Stone-age toddlers had art lessons, study says

Research on Dordogne cave art shows children learned to finger-paint in palaeolithic age, approximately 13,000 years ago

Caroline Davies

The Guardian, Friday 30 September 2011


Stone age toddlers may have attended a form of prehistoric nursery where they were encouraged to develop their creative skills in cave art, say archaeologists.


Research indicates young children expressed themselves in an ancient form of finger-painting. And, just as in modern homes, their early efforts were given pride of place on the living room wall.


A Cambridge University conference on the archaeology of childhood on Friday reveals a tantalising glimpse into life for children in the palaeolithic age, an estimated 13,000 years ago.


Archaeologists at one of the most famous prehistoric decorated caves in France, the complex of caverns at Rouffignac in the Dordogne known as the Cave of a Hundred Mammoths, have discovered that children were actively helped to express themselves through finger fluting – running fingers over soft red clay to produce decorative crisscrossing lines, zig-zags and swirls.


The stunning drawings, including 158 depictions of mammoths, 28 bisons, 15 horses, 12 goats, 10 woolly rhinoceroses, four human figures and one bear, form just a small proportion of the art found within the five-mile cave system.


The majority of the drawings are flutings covering the walls and roofs of the many galleries and passages in the complex. One chamber is so rich in flutings by children it is believed to be an area set aside for them. The marks of four children, estimated to be aged between two and seven, have been identified there.


"It suggests it was a special place for children. Adults were there, but the vast majority of artwork is by children," said Jess Cooney, a PhD student at the university's archaeology department.


"It's speculation, but I think in this particular chamber children were encouraged to make more art than adults. It could have been a playroom where the children gathered or a room for practice where they were encouraged to make these marks in order that they could grow into artists and make the beautiful paintings and engravings we find throughout the cave, and throughout France and Spain. Or it could have been a room used for a ritual for particular children, perhaps an initiation of sorts."


The presence of children's art was first revealed in 2006 by archaeologists Leslie Van Gelder, of Walden University, in the US, and her husband Kevin Sharpe. Cooney, working alongside Van Gelder, has spent two years analysing the presence of the hunter-gatherer offspring.


Flutings thought to be by a five-year-old girl are the most prolific throughout the cave system. Work by four adults has also been identified, though it is possible there were two further adults present.


The juxtaposition of the flutings of individuals indicate the relationships between the cave dwellers, the researchers say. For example, the markings show that one seven-year-old girl was most often in the company of the smallest of the adults, probably a male and possibly an older brother.


"Some of the children's flutings are high up on walls and on the ceilings, so they must have been held up to make them or have been sitting on someone's shoulders," said Cooney.


Flutings by the two-year-old suggest the child's hand was guided by an adult. Cooney said: "The flutings and fingers are very controlled, which is highly unusual for a child of that age, and suggests it was being taught. The research shows us that children were everywhere, even in the deepest, darkest, caves, furthest from the entrance. They were so involved in the art you really begin to question how heavily they were involved in everyday life.


"To be honest, I think there were probably very few restrictions on what children were allowed to do, and where they were allowed to go, and who they were allowed to go with.


"The art shows us this is not an activity where children were running amok. It shows collaboration between children and adults, and adults encouraging children to make these marks. This was a communal activity."


The significance of finger flutings, also found in other caves in France, Spain, New Guinea and Australia, has been widely debated in archaeological circles. Some regard the marks as doodlings, prehistoric graffiti, while others suggest rituals.


"We don't know why people made them. We can make guesses like they were for initiation rituals, for training of some kind, or simply something to do on a rainy day," said Cooney.


"In addition to the simple, meandering lines, there are flutings of animals and shapes that appear to be crude outlines of faces, almost cartoon-like in appearance. There are hut shapes called tectiforms, markings thought to have a symbolic meaning which are only found in a very specific area of France.


Cooney said the object of her research was "to allow prehistoric children to have a voice", because so much archaeological study focused on men's activities.


"What I found in Rouffignac is that the children are screaming from the walls to be heard. Their presence is everywhere. And there is a five-year-old girl constantly shouting: 'I wanna paint, I wanna paint'."



