Neanderthals Made Mammoth Jerky

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

June 23, 2009


Necessity compelled Neanderthals to dry hunks of big game meat for easy transport, according to a new study on the survival needs of Neanderthals.


Neanderthals also likely wore tailored clothing, according to the new study, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeology.


The findings help to explain how Neanderthals could transport meat over long distances without it rotting, as well as how they survived the often chilly conditions of Northern Europe.


According to the study, Neanderthals sported "one or two layers of skins/furs and wrapped skins/furs for shoes, held together by leather strings."


Author Bent Sorensen told Discovery News that chewing clothing materials wasn't beneath these members of the Homo genus.


"Neanderthal tooth marks indicate chewing hides for softening, which is essential for clothes making," said Sorensen, a researcher in the Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change at Roskilde University.

Using the body surface area of Neanderthals, based on their skeletal remains, along with known climate condition averages for Northern Europe at the time, he calculated the metabolic body energy required to compensate for energy losses during sleep, daily settlement activities and hunting expeditions.


Even with warm fires lit in caves and at other home sites, Sorensen believes Neanderthals must have slept underneath mammoth skins and other coverings.


Tools found for making clothes, such as hide scrapers and points for poking holes in animal skins, support his contention that Neanderthals dressed in well-fitted layers.


Taking into consideration basic movements needed for hunting and survival, such as walking and wood cutting, Sorensen believes Neanderthal groups would have needed about 1,792 pounds of meat per month, requiring one mammoth -- or other big game kill -- every seven weeks.


Animal bones and stone tools at Neanderthal sites indicate they hunted away from home. In order to transport meat, Sorensen thinks they must have dried it somehow. But, he said, "I do not know of any evidence for (them) using salt."


"As for preparation, boiling is much more efficient and nutrient-conserving than frying, and evidence from more recent Stone Age settlements confirm that meat was boiled in ceramic pots or skin bags," he said. "However, it is still likely that frying over the camp fire was the usual method in Neanderthal communities, since no containers for boiling have been found."


"Carrying dried meat from a mammoth home could now be done by seven to eight round trips (over) 14 to 16 days," he added.


The Neanderthals may have just eaten the plain jerky, which could have been made from horse, red deer, woolly rhinoceros, bison, as well as mammoth, based on bone finds. They also probably transported meat back home and cooked it there, he said.


In a separate study, a team of researchers from the University of Marseille, in France, found evidence for at least three Neanderthal sub-groups: one in Western Europe, one in Southern Europe and another one in the Levant. Each likely had their own different cultures, with slightly different clothing, hunting and cooking techniques.



Prehistoric flute in Germany is oldest known


By PATRICK McGROARTY, Associated Press Writer Patrick Mcgroarty, Associated Press Writer – Wed Jun 24, 1:30 pm ET


BERLIN – A bird-bone flute unearthed in a German cave was carved some 35,000 years ago and is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archaeologists say, offering the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture.


A team led by University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot of the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany.


Together, the pieces comprise a 8.6-inch (22-centimeter) instrument with five holes and a notched end. Conard said the flute was 35,000 years old.


"It's unambiguously the oldest instrument in the world," Conard told The Associated Press this week. His findings were published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.


Other archaeologists agreed with Conard's assessment.


April Nowell, a Paleolithic archaeologist at the University of Victoria in Canada, said the flute predates previously discovered instruments "but the dates are not so much older that it's surprising or controversial." Nowell was not involved in Conard's research.


The Hohle Fels flute is more complete and appears slightly older than bone and ivory fragments from seven other flutes recovered in southern German caves and documented by Conard and his colleagues in recent years.


Another flute excavated in Austria is believed to be 19,000 years old, and a group of 22 flutes found in the French Pyrenees mountains has been dated at up to 30,000 years ago.


Conard's team excavated the flute in September 2008, the same month they recovered six ivory fragments from the Hohle Fels cave that form a female figurine they believe is the oldest known sculpture of the human form.


