Cannibal cavemen of Spain uncovered

By Dan Vergano

03:34 PM


More evidence that The Flintstones didn't tell us the whole story about cavemen. Our prehuman ancestors cannibalized one another for the "nutritional value" starting about a million years ago, finds an analysis of bones left in a Spanish cave.


In the journal Current Anthropology, a team led by archaeologist Eudald Carbonell of Spain's University of Rovira and Virgili, report fossil evidence of continuous cannibalism - cut marks and butchering remains - as a way of life among the Homo antecessor inhabitants of the Atapuerca Mountains archeological site.


From a sample of some 1,039 bones that included mammoths, buffalo, cats and other butchered species found in the cave level deposited more than 800,000 years ago, there also emerged 159 bones from 11 H. antecessor individuals, they report:


"Cut marks (slicing, chop, and scraping marks) on the cranial segment are abundant on the base of the temporal bones, face, and zygomatic bones: segments with a large amount of muscular attachments and ligaments. Cut marks found on the face indicate skinning and defleshing activities. Cranial fragments also display abundant evidence of breakage (percussion pits and adhered flakes) mainly located on the lower part of the cranium. The majority of zygomatic bones are broken in a similar manner to those documented in Native American cannibalized remains and Neolithic (post 9500 BC) individuals," says the study.


Modern humans did not arrive in Spain until around 30,000 years ago. An "archaic" human species, H. Antecessor possessed a brain about two-thirds the size of modern humans. They are thought to be ancestral to both modern humans and our Neanderthal cousins, who disappeared from the fossil record about the time of the first modern-looking humans in Europe.


The cannibalized bones from the Spanish site, tossed in with the bones of animals butchered for food, suggest that cannibalism was just another dietary option for these early cavemen, one with neither symbolic meaning or pursued solely as a survival strategy during famine.


Instead, the study authors suggest they "added cannibalism to their set of survival strategies as a way of competing with other human groups for available resources. This practice, accepted and included in their social system, is the oldest example of cultural cannibalism known to date. "



Stone Age remains are Britain's earliest house

10 Aug 2010


Archaeologists working on Stone Age remains at a site in North Yorkshire say it contains Britain's earliest surviving house.


The team from the Universities of Manchester and York reveal today that the home dates to at least 8,500 BC - when Britain was part of continental Europe.


The research has been made possible by a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council, early excavation funding from the British Academy, and from English Heritage who are about to schedule the site as a National Monument . The Vale of Pickering Research Trust has also provided support for the excavation works.


The research team unearthed the 3.5 metres circular structure next to an ancient lake at Star Carr, near Scarborough, a site comparable in archaeological importance to Stonehenge.


The team are currently excavating a large wooden platform next to the lake,  made of timbers which have been split and hewn. The platform is the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.


A large tree trunk has also been uncovered by the team. Despite being 11,000 years old it is well preserved with its bark still intact.


The house predates what was previously Britain's oldest known dwelling at Howick, Northumberland, by at least 500 years.


Dr Chantal Conneller and Barry Taylor from The University of Manchester with Dr Nicky Milner from the University of York have been working at Star Carr since 2004.


The house, which was first excavated by the team two years ago, had post holes around a central hollow which would have been filled with organic matter such as reeds, and possibly a fireplace.


Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, said: “This exciting discovery marries world-class research with the lives of our ancestors. It brings out the similarities and differences between modern life and the ancient past in a fascinating way, and will change our perceptions for ever. I congratulate the research team and look forward to their future discoveries.”


The site was inhabited by hunter gatherers from just after the last ice age, for a period of between 200 and 500 years.


According to the team, they migrated from an area now under the North Sea, hunting animals including deer, wild boar, elk and enormous wild cattle known as auroch.


Though they did not cultivate the land, the inhabitants did burn part of the landscape to encourage animals to eat shoots and they also kept domesticated dogs.


Dr Milner said: "This is a sensational discovery and tells us so much about the people who lived at this time.


"From this excavation, we gain a vivid picture of how these people lived. For example, it looks like the house may have been rebuilt at various stages.


“It is also likely there was more than one house and lots of people lived here.


“The platform is made of hewn and split timbers; the earliest evidence of this type of carpentry in Europe. And the artefacts of antler, particularly the antler head-dresses, are intriguing as they suggest ritual activities.”


Dr Conneller said: "This changes our ideas of the lives of the first settlers to move back into Britain after the end of the last Ice Age.


