5000 year old footprints found on Formby beach

09 December 2010

By David Raven


More prehistoric human footprints have been found along a 4 km strip of coast between Formby and Ainsdale that date back some 5,000 years.


Archaeologists today dubbed the discovery ‘sensational', claiming it is one of the most significant historic footprint finds the country has seen.


Over the last few weeks hobbyists have been scouring the sand dunes with a fine tooth comb and have struck lucky with their latest findings.


Marine scientists explained how the beaches are receding, which forces layers of sand and sediment to disperse, leaving land which has lay undisturbed for thousands of years.


They added that while the footprints often appear and disappear depending on the weather and season, the new discovery came as a shock to many people.


Mysterious footprints have been found in the area since the 1950s but the latest finds also shows that deer, six foot cattle and birds from the Bronze Age once roamed the area.


Government scientists looking to protect the footprints could create a marine conservation zone in the area to protect their heritage.


The first person to take an active role in studying the footprints was ex-Harrington Road resident Gordon Roberts back in 1989.


Now 81-years-old, the former head of languages at Formby High, devised his own system of monitoring and tracking the prints by location.


Mr Roberts told The Champion that he is really excited about the recent discovery and said the importance of it for local residents should not be underestimated.


He said: “Formby prides itself on being a Viking village but from that aspect there are no visible remains.


”But of course that was only 1,000 years ago, some of the footprints recently found are over 6,000 years old and allow us to paint a truer picture of the past of Sefton's coast.


“They have found footprints from aurochs, a breed of cattle which is now extinct, but they would have been very ferocious and fearsome animals standing at six feet tall.”


Andrew Brockbank, countryside manager for the National Trust, explained how the footprints are unveiled.


He told The Champion: “Throughout different periods of history there were animals in Formby coming down to the water's edge and as the coastline was building, their footprints became locked in the sediments.


"But now the coastline is receding it is beginning to uncover some of the sediments and now you can clearly see some really amazing footprints."


Dr Mark Adams, senior archaeological project officer at the museum of Liverpool, is involved with the Sefton Coast Partnership who are investigating Formby's dunes.


He hailed the discovery as "up there with the best exposures this country has ever had in terms of prehistoric footprints."


Dr Adams, who recently visited the site, added: "When you see them a shiver goes down your spine and you get a real direct connection with people from thousands of years ago.


“Just weeks ago the finding was between five and ten trails of human footprints along with a really good exposure of red deer prints.


"We are trying to get local people involved to help us find more and are looking to organise some archaeology training sessions for next year."


To get involved with the project you can contact Dr Mark Adams on 0151 4784260 or for more information on marine conservation zones visit www.irishseaconservation.org.uk



Murder beneath the Yorkshire Museum may reveal location of Eboracum’s amphitheatre?



The skeleton of a huge Roman who was stabbed to death could be a clue in the search for York’s Roman amphitheatre. Experts have revealed the skeleton found beneath the Yorkshire Museum during its refurbishment is that of a powerful, athletic male who was stabbed at least six times in a fatal attack, including a powerful sword blow to the back of the head.


The location where he was found has long been thought to be one of the prime locations for a Roman amphitheatre, which would most certainly have been built when York was the Roman capital of the north. It is possible that the Roman found could be a disgraced or defeated gladiator who was literally thrown out with the rubbish after his brutal death.


Andrew Morrison, head curator of the Yorkshire Museum, said: “This was a huge man for the Roman period who died a violent and bloody death. The physical evidence reveals he was a swordsman and that his body was literally dumped with the rubbish – there was no hint that he had been buried in a ceremonial way.”


Mr Morrison added, “But what is really interesting to us is that he was found in this area, which is not associated with Roman burials and that many believe could be where York’s amphitheatre was located. It is far from certain but it could well be the case that this man was a disgraced gladiator who was brutally killed and then left to rot.”


The skeleton was found in January by builders carrying out work on the museum, as part of its £2 million refurbishment. It was found only 30cm beneath the museum’s foundations.


