Neanderthal man lived on seafood far earlier than previously thought

Neanderthal man lived on a diet of seafood in the caves of southern Spain much longer ago than previously thought, new archaeological findings show.

By Fiona Govan, Madrid3:49PM BST 15 Sep 2011


Much as modern day man enjoys tucking into a plateful of seafood paella when visiting the Costa del Sol, Neanderthals living on the Iberian coast 150,000 years ago supplemented their diet with molluscs and marine animals.

Archaeological examination of a cave in Torremolinos unearthed early tools used to crack open shellfish collected off rocks along the Iberian coast and found fossilised remains of the early meals.

The discovery is the earliest of its kind in northern Europe and shows that early man were fish eaters in Europe some 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The findings suggest that early coastal cavemen supplemented their hunter/gatherer diet of nuts, fruits and meat from animals such as antelopes and rabbits with seafood.

A team of archaeologists from Seville University and scientists from the National Council for Scientific Investigation (CSIC) published their research this week after a lengthy investigation involving the scientific dating of fossilised remains from the cave.


The Cueva Bajondillo on Andalusia's southern coast near Malaga contained remains of burned mussel shells and barnacles indicating that Middle Paleolithic hominids had collected and cooked the shellfish for consumption.

The discovery suggests that Neanderthals in Europe and Archaic Homo sapiens in Africa were following parallel behavioural trajectories but with different evolutionary outcomes, the paper claims.

"It provides evidence for the exploitation of coastal resources by Neanderthals at a much earlier time than any of those previously reported," said Miguel Cortés Sánchez who led the Seville University team.

"The use of shellfish resources by Neanderthals in southern Spain started some 150,000 years ago," the paper concluded. "It was almost contemporaneous to Pinnacle Point (in South Africa) when shellfishing is first documented in archaic modern humans."



Bluestone Henge Twin?



A new  digital reconstruction of the monument, discovered by the Stonehenge Riverside Project in 2009 suggests that the circle of Welsh blue stones found at the southern terminus of the avenue may well have been oval, and not round. If this is correct, it echoes the layout of the Bluestone oval at the centre of Stonehenge.


Henry Rothwell, Creative Lead at Heritage Data Solutions explains;


“The model was created as part of the forthcoming smartphone app ‘Journey to Stonehenge’. When we built the first wire-frame of the circle we ended up with a fairly standard circular representation. We were using a low level aerial image taken by Adam Stanford. It showed the full extent of the excavation, including the socket holes of the blue stones, into which the Stonehenge Riverside Project team had placed upturned black buckets.”


However, while checking the wireframe model, Adam pointed out another upturned bucket on the far right of the image, which had been missed out of the original model. Rothwell continued, “Initially we tried expanding the circumference of the circle to make it fit, but that made it far too large – so we settled on an oval, which lined up perfectly. A configuration which is very similar to the Bluestone oval in the centre of Stonehenge.”


If this interpretation is correct, it adds an intriguing new angle to the relationship between the monuments that lie at each end of the Avenue.


Archaeologists from Sheffield and other universities had previously discovered this lost stone circle a mile from Stonehenge, on the west bank of the River Avon back in 2009.


The stones had been removed thousands of years ago but the sizes of the holes in which they stood indicate that this was a circle of blue stones, brought from the Preseli mountains of Wales, 150 miles away.


Excavations in August-September 2009 by the Stonehenge Riverside Project uncovered nine stone holes, part of a circle of probably 25 standing stones.


The new monument was 10m (33 ft) in diameter and surrounded by a henge – a ditch with an external bank. These standing stones marked the end of the Avenue that leads from the River Avon to Stonehenge, a 1¾-mile long (2.8km) processional route constructed at the end of the Stone Age (the Neolithic period).


The outer henge around the stones was built around 2400 BC but arrowheads found in the stone circle indicate that the stones were put up as much as 500 years earlier – they were dragged from Wales to Wiltshire 5,000 years ago.