"We used to think they moved around a lot and left little evidence. Now we know they built large structures and were very attached to particular places in the landscape."


Barry Taylor added: "The ancient lake is a hugely important archaeological landscape many miles across.


 “To an inexperienced eye, the area looks unremarkable - just a series of little rises in the landscape.


"But using special techniques I have been able to reconstruct the landscape as it was then.


"The peaty nature of the landscape has enabled the preservation of many treasures including the paddle of a boat, the tips of arrows and red deer skull tops which were worn as masks.


"But the peat is drying out, so it's a race against time to continue the work before the archaeological finds decay."


English Heritage recently entered into a management agreement with the farmers who own the land at Star Carr to help protect the archaeological remains.


Keith Emerick, English Heritage Inspector of Ancient Monuments, explained:


 “We are grateful to the landowners for entering into this far reaching agreement.


 “Star Carr is internationally important, but the precious remains are very fragile.


 “A new excavation currently underway will tell us more about their state of preservation and will help us decide whether a larger scale dig is necessary to recover information before it is lost for ever.”


Notes for editors

Drs Nicky Milner, Chantal Conneller and Barry Taylor are available for comment


An artist’s impression is available.



For media enquires contact:

Mike Addelman

Media Relations

Faculty of Humanities

The University of Manchester

0161 275 0790

07717 881567





David Garner

Senior Press Officer

University of York

01904 432153

07795 315029




Archaeologists discover Britain's oldest home

By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Archaeologists have found Britain's earliest house - constructed by Stone Age tribesmen around 11,000 years ago. The discovery is likely to change the way archaeologists view that early period.


Just 3.5 metres in diameter, the circular post-built house pre-dates other Stone Age buildings in the UK by up to a thousand years.


Located at one of Britain's most important prehistoric archaeological sites, Star Carr in North Yorkshire, the newly discovered building may have been home to a Stone Age hunter - or conceivably even a prehistoric priest or shaman.


Ethnographic parallels elsewhere in the world suggest that, in hunter-gather societies, well-built structures of this kind were often the homes of shamans.


It's also known from previous excavations that the site as a whole was probably used, at least partially, for ritual activity. Back in 1950, archaeologists there discovered 21 Stone Age head-dresses made of modified deer skulls and antlers - which were almost certainly used for ceremonial hunting-related rituals, possibly dances. High value beads - made of amber, shale and deer teeth, and elsewhere associated with ritual activity - have also been found on the site.


And, over recent weeks, archaeologists at the site - on the edge of a now long-vanished prehistoric lake - have been uncovering the remains of a well-built wooden platform which they believe may have been used as a ritual location from which Stone Age tribesmen threw high value objects into the water as offerings to their deities or ancestral spirits.


Careful excavation - by archaeologists from the universities of Manchester and York - has revealed that the walls of the newly discovered house consisted of up to 18 upright posts, each on average around 20 centimetres in diameter. However it's not been possible to ascertain the shape of the roof - and it could have been either flat or conical.


Inside the house, which was built sometime between 9200 and 8500 BC, the occupants had created a living/sleeping area - a 20-30 centimetre thick layer of moss, reeds and other soft organic material deliberately placed in a shallow 2.5 metre diameter man-made depression. The presence of burnt flints inside the house suggests that the building also had a small hearth.


Current and previous excavations at the site - near Scarborough - reveal that the inhabitants were hunting, processing and eating a wide range of animals - including red deer, roe deer, elk, aurochs (now extinct giant cattle), beaver, wild boar, badger, hare and pine marten. The inhabitants also appear to have used small boats. A wooden paddle was found in an earlier excavation.


So far, only a small percentage of the site has been excavated, funded by the British Academy, English Heritage, the Natural Environment Research Council and the local Vale of Pickering Research Trust. However, archaeologists are hopeful that more Stone Age houses and other structures will be unearthed in the future. The archaeological team has been excavating, studying and dating the building for the past two years - and its discovery and early date was finally announced yesterday.


The unearthing of this 11,000 year old house - a relatively sophisticated permanent structure rather than a temporary wigwam-style building is helping to change archaeologists' view of this early period.


Up till recently, most scholars regarded the people of this period, the Mesolithic era, as exclusively nomadic - but the new discovery suggests that they may also have had relatively permanent, if small, seasonal settlements.


"The discovery changes our ideas of the lives of the first settlers to move back into Britain after the end of the last Ice Age," said Manchester University archaeologist Dr Chantal Conneller, co-director of the excavation.


