The 32,000-year-old human remains reveal incriminating cut marks.

By Jennifer Viegas

Wed Jul 6, 2011 12:24 PM ET




Early humans wore jewelry and likely practiced cannibalism, suggest remains of the earliest known Homo sapiens from southeastern Europe.


The remains, described in PLoS One, date to 32,000 years ago and represent the oldest direct evidence for anatomically modern humans in a well-documented context. The human remains are also the oldest known for our species in Europe to show post-mortem cut marks.


"Our observations indicate a post-mortem treatment of human corpses including the selection of the skull," co-author Stephane Pean, a paleozoologist and archaeologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, told Discovery News. "We demonstrate that this treatment was not for nutritional purposes, according to comparison with game butchery treatment, so it is not a dietary cannibalism."


Instead, Pean said that he and his colleagues believe that the "observed treatment of the human body, together with the presence of body ornaments, indicates rather a mortuary ritual: either a ritual cannibalism or a specific mortuary practice for secondary disposal."


The scientists made those assessments after studying human remains and artifacts discovered at a shelter-cave site called Buran-Kaya III in the Ukraine.


Although this is a more complete archaeological setting, the actual first known Homo sapiens from Europe dates to 34,000 years ago from Pestera cu Oase in Romania. Yet another single modern human from Kostenki 1 in Russia dates to 33,000 years ago.


The age of all of these discoveries intriguingly suggests that these first members of our species in Europe may have coexisted with Neanderthals.


"Through our work in progress, some of the expected results could help to better understand the transition period of late Neanderthal and early Homo sapiens settlements in Europe," Pean said.



While the possible Neanderthal connection remains a mystery, it is more evident that these early anatomically modern humans wore mammoth bling.


Artifacts excavated at the site include five mammoth beads, one engraved plate made out of mammoth ivory and 35 perforated shells. Since no mammoth remains or craft debris were found, it's likely that the objects were made off-site.


The remains of pointed bone tools and stone projectiles indicate these early Europeans were active hunters with busy associated tool and weapon-making industries.


The discoveries support that the hunter-gatherers "repeatedly settled the rock shelter of Buran-Kaya III as a temporary hunting camp, and they mostly hunted saiga antelopes," Pean said.


Marcel Otte, a professor of prehistory at the University of Liege, has also excavated at Buran-Kaya III. He told Discovery News that he and his team found evidence for a 30,000-year-old culture at the same site, indicating the region was continuously inhabited for thousands of years after the first modern humans arrived.


Marylene Patou-Mathis, director of the Archaeozoology Unit at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, told Discovery News that Pean and colleagues' "paper is very important and I agree with the results, which are absolutely new. I am particularly interested in the traces of cannibalism, which are well demonstrated."


She is also interested in the possible Neanderthal connections.


Patou-Mathis explained, "The area of Crimea, with the site of Buran Kaya and another site, Siuren, is very important to question the coexistence of two humankinds, Neanderthal and Homo sapiens, and two cultures on the same territory."


Pean and his team are currently involved in another dig at the same site, "so we are expecting new discoveries," he said.



Archaeology: Black Sea's ancient coast found - report

Thu, Jul 07 2011 11:53 CET

By The Sofia Echo staff


Bulgarian scientists have found the ancient shores of the Black Sea, currently deep beneath the waves, which they claim were the original shores about 7500 years ago, when the Black Sea at the time was just a fresh water lake, the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported on July 7 2011.


The team, led by Professor Petko Dimitrov of the Institute of Oceanology in Varna, which is part of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), returned from an expedition aboard the research vessel Akademik, saying that they have found the ancient coastline close to the Cape of Emine. Archaeological evidence suggest that this particular spot was part of the ancient coastline, the BNT said.


The common theory of the creation of the Black Sea says that there was a massive deluge through the straits of Bosporus (modern Istanbul), where waters from the Mediterranean flooded into the lake. Once the Mediterranean Sea breached the Bosporus Strait, it irreversibly changed the history of the people in the area, as well as the flora and fauna.


