Chinese challenge to 'out of Africa' theory

00:01 03 November 2009 by Phil McKenna


The discovery of an early human fossil in southern China may challenge the commonly held idea that modern humans originated out of Africa.


Jin Changzhu and colleagues of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing, announced to Chinese media last week that they have uncovered a 110,000-year-old putative Homo sapiens jawbone from a cave in southern China's Guangxi province.


The mandible has a protruding chin like that of Homo sapiens, but the thickness of the jaw is indicative of more primitive hominins, suggesting that the fossil could derive from interbreeding.


If confirmed, the finding would lend support to the "multiregional hypothesis". This says that modern humans descend from Homo sapiens coming out of Africa who then interbred with more primitive humans on other continents. In contrast, the prevailing "out of Africa" hypothesis holds that modern humans are the direct descendants of people who spread out of Africa to other continents around 100,000 years ago.


The study will appear in Chinese Science Bulletin later this month.


"[This paper] acts to reject the theory that modern humans are of uniquely African origin and supports the notion that emerging African populations mixed with natives they encountered," says Milford Wolpoff, a proponent of the multiregional hypothesis at the University of Michigan.


Others disagreed. Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, questioned whether the find was a true Homo sapiens.


"You need to keep in mind that 'Homo sapiens' for most Chinese scholars is not limited to anatomically modern humans," he says. "For many of them, it is all 'post Homo erectus,' humans."


Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum said that it was too early to make far-reaching conclusions. "From the parts preserved, this fossil could just as likely be related to preceding archaic humans, or even to the Neanderthals, who at times seem to have extended their range towards China."


The present analysis of the mandible focused almost exclusively on determining the fossil's age. The researchers said a follow-up study would give a more complete treatment on what exactly the find represents.



Iron age gold treasure found in Scotland

Metal detector finds 2,000-year-old treasure hoard worth an estimated £1m in field near Stirling


A metal-detecting enthusiast has unearthed a 2,000-year-old treasure hoard worth an estimated £1m, it was revealed today.


Four gold neckbands dating to the iron age were discovered in a field near Stirling by the amateur hunter. The man, who has not been identified, informed Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit which sent a team to excavate the site, the Daily Record reported.


The bands, or "torcs", made from twisted gold, are thought to date from the 1st and 3rd century BC.


A similar torc found in Newark, Nottinghamshire, in 2005 sold for £350,000. The Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel will value the latest discovery.


A spokesman for the National Museums of Scotland said: "There has been a significant find."


Under Scots law, the crown can claim any archaeological objects found in Scotland. Finders have no ownership rights and must report any objects to the treasure trove unit.


The man may receive a reward equal to the value of the jewellery.


A historian, Fiona Watson, told BBC Radio Scotland: "It belongs to the crown, and the crown – at Her Majesty's discretion – can pay money over to the finder to the market value. I'm sure that is what will happen.


"The key question then is what will happen to this remarkable find. Where will it go?"


Another metal detector, Terry Herbert, unearthed the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, in a Staffordshire field in July. The haul of about 1,000 items was officially declared to be treasure by a coroner.


Thousands of people queued to see the gold when it went on show in Birmingham this year. It is being valued in London.



Novice metal detector man discovers 'stunning' treasure hoard

heraldscotland staff

Published on 4 Nov 2009


A Iron Age treasure hoard has been unearthed by a safari park keeper using a metal detector for the first time.


David Booth was “stunned” when he found several 2000-year-old gold neckbands in a field in Stirlingshire.


He had driven to the site and parked his car. Then, after taking only seven steps, he found the treasure.


The find is thought to be the most important ever made in Scotland


Booth said: “I was almost stunned.


“I had an idea it was very valuable and rare stuff and it was the first thing I’d ever found really so it was really unbelievable.


“I basically parked the car up and got the metal detector out and picked a direction to set off and about seven steps later there it was. It was the first thing I came across.”


He added: “I knew it was jewellery and I knew it was old but I didn’t know the age of it.”


The lucky amateur appeared along with the treasure of the National Museum of Scotland ahead of a valuation of the hoard by the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel.


Under law, the Crown can claim any objects found in Scotland and the people who find the objects have no right of ownership.


However, Mr Booth could be set to receive an enormous reward that may be equal to the value of the jewellery.


