Caveman Diet Could Hold Key To Optimum Nutrition
Summary: Unilever has for the first time gathered unlikely scientific bedfellows from the fields of archaeology, anthropology, evolutionary genetics, food science and botany to recreate the diet of a caveman.
Date of issue: 17th September, 2010
Contact: Paul Matthews, Unilever Media Relations, +44 (0)1372 945 925, email@example.com
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Social network video: Food of Our Ancestors
Unlikely scientific bedfellows address the evolution of diet and the human genome
Unilever has for the first time gathered unlikely scientific bedfellows from the fields of archaeology, anthropology, evolutionary genetics, food science and botany to recreate the diet of a caveman.
The research seeks to improve understanding of the complex relationship between our genetic make-up and the changes to our diet since the pre-farming Stone Age period, and could unlock the potential to enhance our own health in the 21st century.
Using the latest techniques in biological sciences – such as human genomics, microbiomics, cellculturing and biochemical analysis – Unilever’s team of scientists are exploring what can be learned from the caveman diet (from 2.5m years ago to 12,000 years ago, when man was a hunter gatherer) and how it could enhance modern day nutrition.
Today one could argue that consumers have an increased awareness of the route travelled between food and health. Many people aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but a Palaeolithic person might consume up to 20 – 25 plant-based foods a day. Unilever’s research is studying how important or effective such a wide variety of plant-based foods might be for making us healthier.
A particular focus of the research will be to investigate whether the human genome – the foundation of our genetic makeup – has managed to keep pace with the changes in diet since the Palaeolithic period, and how any gaps that are found might be bridged by an optimal diet based on learnings from our ancestors.
To this end, the research activity will attempt to identify whether ancient diets contained nutritional benefits, different characteristics, or forgotten ingredients which could be reintroduced back into modern diets. The line of investigation also addresses modern questions around what an optimal diet is, aiming to enhance our understanding of which plant-based foods are best for us to eat, and precisely why.
Ultimately, these findings could pave the way for Unilever to develop new foodstuffs inspired by the Palaeolithic period.
Dr. Mark Berry, the Unilever scientist who is leading the research, said: “Some scientists have theorised for years that the Palaeolithic diet is more compatible with human physiology than our diet today. This is because evolution is an extremely slow process and changes in our diet have outpaced changes in our genetic make-up.
“We think this is the first time biological sciences have been used to match an optimal diet against the human genome so this research really is blue-sky thinking, and one of the most exciting projects being carried out by Unilever’s “Discover” R&D team.
“Using cutting edge scientific techniques, the research employs a new way of looking at diet, examining our evolutionary biology to provide greater enlightenment than ever before. We hope to unlock the secrets of the past and, in doing so, potentially identify key nutrients in the diet of cavemen which might offer nutritional benefits to people today.
“We are only at the start of our journey, but the scientific leads and new insights generated from this could potentially deliver a range of foods and drinks that are specifically designed to be compatible with what evolution has prepared us for.”
Inaugurated at a symposium hosted by Unilever’s Research and Development centre at Colworth Science Park in Bedfordshire, the research engaged the expertise of a variety of world-leading scientists, including:
Undersea Cave Yields One of Oldest Skeletons in Americas
Ritually placed in once dry cavern, Mexico skeleton offers clues to first Americans.
Published September 14, 2010
Apparently laid to rest more than 10,000 years ago in a fiery ritual, one of the oldest skeletons in the Americas has been retrieved from an undersea cave along Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, researchers say.
Dating to a time when the now lush region was a near desert, the "Young Man of Chan Hol" may help uncover how the first Americans arrived—and who they were.
About 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Cancún, the cave system of Chan Hol—"little hole" in a Maya language—is like a deep gouge into the Caribbean coast.
In 2006, after entering the cave's opening, about 30 feet (10 meters) underwater, German cave divers swam more than 1,800 feet (550 meters) through dark tunnels spiked with rock formations. There they accidentally uncovered the Ice Age human's remains and notified archaeologists based in the surrounding state, Quintana Roo.