In 1997, William Ryan and Walter Pitman published evidence that a massive flooding of the Black Sea occurred about 5600 BCE through the Bosporus. According to the theory, glacial melt-water had turned the Black and Caspian Seas into vast freshwater lakes draining into the Aegean Sea before that event. As glaciers retreated, some of the rivers emptying into the Black Sea declined in volume and changed course to drain into the North Sea.


The Black Sea is the world’s largest meromictic basin where the deep waters do not mix with the upper layers of water that receive oxygen from the atmosphere, the report said. Subsequently, more than 90 per cent of the deeper Black Sea volume is anoxic water.


Part of the Bulgarian expedition was also Professor William Ryan, a geologist at Columbia University. "As a true scientist, until the results are finalised, I will reserve doubts about the theory of Professor Petko Dimitrov, that this part of the coastline was indeed affected by the flood and that this was the ancient shoreline," he said, cited by the BNT.


"I am still doubtful whether there is a small gap in his theory. All my observations support the theory, but we are still looking for any evidence which may disprove it," he said.


Scientists believe that if this theory proves true, they will be presented with a myriad of other questions, such as who lived there, the fate of the people in the area and how the region was affected in the aftermath.



Uncovering a kingdom

Published by Editor at 11:38 am under Home Page, Press Releases


Exceptional detective-archaeological work at the first season of archaeological digs at Tel Shikmona, on the southern edge of Israel’s city of Haifa, has uncovered the remains of a house dating back to the period of the Kingdom of Israel. The site was excavated about 40 years ago and due to neglect and layers of earth and garbage that piled up over the decades, the historical remains were hidden and little was known about what lay below. Upon re-exposing the structure, archaeologists from the University of Haifa were amazed to find that it had remained well preserved and is in fact the best-preserved “Four-Room House” dating back to that period known today. “We had seen the structure in the old photographs, and were sorry that such a rarely preserved finding had disappeared due to neglect. We were not even sure that we would be able to find it again. It was practically a miracle that we managed to locate and uncover it and that it is still so well preserved,” said Dr. Shay Bar and Dr. Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who headed the excavation team.


Tel Shikmona, on the southern coast of Haifa, Israel, is located in the Shikmona Nature Reserve and National Park, managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. It was excavated in the 1970s by the late Yosef Algavish on behalf of the Municipality of Haifa, when remains of settlement dating from the late Bronze Age (16th century BCE) to the Muslim occupation of the 7th century CE were found. Over the past decades, however, the archaeological findings at Tel Shikmona have been damaged, construction waste has piled up on the site, and off-road vehicles have ploughed over it. University of Haifa researchers began renewed excavations at the site about 6 months ago, sponsored by the Hecht Foundation in partnership with the Municipality of Haifa, as part of a project intended to transform the area into a public archaeological park. The first season is now culminating and with it a number of fascinating findings.


The old photographs of the 1970s excavations show a house dating back to the 8th-9th centuries BCE, which is the period of the Kingdom of Israel. The structure’s design is known as a “four-room house”, which was the most common design for houses in that era. It is characterized by the functional division of the structure into four living spaces: three positioned vertically and the fourth horizontally. The other four-room houses exposed to date have been found in relatively bad condition.


Detective work based on the photographs led the researchers to estimate the location of the house - and luck was on their side as they located the structure and also found it highly preserved. According to Dr. Bar and Dr. Eisenberg, this finding presents a rare opportunity to study and become familiar with everyday life in the days of the Kingdom of Israel, and after a process of conservation they hope to include the structure in the public archaeological park.


An additional rare finding exposed during the excavations belongs to the Israelite period (11th-8th centuries BCE - the settlement and Kingdom of Israel): a personal seal showing an inscription in Hebrew or Phoenician. The researchers hope that deciphering this inscription will give the answer to whether the settlement of that time was in fact Israelite or Phoenician.


Other findings from that period give evidence of expansive trade with Middle Eastern neighbors. These include relics imported from Cyprus and the coast of Lebanon, which arrived in fine, delicate vessels of high-quality ceramic. Also exposed were remains of purple-colored pitcher shards. The researchers explain that these are likely to be rare cases of preserved dye, which is reinforced by the fact that hundreds of the purple dye-producing mollusc shells were also found at the site.