Experts have declared the hoard of international significance, demonstrating the wealth and connnections of people in Scotland at the time.


The exact location of the field in which the treasure was found is being kept secret to stop other would-be treasure hunters from mobbing the site.


The collection consists of two ribbon torcs - a local style of jewellery made from a twisted ribbon of gold - half an ornate torc of southern French origin, and a unique braided gold wire torc which shows strong influences of Mediterranean craftsmanship.


They are currently under the protection of Scotland’s Treasure Trove Unit, an independent body based at the National Museum of Scotland.


The unit, along with a team from National Museums Scotland, is now continuing to excavate the site and analyse the find.


Dr Fraser Hunter, Iron Age and Roman curator at the National Museum of Scotland, said he "almost fell off my seat" when he first set eyes on photographs of Mr Booth’s discovery.


He said: "The archaeological value is stunning. Archaeologically speaking, this is a remarkable find.


"It’s one of the most important hoards from Scotland ever. We haven’t found anything of this quality.


"It’s one of the most important hoards from the Iron Age in Britain and it’s a find of European importance."


The Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel will now value it.


A similar band found in Newark, Nottinghamshire, in 2005 sold for £350,000.


Earlier this year, metal detector Terry Herbert unearthed the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, in a Staffordshire field.


The haul of about 1,000 items was officially declared to be treasure by a coroner.



Oldest American artefact unearthed

Oregon caves yield evidence of continent's first inhabitants.

Published online 5 November 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.1058

Rex Dalton


Archaeologists claim to have found the oldest known artefact in the Americas, a scraper-like tool in an Oregon cave that dates back 14,230 years.


The tool shows that people were living in North America well before the widespread Clovis culture of 12,900 to 12,400 years ago, says archaeologist Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon in Eugene.


Studies of sediment and radiocarbon dating showed the bone's age. Jenkins presented the finding late last month in a lecture at the University of Oregon.


His team found the tool in a rock shelter overlooking a lake in south-central Oregon, one of a series of caves near the town of Paisley.


Kevin Smith, the team member who uncovered the artefact, remembers the discovery. "We had bumped into a lot of extinct horse, bison and camel bone – then I heard and felt the familiar ring and feel when trowel hits bone," says Smith, now a master's student at California State University, Los Angeles. "I switched to a brush. Soon this huge bone emerged, then I saw the serrated edge. I stepped back and said: 'Hey everybody — we got something here.'"


Whether the cave dwellers were Clovis people or belonged to an earlier culture is uncertain. None of the Clovis people's distinct fluted spear and arrow points have been found in the cave.


"They can't yet rule out the Paisley Cave people weren't Clovis," says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon who wasn't involved in the research.


The only other American archaeological site older than Clovis is at Monte Verde in Chile, which is about 13,900 years old.


Last year, Jenkins and colleagues reported that Paisley Cave coprolites, or fossilized human excrement, dated to 14,000 to 14,270 years ago. That report established the Paisley Caves as a key site for American archaeology.


Analysis of ancient DNA marked the coprolites as human. But in July, another group argued that the coprolites might be younger than the sediments that contained them.


This team, led by Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, also questioned the 2008 report because no artefacts had been found in the crucial sediments. The Oregon team strongly disputed the criticisms.


The dating of the bone tool, and the finding that the sediments encasing it range from 11,930 to 14,480 years old, might put these questions to rest. "You couldn't ask for better dated stratigraphy," Jenkins told the Oregon meeting.


"They have definitely made their argument even stronger," says Todd Surovell, an archaeologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie who was not involved in the research.


Other researchers questioned whether the cave's inhabitants would have been mainly vegetarian, as the coprolites suggested. In his recent lecture Jenkins noted other evidence reflecting a diet short on meat but including edible plants such as the fernleaf biscuitroot Lomatium dissectum.


In late September, a group of archaeologists who study the peopling of the Americas met with federal officials and a representative of the local Klamath tribe to review the evidence at Paisley Caves. The specialists spent two days examining sediments, checking the tool, and assessing other plant and animal evidence.


"It was an impressive presentation," says David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, who attended the meeting. "This is clearly an important site, but there are some tests that need to be done to seal the deal." One key, he says, is to better understand how the specimens got to the cave.