For the last three years researchers led by Arturo González, director of the Desert Museum in Saltillo, Mexico, have been studying and documenting the bones in place, so as not to lose any clues offered by context.
In late August scuba-diving researchers finally raised the bones for lab study, after having placed them in plastic bags of cave water and sealing the remains in plastic bins.
No fewer than 10,000 years ago, Chan Hol filled with seawater as Ice Age ice caps melted, the researchers say.
No human, they conclude, could have ended up so far back in the cave system after that point—which is why they believe the young man is at least 10,000 years old. The exact age of the bones should be determined by ongoing carbon-dating tests, which should be completed in three to four months, Gonzalez said.
The newly raised skeleton is the fourth to be found in underwater caves around the town of Tulum (map). One of the other skeletons—named the Woman of Naharon, or Eve of Naharon—is thought to be even more ancient, around 12,000 years old.
At about 60 percent complete, the Young Man of Chan Hol skeleton is remarkably whole for a 10,000-year-old specimen, the researchers say. Especially revealing are his teeth—lack of wear tipped off the team to the individual's relatively young age at death.
For now, the bones have been sealed in a special chamber for the next six months to a year to dry out and to allow time for their minerals to harden, making the remains less fragile. Afterward, the bones will be scanned to create 3-D computer models that can be compared with the bones of other ancient Native American remains, project leader Gonzalez said.
The skeletons found in the Quintana Roo caves could force scientists to rethink their ideas about the initial population of the Americas, Gonzalez said.
For example, the skulls of both the Young Man of Chan Hol and the Woman of Naharon have anatomical features that suggest their owners were descended from people of South Asia and Indonesia—not from northern Asia, like North America's other known early migrants.
The discovery supports the idea that multiple groups of migrants may have entered North America via the Bering Strait—using the now submerged land bridge that once connected what are now Siberia and Alaska—at different times in history, Gonzalez said.
Today, the Yucatán Peninsula is covered by rain forests, but when the Young Man of Chan Hol lived, it was a semiarid savannah, said Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, a geologist at Heidelberg University in Germany, who was not involved in the research.
"The Yucatán surface was dry, and there were no rivers or lakes on the surface," Stinnesbeck said in an email.
Finding water and shade would have been a problem, and as a result humans may have found refuge and drinking water in subterranean caves, he added.
The caves may have also served a spiritual purpose, project leader Gonzales said.
The skeleton, he noted, was found in an unusual position—on its side, with legs bent and arms held straight along the sides of the body—suggesting the man had been purposely placed in the cave, perhaps as part of a funeral process.
"At the moment we do not know the cause of death, but considering the articulated position in which we found him, we think he was placed at this location," Gonzalez said.
The team also found evidence of bonfires inside the cavern, which could suggest that illuminating the cave was a part of the funeral ceremony, he added.
The cavern where the body was found may have been chosen as the young man's final resting place due to its rich trove of stalactites and stalagmites—rocky cones that hang from the ceiling and thrust up from the ground, respectively.
"Next to his head are a group of stalagmites that could have evoked a special resting place," Gonzalez said, "or perhaps the place to begin a journey after death."
British archaeologist finds cave paintings at 100 new African sites
UK scientist unearths 5,000-year-old rock art, including drawing of a mounted hunter, in Somaliland
guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 September 2010 16.35 BST
Striking prehistoric rock art created up to 5,000 years ago has been discovered at almost 100 sites in Somaliland on the Gulf of Aden in eastern Africa.
A local team headed by Dr Sada Mire – of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London (UCL) – made the finds which included a man on horseback, painted around 4,000 years ago – one of the earliest known depictions of a mounted hunter.
Leaping antelopes, prancing giraffes and snakes poised to strike are among animals and reptiles depicted with astonishing clarity. Such is the quality of the paintings that at least 10 sites, scattered across semi-desert terrain, are likely to be given World Heritage status.
Mire's research study will be published this month in Current World Archaeology. He said: "With wars, droughts and piracy in Somalia, hardly anyone has researched the archaeology until now. But it's absolutely full of extraordinarily well-preserved rock art."
