other symbols have been recorded on the island since the 1960s. Studies suggest Qajartalik was a sacred place, used for Dorset spiritual ceremonies and coming-of-age rituals.


But the site has been dubbed "the Island of the Stone Devils" because some of the faces -- possibly depicting a Dorset shaman in religious costume -- appear to be adorned with horns. In the past, crosses have been scratched on the "pagan" petroglyphs and some area residents have told researchers they believe the site is infested with evil spirits.


Long-running negotiations between Nunavut, Quebec and the federal government over the ownership of the Hudson Strait islands has delayed for a decade plans to protect the cultural treasure, which Arctic scholars have touted as a natural candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Two ancient African rock art sites achieved that status earlier this summer, and Canada recently short-listed Alberta's Writing-on-Stone petroglyphs for a UNESCO designation.


Now, dreams of global renown for Qajartalik may be dashed after a visit to the island last month by Quebec cultural officials revealed extensive damage to the prehistoric drawings, including deep gouges across many of the faces.


"This is a world-class site," a despondent Robert Frechette, director of the nearby Pingualuit provincial park in the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, told CanWest News Service on Friday.


"I first visited the island 12 years ago and I can see that every time it's deteriorated," he said, describing how tourist looting and natural erosion of the site's soft soapstone first prompted preservation proposals in the 1990s.


"But this time I was quite amazed. Someone has taken some parts of the rock away. There's graffiti. And someone has been carving with an axe or something sharp in the grooves of the faces. It's pretty bad."


Daniel Gendron, chief archeologist with the Inukjuak-based Avataq Cultural Institute, the key promoter of indigenous history and identity in Nunavik, said the latest vandalism at Qajartalik follows the pattern of previous attacks by members of what he called "a very strong movement" of conservative Christians in Kangiqsujuaq and several other Inuit communities in northern Quebec.


Kangiqsujuaq's mayor, Mary Pilurtuut, said she hadn't been informed of fresh damage at the site and doubted "something religious" would have been involved.


"Recently, it's not the case," she said, suggesting that most of the deterioration at the site has been "caused by nature."


But Gendron recalls travelling to the Qajartalik with a local hunter who "refused to set foot on the island" for fear of disturbing its spirits. Some Inuit remain convinced that "it's the devil" who controls Qajartalik, Gendron said.


Federal, provincial and territorial governments, he added, "have refused to do anything about this site" before the jurisdiction of offshore islands is settled, possibly by 2007.


"Now, it may be too late."

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2006

Copyright © 2006 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.



Saviour of Iraq's antiquities flees to Syria

Michael Howard in Irbil

Saturday August 26, 2006

The Guardian


Iraq's most prominent archaeologist has resigned and fled the country, saying the dire security situation, an acute shortage of funds, and the interference of supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr had made his position intolerable.


Donny George, who was president of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, achieved international recognition for his efforts to track down and recover the priceless antiquities looted from Iraq's National Museum in the mayhem that followed the fall of Baghdad in 2003.


But this week he revealed that he had resigned and was in hiding with his family in the Syrian capital Damascus. In an interview with the Art Newspaper, Dr George said Baghdad was now so dangerous that the National Museum, which houses a trove of Sumerian and Babylonian artefacts, had been sealed off by concrete walls to protect it from insurgent attacks and further looting.


The museum, established by the British in the 1920s, is situated near to Baghdad's notorious Haifa Street, an area that sees regular outbreaks of violence. It lost some 15,000 pieces during the looting in 2003, but about half of them have been recovered. Museum officials say the collections have been walled off four times since the invasion, most recently after a mass kidnapping near the museum building.


"It was the only way to guarantee the museum's safety," said Dr George, who said he had taken the decision despite opposition from the culture ministry. An indefinite delay in the reopening of the museum had been ordered by the ministry.


Dr George painted a bleak picture for the future of Iraq's ancient treasures. He said that excavation and conservation projects in Iraq had stalled and that all the foreign archaeologists had left the country.


He said the 1,400 members of the special antiquities protection force would be going without pay, meaning there would be little to stop further looting at the country's 11,000 archaeological sites. "From September there is no more money for their salaries," said Dr George. "The coalition has to do something about this."