         1. Gilbert, W.T.P. et al. Science 320, 786-789 (2008).

         2. Poinar, H. et al. Science 325, 148 (2009).

         3. Rasmussen, M. et al. Science 325, 148 (2009).

         4. Goldberg, P., Berna, F. & Macphail, R.I. Science 325, 5937, 148 (2009).



Excavation uncovers ritual site

Archaeologists find dugong bones that prove local tribesmen held fishing rites Aeons ago

By Emmanuelle Landais, Staff Reporter

Published: 00:00 November 6, 2009

Gulf News


An archaeological excavation held on an islet off the coast of Umm Al Quwain, close to the earlier fishing village of Akab, recently revealed that ancient fishing rites were conducted by tribesmen.


The bones of dugongs, a large marine mammal resembling a sea cow, were found symbolically arranged on a mound which experts believe was used for ceremonial purposes.


It is the oldest bone sanctuary of its type in Arabia according to Dr Sophie Méry of the French Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and director of the French archaeological mission in the UAE.


Together with her colleague Vincent Charpentier, from the French National Institute of Archaeological Institute (INRAP), they first excavated the site in 2002 together with the Museum of Umm Al Quwain. They found that the dugong mound was only a small part of a much larger Neolithic site including the remains of circular homes.


"The village we excavated is older than the ritual site by 500 years. The ritual site is not a burial site but a sanctuary which gives it a very different meaning… It is not possible to say the exact number of people who lived in Akab but we think that several families regrouped there for the fishing season," Méry said.


"Traditionally, the dugong has special status in the Indo-Pacific area. The preparation for hunting dugongs is as much the object of propitiatory rites as the transport of their carcasses to shore, their butchering and their consumption," she said.


Around 20 areas in the Gulf region have been excavated. However, research shows that between 6500 and 3100 BC, despite an absence of agriculture, a Neolithic culture developed in the UAE and Oman. One such excavation by a paleontologist in the 1990s initially marked Akab as a dugong butchering place due to the huge number of bones and skulls found there.


It is in fact a sanctuary where the bones of more than 40 dugongs were found stacked and aligned with great care and precision. Méry, Charpentier and colleagues believe the bones have been symbolically arranged for a ritual.


"At the end of 2006 we realised that the mound was not a disorganised accumulation of bones but a 10 square metre designed structure which was built up in stages," said Méry.


Skulls lay parallel to each other and ribs were laid in sets together with artifacts like beads and tools.


No animal was deposited whole in the structure. Some body parts like the ribs, vertebrae or limbs are fewer in numbers which demonstrates intentional selection. Very little evidence of butchering was found on the bones.


The flesh, oil, hide and tusks of the dugong were long exploited in the region and the consumption of dugongs has been confirmed on many archaeological sites. The early occupation of Akab is dated by four radiocarbon dates ranging from 4748 BC to 3814 BC and its dugong bone mound is seen as a monument constructed to last.


According to Méry, the skulls were intended to be the focal point and the presence of many selected objects confirms this. Akab has no parallel site in the region and no site of this type is known for the Neolithic in other parts of the world.


The archaeology of the Arabian Peninsula has revealed very little on ancient beliefs and ritual practices preceding Islam. Two Bronze Age temples were discovered in Bahrain, ruins of the Dilmun civilisation of the third and second millennia BC.


In the Musandam Peninsula, no known vestiges of the Bronze Age exist. It is not until the Iron Age that religious practices related to snakes appear.


The dugong is also specifically present at Al Markh, a fourth-millennium settlement site in Bahrain. Dating back to the Bronze Age the sites of Umm An Nar, Tell Abraq, Shimal and Ra's Ghanadha in the UAE have all produced dugong bones in varying numbers.


On the Australian coast of the Torres Strait monuments, bones similar those at Akab do exist. However, they originate from a much later date, somewhere between the 14th and 20th century AD.


According to Sophie Méry , director of the French archaeological mission in the UAE and her colleague Vincent Charpentier, from the French National Institute of Archaeological Institute (INRAP), these Australian dugong bone mounds were mostly part of totemic ceremonial sites, known as kod sites. They were sacred sanctuaries usually reserved for men.