Dhambalin, about 40 miles from the Red Sea, features horned cattle, sheep and goats painted about 5,000 years ago. The animals have distinctive bands around their backs and bellies, which suggests farming or ritual traditions.
Mire, who is Somali-born, has been struck by paintings of "eerie headless creatures". She said: "Sometimes the cattle are represented as necks or horns, a pictorial shorthand that was evidently sufficient to convey meaning."
Other paintings are more mysterious – like the 2,000-year-old colourful images of the full moon, half-moon and geometric signs at Dawa'aleh. Mire believes these depict the ancient artists' view of the world, time and space.
Bronze Age burials at Inverness Asda site
15 September 2010 Last updated at 15:45
Asda wants to build its first Highlands store at Slackbuie in Inverness
A Bronze Age burial site has been uncovered at the planned location of the Highlands' first Asda supermarket.
Archaeologists found an area of cremation pits surrounded by a ring ditch at Slackbuie, in Inverness.
Almost 2,000 flints were also recovered from the field on the city's distributor road.
Pieces of Neolithic pottery known as Unstan Ware were also discovered during digs led by Edinburgh-based NG Archaeology Services.
The details are contained in an interim report following excavations made last November through to May this year as part of the store's planning process.
A full report will be published later.
The finds are similar in date to others made along what is known as the Culduthel ridge.
Unstan Ware takes its name from the cairn of Unstan on Orkney where large quantities of the pottery style were discovered during its excavation in 1858.
Asda plans to build a superstore and filling station.
The outline planning application was called in by Scottish ministers and given consent following a public inquiry.
Last year, Highland Council dropped plans to take the Scottish government to court for allowing Asda to build a store without paying anything towards necessary road improvements.
To avoid further lengthy delays to its plans, Asda struck a deal with the local authority limiting to £1.5m the cost it would pay for road upgrading at the Inshes roundabout and A9 interchange, if the work was needed.
On the finds made at Slackbuie, a spokeswoman said: "Asda has satisfied all the conditions regarding the archaeological survey and is now free to continue with our planning proposals for a supermarket at Slackbuie, Inverness.
"We are confident that we have removed all items of interest but we will continue to work closely with the Highland Council's archaeology department in case of any future finds."
Violent death of Bronze Age man examined by Manx Museum
Wednesday, 15 September 2010 16:56 UK
Investigations into the mysterious death of a Bronze Age man are helping to paint a picture of life on the Isle of Man over 3,000 years ago.
During excavations at Ronaldsway in 2008, three burial sites and the remains of a village were unearthed.
Archaeologists found that one skeleton bore the marks of a violent death.
Allison Fox from Manx National Heritage said: "We found cut marks to his fingers, ribs and knees, as if he'd been defending himself."
"He sums up what was happening at the end of the Bronze Age.
He's probably not the only one who met a rather violent end around this period
"Society was changing, climate change was occurring and there was more competition."
The human remains were first uncovered during the extension of a runway in 2008.
Field Archaeologist Andrew Johnson said: "To find bodies in such good condition is very rare.
"The area is well drained and the underlying bedrock is limestone, which means the soil is less acidic and helps with the preservation of human bone."
The site was originally excavated in the 1930s and experts say the latest finds will help to re-interpret earlier digs and gain a greater understanding of the pre-historic landscape.
Flint tools, pottery and funeral pyres were also found at the site.
The exhibition opens on Saturday 18th September 2010.
Iron Age village found at UK school building site
LONDON, Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:58am EDT
(Reuters Life!) –
Ancient human infant and animal remains believed to be more than 2,000 years old have been unearthed during the construction of a school in London. Archaeologists say the discovery, one of the most important in the British capital in recent years, points to evidence of an Iron Age and early Roman farming settlement.
Experts say the find is important because similar sites from the period in the area have been destroyed by later development.
Excavations have revealed child and animal burials -- some dating from Roman rule -- dotted across the south London site as well as an assortment of weaponry, including a spear and a shield.
