Researchers find evidence of early man in caves near Naples
Remains of both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens in same caves
04 December, 16:55
(ANSA) - Rome, December 4
Researchers are poring over thousands of tiny artifacts - including a child's milk tooth - found in a southern Italian cave that appears to have been shared by both Neanderthals and early man.
The caves of Roccia San Sebastiano, which overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Naples, are being combed for traces of those who once lived there.
On the slopes of the medieval fortress of Montis Dragonis, near Mondragone in Caserta province, researchers say they've uncovered layers of history, rich in early historical finds.
The discovery is telling them "a story of the evolution that goes from 40,000 to 20,000 years ago, when the cave was used for uninterrupted time by Neanderthals and Sapiens," says prehistoric archaeologist Carmine Collina.
Within perhaps the oldest layer, dated at between 40,000 to 39,000 years of age, researchers discovered the milk tooth of a Neanderthal child and the remains of many tools, such as tips and splinters, made by Neanderthals.
"The tooth was lost when the individual was of an age comparable to that of our children at 10 years," says paleoanthropologist Giorgio Manzi, from Rome's Sapienza University.
The age of the tooth is especially important because it helps to mark the final stage in the life of Neanderthals in Italy, and the arrivals of homo Sapiens, says archaeologist Marcello Piperno, also of Sapienza University.
Last year, researchers found two milk teeth discovered at the site of Grotta del Cavallo, in Italy's Puglia province.
Fit for a King: Largest Egyptian Sarcophagus Identified
By Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor | LiveScience.com – Thu, Dec 6, 2012
The largest ancient Egyptian sarcophagus has been identified in a tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, say archaeologists who are re-assembling the giant box that was reduced to fragments more than 3,000 years ago.
Made of red granite, the royal sarcophagus was built for Merneptah, an Egyptian pharaoh who lived more than 3,200 years ago. A warrior king, he defeated the Libyans and a group called the "Sea Peoples" in a great battle.
He also waged a campaign in the Levant attacking, among others, a group he called "Israel" (the first mention of the people). When he died, his mummy was enclosed in a series of four stone sarcophagi, one nestled within the other.
Archaeologists are re-assembling the outermost of these nested sarcophagi, its size dwarfing the researchers working on it. It is more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, 7 feet (2.3 m) wide and towers more than 8 feet (2.5 m) above the ground. It was originally quite colorful and has a lid that is still intact.
"This as far as I know is about the largest of any of the royal sarcophagi," said project director Edwin Brock, a research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, in an interview with LiveScience.
Brock explained the four sarcophagi would probably have been brought inside the tomb already nested together, with the king's mummy inside.
Holes in the entrance shaft to the tomb indicate a pulley system of sorts, with ropes and wooden beams, used to bring the sarcophagi in. When the workers got to the burial chamber they found they couldn't get the sarcophagi box through the door. Ultimately, they had to destroy the chamber's door jams and build new ones.
"I always like to wonder about the conversation that might have taken place between the tomb builders and the people from the quarry," said Brock in a presentation he gave recently at an Egyptology symposium in Toronto. "This study has shown a lot of interesting little human aspects about ancient Egypt [that] perhaps makes them look less godlike."
When he first examined fragments from Merneptah's tomb in the 1980s, they were "piled up in no particular order" in a side chamber. Even when put together, the fragments made up just one-third of the box, meaning researchers had to reconstruct the rest.
Brock's efforts got a boost with the launch of a full reconstruction project (affiliated with the Royal Ontario Museum) that started in March 2011. (Merneptah's tomb has been recently re-opened to the public.)
The four sarcophagi
Not only was the pharaoh's outer sarcophagus huge but the fact that he used four of them, made of stone, is unusual. "Merneptah's unique in having been provided with four stone sarcophagi to enclose his mummified coffined remains," said Brock in his presentation. [The 10 Weirdest Ways We Deal With the Dead]
Within the outer sarcophagus was a second granite sarcophagus box with a cartouche-shaped oval lid that depicts Merneptah. Within that was a third sarcophagus that was taken out and reused in antiquity by another ruler named Psusennes I. Within this was a fourth sarcophagus, made of travertine (a form of limestone), that originally held the mummy of Merneptah.
Only a few fragments of this last box survive today; the mummy itself was reburied in antiquity after the tomb was robbed more than 3,000 years ago. It was after this robbery that the outer sarcophagus box, and the second box within it, were broken apart (the lids for both boxes being kept intact). They were destroyed not only for their parts but also to help get at the third box (that was reused by Psusennes).