These constructions contained the bones of dugongs. Ornamental objects or tools were also buried there. The mounds are associated with hunting magic rituals.


Méry and Charpentier believe the dugong at Akab held the role attributed in the same period to the green turtle in Ra's Al Hamra in Oman, the subject of impressive deposits between 3700 and 3300 BC, where skulls were placed near the face of the dead, while the body was covered with elements of turtle carapace or pebbles in a formation imitating that of turtle eggs.


The coastal people of Akab and Ra's Al Hamra were separated by several hundreds of kilometres. However, it is known that they shared a number of elements in their material culture. Certain fishing clans had marine totems such as the shark, the marine turtle or the dugong.


"We believe that in Akab, the dugong was related to propitiatory rites. The similarity is such between the monument at Akab and the Australian dugong bone mounds, that we see it as highly probable link with fishing rites," said Méry.



''Extraordinary'' Ancient Skeletons Found

November 4, 2009


This "extraordinary" skeleton of a woman buried in a seated position was discovered during an archaeological survey before the planned construction of a high-speed train track in central Germany, scientists said in a statement.


The woman, who lived in the early Bronze Age (roughly 2200 to 1600 B.C.), was found near the town of Bad Lauchstadt and is one of several burials found so far during the dig, which runs from September 2008 to June 2010.


"From an archaeological point of view, the excavation is a great chance to learn about the development of settlement on the Querfurter Platte," a geological plate between the Saale and Unstrut river valleys, according to Ralf Bockmann, a spokesperson for the Saxony-Anhalt Office for Monument Protection and Archaeology in Saale, Germany, via email.


For example, according to the statement, "the broad range of traces from ancient cultures and the number and quality of the individual finds show how important this region has been for thousands of years not just as a settlement area, but as a transport route."


Bockman added: "The region has fertile soils and has been used for settlement for a very long time. But until now there had been no large-scale excavations in that region."



Ancient weapons factory unearthed by University of Leicester team

Wednesday, November 04, 2009, 09:30


Archeologists have unearthed an 8,000-year-old weapons factory.


The find, near Melton, is the biggest ever mid-Stone Age discovery in Leicestershire, with fingernail-sized flint pieces, burned animal bones and evidence of tents.


The bonus for the University of Leicester team is the site has not been churned up by ploughs, like most county land has.


It has remained undisturbed since the time before Britain became an island.


The dig took place prior to the construction of a new estate in Loughborough Road, Asfordby.


Developers Jelson called in the university team to remove any interesting artefacts from the site before building work started.


The dig has just come to an end and the team has revealed its findings.


Archaeologist Wayne Jarvis, who has led the dig, said: "What we've collected are a large number of very early flint artefacts. It's an incredibly rare find.


"We know from the shape of the flints that they are from the mesolithic period – about 8,000 years ago.


"We've collected about 5,000 pieces of flint in a small area and it seems to have been a site where the arrows were made. The pieces of flint are largely discarded flakes from when the arrowheads were shaped.


"However, there are some complete bits that were probably arrowheads, although it's possible they had other uses.


"We've found nothing like this before."


Mr Jarvis said flint was a rare commodity in Stone Age Leicestershire. The nearest good source of the hard, sharp stone, would have been in Lincolnshire – so flint from used arrows would probably be re-sharpened and recycled.


Also on the site are small boulders grouped together, which the archeologists think were probably used as prehistoric tent pegs to pin animal skin canopies to the ground for shelter.


There is also evidence of campfires, including burned animal bones.


In the mid-Stone Age, or mesolithic, period, Britain was still attached to the continent.


Hunter gatherers crossed into England and came to Leicestershire following migrating animals.


They lived nomadic lifestyles, hunting wild boar, deer and wild cattle. They used flint tools and fire but did not yet use pottery or metal. Patrick Clay, co-director of the University of Leicester archeological service, said: "It's very exciting we have surviving fossilised soil.


"Most mesolithic artefacts from Leicestershire are 'surface finds' which are bits of flint churned up by ploughs.


"It was a great surprise to find all this. We didn't know of any archaeology on the site when we started the dig.


"There's a lot of further work to be done in the lab and hopefully we can learn a lot more about how people lived 10,000 years ago.


"It's a period we know very little about."



