Artifacts found in the newly discovered ancient Mexican tomb offer clues to the civilization's demise.


Thu Jan 28, 2010 06:07 AM ET | content provided by Manuel De La Cruz Associated Press




Mexican archaeologists have found an 1,100-year-old tomb from the twilight of the Maya civilization that they hope may shed light on what happened to the once-glorious culture.


Archaeologist Juan Yadeun said the tomb, and ceramics from another culture found in it, may reveal who occupied the Maya site of Tonina in southern Chiapas state after the culture's Classic period began fading.


Many experts have pointed to internal warfare between Mayan city states, or environmental degradation, as possible causes of the Maya's downfall starting around A.D. 820.


But Yadeun, who oversees the Tonina site for Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, said artifacts from the Toltec culture found in the tomb may point to another explanation. He said the tomb dates to between A.D. 840 and 900.


"It is clear that this is a new wave of occupation, the people who built this grave of the Toltec type," Yadeun said Wednesday. "This is very interesting, because we are going to see from the bones who these people are, after the Maya empire."


The Toltecs were from Mexico's central highlands and apparently expanded their influence to the Maya's strongholds in southern Mexico. They are believed to have dominated central Mexico from the city of Tula -- just north of present-day Mexico City -- between the 10th and 12th centuries, before the Aztecs rose to prominence.


Archaeologists not connected with the dig expressed caution about drawing conclusions from one site, noting the Maya empire covered a wide area, with a varied and complex history.


"One tomb, even if it is very fancy, isn't going to answer big things about the trajectory of Maya history all over the place ... maybe locally," said David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin.


Susan Gillespie, an archaeologist at the University of Florida, said that "the whole idea of a migration of people from Tula to the Maya area has been abandoned."


The jungle-clad site is dotted with temples and platforms left by the classic Maya. The newly uncovered tomb -- first detected during maintenance work in December, and later excavated and shown to reporters Wednesday -- is dug into the earth at the foot of one of the older temples.


Inside, a stone bowl-type sarcophagus lies inside a narrow burrow, topped by a heavy stone lid. While such lids often bore inscriptions, this one does not; the Maya apparently began to abandon their elaborate writing system in the twilight of their culture.


Archaeologists also found a pottery urn and the bones of what they believe is a woman. Her skull appears to have been intentionally deformed, a practice common among the Maya. Physical anthropologists are now studying the bones, hoping to identify which group she came from.


The tomb does bear evidence that at least one other pre-Hispanic group took over the site after the collapse of the Maya.


The institute said the woman's bones were displaced by boiled bones in another pottery urn, apparently put there by Tzeltal chieftains sometime in the late 1400s, just before the Spanish conquest.


Associated Press Writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.



Tomb of ancient China's "defense minister" unearthed in northwest China


2010-01-29 18:08:32          

XI'AN, Jan. 29 (Xinhua)


The family tombs of an high-ranking general of the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-220 A.D.) was unearthed in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, providing evidence to China's military history, archaeologists said Friday.


The tomb in Weiqu Town of suburban Xi'an, provincial capital of Shaanxi, belonged to Zhang Anshi (?-62 B.C.), a major general of Han Dynasty and he was conferred the titled of Liehou, top level of entitled officials of the dynasty, after helping Liu Xun (91 B.C.-49 B.C.) to become the emperor, said Zhang Zhongli, vice president of Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.


The identification of the tomb owner was confirmed by the archaeologists based on the discovery of the official seals and the seal carved with the family name Zhang from the tomb, which is only six kilometers away from the emperor's tomb, Zhang Zhongli said.


The main chamber of ancient Zhang's tomb, surrounded by more than a dozen of tombs, is 35 meters long and 24.5 meters wide, and has been robbed before, Zhang Zhongli said.


The whole tomb faces the direction of the emperor's tomb, which shows the respect of the general toward his king, Zhang said.


More than 2,000 pieces of cultural relics, including exquisite bronze and ceramics decorations, bronze seals and appliances which represent the high rank of the general, had been unearthed over the past year.


However, the body of the owners had not been unearthed in terms of better protection, Zhang said, without revealing the schedule.


The structure and size of the tomb and the large amount of unearthed appliances are all significant to archeological researches, Zhang said.


The military appliances and the carriages might be the remarkable discovery of the Chinese military history, as the general was considered the "national defense minister" of the Han Dynasty, he said.


