Giant statue of Hadrian unearthed
Parts of a huge, exquisitely carved statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian have been found at an archaeological site in south-central Turkey.
The original statue would have stood 4m-5m in height, experts estimate.
His achievements include the massive wall built across the width of northern Britain which bears his name.
Ruling Rome from AD117 to AD138; he was known as a great military administrator and is one of the so-called "five good emperors".
So far, the excavators have unearthed the head, foot and part of a leg.
But they are hopeful other parts of the statue may be uncovered in coming weeks.
The foot is 80cm (31.5 ins) long, the leg - from just above the knee to the ankle - is nearly 70cm (27ins) long. The head, which is almost intact save for its broken nose, also measures 70cm (27 ins).
The pieces of this giant monument to Hadrian were found about 5m below ground, among the buried ruins of a bath house on the site of Sagalassos, an ancient mountaintop town in southern Turkey.
The statue dates to the early part of Hadrian's reign. The elaborate decoration on the sandal suggest he was depicted in military garb.
The discovery was made by archaeologists from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, who have been investigating the site since 1990.
Marc Waelkens, director of the excavation, said this was one of the "most beautiful depictions" of the emperor ever found.
Born in AD76 into a well-to-do family in Italica, near modern Seville, Spain, Hadrian presided over a period of relative peace and prosperity in the Roman Empire. He erected permanent fortifications along the empire's borders in order to consolidate Roman power.
The northernmost extent of this frontier is still standing: Hadrian's Wall runs across the width of northern Britain, from Wallsend to the Solway Firth. It was built to repel attacks by Caledonian tribes.
The bath house in which the statue was found was destroyed by a major earthquake sometime between the late sixth and early seventh centuries AD.
The statue was originally created in pieces, which were then slotted into place to create an imposing monument to the emperor.
It is these constituent parts that are now lying on the floor of the wrecked bath house: when the building collapsed, the statue fell apart along its joins.
In the last few days, the team has also discovered marble toes with dowel holes to fix it to a long dress belonging to another huge statue which may be of Hadrian's wife Sabina.
The inhabitants of Sagalassos had special affection for Hadrian. He officially recognised it as the "first city" of the Roman province of Pisidia and made it the centre for an official cult in the region which worshipped the emperor.
These administrative changes attracted thousands of visitors during imperial festivals, boosted trade and, in turn, prosperity.
"As a kind of thanks to the emperor, there were private and public monuments to Hadrian erected throughout the city," Marc Waelkens told the BBC News website.
A sanctuary, or temple, to Hadrian was built in the southern part of Sagalassos.
And in a monumental fountain next to the bath house, archaeologists have found part of a gilded bronze statue of the emperor, paid for by one of Sagalassos' most prominent families.
Modern Vikings sail replica in epic journey
By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent
Published: 12 August 2007
An extraordinary voyage by a team of archaeologists and historians has begun to solve some of the greatest riddles of the Viking age. On Tuesday, a giant Viking warship, an exact replica of one built nearly 1,000 years ago, will complete a 1,200-mile trip from Scandinavia to Ireland.
Throughout the six-and-a-half-week voyage, experts from Denmark's Viking Ship Museum have conducted experiments into 11th-century life and tested sailing technology. And they have found the famed longships were slower and more complex than thought. The vessel they replicated had been discovered and lifted by archaeologists in Denmark 50 years ago. Research showed it had been built in Dublin in 1042 and scuttled in Denmark 30 years later.
On this voyage, the vessel sailed from Roskilde in Denmark to southern Norway, then across the North Sea (where it was forced by poor winds to accept a tow from its escort vessel to Orkney), then via the Western Isles and the Isle of Man to Ireland. It will arrive in Dublin on Tuesday.
Its occupants found that in the initial sea trials, the hull "bent" back and forth from port to starboard by as much as 80 centimetres. The ship was so flexible that Viking-style wooden nails began to work loose and the structure was in danger of falling apart.
After closer examination of the remains of the original vessel, the 21st-century Vikings realised their 11th-century predecessors had included substantial strengthening timbers for greater rigidity. So an additional large longitudinal timber was added to the replica and deck planks fastened to the cross-beams.
Archaeologists behind the project also said the experimental voyage had showed that the larger warships were almost 20 per cent slower at top speed than scholars had thought.
Sea Stallion website: http://www.havhingsten.dk/index.php?id=277&L=1
Dig unearths Neolithic settlement
The remains of a massive Neolithic settlement dating back more than 5,000 years have been discovered in Orkney.