Prehistoric burial ground found on Skye

Archaeologists surprised by discovery on Sleat peninsula

By Jonny Muir

Published: 04/11/2009


Six slab-lined graves and six cremation pits have been unearthed on the excavation site close to Armadale pier on the Sleat peninsula. Experts say it is one of the most significant archaeological finds yet made in the Highlands.


Flint tools and urns were found inside the graves, although skeletal remains had been damaged due to the tide.


The contents of the burial site are being removed by a team of archaeologists from Inverness and Skye. They could be reconstructed and relocated to a new site at Armadale.


Archaeologist Mary Peteranna said she had no inkling that the raised shingle beach overlooking the Sound of Sleat would contain a treasure trove of remains when work started in September.


Two “cist graves” – meaning they were short and slab-lined – were uncovered during an initial dig. Further excavations revealed a monument with an arc of three standing stones enclosing another cist, which was covered by a two-tonne capstone.


Mrs Peteranna said: “The first two cists, containing two fully-intact and beautifully-decorated urns, were dated to the Bronze Age.


“The cist at the centre was different. This was a substantial monument, with a cist set on a totally different alignment to the first two cists, suggesting an earlier date, probably Neolithic.”


She added: “This is an exciting discovery for Skye and the north-west Highlands, where this type of archaeological site has not been excavated on this level.”


Mrs Peteranna said there was no evidence the land was once a settlement and it appeared to be exclusively used as a burial site.


She said its prominent location was chosen as it would be observed by sea travellers in the Sound of Sleat, while the cist at the centre would have contained a person of importance.


Mrs Peteranna said the discoveries had captured the imagination of islanders, with heritage and history groups being taken on tours.


She is now keen to excavate sections of the hills around Armadale to search for further ancient remains.


“I didn’t think we would find anything here, but it has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she added.


Read more: http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1467854?UserKey=#ixzz0WB0QwiUB



Archaeologists uncover prehistoric landscape beneath Oxford

November 4, 2009


Archaeologists excavating the former Radcliffe Infirmary site in Oxford have uncovered evidence of a prehistoric monumental landscape stretching across the gravel terrace between the Thames and Cherwell rivers.


The work was carried out over the summer in preparation for Oxford University’s proposed Radcliffe Observatory Quarter - plans for which were revealed earlier this month.


In addition to these findings, the work has also uncovered evidence of a 6th century Saxon settlement, including a sunken featured craft hut known as a Grübenhauser and a pit containing unfired clay loom weights.


A team from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has been excavating parts of the 3.7 hectare site. The excavation has revealed evidence of three large prehistoric ‘ring ditches’ along with some evidence of possible associated cremation burials and an enigmatic rectangular enclosure, finds from which are currently being subjected to radio carbon dating.


Mike Wigg, Head of Capital Projects at Oxford University, said: 'The University was delighted to provide the opportunity for an investigation of Oxford heritage to be carried out in advance of any development work.'


The River Thames was an important focus for monument building in the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods when monuments used for burial, ritual and social purposes were constructed along the gravel terraces of the river.


A spokesperson from MOLA explained: ‘Ring ditches are, as the name suggests, circular ditches, which are often the remains of ploughed out barrows, that may be associated with burials of high status individuals in the later Neolithic or Bronze Age, about 4000 years ago.’


The archaeologists had suspected the presence of prehistoric remains because a 12th century documentary source records ‘the croft of the three barrows’ in this area. Parch marks of a possible sequence of ring ditches in University Parks had indicated that similar remains might be present on the Radcliffe site.


The Saxon activity around the much earlier barrow cemetery is not uncommon and is recorded at other similar sites along the Thames. However, this is the first evidence for such a relationship in Oxford. The archaeologists are now working on the post-excavation phase of the project.


A Museum of London spokesperson said: 'We are grateful to the University for enabling this unusually large site to be archaeologically investigated. The knowledge obtained should make a significant contribution to public appreciation of this important part of Oxford’s past, when the landscape was very different from that seen today.'


Provided by Oxford University



Second 'royal' Iron Age burial mound in Oss

Wednesday 04 November 2009


Archaeologists have found the Iron Age burial mound of a wealthy man in Noord Brabant, the second major find within a cluster of earthworks and other remains near the town of Oss.


