Archaeologists uncover caveman bling

May 7, 2008 - 6:28AM


RABAT - Archaeologists have uncovered shells used for finery by prehistoric man 85,000 years ago in a cave in eastern Morocco, the country's heritage institute said today.


A research team led by archaeology and heritage institute (INSAP) member Abdeljalil Bouzouggar and Nick Barton from Oxford University found the 20 perforated shells in a cave near Taforalt between March and April this year.


The Nassarius gibbosulus shells are the type prehistoric man would have worn, according to a statement from the Moroccan Ministry for Culture.


In 2007, Bouzouggar and Barton discovered 14 perforated shells in the same cave.


"This discovery shows that the making and use of objects of finery is very anchored in the traditions of Morocco's prehistoric people," said Bouzouggar, in whose opinion the country is the original centre of artistic and symbolic creation.


Objects of finery discovered in Morocco are "now considered to be even more ancient than those discovered in Algeria, South Africa and in Palestine", said the culture ministry.


Known as the "cave of pigeons", the 30-metre deep and 10-metre high cave is situated 50km from Morocco's Mediterranean coast.


Peacehaven's Ancient Mound Reveals Hidden Secrets of Prehistoric Past

09/05/2008 12:44

English Heritage (South East)  


Archaeologists, racing against time to date a burial mound on the cliffs at Peacehaven Heights in East Sussex before it collapses into the sea, have found activity spanning back to 8,000 years BC - the time of some of the island's earliest hunter-gatherers.


The excavations carried out over the past two weeks (19th April - 4 May 2008) have uncovered tools dating back to the Mesolithic period when the area may have been wooded and people were hunting animals, foraging for nuts and berries and making their camps in the area.


A flint arrowhead was found from the late Neolithic period when the earliest farmers settled on the land, along with numerous pieces of pottery dating from the Bronze Age when the burial mound was built some 2000-3000 years ago - the same period as that when the famous stones were erected at Stonehenge.


English Heritage and the landowner agreed to its excavation by Brighton & Hove Archaeological Society and the Mid Sussex Field Archaeological Team to record as much information as possible about it before it falls into the sea.


More than 30 volunteer diggers from the local area and around Sussex have helped to discover and record finds such as the pottery and flint tools, which will be used to date the mound.


Many such mounds were built in the Bronze Age, often in high places, to mark the burial of a local chief. Only one quarter of the mound has been excavated so far and no such burial has yet been found. However, the presence of a small pits and possible post holes in the ground suggest there may have secondary cremations placed in the mound during the Bronze Age - a practice that may have been copied centuries later by the Romans.


The mound also produced pottery and clay pipe dating from the 1700-1800s, which could point to earlier antiquarian robbing of the mound. Sadly there are no written records of their finds. The mound was later visited again this time for defence purposes when soldiers dug their slit trenches through it during World War II as part of their defence of the coastline and a nearby radar station (now demolished). These trenches, along with any other WW2 finds, were recorded by archaeologists during preliminary excavations last September.


Project leader Susan Birks said: 'This mound has a complicated history spanning several thousand years BC right up to World War II. It's a complex story that will need careful unravelling, but we have gathered enough information to tell us its age and something about the people who built it.'


Paul Roberts, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for English Heritage in the South East said:


"Round barrows are very important burial monuments which give us tangible evidence of the beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities and remain an evocative and characteristic feature of the modern South Downs landscape. The slit trenches that were dug into the barrow during the Second World War to provide cover for men protecting the nearby radar station are a reminder of the extensive anti-invasion defences that were rapidly erected on the south coast and throughout the country in 1940 and 1941."


Paul Roberts continued: "The barrow on Peacehaven Heights was destined to collapse into the sea as a result of cliff erosion, and so the project by the Mid-Sussex Field Archaeology Team and the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Society to excavate and understand this important scheduled monument before it is lost is invaluable and has our full support."