"We used to think they moved around a lot and left little evidence. Now we know they built large structures and were very attached to particular places in the landscape," she said.



Ancient temple unearthed in western Turkey

Monday, August 9, 2010

TEKİRDAĞ - Anatolia News Agency


Ongoing excavations at the Heraion-Teikhos ancient city in the western province of Tekirdağ have unearthed a temple at the city's acropolis. The temple, belonging to the ancient Thracian civilization, was thought to have disappeared in a fire that occurred in 2 BC. The continuing work at the temple has revealed many interesting artworks thus far, the excavation chairwoman says


The ongoing excavations in the pantheon of the ancient city of Heraion-Teikhos in Tekirdağ’s Karaevlialtı district started this year at the beginning of August, according to the excavation chairwoman, Professor Neşe Atik from Ahi Evran University’s archaeology department.


The excavations, which have been conducted since 2000, have unearthed the ancient Thracian civilization for the first time, Atik said, adding that a team of 40 people, including workers, students, archaeologists and anthropologists, was carrying out the work.


She said that they were working to uncover the temple at the acropolis (the highest hill) of the city. “According to the data we have, we thought that the temple burned down in a fire. We have so far removed statues of gods including Kybele, Eros and Aphrodite as well as bronze coins, amphora and similar pieces from the temple,” she said.


This year’s excavations are continuing in the northeastern part of the city, the professor added, noting that they had found a square tower with two-and-a-half-meter-deep walls, resembling city walls, during the first excavations and had started to uncover the tower. “The tower is a solemn structure. It should be a part of a gate in the northeast. But we have not found the city walls that are connected to this tower. We understand that the walls were built for defense, because this tower is huge,” Atik said, adding that the acropolis covered an area of 300 meters and was surrounded by city walls.


“It is possible to see the continuation of these walls on the coast. Some part of the hill is under protection, just like the tower,” she said.


In just one week of work, the temple has yielded very interesting pieces of art, Atik said, noting that dogs were blessed animals in the Thracian civilization. “Dogs were sacrificed for good luck in this period. We saw light yellow spots in the earth when we first started the excavations. And then we found oblation valleys. We found the head of a bull last year, too,” she said, noting that the temple had three different phases.


“According to our research, there had been a holy place here since the 6th century. This magnificent temple was built in the 2nd century,” Atik said. “This temple sheltered many cultures.”


Atik said previous excavations showed that there were different tumulus graves in the northwest part of the acropolis, and they wanted to unearth these graves. “These are extraordinary graves. In this year’s project we want to open one or two undisturbed graves. In this way, we will be able to prove that the Thracian men were buried with their wives, because according to the historian Herodotus, Thracian men had many wives,” she said. “When they died, their wives wanted to be buried with them. A council chose among these wives and these women were buried with their men. But this information has never been confirmed. We need to excavate an undisturbed grave to get definite information.”


The excavations will continue for one month and the area should be set aside to allow the work to continue, Atik added.


Stating that archaeological excavations need a lot of money and patience, Atik said they continued working with the support of the Tekirdağ Governor’s Office.


“The Ministry of Culture and Tourism allocated us 30,000 Turkish Liras for this excavation. We have received half of this money so far. It is impossible for us to continue with this amount,” Atik said. “Other archaeologists have the same problem as me. Since we don’t have a chance to show our daily expenditures like cleaning and eating in an official document, we have a big problem. We need support to reveal our history.”



Illegal excavation reveals an important discovery

Sunday, August 8, 2010

MİLAS - Doğan News Agency


The Tourism and Culture Ministry started a research investigation into an illegal excavation which took place in the Zeus Karios area in Milas, Bodrum. The illegal excavation revealed the large tomb stone of King Hekataios.


The tomb stone was made in 390 B.C. and it is said that the discovery is one of the most important archeological discovery in modern times.


Speaking after the research, Undersecretariat of Culture and Tourism Ministry Özgür Özarslan said: “The discovery revealed that the tomb stone belongs to Hekataios’s father Mausolos. Mausolos was the satrap of Karia.”


The tomb stone is thought to have been created some 2,400 years before. “However, currently, we need to work on the stone. It is damaged. We will analyze this event,” said Özarslan.


“Even with its damaged parts the tomb stone is one of the most important archeological discoveries of all times. It has a very rare and precious workmanship.”


“The tomb stone could be as precious as Great Alexander’s, which is exhibited at the Istanbul Archeology Museum,” said Özarslan, adding that the relic first had to be saved. “The Ministry of Culture and Tourism will deal with that issue,” he said.