Together, the flute and the figure — found in the same layer of sediment — suggest that modern humans had established an advanced culture in Europe 35,000 years ago, said Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who didn't participate in Conard's study.


Roebroeks said it's difficult to say how cognitively and socially advanced these people were. But the physical trappings of their lives — including musical instruments, personal decorations and figurative art — match the objects we associate with modern human behavior, Roebroeks said.


"It shows that from the moment that modern humans enter Europe ... it is as modern in terms of material culture as it can get," Roebroeks told The AP. He agreed with Conard's assertion that the flute appears to be the earliest known musical instrument in the world.


Neanderthals also lived in Europe around the time the flute and sculpture were made, and frequented the Hohle Fels cave. Both Conard and Roebroeks believe, however, that layered deposits left by both species over thousands of years suggest the artifacts were crafted by early modern humans.


"The material record is so completely different from what happened in these hundreds of thousands of years before with the Neanderthals," Roebroeks said. "I would put my money on modern humans having created and played these flutes."


In 1995, archaeologist Ivan Turk excavated a bear bone artifact from a cave in Slovenia, known as the Divje Babe flute, that he has dated at around 43,000 years ago and suggested was made by Neanderthals.


But other archaeologists, including Nowell, have challenged that theory, suggesting instead that the twin holes on the 4.3-inch-long (11-centimeter-long) bone were made by a carnivore's bite.


Turk did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.


Nowell said other researchers have hypothesized that early humans may have used spear points as wind chimes and that markings on some cave stalactites suggest they were used as percussive instruments. But there is no proof, she said, and the Hohle Fels flute is much more credible because it's the oldest specimen from an established style of bone and ivory flutes in Europe.


"There's a distinction between sporadic appearances and the true development of, in this case, a musical culture," Nowell said. "The importance of something like this flute is it shows a well-established technique and tradition."


Conard said it's likely that early modern humans — and perhaps Neanderthals, too — were making music longer than 35,000 years ago. But he added the Hohle Fels flute and the others found across Europe strengthen evidence that modern humans in Europe were establishing cultural behavior similar to our own.



Stone Age flutes found in Germany

Prehistoric people made musical instruments out of bone and ivory soon after reaching Europe

By Bruce Bower

Web edition : Wednesday, June 24th, 2009


Hear music played on a preliminary reconstruction of a Stone Age bone flute.


The hills may be alive with the sound of music, but so were vulture bones and mammoth tusks for ancient Europeans. Researchers working at two Stone Age German sites have unearthed a nearly complete flute made from a vulture’s forearm as well as sections of three mammoth-ivory flutes.


These 35,000- to 40,000-year-old finds are the oldest known musical instruments in the world, says archaeologist and project director Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen in Germany.


Bone flutes previously unearthed at Stone Age sites occupied by humans in France and Austria date to between 19,000 and 30,000 years ago. And many researchers now consider the spaced holes in a controversial 43,000-year-old find, dubbed a Neandertal bone flute in 1995, as the products of chewing by cave bears.


The bone flute, which excavators found in 12 pieces, and the ivory flutes were discovered in the summer of 2008 at Hohle Fels cave. The team reports in an upcoming Nature that the finds are from the time of the Aurignacian culture, when modern humans first migrated to Europe from Africa. Scientists estimate that the culture existed from about 40,000 to 29,000 years ago.


Conard’s group found no human bones near the ancient flutes. But since human remains accompany later Aurignacian finds at other sites, the scientists assume that Homo sapiens, not Neandertals, made the musical instruments.


“Our finds demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe, more than 35,000 years ago,” Conard says.


Pieces of three other bone and ivory flutes, found earlier in another German cave, date to approximately 30,000 years ago, he notes.


In Conard’s view, musical practices and other cultural developments allowed Aurignacian people to establish social networks more extensive than any formed by Neandertals. Excavators found the Hohle Fels bone flute near a female figurine with exaggerated sexual features (SN: 6/20/09, p. 11). Some researchers, however, regard artifacts from this sediment layer as no more than 32,000 years old.