Fire was used in breaking apart the outer sarcophagus box.
"Scorch marks, spalling [splinters] and circular cracking on various locations of the interior and exterior of the box attest to the use of fire to heat parts of the box, followed by rapid cooling with water to weaken the granite," writes Brock in his symposium abstract, adding that dolerite hammer stones also appear to have been used.
Why so big?
Why Merneptah built himself such a giant sarcophagus is unknown. Other pharaohs used multiple sarcophagi, although none, it appears, with an outer box as big as this.
Brock points out that Merneptah's father, Ramesses II, and grandfather, Seti I, both great builders, were apparently each buried in one travertine sarcophagus.
The decorations on Merneptah's different sarcophagi offer a clue as to why he built four of them. They contain illustrations "from two compositions that describe the sun god's journey at night, one is called the 'Book of Gates' and one is called the 'Amduat,'" Brock said. These books are divided into 12 sections, or "hours."
He notes that the same hours tend to be repeated on the box and lids of Merneptah's sarcophagi. One motif the king appears particularly fond of is the opening scenes of the "Book of Gates," including one depicting a realm that exists before the sun god enters the netherworld, according to Egyptologist Erik Hornung's book "The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife" (Cornell University Press, 1999, translation from German). "Upon his entry into the realm of the dead, the sun god is greeted not by individual deities but by the collective of the dead, who are designated the 'gods of the west’ and located in the western mountain range," Hornung writes.
For the king repeating scenes like this over and over may have been important, it’s "as though they're trying to enclose the [king's] body with these magical shells that have power of resurrection," Brock said.
The research was presented at a Toronto symposium that ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 and was organized by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities and the Royal Ontario Museum's Friends of Ancient Egypt.
GLADIATOR'S TOMB TO BE REBURIED
Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi
Tue Dec 4, 2012 03:21 PM ET
The tomb of the ancient Roman hero believed to have inspired the Russell Crowe blockbuster "Gladiator," might be returned to oblivion four years after its discovery in Rome.
A lack of fundings is forcing Italian archaeologists to bury again the large marble monument of Marcus Nonius Macrinus, a general and consul who achieved major victories in military campaigns for Antoninus Pius, the Roman emperor from 138 to 161 A.D., and Marcus Aurelius, emperor from 161 to 180 A.D.
Unearthed in 2008 on the banks of the Tiber near the via Flaminia, north of Rome, the tomb, complete with the dedicatory inscription, was hailed as "the most important ancient Roman monument to come to light for 20 or 30 years."
Although the tomb collapsed in antiquity because of floods, its marble columns, carvings and friezes remained perfectly preserved, sealed by the Tiber's mud.
Rome's officials had planned to fully reconstruct the monumental tomb as the centerpiece of a new archaeological park, but the project failed due to a tight budget and a lack of private sponsors.
"It is a painful choice, but we cannot risk losing the monument. The marbles can't face another winter, we must bury the site in order to preserve it," Mariarosaria Barbera, Rome's archaeological superintendent, told the daily La Repubblica.
Born in Brescia in northern Italy in 138 A.D., Macrinus was one of Marcus Aurelius's favorite men. His life is believed to have inspired the fictional character Maximus Decimus Meridius in Ridley Scott's film.
In the movie, Meridus is also a general and a favorite of Marcus Aurelius, but this is where the similarities end.
While Meridius fell from grace after the emperor's death and ended up in exile in North Africa only to return as a gladiator and take revenge, the real Roman general remained a rich and famous man until the end of his days.
Ironically, a lack of money has so far prevented his tomb from being restored in its full glory.
"In the next coming days the monumental tomb will be filled in, but we hope this is just a temporary measure. We have not given up yet. We still believe in the project of the via Flaminia archaeological park," Barbera said.
BRONZE HELMET CONTAINING CREMATION FOUND IN SOUTH EAST ENGLAND
Article created on Wednesday, December 5, 2012
A rare bronze helmet has been unearthed on farmland near Canterbury, south east England. The helmet, dating to the first century BC, was discovered by a local metal detectorist.
In October 2012 the detectorist (who wishes to remain anonymous), contacted Andrew Richardson – previously the Kent Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) – to report a ‘significant discovery’.