When the newly discovered circle’s stones were removed by Neolithic people, it is possible that they were dragged along the route of the Avenue to Stonehenge, to be incorporated within its major rebuilding around 2500 BC.  Archaeologists know that, after this date, Stonehenge consisted of about 80 Welsh stones and 83 local, sarsen stones. Some of the blue stones that once stood at the riverside probably now stand within the centre of Stonehenge.


Only the radiocarbon dating programme can clarify the sequence of events. The discovery of this stone circle may well be confirmation of the Stonehenge Riverside Project’s theory that the River Avon linked a ‘domain of the living’ – marked by timber circles and houses upstream at the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls (discovered by the Project in 2005) – with a ‘domain of the dead’ marked by Stonehenge and this new stone circle.


There is no evidence that the circle had a particular orientation or even an entrance. Soil that fell into the holes when the stones were removed was full of charcoal, showing that plenty of wood was burned here. Yet this was not a place where anyone lived: the pottery, animal bones, food residues and flint tools used in domestic life during the Stone Age were absent.


The shape of Bluestone Henge is still open for re-interpretation as most of the monument was not fully excavated, but preserved for future archaeologists to explore.


More information:

For more details of the ‘Journey to Stonehenge’ app see: http://www.journeytostonehenge.co.uk/



5,900-year-old women’s skirt discovered in Armenian cave

September 13, 2011 | 11:39



Excavations at Areni 1 Cave in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor region unearthed a more-than-5,900-year-old women’s straw-woven skirt, Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography Institute Director Pavel Avetisyan told Armenian News-News.am.


Avetisyan informed that this artifact was discovered in 2010 and, even though they had informed about this precious item at the time, interest toward it grew further only recently.


“The women’s clothing dates back to 39th century BC. So far we have discovered the skirt’s parts, which were superbly preserved. It is an amazing material with rhythmic color hues, and other remnants of the straw-woven material were also discovered. Such thing is recorded in Armenia for the first time,” Avetisyan noted.


According to Archaeology and Ethnography Institute’s director, the artifact is currently under their care, but it will soon be sent to the restorer who, until the arrival of French specialists, will work on its restoration. Pavel Avetisyan added that, after the final conservation process, the skirt will be exhibited at the History Museum of Armenia.


Areni 1 is the same cave where the world’s oldest leather shoe (more than 5,500 years old),  wine-press, as well as flaggy items and part of a mummified goat’s body were discovered.



Archaeology: Remains of ancient Greek settlement studied on island off Sozopol

Mon, Sep 12 2011 13:32 CET

By The Sofia Echo staff


An archaeological team headed by Dr Kristina Panayotova has found on the island of St Kirik, off the coast of Bulgaria's Black Sea town of Sozopol, remains of the first settlement in the area of Apollonia.


The first colonists came to the area from the ancient Greek city of Miletus at the end of the seventh century BCE, according to Bulgarian National Radio's (BNR) report about the finds, which included a building that was a metallurgical workshop, as well as two well-preserved streets, one of which led to the sacred site of Apollonia.


The settlement at Apollonia, the predecessor of today's Sozopol, was the most ancient of its kind in the country.


"The other Greek colonies along the Bulgarian Black Sea - Odessus Messambria, Dionysopolis and Byzone were settled later, in the areas of today's Varna, Nessebur, Balchik and Kavarna," Panayotova told BNR.


The find on the island of St Kirik allowed a glimpse into the only truly ancient Greek colony in Bulgaria, she said.


The remains of the buildings were evidence of well-organised urban life.


During the dig, various tools had been found, including fishing gear, and spindles and loom weights. Bronze arrow points also were found.


There was evidence of rituals performed in honour of the goddesses Demeter (of grain and harvests) and Persephone (goddess of the underworld, daughter of Demeter and Zeus). These finds included small jugs, amphoras and ceramic figurines.