“The tomb stone has a length of 2.75 meters and a width of 1.85 meters,” said Culture and Tourism Ministry Properties and Museums Managing Director Murat Süslü.


“The tomb stone is huge. However the most important thing about this discovery lies behind to whom it belongs,” he added.


The tomb stone belongs to Mausolos’s father and Mausolos’s tomb is already a wonder of the ancient world.



Turkey discovers ancient underground tomb


ANKARA, Turkey


Police have raided a house used by people suspected of digging illegally for antiquities and discovered two tunnels leading to an underground tomb that housed an ancient marble coffin and frescoes, officials said Friday.

Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay described the discovery near the town of Milas, in western Turkey, as an "important archaeological find" and ordered digs in surrounding areas, Haber Turk newspaper reported.

Looting of ancient artifacts is common in Turkey, and the country has imposed heavy penalties to deter illegal digs. But the Milas discovery is the first time in years that authorities have found what could be an important archaeological site while chasing looters.

The 2,800-year-old carved coffin, decorated with reliefs of a bearded reclining man, probably belonged to Hecatomnus, who ruled over Milas, according to Turkey's Culture Ministry.

Several treasures that would have been placed in the underground tomb were most likely looted by the treasure hunters and sold in the illegal antiquities trade, the ministry said.

A court has arrested and charged five of 10 people detained in the raid, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Anatolia, which was allowed to enter the tomb, said the suspects had dug two tunnels — 6 and 8 meters (yards) long, from the house and an adjacent barn, leading to the tomb that is buried some 10 meters (yards) deep.

They used sophisticated equipment to drill through the thick marble walls of the tomb and were working to remove the coffin from the underground chamber when they were detained, according to the Culture Ministry.

"I would have wished that this (archaeological find) had been discovered through our digs and not through digs conducted by a band of treasure hunters," Anatolia quoted Gunay as saying.

"This is not an ordinary treasure hunt. It is very organized and it is obvious that they received economic and scientific help," Gunay said, adding that Turkey also would investigate the suspects possible overseas links.


Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



Ancient Shipwrecks Found Off Central Italy's Coast

Sabina Castelfranco | Ponza, Italy 13 August 2010


A team of marine archeologists using sonar scanners has discovered new underwater treasures in the Italian seas.  Trading vessels dating from the first century BC to the 5th through 7th centuries AD were found in the waters of the Pontine Islands.  Their cargoes were found to be intact.


Italian culture authorities and the Aurora Trust, a U.S. foundation which promotes underwater exploration in the Mediterranean, discovered four shipwrecks resting on the seabed.  The discovery was made in a beautiful stretch of sea off the tiny rock of Zannone, part of the Pontine Islands in central Italy.


After the discovery, the team of marine archaeologists used sonar scanners for the exploration and filmed the targets lying on the seabed.  The remains of the ships, up to 18 meters long, were found and documented at a depth of between 100-150 meters.


Annalisa Zarattini is an underwater archaeologist with Italy's culture ministry.  She says the deeper a wreck is found, the higher the chance that it is better preserved.  These, she adds, are in such good condition after so many centuries because they have not been disturbed by fishermen or illegal archaeology hunters.


Zarattini says Italy's seas are an incredible museum which help uncover history.


Traveling with her on a finance police boat, which helps the ministry patrol the waters, she described this latest find.


"We identified four Roman wrecks, four ships that probably sunk during a storm at different time periods," said Zarattini.


In Roman times, the Pontine islands belonged to Emperor Augustus.


"This area was a crossroads in the Mediterranean, with a secure port that the emperor had built and where crews on the vessels knew they could take refuge during storms," she added.


The ships cargoes were found completely intact.  In their wealth of amphorae, the vessels carried goods from North Africa, Italy and Spain.  These included wine, olive oil, fruit and garum, a pungent fish sauce used in Roman cooking.  One of the main concerns archaeologists have is that these treasures may be illegally lifted from where they have been found.  To prevent any illegal activities, finance police naval units patrol the waters. 


Colonel Virgilio Giusti is involved in these operations and says no object can be removed from the seabed without previous authorization.


"Controls are carried out to ensure that the amphorae are not removed by divers to keep for themselves or to sell them illegally," said Giusti.


Italy recently signed a new agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) requiring that the wrecks remain in their place.  The country has 7,500 kilometers of coastline and many more treasures are believed to remain undiscovered.  Culture authorities say they have plans for further exploration.  They believe the wrecks will be a huge draw for tourists.  As technology improves, they say, ordinary people, and not just expert scuba divers, will be able to go down and see the remains for themselves.