The detectorist was certain that he had found a ‘Celtic bronze helmet’. A late Iron Age brooch in very good condition was found along with the helmet and a fragment of burnt bone was noted. Discussions with archaeologists, the landowner, tenant, FLO, British Museum and others then followed and it was agreed that an excavation of the immediate find spot was the best course of action.
A team drawn from Canterbury Archaeological Trust and the Dover Archaeological Group proceeded to carry out excavations at the find spot (carefully marked by the detectorist). The archaeologists opened a 2m square trench, but this revealed no elaborate burial, only a small oval pit cut into the natural chalk. Cutting into this, the detectorist’s original recovery pit could be readily identified as a roughly circular hole about 0.35m in diameter. Careful removal of its fill yielded a moderate quantity of cremated bone and a few small fragments of copper alloy sheet, presumably derived from the helmet.
From the account provided by the finder and the evidence recovered from the subsequent archaeological investigation, the overall form of the burial can be reconstructed with some confidence. A shallow circular pit had initially been cut into the natural chalk. Into this, the inverted helmet had been placed. It was positioned in the eastern half of the pit, orientated north-north-east by south-south-west, with its projecting rear neck-guard at the north-north-east end. Either just before or just after the helmet had been put into the ground a quantity of cremated human bone had been placed within it.
The brooch was found within the upper part of the bone deposit making it likely that the cremated material had originally been contained within some sort of cloth or leather bag/container which had been closed at the top. This had then been placed within the inverted helmet which in this case served as an ‘urn’. The pit was then backfilled with relatively clean soil and chalk, with no surviving evidence to suggest that the spot had been permanently marked in any way. No evidence for any other interments was discovered during the excavation and it would seem that the helmet burial was either an isolated one or formed part of a somewhat dispersed cemetery with widely spaced burials.
The pit was cut on its west side by a plough furrow and the rim of the helmet exhibits damage, potentially caused by ploughing activity.
Julia Farley, Iron Age curator at the British Museum says: “This is a very exciting find, one of only a handful of Iron Age helmets to have been found in Britain. In late Iron Age Kent, it was not unusual to bury the cremated remains of the dead in a bag fastened with one or more brooches, but no other cremation has ever been found accompanied by a helmet. The first century BC was a time of war, but it was also a time of travel, communication, and change. This helmet emphasizes the new connections being forged across the channel, at a time when life in south-eastern England was about to change dramatically. The owner of this helmet, or the people who placed it in the grave, may have lived through the very beginning of the story of Roman Britain.”
Roman soldier wearing a similar helmet to the Kent find.
Andrew Richardson, now a finds specialist with Canterbury Archaeological Trust, commented that helmets like these did not originate in Britain and were worn both by Gauls and Romans (Republican period). It is still unclear why the helmet found its way to this location, but at the moment there are four plausible scenarios for its owner:
· a British mercenary who fought in Gaul
· a Gaulish warrior escaping Roman occupation
· a British warrior who has bought a continental style helmet
· a Roman soldier from Ceasar’s invasion of Britain
Further study of the helmet, the brooch, the cremated remains and perhaps the area around the immediate find spot, is needed in order to refine the dating and character of this unique discovery. Currently the bone fragments are being examined and it should be possible to gather information about the individual buried in the helmet.
Dr Steven Willis, senior lecturer in archaeology at the University of Kent, said laser-scanning technology had been used to analyse the helmet and establish details of its manufacture and decoration.
He concluded, “The secrets of this helmet are only just beginning to emerge but we will know much more as the work progresses.”
Source: Canterbury Archaeological Trust
FRACTURE TREATMENT IN IRON AGE AND ROMAN BRITAIN
Article created on Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Medical treatment, despite our own Western perspective of science, is a cultural trait. How we choose to treat different forms of trauma, the methods of recovery, and the beliefs surrounding medicine are all culturally dictated.
There have long been debates over the changes that occurred to the general health of a population with the occupation or Romanisation of an area. Examination of skeletal remains have shown both improvement and decline in overall health.
Katy Meyers has examined a recent study by Redfern (2010) which took a different approach and looked at the cultural change in medical beliefs and practices through physical remains.
Examination was carried out for ante mortem fractures and surgical practice of 270 adults and 190 sub adults from 21 cemeteries around the Dorset region.
The goal was to assess changes in treatment from the Iron Age (5th c. BCE to 1st c. CE) to the Romano-British period (1st c. to the end of the 4th c. CE).