High Resolution 3D Stonehenge model unveiled

Sunday, October 2, 2011


A detailed survey of every stone that makes up Stonehenge using the latest technology, including a new scanner that has never before been used on a heritage project in Britain, has resulted in the most accurate digital model ever produced of the world famous monument.


With resolution level as high as 0.5mm in many areas, every nook and cranny of the stones’ surfaces is revealed with utmost clarity, including the lichens, Bronze Age carvings, erosion patterns and Victorian graffiti.


Most surprisingly, initial assessment of the survey has suggested that the ‘grooves’ resulting from stone dressing on some sarsen stones appear to be divided into sections, perhaps with different teams of Neolithic builders working on separate areas. A first glimpse of the model can now be viewed on the English Heritage website.


In March 2011 English Heritage commissioned 3D laser scanning specialists the Greenhatch Group, together with Atkins Mapping and Archaeo-Environment Ltd, to capture the stones and the landscape surrounding them at a level of precision and definition never before attempted.


The survey includes all the visible faces of the standing and fallen stones of Stonehenge, including Station, Heel and Slaughter stones, as well as the top of the horizontal lintels.


The resultant high resolution archival data and 3D meshed models is currently being synthesised and will be officially published and shared with the wider archaeological community in due course.






Axes, bones, jewellery and 60 pairs of shoes - secrets of Roman fort revealed

Pottery and other artifacts unearthed by archaeologists at Camelon are opening a window into the Romans in Scotland

Published Date: 30 September 2011



ARCHAEOLOGISTS digging at the site of a former jeans factory have uncovered the remains of at least two Roman forts - and artefacts including 60 pairs of shoes.

The hoard of leather footwear is believed to be the largest of its kind yet found in Scotland.


Other discoveries include pottery, ovens, coins, bones, jewellery, an axe and a spearhead dating back to the first and second centuries AD, when the forts were in use.


The discoveries have been made at the site of the former Wrangler factory in Camelon, Falkirk, which is set to become a Tesco supermarket.


Camelon has long been suggested as the possible site for Camelot, the home of King Arthur, who many believe was a Roman who stayed on after the collapse of the Roman Empire and fought against the invading hordes of Anglo-Saxons.


The idea of King Arthur as a Roman was the basis of the 2004 Hollywood movie, King Arthur, starring Clive Owen, as a Roman centurion. Yesterday, experts described the new finds as "nationally important" and the most significant in the Falkirk area "for generations".


Archaeologist Martin Cook said a rich bounty of relics had been uncovered, despite only 10 per cent of the site being examined so far.


He said: "This will be one of the most important finds in the Falkirk area for decades and one of the best ones we've been involved with.


"It's hugely exciting because of the quality and quantity of artefacts from the organic deposit and reinforces the importance of the forts which have been rebuilt more than once.


"This proves that the Romans were there for a greater length of time, which is different to their normal routine of coming in, building something and then tearing it down so the natives can't use it once they have left. We found some Samian pottery from France, more than we expected to find.


"There were coins, trumpet brooches and 60 pairs of leather shoes in the ditch, something we really didn't expect and which is hugely important statistically. It shows how many troops were using the forts."


He added: "These 60 shoes are remarkable for their quantity but also for their quality. They are leather sandals with straps and hob-nailed soles."


To avoid digging as much as possible, the rest of the site will be preserved in situ, although the team would like to dig more.


Geoff Bailey, Falkirk Council's keeper of archaeology and local historian, said: "There was probably a harbour on the River Carron where the golf club is now. The area is the lowest crossing point on the Carron and it would have been the A1 of the Roman period."



New Romano-British Village appears in Quarry Excavation


Archaeologists have uncovered one of the most significant Romano-British sites in the Trent Valley, at Langford Quarry in Nottinghamshire. However, it is clear from the evidence that Langford was a focus for activity from the Neolithic onwards.


Three Romano-British Skeletons were found along with twenty-three further Romano-British graves with no surviving skeletons and coffins beyond outline stains within the acidic sand.

