New discovery suggests mammoths survived in Britain until 14,000 years ago
Public release date: 17-Jun-2009
Contact: Ben Norman
Research which finally proves that bones found in Shropshire, England provide the most geologically recent evidence of woolly mammoths in North Western Europe publishes today in the Geological Journal. Analysis of both the bones and the surrounding environment suggests that some mammoths remained part of British wildlife long after they are conventionally believed to have become extinct.
The mammoth bones, consisting of one largely complete adult male and at least four juveniles, were first excavated in 1986, but the carbon dating which took place at the time has since been considered inaccurate. Technological advances during the past two decades now allow a more exact reading, which complements the geological data needed to place the bones into their environmental context. This included a study of the bones' decay, analysis of fossilised insects which were also found on the site, and a geological analysis of the surrounding sediment.
The research was carried out by Professor Adrian Lister, based at the Natural History Museum in London, who has conducted numerous studies into 'extinction lag' where small pockets of a species have survived for thousands of years longer than conventionally thought.
"Mammoths are conventionally believed to have become extinct in North Western Europe about 21,000 years ago during the main ice advance, known as the 'Last Glacial Maximum'" said Lister. "Our new radiocarbon dating of the Condover mammoths changes that, by showing that mammoths returned to Britain and survived until around 14,000 years ago."
As the Shropshire bones are the latest record of mammoths in North Western Europe they not only prove that the species survived for much longer than traditionally believed it also provides strong evidence to settle the debate as to whether mammoth extinction was caused by climate change or human hunting.
"The new dates of the mammoths' last appearance correlate very closely in time to climate changes when the open grassy habitat of the Ice Age was taken over by advancing forests, which provides a likely explanation for their disappearance," said Lister. "There were humans around during the time of the Condover mammoths, but no evidence of significant mammoth hunting."
Dr Lister's findings feature in one of three papers on the Condover Mammoths which are all published in the Geological Journal. The other papers focus on the Palaeoenviromental context of the mammoths (Allen et al) and a geological study of the site in which the mammoths were discovered (Scourse et al).
Dawn at Stonehenge
By LEON WATSON
Published: 22 June 2009
A RECORD crowd of 36,500 revellers partied at Stonehenge yesterday to celebrate the summer solstice.
But police made 37 arrests for drug-related offences and public disorder at the annual bash on Salisbury Plain, Wilts.
New Age Druids, sun-worshippers and hippies chanted as dawn broke on the longest day of the year at the ancient stone circle.
Druid Frank Somers, 43, declared: "It's the most magical place on the planet."
The antiques salesman added: "When you touch the stones you feel a warmth like you're touching a tree, not a stone.
"There's a genuine love."
The eerie monument was built in three stages between 3,000 and 1,600 BC. Archaeologist Dave Batchelor, of English Heritage, said: "People come for a range of reasons.
"Some belong to the Druidic religion and think of it as a temple.
"Others think of it as a place of their ancestors, or for tranquillity.
And some people come to see it as a way to celebrate the changing of the seasons."
Huge Roman-era cave found by Jericho
Jun 21, 2009 17:18 | Updated Jun 22, 2009 8:30
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
The largest cave ever found in Israel has been uncovered near the West Bank city of Jericho etched with Christian symbols, an Israeli archeologist said Sunday.
The immense cave, which spans more than four dunams and is buried 10 meters beneath the desert, was dug about 2,000 years ago, Haifa University archaeologist Prof. Adam Zertal said.
The site, which is located 4 km north of the ancient city of Jericho, was used as a large quarry in the Roman era and was probably used as a monastery and a hiding place for hundreds of years, he said.
The cave's main hall is supported by 22 pillars, on which are engraved 31 crosses, a zodiac-like symbol, roman numerals and a Roman legion's pennant, indicating that it was used by the Roman Army.
The site was found three months ago as part of a three-decade old Haifa University archeological survey which maps out the area.
"We saw a hole, not a big one and wanted to enter," Zertal recounted.
His team was not deterred by the warnings of two Bedouin passers-by who urged the archeologists not to enter the cave since it had "bad omens witches and animals."
The site was indeed littered with animal bones, he said.
"We saw a real underground palace we never thought we would find."