The assumption had always been that the Romans brought some semblance of scientific progress to barbarian cultures, but analysis is suggesting this may not be entirely true.
In order to assess healthcare and changes in both time periods, Redfern examined 64 males, 51 females and 80 sub adults from the Iron Age and 96 males, 59 females, and 110 sub adults from the Romano-British period.
In this study, she recorded fractures based on location, type of fracture, healing and whether it resulted in deformity or associated degenerative problems like arthritis. Surgical treatment was identified based on the type of trauma, presence of cut-marks, and presence of surgical artefacts.
The results tell a new story about care and medicine in Britain both pre and post Roman occupation.
Read full article: Break a Leg! Fracture Treatment in Iron Age and Roman Britain
Redfern, Rebecca (2010). A regional examination of surgery and fracture treatment in Iron Age and Roman Britain International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 25 (4)
'First tartan' on Roman statue
4 December 2012 Last updated at 01:02
Remnants of a Roman statue in North Africa could be the "first-ever depiction of tartan", according to a BBC Scotland documentary.
A piece of a bronze statue of the Emperor Caracalla contains the small figure of a Caledonian warrior wearing what appears to be tartan trews.
The third century Roman emperor Caracalla styled himself as the conqueror of the Caledonians.
A statue marking his achievements stood in the Moroccan city of Volubilis.
It stood above a great archway in the ancient city, which lay in the south west of the Roman empire, 1,500 miles from Caledonia - modern day Scotland.
A small piece of cloak from the monument still survives at the archaeological museum in Rabat in Morocco.
"It includes an early depiction of that great national stereotype - the long-haired Caledonian warrior," says Dr Fraser Hunter, who presents the BBC Scotland programme.
The warrior is wearing checked leggings which, according to Dr Hunter, is "the first-ever depiction of tartan".
It is thought the Celts have been weaving plaid twills for thousands of years and this is the earliest representation.
Dr Hunter adds: "The shield too is Celtic in style. You can see the warrior's head with the cloak over the shoulders. The arms are bound behind the back.
"This guy is a captive. He's a prisoner from the vicious campaigns of Severus and Caracalla."
Septimius Severus, Caracalla's father, led massive military campaigns into 3rd century Scotland.
The mighty Roman legions had conquered all before them but they stuttered to a halt when they took on the tribes of Iron Age Scotland.
Caracalla carried on his father's fight, waging a brutal campaign.
Dr Hunter says prisoners could have been force-marched for months to other parts of the empire.
"They were living trophies of the emperor's success. Some might have been traded as slaves in the great markets. Others would have been even less fortunate."
Dr Hunter points to a mosaic from Tunisia which shows how one unfortunate Caledonian met his end.
"Captured, marched for months to this desert province, sent to the amphitheatre and killed by wild animals as exotic entertainment for the locals," says Dr Hunter.
The expert says we have long had a curious "rather cuddly" relationship with the Romans.
"In the western world we often see ourselves as inheritors of Roman values and Roman culture," he says.
"But this evidence from North Africa reminds us that the Romans were invaders and colonisers.
"Their strategies encompassed everything up to and including genocide.
"For the local tribes the Roman arrival in what we call Scotland must have been absolutely terrifying."
The documentary - Scotland: Rome's Final Frontier on BBC Two Scotland on Friday at 21:00 - explores why the Romans struggled to expand their empire north of the border.
Museum to examine remains found in Co Meath bog
The National Museum of Ireland is to begin examining the remains of Ireland's latest "bog person" discovered at a Bord na Móna site in Co Meath last week. The headless body was found among a stack of peat by workers on Friday morning near Kinnegad.
An archaeological team from the National Museum was dispatched to inspect the remains which were excavated on Saturday and transported to Dublin.
It is unclear at this stage the age, sex or cause of death, though those details are likely to emerge this week following examination by experts.
The discovery comes just over a year after that of the "Cashel Man" remains from a bog in Co Laois, which were thought to be those of a sacrificial victim.
There are just four such bodies on display at the National Museum on Kildare Street, Dublin.
"How ancient its year we won't be able to say yet but it is a bog body of some antiquity," said Maeve Sikora, an assistant keeper in the museum's Irish antiquities division.
"Its upper body appears to be intact and further analysis should be able to tell us how much else is there. It seems like it has been exposed to the air for quite a while and that would be damaging but nonetheless its condition is very good."