After the looting in 2003 US officials were criticised by archaeologists for not securing the museum. The US military has since been accused of damaging a number of ancient sites. Dr George said the work of the antiquities department had also been affected by the sectarian divide in Iraq, with key posts in the culture ministry being filled with loyalists of the militant Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, including Liwa Sumaysim, the minister of state for antiquities.


"The board has come under the increasing influence of al-Sadr," claimed Dr George. "I can no longer work with these people who have come in with the new ministry. They have no knowledge of archaeology, no knowledge of antiquities."


Dr George, a Christian, said he had battled to prevent an Islamist and anti-western agenda from taking over at the antiquities department. "A lot of people have been sent to our institutions. They are only interested in Islamic sites and not Iraq's earlier heritage. The Sadrists did not like me having any contact with anyone from outside," he said.


Since the war Dr George has travelled the world, highlighting the plight of his country's ancient heritage. He had forged close ties with foreign institutions, including the British Museum. Hannah Bolton, a spokeswoman for the museum, said the museum promised to continue cooperating with the Iraqi authorities, and also hoped to continue its close relationship with Dr George.


The culture ministry could not be reached for comment yesterday but a senior Sadrist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Dr George had served throughout the former regime and "had done nothing to stop Saddam carving his name into the walls of every brick" during the reconstruction of the ancient palace at Babylon.


Lost and found


Warka vase


The 5,000-year-old limestone vase from the Sumerian city of Uruk is carved with scenes of priests and animals. It is the oldest known carved ritual vase. It was returned, in pieces, in June 2003.


Statue of Entemena


The headless statue of the Mesopotamian king is made of black diorite and dates from 2430 BC. It was smuggled out to Syria and recovered in May, when Hicham Aboutaam, a Lebanese antiquities dealer, was offered it for sale in New York.


Sumerian free-standing


The stone statue of a male Sumerian priest bears an inscription about the goddess Nin-shu-pur and dates from 2500 BC, one of the earliest known examples.


Mask of Warka


Dating from 3100 BC, it is the oldest known sculpture of a natural human face and is nicknamed the Sumerian Mona Lisa. It was found buried at a farmhouse in al-Rabbia in 2003.


Bassetki statue


The copper sculpture, depicting the legs and lower torso of a seated male figure, bears an Akkadian inscription and is 4,300 years old. It was found in a cesspool in 2003.

Katy Heslop


Irish royal site’s hidden secrets

ONE OF Ireland’s least-known royal sites, Rathcrogan Mound, has yielded a surprising wealth of information through the use of electronic probes beneath the surface.


Rathcrogan has long been recognised as the pre-Christian capital of Cruachain. It parallels the famous site of Tara, near Dublin, as a monumental complex of ancient structures, but, unlike Tara, Rathcrogan lies unremarked in the fields of Co Roscommon, near Tulsk, 130 kilometres (80 miles) northwest of Dublin.


The mound itself is impressive, some 88m (285ft) in diameter and 6m high, but recent geophysical studies have shown that it and its neighbouring monuments were set within a vast ditched enclosure some 370m in diameter. Most remarkable, however, are the results obtained from detailed scrutiny of the almost flat summit of the main mound.


A microtopographical survey has shown that a low but definite raised circular feature some 22m in diameter lies in the centre, with low depressions radiating out from it like the spokes of a wheel.


Electrical resistance and magnetic susceptibility probes beneath the surface confirmed this, “but it was detailed magnetic gradiometry that identified, in extraordinary detail, a series of well-defined circular anomalies”, Joe Fenwick and his colleagues report in Archaeology Ireland (with a full technical report also published in Archaeological Prospection).


“These are likely to represent the foundation trenches of large timber structures, possibly temples, which had been replaced over time. The largest, 32m across, is of a radially- opposed pot-pit configuration suggesting a structure of considerable complexity.”


Deeper geophysical probing of the mound has also yielded surprising results. The mound is artificial, not glacial, and, in addition, the 22m circular feature visible on the surface seems to reflect deep structure within the mound, with a less definite ring at 34m. The outer ring is set deeper within the mound than the inner, which is between one and two metres below the surface. The report says: “These extraordinary features may be concentric stony ‘walls’ within the earthen core of the mound.”


