Neanderthals at Mealtime: Pass the Meat

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

April 23, 2008


Neanderthals living in southwestern France 55,000 to 40,000 years ago mostly ate red meat from extinct ancestors of modern bison, cattle and horses, according to a new study on a large, worn Neanderthal tooth.


The extinct hominids were not above eating every edible bit of an animal, since they were dining for survival, explained Teresa Steele, one of the study's co-authors.


While a steak dinner "is probably the closest modern comparison," Steele said, "remember too that they were consuming all parts of the animals, definitely the bone marrow and probably also the organs, not just the 'prime cuts.'"


The new findings, which have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Human Evolution, also suggest beans, grains and nuts were off the Neanderthal menu.


"We assume that Neanderthals were eating some plant foods, but given the present evidence, these plant foods were not significant sources of protein," explained Steele, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California at Davis.


She and her colleagues extracted fine powder from an upper right Neanderthal premolar, excavated at a now-collapsed rock shelter called Jonzac in southwest France. For comparison, they also extracted and analyzed bone collagen from animal remains unearthed at the site. These animals included the Steppe bison, aurochs, ancient horses, reindeer and hyenas.


The scientists focused on forms of the common chemical elements carbon and nitrogen. These particular elements reflect an individual's diet at the time of tooth formation, usually during later childhood.


The research, conducted in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, matched the Neanderthal tooth isotopes to those found in the large herbivore fossils found nearby, with the exception of reindeer, which appear to have been hyena prey.


"It is not surprising that hyenas would prefer reindeer -- they are the ideal size for hyena prey," explained Steele. "Given a choice, bison and aurochs would have been more difficult for a hyena to hunt compared to a reindeer, but apparently this was not true for Neanderthals."


The Neanderthal diet was limited in comparison to modern human diets, noted Steele, since early modern humans ate "more small, fast game, including birds and fish." This gave our ancestors "greater dietary flexibility and ultimately allowed their population sizes to increase more rapidly, allowing them to live at higher population densities."


Neanderthals, who lived in small groups throughout parts of Europe and the Near East, went extinct around 30,000 years ago, shortly after modern humans arrived on their territory. The new study therefore reveals what Neanderthals, at least those in southwestern France, were eating fairly close to the time of their ultimate demise.


"The study reconfirms previous studies that the Neanderthals were highly carnivorous and fed primarily on large mammals," said Richard Klein, a professor of anthropological sciences in the Department of Biology at Stanford University, adding, "I think it is totally convincing."



Human line 'nearly split in two'

By Paul Rincon

Science reporter, BBC News


Ancient humans started down the path of evolving into two separate species before merging back into a single population, a genetic study suggests.


The genetic split in Africa resulted in distinct populations that lived in isolation for as much as 100,000 years, the scientists say.


This could have been caused by arid conditions driving a wedge between humans in eastern and southern Africa.


Details have been published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.


It would be the longest period for which modern human populations have been isolated from one another.


But other scientists said it was still too early to reconstruct a meaningful picture of humankind's early history in Africa. They argue that other scenarios could also account for the data.


At the time of the split - some 150,000 years ago - our species, Homo sapiens , was still confined to the African continent.


We don't know how long it takes for hominids to fission off into separate species, but clearly they were separated for a very long time

Dr Spencer Wells, Genographic Project


The results have come from the Genographic Project, a major effort to track human migrations through DNA.


The latest conclusions are based on analysis of mitochondrial DNA in present-day African populations. This type of DNA is the genetic material stored in mitochondria - the "powerhouses" of cells.


It is passed down from a mother to her offspring, providing a unique record of maternal inheritance.


"We don't know how long it takes for hominids to fission off into separate species, but clearly they were separated for a very long time," said Dr Spencer Wells, director of the Genographic Project.


"They came back together again during the Late Stone Age - driven by population expansion."


Although present-day people carry a signature of the ancient split in their DNA, today's Africans are part of a single population.


