NEANDERTHAL'S COZY BEDROOM UNEARTHED
Even though it isn't wired for broadband, this prehistoric domicile does have beds and even a fireplace.
By Jennifer Viegas
Fri Aug 6, 2010 07:00 AM ET
Anthropologists have unearthed the remains of an apparent Neanderthal cave sleeping chamber, complete with a hearth and nearby grass beds that might have once been covered with animal fur.
Neanderthals inhabited the cozy Late Pleistocene room, located within Esquilleu Cave in Cantabria, Spain, anywhere between 53,000 to 39,000 years ago, according to a Journal of Archaeological Science paper concerning the discovery.
Living the ultimate clean and literally green lifestyle, the Neanderthals appear to have constructed new beds out of grass every so often, using the old bedding material to help fuel the hearth.
"It is possible that the Neanderthals renewed the bedding each time they visited the cave," lead author Dan Cabanes told Discovery News.
Cabanes, a researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science's Kimmel Center for Archaeological Research, added that these hearth-side beds also likely served as sitting areas during waking hours for the Neanderthals.
"In some way, they were used to make the area near the hearths more comfortable," he said, mentioning that artifacts collected from various other Neanderthal sites suggest the inhabitants prepared stone tools, cooked, ate and snoozed near warming fires.
For this study, Cabanes and his team collected sediment samples from the Spanish cave. Detailed analysis of the samples allowed the scientists to reconstruct what materials were once present in certain parts of the cave at particular times.
The bedding material was identified based on the presence and arrangement of multiple phytoliths from grasses near the hearth area. Phytoliths are tiny fossilized particles formed of mineral matter by a once-living plant.
There was no evidence of plants growing, soil developing or animal transport of phytoliths via dung, so the scientists believe the only plausible explanation is that Neanderthals gathered the grass and placed it in this room of the cave.
While the hearth contained some grass phytoliths, most belonged to wood and bark, "indicating that this material was the main type of fuel used," according to the researchers. Some animal bones were also tossed into the hearth, perhaps to dispose of them after dinner and/or for use as extra fire fuel.
Evidence is building that Neanderthals in other locations constructed such functional living spaces within caves and rock shelters.
Earlier this year, Josep Vallverdu of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution and his team identified a "sleeping activity area" at Spain's Abric Romani rock shelter.
Similar to the Esquilleu Cave finds, Vallverdu and his colleagues discovered the remains of hearths spaced enough for seating and sleeping areas.
"This set of combustion activity areas suggests analogy with sleeping and resting activity areas of modern foragers," Vallverdu and his team wrote. They added that such information can allow anthropologists to estimate the size of Neanderthal populations, in addition to learning more about how they lived.
The big question, according to Cabanes, is how such a resourceful species went extinct.
"In my opinion, Neanderthal extinction may have been caused by several factors working at the same time," he said. "Environmental changes, a slightly different social organization, a different rate of reproduction, spread of diseases, direct competition for resources and many other factors may have played an important role in the fate of Neanderthals."
He and other researchers have also not ruled out that Neanderthals were simply absorbed into the modern human population.
Cabanes is hopeful that future analysis of phytoliths, as well as other less obvious clues that have often been overlooked by scientists in the past, may shed additional light on the still-mysterious Neanderthals.
Neolithic stone network found on Orkney
Published Date: 03 August 2010
By Lucinda Cameron
Archaeologists revealed today that they have discovered the first evidence in the UK of stonework painted with a pattern, suggesting Neolithic people enjoyed decorating.
It comes a week after the researchers, working at the Brodgar peninsula on Orkney, found plain painted stones thought to be around 5,000 years old at the spot.
The site, described as a possible Neolithic temple precinct, is between the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar.
The latest discovery, made late yesterday afternoon, is a stone with a zigzag chevron pattern in red pigment.
It is thought the painted and decorated stones may have been used to enhance important buildings and may have been found in entranceways or areas of the building which had particular significance.