“It is now apparent that Rathcrogan Mound, its temples, sepulchral mounds and pillar stones were enclosed within a great circular ‘sanctuary’, the central focus for the entire Rathcrogan complex over an area of approximately ten square kilometres. Remarkably, it has been the exclusive use of non-invasive survey that has provided this insight.”


Archaeology Ireland 20 No. 2: 26-29; Archaeological Prospection 12: 3-18.



Bronze age canoe stops pipeline 


Archaeologists have been working to help protect the canoe since its discovery.


Archaeologists working on a gas pipeline near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire have unearthed what they believe to be a 3,400-year-old canoe.

Work has stopped on a section of the pipeline near St Botolphs to allow the Bronze Age oak relic to be recovered.


It is the first such discovery in Wales and only 150 exist across Europe.


Senior archaeologist Neil Fairburn said: "You could never have expected to find anything like this in this small wetland area, it's just awesome."


The team has also found evidence of a small settlement, a small amount of property and other items, such as polished stone rings.


Mr Fairburn, who works for the National Grid, said: "Everybody here is excited and it's unlikely they'll ever work on anything like this again."


It was found six weeks ago less than a metre below the surface in a marshy area of land, but archaeologists have only just had it confirmed what the find was. Work was stopped immediately.


A fragment was sent to experts in Miami, who radio carbon dated it to 1,420 BC.


 If the gas pipeline had not been coming through here we would not have this


Senior archaeologist Neil Fairburn


The canoe is carved from a single trunk of oak, and measures 4.5m x 0.9m (15ft x 3ft).


It is being kept continuously wet to prevent it from rotting.


Mr Fairburn added: "The wet conditions have provided beautiful preservation conditions for the wood.


"If the gas pipeline had not been coming through here we would not have this."


It will take another two weeks before the team is ready to move the canoe, which will be handed over to the National Museum of Wales.


Contractors have been moved to work on other parts of the route, which will run the breadth of Wales.


The natural gas pipeline will link two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals at Milford with the UK's gas supply.


There have been protests against the LNG and pipeline project on safety and environmental grounds - and this was not the first time work had been stopped after an unexpected discovery.


Earlier this year work was stopped on a section of the route at St Clears after a human thigh bone and other fragments were unearthed by contractors.


The remains were later identified as specimens used by the medical profession or students.



3,000-year-old hoard of treasure unearthed


A HOARD of 3,000-year-old buried treasure unearthed in the region has provided an intriguing insight into the area's past.


Three amber beads, two bronze rings, a bugle-shaped fitting and a fragment of a spearhead, found six inches below ground in a field near Sedgefield, County Durham, are thought to have been part of an ancient burial ceremony.


Robert Collins, from the Museum of Antiquities, in Newcastle, said the items, thought to date from between 1000 and 800BC, also suggest there were fixed settlements in the Sedgefield area.

He said: "This find helps to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of what was happening in County Durham during that period.


"Sedgefield does seem to have been an area which was occupied. Apart from this find, we have also found items from the Neolithic period (4000-2000BC) in the area."


The hoard was discovered in August last year by Susan Lister and Philip Townsend, two members of Quaker Acres, a metal detector group, which was scouring the area in search of treasure.


Mrs Lister, 51, of Wolsingham, County Durham, described the moment she found the treasure. "I got a signal on my metal detector and when I dug down I was elated. I knew it was something of interest when everyone started gathering round to look. It was all stuck together with hard clay, but I could tell it was old."


The discovery has just come to light because the courts must now decide whether the item should be legally classified as treasure. The items are being stored in the British Museum, London.


However, the Bowes Museum, in Barnard Castle, County Durham, is thought to be interested in buying them and if the courts decide the items are treasure, they could be returned to the region.


Mr Collins said: "There is not a lot of treasure found in the North statistically, so it's nice to have this find."