The researchers compiled a "family tree" of different mitochondrial DNA groupings found in Africa.


A major split occurred near the root of the tree as early as 150,000 years ago.


On one side of this divide are the mitochondrial lineages now found predominantly in East and West Africa, and all maternal lineages found outside Africa.


On the other side of the divide are lineages predominantly found in the Khoi and San (Khoisan) hunter-gatherer people of southern Africa.


Many African populations today harbour a mixture of both.


Although there is very deep divergence in the mitochondrial lineages, that can be different from inferring when the populations diverged from one another

Dr Sarah Tishkoff, University of Pennsylvania


The scientists say the most likely scenario is that two populations went their separate ways early in our evolutionary history.


This gave rise to separate human communities localised to eastern and southern Africa that evolved in isolation for between 50,000 and 100,000 years.


This divergence could have been related to climate change: recent studies of ancient climate data suggest that eastern Africa went through a series of massive droughts between 135,000-90,000 years ago.


Lead author Doron Behar, from the Rambam Medical Center in Israel commented: "It is possible the harsh environment and changing climate made populations migrate to other places in order to have a better chance of survival.


"Some of them found places where they could and - perhaps - some didn't. More than that we cannot say."


Dr Wells told BBC News: "Once this population reached southern Africa, it was cut off from the eastern African population by these drought events which were on the route between them."


Modern humans are often presumed to have originated in East Africa and then spread out to populate other areas. But the data could equally support an origin in southern Africa followed by a migration to East and West Africa.


The genetic data show that populations came back together as a single, pan-African population about 40,000 years ago.


This renewed contact appears to coincide with the development of more advanced stone tool technology and may have been helped by more favourable environmental conditions.


"[The mixing] was two-way to a certain extent, but the majority of mitochondrial lineages seem to have come from north-eastern Africa down to the south," said Spencer Wells.


But other scientists said different scenarios could explain the data.


Dr Sarah Tishkoff, an expert on African population genetics from the University of Pennsylvania, said the Khoisan might once have carried many more of the presumed "East African" lineages but that these could have been lost over time.


"Although there is very deep divergence in the mitochondrial lineages, that can be different from inferring when the populations diverged from one another and there can be many demographic scenarios to account for it," she told BBC News.


She added: "As a general rule of thumb, when mitochondrial genetic lineages split, it will usually precede the population split. It can often be difficult to infer from one to the other."


The University of Pennsylvania researcher stressed it was not possible to pinpoint where in Africa the populations had once lived - complicating the process of reconstructing scenarios from genetic data.


The Genographic Project's findings are also consistent with the idea - held for some years now - that modern humans had a close brush with extinction in the evolutionary past.


The number of early humans may have shrunk as low as 2,000 before numbers began to expand again in the Late Stone Age.



Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2008/04/24 17:32:42 GMT


Culture And Media



Research: Early man near vanished in Africa



For a large part of its history the early human race was split into two separate species, and was so small that it likely verged on extinction, an Israeli-led genetic study has shown.


The research shows that two separate populations may have formed in the East and South of Africa, and perhaps dropped to as few as 2,000.


The study also demonstrates that DNA samples from people alive today - and not only studies of bones, archeological evidence and wall drawings - can be used to determine how the human race evolved.


The analysis - just published in the American Journal of Human Genetics and led by Dr. Doron Behar at Rambam Medical Center's laboratory of molecular medicine in Haifa and Dr. Saharon Rosset of IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in New York and Tel Aviv University - is said to be the most extensive survey to date of African mitochondrial DNA handed down by mothers since the beginning of the human race.


"The migrations 60,000 years ago that led modern humans on their epic journeys to populate the world have been the primary focus of anthropological genetic research, but relatively little is known about the demographic history of our species over the previous 140,000 years in Africa," Behar said. "The new study returned the focus to Africa, and in doing so refines our understanding of early modern Homo sapiens history."


