500,000 year old cranium found at Atapuerca, Burgos

By h.b. - Jul 28, 2010 - 5:46 PM


A 500,000 year old complete cranium has been recovered from the Atapuerca side at Sima de los Huesos de Atapuerca in Burgos. It’s the second complete cranium to be found at the site which shows the presence of Homo Antecessor in the region.


Sources at the Atapuerca Foundation say that once the practical entire cranium has been recovered the meticulous reconstruction of the bones will be undertaken during the winter.


The first cranium to be found at the site, known as Craneo 5 is now on display at the recently opened Museum of Human Evolution opened in Burgos, and is being described as ‘the most complete fossil in the world’.


Read more: http://www.typicallyspanish.com/news/publish/article_26868.shtml#ixzz0vOhIq83y



Golden bulls horn pestle 'used by rich Roman to mix ancient Viagra' unearthed in Cornish field


Last updated at 3:11 AM on 24th July 2010


A decorative gold pestle which could have been used to mix 'Roman Viagra' has been found in Cornwall.

The rare item could have been used as a portable pestle for crushing love potions, and also serve as a fertility and status symbol, hung around the neck of its owner.

The pendant,  which is less than an inch-and-a-half long and weighs just a fifth of an ounce, is shaped provocatively like a bull's horns.

The gold pendant  was most likely part of the vanity set of a Romano-British noble, some time between the first and fourth century, say experts.


The ancient golden pestle, designed to hang around the neck of a noblewoman, could have been used to mix love potions

Both the Romans and Ancient Britons coveted and created aphrodisiac potions: Ovid's Art of Love advises readers to 'mix pepper with the seeds of stinging nettles, or crush yellow camomile in well-aged wine' as an inducement to love.

The jewels are unique to Britain, with only two ever found outside of the country.  

More commonly sculpted in iron, the solid gold content of the Cornish pestle marks it out as a status symbol for its rich wearer.

The pendant was classified as Treasure and handed over to the Crown at a Treasure Inquest held at the Royal Cornwall Museum yesterday.

It was dug up in a field on the Rame Peninsula, near the border with Devon, by metal detector Craig Budding.

The court heard from D the pestle was both part of an ancient cosmetics set, and a fertility symbol.

Royal Cornwall Museum Finds Liason Officer Anna Tyacke explained: 'The pestle could have been used with a mortar to grind cosmetics which would have been smeared on the body as an aid to fertility.' 

Dr Ralph Jackson of the Department of PreHistory and Europe at the British Museum told the court: 'The pendant closely resembles the pestle component of late Iron Age and Romano-British centre-looped cosmetic sets.  

'The primary function of those sets has been interpreted as the preparation of powdered cosmetics, but their form and decoration would appear to have imbued them with additional roles relating to status, identity, protection and fertility.' 

Dr Jackson said the crescent-shaped pendant might also be linked to the Roman god Mithras, who was commonly depicted slaying a bull.  

He said: 'The crescent was a pretty well universal lunar symbol - Mithras was only one of the many users - with fertility as just one, albeit an obvious one, of its potential realms of power.'  

The value of the pestle has yet to be decided.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1297131/Golden-bulls-horn-pestle-used-mix-Roman-Viagra.html#ixzz0vOflFbYd



City site yields evidence of a second Roman fort


Archaeologists believe they have found a second Roman fort on a development site in Exeter.


A previously unknown fort has already been unearthed on the site of the former St Loye's campus, off Topsham Road.


Archaeologists said the original discovery was to rewrite Exeter's early history.


Now the excavations have revealed what the experts believe could be a second fort, built on top of the first.


Tim Gent, head of Exeter Archaeology, said Romanists across the country and farther afield were already discussing the significance of this first Exeter fort when the second came to light.


Suspicions that there was a fort on the site arose three years ago during trial trenching.


Excavations before the site was developed for a retirement village unearthed V-shaped protective ditches, which in places were more than two metres deep.


Now ditches on a different alignment to those of the first fort have been found, and Mr Gent said: "The new V-shaped ditch cuts through trenches that were dug to hold timbers for the first fort's barrack blocks – these are long fairly narrow linear trenches. This shows that the army used the site again at a later date.


"It looks as if we now have three military establishments in Exeter – the known fortress in town, our new fort at St Loye's, and now this."


Archaeologists believe the fortress could date from the middle of the first century AD.


Mr Gent said: "If we are right, our first fort could have been built when the Romans were campaigning, while the area was being subdued.


"The (town) fortress, which was used by the legionary troops, would have been built once the locals were more accepting of the Romans being here. All this is really significant."