Conard’s age estimate for the newly discovered flutes appears reasonable, remarks archaeologist April Nowell of the University of Victoria in Canada. “The finger holes on the Hohle Fels bone flute are clearly human produced and are so different from the carnivore puncture holes on the Neandertal ‘flute,’” Nowell says.


The preserved portion of the bone flute is about 8.5 inches long and one-third of an inch wide. Finely incised lines near four finger holes probably indicated where to carve these openings using stone tools, Conard suggests. A partial fifth finger hole lacks such markings.


Musicians presumably blew into an end of the bone flute that contains two V-shaped notches. The researchers plan to make a replica of the ancient flute to investigate how it was played and what type of sounds it made.


Hohle Fels excavators also recovered two pieces from what were probably two ivory flutes, Conard says. Examination of material unearthed nearby, at Vogelherd Cave, identified part of another ivory flute.


Ivory flutes required especially complex construction techniques, Conard says. Flute makers carved a rough shape for the instrument along a piece of tusk, split the ivory open lengthwise, hollowed out the halves, carved finger holes and reattached the halves with an airtight seal.



Pondering Prehistoric Melodies


Published: June 27, 2009


A Stone Age ancestor living near what is now Ulm, Germany, did Bottom one better. He took the hollow bone of a griffon vulture, carved five holes in it and made one of the first flutes known to exist. (Perhaps it was a she; there are lots of great women flutists.)


This was at least 35,000 years ago — maybe even 40,000 years ago. Could it have been around the time of the birth of human-made melody, a period when speech perhaps began to develop? It must have been a fine improvement on the whack of tongs and bones.


A report of the flute’s discovery last week gives rise to all sorts of speculation about the origins of music and how it creates a palpable link between us and our prehistoric predecessors.


“It’s easier to think of them as conscious, autonomous individuals if they’re making music,” said Sato Moughalian, a New York-based professional flutist. “To make the step from just breathing to actually producing a sound requires a different sense of self.”


At the least, the find delights flute players, who like to point out that their instrument (outside of percussion) is the most elemental of all. No reeds to blow past, no strings to make vibrate, no mouthpiece to buzz.


“It’s very simple,” Robert Langevin, the principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic. “There’s no intermediate thing to produce the sound. Our way of breathing is similar to the way of singers.” And nothing is more natural to the human organism than breathing.


Of course, Mr. Langevin and his colleagues play something much different than the cave flute. Their flutes are generally made of metal (sometimes even gold), have keys and pads that cover holes. They are also played sideways.


The five-hole vulture bone flute has a notched end, across which the player blows. Its discovery was reported in an article in the journal Nature. Nicholas J. Conard of the University of Tübingen in Germany was one of the authors. He said an experimental archaeologist named Wulf Hein made a reproduction and recorded several tunes, including “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The flute’s basic scale replicates the notes accompanying the line “Oh say can you see,” Dr. Conard said.


The flute and several other types found nearby indicate a high-level of musical and technological sophistication, he said. While the nature of the music they made at the time is unknown, “There had to have been Paganinis, Mozarts, Hendrixes,” he said.


The discovery is also a reminder that music was present at the earliest flowering of human culture, an idea that musicians and music lovers can embrace with great joy, said Steven Stucky, a composer (who has written a double concerto for flutes and orchestra). “This must have been a fundamental part of life,” he said.


It is, of course, impossible to establish how humans became musical. The song of birds and patter of rain may have provided examples. “Once humans got the musical bug going, I can imagine sort of looking at everything,” said Peter Schickele, the composer and alter ego of P. D. Q. Bach. “Can you hit it, can you blow it, can you make a sound out of it?” He added, “I’ve done a fair amount of that in my own life.”


Dr. Conard suggested music strengthened and extended social bonds, perhaps contributing to the evolutionary survival of homo sapiens. The flute was found in an area also inhabited by Neanderthals, who — according to the archaeological record — did not appear to be very musical.