Earlier in the season, a long section of the eastern side of the tell was exposed, revealing remains of terraced Byzantine structures (4th-7th centuries CE) that were built on the slope. Inside the houses, a number of destroyed mosaic floors and storage rooms were uncovered, while dozens of vessels there survived the ruins and were found whole. Many coins, ornaments, pendants, weapons and glass vessels were also found there, providing evidence of the wealth of the inhabitants. Beneath these Byzantine remains, the archaeologists exposed a structure from the Persian era (4th century BCE) in which an oven, clay loom weights and storage pitchers were found, indicating Persian settlement of the area. At another section of the excavations on the tell, the remains of three stages of settlement from the 11th-8th centuries BCE were found. It seems that at the beginning of that era, settlement in the region was relatively sparse but increased over time, becoming a prosperous, fortified city by the first century BCE.


In the course of these excavations, residents of the neighborhoods near Shikmona took an active part in the digs, and the excavating team arranged a special tour and hands-on experience at the site for a group of special needs children.



Roman town of Venta Icenorum site bought for public ownership

Unusual move with English Heritage, National Heritage Memorial Fund and other money helps to preserve buried archaeological site in Norfolk

Maev Kennedy

guardian.co.uk, Friday 8 July 2011 20.36 BST


Rolling Norfolk fields, where faint marks can be seen tracing the streets and houses of a buried Roman town, have been bought with English Heritage, National Heritage Memorial Fund and local authority money in an unusual move to preserve an archaeology site for ever in public ownership.


The name of Venta Icenorum, on the river Tas on the outskirts of the modern village of Caistor St Edmund, preserves the memory of one of the few local tribes the Romans had good reason to fear: the Iceni who, led in rebellion by their famous queen, Boudicca, torched the invaders' towns at Colchester and London in AD61.


Archaeologists believe the remains of the town are in serious danger from unauthorised metal detecting and intensive agriculture.


Only a few banks and fragments of stone walls remain above ground, but beneath the earth there are extensive remains of the Roman town where the mutinous Iceni eventually settled down to live in regularly planned houses and streets.


The crop marks also reveal the end of the straight Roman road from Colchester – so they could march straight up to crush any further stirrings of insurrection.


The site is particularly precious to archaeologists because most Roman settlements developed into modern towns and cities, so the remains have been destroyed by later foundations. Greenfield sites, such as Wroxeter in Shropshire and Silchester in Hampshire, are rare, and Venta Icenorum is particularly interesting because there is evidence that it evolved into a Saxon market town, before being abandoned to sheep.


A large part of the site, 22 hectares (55 acres), which until earlier this year didn't even have the protection of scheduled ancient monument listing, have been ploughed regularly as arable fields – and every time the land was ploughed, the footprints of unauthorised metal detectors were seen in the fields.


The land has now been bought with grants of £374,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund – a fund of last resort, which is administered by the Heritage Lottery Fund, but can move faster when a case is seen as urgent – along with £40,000 from English Heritage and £20,000 from South Norfolk council, and money raised by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, a rare move to bring an archaeology site into public ownership, and the first time the NHMF has bought a site purely for its archaeological value.


The land will be added to the 49 hectares (120 acres) of the site acquired by the trust in the 1990s that is let for sheep grazing and interpreted by signs explaining the buried town to walkers.


"We believed the danger to the buried archaeology from ploughing and metal detecting was very real," Peter Wade-Martins, director of the trust, said. "Our priority will be to return the whole site to grass and gentle countryside enjoyment for the public."


The site will now be open to the public on both banks of the river – presenting more problems to visitors than the Iceni had, as the Roman bridge that connected the two parts of the town collapsed 1,500 years ago.


Will Fletcher, English Heritage inspector of ancient monuments for the area, said the chance to unite and conserve the site was "a once in a lifetime chance" to safeguard an important part of the nation's heritage.