Rituals were performed in the area for a long time, from the sixth to the third centuries BCE, allowing archaeologists to trace the different types of pottery and terracotta figurines.


Panayotova's team will return to the site for further investigation during October.


During this past summer, a French-Bulgarian project studied the suburban area of Apollonia, probing the site of a mansion, where a stash of coins was found. Another team found the remains of three houses. The study of the area is to continue in coming years, BNR said.



Pictish beast intrigues Highland archaeologists

14 September 2011 Last updated at 10:11

By Steven McKenzie

BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter


A Pictish symbol stone built into the wall of a Highland farm building has been recorded by archaeologists.


The markings show a beast, crescent, comb and mirror.


Archaeologist Cait McCullagh said it was a mystery how it had taken until this year for the stone to be officially recorded.


She said it also suggested that more Pictish stones have still to be documented on the Black Isle where the beast was recorded.


Ms McCullagh, the co-founder and director of Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (Arch), said the symbol stones probably dated from the 5th to 7th centuries AD.


She said it was unusual to find such carvings on the north side of the Moray Firth.


A lack of weathering on the Pictish beast may suggest the stone had been kept inside, or had been buried, for a long period before it was placed in the wall of the byre.


Isobel Henderson, an expert in the field of early medieval sculpture, came across the Pictish beast stone earlier this year and alerted Highland Council archaeologists.


Easter Ross-based Ms McCullagh was also notified and she confirmed the markings as Pictish.


She also went on to identify a Pictish symbol stone in the wall of a nearby farmhouse with markings thought to represent goose feathers, or fish scales. Harling obscures most the carving.


Both stones are on private properties built in the 19th Century and owned by the same family for about 50 years until two years ago.


Ms McCullagh said the relics were never mentioned during a recent local heritage project that had asked people to suggest sites of archaeological and historical interest.


The Pictish beast and goose, or fish, markings have been recorded by Highland Council's Historic Environment Record.


Ms McCullagh said: "It is a mystery why it has taken so long for the stones to come to our attention.


"It is also exciting to think that there are maybe more still to be found.


"We are always encouraging people to put their Pictish specs on and look out for stones in church yards and dykes."


The Picts lived in north and east Scotland in the 3rd to 9th centuries AD.


Few written records of the people survive.


According to Highland Council, inscriptions suggest that the Picts spoke a language closely related to both Welsh and Gaelic.



Major Roman find near Newark

Monday, September 19, 2011



ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they have uncovered the remains of a Roman village at an excavation site in Collingham, near Newark.


Researchers from Trent and Peak Archaeology unearthed a range of artefacts during a year-long excavation at Tarmac's Langford Quarry in Newark Road.


Discoveries included eight stone-lined wells – an unprecedented number for the region – and 26 human burials, as well as vast amounts of pottery dating from the first century to the fourth century AD.


Archaeologist Lee Elliott, of Trent and Peak Archaeology – a commercial archeological unit based at the University of Nottingham – led the research.


He described the scale of the findings as one of the "largest and most significant" collections of Roman artefacts recovered in the region.


He said: "We believe this site resembled 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."


Archaeologists also discovered bones of animals, including cows, sheep, pigs, horses, dogs and deer, which do not normally survive on acidic sandy sites.


Mr Elliott said the site provided "fresh insights into the everyday rural life during this period".


He added that archaeologists were particularly impressed with the discovery of the stone-lined wells, each of which are about two to three metres deep, because no other site in the region had ever uncovered so many.


All had been built on a timber raft base and animal bone and pottery were found in the shafts after they were emptied of the silt which had filled them.


"The wells appear to be for communal use," Mr Elliott said.


"They may have been built in response to contamination of the nearby river which was used for watering animals and rubbish disposal.


"The number of wells reflects the size and wealth of the community they served.


"The wells have provided exceptional finds including complete Romano-British pots lost 1,800 years ago and well-preserved timbers with toolmarks."