Following analysis by experts from York Osteoarchaeology Ltd, it has been revealed that the skeleton was of a middle aged adult male, aged between 36 and 45 years. He was very tall for a Roman at 179cm and of muscular build. Lesions in his vertebrae suggest spinal stress, possibly through lifting heavy loads. His arms are well developed and, similar to other gladiators found in York, and bear all the hallmarks of repetitive sword training.


The most notable clues on the skeleton are the six blade injuries which, because there are no signs of healing, were delivered at death. These include a cut to the lower vertebrae of the back bone, a slash to a lower right rib and two slashing marks which penetrated the jaw, causing it to fracture. This shows evidence of a sword slicing through the jaw and then getting stuck, with the attacker then twisting the blade to get it free, breaking the jaw bone in two.


The skull had three blade injuries. One was a superficial wound to the top of the head, literally taking off a piece of his scalp, and a second which cut into the right side of the skull in two places. A third, probably the fatal blow, was a powerful stab wound to the back of the head. It appears that the perpetrator/s attacked this man from the right side. The wounds are typical of someone involved in armed combat, possibly gladiatorial combat, with numerous blows inflicted before he was finally killed.


The skeleton was not found in a position associated with organised Roman burial but with animal bones and broken pottery. It was found in an area which has for a long time puzzled archaeologists as it is in close proximity to the Roman fortress, on what was a very flat expanse of ground. Because it is also a key medieval site, the precinct of St Mary’s Abbey, excavation has been limited so the Museum Gardens remains one of the few untouched areas in the city that may have been large enough to house the amphitheatre.


The remains of the Roman are going on display at the Yorkshire Museum from this week.



Lost Civilization Under Persian Gulf?

ScienceDaily (Dec. 8, 2010)


A once fertile landmass now submerged beneath the Persian Gulf may have been home to some of the earliest human populations outside Africa, according to an article published in Current Anthropology.


Jeffrey Rose, an archaeologist and researcher with the University of Birmingham in the U.K., says that the area in and around this "Persian Gulf Oasis" may have been host to humans for over 100,000 years before it was swallowed up by the Indian Ocean around 8,000 years ago. Rose's hypothesis introduces a "new and substantial cast of characters" to the human history of the Near East, and suggests that humans may have established permanent settlements in the region thousands of years before current migration models suppose.

In recent years, archaeologists have turned up evidence of a wave of human settlements along the shores of the Gulf dating to about 7,500 years ago. "Where before there had been but a handful of scattered hunting camps, suddenly, over 60 new archaeological sites appear virtually overnight," Rose said. "These settlements boast well-built, permanent stone houses, long-distance trade networks, elaborately decorated pottery, domesticated animals, and even evidence for one of the oldest boats in the world."

But how could such highly developed settlements pop up so quickly, with no precursor populations to be found in the archaeological record? Rose believes that evidence of those preceding populations is missing because it's under the Gulf.

"Perhaps it is no coincidence that the founding of such remarkably well developed communities along the shoreline corresponds with the flooding of the Persian Gulf basin around 8,000 years ago," Rose said. "These new colonists may have come from the heart of the Gulf, displaced by rising water levels that plunged the once fertile landscape beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean."

Historical sea level data show that, prior to the flood, the Gulf basin would have been above water beginning about 75,000 years ago. And it would have been an ideal refuge from the harsh deserts surrounding it, with fresh water supplied by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun, and Wadi Baton Rivers, as well as by underground springs. When conditions were at their driest in the surrounding hinterlands, the Gulf Oasis would have been at its largest in terms of exposed land area. At its peak, the exposed basin would have been about the size of Great Britain, Rose says.

Evidence is also emerging that modern humans could have been in the region even before the oasis was above water. Recently discovered archaeological sites in Yemen and Oman have yielded a stone tool style that is distinct from the East African tradition. That raises the possibility that humans were established on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula beginning as far back as 100,000 years ago or more, Rose says. That is far earlier than the estimates generated by several recent migration models, which place the first successful migration into Arabia between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago.

The Gulf Oasis would have been available to these early migrants, and would have provided "a sanctuary throughout the Ice Ages when much of the region was rendered uninhabitable due to hyperaridity," Rose said. "The presence of human groups in the oasis fundamentally alters our understanding of human emergence and cultural evolution in the ancient Near East."