Part of the site was excavated in the early 1930s when the first aerial photographs showed the buried structures, but most of it remains unexplored. A long-running research excavation project led by Will Bowden of Nottingham University, will resume at the site next month.



Cosmeston pottery find shows a thriving medieval craft


A 13th Century pottery vessel found in the Vale of Glamorgan could indicate a thriving local craft in medieval times.


Several fragments of the aquamanile, decorated with a ram's head, were discovered at the site of a manor house at Cosmeston, near Penarth.


The vessels were used by guests to wash their hands at the dinner table.


Professor John Hines from Cardiff University, leader of the dig, said they had never found such an elegant piece made from the local Vale Ware.


The 20-strong team from the university's school of history, archaeology and religion has been digging at the Cosmeston medieval village for the last 4 years.


They have been exploring the site of a manor house, which had not been excavated when archaeology work was first carried out in the area in the 1980s.


The pottery shards were found just outside the original manorial hall, amongst the debris of a large and well built medieval building.


The archaeologists have identified the pottery as Vale Ware, examples of which have been found at sites across south Wales.


Finds co-ordinator Alice Forward said simpler vessels with ram's heads were not uncommon.


But she said the decoration of the ram's nose as a pouring spout was particularly interesting, along with the fact that it was made from local clay rather than imported.


"We've always known about the manorial estate but the amount of highly decorative pottery we've found including French tableware shows we're looking at a high status family, more wealthy than we'd realised," she said.


Prof Hines agreed that the discovery shed new light on the fate of the de Costentin family, who were lords of the manor until they were displaced in the mid 1310s.


"It shows they weren't the family of a poor knight on their uppers, but living a much better life than we'd previously thought," he said.


"It's easy to presume they would have imported their tableware from Bristol and elsewhere.


"But this shows there was enough money in the area and skilled workers available to support a local industry."


Archaeologists are inviting members of the public to visit the excavation as part of a medieval event on Saturday and Sunday.


Members are also giving free tours of the site every day until 18 July.



Beneath a Temple in Southern India, a Treasure Trove of Staggering Riches


Published: July 4, 2011



A court-ordered search of vaults beneath a south Indian temple has unearthed gold, jewels and statues worth an estimated $22 billion, government officials said Monday.


The treasure trove, at the 16th century Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, is widely believed to be the largest find of its kind in India, catching officials in the state of Kerala by surprise and forcing the government to send two dozen police officers to the previously unguarded shrine for round-the-clock security.


The discovery has also revived questions about who should manage the wealth, much of which is believed to have been deposited at the temple by the royal family of the princely state of Travancore, which acceded to India when the country became independent in 1947. Some of the vaults under the temple have not been opened for nearly 150 years, temple officials have said.


Temples in India often have rich endowments, mainly from donations of gold and cash by pilgrims and wealthy patrons, but the wealth discovered at Padmanabhaswamy dwarfs the known assets of every other Indian temple. Such assets are typically meant to be used by administrators to operate temples and provide services to the poor, but they have often become the subject of heated disputes and controversies.


India’s Supreme Court ordered the opening of the vaults at Padmanabhaswamy to assess the wealth of the temple after a local activist, T. P. Sundararajan, filed a case accusing administrators of mismanaging and poorly guarding the temple. Descendants of the royal family still control the trust that manages the temple, which is devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu.


Searchers have found bags of gold coins, diamonds and other jewels and solid-gold statues of gods and goddesses. On Monday, searchers started to unseal “Section B” of the vaults, a large space that was expected to reveal another sizable collection, said P. T. Chacko, the spokesman for the chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy.


Mr. Chacko said Kerala would not seek control of the temple or its treasure, a step that some activists have recommended. “The treasure is donated to the temple from disciples and believers; it’s the property of the temple,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the state.”


India’s Supreme Court will decide what happens to the treasure and the rest of the temple, which sits in the heart of Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, once it has established the total value of the holdings, which could take months to finish. Early estimates of the treasure have been raised several times as searchers have opened more of the vaults in recent days.


The economy of Kerala, a relatively prosperous Indian state, relies heavily on remittances from migrant workers in the Middle East and elsewhere. For many decades, it led the country in improving development indicators like literacy and infant mortality.