Once the excavations have been completed, the barrow will be reinstated as it was, and the results will be collated into a report for dissemination to archaeological and local societies, as well as East Sussex County Council and English Heritage. Any finds will be donated to the Brighton & Hove Museum.




For further press information and pictures of the excavation and finds please contact: Archaeologist Susan Birks on Tel 01403 241550 or on mobile: 07964 26293 or Debbie Holden at English Heritage press office on 020 7 973 3855 or visit the MSFAT and B&HAS websites at http://www.msfat.com or http://www.brightonarch.org.uk <http://www.brightonarch.org.uk/>


Notes to Editors:


The first phase of the project was carried out from 8 September to 21 September 2007


These excavations have been made possible through funding, grants and equipment given by: the Sussex Archaeological Society, the Mid Sussex Archaeological Field Team; Brighton & Hove Archaeological Society; English Heritage; University of Sussex CCE; and Dave Cudmore Archaeological Supplies.


The excavations are being carried out by local volunteers from BHAS & MSFAT under the guidance of MSFAT director Chris Butler (MIFA) and BHAS past president John Funnel and project leader Susan Birks, who is currently undertaking a part-time MA in Field Archaeology at the University of Sussex.


The first literary mention of the mound was in a list of Sussex barrows, compiled by Grinsell in the 1930s. (Grinsell, L.V., Sussex Archaeological Collections, 75 p217-274).


A resistivity survey of the barrow and its immediate surrounding area, carried out by members of MSFAT and B&HAS in May/June 2006, appeared to confirm the presence of a circular barrow with ring ditch.


The proposal is to survey and then excavate as much of the barrow as is safely possible, given its location, in order to determine and record: How it was constructed, its original design, extent and position in the local landscape and how it has/was altered over time and to explain why.


Issued on behalf of English Heritage by COI News & PR (London & South East)



Telephone 020 7973 3250 Facsimile 020 7973 3146 World Wide Web http://www.english-heritage.org.uk


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Discovery of Six Residential Units in Parthian Fortress of Yazdegerd

08 May 2008


LONDON, (CAIS) -- The first season of archaeological research at Parthian Qal'eh-ye Yazdegerd (Yazdegerd Fortress) has ended with unearthing six residential units dated to the late Arsacid (Parthian) dynastic era, reported Persian service of CHN on Monday.


Archaeologists after four decades of absence in the fortress of Yazdegerd began their first season of archaeological research in November 2007, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of late-Parthian dynastic period of Iranian history.


 “after few decades of absence we have began our first season of archaeological research in Yazdegerd Fortress, with the aim of better understanding of the [Arsacid] government”, said veteran Iranian archaeologist, Dr Masud Azarnoush director of Archaeological research team at Yazdegerd Fortress.


Azarnoush expressed that not enough research has been carried out in this part of the country which has left gaps in our understanding of Iran’s history during the Arsacid dynastic reign.


He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the poor standard of research, and inadequate knowledge of Iranian archaeologists and researchers about one of the greatest Iranian imperial dynasty.


 “Despite the extensive researches that have carried out by international researchers in Iraq and Syria about Iran’s Parthian dynasty, our archaeologists and researchers’ knowledge is inadequate”, said Azarnoush.


The Yazdegerd Fortress is one of the greatest ancient defence structures in Iran-proper situated in the north of Sar Pol Zohāb, 18 kilometres from Reejāb – Sar Pol Zohāb junction in Kermanshah Province.


There is a possible connection between Yazdegerd Fortress and Haftan Bokht ‘the lord of worm’, one of the villains of the Karnamak-i Ardashir-i Papakan (the deeds of Ardeshir Papakan).


Haftan Bokht and his connection with the "worm" may be seen from the intertwined dragon motifs in the fortress's capitals. Haftan Bokht was a Parthian vassal king who opposed Ardeshir's sovereignty and fought him to death. Haftan Bokht insignia was dragon, hence Sasanian-Pahlavi kirm (Worm) is a condescending term used by Sasanian instead of aždahāk (dragon).