Although the tombs of Zhang Anshi's and his wife's had been robbed and burnt before being discovered by the archeologists, they had provided abundant evidence to the research of the Han Dynasty history, he said.



Archaeologists unearth Iron Age settlement in Kent


Archaeologists also found evidence of a medieval enclosure at the site

The remains of an Iron Age settlement have been unearthed by archaeologists working along the route of a new £1.3m water pipeline in Kent.

Evidence of a dwelling, postholes, pits, ancient hearths and pieces of pottery were found on land in Pembury.

South East Water plans to lay a 4.6km (2.9 mile) pipe between Kipping's Cross Service Reservoir and Pembury.

The archaeologists, who were employed by the firm to survey the route, will now record and preserve the finds.

The period known as the Iron Age took place in Britain between about 750BC and about AD40.

'Exciting find'

Tim Allen, from Kent Archaeological Projects, said: "We have found evidence of postholes, pits and ditches, probably part of an Iron Age dwelling, along with pieces of pottery that we can date to the late Iron Age.

"We also found evidence of a medieval enclosure further along the route and five circular, fire-scorched pits, probably parts of ancient hearths or kilns or evidence of charcoal production.

"It is likely that the Iron Age remains are associated with a prehistoric roundhouse that would have been approximately eight metres in diameter, with timber supports and with walls and roof made with wattle and daub."

Paul Clifford, engineering manager at South East Water, said: "This exciting find, on private land in the Pembury area, has emerged during careful archaeological surveys carried out during the excavation work before we lay the pipe.

"On large schemes such as this we take the extra precaution of having archaeologists working alongside our contractors to ensure that if we do find anything of historical significance, then we can halt work for further investigations. That ensures we can continue to protect and record our ancient heritage."

South West Water said it expected work to lay the pipeline, which started in September 2009, to be completed in March.



Silver coin dating to 211 BC is oldest piece of Roman money ever found in Britain


Last updated at 5:20 PM on 29th January 2010


A 2,221-year-old silver coin dug up as part of a hoard is the oldest piece of Roman money ever found in Britain. Dating from 211 BC and found near the Leicestershire village of Hallaton, the coin was uncovered with 5,000 other coins, a helmet and a decorated bowl. Unearthed in 2000 by a metal detectorist, staff at the nearby Harborough Museum have only just realised its significance.


One side of the coin depicts the goddess Roma wearing her characteristic helmet while mythical twins Castor and Pollux sit astride galloping horses on the reverse.


David Sprason, Leicestershire County Council cabinet member for communities and well-being said: 'Leicestershire boasts the largest number of Iron Age coins ever professionally excavated in Britain.

'To also have the oldest Roman coin ever found is something very special.'

The type of coin, known as a denarius, was first struck in Rome in 211 BC, making the Hallaton coin a very early version, the council said.


The coin was unearthed by a metal detectorist along with 5,000 other coins, a helmet and a decorated bowl. The previous oldest known Roman coin found in Britain was discovered by a metal detectorist in Berkshire last year.


The Hallaton coin is on display at Harborough Museum, Market Harborough, alongside other coins that were excavated at a late Iron Age shrine of the Corieltavi tribe dating to the first century AD. Archaeologists believe the coins were buried as gifts to the gods, with other finds including a richly decorated Roman cavalry helmet, a unique silver bowl and the remains of more than 300 pigs.


A soldier or unskilled worker living in the first century AD could expect to earn one denarius for a day's work It is thought that the coin may have arrived in Britain in the purse of an invading Roman soldier after AD 43. But some archaeologists have speculated that Roman Republican coins such as this were finding their way into Britain before the Roman conquest and are evidence of exchange through trade or diplomacy.


The finds from Hallaton were declared as treasure and acquired by the council with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Professor David Mattingly of the University of Leicester's School of Archaeology and Ancient History described the news as 'exciting'. He said: 'This hoard has changed our view of just how significant the East Midlands were in this period and this coin is a good example.' 'It indicates there was contact between this region and the Roman Empire despite the distance between the East Midlands and the parts of Britain the Romans arrived in, like Colchester and Chichester.' The coin would have passed through many hands, he added.