The first mound was identified in 1933 and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the country.


The second is located just a few hundred meters away and is 40 meters in diameter and 1.5 meters high. Archaeologists found the ashes of the dead man in a richly-decorated pottery urn as well as fragments of bronze.


'It is not true to say this area was only populated by poor farmers,' Oss town archaeologist Richard Jansen is quoted as saying by Nos tv.


The finds will go on show in the town's museum on Thursday.



Caesar rises: several millennia's artefacts from the bed of the Rhone

By Eloi Rouyer

Published: 12:35PM GMT 06 Nov 2009


An intrepid team of archaeologists has been diving for 20 years, struggling with poor visibility, strong currents and flipper-nibbling bullhead catfish to bring up the 500 or so objects on displayed.


In 2007, just when these Indiana Joneses of the water were ready to hang up their wet suits, they bumped into intriguing column fragments, friezes and chunks of mausoleums.


And then they brought up the most extraordinary buried treasure of all: a bust of Julius Caesar.


The find, dated 46 BC, is all the more remarkable because it is likely to have been made during the emperor's lifetime. It is the centrepiece for the exhibition organised by Luc Long, head of the French state department for archaeological, subaquatic and deep sea research.


The theme of Caesar, the Rhone for Memory, which runs until September 2010, is "to maintain the feeling of going on a journey with the archaeologist, following every stage of their work from the site of the digs right up to the restoration and exhibition of the artefacts", says its designer Pierre Berthier.


The collection suggests that ancient Arles was not only a port and place of passage, but "decorated" and "monumental" says Long, "an ostentatious facade aiming to display Rome's wealth and power".


The most stunning finds are together in the last room of the exhibition that Long calls "the saint of saints".


Alongside Caesar is the 1.8-metre (six-foot) marble statue of the god Neptune dating from the beginning of the third century AD, and a bronze satyr with its hands tied behind its back.


"We made new and very beautiful discoveries in 2009," Long said, "which leaves one thinking that we have not come to the end of the reserves that this great natural museum - the Rhone river - still holds."


The divers also brought up remains of 15 shipwrecks, iron or lead ingots, rings, tools, shoe leather, small figurines and ceramics - vivid reminders of ancient Arles as a port receiving boatloads of goods from Gaul, Europe, the Orient, Africa.


When the exhibition ends next September the artefacts will be incorporated into the permanent collection of the city's museum which, its director Claude Sintes hopes, will get "an extension".



1,800-year-old grave found in Hai Phong


An ancient grave has been unearthed in the northern port city of Hai Phong.


Do Xuan Trung, an archeologist at the Hai Phong City Museum, on October 27 estimated that the grave is about 1,800 years old.


The grave was discovered at depth of more than five meters underground while a construction crew dug on the side of the Thanh Den Mountain to enlarge the Tan Phu Xuan Cement Factory.


The grave was made of ironwood pieces put together while the casket was a dugout tree trunk like those used in the Dong Son Civilization, museum officials said.


Nothing except a sedge mat was found in the casket. The excavation team found seven wooden trays and four statuettes, as well as dishes, bowls and combs made of wood. Clay utensils with simple beehive and line designs were also found.


Source: Lao Dong



Island thieves bag Viking treasure

Published: 2 Nov 09 17:31 CET

Online: http://www.thelocal.se/23030/20091102/


Five hundred Viking era silver artifacts have been plundered from a site of archaeological interest on the Baltic island of Gotland.


Two archaeologists employed by Gotland county were dismayed to discover the valuables had vanished when they arrived at a field in Alva in Gotland to follow up on a recent find.


"It's just as saddening every time it happens because it's our heritage that disappears," said Majvor Östergren at the Gotland County Administrative Board.


The methodical thieves dug some 250 holes in a bid to secure as much booty as possible. Östergren estimated that the impostors had made off with 500 silver pieces worth a combined total of 250,000 to 500,000 kronor ($35,000 to $70,000).


Following the raid, the field was placed under police surveillance, enabling archaeologists to continue their excavation work, news website helagotland.se reports.


At a press conference on Monday county officials displayed some of the objects overlooked by the thieves, including 100 silver coins, a gold bracteate and a silver crucifix.