About 10,000 years later, they fell extinct.



Oldest human settlement in Aegean unearthed on Limnos island


   The ruins of the oldest human settlement in the Aegean found so far have been unearthed in archaeological excavations by a team of Greek, Italian and American archaeologists on the island of Limnos, headed by Thessaloniki Aristotle University (AUTH) professor of Prehistoric Archaeology Nikos Efstratiou.


   The excavation began in early June and the finds brought to light so far, mainly stone tools of a high quality, are from the Epipaleolithic Period approximately 14,000 years ago. The finds indicate a settlement of hunters, food-collectors and fishermen of the 12th millennium BC.


   Until now, it was believed that the oldest human presence in the Aegean had been located in the Archipelagos of the so-called Cyclops Cave on the rocky islet Yioura, north of the island of Alonissos, and at the Maroula site on Kythnos island, dating to circa 8,000 (8th millennium) BC.


   The excavations are being conducted at the Ouriakos site on the Louri coast of Fyssini in Moudros municipality on Limnos, with the assistance of the municipality and funding by the Institute for Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP).


   Linmos is considered to be a region with signficant prehistoric archaeological finds, such as the Poliochne settlement that was inhabited from the middle of the 5th millennium BC to the end of the 2nd millennium BC, and the Koukonesi islet settlement dating approximately to the same chronological period, from the Early to the Late Bronze Ages.



Dutch Anthropologists Research Bulgaria Neolithic Archaeology Site

June 27, 2009, Saturday



A team of Dutch anthropologists has arrived to the Bulgarian village of Dzhulyunitsa to research the Neolithic archaeological site there.


The object of their research will be oldest funeral in the Balkans - a funeral of a person at the age of 12-13, which dates back to 6300-6150 BC.


The early Neolithic funeral was discovered in 2004 by Nedko Elenski, an archaeologist at the Regional History Museum of the nearby city of Veliko Tarnovo.


The anthropologists from the Netherlands are taking samples from the bones of the buried child in order to conduct further research. They are going to use DNA analysis in order to reveal more information about the people who lived in central northern Bulgaria some 8000 years ago.


The Neolithic settlement at Dzhulyunitsa existed between 6300 and 5700 BC. The causes of its demise are still known, according to Elenski. Two other graves dating back to 4000 BC have also been discovered nearby.


In 2005, Nedko Elenski also discovered pieces of 8000 year-old corroded metal, which turned out to be copper. These finds have been sent to Germany in order to establish whether the metal had been worked up by humans.


Another interesting fact about the contemporary village of Dzhulyunitsa is that it is the home place of Bulgarian sumo wrestler Kaloyan Mahlyanov - Kotooshu.



Untouched Tomb Uncovered in Bethlehem

Nasser Shiyoukhi, Associated Press


June 24, 2009 -- Workers renovating a house in the traditional town of Jesus' birth accidentally discovered an untouched ancient tomb containing clay pots, plates, beads and the bones of two humans, a Palestinian antiquities official said Tuesday.


The 4,000-year-old tomb provides a glimpse of the burial customs of the area's inhabitants during the Canaanite period, said Mohammed Ghayyada, director of the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.


Workers in a house near the Church of the Nativity uncovered a hole leading to the intact grave, which was about one meter (roughly three feet) below the ground, he said. They contacted antiquities officials, who photographed the grave as is before removing its contents.


They dated the grave to the Early Bronze Age, between 1,900 B.C. and 2,200 B.C.


Jerusalem-based archaeologist and historian Stephen Pfann called the find "an important reference to the life of the Canaanites," adding that it could give a glimpse into life in the area before the time when the Biblical patriarchs are said to have lived.


While many artifacts exist from this period, intact graves are rare, mainly because of looting, he said.


Intact graves are more useful to scholars because they show how items were arranged.


"Every time a new tomb is found, it adds to the picture," Pfann said.


The findings will be housed in the Bethlehem Peace Center, a cultural center not far from where the tomb was discovered.