Also archaeological research have confirmed that the fortress itself was abandoned in the late Arsacid dynasty, however, the Sasanian constructions including the fire temple at the foothills of the fortress, currently situated in Bān-Gombad village, could be seen as confirmation that the fortress had belonged to Haftan Bokht ,as Ardeshir ordered its destruction:


"Ardashir commanded that the fortress should be razed to the ground and demolished, while on its site he ordered the city which they call Guzaran to be erected. In that quarter he caused the Atash-i-Vahram to be enthroned" (Karnamak-i Ardashir-i Papakan, Chapter VIII).


The 40 hectare Yazdegerd archaeological site is complex and consist of a palace, fire temple, prayer hall (chapel), residential sector, garrison and defence structures. These were mainly constructed during the Arsacid dynastic era (248 BCE – 224 CE) and expanded and used during the Sasanian dynastic (224-651 CE), and post-Sasanian periods.


The walls and columns of the complex once were covered with stucco moulds and had carved in coloured patterns of repetitive figural compositions that mimicked wall-hangings. Surfaces were divided into flat panels and bands of repeat designs suggestive of textile ornament, and the relief designs were painted in bright, even gaudy colours and executed in varying scales.


Unfortunately, most of the stucco decorations and statues were destroyed by locals, as they were utilised as building materials.


The use of plaster rendering on walls and columns in Iran developed during the Arsacid dynastic era. Parthian art which was the continuation of Achaemenid dynastic art and was used as a template for the art of the succeeding dynasty. Parthian stucco decoration and motifs also anticipate Islamic art by several centuries.



Italian builders uncover 2,000-year-old tombs


ARCHAEOLOGISTS were yesterday celebrating the discovery of 27 2,000-year-old tombs in Italy's "Valley of the Dead".


The tombs, some dating back to the 7th century BC, were found by chance while builders carried out work.


The whole area was sealed off yesterday and put under police guard to prevent anyone from trying to steal artefacts inside the burial chambers.


Grave robbers, or tombaroli as they are known in Italy, make a lucrative living from selling such objects to museums or private collectors.


Archaeologists say there is also a "good chance" that there may well be other tombs waiting to be discovered. The tombs were discovered at Tarquinia, 50 miles north of Rome in an area named a World Heritage Site by Unesco.


Covering more than 400 acres, the area was the burial ground for the Etruscan tribes who predated the Romans. Maria Tecla Castaldi, an archaeologist, said: "This is the most exciting discovery here in decades. There are frescoes of two figures on the walls, but we need to carry out a proper excavation and search.


"The problem we have is that grave robbers have plundered this area in the last few years, so sometimes we find tombs but they have been there before us. I hope that we have found tombs that are still intact."



Metal detectorists thrilled at Viking sword find

Published Date:

06 May 2008



BURIED for more than a 1,000 years, these beautifully cast fragments of a Viking sword could be a once-in-a-lifetime find for two metal detector enthusiasts in the Isle of Man.


Only the 13th recorded Viking sword found in the Island, it was unearthed by Dan Crowe and Rob Farrer while metal detecting in the north west of the Island.


The two Manx Detectorists Society members have found many interesting artefacts over the years, so they knew the importance of what they had found.


Manx National Heritage curator for archaeology, Allison Fox, said: 'This is only the 13th recorded Viking sword from the Island – but Dan and Rob knew what they were looking at and what to do next, in notifying MNH.


'Even though they had done exactly the right thing by not cleaning the surface dirt from the finds, when they brought them into the Manx Museum it was clear straight away that we had something very special indeed.'


Initial cleaned by the museum's conservator revealed the intricate designs of sword's hilt.


Unfortunately the blade of the sword has not survived.


Landowner John Radcliffe has donated the artefacts to the Manx National Collection.


Further research will be carried out on the sword before it is permanently displayed in the new Viking and Medieval Gallery at the Manx Museum, Douglas.