Nick Card, of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (Orca), said: "I think the Neolithic people were no different from ourselves in that these were probably special structures which they felt should be adorned in different colours.
"There has been evidence at some other Neolithic sites where paint pots have been found with remains of pigment but they were considered to be for personal adornment rather than being used on a wider scale for the decoration of buildings.
"This is a first for the UK, if not for northern Europe.
"The use of colour in this particular way was always suspected but this is the first concrete evidence we have of it."
He added: "It is not Rembrandt though, it is pretty basic designs."
One of the stones found last week were painted purple-red, while the other was red and yellow.
The paint will now be analysed but it is thought it may have been made from hermatite mixed with animal fat and perhaps milk or egg.
The 6-acre (2.5-hectare) site – the size of around five football pitches – is being excavated by teams from across the world.
Last year a structure dubbed a Neolithic "cathedral" measuring 82ft (25m) long by 65ft (20m) wide with 16ft (5m) thick outer walls was discovered at the site.
Mr Card, director of the excavations at the site, said the latest discoveries were adding to their understanding of how later Stone Age people lived.
He said: "We've always suspected colours was a part of their world.
"This is adding to the dimension of the Neolithic that many archaeologists would have thought but there was no real evidence for.
"There is a buoyant mood on site and everyone feels it is a great privilege to be here."
Moenjodaro and recent floods
As a result of heavy monsoon rains and recent floods in Pakistan, around 900,000 cusecs of water is expected to enter Sindh through the River Indus during the first week of August 2010. According to sources, a wave of 400,000 cusecs has already passed through the Indus near Moenjodaro without causing significant damage. The ravages of the Indus River, one of the largest rivers in the world, have been known from ancient times. Dating back to the 3rd Millennium BC, Moenjodaro was an ancient city destroyed on more than one occasion by flooding of the River Indus. At least seven times it was rebuilt directly on top of the old ruins.
Moenjodaro was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980. Spreading over an area of almost 600 acres, only 10% (50 acres) have been excavated. It is regarded as the most ancient planned city in the world. The main building material is baked brick bedded with mud mortar, sometimes with added gypsum. With its monumental structural remains, street pattern, covered drains, baths, wells and all necessary features needed for sanitation and administration, the site is known as the first urban centre of the Indus civilization.
In 1974, after an appeal from the Pakistani Government, UNESCO launched the International Safeguarding Campaign for Moenjodaro. It lasted until 1997 and mobilized around US$8 million from its Member States for large scale conservation measures which aimed at protecting the site from flooding, implementation of national capacity building activities, and the installation of a conservation and monitoring laboratory. One of the most important achievements of the Campaign was the river training of the Indus River by the construction of five spurs along its banks to avert danger to the Moenjodaro archeological remains. UNESCO and the Authority for preserving of Moenjodaro subcontracted the work to the Irrigation Department, Government of Sindh, that lasted from 1985 and continued till 1990.
Thanks to the campaign, an estimated 150 million people around the world, including schoolchildren, were informed about Moenjodaro and the ancient Indus civilization. After the closure of the UNESCO International Safeguarding Campaign for Moenjodaro in 1997, UNESCO reinitiated their collaboration and developed a post campaign strategy in 2004, which identified further areas of interventions such as: management structure, conservation and stabilization, training and capacity building, site and tourism development. To date, the majority of activities have focused on and greatly improved the overall management, conservation and stabilization of the walls and structures and reinforced national training and capacities of site managers and workers.—Via email
Extracts of Cyrus Cylinder found in China
British Museum curator has identified cuneiform text inscribed on horse bones
By Martin Bailey | From issue 215, July-August 2010
Published online 2 Aug 10 (News)
LONDON. Two fossilised horse bones with cuneiform inscriptions have been found in China, carved with extracts from the Cyrus Cylinder. They were initially dismissed as fakes because of the improbability of ancient Persian texts turning up in Beijing. But following new research, British Museum (BM) specialist Irving Finkel is now convinced of their authenticity.