Archaeologists Make Monumental Discovery At Caerleon

Posted on: Thursday, 12 August 2010, 08:16 CDT


Archaeologists from Cardiff University have made a major new discovery that will change the way we think about how Britain was conquered and occupied by the Roman army almost 2,000 years ago.


A complex of monumental buildings has been located outside the Roman fortress at Caerleon in South Wales, which is likely to lead to a complete rethink of one of the country’s most important Roman sites.


The discovery was fortuitous - students from the School of History, Archaeology and Religion were learning how to use geophysical equipment in fields outside the fortress that were not thought to have been extensively occupied in the Roman period. 10 days later, the students and their tutors had revealed the outlines of a series of huge buildings squeezed into the ground between the amphitheatre and the River Usk.


Dr Peter Guest, Senior Lecturer in Roman Archaeology at the School said: “Caerleon is one of the best-known Roman sites in Britain, so it was a great surprise to realize that we had found something completely new and totally unexpected. We’ve discovered the remains of several very large buildings shown remarkably clearly on the geophysical surveys completed by our students.


“It is difficult to be certain about what we have been found because nothing like this has been discovered in Roman Britain before.  The buildings’ ground plans suggest that they were of some importance. We think that they could have included markets, administrative buildings like town halls, bath-houses, store buildings, or even possibly temples. The biggest is enormous and must be one of the largest buildings known from Roman Britain. We can only guess what it was for, but at the moment we’re working on the idea that it had something to do with a harbor on the river, although it does look uncannily like a residential villa building – if that’s the case it was built on a palatial scale.


“The layout and scale of the buildings look like they should be at the center of a town or city,” continued Dr Guest, “but here at Caerleon we seem to have the central public spaces without the surrounding city – where are the people who would have used these buildings? Perhaps they were intended for the legionaries of the Second Augustan, but it is also possible that this is the first evidence for Roman plans to develop the fortress at Caerleon into a major settlement in western Britain – plans that for some reason never came to fruition. That’s the great thing about an archaeological discovery like this – lots of new questions that we just don’t have definite answers to at the moment.”


Caerleon is one of only three permanent legionary fortresses in Britain. The other fortresses at Chester and York are much more difficult to excavate because their remains are mostly buried under cities. Caerleon provides the only opportunity to study the Roman legions in Britain.


The new discovery was made as part of the School’s ongoing excavations at the site. Over the last four years, staff and students have uncovered eight previously unknown barrack blocks, three large granaries, a monumental metal workshop and a very large store building. On occasions, members of the public have also helped with the excavations.


Between 9 August and 17 September 2010, the team of archaeologists, along with staff and students from University College London (UCL) will be at Caerleon for their final season of excavation. Taking place near the site of the new discovery, the team hopes to uncover yet more information about the fortress and its inhabitants.


“We will be spending six weeks in Caerleon this summer, excavating within the fortress walls with colleagues from UCL. We hope to reveal yet more information about the fortress and its legion and I am sure that our work will produce some really exciting results,” said Dr Guest. “The dig is open to the public and we’d be delighted to see people coming along with family and friends to find out more about the work we are doing.”


Guided tours of the Priory Field excavation will be available twice daily (11 am and 2.30 pm, except Mondays) and the excavation is open throughout the Summer Bank Holiday weekend (28th – 30th August 2010). As well as tours, there will be displays of the latest finds, a ‘mini-dig’, and the chance to talk to archaeologists about how they excavate ancient sites.



Skelligs settlement may predate monastery

LORNA SIGGINS Marine Correspondent


SKELLIG MICHAEL’S settlement history may be “far more complex” than previously thought, according to a Connemara archaeologist who has discovered several additional stairways on the Kerry rock.


The previously unidentified sets of steps were discovered recently by archaeologist Michael Gibbons on the northern and southern flanks of Skellig Michael, a Unesco world heritage site.


Gibbons believes the networks of stairways indicate several phases to Skellig Michael’s occupation, believed to date from the sixth to eighth centuries when monks settled there – with the last permanent residents being lightkeepers from the 1820s until the lighthouse automation there in April 1987.


Remains of a fort above the existing monastery indicate the monks could have moved into a “pre-existing citadel”, Gibbons says. This structure may have been one of a number of “high forts” that are known to have existed on the Dingle peninsula and on the Blasket islands.