During the interim period, the sword fragments will be on display in the foyer of the Manx Museum, Douglas, from Monday, May 12.



45-Foot Ancient Canoe Stuck In The Muck Of Weedon Island

Tampa Bay Online

updated 4:10 p.m. ET May 5, 2008

By KEITH MORELLI of The Tampa Tribune


ST. PETERSBURG - Stuck somewhere in the muck of Weedon Island is a significant piece of history.


A 45-foot canoe, buried for more than a thousand years and used by a long-dead culture of Native Americans, worked its way to the surface, and now authorities are trying to figure out how best to preserve it.


The vessel is carved out of a single pine tree, and archaeologists say it was used to paddle over the open waters of the bay — unlike the other ancient canoes uncovered in Florida over the years, which were used to ply the calmer waters of lakes and rivers.


With the back end of the canoe broken off, it measures 39 feet, 11 inches. If the missing piece was attached, archaeologists estimate 5 more feet would be added to the length. The size of the vessel and configuration of the bow leads archaeologists to think the vessel may have been used to trade with people living some distance away.


"It's the longest prehistoric canoe ever found in the state of Florida," said Weedon Island Preserve Center manager Phyllis Kolianos.


"I think it's fascinating," she said this morning. "I think it's a very important find, and it's very significant. It gives us an understanding that these weren't simple people living here, that they were probably trading with other cultures."


The dugout is the first pre-Columbian seagoing vessel uncovered in Florida. It points to a culture that thrived in what would become the Tampa Bay area and traded with others along the Gulf of Mexico coast and beyond. The influence of the Weedon Island culture stretched to places as far away as Georgia, archaeologists say.


Kolianos said carbon dating of the canoe shows it to be about 1,100 years old.


Long before Sunken Gardens and Tropicana Field and the Don CeSar, there was the Weedon Island culture, she said.


"This was a heavily populated area," she said. The culture blossomed between the third century and 1200.


The canoe first was found seven years ago when a beach comber searching for old bottles spotted part of the vessel protruding from the ground.


Because the preserve didn't have a history center at the time, the discovery went unreported for years, Kolianos said. Finally, it came to light, and a team of state archaeologists including Kolianos mounted a plan to excavate the vessel.


In December, about 10 archaeology students, volunteers and state archaeologists plodded through the mangroves to the site. They quickly built a makeshift dam out of sandbags and plastic to keep the tide out, and they began digging. They uncovered the rotting gunwales of the vessel and dug beneath it to take measurements. Under the keel, they found a long pole about 3 inches in diameter. The pole could have been used to propel the canoe, or it might have been used to roll it onto the shore.


A sample of the wood from the canoe was taken for carbon dating, and then the preserving muck was replaced, Kolianos said. Covering the artifact with the muck is the best preservation option available.


Ultimately, the goal is to excavate the canoe, chemically preserve it and put it on display. But doing that is difficult and expensive. To be properly treated, the canoe has to sit in a vat of chemical preservative for three years, she said. Nowhere in the state is there a vat that big.


So, for now, the artifact, as significant as it is, lies in an undisclosed location beneath a layer of muck — actually submerged during high tides — safe and sound.


"The best place for it right now," she said, "is in the ground."



Dive team to scour Danube for Queen Mary's lost belongings

By: All Hungary News

2008-05-08 09:25:00


The legend goes something like this: after the disastrous Battle of Mohács in 1526, the twenty-one-year-old Queen Mary of Hungary fled the encroaching Ottoman army on a caravan of ships headed to Vienna. But, on her way up the Danube a few ships sank along with their valuable cargo. It is said that to this day they remain hidden in the murky depths of the river. Soon, any truth to this story may soon be discovered, or disproved.


According to inforadio.hu, a team of Hungarian archaeologists are launching an underwater excavation of the Danube to find ships identified by American radar technology.