This discovery looks set to transform our knowledge about what is arguably the most important surviving cuneiform text, written in the world’s earliest script. Dating from 539BC, the Cyrus Cylinder was ceremonially buried in the walls of Babylon. Its text celebrates the achievements of Cyrus the Great, ruler of the Persian empire. The clay cylinder was excavated by BM archaeologists in 1879 and sent to London, where it is one of the museum’s most important antiquities.
The texts found in China inexplicably have fewer than one in every 20 of the Cyrus text’s cuneiform signs transcribed, although they are in the correct order. The two inscribed bones were donated to the Palace Museum in Beijing in 1985 by Xue Shenwei, an elderly Chinese traditional doctor who died later that year. He said that he had learned about the pair of inscriptions in 1928. He bought the first bone in 1935 and the second in 1940, and named the sellers. Xue acquired them because he thought they were written in an unknown ancient script, presumably from China. In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, he buried the bones for protection, digging them up later. Chinese scholars who have pursued the story believe that Xue’s account is credible.
In 1983 Xue offered the bones to the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City, which collects inscriptions. It was then that specialists told him they were written in cuneiform. It was not until two years later, when Xue donated the objects, that specialist Wu Yuhong realised that the text of the first bone came from the Cyrus proclamation (the text of the second was not identified).
Until this year it was generally assumed that the Cyrus Cylinder was a unique object, created for ceremonial burial, and that the text had not been disseminated. Then in January two fragments of an inscribed clay tablet in the BM’s collection were found to contain part of the proclamation, suggesting that it might have been widely copied. Finkel returned to the pair of Chinese bones, to reconsider whether they might be authentic. He realised that the text on the second bone was also from the Cyrus proclamation (which had been missed in 1985), and requested more information from Beijing.
Chinese Assyriologist Yushu Gong went to the Palace Museum store to examine the bones, and also arranged a new rubbing of the inscription (done with black wax on paper), which provides a much better image of the text than existing photographs. Yushu took these to London, for a workshop that was held at the BM on 23-24 June.
Are the bones fakes?
The obvious question is whether the inscriptions are fakes—although they would be bizarre objects to fake. Why would a faker use fossilised horse bone, a material never used before for this purpose? If the bones had indeed been acquired by Xue by 1940, it would not have been easy for a Chinese forger to have gained access to the Cyrus text, which only became widely known later in the 20th century. Why would a faker have carved only one in 20 of the characters, which meant that it took years before the Cyrus text was identified? And why would a faker have sold the bones in China, where there has been virtually no market for non-Chinese antiquities?
The clinching factor for Finkel is that the partial text on the bones differs slightly from that on the Cyrus Cylinder, although it is correct in linguistic terms. Cuneiform changed over the centuries, and the signs on the bones are in a less evolved form than that of the cylinder. The individual wedge-like strokes of the signs are also different and have a slightly v-shaped top, a form that was not used in Babylon, but was used by scribes in Persia.
“The text used by the copier on the bones was not the Cyrus Cylinder, but another version, probably originally written in Persia, rather than Babylon,” Finkel believes. It could have been a version carved on stone, written with ink on leather, or inscribed on a clay tablet. Most likely the original object was sent during the reign of Cyrus to the far east of his empire, in the west of present-day China.
Scholars at the workshop had little time to digest the new evidence, and inevitably there was some scepticism. But Finkel concludes that the evidence is “completely compelling”. He is convinced that the bones have been copied from an authentic version of the Cyrus proclamation, although it is unclear at what point in the past 2,500 years the copying was done.
Iranian Archaeologist: More research needed to authenticate China’s extracts of the Cyrus Cylinder
09 August 2010
LONDON, (CAIS) -- An Iranian archaeologist believes that more studies are needed to prove the authenticity of alleged extracts from the Cyrus Cylinder carved on two bone fragments found in China.