"A very large number of domestic animal skeletons have been recovered -- including horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and dogs," said lead archaeologist Duncan Hawkins.
"These animals which were either whole or partly dismembered appear to have been deliberately sacrificed and deposited in deep pits cut into the chalk bed rock."
Early Iron Age features, including a livestock pathway, shallow gullies and pits have also been identified.
Builders stumbled over the remains while laying the foundations for Stanley Park High School in Sutton.
The site is just a stone's throw from one of the largest late Bronze Age hilltop enclosures in southeast England, found in the early 20th century. It is not known whether the two settlements are connected.
(Writing by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Matt Falloon and Paul Casciato)
Hadrian's Wall child murder: estimated time of death pre-367AD
Gaul legionnaires seen as main suspects after skeleton of girl is found buried under Roman barracks at Vindolanda
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 September 2010 11.11 BST
The murderous reputation of one of Britain's best-known Roman towns has been raised by the discovery of a child's hastily buried skeleton under a barrack room floor.
Archaeologists at Vindolanda fort near Hadrian's Wall are preparing for a repeat of a celebrated coroner's inquest in the 1930s that concluded two other corpses unearthed near the site were "victims of murder by persons unknown shortly before 367AD".
The latest discovery at the frontier settlement in Northumberland is thought to be the remains of a girl aged between eight and 10 who may have been tied up before she died.
Her burial place is reckoned to be almost certain evidence of a crime, according to specialists at the Vindolanda Trust, which has made thousands of finds at the town and its associated fort since the 1920s.
Human burials were strictly forbidden within built-up areas in Roman times, and Vindolanda followed regulations requiring cemeteries to be laid out on the settlement's outskirts. The bones, initially thought to have been those of a large dog, were in a shallow pit dug in a corner of the garrison's living quarters at the heart of the fort.
Patricia Birley, director of the Vindolanda Trust, said: "This definitely looks like a case of foul play. It has been very sad to find a child in this shallow grave under the barrack floor.
"It would have been very difficult to get a body out of the barracks, through the wider fort and out of the gate, but we may never know if the burial took place with or without the collusion of the men who shared the barracks."
The skeleton was identified by Dr Trudy Buck, a biological anthropologist at Durham university, who will now carry out a full autopsy in the hope of establishing a cause of death. This was relatively easy in the 1930s case, when one of the two skeletons found hidden under the floor of a civilian home in Vindolanda's sister-fort of Housesteads had a knife blade slotted between its ribs.
Punishment for any child murder at Vindolanda is obviously impossible, but the guilty party could conceivably be traced in due course. The trust's excavations have produced the earliest and best-preserved written records from the Roman empire, and the unit stationed in the fort at the suspected time of the death – the mid-third century AD – is known to have been the Fourth Cohort of Gauls.
King Herod's royal theater box uncovered at Herodium
By RONEN SHNIDMAN
Theater box reveals Jewish monarch's luxurious lifestyle, displays rare example of elaborate style of Roman wall painting found outside Italy.
A royal box built at the upper level of King Herod's private theater at Herodium has been fully unveiled in recent excavations at the archaeological site, providing a further indication of the luxurious lifestyle favored by the well-known Jewish monarch, the Hebrew University announced in a statement released Tuesday.
The excavations at Herodium National Park at the eastern edge of Gush Etzion region, were conducted by Prof. Ehud Netzer under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology.
The theater, first revealed in 2008, is located halfway up the hill near Herod's mausoleum, whose exposure in 2007 aroused worldwide attention. The highly decorated, fairly small theater was built in approximately 15 BCE, which was the year of the visit of Roman leader Marcus Agrippa to Judea, Emperor Augustus's right-hand man, according to Prof. Nezter, who has been assisted in the excavations by Yakov Kalman, Roi Porath and Rachel Chachy.
The royal box (measuring eight by seven meters and about six meters high) is the central space among a group of rooms attached to the upper part of the theater's structure. This impressive room likely hosted the king, his close friends and family members during performances in the theater and was fully open facing the stage.