Archaeologist Lee Elliott, of Trent and Peak Archaeology part of York Archaeological Trust, led the research with Peter Webb.

Lee explained that, “We believe this site is a Romano-British village, very few of which have been identified along the Trent Valley – single farmsteads being the norm.  The village appears to have been sub-divided into areas for living, working and burial. The exceptional range of artefacts for a rural community suggests prosperity possibly built on large scale animal husbandry and associated products servicing the nearby Romano-British towns at Brough and Lincoln. “


“For the Romano-British period it represents one of the most substantial collections recovered in the Trent Valley, revealing not only the wide range of animals present, but evidence of butchery and the working of bone and antler,” explained Lee.  ‘’Altogether the findings provide fresh insight into rural life during this period.’’


The remains of a Bronze Age ring ditch (ploughed out burial mound) were excavated. This had been truncated in the past and no associated burials survived.


In a unique agreement with Nottinghamshire County Council, Tarmac, the owners of the quarry, agreed to strip all the remaining land that needed to be worked so that archaeologists had the maximum opportunity to examine the site.


The Neolithic to Bronze Age (4000BC- 800BC) was represented by a large amount of flint and pottery from several surface scatters, a small number of pits and a ring ditch (probable former burial mound c.20m in diameter). A particularly significant find was a rare stone macehead.


The earliest discoveries on site comprised Neolithic-Bronze Age artefacts including pottery, flint (including barbed and tanged arrowheads and scrapers), as well as a rare stone macehead.

The Mid to Late Iron Age (400BC- 42AD) comprised a collection of ditched enclosures incorporating pits and circular gullies for round houses and stack-stands (stores for hay).


The most substantial remains on site were of a Romano-British (42AD-400AD) village/hamlet like settlement c.200m by 180m in size. This comprised trackways along which were located several sub-rectangular ditched enclosures containing various forms of activity including building remains, wells, corn-drying, animal corralling/butchery and human burial.


The presence of eight stone lined wells is an unprecedented total for a Romano-British site in Nottinghamshire. They have provided potentially significant environmental evidence and artefacts (including near complete pots). Outside the settlement core lay ditched field systems for animals and possibly crops.


A substantial range of artefacts has been recovered including pottery, metalwork (coins, brooches, pins, nails, buckles), worked wood, animal bone, leather, glass, as well as palaeoenvironmental evidence. This group of finds/material comprises one of the largest and most significant collections ever recovered from a rural Romano-British site along the Trent Valley. Together they provide fresh insights into everyday rural life during this period.



Anglo-Saxon finds included a large quantity of pottery, spindle-whorls, glass beads and three brooches.


Evidence was also recovered of Early Anglo-Saxon settlement (c.410AD-649 AD) in the form of pits, postholes and the remains of sunken floored buildings. A wide range of artefacts was recovered including pottery, glass beads, pins, spindle whorls, loomweights, brooches and animal bone. The pottery recovered comprises one of the largest collections of Anglo-Saxon domestic pottery found along the Trent Valley.


Together with the other finds this adds significantly to the understanding of the cultural wealth of the Early Anglo-Saxon rural settlement of the Trent Valley, with few sites of this type yet discovered and excavated.


During the medieval period (c. 1066AD-1539AD), most of the site formed part of the field system of the nearby village of Langford and was covered by ridge and furrow. Several items have been recovered from this period including coins, lead weights, a buckle, and a mount. This hints at the former wealth of the village which is now shrunken to a small hamlet, with earthworks indicating its previous extent.


More information:

Trent & Peak Archaeology

Trent Valley Landscapes: The Archaeology of 500,000 Years of Change [2004] D. Knight, A. Howard

Making Archaeology Matter: Quarrying and Archaeology in the Trent Valley. [2004] York: York Archaeological Trust. KNIGHT, D. and HOWARD, A.J.,



Archaeologists uncover slate at Nevern Castle ‘that kept evil spirits at bay’

by Rachael Misstear, Western MailSep 30 2011


RARE pieces of inscribed slate unearthed during a dig at one of the nation’s oldest castles may provide valuable clues to life in medieval Wales, experts said yesterday.