Archaeologists said the discovery could be as significant as the famous prehistoric village at Skara Brae, which was unearthed in 1850.
The site at Ness of Brodgar lies in the heart of Neolithic Orkney, between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness.
The finds have included a Neolithic mace head and decorated stones.
Only a small part of the site has been dug, exposing large oval stone buildings subdivided into small chambers.
Archaeologists from Orkney College hope the area will unlock some of the secrets of the people who lived there.
Nick Card, who is leading the dig, said: "What we have is a whole series of buildings - unfortunately we've only managed to open a tiny percentage of what is actually here.
"The buildings which we have been uncovered are of a kind never seen before.
"Some of the structures do appear to be domestic in nature but one, the main structure in the big trench, is much more complex with very symmetrical architecture.
"The scale of the building and its refinement would suggest that it perhaps had some other function other than domestic."
Archaeologist Julie Gibson told BBC Radio Scotland that the site was hugely significant.
She added: "This is going to tell us an enormous amount about how people interacted and worked within the stone circles.
"People who were staying here were probably putting up the stone circles, or certainly having their ceremonies at them - living right next door or coming for meetings there."
Archaeologists Recreate Ancient Irish Beer
Two Galway Archaeologists have proposed a theory that one of the most common archaeological monuments in the Irish landscape may have been used for brewing a Bronze Age Beer.
Billy Quinn and Declan Moore, two archaeologists with Moore Archaeological & Environmental Services (Moore Group) in Galway, believe that an extensive brewing tradition existed in Ireland as far back as 2500 BC. In an article to be published in Archaeology Ireland next month, they detail their experiments and research into the enigmatic site that is the fulacht fiadh. These monuments (of which there are approx. 4500), which present in the landscape as small, horseshoe shaped grass covered mounds, have been conventionally thought of by archaeologists as ancient cooking spots. However, Quinn and Moore believe that they may have also been used as breweries.
According to Quinn “the tradition of brewing in Ireland has a long history, we think that the fulacht may have been used as a kitchen sink, for cooking, dying, many uses, but that a primary use was the brewing of ale.” The two set out to investigate their theory in a journey which took them across Europe in search of further evidence.
To prove their theory, Quinn & Moore set out to recreate the process. They used an old wooden trough filled with water and added heated stones. After achieving an optimum temperature of 60-70°C they began to add milled barley and after approx 45 minutes simply baled the final product into fermentation vessels. They added natural wild flavourings (taking care to avoid anything toxic or hallucinogenic) and then added yeast after cooling the vessels in a bath of cold water for several hours.
According to Moore “including the leftover liquid we could easily have produced up to 300 litres of this most basic ale”. Through their experiments, they discovered that the process of brewing ale in a fulacht using hot rock technology is a simple process. To produce the ale took only a few hours, followed by a three-day wait to allow for fermentation.
Quinn and Moore point out that although their theory is based solely on circumstantial and experimental evidence, they believe that, although probably multifunctional in nature, a primary use of the fulacht fiadh was for brewing beer.
For additional information on ancient Irish beer, contact Declan or Billy or visit www.mooregroup.ie/beer/index.html.
A selection of photographs can be viewed at www.mooregroup.ie/beer/gallery/index.html . Larger versions can be provided on request.
How Bronze Age man enjoyed his pint
Declan Moore and Billy Quinn believe Bronze Age Irish men liked a beer
Bronze Age Irishmen were as fond of their beer as their 21st century counterparts, it has been claimed.
Two archaeologists have put forward a theory that one of the most common ancient monuments seen around Ireland may have been used for brewing ale.
Fulacht fiadh - horseshoe shaped grass covered mounds - are conventionally thought of as ancient cooking spots.
But the archaeologists from Galway believe they could have been the country's earliest breweries.
To prove their theory that an extensive brewing tradition existed in Ireland as far back as 2500BC, Billy Quinn and Declan Moore recreated the process.
After just three hours of hard work - and three days of patiently waiting for their brew to ferment - the men enjoyed a pint with a taste of history attached.
Three hundred litres of water were transformed into a "very palatable" 110 litres of frothy ale.
The archaeologists are producing their fourth batch of beer
"It tasted really good," said Mr Quinn, of Moore Archaeological and Environmental Services (Moore Group).
"We were very surprised. Even a professional brewer we had working with us compared it favourably to his own.
"It tasted like a traditional ale, but was sweeter because there were no hops in it."