No excavation has been carried out in the area yet, Zertal said, noting that the state-run Israel Antiquities Authority does not carry out digs in the West Bank.
He said that in the future the site could prove to be a "fantastic" tourism site.
Prehistoric gold source traced to Mourne mountains
SEÁN Mac CONNELL
THE MOUNTAINS of Mourne may be fabled in song but now they have a new focus as scientists believe they were the source for most of Ireland’s prehistoric gold.
Ireland has a very high level of prehistoric gold objects especially from the early Bronze Age (2400-1800BC) when large quantities of it was used by skilled craftsmen.
They turned out beautiful objects such as the gold collars or lunula similar to the one which turned up recently following a robbery in Co Roscommon.
This led to speculation for centuries about the source of so much easily available gold and a belief there had to be lots of gold available locally to the craftsmen.
Now archaeologists and geologists believe they have found that source, following a 14-year study which used not only the most modern scientific equipment but also involved the teams using primitive gold-mining methods.
According to a report in the current edition of Archaeology Ireland, the scientists used X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to look at the silver content of prehistoric Irish gold in more than 400 objects. As that work was going on, others were literally out panning for gold in Irish rivers, walking the mountains looking for gold in the hills and extracting gold from rocks by fire, as prehistoric people would have done.
The teams even extracted gold from rocks on Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo, by heating and quenching the rock, crushing it and panning the resultant sand.
The scientific work found the average silver content of gold in the early Bronze Age ornaments was 10 per cent and this matched perfectly the profile of gold taken from the river Bann and its tributaries but not that of gold taken from other Irish sources.
The scientific work on gold recovered from artefacts matched because gold grains from areas of high gold abundance invariably exhibit a distinct compositional signature, said the report.
The authors of the report, Richard Warner, Bob Chapman, Mary Cahill and Norman Moles, said the dearth of of early Bronze Age ornaments from the area itself should not affect their conclusions.
“It is a great satisfaction to be able to suggest, with solid evidence, that the Irish early Bronze Age ornaments were not only made of Irish gold but probably of gold from Co Down’s Mourne Mountains,” it concluded.
Llanrwst builders discover 17th century bridge remains
Jun 18 2009 by Samantha Castle, North Wales Weekly News
CONTRACTORS working on flood defences in Llanrwst have unearthed the original 17th century footings of the town’s historic bridge.
Contractor May Gurney had to down tools last Thursday when original footings from the approach to the Pont Fawr bridge, dating back to 1636 and designed by Inigo Jones, where uncovered.
Project manager Gareth Evans made the historic discovery.
“As soon as we realised what we had uncovered we called in the Environment Agency’s archaeologist Ed Wilson who confirmed the significance of the find,” said Gareth.
“It was the actual stone protruding away form the wall which caused all the excitement.
“What first raised eyebrows was the old Victorian cobbled road that we came across. It was only after that we unearthed the old foundations.
“The find won’t cause a delay to the actual flood work, we just need to work round it.”
Town councillor Edgar Parry said the historic find was a fantastic opportunity for local people to see some of their heritage.
“Although the footings will be covered over again so that the Environment Agency can get on with the vital flood defence work, this is still a very significant thing to happen for the people of Llanrwst,” he said.
“Part of our heritage has been uncovered and people should feel proud.
“We need to work with the Agency and archaeologists to make sure details of the find are available to the public.”
Archaeologist Ed Wilson added: “Extensive detailed data from the find has been recorded by the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust.
“The stone footings were then covered over with a protective membrane so flood defence work could continue.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened. Significant finds have also been uncovered on work at Bangor Cathedral.
“We have also discovered a Chinese walkway in Llanrwst and a medieval one in Trefriw, so it’s a very busy and interesting time for us in the Conwy Valley.”
Andrew Davidson, principal archaeologist at Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, said: “The excavations revealed the foundation of a wall and an adjoining stone metalled surface.
“These lay about one metre below the present ground surface and are thought to be the original revetment wall and road surface.
“They were replaced in the 19th century when the present revetment wall along the river was built, and the road surface was raised to lessen the angle of slope leading onto the bridge.
“This is an exciting find. The flood defences have been redesigned to ensure the buried wall is preserved below ground.”