"This study illustrates the extraordinary power of genetics to reveal insights into some of the key events in our species‚ history. Tiny bands of early humans, forced apart by harsh environmental conditions, coming back from the brink to reunite and populate the world. It was truly an epic drama, written in our DNA," said Dr. Spencer Wells, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence and director of the Genographic Project.


For the article called "The Dawn of Human Matrilineal Diversity," the researchers used blood or cheek epithelial cell samples stored in labs around the world - that included mitochondrial DNA - from some 600 people who originated in Africa. The researchers put a special focus on the Himla Soodyall indigenous people, who number in the thousands to tens of thousands and whose native language consists of clicks.


Various studies in other disciplines showed these people had many things in common, including their features and the fact that they were hunter-gatherers rather than farmers.


The 600 unrelated participants, including 38 Himla Soodyall and people from all of North Africa - including Chad, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia and even Israeli Jews, Beduin and Druse - gave their informed consent for taking part in the research.


The researchers' analyses of the extensive genotyped data provided surprising insights into the early demographic history of human populations before they moved out of Africa. Research shows that early human populations were small and isolated both geographically and socially from each other for tens of thousands of years.


"Our aim was to document if these people descend from the oldest in the human species. It seems that their ancestors split off from other Africans between 90,000 and 150,000 years ago and were isolated due to topographical and other reasons," Behar told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "Small groups of hunter-gatherers looked for a good place to live in a difficult environment."


Recent paleoclimatological data suggest that eastern Africa went through a series of massive droughts between 90,000 and 135,000 years ago. It is possible, the researchers suggest, that this climatological shift contributed to the population splits. What is surprising is the length of time the populations were separate - as much as half of our entire history as a species.


The genetic split in Africa resulted in distinct populations that lived in isolation for as much as 100,000 years, the scientists say. At the time of the split - some 150,000 years ago - our species, Homo sapiens, was still confined to the African continent.


On one side of this divide were the mitochondrial lineages now found predominantly in East and West Africa, and all maternal lineages found outside Africa.


On the other side of the divide are lineages predominantly found in the Khoi and San (Khoisan) hunter-gatherer people of southern Africa.


This could have been caused by arid conditions driving a wedge between humans in eastern and southern Africa.


It would be the longest period for which modern human populations have been isolated from one another.


The isolated African groups started to meet up again with each other about 40,000 years ago, during the African Late Stone Age, and then grew in numbers and moved to an expanding area. Many archeologists believe this era heralded the beginning of fully modern human behavior, including abstract thought and complex spoken language.


Other researchers have hypothesized that during the initial isolation, about 70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens was almost wiped out, with the world population numbering as low as 2,000 people. But they banded together and survived.


The researchers were members of the Genographic Project launched in 2005 by National Geographic and IBM, with field research supported by the Waitt Family Foundation and laboratory research supported by Applied Biosystems. The aim was to use genetics as a tool to address anthropological questions on a global scale. A consortium of 10 regional scientific teams took DNA samples and analyzed them in their respective regions.


Mitochondrial DNA, inherited down the maternal line, was used to discover the age of the famous "mitochondrial Eve" in 1987, said Behar. This work has since been extended to show unequivocally that the most recent common female ancestor of everyone alive today was an African woman who lived in the past 200,000 years. Paleontology provides corroborating evidence that our species originated in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago.


"We see strong evidence of ancient population splits beginning as early as 150,000 years ago, probably giving rise to separate populations localized to eastern and southern Africa," Behar said.


While human populations had been quite small prior to the Late Stone Age, the expansion after this time led to the occupation of many previously uninhabited areas, including the world beyond Africa.


"It was only around 40,000 years ago that they became part of a single pan-African population, reunited after as much as 100,000 years apart."


Rosset said that "the analysis of such a massive dataset presents statistical and computational challenges as well as great opportunities for discovery of the events that shaped our history and genetic landscape. For example, we can see evidence of a population expansion period starting around 70,000 years ago, perhaps leading to the out-of-Africa dispersal shortly afterward."