Mr Quinn said it was while nursing a hangover one morning - and discussing the natural predisposition of all men to seek means to alter their minds - that he came to the startling conclusion that fulachts could have been the country's earliest breweries.
The two archaeologists set out to investigate their theory in a journey which took them across Europe in search of further evidence. On their return, they used an old wooden trough filled with water and added heated stones.
After achieving an optimum temperature of 60-70°C they began to add milled barley and approximately 45 minutes later simply baled the final product into fermentation vessels.
The men have since made two more batches of beer - the second was stronger and the third was "a disaster" - but they have started work on batch number four which the hope will taste as good as their first.
The archaeologists' experiment is described in detail in next month's edition of the magazine, Archaeology Ireland.
From Merryn Dineley:
It is interesting how these news reports have missed the malt and refer instead to 'milled barley' being used to make beer. Also they report that the beer was fermented in the trough but it wasn't. The trough was used for mashing.
For the full, correct story of this great bit of practical research into a much neglected area of our ancient past see
Fight on to save Stone Age Atlantis
By Eleanor Williams
BBC News, Hampshire
A race against time is under way to try to save a Stone Age settlement found buried at the bottom of the sea in the Solent.
Eight thousand years ago the area would have been dry land, a valley and woodland criss-crossed by rivers.
A swamped prehistoric forest was identified off the northern Isle of Wight coast in the 1980s, but Bouldnor Cliff's buried Stone Age village was only found - by chance - a few years ago.
Divers taking part in a routine survey spotted a lobster cleaning out its burrow on the seabed and to their surprise the animal was throwing out dozens of pieces of worked flint.
Maritime archaeologists from the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology have carried out a number of underwater excavations at the 8,000-year-old site.
For the first time they are bringing up sections of the Mesolithic village from the seabed and going through the sediments.
But they have to work fast, as the site is literally being washed away by tidal currents, which eat away at the submerged cliff at a rate of 12in (30cm) a year.
Garry Momber, director of the charity - which is supported by English Heritage - said the project is unique and helps to shed light on a time in British history which very little is known about.
He said: "This is the only site of its kind in Britain and is extremely important to our understanding of our Stone Age ancestors from the lesser-known Mesolithic period.
"It reveals a time before the English Channel existed when Europe and Britain were linked.
"The people who lived on this site could have walked over to Calais without too much trouble."
The Isle of Wight was then the highest point of a chalk ridge stretching out along the south coast with valleys on either sides.
After the ice cap - which had covered most of northern Europe - melted, the sea levels started to rise and the settlement was swamped and buried under the sea.
In the process, silt formed on top and preserved both tools, such as flint knives and scrapers, as well as charcoal, worked pieces of wood, nuts and other organic material, which would have disappeared on land.
"It's called the Stone Age because, on land, we find stones from this period but under water a whole lot more survives," Mr Momber said.
"I believe these people were far more sophisticated than we give them credit for."
Among the discoveries are wooden poles and structures believed to have been used to build houses and canoes.
"The reason so little is known about the lives of the Mesolithic people, is because most of the sites where they settled are now on the seabed," Mr Momber added.
"The whole of the North Sea could be covered in sites like this one.
"If we want to understand the Mesolithic people - how they went from hunter-gatherers to farming - we need to look under the water."
In 2004, the team carried out another excavation on a less intact site 300yds (275m) away.
This showed signs of having been by a river and Mr Momber believes the two sites were linked.
He said it was likely the larger one was where the people lived and the other where they went to catch fish.
However, there is still a lot more work to be done until it is known what Bouldnor Cliff looked like and how the site was used.
To put it in perspective, Mr Momber compared the find to one of the more "modern" historic finds in the Solent.
"The Mary Rose is only about 500 years old - this was well before that, well before the pyramids, which are 3,000 years old and way before Stonehenge was built, which was only 5,000 years ago," he said.
Mr Momber added they hoped to secure more funding so they could continue their work before the artefacts were lost forever, as the Bouldnor Cliff area was being washed away fast.
Twin fossil find adds twist to human evolution
Homo erectus had an unexpected neighbour, and a surprising lifestyle too.
Two fossils unearthed in Kenya have added a new dimension to our view of life at the birth of our Homo genus. They show that two ancestral human species seem to have lived cheek-by-jowl in the same area, much as gorillas and chimpanzees do today.
Both skull fragments were found by anthropologists digging near Kenya's Lake Turkana, adding to the impressive list of early human fossils unearthed here. One of the fossils, an upper jawbone from the species Homo habilis, is dated at 1.44 million years, much younger than most fossils of this species.