The Buddhas of Aynak: The Afghan Cultural Site That the World Does Not Care About
Malik Achakzaiin World,Afghanistan 4 days ago
One of Afghanistan's biggest archaeological treasures may soon be turned to dust as a Chinese mining company which has bought the site turns it into a sprawling, billion-dollar copper mine.
The Buddhas of Aynak, situated in a desert region 20 minutes southwest of Kabul, is an archaeological site containing ancient Buddhist artifacts dated over 2,500 years old. It also holds rich mineral deposits, especially copper. Formerly an ancient Buddhist monastery complex, the historical center has more than 150 Buddha statues. It is of immense worldwide importance and is one of Afghanistan's richest historical sites.
The site also has a violent and troubled history. A common rumor is that Al-Qaeda planned the 2001 September 11 attack from a camp in Aynak. The area is also a major transit route for insurgents coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
Archaeologists have found a number of artifacts dating backing over a millennium on the site, even unearthing manuscripts that may provide evidence regarding the presence of Alexander the Great's troops in the area.
The Buddhist ruins are scheduled to be destroyed at the end of December 2012. In November 2007, a 30-year lease was granted for the copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group (MCC) for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan’s history.
The Afghan Mining Ministry estimates that the mine holds some six million tons of copper. The mine is expected to be worth tens of billions of dollars, and to generate jobs and economic activity for the country but all of this critically threatens the site's archaeological remains, which are now being hurriedly excavated by private organizations.
Brent Huffman, a volunteer working to preserve this archaeological site, has produced a documentary about the Buddhas of Aynak, and is busy collecting donations to boost the excavation work. In an interview with Huffman, I asked about the history and the status of the excavation of the Aynak.
Malik Achakzai: Could you discuss the historical importance of the Buddhas of Aynak?
Brent Huffman: Mes Aynak, or "little copper well" is a vast ancient Buddhist city 400,000 square meters in size. There are over 400 hundred life-size or larger Buddha statues, a circular monastic complex and dozens of temple (stupa) structures.
More is being discovered daily, including hundreds of ancient manuscripts hidden inside many of the stupas.
Archaeologists are only beginning to find remnants of an older 5,000-year-old Bronze Age site beneath the Buddhist level including an ancient copper smelter.
M.A: How important is this site for Afghanistan and the world?
B.H: This site is extremely important to not only Afghanistan but to the entire world. The incredible discoveries at Mes Aynak will redefine the history of Buddhism and Asia. Mes Aynak represents a major hub on the Silk Road where pilgrims and traders would exchange ideas and influence each other. People at Mes Aynak also mined for copper themselves using ancient mining techniques.
M.A: How long will this process of excavation go on, and how many organizations are taking part in it?
B.H: Excavation is set to end Dec. 25th, and the site is set to be destroyed by the Chinese mining company unless we do something to stop it. This should be a 30-year excavation job, but it has been a sporadic three-year rushed rescue archaeology job so far. DAFA, the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Mines are all involved.
M.A: What's the stance of Afghan Government and the Chinese Company to preserve this important Buddha's heritage?
B.H: The Ministry of Culture is attempting to save all small artifacts and move them to the National Museum in Kabul. All the bigger relics, statues, structures, temples, etc. are too fragile to be moved and will be destroyed after Dec. 25th.
M.A: UNESCO and other international organizations for culture and heritage — have they played any role pressuring the Chinese company and Afghan government to extend the period of excavation?
B.H: No, UNESCO has not played any role so far. There have been several international groups (ARCH, Global Witness, the Smithsonian, the Thai embassy, and my own campaign) putting pressure on MCC and the Afghan government.
M.A: Is the security of The Buddhas of Aynak satisfactory, have you or other organization felt any threat, because Taliban and other militant organizations view them as un-Islamic?
B.H: The security at Mes Aynak is very poor. Rockets have been fired at both the MCC mine and the archaeology site and anti-personnel land mines have been placed on the road at night. These attacks are all over money, not Buddhism.
Six villages in Logar province have to be leveled to make way for this enormous open-pit style copper mine. These villagers are angry about the way this process played out – either they were never compensated for their loss or the compensation was very low. They have been partnering with the Taliban to attack the MCC mine and the archaeology site.
The copper mine will also cause terrible environmental devastation, poisoning the land and water permanently.