Ancient settlement could be bulldozed

By Ben Farmer in Kabul

Published: 5:12PM BST 29 Jun 2009


An ancient settlement dating back to before the time when Alexander the Great's armies swept across Afghanistan could be bulldozed and dynamited for a new road.


French archaeologists said they had been forced to stand in front of earthmovers to prevent Korean contractors building a road through a historic gorge.


Excavations show people have lived at Cheshm-e-Shafa since at least the fourth century BC, when the area was ruled by a Persian dynasty eventually swept away by the Greek invaders.


The French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA), said it had been told engineers would use dynamite to put the road through the gorge.


Afghanistan is in desperate need of infrastructure, but its rich archaeological heritage has been ravaged by three decades of war and plunder.


Roland Besenval, director of DAFA, said: "We had stopped the bulldozers by putting ourselves in front of them but they restarted the work the next day.


"They could divert the road towards the east but clearly they don't want to.


"Afghan laws prohibit the destruction of archaeological sites. The ministry of public works knows about all of this, the ministry of culture too."


The site, in the northern province of Balkh, was used as a route by Alexander the Great, but lost its importance and became deserted after Mongol invaders razed the area in the 13th Century.


The Korean contractors, the Samwhan Corporation, were unavailable for comment.



Underground cave dating from the year 1 A.D. exposed in Jordan Valley


Contact: Rachel Feldman



University of Haifa


The cave was originally a large quarry during the Roman and Byzantine era and was one of its kind; various engravings were uncovered in the cave, including cross markings, and it is assumed that this could have been an early monastery


An artificial underground cave, the largest in Israel, has been exposed in the Jordan Valley in the course of a survey carried out by the University of Haifa's Department of Archaeology. Prof. Adam Zertal, who headed the excavating team, reckons that this cave was originally a large quarry during the Roman and Byzantine era and was one of its kind. Various engravings were uncovered in the cave, including cross markings, and it is assumed that this could have been an early monastery. "It is probably the site of "Galgala" from the historical Madaba Map," Prof. Zertal says.


The enormous and striking cave covers an area of approximately 1 acre: it is some 100 meters long and about 40 meters wide. The cave is located 4 km north of Jericho. The cave, which is the largest excavated by man to be discovered in Israel, was exposed in the course of an archaeological survey that the University of Haifa has been carrying out since 1978.


As with other discoveries in the past, this exposure is shrouded in mystery. "When we arrived at the opening of the cave, two Bedouins approached and told us not to go in as the cave is bewitched and inhabited by wolves and hyenas," Prof. Zertal relates. Upon entering, accompanied by his colleagues, he was surprised to find an impressive architectonic underground structure supported by 22 giant pillars. They discovered 31 cross markings on the pillars, an engraving resembling the zodiac symbol, Roman letters and an etching that looks like the Roman Legion's pennant. The team also discovered recesses in the pillars, which would have been used for oil lamps, and holes to which animals that were hauling quarried stones out of the cave could have been tied.


The cave's ceiling is some 3 meters high, but was originally probably about 4 meters high. According to Prof. Zertal, ceramics that were found and the engravings on the pillars date the cave to around 1-600 AD. "The cave's primary use had been as a quarry, which functioned for about 400-500 years. But other findings definitely indicate that the place was also used for other purposes, such as a monastery and possibly as a hiding place," Prof. Zertal explains.