The other fossil is an almost complete — but faceless — Homo erectus skull. Dated at 1.55 million years, the skull is far smaller than any other from this species — suggesting to the researchers that, as is the case with modern gorillas, there was a large size differences between the sexes in H. erectus.
The fact that these two species seem to have been contemporaries is a surprise to anthropologists, say Fred Spoor of University College London and his colleagues, who discovered the hominin fossils seven years ago and now describe them in this week's Nature1.
Anthropologists have tended to see the evolution of Homo species as a linear progression, beginning with H. habilis and passing through H. erectus before ending up with modern humans. But it seems the path through time was broad enough for more than one species to walk abreast, with H. erectus and H. habilis living in the same place at the same time for as much as half a million years. Spoor and his colleagues argue that this makes it less likely that H. erectus was a direct descendant of H. habilis, instead suggesting that there is a common ancestor yet to find.
The two species are thought to have lived side by side in much the same way as modern chimps and gorillas coexist in central regions of Africa — by adopting different habits and diets. "To live in the same area for half a million years they must have found their own niches — different diets, maybe different migratory routes — to minimize competition," says Spoor. "When food is scarce, when there's a drought or something, it becomes very important that you're not in each other's way."
The new H. erectus skull also changes our ideas about the nature of this species. "What is truly striking about this fossil is its size," comments Spoor. The fact that the skull — probably belong to a young adult — is so small suggests that the size range of H. erectus was much larger than we imagined. The researchers infer from this that the males of H. erectus were much bigger than the females. By comparison, there is a relatively slight difference seen between the sexes in our own species. A greater inequality of size has implications for the way the creatures lived.
H. erectus has always been viewed as similar to H. sapiens in both body shape and lifestyle. Spoor points out that the new discovery suggests a family set-up more akin to that of modern gorillas in which dominant males mate with a harem of females. "If we look at those primate species that have large sexual dimorphism, their groups usually involve one dominant male — the silverback if you're talking about gorillas — multiple female mates, and then perhaps a few non-dominant males that hang around, just waiting for their chance," Spoor says.
A similar set up is inferred from fossils of the earliest hominins, such as the australopithecines, but there has been a widespread assumption that sexes of more or less equal sizes arose when our ancestors ditched their more ape-like characteristics, evolving from Australopithecus into the more genteel Homo. To find such a difference in H. erectus, Spoor says, "was quite a surprise, actually".
Paleoanthropologists Disown Homo habilis from Our Direct Family Tree
An Associated Press article titled “African fossils paint messy picture of human evolution” explains that common popular conceptions of human evolution are incorrect: “Surprising fossils dug up in Africa are creating messy kinks in the iconic straight line of human evolution with its knuckle-dragging ape and briefcase-carrying man.” Indeed, the inappropriateness of such "straight line" depictions of human evolution was one of Jonathan Wells' main points in chapter 11 in Icons of Evolution, "From Ape to Human: The Ultimate Icon." A Harvard biological anthropologist stated the newly reported fossils reveal, "how poorly we understand the transition from being something much more apelike to something more humanlike." The Associated Press article goes on to explain why Homo habilis can no longer considered a direct ancestor of humans:
The old theory was that the first and oldest species in our family tree, Homo habilis, evolved into Homo erectus, which then became us, Homo sapiens. But those two earlier species lived side-by-side about 1.5 million years ago in parts of Kenya for at least half a million years, Leakey and colleagues report in a paper published in Thursday's journal Nature. In 2000 Leakey found an old H. erectus complete skull within walking distance of an upper jaw of the H. habilis, and both dated from the same general time period. That makes it unlikely that H. erectus evolved from H. habilis, researchers said.
In other words, habilis can no longer be considered the ancestor to the rest of the genus Homo.
Indeed, this has been a growing trend in paleoanthropology. A 1999 paper published in Science by two leaders in the field explained that “Homo” habilis should not even be considered a member of Homo, but is rather an australopithecine due to its ape-like skeletal structure (see B. Wood & M. Collard, "The Human Genus," Science, Vol. 284:65-71, April 2, 1999).
With habilis removed from our direct ancestry, what exactly is the direct ancestor of Homo? As two paleoanthropologists wrote in Nature, researchers don’t know:
[Early forms of erectus] mar[k] such a radical departure from previous forms of Homo (such as H. habilis) in its height, reduced sexual dimorphism, long limbs and modern body proportions that it is hard at present to identify its immediate ancestry in east Africa. Not for nothing has it been described as a hominin “without an ancestor, without a clear past”
(Robin Dennell & Wil Roebroeks, "An Asian perspective on early human dispersal from Africa," Nature, Vol 438:1099-1104 (Dec. 22/29, 2005) (internal citations removed) (emphasis added).)