Its back and side walls are adorned with an elaborate scheme of wall paintings and plaster moldings in a style that has not been seen thus far in Israel; yet, this style is known to have existed in Rome and Campania in Italy during those years. This work, therefore, was probably executed by Italian artists, perhaps sent by Marcus Agrippa, who a year before his visit to Judea met Herod on the famous Greek island of Lesbos, said Netzer.
On the upper parts of the walls are the room's highlights: a series of unique “windows” painted with "outfolded" shutters on either side and various naturalistic landscapes within. They include scenes of the countryside, the Nile River and a nautical scene featuring a large boat with sails. One can identify features of trees, animals and human beings. Some of these windows have survived intact on the walls, whereas others were found in fragments on the floor and are undergoing restoration in the Israel Museum's laboratory.
Painted windows with shutters appear in the late Second Pompeian Style in Italy, and mainly depict unrealistic views like theater settings and still-life. The closest parallels for the windows at Herodium are known from the "Villa Imperiale" at Pompeii, dated to the early Third Style of painting between 10 and 15 BCE, some of which were recently placed on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
The data accumulated during the excavation proves that the theater's lifetime was very short, less than ten years. It appear that the theater deliberately destroyed slight before Herod's death in order to preserve the conic shape of the artificial hill of Herodium. During the construction of the artificial hill (as well as the famous monumental stairway which begins at the bottom of the hill), parts of the theater, including the "royal box," were temporarily used by the builders, leaving their footsteps in the form of subdivision walls, cooking installations and graffiti.
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which plans on launching the first exhibition featuring the finds from Herod's grave in the upcoming year, financed and undertook the complicated preservation work on the royal box. The royal box site at Herod's theater will be opened to the public once a special protective structure is built around the room when the theater itself undergoes a partial restoration.
New finds suggest Romans won big North Germany battle
By Jean-Baptiste Piggin Sep 15, 2010, 3:06 GMT
New finds at a well-preserved ancient battlefield in the north of Germany are not only rewriting geo-political history, but also revealing some of the secrets of Rome's military success.
Until only two years ago, northern Germany was believed to have been a no-go area for Roman troops after three legions were wiped out by German tribesmen in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in AD 9.
The revelation that two centuries later a Roman force mounted a punitive raid deep inside the tribal areas in AD 235 has changed all that, suggesting that a soldier-emperor, Maximinus Thrax, seriously attempted to subjugate the north of Germany.
The debris from the battle is scattered over a wooded hill, the Harzhorn.
An archeological dig there this summer turned up 1,800 artefacts. A single spot on the hill had been pounded by torsion catapults, one of the most advanced weapons in the Roman arsenal, and 70 bolts from these armour-piercing weapons were still lying in the ground.
The catapults, mounted on wagons, had a range of up to 200 metres, said Michael Moosbauer, an archaeology professor at the Harzhorn site. The iron points weighed 200 grams apiece.
The Romans' supremacy was also partly based on the varied skills in their multi-ethnic army. Among the auxiliaries they employed on the Harzhorn were Moroccan javelin men and Middle Eastern archers.
The Roman historian Herodian says that Maximinus laid waste to the whole country, destroying crops, burning down villages after allowing the army to plunder them, and stealing cattle from the Germanic 'barbarians.'
Among the techniques used by the archaeologists to sketch a map of the battle is tracking the studs that fell off Roman sandals as the troops climbed the Harzhorn on foot. They are believed to have overcome their opponents before continuing on their way.
That belief is partly based on the absence from the soil of buckles, which were typically left behind on battlefields when victors ripped armour off slaughtered Roman legionaries.
If any imperial troops did fall on the Harzhorn, they were buried elsewhere, since there has been no sign of dead Romans.
But the Romans may have sustained some losses. Among the finds is part of an ornate Roman scabbard, which can be dated from its style to the battle period, and the bones of a horse, which have been carbon-dated to about AD 235 too.