The investigation is bound to be interesting, says Attila J. Tóth, departmental leader of the Hungarian Alliance Archeology and History of Art (Magyar Régészeti és Művészettörténeti Társulat), but whether or not the remains of the submerged sunken ships actually belong to the Hapsburg Queen's caravan can only be determined with intensive scuba diving.


The team is serious in their quest, the portal reports, and plans to explore more than ten kilometers of the Danube.


So far, Hungarian divers have had successful underwater historical excavations. Previously they unearthed remains of ships, pile-dwellings and an underwater village. Perhaps the most interesting find was a fleet of 30 ships with copper vessels inside that dated to the Ottoman era in Hungary.


Exactly what treasures Queen Mary lost when her ships sunk was not reported. She was the wife of Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia, who was killed in battle, and while she arrived safely in Vienna, she never remarried nor renounced her ties to Hungary. She died in 1558 in what is now northern Spain.



Spain claims $500 million in sunken treasure

By HAROLD HECKLE, Associated Press Writer


Spain formally laid claim Thursday to a shipwreck that yielded a $500 million treasure, saying it has proof the vessel was Spanish.


Officials demanded the return of the booty recovered last year by a U.S.

deep-sea exploration firm, saying the 19th-century shipwreck at the heart of the dispute is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes — a Spanish warship sunk by the British navy southwest of Portugal in 1804 with more than 200 people on board.


Tampa, Fla.-based Odyssey Marine Exploration on Thursday disputed Spain's claim. In May 2007, Odyssey announced that it had discovered a wreck in the Atlantic — and its cargo of 500,000 silver coins and other artifacts worth an estimated $500 million.


At the time, Odyssey said it did not know which ship it was, and flew the treasures back to Tampa without Spain's knowledge, from an airport on the British colony of Gibraltar on Spain's southwestern tip.


The company said Thursday that there isn't enough evidence to prove the vessel is the Mercedes. Officials said in a company statement that they found only cargo from a shipwreck, not the actual vessel.


The Spanish government filed evidence in a Tampa federal court to support its claim.


"We are talking about the remains of a Spanish navy vessel and the human remains of Spanish naval servicemen who died on board which have been illegally disturbed," Culture Ministry Director General Jose Jimenez said.


"It is the property of the Spanish navy, government and people, and we want it all back," said Adm. Teodoro de Leste Contreras, who runs a naval museum owned by the ministry.


Washington-based lawyer James Goold, representing the Spanish government in the case, said U.S. Judge Mark Pizzo will convene the two parties to review the case before deciding who gets to keep the treasure.


Goold said at a Madrid news conference that he expected Odyssey would keep "not a penny" of the salvage.


In its statement, Odyssey officials said they are surprised the Spanish government has conclusively said "the "Black Swan" treasure is from the Mercedes after viewing site photomosaics and video that show no hull, ballast pile, keel or vessel, and only a statistically insignificant sample of the coins from the site."


Naval and coin experts say they have proof that the treasure, now held in a warehouse in Tampa, came from the Mercedes. The coins included gold doubloons, or "pieces of eight," minted in 1803 in Lima, Peru, bearing the image of Spain's King Carlos IV, ministry coin expert Carmen Marcos said.


But Odyssey officials said that if the coins are found to be from the Mercedes, it will be "up to the U.S. District Court to determine the final disposition of the Black Swan treasure," according to the statement.


The Mercedes exploded and sank in a naval battle as it sailed back to Spain from South America.


Spain argues that the entire treasure should be returned because naval vessels remain the property of the nation that flagged them, regardless of where they lie, under the principle of sovereign immunity.


"Spain has not abandoned or otherwise relinquished in any way its ownership of Mercedes," Spain's petition said.


Spain's claim said artifacts on the seabed, their distribution and other characteristics, as well as artifacts taken by Odyssey, "further identify the site as the remains of Mercedes."


Odyssey also said the ship was probably the Mercedes after Pizzo last month forced the company to disclose information on the salvage, including the identity of the ship and its location.