Paleontologist Meave Leakey, a Genographic advisory board member, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and research professor at Stony Brook University in New York, said: "Who would have thought that as recently as 70,000 years ago, extremes of climate had reduced our population to such small numbers that we were on the very edge of extinction?"



7,000 years older than Stonehenge: the site that stunned archaeologists

Nick Birch, Istanbul

This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday April 23 2008 on p21 of the International section. It was last updated at 00:09 on April 23 2008.


As a child, Klaus Schmidt used to grub around in caves in his native Germany in the hope of finding prehistoric paintings. Thirty years later, a member of the German Archaeological Institute, he found something infinitely more important: a temple complex almost twice as old as anything comparable on the planet.


"This place is a supernova," said Schmidt, standing under a lone tree on a windswept hilltop 35 miles north of Turkey's border with Syria. "Within a minute of first seeing it I knew I had two choices: go away and tell nobody, or spend the rest of my life working here."


Behind him are the first folds of the Anatolian plateau. Ahead, the Mesopotamian plain, like a dust-coloured sea, stretches south hundreds of miles. The stone circles of Gobekli Tepe are just in front, hidden under the brow of the hill.


Compared with Stonehenge, they are humble affairs. None of the circles excavated (four out of an estimated 20) are more than 30 metres across. T-shaped pillars like the rest, two five-metre stones tower at least a metre above their peers. What makes them remarkable are their carved reliefs of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions, and their age. Dated at around 9,500BC, these stones are 5,500 years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia, and 7,000 years older than Stonehenge.


Never mind wheels or writing, the people who erected them did not even have pottery or domesticated wheat. They lived in villages. But they were hunters, not farmers.


"Everybody used to think only complex, hierarchical civilisations could build such monumental sites, and that they only came about with the invention of agriculture", said Ian Hodder, a Stanford University professor of anthropology who has directed digs at Catalhoyuk, Turkey's best known neolithic site, since 1993. "Gobekli changes everything. It's elaborate, it's complex and it is pre-agricultural. That alone makes the site one of the most important archaeological finds in a very long time."


With only a fraction of the site opened up after a decade of excavation, Gobekli Tepe's significance to the people who built it remains unclear. Some think it was the centre of a fertility rite, with the two tall stones at the centre of each circle representing a man and woman. It is a theory the tourist board in nearby Urfa has taken up with alacrity. Visit the Garden of Eden, its brochures trumpet; see Adam and Eve.


Schmidt is sceptical. He agrees Gobekli Tepe may well be "the last flowering of a semi-nomadic world that farming was just about to destroy", and points out that if it is in near perfect condition today, it is because those who built it buried it soon after under tons of soil, as though its wild animal-rich world had lost all meaning.


But the site is devoid of the fertility symbols found at other neolithic sites, and the T-shaped columns, while clearly semi-human, are sexless.


"I think here we are face to face with the earliest representation of gods," said Schmidt, patting one of the biggest stones. "They have no eyes, no mouths, no faces. But they have arms and they have hands. They are makers.


"In my opinion, the people who carved them were asking themselves the biggest questions of all. What is this universe? Why are we here?"


With no evidence of houses or graves near the stones, Schmidt believes the hilltop was a site of pilgrimage for communities within a radius of roughly a hundred miles. The tallest stones all face south-east, as if scanning plains that are scattered with contemporary sites in many ways no less remarkable than Gobekli Tepe.


Last year, for instance, French archaeologists working at Djade al-Mughara in northern Syria uncovered the oldest mural ever found. "Two square metres of geometric shapes, in red, black and white - like a Paul Klee painting", said Eric Coqueugniot, of the University of Lyon, who is leading the excavation.


Coqueugniot describes Schmidt's hypothesis that Gobekli Tepe was a meeting point for rituals as "tempting", given its spectacular position. But surveys of the region were still in their infancy. "Tomorrow, somebody might find somewhere even more dramatic."