One Man's Trash: George Washington's Priceless Refuse

By Dan McLerran   Thu, Jul 07, 2011


For George Washington, the first U.S. President and Revolutionary War hero, a broken chinese porcelain plate or teacup from his dining table or kitchen would go immediately and directly into his trash pit on the grounds just outside his mansion home, buried and forever forgotten. But as the saying goes, "one man's trash is another man's treasure", and well over 200 years later archaeologists would call them priceless artifacts for understanding and reconstructing history. Such was the case when an archaeological team discovered and excavated a trash pit, or "midden", just outside and south of George Washington's imposing Mount Vernon mansion house in northern Virginia.

The South Grove Midden, as it is called, was first excavated from 1990 - 1994 by archaeologists under the employ of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the organization that owns and currently operates the George Washington estate of Mount Vernon, where his restored plantation mansion house functions as its centerpiece for visitors today. What they found was nothing short of spectacular. They uncovered more than 60,000 artifacts representing more than 400 ceramic and glass vessels, hundreds of pounds of brick, mortar and plaster fragments from renovating buildings, buckles, buttons, tobacco pipes, and more than 30,000 animal bones, remains from the meals eaten by the Washington household and their guests.*  It was the motherlode of trash middens at Mount Vernon. Since the excavation, the artifacts have been processed, catalogued, items restored or pieced together, and stored and recorded for further study.


As any archaeologist at the Mount Vernon estate would tell you, however, the value lies not in the artifacts themselves, as interesting as they may be, but in what they say about Washington, his household, the community of slaves that resided there and the historical context in which Washington lived.  The treasure lies in the information.  "People of the past, just like us, constructed their identities through outward appearances and practices," says Sophia Farrulla, a student at the College of William and Mary who is interning at Mount Vernon and conducting an examination of the ritual of tea and coffee drinking during George Washington's time. "Everything from clothing to architecture to beverage consumption indicated more than just practicality. Something such as a single shoe buckle or teapot has the potential to tell a rich story about its owner."  (Below, right, are some of the artifacts found in the midden: a tooth brush, wig curler, wine bottle seals and denier gauge. Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association).

Archaeologists at Mount Vernon are now engaged in a two-year comprehensive analysis, digitization and presentation of the massive trove of curated South Grove artifacts. In addition to the archaeologists, they have engaged students and skilled volunteers to take a deeper look at the artifacts, and more particularly the historical context and what the artifacts mean in terms of the culture and events surrounding Washington. Katie Barca, a graduate student of the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is studying the large number of tobacco pipe fragments recovered from the South Grove Midden.  "You may wonder why such a large number of pipe fragments have been recovered from the midden," she says. "Smoking tobacco was ubiquitous, practiced by everyone from young children to grown women and men, explaining the high frequency of pipe fragments. Additionally, clay tobacco pipes were extremely fragile and somewhat inexpensive. When the pipes inevitably broke, their fragments were discarded in refuse piles, like the South Grove Midden."  Her work will be a small but important piece of the larger effort to inform our view of culture and society of George Washington's world and to afford additional data for further research. Says Barca, "Data gathered from even the smallest tobacco pipe fragments can contribute to the pursuit of larger research objectives, such as those aiming to establish site chronologies (time periods assigned to the features and artifacts discovered at a location) or examine the movement of goods from England to America."

Mount Vernon archaeologists plan to realize the achievements of the 2-year project by digitally housing it in a unique online database called Archaeological Collections Online, a holistic tool that will be available to both scholars and the public. Eleanor Breen, supervisor of the Archaeological Collections Online project and PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of Tennesse, Knoxville, envisions the tool as leading the way and setting a new standard for 'virtual archaeology' in years ahead.  "We hope that the Archaeological Collections Online will lead the next generation of virtual archaeology by filling a niche that is not currently available - an anthropologically-informed approach to digitizing collections. What this project seeks to do that others have not is provide content information........provide answers to questions like "what did this punch bowl mean to people who viewed, used and discarded it"? How and what do artifacts tell us about the past, about plantation life, about active consumers, about the Washington households, about the enslaved community?" In this sense, it serves far more than as a database or curated collection of artifacts.