The main question that arose upon discovering the cave was why a quarry was dug underground in the first place. "All of the quarries that we know are above ground. Digging down under the surface requires extreme efforts in hauling the heavy rocks up to the surface, and in this case the quarrying was immense. The question is, why?" For a possible answer to this mystery, Prof. Zertal points to the famous Madaba map. This is a Byzantine mosaic map that was found in Jordan and is the most ancient map of the Land of Israel. Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley are depicted with precision on the map, and a site called Galgala is depicted next to a Greek inscription that reads "Dodekaliton", which translates as "Twelve Stones." This place is marked at a distance from Jericho that matches this cave's distance from the city. According to the map, there is a church next to Dodekaliton; there are two ancient churches located nearby the newly discovered cave. According to Prof. Zertal, until now it has been hypothesized that the meaning of "Twelve Stones" related to the biblical verses that describe the twelve stones that the Children of Israel place in Gilgal. However, it could be that the reference is a description of the quarry that was dug where the Byzantines identified the Gilgal. "During the Roman era, it was customary to construct temples of stones that were brought from holy places, and which were therefore also more valuable stones. If our assumption is correct, then the Byzantine identification of the place as the biblical Gilgal afforded the site its necessary reverence and that is also why they would have dug an underground quarry there," Prof. Zertal concludes. "But" he adds, "much more research is needed."


Amir Gilat, Ph.D.

Communication and Media Relations

University of Haifa

Tel: +972-4-8240092/4

Cell: +972-52-6178200




Bronze Age burial ground uncovered

Published Date: 26 June 2009


MAJOR roadworks on one of Ulster's main thoroughfares have uncovered items of archaeological significance.


Excavation as part of the upgrade of the A1 Belfast to Dublin road between Loughbrickland and Beech Hill has uncovered a Bronze Age burial ground and a Neolithic settlement site dating back 6,500 years.


Information about the archaeological discovery was unveiled on Thursday and has been put on display on information boards at Loughbrickland lakeside, near to the site of the roads scheme.


The Department of Regional Development (DRD) intends the display to offer a medium for members of the public and interested parties to discover more about the area's unique history.


As part of its Strategic Road Improvement Programme, Roads Service is obliged to be sensitive to the environmental impact of its activities and carries out an environmental impact assessment ahead of any road construction.


Minister Caitriona Ruane, standing in for the absent DRD Minister Conor Murphy at the event, said: "The display of these information boards marks the completion of the archaeological works associated with the A1 Loughbrickland to Beech Hill dual carriageway scheme.


"Such works are an important aspect of the environmental work which Roads Service undertakes as part of its programme of road improvements."


The carriageway upgrade is part of an ongoing multi-million pound project to improve the main arterial route between Belfast and Dublin.



Ancient river found beneath the Channel during Olympics survey

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 12:41 AM on 28th June 2009


An ancient river bed that has lain unseen for 185,000 years has been uncovered by scientists mapping the parts of the English Channel in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.


The groundbreaking discovery was made during a two-year £300,000 project to map 500 square miles of seabed off the Jurassic coast in Dorset.


Using new and incredibly accurate mapping techniques, experts traced the river that may have once been used as a watering hole by woolly mammoths that roamed the area.


The mysterious river bed cuts through bedrock at the bottom of the ocean and is eight miles long, ranges between 90 to 150 yards wide and up to 30ft deep  Scientists believe it would have flowed when Britain was still attached to the continent.


As ice melted and refroze, it was washed over and uncovered a second time, before finally being hidden at the bottom of the sea during the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago.


As well as the river bed, shipwrecks, rugged cliffs and massive gravel dunes have also been highlighted using the new techniques which can pinpoint objects to within six inches.


Scientists are aiming to construct a complete and definitive map ahead of the 2012 Olympics as thousands of boats are due to descend upon Dorset for the sailing events.


Smaller yachts have recently come a cropper on submerged rocks that maritime officials knew nothing about and they don't want this happening in 2012.


The newly-found river bed poses no such danger as it lays 130ft underwater.


The project has been lead by the Dorset Wildlife Trust, which hopes the new information will be invaluable in its conservation work.

Jurassic Coast


Dr Simon Cripps, director of the Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: 'On land you can just look out of the window and see what's around, but we have no real idea what goes on under the sea.


'This study will give us an understanding of what is actually physically down there - it's very exciting.


'It's like putting a 3D jigsaw together in three layers and the results will be quite spectacular.'


Now the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is planning to re-chart nautical maps of the Channel. Some current charts are based on surveys carried out 75 years ago.