Vecihi Ozkaya, the director of a dig at Kortiktepe, 120 miles east of Urfa, doubts the thousands of stone pots he has found since 2001 in hundreds of 11,500-year-old graves quite qualify as that. But his excitement fills his austere office at Dicle University in Diyarbakir.


"Look at this", he said, pointing at a photo of an exquisitely carved sculpture showing an animal, half-human, half-lion. "It's a sphinx, thousands of years before Egypt. South-eastern Turkey, northern Syria - this region saw the wedding night of our civilisation."



Egypt: Tomb of Cleopatra and lover to be uncovered

Cairo, 24 April(AKI)


Archaeologists have revealed plans to uncover the 2000 year-old tomb of ancient Egypt's most famous lovers, Cleopatra and the Roman general Mark Antony later this year.


Zahi Hawass, prominent archaeologist and director of Egypt's superior council for antiquities announced a proposal to test the theory that the couple were buried together.


He discussed the project in Cairo at a media conference about the ancient pharaohs.


Hawass said that the remains of the legendary Egyptian queen and her Roman lover, Mark Antony, were inside a temple called Tabusiris Magna, 30 kilometres from the port city of Alexandria in northern Egypt.


Until recently access to the tomb has been hindered because it is under water, but archaeologists plan to drain the site so they can begin excavation in November.


Among the clues to suggest that the temple may contain Cleopatra's remains is the discovery of numerous coins with the face of the queen.


According to Hawas, Egyptologists have also uncovered a 120-metre-long underground tunnel with many rooms, some of which could contain more details about Cleopatra.


Born in Rome, Mark Antony was a military general and commander, as well as supporter of Julius Caesar. He was also Cleopatra's lover and bore him a son, called Caesarion.


After Julius Caesar's assassination in March 44 B.C., Antony formed a triumvirate with Octavian, also known as Augustus, and Marcus Lepidus.


Civil war ensued in Rome due to disagreements between Antony and Octavian, who was Julius Caesar's heir and who later became Rome's first emperor.


Antony was subsequently defeated by Octavian and he later committed suicide.


Cleopatra, who came to power at 18 years of age, was once the ruler of Egypt and considered the last of seven queens of the same name.


She was famous for her intelligence, her beauty and her political power.


Cleopatra who also bore Mark Antony twins, committed suicide after his death in August 30 B.C.




Iceman's DNA linked to coastal aboriginals

Judith Lavoie, Canwest News Service; Victoria Times Colonist

Published: Saturday, April 26, 2008


VICTORIA -- Sisters Sheila Clark and Pearl Callaghan held hands and blinked back tears Friday as they talked about their ancestor Kwaday Dan Ts'inchi, better known as Long Ago Person Found, a young aboriginal man whose frozen body was discovered nine years ago at the foot of a melting glacier in Northern B.C.


Three hunters found the body in 1999 in Tatshenshini-Alsek Park, part of the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.


And earlier this month, 17 aboriginal people from northern B.C., Yukon and Alaska, including Clark and Callaghan, were told that DNA testing has proved they are direct descendants of the 'iceman.'


When the body first surfaced, it was thought to have been in the ice about 500 years, but the latest radiocarbon dating shows the man died between 1670 and 1850, preceding or just overlapping the earliest Europeans on the West Coast.


Voluntary DNA testing of First Nations is one aspect of intense, international research carried out on the almost perfectly preserved body, the startling results of which were announced at a scientific symposium in Victoria.


Clark, one of seven sisters, said she found it overwhelming when she was told their matriarchal line could be traced back to Long Ago Person Found.


"It was extremely moving. I couldn't believe it," she said.


"Our family is extremely excited to find out who our other relatives are. It's thrilling. It's awesome."


It triggers everyone's imagination as they think about the young man's trek across the glacier, Callaghan said.


The family is now pumping their 84-year-old mother for information as they try to establish the family tree, they said.