Ancient Powys site might reveal Saxon hall

2 August 2010 Last updated at 17:51


A team of archaeologists are to investigate what might be a rare 5th Century Saxon hall or palace in Powys.


Cambrian Archaeological Projects (CAP) will spend a month excavating a site at the Gaer Farm in Forden, near Welshpool.


CAP said if it was a Saxon building then it would only be the second of its type in Wales to be unearthed.


The site was first identified in 1987, but it has not been properly excavated until now.


Land at the Gaer Farm is historically significant because it is home to the remains of a Roman fort and other ancient settlements.


Aerial photographs and preliminary excavations have revealed a post-Roman settlement. Large post holes, which would have formed the foundations for a large building, have also been discovered.


Project leader Mark Houliston said it was difficult to date the site. It is thought to be from the Saxon period, but it could be a Welsh settlement or something from the medieval period.


"We're excited it's a large building and post Roman, but until we excavate the site it's hard to say for certain what it is and when it was built," he added.


"There's speculation it could be a Saxon long house or palace and if that's the case it would be a significant find. We'll carry out radio carbon dating to try and date what we find.


"The building would have been a very large timber hall and possibly a palace. It measured 40m by 15m from aerial photos."


A geophysical survey has been carried out, which detects below-ground features and is useful in assessing the presence of archaeological remains.


Mr Houliston said the site could also be a Welsh llys (court) settlement, which were administrative buildings and more commonly found.


Ten volunteers and three archaeologists will spend a month, from 9 August, on the dig in Forden. There will be a public open day on 30 August.





Fetternear, near Kemnay, Aberdeenshire, is the site of a palace which belonged to the medieval bishops of Aberdeen. It was the summer residence of the bishops. From 1995 it became the focus of the Scottish Episcopal Palaces Project set up by Dr Penny Dransart of the University of Wales Lampeter, and the late Nicholas Bogdan.   The sixteenth excavation season at Fetternear began on 1 July and will continue until 28 July. This excavation, one of the longest running in Scotland, has trained several generations of local and non-local volunteers of all ages from many different parts of the world.


During the 2010 season we are concentrating our attention inside the moat which originally enclosed the bishop’s palace. In 2009 we excavated a quantity of high quality imported fourteenth-century pottery inside this area, which helps confirm that it was associated with high status public buildings. It is located between the kitchens in the south-western part of the palace and the entrance, via a bridge, on the east of the site.


The main find of the 2009 field season was highly unusual – it was the base beam of a timber trestle bridge. According to Penny Dransart, ‘this hefty oak sole plate is one of the most spectacular finds we have made in 15 years of excavation’. The bridge spanned a section of moat surrounding the medieval bishop’s palace. Measuring 4.32 metres in length, the waterlogged beam provided us with challenging logistical problems in transporting it to the University of Wales Lampeter, where it is being studied.


After the Reformation (1560), Fetternear became the main residence of the Leslie family of Balquhain. A striking find made on the 6 July 2010 is a Renaissance style carved roof finial, which provides evidence that the post-Reformation mansion had an elaborate roofline such as those found at Crathes Castle and Cragievar. 


Although this season is to be the last year of excavation at Fetternear, we plan to use the findings of the dig to develop a detailed field survey of the landscape in which the bishop’s palace was located and to conduct post-excavation analysis on the finds.


Why is it important to study medieval bishops’ palaces?

Historians have tended to accuse the bishops of medieval Scotland in the years leading up to the Reformation for displaying moral laxity rather than attending to the spiritual needs of the people. A common complaint was that priests and bishops were absent from their parishes and dioceses. The Protestant John Knox castigated the bishops for being ‘dum doggis’ and having ‘idle bellies’. Catholic observers also criticised bishops for being unqualified to meet the demands of their office. At a time when MPs expenses and probity in public office have dominated the press, it is fascinating to learn from historical parallels.


The current objective of the Scottish Episcopal Palaces Project is to investigate the material evidence for the residences that the bishops established in the medieval diocese of Aberdeen to enable them to conduct a round of pastoral visitations. Writing in 1522, Hector Boece, the first principal of the University of Aberdeen, held Bishop Kinninmund (1329-1343/4) to be exemplary in taking seriously his episcopal duties. In a criticism of the contemporary appointment of royal servants to bishoprics as a reward for loyalty and of the misuse of ecclesiastical revenue, Boece praised the actions in the past of the cathedral clergy in Aberdeen for resisting royal intrusion into the election of their bishops. This probity, he claimed, would not have happened at the time he was writing. At Fetternear we have discovered much evidence for the palace dating from the bishoprics of Alexander de Kininmund, who earlier in his career had been part of the select team of men to take the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath to the Pope in Avignon, and of his predecessor, Henry Cheyne. This evidence covers the period from the late thirteenth to the fourteenth century and it is enabling us to assess the conduct of the medieval bishops in fulfilling their pastoral duties.