The set of more than two dozen steps found by Gibbons on the southeast approach, or “Monk’s landing”, is to the east of a smaller set identified some years ago by Valentia Island historian Des Lavelle.


The newly discovered northern stairway is below “Christ’s saddle”, the small valley 130m above sea level between the rock’s two distinctive peaks.


Both flights can be seen from sea, but are beyond the general visitor’s route and are only accessible with mountaineering equipment. He has also found an earlier variant of the eastern steps.


Skellig Michael already has three recognised stairways, linking three landing places to “Christ’s saddle”.


From there, one flight leads up to the monastery, comprising walled enclosures with dry-stone cells and oratories looking out from a ledge on to Little Skellig and the Kerry coastline.


There is also a set of steps up the precipitous 218m south peak to a hermitage, which has been controversially restored by the Office of Public Works and Department of the Environment.


Visitors to the rock are not permitted up this stairway, which has been fenced off by the OPW.


Last year Gibbons discovered a previously hidden staircase above the lighthouse, along with a rock-hewn cross and several additional clocháns or huts.


While dozens of crosses of various sizes have been found on Skellig Michael, only a handful have been carved directly from a rock foundation.


The cross, close to a clochán, may have marked a prayer station on the route to the monastery – or may predate the monastery, says Gibbons.


The independent archaeologist, who has been critical of the OPW’s style of conservation or restoration, has appealed to the State body to take a sensitive approach to new discoveries.


Three years ago Unesco criticised the State for the absence of a management plan, and found that conservation work on the south peak had “dramatically” transformed the appearance of monastic remains.


The report found that such work was “justifiable” and the “outstanding universal values” of the monument remained intact once such conservation work was documented in an academic publication.


The OPW was unable to confirm yesterday if such documentation has been published.


Gibbons also believes the network of staircases deserves considerably more research. “Staircases are the key to Skellig Michael’s historical chronology, since the sixth century or further back, and up until the period when the Commissioners of Irish Lights would also have created access routes,” he explains.


“The different staircases may indicate a far more complex pattern of settlement than previously documented, or they may also indicate a far more daring pilgrimage circuit was created on the island, at a time when it was a pilgrimage site.”


Viking raids, a shifting climate and more numerous storms, and a change in the management of the Irish church from a monastic to a diocesan structure were factors that contributed to the eventual abandonment of Skellig Michael’s monastery, some 11.6km west of Kerry’s Bolus Head.



Blackfeet Reservation dig unearthing 1,000-year-old history



BROWNING — Archaeologists are teaming with Blackfeet tribal members to uncover a vast and little-known former hunting complex and bison kill site along the Two Medicine River used at least 1,000 years ago.


Researchers say the 9-mile-long project area, containing a preserved system for driving bison over a cliff, bison bones and remnants of two campsites, could become one of the largest and most significant Blackfeet heritage sites in the region.


The Two Medicine bison jump site is located in the southeastern corner of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation on a remote plateau overlooking the river. Researchers, led by Dr. Maria Nieves Zedeno of the University of Arizona in Tucson, say they're eager to study how late prehistoric and later hunters — Blackfeet and others — used the land to kill bison. They also want to expand people's knowledge about this now extinct way of life.


"We really need to preserve this site for future generations," said Zedeno, an accomplished archaeologist from the University of Arizona's School of Anthropology and Bureau of Applied Research.


This project is unique in that it focuses on the land where the hunters worked, lived and engineered. It's not just and artifact excavation. The project focuses on communities that inhabited this area between AD 1050 and the 1600s.


For hundreds of years, Native Americans and other hunters in this region used bison jumps to kill herds of bison for food and hides. Typically, scouts located the herds and drove them toward the drive-lines, which were created to funnel the stampeding bison toward and over a cliff. Most of the bison were killed by the long fall, with the surviving animals killed by hunters who waited at the bottom.


One of the largest buffalo jumps in North America, the First Peoples Buffalo Jump, is located west of Great Falls near Ulm.


John Murray, the Blackfeet Tribe's historic preservation officer, said the ongoing research at the Two Medicine site will help tribal members understand their history, and integrate the tribe's creation stories with science and culture. The site is said to be near the birthplace of Blackfeet legend Kutoyuis. Murray said officials hope to build an interpretive center for this site, but that will come far in the future.


Project work, paid for by three grants totaling $300,000, ended for the year last week, but it will begin again next year. The site, which is on land owned by the Blackfeet Tribe, will be secured.