Research shows the iceman moved between the coast and the interior.


For Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Chief Diane Strand it is a remarkable reminder of the close, historical trading partnership between coastal and interior bands.


A total of 240 people volunteered to be part of the DNA study, so it is amazing that 17 were found to be directly related, she said.


"What is the most exciting news is that half of them are from the Yukon and half from the coast."


Out of those, 15 people self-identify as being from the wolf clan, meaning the young man was probably wolf clan, she said.


That turned out to be an important fact while First Nations deliberated how to treat the remains and whether to allow the research, since, traditionally, when a member of one clan dies, another clan takes care of the rites, Strand said.


"The majority of people who have worked on this project were Crow people and I truly believe things happened in the way they were meant to happen. Spiritually he was a wolf person and the people who looked after him came from the proper clan," she said.


It is a wonderful illustration to young people of the strength of the clan system and how science, oral history and tradition can work together, Strand said.


"This just gives another tool for us to say to the scientists you can't discount the oral traditions," she said.


Among the international researchers and scientists at the conference -- sponsored by the Champagne and Aishihik, B.C. Archaeology Branch and Royal B.C. Museum -- were the three hunters who discovered the body while hunting sheep.


Bill Hanlon of Sparwood, B.C., and Michael Roch and Warren Ward of Nelson, B.C., said the find has led to a historical learning journey of their own.


In an emotional meeting, the three hunters were thanked by Clark and Callaghan on behalf of their long-dead relative.


"We felt it was meant to be. There were so many coincidences that put us in that spot at that time," Roch said.


The man was found just before the three started heading home.


"It was if he was saying `take me home,"' Ward said.



Ancient Maya Tomb Yields "Amazing" Fabrics

Ker Than for National Geographic News

April 25, 2008


Fabric fragments excavated from the tomb of an ancient Maya queen rival modern textiles in their complexity and quality, scientists say.


The tomb was discovered in the Maya city of Copán in Honduras by a team led by archaeologist Robert Sharer of the University of Pennsylvania.


Researchers believe the queen, whose name is not known, was buried in the fifth century A.D.


Some of the fabrics found within her tomb have thread counts of over 80 weft yarns per inch, said Margaret Ordonez, a textile expert at the University of Rhode Island who studied the cloth.


"This is in the range of the clothing that we wear," she said. "This is a higher thread count than your jeans."


Some of the fragments contained as many as 25 layers of fabric, stacked atop one another and fused together over time.


"What's surprising is the fragments still exist," Ordonez said.


"We're talking about a humid climate, and to have fragments of fabric exist in the tomb for that long is just amazing."


Archaeologists suspect that the tomb was opened after the queen's death to allow worshipers to perform rituals and make offerings of fabric and other items.


"It was fairly common that there was a ritual conducted, especially for royalty," Sharer, the archaeologist, said.


The fabrics were made of various plant materials, including cotton, grasses, leaves, and tree bark.


Some of the fragments retained hints of glorious hues, including a bright red made from cinnabar and a deep black, possibly created using iron.


The high quality of the weaving suggests it was a very time-consuming task, Ordonez said.


It's unknown how the Maya wove their fabrics, but Ordonez suspects they used an instrument called a back-strap loom.


One end of the loom was anchored to a tree, while a strap at the other end was wrapped around the weaver

"The weaver leans forward and backward to create the tension on the yarns," Ordonez said.


Ordonez's work was funded by the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies and is currently being prepared for publication.


Allan Maca, an archaeologist and Maya expert at Colgate University in New York called the discovery "extraordinary" and a boon to Maya studies.


"The samples are probably too small for substantive studies of symbolism, but Ordonez's work is providing new insights into ancestor veneration, weaving technology, and women's production," Maca said.


"A great number of archaeologists anxiously await the whole of her results."


William Saturno is a Maya expert at Boston University and a National Geographic Society grantee (National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society).


He said the fabric's sophistication is not surprising considering the attire worn by figures in Maya paintings.