It also hints that vital pieces of the human evolutionary puzzle may be hidden in the depths of the Persian Gulf.



Tumulus skeleton found with arrow tip in spine

09 December 2010, Thursday



The body of a man with an arrow tip still lodged in his spine was found during ongoing excavations in Bursa’s Aktopraklık tumulus. Archeologists believe that the man had died shortly after he was shot with an arrow from a bowman on higher ground. The tumulus where the skeleton was buried is estimated to have a history of about 8,500 years.


“This tomb of a man in his 30s from the early Chalcolithic period did not seem unusual at first glance. He was buried in accordance with the burial traditions of the period. … On closer examination of the skeleton, we discovered a deep arrow wound in the bottom of his spine,” paleoanthropologist Songül Alpaslan Roodenberg from the excavation team told the Anatolia news agency. “The arrow tip explained the cause of this Aktopraklık man’s death almost precisely,” she said.


Roodenberg also noted that the arrow tip was made of flint and it was lodged 12 millimeters into the spine. “It is most likely that the arrow struck his spine and damaged the abdominal aorta, which was located near the path of the arrow. This indicates that the man died shortly after he was injured [via the arrow],” she explained.


Adding that it is very probable that the man died quickly due to excessive bleeding, the paleoanthropologist said: “It seems that he was injured not far from the village and was taken back to the village shortly after he died. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for him to be buried in the traditional fetal position. “Although it is hard to tell whether the man was a warrior, hunter or just a peasant, this finding will certainly attract attention in the near future,” she added.


Roodenberg also noted that the tumulus, whose history stretches back to about 8,500 years ago, is one of the earliest farming villages. Nearly 60 tombs have been discovered during excavations at the ancient site, which were launched seven years ago with the support of the Bursa Metropolitan Municipality. The tombs are from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.


“Rites for burying the dead give us clues about the belief systems of prehistoric people. Details including the shape of the tombs, the way the bodies are positioned or objects buried near the dead reveal much information,” she added.



Sealed Jar found at Qumran


An intact, sealed, jar has been discovered at Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in nearby caves.


A multinational team of scientists have been analyzing the jar and their findings are set to be published in the journal Archaeometry. If you have a subscription (or access to a library with one) you can already see the article on the publication’s website.


“The finding of an intact and sealed storage jar is an extremely rare event,” the researchers write. The discovery “provides a unique possibility to analyse its last contents.”


Altogether nine scientists are credited in the paper. Kaare Lund Rasmussen, of the University of Southern Denmark, is listed at the lead author.


The jar itself was excavated in 2004. It was found about 50 meters south of Qumran in an uninhabited area that may have been used for agriculture. Animal bones and pottery shards were unearthed nearby. The group that found it was led by Randall Price of Liberty University and Oren Gutfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Pictures of the jar are published in the journal article. The rights to them appear to be held by the excavation group and a request to have them republished on this website was not granted as of press time.


“The intact jar, named Jar-35, was sealed with an overturned bowl fastened as a lid,” Rasmussen’s team writes. “When the lid was lifted and a camera lowered into the interior, a deposit up to 3 cm thick was discovered lining the bottom and the sides.”


A jar of gypsum


The scientists used a wide variety of analytical techniques to determine what is inside the jar. One of the techniques uses x-rays to search for crystalline material – the test succeeded in identifying a substance. “Based on this analysis, it is evident that the only significant crystalline phase in the deposit is gypsum,” the scientists write.


Also found in the jar was a small amount of charcoal. They were able to radiocarbon date it, determining that the coal was used sometime between 100 BC and AD 15, a period when Qumran would have been inhabited.


After determining that there were no other materials in the jar the scientists focussed their work around a new question – why would the inhabitants of Qumran seal gypsum inside a pottery vessel?


“The most straightforward hypothesis is that Jar-35 was a storage and transport jar for gypsum,” writes the research team. “Perhaps the gypsum was intended for lining the cisterns of Qumran.”

It seems possible. Gypsum is a soft mineral that can be used to make plaster – something which there is plenty of at Qumran.