The hoard promises to further boost a growing interest in local history in the area. Since Channel 4's Time Team explored Sedgefield's soil back in 2002, Durham University has kept up an interest and earlier this summer local people were invited to take part in the Sedgefield Community Archaeology Project, a two-week-long dig searching for Roman settlements.


Alison Hodgson, of the Sedgefield Local History group, said: "I think it's great that people are taking a greater interest. When people are engaged with something, they're less likely to be involved in destroying it."


The hearing to decide whether the hoard should be classified as treasure will be heard at Chester-le-Street Magistrates' Court, on Tuesday, September 12, at 2.50pm.


9:30am Saturday 26th August 2006



Roman mosaic floor rediscovered

Archaeologists have discovered fresh insights into a geometric mosaic of a Roman Villa in Norfolk.


Gayton Thorpe was first excavated in 1923, but was covered over in the 1960s after it fell into disrepair.


A team of up to 30 archaeologists are now using new techniques to re-expose the extensive multi-coloured tiles which formed the villa's floor.


Michael de Bootman, who is part of the team, said the site could be about 50% larger than was initially documented.


Mr de Bootman, geophysical overseer of the site, said the villa could also include up to five well-preserved masonry buildings, a detached bath house and possibly a gatehouse.


"The site is the only exposed Roman mosaic recorded in Norfolk in situ," he said.


He said the excavation work was on-going and could reveal further insights into the make-up and size of the villa.


The team are now appealing to the public for help to rediscover the villa.


"We are asking for the local community to search through their family albums and speak to older relatives to find out if they have any recollection of when the mosaic was still exposed," Mr de Bootman added.


A public exhibition will be held on 28 August, when the dig is due to end.


Story from BBC NEWS:



Published: 2006/08/23 16:50:23 GMT





Dig unearths round table evidence at Windsor Castle

By Chris Greenwood

Published: 28 August 2006


Evidence of a building linked to the myth of King Arthur and the knights of the round table has been found at Windsor Castle.


The circular structure was built by Edward III in the 14th century to house the round table intended to seat the original 300 Knights of the Garter. Archaeological proof of the building was uncovered by members of Channel 4's Time Team in the castle's quadrangle.


Although the stones have been removed, rubble in-fill where they were originally located remained in place. The show's presenter, Tony Robinson, said the discovery could help settle years of debate among historians over the existence of the building. "The round table building is one of our most significant ever archaeological finds. It is something that helped to establish Arthurian legends of the knights of the round table.


"We set out to uncover the walls of the building, and they are just where we hoped. Experts have speculated about the structure for centuries, but they have never been able to find the actual building."


It was one of several remarkable finds made by archaeologists given unprecedented access to three Royal residences.


At Buckingham Palace, finds ranged from a small piece of pre-Roman flint to a gold earring or piece of necklace, possibly from the Victorian era. Experts also found a stoneware beer mug probably thrown away by workmen landscaping the gardens in about 1700.


At Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official Scottish residence, a 17th or 18th century seal, probably used to stamp wax on documents, was uncovered.


The digs were allowed to go after months of negotiations with representatives of the Royal family. A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said all the findings will be catalogued and the survey results will be added to the Royal archive at Windsor.


Evidence of a building linked to the myth of King Arthur and the knights of the round table has been found at Windsor Castle.


The circular structure was built by Edward III in the 14th century to house the round table intended to seat the original 300 Knights of the Garter. Archaeological proof of the building was uncovered by members of Channel 4's Time Team in the castle's quadrangle.


Although the stones have been removed, rubble in-fill where they were originally located remained in place. The show's presenter, Tony Robinson, said the discovery could help settle years of debate among historians over the existence of the building. "The round table building is one of our most significant ever archaeological finds. It is something that helped to establish Arthurian legends of the knights of the round table.


"We set out to uncover the walls of the building, and they are just where we hoped. Experts have speculated about the structure for centuries, but they have never been able to find the actual building."


It was one of several remarkable finds made by archaeologists given unprecedented access to three Royal residences.


At Buckingham Palace, finds ranged from a small piece of pre-Roman flint to a gold earring or piece of necklace, possibly from the Victorian era. Experts also found a stoneware beer mug probably thrown away by workmen landscaping the gardens in about 1700.


At Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official Scottish residence, a 17th or 18th century seal, probably used to stamp wax on documents, was uncovered.


The digs were allowed to go after months of negotiations with representatives of the Royal family. A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said all the findings will be catalogued and the survey results will be added to the Royal archive at Windsor.




Experts find site of Zulu siege

By Stephen Stewart

BBC Scotland news website


British soldiers fighting the Zulus experienced appalling conditions similar to the muddy killing fields of World War I, it has emerged.


Archaeologists have revealed details of soldiers' battle for survival during a bloody siege in the Anglo-Zulu War.


The colonial war in 1879 was dramatised by Michael Caine in the film Zulu.


Historians lacked detailed evidence of the troops' daily lives, but a team of experts from Glasgow have now uncovered a forgotten British fort.


The site at KwaMondi, Eshowe, in South Africa, has been hailed as a treasure trove of historical information which sheds light on the heroism and skill of the Royal Engineers.


The group from Glasgow University was headed by Dr Tony Pollard, star of the popular BBC's Two Men in A Trench series, and used metal detectors to survey the site.


The fort was built by the British army following the invasion of Zululand in January 1879 and was besieged by a huge Zulu force for more than two months.


Dr Pollard, Dr Iain Banks and their team brought to light the endeavours of men such as Captain Warren Wynne, who built the fort and surrounding roads under the threat of an overwhelming Zulu attack.


They also discovered that heavy rains during the siege turned the fort into a polluted quagmire leading to an outbreak of typhus which killed large number of men.


Dr Pollard said: "During the rains of January to March, the interior of the fort would have been very wet and prone to waterlogging.


"The presence of 1,700 men and their horses would quickly turn the soil into a muddy mess, little different from the mud that their sons and grandsons would face in the trenches of Flanders.


"The artefacts provide an insight into the lives of men who lived in the fort for the duration of the siege.


"They show the value of metal detecting as a technique and also of the less well known sites that have been pushed into the background by iconic locations such as Rorke's Drift or Isandlwana."


Dr Pollard said the story of the fort provides a testament to the skill of the Royal Engineers and particularly of Captain Warren Wynne.


He added: "It is a story without the stuff of legend but nonetheless a story of achievement under difficult and testing conditions; the remains of the fort are a memorial to the men who built and served under such trying circumstances.


"My favourite find is undoubtedly a Martini Henry bullet converted into a plumb bob.


"You can imagine the row when it was discovered there wasn't one in the tool box and Wynne the engineer commanding one of his men to make one - if he didn't make it himself.


"Its also interesting archaeologically to have something designed to kill transformed into something constructive."


Before arriving at Eshowe, the relief column under Lord Chelmsford fought off a 12,000-strong Zulu force.

Story from BBC NEWS:



Published: 2006/08/22 11:08:36 GMT





Cows also have regional accents


Cow moo recordings

Cows have regional accents like humans, language specialists have confirmed.


They decided to examine the issue after dairy farmers noticed their cows had slightly different moos, depending on which herd they came from.


John Wells, Professor of Phonetics at the University of London, said regional twangs had been seen before in birds.


The farmers in Somerset who noticed the phenomena said it may have been the result of the close bond between them and their animals.


Farmer Lloyd Green, from Glastonbury, said: "I spend a lot of time with my ones and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl.


I spend a lot of time with my ones and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl

Lloyd Green



"I've spoken to the other farmers in the West Country group and they have noticed a similar development in their own herds.


"It works the same as with dogs - the closer a farmer's bond is with his animals, the easier it is for them to pick up his accent."


Peer pressure


Prof Wells felt the accents could result from their contemporaries.


He said: "This phenomena is well attested in birds. You find distinct chirping accents in the same species around the country.


"This could also be true of cows.


"In small populations such as herds you would encounter identifiable dialectical variations which are most affected by the immediate peer group."


Dr Jeanine Treffers-Daller, reader in linguistics at the University of the West of England in Bristol, agreed that the accent could be influenced by relatives.


She said: "When we are learning to speak, we adopt a local variety of language spoken by our parents, so the same could be said about the variation in the West Country cow moo."