After this latest find, one researcher realized its implications and was quick to quash any doubts this may spark regarding human evolution, stating: “All the changes to human evolutionary thought should not be considered a weakness in the theory of evolution, Kimbel said. Rather, those are the predictable results of getting more evidence, asking smarter questions and forming better theories, he said.”
I’m all for “asking smarter questions and forming better theories,” and it logically follows that I therefore must also favor abandoning theories that aren’t working. The aforementioned Harvard biological anthropologist, Daniel Lieberman, apparently did not get the memo about refraining from making statements that might lead to doubts about evolution: he stated in the New York Times that these latest fossil finds regarding habilis:
"show 'just how interesting and complex the human genus was and how poorly we understand the transition from being something much more apelike to something more humanlike.'" (emphasis added)
Indeed, as explained here, the first true members of Homo were “significantly and dramatically different” from our alleged ape-like ancestors, the australopithecines. So far, the data isn’t doing a very good job of explaining precisely from what, if anything, did our genus Homo evolve.
Queen Nefertiti: More than a pretty face
German scientists have discovered that the world's most beautiful woman allowed herself to be sculpted with wrinkles to appear more beautiful.
Maybe wrinkles are not so bad after all, some German scientists have discovered.
In ancient times, such laugh lines and wrinkles around the mouth improved the face of Nefertiti, the Egyptian queen acclaimed as the world's most beautiful woman.
X-ray pictures of the bust by a computer tomography machine at the nearby Charite Hospital in Berlin revealed that the sculpture is a piece of limestone with details added using four outer layers of plaster of Paris.
"We have discovered that the sculptor later added gentle wrinkles to her face, especially around the eyes," said Dietrich Wildung, director of the Museum of Egyptology housed in the upper storey of the Altes Museum.
"The wrinkles make the image more individual and expressive."
The scientists speculate that Nefertiti, who would have sat for the sculptor, herself approved the older look.
The 3,000-year-old bust of Nefertiti is the greatest treasure at Berlin's Altes Museum.
Wildung said he received the revelation a year ago that the serene face, which today lacks one eye, was not quite as smooth as it looked.
Museum officials, who say Nefertiti is too fragile to visit Egypt, even worried about sending her to the hospital.
The scan of the artwork, which is 50 centimeters tall including the hat, was arranged in cooperation with film teams from the US National Geographic Society and German public broadcaster ZDF. Their documentary was aired last month in Germany.
"The prime motivation was scientific," stressed Wildung, an Egyptologist who said he had always presumed that some plaster "make-up" had been applied as a finish to the solid limestone before it was painted.
The results prove once and for all that the artist re-adjusted the image four times.
"The purpose was not to idealize her at all, but to make the image more realistic," Wildung explained, suggesting that hints of age were probably not taboo in Nefertiti-era art, but a source of prestige.
It may surprise modern women who go to the cosmetic surgeon to recover that smooth teenage complexion, but wrinkles have always been esteemed as a subtle badge of wisdom.
The museum is to alter the lighting in the Nefertiti room after the discovery.
"The lighting will now emphasize the eye area and show these hints that she has a past and is not ageless," said Wildung.
Nefertiti was the chief wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten who ruled about 1350 BC.
"There are still quite a few mysteries about her," said Wildung. "We don't know if she was a native Egyptian or came from the Middle East. Nor do we know how old she was when she married or if she survived her husband."
It will always be a matter of speculation exactly how old she was when the royal sculptor Thutmosis preserved her appearance for immortality.
The sculpture was re-discovered in 1912 by a German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchhardt, during an excavation in Egypt. It was awarded to the German excavation team under the legal arrangements for the dig and duly exported.
James Simon, the German merchant and patron of the arts who funded the expedition, kept the bust in his Berlin home for a time, then donated it in 1920 to the government of Prussia, which was a part of Germany.
Nefertiti went on public display in 1924 and has graced various museums since, accompanied by longing calls from Egypt for her return. The Germans say their legal ownership of the bust is beyond question.
She is set to obtain a new home in 2009 when the collection moves to the nearby Neues Museum after its renovation.
Museum chief Wildung says he often observes museum visitors from his nearby office as they stand in awe before the Egyptian beauty, who now lacks one eye.
"She is more than just a pretty face," he said. "The people go silent in wonderment at her."
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