The work done over the last six weeks has been rewarding, according to the researchers. Crews are finding evidence that goes beyond just a kill site, including clues to social interaction and religious significance. Crews also found 651 tepee rings at this site, which is a large amount, Zedeno said.


She added that the site has one of the best-preserved drive-line systems she has seen. Researchers can trace activity at this site back to at least 1,000 years ago, Zedeno said.


At times using just a brush because the soil is so loose, researchers are finding well-preserved bison bones at the bottom of the 30-foot jump. Digging is taking place at the bottom of the jump, where butchering is believed to have happened, and at another processing area 20 feet to the north.


Crews also are finding tiny artifacts, such as chopping tools that probably were used by women for food and hide processing, Zedeno said. Murray said they found parts of bison bones that were used by children as toys.


Crews have discovered that the bison scapulas, or shoulder bones, were lined up in an intentional manner, but the reason for that isn't yet known.


Archaeologists are attempting to map the area and pinpoint the dates the site was used from the bison bones they have found there. They also are trying to reconstruct what happened at this site after the kill and how the Blackfeet used the landscape as a weapon.


Some Blackfeet tribal members have known about this site, but it hasn't ever been researched in this manner, Murray said. With increasing oil-and-gas exploration happening on the reservation, officials realized that ancient cultural sites needed to be identified and protected quickly.


Initial fieldwork and surveying started in the summer of 2007. Zedeno said a magnetic survey helped crews find the site. Technology also allowe


Murray said there have been many interviews with elders conducted by crewmembers in connection to this project. Zedeno said the project incorporates an underrepresented constituency, the Blackfeet Tribe, into archaeological research. It also promotes a process that is scientifically sound and compatible with traditional knowledge and practices.


The area previously was heavily grazed by cattle, eroding some of the land, so the project is as much about preserving the area as anything else. Bone collectors destroyed other similar kill sites on the reservation or west of this area. Additional sites are on private land or are damaged, Zedeno said.


The site also offers a great learning opportunity for tribal youth, from the Blackfeet and other tribes in Montana and Wyoming, who work with the paid crew as trainees. They learn to excavate, take measurements, map and illustrate findings, among other skills.


Crew leaders tried to recruit helpers from among the people who live along the Two Medicine River to get them interested about the history of their home, Zedeno said.


"The project is important to connect the culture and heritage," Murray said.



Lincoln Castle dig uncovers Saxon homes


Evidence of ruthless land clearance by Norman knights has been found in Lincoln.


Archaeologists working in the castle grounds have discovered remains of Anglo-Saxon houses.


When William the Conqueror decided to build a castle inside the old Roman fort, he swept away 166 homes - more than 10% of the existing town.


Now the first of a series of digs has uncovered a fireplace, pottery and the marks of structural timbers.


Lincoln was one of the first castles built by William, following his victory at Hastings in 1066, to help secure the country.


The Domesday Book, a survey of his new kingdom, records how many houses were knocked down to make room but this is the first time their physical remains have been studied.


Cecily Spall, from Field Archaeology Specialists (FAS), said the discoveries, made in the north lawn area, give a glimpse of a revolution in the country.


"The Saxons would not have been able to do anything about this. The Norman Conquest remodelled Anglo Saxon England.


"New landlords were appointed and they laid waste to houses and they reassigned the ownership of property and land rights."


The dig is happening ahead of the construction of a £2.1m Heritage Skills Centre, the first new building inside the castle for 150 years.



"Thor's Hammer" Found in Viking Graves

Norse warriors saw "thunderstones" as protection against lightning.

Kate Ravilious in York, U.K.

for National Geographic News

Published August 10, 2010


Long dismissed as accidental additions to Viking graves, prehistoric "thunderstones"—fist-size stone tools resembling the Norse god Thor's hammerhead—were actually purposely placed as good-luck talismans, archaeologists say.


Using fire-starting rock such as flint, Stone Age people originally created the stones to serve as axes. But the Vikings, whose Iron Age heyday lasted from about A.D. 800 to 1050, saw the primitive tools as lightning repellent.


Because the axes predate the Viking age by thousands of years, archaeologists have long seen the stones as random artifacts, perhaps stirred up from earlier, lower burials or dropped in centuries after the Viking era.


But now "we have made enough discoveries of Stone Age artifacts in younger graves to say that they make a clear pattern," archaeologist Eva Thäte, of the University of Chester in the U.K., said in a statement.