'The horse probably fell into a pit,' said Michael Meyer, a Berlin archaeology professor working on the dig. Whether the horse was drawing a wagon or was a cavalryman's mount is not yet clear.
Nine coins that have been found - one minted in AD 228 - also fit the date.
The hill, about 80 metres higher than the valley, is near the town of Kalefeld, right alongside the A7 autobahn, which follows an ancient north-south main road through Germany.
This route would have been the natural way home to Maximinus's home base in Mainz, Germany, about 12 days' march away.
The wooded site is closed to private treasure hunters, but is easily identified on maps and is nearly visible from the nearby Seesen highway rest area. It was filmed for a 45-minute television documentary aired by the public broadcaster NDR in late August.
'There were probably thousands of men on both sides,' said Meyer, who hypothesizes that the Roman force laid waste to the lower valley of the Elbe, avenging an attack on the Roman Empire by Elbe tribes.
Petra Loenne, a regional archaeologist, said it looks as if the Germans had somehow obstructed the low-lying road, leading the Romans to circumvent the obstacle by marching along the Harzhorn ridge.
The battle site, measuring 500 by 2,000 metres, was first marked out by government archaeology officials using metal detectors.
Almost all of the metal debris found is Roman, including tent pegs and trim from wagons. The soil is alkaline, which prevented the metal from rapidly corroding. Specialists have used tiny sand-blasters to restore the items.
The only Germanic debris found so far comprises one spearhead and a few arrowheads, but as Meyer points out, the archaeologists have only dug up a few sample patches of ground. He would like to continue exploring the area if he can get funding.
Maximinius Thrax may have won the battle, but met this end only three years later. He was assassinated by some of his own men as he marched to Rome to consolidate his power.
Home of "Ice Giants" thaws, shows pre-Viking hunts
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
JUVFONNA, Norway | Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:17pm EDT
Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings' ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe's highest mountains.
"It's like a time machine...the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries," said Lars Piloe, a Danish scientist heading a team of "snow patch archaeologists" on newly bare ground 1,850 meters (6,070 ft) above sea level in mid-Norway.
Specialized hunting sticks, bows and arrows and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been among finds since 2006 from a melt in the Jotunheimen mountains, the home of the "Ice Giants" of Norse mythology.
As water streams off the Juvfonna ice field, Piloe and two other archaeologists -- working in a science opening up due to climate change -- collect "scare sticks" they reckon were set up 1,500 years ago in rows to drive reindeer toward archers.
But time is short as the Ice Giants' stronghold shrinks.
"Our main focus is the rescue part," Piloe said on newly exposed rocks by the ice. "There are many ice patches. We can only cover a few...We know we are losing artefacts everywhere."
Freed from an ancient freeze, wood rots in a few years. And rarer feathers used on arrows, wool or leather crumble to dust in days unless taken to a laboratory and stored in a freezer.
Jotunheimen is unusual because so many finds are turning up at the same time -- 600 artefacts at Juvfonna alone.
Other finds have been made in glaciers or permafrost from Alaska to Siberia. Italy's iceman "Otzi," killed by an arrow wound 5,000 years ago, was found in an Alpine glacier in 1991. "Ice Mummies" have been discovered in the Andes.
Patrick Hunt, of Stanford University in California who is trying to discover where Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy in 218 BC with an army and elephants, said there was an "alarming rate" of thaw in the Alps.
"This is the first summer since 1994 when we began our Alpine field excavations above 8,000 ft that we have not been inundated by even one day of rain, sleet and snow flurries," he said.
"I expect we will see more 'ice patch archaeology discoveries'," he said. Hannibal found snow on the Alpine pass he crossed in autumn, according to ancient writers.
Glaciers are in retreat from the Andes to the Alps, as a likely side-effect of global warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, the U.N. panel of climate experts says.
The panel's credibility has suffered since its 2007 report exaggerated a thaw by saying Himalayan glaciers might vanish by 2035. It has stuck to its main conclusion that it is "very likely" that human activities are to blame for global warming.