'It was minted in Rome at the time of the Hannibalic wars and here it is turning up after what must have been quite a long journey,' he said.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1247092/Silver-coin-dating-211BC-oldest-piece-Roman-money-Britain.html#ixzz0eEZdHuL9



Lost Roman law code discovered in London

Public release date: 26-Jan-2010

Contact: Dave Weston



University College London


Part of an ancient Roman law code previously thought to have been lost forever has been discovered by researchers at UCL's Department of History. Simon Corcoran and Benet Salway made the breakthrough after piecing together 17 fragments of previously incomprehensible parchment. The fragments were being studied at UCL as part of the Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded "Projet Volterra" – a ten year study of Roman law in its full social, legal and political context.


Corcoran and Salway found that the text belonged to the Codex Gregorianus, or Gregorian Code, a collection of laws by emperors from Hadrian (AD 117-138) to Diocletian (AD 284-305), which was published circa AD 300. Little was known about the codex's original form and there were, until now, no known copies in existence.


"The fragments bear the text of a Latin work in a clear calligraphic script, perhaps dating as far back as AD 400," said Dr Salway. "It uses a number of abbreviations characteristic of legal texts and the presence of writing on both sides of the fragments indicates that they belong to a page or pages from a late antique codex book - rather than a scroll or a lawyer's loose-leaf notes.


"The fragments contain a collection of responses by a series of Roman emperors to questions on legal matters submitted by members of the public," continued Dr Salway. "The responses are arranged chronologically and grouped into thematic chapters under highlighted headings, with corrections and readers' annotations between the lines. The notes show that this particular copy received intensive use."


The surviving fragments belong to sections on appeal procedures and the statute of limitations on an as yet unidentified matter. The content is consistent with what was already known about the Gregorian Code from quotations of it in other documents, but the fragments also contain new material that has not been seen in modern times.


"These fragments are the first direct evidence of the original version of the Gregorian Code," said Dr Corcoran. "Our preliminary study confirms that it was the pioneer of a long tradition that has extended down into the modern era and it is ultimately from the title of this work, and its companion volume the Codex Hermogenianus, that we use the term 'code' in the sense of 'legal rulings'."


This particular manuscript may originate from Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and it is hoped that further work on the script and on the ancient annotations will illuminate more of its history.


Notes to Editors

Contact details


For further information or images of the fragments please contact Dave Weston in the UCL Press Office on +44 (0) 20 7679 7678 or d.weston@ucl.ac.uk


Dr Simon Corcoran (Research Fellow) can be contacted on +44 (0) 20 7679 3614 or s.corcoran@ucl.ac.uk


Dr Benet Salway (Principal Investigator) can be contacted on +44 (0) 20 7679 3653, +44 (0) 7968 402004 or r.salway@ucl.ac.uk


About Projet Volterra


Projet Volterra is a ten year research programme, currently funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. The general aim of the project is to promote the study of Roman law in its full social, legal and political context. www.ucl.ac.uk/history2/volterra



Viking settlement unearthed by OPW



DUBLIN’S NORTHSIDE is revealing its own Viking past with the first evidence of 11th-century Dubliners choosing to settle on the north shore of the Liffey emerging in the past week.


Clear signs of a late-11th century – ie Viking – house have been found at a site in the Smithfield area owned by the Office of Public Works (OPW). Excavation works, commissioned and funded by the OPW, have been under way at Hammond Lane, off Church Street, since last year.


Some 17th- and 18th-century artefacts have been found since then, while evidence of a “substantial Viking house” was uncovered there last week, said excavation director Colm Moriarty.


National Museum director Pat Wallace said the great significance of the find lay in the location of the house north of the Liffey.


The find would be of even greater importance if it could be demonstrated the house was part of a neighbourhood and not just stand-alone. “If it can be established that there was a Hiberno-Norse suburb north of the Liffey, that would be hugely significant,” said Dr Wallace.


Eleven archaeologists working onsite have dug down to reveal “latrines and ditches” as well as the holes in the ground into which hazel or silver-birch posts would have been thrust to make the “walls” of the house.


Mr Moriarty was yesterday able to point out where the 11th-century inhabitants would have entered the 7m by 5.5m dwelling, where they would have slept and, pointing at a discoloured patch of earth, where their hearth would have been.


“It’s possible they were involved in working with antlers, making combs and that sort of thing. We have found pieces of chopped and worked antlers. They could then maybe have sold them out on the street at the front of the house.”


The house is a “type one” Viking dwelling, as originally identified by Dr Wallace during his excavations at Wood Quay in the 1970s, with three aisles or sections. There is a central front entrance with the hearth and seating/sleeping areas on either side.