Fetternear as a training excavation

Several generations of volunteers have received training in archaeological skills (including excavation, planning and recording). They have come from many different countries from as far apart as the Americas (Argentina, USA and Canada), many different European countries and Australia. These volunteers are archaeology students and other members of the public – the only qualification is to have a fascination with the past. Fetternear is unusual in not charging its volunteers for their contribution to the work of the project.


The level of demand for places on the Fetternear excavation shows the importance of  training digs.



Canadians discover long-lost ship ‘fundamental’ to Arctic sovereignty




The ship whose crew discovered Canada’s Northwest Passage has been found 155 years after it was abandoned and disappeared in this isolated Arctic bay, a historic find and one that may help bolster Canadian claims to Arctic sovereignty.


The wreck of HMS Investigator was detected in shallow water within days of Parks Canada archeologists launching an ambitious search for the 422-ton ship from a chilly tent encampment on the Beaufort Sea shoreline.


“It’s sitting upright in silt; the three masts have been removed, probably by ice,” said Ifan Thomas, Parks Canada’s superintendent of the western Arctic Field Unit. “It’s a largely intact ship in very cold water, so deterioration didn’t happen very quickly.”


Environment Minister Jim Prentice, who arrived at the camp on Tuesday, said that finding a relic linked to the discovery of the Northwest Passage represents a reasserted Canadian claim to Arctic sovereignty.


“It’s fundamental to Canadian sovereignty in the North,” he said in an interview.


“[A]nd the tragic tale of Investigator is one of the most amazing stories of Arctic history. It’s a tale of incredible determination and suffering,” Mr. Prentice said.


The three-masted, copper-bottomed Investigator was found this week after marine archeologists deployed side-scan sonars from inflatable Zodiac boats. Underwater cameras will be used this week to photograph the wreck and divers will be deployed next summer to probe the hull.


The clear Arctic water makes it possible to glimpse the outline of the ship’s outer deck, which is only eight metres below the surface.


Three graves were also found on Tuesday. They are undoubtedly the remains of a trio of British sailors who succumbed to disease in the final months of this ship’s three-year Arctic ordeal.


“In anthropological terms, this is the most important shipwreck in history,” said senior marine archeologist, Ryan Harris. “This was the first contact with the Copper Inuit; it’s a bit like finding a Columbus ship in the Arctic.”


The remains of the 36-metre ship were discovered at the approximate spot 150 metres off shore where it was last visited in 1854 by a passing British expedition.


When master seaman Frederick Krabbe boarded the vessel, it was tilting on its side and half-filled with ice. Aboriginal history records that the Investigator had vanished by the following summer.


Whether the ship had drifted into deep water or out of Mercy Bay altogether had been a source of constant speculation for more than a hundred years.


Solving that mystery — thanks in part to changes in climate, since the first recorded year Mercy Bay was ice-free was the summer of 2007 — puts an ending to one of the Arctic’s greatest marine dramas.


Investigator had sailed from England in 1850 under Captain Robert McClure to join the frantic search for the ill-fated Franklin expedition, entering the Arctic from the western side in hopes of finding Franklin’s two ships emerging from the fabled passage.


But while Investigator probed further east than any other European expedition, the ship quickly became trapped in ice, often hoisted out of the water by 15-metre-high ice ridges or threatened with hull-crushing floes.


The 69-member crew first attempted a route along the southern shore of Bank Island before retreating to head north into what is now McClure Strait in the summer of 1851.


Running into impenetrable pack ice, they sought shelter in this treeless, windswept bay and spent another two winters locked in ice.


With no sign of a thaw and his sailors debilitated by scurvy or weakened by starvation as rations dwindled, Capt. McClure ordered the ship’s crew divided into three parties, two leaving on suicidal attempts to walk to safety while the third would stay aboard in hopes of sailing free later in the year.


But within weeks of his desperate survival plan being implemented, another ship’s officer miraculously appeared on the horizon with word two better-equipped British vessels were also trapped in ice at neighbouring Melville Island.


Capt. McClure gave the order to abandon ship. The crew cleaned the cabins, emptied supplies into a massive cache on the shore, hoisted the Red Ensign and set out for the HMS Resolute where, after spending a fourth winter trapped in ice, they abandoned that ship and set sail to England aboard the HMS Northern Star.


While the captain and his crew walked part of the passage and left their ship behind, British MPs still voted to give Capt. McClure the posted reward of 10,000 British pounds for discovering the Northwest Passage.