"Over the past 150 years we have had a worldwide trend of glacial retreat," said Michael Zemp, director of the Swiss-based World Glacier Monitoring Service. While many factors were at play, he said "the main driver is global warming."
In Norway, "some ice fields are at their minimum for at least 3,000 years," said Rune Strand Oedegaard, a glacier and permafrost expert from Norway's Gjoevik University College.
The front edge of Jovfunna has retreated about 18 meters (60 ft) over the past year, exposing a band of artefacts probably from the Iron Age 1,500 years ago, according to radiocarbon dating. Others may be from Viking times 1,000 years ago.
Juvfonna, about 1 km across on the flank of Norway's highest peak, Galdhoepiggen, at 2,469 meters, also went through a less drastic shrinking period in the 1930s, Oedegaard said.
Inside the Juvfonna ice, experts have carved a cave to expose layers of ice dating back 6,000 years. Some dark patches turned out to be ancient reindeer droppings -- giving off a pungent smell when thawed out.
Ice fields like Juvfonna differ from glaciers in that they do not slide much downhill. That means artefacts may be where they were left, giving an insight into hunting techniques.
On Juvfonna, most finds are "scare sticks" about a meter long. Each has a separate, flapping piece of wood some 30 cm long that was originally tied at the top. The connecting thread is rarely found since it disintegrates within days of exposure.
"It's a strange feeling to be tying a string around this stick just as someone else did maybe 1,500 years ago," said Elling Utvik Wammer, a archaeologist on Piloe's team knotting a tag to a stick before storing it in a box for later study.
All the finds are also logged with a GPS satellite marker before being taken to the lab for examination.
The archaeologists reckon they were set up about two meters apart to drive reindeer toward hunters. In summer, reindeer often go onto snow patches to escape parasitic flies.
Such a hunt would require 15 to 20 people, Piloe said, indicating that Norway had an organized society around the start of the Dark Ages, 1,500 years ago. Hunters probably needed to get within 20 meters of a reindeer to use an iron-tipped arrow.
"You can nearly feel the hunter here," Piloe said, standing by a makeshift wall of rocks exposed in recent weeks and probably built by an ancient archer as a hideaway.
Fortress uncovered: Co Louth Viking site of international importance
FRANK McDONALD ELAINE KEOGH and
A VIKING fortress of international importance has been uncovered at Annagassan, Co Louth. It is believed to be the longphort (ship fortress) of Linn Duchaill, founded in AD 841 – the same year as Viking Dublin.
“Finds of Viking ship rivets, cut-up Viking silver and looted Irish metalwork also appears to be amongst the excavated material,” said archaeologist Dr Mark Clinton.
A defensive rampart, consisting of a deep ditch and a bank, was excavated and, while the results of radio carbon tests are awaited to confirm the date, it “has all the appearances of the main fortification of the Viking fortress,” he said. The excavations have also uncovered part of a human skull, a whorl for spinning thread and a brooch pin.
Dr Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum, said: “This could be on a par with Woodstown in Waterford, which has been shown to be a pure Scandinavian settlement of the mid-ninth century during the raiding phase of the Vikings.”
Eamonn Kelly, keeper of antiquities with the National Museum, said attempts to identify this site date back more than 200 years, “and the significance of it is immense. It will be up there with all the major Viking sites in Europe.”
The current excavations, by professional archaeologists, began three weeks ago.
The discovery of the fortress, which is located on a stretch of land between the coast and the river Glyde, is especially exciting as it is on agricultural land and as such is “completely preserved”, he said.
Dr Clinton described the defensive ditch at Annagassan as “massive” and said it was clear the Vikings had built it across an inlet on the river, some 200m from the Irish Sea.
The extensive site was uncovered following an excavation by Archer Heritage Planning, directed by Dr Clinton in collaboration with archaeologist Mr Kelly and local historian Michael McKeown, under the aegis of the Annagassan and District Historical Society.
The discovery has caused excitement in Co Louth, with 30 visitors to the site yesterday.
Dr Clinton said the finds “will be conserved and analysed and a full report of the findings published”.