Most significantly, Breen sees it as a way for the public to experience what for the most part has been traditionally the exclusive domain of the scholar or researcher. "Despite the site's [the South Grove Midden's] significance to Mount Vernon, colonial history, and historical archaeology, the collection, like many others here and at other historic places, is rarely seen by anyone except the occasional lucky visitor to the off-site archaeology lab," she says. "The website will be structured so that this rich material record of plantation life will not only be digestible to fellow archaeologists, but also by the public, folks like my mom who has a general (and familial) interest in the stuff of George Washington."




The Festival of History returns to Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire on 16 & 17 July for a blockbuster weekend of clashing swords, thundering hooves and epic battles. One of the highlights this year is a replica WWI trench, recreated by a team who have been working on Steven Spielberg's latest movie War Horse.



   In the replica World War One trench, visitors will be able to glimpse the reality of life for men and horses on the battlefields of the Great War. The team have employed some of the same movie magic used on War Horse to recreate a scene from the Great War, complete with water filled shell craters, shattered trees and twisted barbed wire. Visitors will also be able to hear stories from the front line, told in the words of the real soldiers who experienced it. They will be able to discover more about the role of horses during the Great War, and between shows walk through the trenches and meet the Tommies. War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, whose bestseller has been transferred to stage and now onto film due for release next year, will be talking about his writing (Saturday only) as part of the inaugural Festival of Historical Writing. Dozens of other historical writers including MC Scott and Simon Scarrow will also be on stage and signing books.



   Visitors will be able to witness the might of the Roman army, cheer on their knight in the medieval joust and feel the ground tremble beneath their feet as horses hooves thunder past. Other highlights include Wellington's famous Red Coats in action and the appearance of a Spitfire as it roars in for explosive action from WWII.   Beyond the action on the battlefields, in the living history camps visitors can meet Vikings, Romans, knights, jesters, and soldiers from two World Wars.



   In the Family Activity Area children will find dozens of fun activities to take part in, from dressing up as a Roman soldier to taking a role on stage in a play. There'll also be juggling shows and an intriguing Victorian travelling show featuring Lionel the sharpshooting lobster! Visitors can then unwind at the traditional Victorian seaside where you can build a sandcastle, watch a Punch and Judy show, or just relax in a deck chair.



  Book your tickets in advance and you will be in with a chance of winning a prize package worth over £1,000, including a stay in an English Heritage holiday cottage. Find out more about the festival at www.festivalofhistory.org.uk, and keep up with the latest developments at the Festival of History Facebook Page or on Twitter.



The Festival of History is back with an amazing line up of live action events and entertainment for all the family to enjoy.  Celebrate over 2000 years of history with us over an action packed weekend on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire. Here are some of the highlights. The Imperial Roman Army ready for battle


We've got a fantastic line up for you to see, including Roman Armies, Armoured Knights, British Soldiers, historical processions, to name a few.  The Main Arena is always full of noise, excitement, action and amazing feats of bravery so come along and witness spectacular sights before your very eyes. Main arena line-up 


Take a trip to the Parade Ground and be truly entertained.   Grab your seat for our spectacular Grand Medieval Joust, watch the exciting Victorian Gymkhana, take a walk through our amazing World War I trench experience and see Gladiators do battle too.  Parade ground line-up


We've got so much for the family to experience and get involved in at this year's festival. Children can get dressed up as their favourite historical characters at the Children's Theatre, take part in sandcastle building at the Victorian Seaside or watch the marvellous Captain Absalom Caractacus Staffage and his Travelling Show.  And, don't forget that our Time Travellers Go... events will be running throughout the festival for kids of all ages to enjoy.       Family activity area line-up


We're proud to introduce the Festival of Historical Writing for the first time this year. It's a brand new mini festival within the Festival of History and visitors will be able to see and meet great historical writers of our time. Including M C Scott and Michael Morpurgo.      If you are passionate about history and writing this event is not to be missed!