Archaeologists Yuval Peleg and Yitzhak Magen have conducted extensive excavation work at the site. At one point they say that the residents turned Qumran’s stables into pools. “Two of the entrances,” Peleg and Magen write in a report, “were sealed and plastered and the space was divided by low, plastered walls into six shallow pools.”


They also note the presence of plastered floors, plastered water channels and even a partly plastered aqueduct. “Upstream in Nahal Qumran, an aqueduct – partly constructed and plastered and partly rock-cut – drew water from the stream.”


Alternative explanations


The scientists raise a few other possibilities – one is that Qumran’s residents waterproofed this particular jar by lining it with gypsum. It then could have been used to store water or another type of liquid. “Against this hypothesis is the fact that there have been no previous reports of gypsum lining of such jars,” the team writes.


Another idea is that the gypsum might have had some sort of industrial use. “Precisely which ancient industry might have been reflected by the use of gypsum is not clear,” they say. The team found no organic compounds that suggest the mineral was used for perfume or glue making.


Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls


More than 900 Dead Sea Scrolls have been found at Qumran. They include early copies of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), historical documents and community rules.


There is an active debate as to how they got to caves near Qumran. Whether this jar discovery has any impact on the discussion remains to be seen.


A bit of background on this debate:


Originally it was believed that a group called the Essenes lived at the site and wrote the scrolls. However recent archaeological work by Peleg and Magen suggests that the site was used as a military outpost by the Hamoneans starting around 100 BC. They were a dynasty of Jewish kings that ruled much of Palestine.


“Qumran was not a fortress capable of withstanding the assault of an attacking army, but rather a forward observation and supervision post that controlled land and sea traffic along the Dead Sea Coast,” the two archaeologists write.


According to their research the Hasmonean soldiers left Qumran around 63 BC, after the Romans arrived in the region. Civilians then took over the site and used it for pottery production. This civilian settlement lasted until about AD 70 when Jewish residents throughout Palestine revolted against the Romans. Jerusalem came under siege, with refugees fleeing the city.


Some of them headed south, until they came to Qumran and its harsh terrain. “Qumran is the last station,” Yuval Peleg said in an interview, done a year back. “The water came to the cliffs after Qumran.” They couldn’t bring the scrolls with them, so the people put them in caves before resuming their flight. They never returned.


Another idea, as to how the scrolls got to Qumran, comes from Robert Cargill, a researcher at UCLA who has created a virtual model of the site. He agrees that the site was first used as a military outpost and was later converted for civilian use.


He suggests, however, that these civilians wrote some of the scrolls found in Qumran’s caves. He points out that multiple inkwells have been found at the site. “Somebody was writing something at Qumran,” he said in an interview that took place a year back. Cargill also points out that some of the caves are located very close to the site. They “cannot be gotten through without going through the residence of Qumran.”


In addition to writing scrolls, Cargill suggests that Qumran’s civilians would have brought in examples from elsewhere in Palestine, building up a collection. When the Romans approached the site, just before AD 70, these people put them into caves and then fled.



2,400-year-old Bone Soup Unearthed in China

2010-12-12 20:46:20


An archaeologist takes an animal bone out of an unearthed bronze tripod on Friday, December 12, 2010.[Photo: ifeng.com]


A 2,400-year-old bone soup was discovered inside an ancient cooking vessel that was recently unearthed in Xi'an, the capital city of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, according to the local archaeology research institute, the "China Business News" reported.


The discovery is the first of its kind in China.


The soup likely contains the foot bone, vertebra and rib of a chicken or small sheep, according to the archeologists.


The soup appears turbid, with green bronze scraps floating on the surface, and the bones partially tinged with green color.


Along with the bronze tripod cooking vessel, another bronze ware was unearthed containing a "mysterious" liquid thought to be alcohol.


Both were unearthed in a tomb in the northern region of the city that dates to the Warring States period (B.C.475-221). Archaeologists speculated it was a custom of that time to bury soup and alcoholic drinks along with the dead.


The miraculous preservation of the liquids is attributed to good sealing and dry conditions inside the tomb, according to the experts.


The bronze wares were kept in a niche that was much drier than the bottom area of the tomb, the report said.


Further investigation will reveal the ingredients in the liquids, the report said.