It fronts on to Church Street and sits almost adjacent to St Michan’s Church, which also dates from the 11th century. The street would have been a major thoroughfare into the city from the north.


“We are also finding some evidence of a dwelling next to this one, so it does look like there was some kind of organised settlement here.” Mr Moriarty said the excavation was nearing completion. There would be post-excavation analysis of the findings and he would then write up his report for the OPW. It will be sent on to the Department of the Environment.


There were no development plans for the site, said an OPW spokesman. “It remains to be seen what will be done there once this is completed.”



Fromelles soldiers to be reburied


The remains of 250 World War I soldiers, including several Scots, who were killed in the 1916 Battle of Fromelles have now been recovered.


They will be reburied with full military honours at a new cemetery close to the site in northern France.


Relatives of Private John Smith from Forfar said it was important to give the soldiers a proper burial.


Work to recover the British and Australian soldiers buried there by German forces, began in 2008.


The battle, on 19 July 1916, was the first major one on the Western Front involving British and Australian troops.


Following a four month archaeological operation in northern France, the remains, including that of Private Smith, will be buried with full honours.


In total, the 61st British Division suffered losses of 1,547 personnel, who were either killed, wounded, taken prisoner or missing.


The 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 similar losses.


The excavation was carried out by Oxford Archaeology.


DNA samples were taken from each soldier and specialists in the UK have attempted to extract DNA strands to help with the identification process.


“ It is important, any family member would want to have a grave with a name and so it is important to all us, especially my grand-dad and my gran having known they were looking for him" ”

Louise Smith Great-great niece

Every soldier recovered, will be reburied with an unnamed headstone in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


If the soldiers can be identified their relatives will be able to add a personalised inscription on the headstone at a later date.


The remains of Private John Smith, who transferred from the Highland Cyclists Battalion to the 2/7 Royal Warwickshire Regiment, were recovered from the mass grave.


He was from Forfar and was killed in action at Fromelles aged 21.


Louise Smith is the great-great niece of Pte Smith.


She said the family were awaiting the results of DNA tests, but were hopeful the body recovered and identified as John Smith, was her great-great Uncle.


She said: "We knew very little about him, it was a case of just knowing he was in the Highland Cyclists Battalion and he just got on his bike aged 19 or 20 and rode off and never came back."


She added that the whole family were grateful to the Fromelles project as it meant they could finally say a proper goodbye.


She said: "It is important, any family member would want to have a grave with a name and so it is important to all us, especially my grand-dad and my gran, having known they were looking for him".


Story from BBC NEWS:


Published: 2010/01/29 07:17:08 GMT




Putting the moon in the state's orbit

California wants to register as historical resources the space junk (high-tech and otherwise) left behind by the Apollo 11 crew.

By Mike Anton

January 29, 2010


When the Apollo 11 astronauts blasted off from the moon, they left behind not just the small steps of men but a giant pile of equipment and junk for all of mankind.


Some of the 5,000 pounds of stuff Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin abandoned at Tranquility Base was purposeful: a seismic detector to record moonquakes and meteorite impacts; a laser-reflection device to make precise distance measurements between Earth and the moon; a U.S. flag and commemorative plaque. Some was unavoidable: Apollo 11's lunar module descent stage wasn't designed to be carted back home, for instance.


The rest was cast aside to lighten the load of the Eagle lunar module and allow for takeoff. To compensate for the weight of moon rocks and soil samples, the astronauts gave the heave-ho to more than 100 items, creating a veritable yard sale of high technology and lowly debris. Space boots and portable life-support systems. The armrests from their cockpit seats. A hammer, scoops, cameras and containers. Tethers and antennas. Empty food bags and bags filled with human waste.


Low-impact campers they were not.


"They were told to jettison things that weren't important. So they starting tossing stuff," said Beth O'Leary, an assistant professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University and a leader in the emerging field of space heritage and archaeology. "They were essentially told, 'Here's eight minutes, create an archaeology site.' "


There are countless places on Earth that have been awarded protection to preserve their historic or cultural importance. The moon has none. But that may be about to change.


California is poised to become the first state to register the items at Tranquility Base as an official State Historical Resource. If the State Historical Resources Commission approves the idea at a meeting in Sacramento today, it would be a victory for scientists who want to build support for having Tranquility Base designated a United Nations World Heritage Site in advance of what they believe will be unmanned trips to the moon by private groups, and even someday by tourists. Proposals to place the items on historic registries in Texas and New Mexico are planned for later this year.