13th Century marble pieces found in Acre

Nov 3, 2009 12:53 | Updated Nov 3, 2009 15:50



In an excavation conducted in late October about 100 meters north of the Old City wall of Acre, a unique find was discovered from the Crusader period in the 13th Century: a hoard of 350 marble items that were collected from destroyed buildings.


According to Dr. Edna Stern, excavation director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the hoard was found in an archaeological excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority before the Acre Municipality began building a new structure to house classrooms in the Hilmi Shafi Educational Campus.


"We have here a unique find, the likes of which have never been discovered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Crusader period (the capital of which was Acre)," Stern said in a statement on Tuesday.


"During the archaeological excavations we came upon a cellar that was sealed by a collapse, comprised of building stones and charred beams."


Stern said that beneath the cellar floor a hoard of about 350 marble items and colored stones were discovered, including two broken marble tombstones with Latin inscriptions with one belonging to a person by the name of Maratinus.


Flat marble slabs and marble tiles of various sizes and colors were found as well.


"Some extraordinary items were also found, among them a large stone cross and a large fragment of porphyry (a rare precious purple stone, which was the color of royalty in Roman times)," Stern said.


"The quality of the marble is excellent and it was undoubtedly imported from abroad."


She said that the marble is a major find in helping to learn about the history of the area.


"Everyone knows that Crusader Acre was an important center for international trade and the marble hoard reflects the magnificent buildings that were erected here but have not survived, as well as also the commerce and the wealth of its residents," Stern said. "Just as there is a trend today to incorporate wooden doors from India or roof tiles from old buildings in Italy in modern villas, at that time they used to integrate ancient architectural items from the Roman and Byzantine periods in their construction. And just like today, people at that time also yearned for the classic and the exotic."


She said that written sources showed that such stones, which were exceptionally valuable, were bought and sold to be reused in buildings.


"We can assume that the owner of the hoard, whether he was a merchant or he collected the stones for his own construction, was aware of impending danger and therefore buried the valuable stones until such time as the tension abated," Stern said.


However, according to Stern the cache of stones was not sold in the end due to the building's destruction in 1291 when Crusader Acre was conquered by the Mameluks and was completely devastated.


The marble hoard was removed and transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority for further study.



Archaeologists recover mediaeval shipwreck from Lake Constance

Published: 5 Nov 09 14:39 CET

Updated: 5 Nov 09 16:03 CET

Online: http://www.thelocal.de/society/20091105-23063.html


Archaeologists have finished recovering a 600-year-old ship from Lake Constance discovered near a mediaeval Benedictine abbey, the state of Baden-Württemberg announced on Thursday.


An ice skater reported the shallow wreck off the lake’s Reichenau Island in the winter of 2006 and subsequent dives and carbon testing by archaeologists revealed it was from the 14th century.


“We believe it could be the oldest shipwreck ever found in the lake,” spokesperson for the Stuttgart regional commission Dr. Peter Zaar told The Local. “There is one other boat we know is also from the 14th century, but we need more testing to know for sure.”


After the first dive in early 2006, it was clear that there was limited time to document and save the boat from environmental dangers, he said.


“We were afraid it would be damaged by boat traffic,” Zaar said.


Archaeologists were also worried that decreasing winter water levels and ice flow on Lake Constance, called the Bodensee in German, could destroy the nine-metre wooden boat.


“To beat a total loss the archaeologists have decided now on rescue measures,” a statement from the Stuttgart regional commission explained.


Thursday marked the end of a four-day diving operation to recover the exposed parts of the boat, which will now be taken to a Hemmenhof laboratory where specialist Dr. Dietrich Hakelberg from the Seemuseum Kreuzlingen will lead examinations. Afterwards the ship will be returned to a deeper resting place at the lake floor near Reichenau Island where it will be best preserved, Zaar said.


Experts know that Lake Constance has been used for trade and transport since the Stone Age. Monks at the Reichenau Abbey on the island are known to have had an interest in water traffic on the lake, using it for fishing and trade.


“This find is a sensation, particularly because it’s so close to the shore that lines the island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the abbey,” Zaar said.


The recovery project is part of an EU sponsored “Interegg IV” programme to preserve historic elements from erosion at Lake Constance and Lake Zurich.


Kristen Allen (kristen.allen@thelocal.de