Parks Canada had spent months planning the high Arctic search for Investigator, complicated by the logistics of reaching a remote, uninhabited location a four-hour flight northeast of Inuvik. The National Post and Calgary Herald joined the expedition on Tuesday along with a CPAC television network crew.


They will join Mr. Prentice and archeologists for the next three days, exploring the wind-scrubbed northern shoreline of Aulavik National Park, where polar bears roam and the muskoxen population has exploded. A bear fence encircles the camp.


But the payoff from the discovery was worth the complicated effort, said Mr. Prentice, who has been dreaming about finding the wreck since he wrote a book review for a diplomatic magazine of B.C. author Bryan Payton’s acclaimed account of the Investigator’s fate, The Ice Passage.


“This is one of the most important shipwrecks in Canadian history because Investigator carried Capt. Robert McClure, who discovered the western entrance to the Northwest Passage,” Mr. Prentice said after he was informed of the discovery.


“I’m elated,” he said. “It’s a special moment linking our past and future in the Canadian Arctic. It was the first contact between Arctic people and European explorers and it couples high tech with the oral history of the Inuit people.”


The expedition will not stop with the wreck’s discovery. Electronic scanners will be deployed on land to search for buried artifacts and graves this week.


While the giant cache of supplies taken off the ship has been largely removed over the decades, other areas around the Investigator’s final resting place will be searched for archeological remains.


Parks Canada is prevented by law from exhuming the remains found on Tuesday, but it’s possible British authorities may remove the bodies for a burial in England.


Large amounts of copper and other metal from the Investigator found their way into Inuit culture, Mr. Prentice noted. Copper siding from the ship was apparently used so extensively that in some cultures, they became known as the Copper Inuit.


The year of banner discovery may not be over for Parks Canada archeologists. With sea ice at record low levels, they will set sail in August to search for the Franklin expedition’s two ships, the Erebus and the Terror.




In 1850, the vessel embarked on a search mission to follow the trail of a doomed expedition to find the Northwest Passage.

Thu Jul 29, 2010 03:00 PM ET

Content provided by AFP




Canadian archeologists have found a ship abandoned more than 150 years ago in the quest for the fabled Northwest Passage and which was lost in the search for the doomed expedition of Sir John Franklin, the head of the team said Wednesday.


Marc-Andre Bernier, Parks Canada's head of underwater archaeology, said the HMS Investigator, abandoned in the ice in 1853, was found in shallow water in Mercy Bay along the northern coast of Banks Island in Canada's western Arctic.


"The ship is standing upright in very good condition. It's standing in about 11 meters (36 feet) of water," he said. "This is definitely of the utmost importance. This is the ship that sailed the last leg of the Northwest Passage."


The Investigator was one of many American and British ships sent out to search for the HMS Erebus and the Terror, vessels commanded by Franklin in his ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage in 1845.


Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the British government has been notified that one of their naval shipwrecks has been discovered, as well as the bodies of three sailors.


Captained by Robert McClure, the Investigator sailed in 1850. That year, McClure sailed the Investigator into the strait that now bears his name and realized that he was in the final leg of the Northwest Passage, the sea route across North America.



Tobacco tins from Lawrence of Arabia’s army discovered

Two tobacco tins used by Lawrence of Arabia’s army have been discovered during an excavation of a campsite used during the 1916-18 Great Arab Revolt.

By Peter Hutchison

Published: 7:30AM BST 30 Jul 2010


Two tobacco tins used by Lawrence of Arabia?s army have been discovered during an excavation of a campsite used during the 1916-18 Great Arab Revolt

The tins were discovered by archaeologists who have been surveying the Arab army site in Wuheida, southern Jordan, since it was discovered in November.

They were used to supply Wills cigarettes from Bristol to British and Arab troops fighting the Ottoman Turks during the First World War.


Archaeologists from Bristol University also recovered numerous bullets, spent cartridges, cartridge clips, and British military buttons from the encampment

In 1916 Arabs keen on freeing themselves from Ottoman rule launched the Great Arab Revolt.


TE Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia, led a small band of Arab fighters to capture the important town of Aqaba from Ottoman hands — a key moment in the war.



Unesco names five new sites


Unesco added five cultural sites to its World Heritage List, including the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long-Hanoi in Vietnam.


The citadel, built in the 11th century by the Viet Dynasty, became the 900th site listed as a World Heritage Property. With the other four sites added yesterday, the total increased to 904.


The other new sites were the historic monuments of Dengfeng in China, the archaeological site Sarazm in Tajikistan, the Episcopal city of Albi in France and a 17th-century canal ring in Amsterdam.