“We should wait patiently for in-depth studies by experts on ancient languages and other laboratory research to confirm the genuineness of the objects,” Kamyar Abdi told the Persian service of CHN on Saturday.
“If the objects are proven authentic, the discovery will begin to transform our knowledge about relations between the Near East, especially the Achaemenid Dynastic Empire (550-330 BCE), and China during the first millennium, in particular during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 BCE),” he added
The discovery will also extend back the history of relations between China and Iran. Until the discovery, it was believed that political relations between Iran and China dated back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-221 CE) in China and the Parthian Dynasty (248 BCE-224 CE) in Iran.
“The Cyrus Cylinder had undoubtedly been important for the people living under the Achaemenid Empire, but, if the objects are proved authentic, the first question would be how the Cyrus the Great’ text had been transferred to China and why the text was important enough for the Chinese to copy it,” he stated.
Considered the world’s first declaration of human rights, the Cyrus Cylinder is a document issued by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the form of a clay cylinder inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform script.
The cylinder was created following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE, when Cyrus the Great overthrew the Babylonian king Nabonidus, ending the Neo-Babylonian Kingdom.
The text of the cylinder denounces Nabonidus as impious and portrays the victorious Cyrus the Great as pleasing to the chief Babylonian god Marduk.
It goes on to describe how Cyrus the Great had improved the lives of the citizens of Babylonia, repatriated displaced peoples and restored temples and cult sanctuaries.
The cylinder was discovered in 1879 by the Assyro-British archaeologist Hormuz Rassam in the foundations of the Esagila, the main temple of Babylon. Today, it is kept in the British Museum in London.
Two fossilized horse bones bearing cuneiform inscriptions, which are extracts from the text of the Cyrus Cylinder, have recently been discovered in China, the London-based Art Newspaper reported last week.
The objects seem to be genuine based on research by British Museum specialist Irving Finkel.
The texts inexplicably have fewer than one in every 20 of the Cyrus text’s cuneiform signs transcribed, although they are in the correct order, Finkel said.
The bones had been donated to the Beijing Palace Museum in 1985 by deceased Chinese traditional doctor Xue Shenwei, who bought the artefacts in 1935 and 1940.
Two years after the donation of the objects, specialist Wu Yuhong realized that the text of the first bone came from the Cyrus proclamation, but the text of the second was not yet identified.
In January 2010, two fragments of a clay tablet with inscriptions of part of the text of the Cyrus proclamation were found in the British Museum’s collection.
Afterwards, experts hypothesized that the Cyrus proclamation might have been widely copied during ancient times.
Thus, Finkel conducted an in-depth study on the pair of Chinese bones to determine whether they might be authentic.
Based on existing photographs, he learned that the text on the second bone was also from the Cyrus proclamation, and requested more information from Beijing.
Chinese Assyriologist Yushu Gong provided a much better image of the text and took the photos to the British Museum for a workshop that was held on June 23-24.
“The text used by the copier on the bones was not the Cyrus Cylinder, but another version, probably originally written in Persia, rather than Babylon,” Finkel said.
He surmised that it could have been a version carved on stone, written with ink on leather, or inscribed on a clay tablet. Most likely, the original object was sent during the reign of Cyrus to the far east of his empire, in the west of present-day China.
There was some skepticism among the scholars attending the workshop, but Finkel believes that the evidence is “completely compelling”.
He is convinced that the bones have been copied from an authentic version of the Cyrus proclamation, although it is unclear at what point in the past 2,500 years the copying was done.
JOHN THE BAPTIST'S BONES DISCOVERED?
Analysis by Teresa Shipley
Wed Aug 4, 2010 01:51 PM ET
A 5th century monastery in the Black Sea may house the last remains of John the Baptist, the biblical prophet famous for baptizing Jesus.
Bulgarian archaeologists excavating under an ancient basilica last week unearthed a reliquary, or a container full of human relics.