The maps have been created using a high resolution multi-beam sonar, which sends out 40 'pings' per second to the seabed.


The sonar has 500 beams which give 20,000 readings per second, allowing scientists to gauge the depth of the ocean, with an accuracy of six inches.


Not only can it tell how deep the sea goes, but the variation of sounds created by the beams can identify the type of surface it is hitting.


The 'pings', which sound like the clicks made by dolphins to the human ear, differ depending on whether they hit sand, hard rock, or any matter in between.


The Dorset Integrated Seabed Study, or DORIS for short, is now one year in and moving on to a second phase of video and photography.


Experts will use the maps to identify patterns in the seabed before using cameras to take shots of underwater life.


They will visit a range of depths to study the animal and plant life, taking still and moving images to create an elaborate picture of previously hidden habitats.


Richard Edmonds, science manager for the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, said: 'The pictures the study has produced are hugely exciting, I was absolutely blown away when I first saw them.


'We now know that all the fascinating structures we see on the Jurassic Coast, which are created by the hard and soft rocks eroding at different paces, happen exactly the same on the seabed.


'When the river bed was uncovered, the land would have been used by woolly mammoths, reindeer and wolves as well as early humans.'



Castle bones may belong to knight

Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 13:30 UK


Archaeologists believe that bones discovered at Stirling Castle may have belonged to a knight killed in battle or during a siege in the early 1400s.


It is thought that despite the warrior's relatively young age of about 25, he may have suffered several serious wounds from earlier fights.


Researchers thinks it is also possible he may have been living for some time with a large arrowhead in his chest.


The bones were discovered in a chapel at the castle in 1997.


They were excavated when archaeologists were working in an area of the castle which turned out to be the site of a lost medieval royal chapel.


Peter Yeoman, from Historic Scotland, said because the man was buried at the heart of a royal castle, it was indicative he was a person of prestige, possibly a knight.


Some research was carried out on the skeleton at the time of its discovery, but a lack of technology meant it was difficult to assess the remains in more detail.


Since then scientists have been able to perform laser scanning which revealed the wounds.


Bone regrowth around a dent in the front of the skull suggested the man had recovered from a severe blow, possibly from an axe.


The warrior had also lost a number of teeth - perhaps from a blow, or a fall from a horse.


The fatal wound, however, occurred when something, possibly a sword, sliced through his nose and jaw.


Mr Yeoman said: "We know little about this burial area but the evidence suggests it was sometimes used during extreme circumstances, for example to bury the dead during a siege.


"However, by using modern analysis techniques we have started to discover quite remarkable information about this man.


"It appears he died in his mid-20s after a short and violent life.


"His legs were formed in a way that was consistent with spending a lot of time on horseback, and the upper body points to someone who was well-muscled, perhaps due to extensive training with medieval weapons."


A large, tanged arrowhead was found in skeleton and appears to have struck through the back or under the arm.


Crystalised matter attached to the arrowhead may have been from flies or other insect larvae and could have been from clothing the arrow forced into the wound.


Gordon Ewart, of Kirkdale Archaeology, who carried out the excavation and some of the research for Historic Scotland, said: "This is a remarkable and important set of discoveries.


"There were a series of wounds, including a dent in the skull from a sword or axe, where bone had regrown, showing that he had recovered.


"At first we had thought the arrow wound had been fatal but it now seems he had survived it and may have had his chest bound up."


Little is known about who the man was or where he came from.


Further study is planned on tooth enamel and bone samples which may shed light on his origins.


His body appeared to have been buried in the same grave as a small boy of one to three years old.


Archaeologists cannot be certain that the two were linked but radiocarbon dating suggests both date from the early 15th Century, and there was no evidence of one grave having been cut through the other.


They were part of a group of 12 skeletons, some highly fragmentary, which were discovered.


Among them was a female, probably buried some time in the 13th Century, who had two neat, square holes through her skull which were consistent with blows from a war hammer.