To solve the thunderstone mystery, Thäte and fellow archaeologist Olle Hemdorff excavated Viking graves in Scandinavia and trawled through catalogs of grave goods from hundreds of Viking burials—all dating to the Iron Age (about 600 A.D. to 1000 A.D.).


For example, in Scandinavia the researchers found about ten Viking burials that held thunderstones up to 5,000 years older than the graves themselves—including a thunderstone in a previously untouched, fifth-century A.D. stone coffin.


In addition, what might be called miniature thunderstones—small, rounded-off flint "eggs"—have been found in Viking graves in Iceland, where flint doesn't occur naturally.


"These people must have gone to all the effort of bringing these goods over from Norway, on an exceedingly dangerous boat journey," Hemdorff, of the University of Stavanger in Norway, told National Geographic News.


"There is no rational explanation as to why they should appear in the graves—the pebbles were far too small to be useful in any way," Hemdorff said. "It shows that these stones had very special significance and suggests that these people were highly superstitious."


The prehistoric stones' "special significance" to Vikings may have derived from legends of Thor, the Norse thunder god said to create lightning with his battle hammer, Mjöllnir.


To the Vikings, "three things seem to be important when choosing thunderstones," Hemdorff said.


"The form had to be similar to an ax or a hammer—that is, a ground stone or flint. The stone had to have 'flaming' properties, which flint and quartz have. And all the stones were damaged with the edge chipped off—'proof' that they fell from the sky," he added.


"Thor's mission was to protect gods and people against evil and chaos," he said in a statement. "It was therefore believed that Thor's rocks protected houses and people."


Now the new grave survey suggests the rocks were believed to protect souls too, the archaeologists say.


Similar discoveries in United Kingdom graves suggest that Vikings weren't the only ancient Europeans who saw millennia-old tools as accoutrements for the afterlife.


"In southeast Britain the Lexden Tumulus—a wealthy late Iron Age burial dating to just before the Roman conquest—included within it not only rich contemporary imports from the classical world but also a Bronze [ax] dating to the Bronze age," said John Creighton, an Iron Age expert from the University of Reading in the U.K.


When such out-of-date artifacts are found randomly at archaeological sites, "it is easy to explain them away as residual objects," Creighton said. But when they're found "sealed in graves, as they occasionally are, they are clearly treasured objects."


Archaeologist Tim Champion thinks Iron Age people ritually buried prehistoric tools to commemorate more than just deaths.


In southern England grinding stones and Stone Age stone axes have been found in Iron Age ritual pits that aren't associated with burial but instead may have been used, for example, to mark the end of an occupation of a site, said Champion, of the University of Southampton in the U.K.


"They are a real oddity and were certainly placed there deliberately, but we're not sure why," he said. "I suspect that these people were not so very different from us, and they would have had superstitious folk beliefs."



Crime scene where Mary Queen of Scots' husband was murdered is laid bare centuries on

Published Date: 13 August 2010

By Craig Brown


THE scene where the second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots was murdered in one of history's most notorious unsolved crimes is to be unearthed for the first time in centuries.


Archaeologists carrying out excavations on the 16th century site in Edinburgh where Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was killed expect to uncover the crime scene within the next few weeks.


The house where Darnley had been lodging, about half a mile from his wife at Holyrood Palace, was associated with the Collegiate Church of St Mary - commonly known as the Kirk O' Field.


The remains of the buildings have been buried beneath Old College, part of Edinburgh University, for more than 200 years.


The University of Edinburgh was granted the site in 1583 and work on the present-day Old College began in 1789.


But now, ahead of refurbishment work on the Old College quadrangle, archaeologists have been given a rare opportunity to excavate the site.


Key finds associated with the Kirk O' Field site, including several bodies which had been interred in the graveyard, have already been uncovered.


Other discoveries include the remains of Hamilton House, a mansion built in 1552 for the Duke of Chatelherault, remnants of the first University library, dating from 1617, and parts of the early college courtyards.


Among the many artefacts uncovered are fragments of glass and pottery, as well as pins and buttons.


John Lawson, curator of archaeology at City of Edinburgh Council, who has taken part in the excavation of the area, said: "One of the areas that we will be looking at is the corner of the building that Darnley lived in. But the area was landscaped severely with the building of the Adam and Playfair buildings during the 19th century."


Mr Lawson said while it was unlikely that much evidence pertaining to Darnley's murder would be found, any information they picked up about it would be "icing on the cake" of what has already been a very fruitful dig.


"What we are finding are the remnants of a series of university buildings on the north side of the quadrant.