"The most important part of this work is the variety and subtlety of the materials being used," Saturno said.


"We finally get to look at the very fabrics themselves rather than just the images of them in art."



Emperor Nero's gate discovered in Cologne

25/04/2008 00:00


The gate, found complete with 11 meters of wall, was a goods-delivery entrance to the Roman town from its river port outside on the Rhine.


Cologne, Germany -- A town gate that was probably built with a grant from Roman Emperor Nero has been discovered in Cologne, Germany during work on a new underground train line, archaeologists said.


"This is finest Roman handiwork," said Hansgerd Hellenkemper, director of the Roman museum in the city.


The gate, found complete with 11 meters of wall, was a goods-delivery entrance to the Roman town from its river port outside on the Rhine. The sturdy Roman wall protected Cologne for 1,000 years.


The city fathers have appropriated 3 million euros to preserve the site with a train line underneath and a road deck overhead.


"I'm delighted it's going to stay in the ground where it has always been," said Hellenkemper.


Recently diggers also found the bottom of a Roman wooden barge in Cologne.


The assumed Nero connection is based on the fact that the wall was built in the second half of the 1st century AD and that the city itself could not have afforded the cost. Nero's mother had been born in Cologne, so the emperor is thought to have fortified the town.


In the late Roman period, the inhabitants walled up the gate for fear of attack by the warlike Frankish tribe, using any rocks at hand including tombstones. Hellenkemper said the closure would not be undone and the gate would be left as is.



Boy, 9, and grandfather find medieval silver treasure in Sweden

Mon, 28 Apr 2008 13:36:04 GMT



A 9-year-old boy's search for shrapnel on an old battlefield resulted in a huge find of medieval silver coins near the Lund in southern Sweden, local media reported Monday. Alexander Granhof, 9, and his grandfather made the recent discovery, dubbed "silverado" by archaeologists.


"We went out on the field looking for cannonballs," Alexander Granhof told the online edition of the Sydsvenskan newspaper.


"I found a piece of metal and thought at first it was shrapnel from a shotgun. I shouted to grandfather and then we discovered more and more coins," he added.


In all, the pair found more than 4,600 coins on the field. Archaeologists, using metal detectors, boosted the tally to 7,000 but did not rule out that even more coins were hidden in the soil.


"This is incredible," Bernd Gerlach of the Lund University Historical Museum told reporters.


Both Alexander and his grandfather Jens Granhof are interested in archaeology and went treasure hunting after reading about a treasure buried somewhere in the province of Scania.


No reward sum has yet been determined but the silver in the treasure alone was estimated to be worth 1.5 million kronor (250,000 dollars).


During the 13th century when the coins were hidden, the sum could have fetched some 15 serfs, museum head Per Karsten said.


The coins had been placed in two urns that were wrapped in cloth. The treasure was likely buried during troubled times, and one theory was that the coins were church taxes collected from nearby farms.


The find included thousands of English coins with a high silver content and some other markers that likely were used locally.




11:27 - 25 April 2008


A Mysterious mound in Notts that was once thought to mark the boundary of two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms is to be investigated by historians, the Forestry Commission has said.


Known as Thynghowe, the hillock was only discovered three years ago in the Birklands area of Sherwood Forest by former teacher Lynda Mallet and her husband Stuart Reddish.


With their friend John Wood, the couple used an original 19th Century perambulation document to find Thynghowe, which is believed to be an ancient meeting place dating back to Viking times.


Experts think Thynghowe was used by different tribes as a gathering point to resolve differences and may have marked the boundary between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria.


With the help of the Forestry Commission and a local history group, the couple from Rainworth plan to investigate the history of the mound.


Al Oswald, an archaeological investigator with English Heritage, recently inspected the site and believes it is a national rarity.


He said: "I was surprised by this discovery. The site had vanished from modern maps and was essentially lost to history until local people made their discoveries.


"There are only a handful of such sites surviving in the British Isles."