Other findings include several Romano British brooches, 200 coins, iron knives, pins, buckles, rings and lead weights.


The quarry's owners, Tarmac, had agreed with Notts County Council to strip all the remaining land that needed to be worked in one go, so that archaeologists had the maximum opportunity to look at it.


Neil Beards, Tarmac's estates manager, said: "We're thrilled this approach has rewarded us with such significant finds, that may not have been discovered if we weren't quarrying here.


"We really have been taken aback at what has been uncovered on the site."


For more information visit www.nottingham.ac.uk/tpa



Remains of Roman Bath House found in London

Almost 2,000 years of history has been unearthed by Network Rail engineers following the discovery of Roman bath house ruins on land being re-developed as part of the £5.5bn congestion-busting Thameslink programme.


The ruins, which are believed to be one of the biggest Roman find in London on the south side of the River Thames, have been uncovered on the corner of London Bridge Street and Borough High Street. The site has been earmarked for the construction of a new office block.


Network Rail has commissioned a team of specialist archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology and Pre-Construct Archaeology to excavate the site. Although work is at an early stage, the bath house appears to include a range of rooms including a cold plunge bath as well as hot rooms warmed by under floor heating. Elsewhere on the site, substantial walls are thought to belong to predecessors of St Thomas’ hospital, which used to stand on the site.


Chris Place, an archaeologist for Network Rail, said: “This is a significant find and offers a further insight into London’s long history. In Roman times the main settlement was on the north bank of the River Thames and was connected to the settlement at Southwark by the first London Bridge. Much archaeological work has been done in Southwark over the years, but we were still surprised to discover ruin of this nature and size.”


Network Rail, in agreement with the London Borough of Southwark, is exploring ways of preserving the remains beneath the new building to be constructed on the site. Where appropriate, key finds will be deposited with the Museum of London where they will be available for study by the public.



City archaeologists make filthy find

Ancient loo reveals 18th-century Copenhagener’s eating habits

MONDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2011 15:31       JB           CULTURE 


Two 300-year-old latrines unearthed from beneath Kultorvet Square are offering up answers about how everyday Copenhageners traded, ate and suffered in the 18th-century. And those answers are accompanied by some still powerful odours.


”Well, it smells like rotten eggs,” archaeologist and excavation expert Hoda El-Sharnouby told Politiken newspaper.


El-Sharnouby’s team made the stinky but stunning find which includes two outhouses filled with nearly 300-year-old faeces. The privies and their contents are remarkably well-preserved, thanks to the low oxygen content in the city’s soil.


“That smell is such good news for us archaeologists, because that’s how we know that the contents are well-preserved and have not been eaten up by bacteria,” El-Sharnouby added.


With all the digging going on around Copenhagen these days as part of the Metro Cityring subway project ancient faecal finds have turned up in a few spots, but the thing that makes the Kultorvet faeces so special is that it is packed with well-preserved clues.


“There is an insane quantity – it’s going to take me months to look through it all and analyse all the contents thoroughly. But I can already see that they ate seasonal things, raspberries or blackberries, and apples. Somebody ate an apple core and it came right out the other end,” archaeobotanist Mette Marie Hald, who is in charge of analysing the plant content of the Kultorvet faeces, said.


“They ate cherries, figs and flax seeds. I have also found seeds from weeds that grow in rye fields, so they were definitely eating rye bread or rye porridge,” she added. ”We only expected to find barley porridge and local farmstead food, but we have found a whole range of plants which could possibly tell us something about trade contacts in the past.”


Less appetisingly, Hald has found evidence of intestinal worms and mites in our forefathers’ faeces.


The find may also provide new understanding about the lifestyles of the lower social classes in Copenhagen in the 1700s, because the Kultorvet toilets were apparently public facilities, accessible to all.


“It’s as close to the person, the body and everyday life as you can come,” Hald added.


The privies were used for the last time just before the great fire of 20-23 October 1728, when large parts of Copenhagen burned to the ground.