"There's a really good chance that we will be up there again in the next decades," said Jay Correia, a California state historian who manages the registration process.


"It's one of the most important historic events in the history of mankind. At first glance, it seems bizarre to even talk about it. But we have to talk about it. Can you imagine someone driving a cart over Neil Armstrong's first footprint? Wouldn't that be terrible!"


Because the moon has no atmosphere, Armstrong's left boot print remains in the gray powder just where he planted it at 7:56 p.m. Pacific time on July 20, 1969 -- a mind-blowing moment watched by hundreds of millions of TV viewers worldwide.


How to preserve such a treasure is a priority for the space heritage movement. The loose group of engineers, historians and anthropologists regards the Space Age the way other scientists do the Stone Age. It is an epoch of technological advancement and human exploration that scientists hope will be studied for generations to come.


More than 27,000 tons of rockets, probes and satellites have been hurled into space. The moon is the grandmother's attic of space junk, home to remnants from six manned Apollo missions and unmanned missions launched by the United States, the former Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, Japan and India.


"We lose a lot of stuff every day on Earth because of neglect, vandalism and erosion," O'Leary said. "As things are destroyed, we lose part of our knowledge about the past. On the moon, if you take the long view -- say, 100 years out -- there's a good risk that we will lose the information that is sitting there."


O'Leary is one of the founders of the Lunar Legacy Project, which cataloged the items at Tranquility Base by scouring government archives. She was drawn to the issue in 1999 after a student asked her an intriguing question: Can federal preservation laws be applied to the moon?


The short answer: It's complicated.


The United States is a signatory to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Though its delightful name suggests a truce between Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless, its provisions are serious and clear. Nations own the objects they put into space, no matter where they land. But they cannot claim sovereignty over any part of space.


It's similar to the international Law of the Sea and the reason space heritage advocates are concentrating efforts on protecting the items left behind by Apollo 11 -- not the site itself. The reason they're targeting state historical registries, O'Leary said, is because federal officials believe they don't have jurisdiction.


Correia says California law allows listing historical resources beyond the state's borders -- even if it's more than 238,000 miles away. And, he notes, California's connection to the Apollo program -- from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to aerospace companies that did contract work -- is undeniable.


Discarded artifacts on the moon hold plenty of useful scientific information.


Apollo 12's astronauts understood this. When they landed near the Surveyor 3 lunar probe, which had been on the moon for more than two years, they removed hardware from the craft, including its video camera, and brought it back for analysis. The camera is on display at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


Much of the hardware for the moon missions were one-of-a-kind designs, and documentation on the "craft aspects" -- the retooling and tweaking of equipment by hand -- no longer exists, said Allan Needell, the Smithsonian's curator for the Apollo program.


"For instance, the heat shields were filled in by hand, and defects had to be drilled out and fixed by hand," Needell said. "These were things that were learned on the floor on the fly. . . . The machine tools that were used no longer exist."


NASA engineers working on the next generation of space flight routinely visit the Smithsonian to study equipment made decades ago -- a wheel from a lunar rover that used piano wire, or the mechanism for the unfolding legs of a lunar module. Much of what they examine are training or testing versions of items used in space.


Items that were actually on the moon are as rare as condors.


Of the roughly 100 items from Apollo 11 at the Smithsonian, Needell said, only some containers and the space suits worn by Armstrong and Aldrin logged any moon time.


"It wasn't NASA's mission to provide museums with materials," he said. "For every ounce of hammer they didn't bring back, there was an extra ounce of lunar sample that they could."


Only two people have firsthand knowledge of how those decisions were made. Aldrin, who at 80 is a globe-trotting speaker, entrepreneur and author, says much of it was planned in advance. But plenty of stuff was discarded on the fly.


Items he regrets leaving are his and Armstrong's lunar boots -- tossed because of contamination concerns.


"My wife constructed a title for a movie or a book -- 'They Left Their Boots on the Moon,' "Aldrin said.


He says any move to preserve Tranquility Base should be done in concert with a badly needed rethinking of international space law to create "a unified space vision" on issues of future exploration, commercial development, property rights and security.


"Certainly there is value there from a historical and cultural perspective," Aldrin said.


Well, maybe not everything there.


"You think anyone wants the urine bags?" he said with a laugh.