Archaeologists involved in a recent excavation on the site of Nevern Castle in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park believe the markings, dating back more than 800 years, indicate some ritualistic methods of warding off evil.


The slates – complete with stars and other designs scratched on them – were found at the site’s 12th century cut-stone entranceway.


Lead archaeologist Dr Chris Caple said: “These inscribed slates are really interesting. They were found in only one place in the castle and were probably intended to ward off evil.”



The recent excavation revealed 12 slates bearing incised designs.


Archaeologists said the scratched markings are interesting for several reasons, but mainly because of the rarity.


“Scratched images from the medieval world are rare, and we can confidently date these to the period 1170-1190 when the stone phase of Nevern Castle was built,” added Dr Caple.


“These drawings connect us with the lives and beliefs of masons or labourers who built the castle. We hardly ever recover evidence about the peasants of the medieval world, and never information about their beliefs and ideas, but these scratched designs are from the imagination of a serf, a farm labourer or a man at arms.”


Headed by Dr Caple, of the University of Durham, and Pete Crane from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, the team of experts, students and volunteers descended on the site for three weeks in the summer.


It was the fourth year that the site has been excavated in a partnership project between Dr Caple, the National Park Authority, Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Nevern Community Council which owns the site.


Further research on the finds is now being carried out by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Durham.


Work at the site last summer uncovered a large group of buildings thought to date from the 12th century.


It helped provide new details on the history of a Norman fortress – one of the oldest stone castles in Wales – that was built in 1108 along with two towers and three hall-like buildings that were unearthed.


Until that discovery little of Nevern Castle could be seen. The castle was built by the Norman marcher Lord Robert fitz Martin around 1108. The building was destroyed and rebuilt in the 12th century but after 1197 was abandoned.


It is hoped the new discoveries will be secured as part of the communities heritage.


Phil Bennett, the National Park Authority’s head of archaeological heritage, added: “One of the nicest things about these slate pieces is that we are hoping to be able to keep them in Nevern eventually, in the care of the Nevern Community Council.”


Work is under way cleaning, revealing and recording the images scratched on the pieces of slate.


Dr Caple added: “In the late 12th century, Nevern would have been an impressive looking castle and entrance, especially from the south side, and it was clearly visible to all passing along the road between St Davids and Cardigan.


“The work under way on the slates will no doubt provide more fascinating information about the beliefs and ideas of the people who built and lived in the castle in the late 12th century.”


The dig also unearthed information about the phased building of parts of the castle and revealed that a Round Tower thought to have imprisoned the Lord Rhys in 1194 was also the quarters of high status members of the castle household.



Dropping Lake Levels Expose Ancient Artifacts And Looters Have Noticed

Low lake levels have exposed several ancient Native American sites, but removing artifacts could lead to serious criminal charges.

Reporter: Rachel Cox

Email Address: rachel.cox@kwtx.com

LAKE WHITNEY (September 28, 2011)


Looters are taking advantage of dropping area lake levels to find long hidden artifacts are that’s creating big problems for authorities.


Since Lake Whitney's water level dropped, five sites full of Native American artifacts are now accessible for the first time in decades.



Some of these sites date back more than 8,000 years.


State and federal law protect the artifacts.


It’s against federal law to remove any Native American artifact from government property and in Texas, doing that also violates the state Antiquities Code.


But in the past few months, authorities say more than thirty people have been caught digging illegally.


Authorities say the looters could also be disturbing ancient burial grounds.


"A lot of Native American tribes and cultures buried their family members and loved ones where they lived so it’s all intertwined," said Brady Dempsey, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


Once the damage has been done to these sites, the effects are nearly impossible to reverse, Dempsey said.


In one area, he said, looters broke concrete open, burrowed in under it and then sifted through the dirt, taking what they could and leaving the arrest behind.


“They've just scrambled the archeological record," Dempsey said.


The damage looters leave behind is becoming increasingly expensive.


Recently a dig site had to be repaired at Lake Whitney at a cost of more than $30,000.