Bone fragments of a human skull, hand and tooth were found inside.
The monastery is located on Sveti Ivan island, just off the coast of Bulgaria's popular seaside town of Sozopol. The archaeologists believe that a date inscribed on the alabaster jar, June 24, is a good sign that the reliquary houses John the Baptist's remains.
June 24 is the day Christian's celebrate the birth of Jesus' contemporary.
But the Vatican is waiting for more information before making a statement about the find's validity.
Fabrizio Bisconti, superintendent of the Vatican Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, told CNN that the commission "will wait until a more thorough study has been conducted, including anthropological analysis, before it will express an opinion on the finding."
According to biblical lore, John the Baptist was beheaded by the first-century Galilean ruler, Herod Antipas, for renouncing Herod's divorce and subsequent remarriage to another woman.
Bisconti also told CNN that the Church believes John the Baptists remains are currently scattered around the world, rather than being housed in one location.
Dirty teeth and ancient trade: Evidence of cotton fibres in human dental calculus from Late Woodland, Ohio
S. H. Blatt1,*, B. G. Redmond2, V. Cassman3, P. W. Sciulli1
Article first published online: 4 AUG 2010
Analysis of ancient human dental calculus for the presence of inclusions related to diet and dental health has been overlooked in anthropological literature. Small particles of archaeobotanical debris, which would otherwise not be preserved in the archaeological record, can become incorporated into unmineralised plaque on teeth during mastication and oral manipulation. When plaque mineralises into calculus, debris is preserved in situ. Samples of dental calculus (n = 18) were collected from the Danbury site (33OT16) in Ottawa County, Ohio and viewed under a scanning electron microscope for inclusions. Analysis yielded a variety of noticeable inclusions, including mineralised bacteria, calcium-phosphate crystalline structures and numerous phytoliths. Here we report the first evidence of fibres consistent with cotton (Gossypium spp.) embedded in the dental calculus from the Late Woodland component (900–1100 ad) of the Danbury site. Prehistoric cotton has not been previously documented in Ohio. The distinct morphology of the Danbury cotton and its presence in the Late Woodland component at Danbury suggests long-distance interaction at a time in Ohio when movement of exotic goods appeared to have diminished. These microscopic remains provide insight into paleoethnobotanical history of ancient Ohioans and attest to how analysis of dental calculus could be used to supplement other paleodietary and archaeological analyses.
Ship Found at Ground Zero Dates Back to 1780’s
BY Mary Elizabeth Dallas New York City : NY : USA | Aug 04, 2010 40 VIEWS: 226
A ship discovered by crews excavating the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan dates back to the 1780’s according to experts at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab)– the lab contracted to conserve the vessel’s remains. A 100-pound iron anchor was also found a few yards from the hull, possibly from the old ship. According to the MAC Lab, an archaeological trove of this significance has not been found since 1982, when an 18th-century cargo ship was uncovered at 175 Water Street."Our conservation lab was designed with the treatment of shipwrecks in mind,” added Patricia Samford, Director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. “Our conservators have a great deal of experience with recovering and conserving waterlogged timbers, such as those found at the World Trade Center site. We are much honored to be working on this internationally spotlighted project."The vessel's age was determined through a process called dendrochronology - the science of using tree rings to determine dates and chronological order.The 32-foot long section of the merchant ship was found under ground, not under water. The ship was presumably used around 1810 as landfill to extend the shores of lower Manhattan.Historian, Norman Brower, told archaeologists the ship was originally an oceangoing vessel that might have sailed the Caribbean, as evidenced by 18th-century marine organisms that had bored tiny tunnels in the timber, reports the AP.Samford, told the Baltimore Sun that this ship is the largest shipwreck project her team has taken on. The process will involve a year of soaking in antifreeze, and then freeze-drying to preserve the wood. The ship was painstakingly removed piece-by-piece, sealed and marked. The ship will eventually be reassembled for study, the Mac Lab notes.