Lines in the sand may have been made for walking
Celebrated desert drawings include a labyrinth
By Bruce Bower
Web edition: December 7, 2012
Famous line drawings etched into Peru’s Nazca desert plateau around 1,500 years ago are enduring puzzles. At least one of them is also a labyrinth, researchers say.
Archaeoastronomer Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester in England discovered the labyrinth — a single path leading to and from an earthen mound, with a series of disorienting twists and turns along its flat, 4.4-kilometer-long course — by walking it himself. From the ground, little of the labyrinth is visible, even while ambling through it. From the air, it’s difficult to recognize the array of landscape lines as a connected entity.
In the December Antiquity, Ruggles and archaeologist Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol in England describe and map what they regard as a carefully planned labyrinth from the ancient Nazca (sometimes spelled Nasca) culture. Nazca civilization flourished in southern coastal Peru from around 2,100 to 1,300 years ago.
“This labyrinth was meant to be walked, not seen,” Ruggles says. “The element of surprise was crucial to the experience of Nazca labyrinth walking.”
Those who traversed the desert path encountered 15 sharp corners that ushered them down trails leading away from and back toward a large hill. Walkers then rounded a curve in the path and negotiated two more turns before entering a spiral passageway that dumped them a mere 60 meters (65.6 yards) from the starting point. It probably took around one hour to complete the journey.
People marched alone or single file along the narrow dirt lane, Ruggles suggests. Minimal damage to rocks lining the path indicates that labyrinth walkers strode with care, and that religious pilgrims who periodically crossed the plateau on the way to nearby Nazca ritual centers steered clear of, or were directed away from, the labyrinth.
Ruggles and Saunders reconstructed the path’s course in several small sections that had been washed away by rains. Fieldwork from 2007 to 2011 resulted in a map of the entire labyrinth.
There’s no way to know how the labyrinth was used, Ruggles says. Shamans or pilgrims could have walked the tricky trail on spiritual journeys. Or the path might have been reserved for Nazca gods.
Nazca line and animal designs covering 1,036 square kilometers of desert floor have previously been proposed as representations of constellations, ritual sites intended to elicit rain from the gods and, most notoriously, landing strips for spaceships of otherworldly visitors. In 2000, archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni of Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., suggested that some Nazca lines formed labyrinths.
Ruggles and Saunders’ contention that Nazca labyrinths were made to be strolled through while staying mostly hidden from view “is novel and well-argued,” Aveni says.
Although smashed pottery litters nearby Nazca lines, no such relics appear in the labyrinth or on the adjacent hill. Ruggles hopes to excavate the mound to determine whether it’s a natural formation or a Nazca creation.
Archaeologists find Maya ceramics and mural paintings in three underwater caves in Mexico
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Underwater archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta), recently explored three spaces, all abundant with Mayan culture materials: two semidry caves in Campeche and a cenote [A water-filled limestone sink hole] in Yucatan. The cenote stands out since it contains particularly stylish ceramic that is calculated to have been elaborated about 2,300 years ago. This is unique in its type since it’s the only one that has been found in a cenote. To Helena Barba Meinecke, responsible for all the underwater archaeology of the Yucatan peninsula, the detailed registry of the caves and the cenote, as well as the archaeological elements found in them, confirm the speculation that these places were used for rituals in the pre Hispanic era. Cenote San Manuel The distinct characteristics of the pieces, located in the cenote San Miguel, make them stand out among the other discoveries. Access to this 20 meter (65.61 feet) deep body of water, is through the town well by rappel. The divers must not be in the water longer than 20 minutes, which is why a change of divers was required. At least six hours of meticulous planning was needed to retrieve two Mayan pots, possibly dating back to 300 AD or 200 AD (during the Late Postclassic period). The cenote has an entry of about a meter in diameter. One of the pots is globe shaped and has a braided handle. It contains an anthropomorphic face and a phytomorphic body. The other pot shows a Mayan face with a diadem detailed in a red and blue pigment. “Up till now, there had not been such stylish ceramic elements found in the peninsula’s underwater spaces, nor had they found ceramic elements as well preserved as these. They are unique materials that could have been stolen if we had not extracted them”, said Helena Barba Meinecke, expert of the Underwater Archaeology Section (SAS) of INAH. Huachabi Cave The explorations of the Underwater Archaeology Atlas project, carried out during the first half of last November, continued in the semidry cave of Huachabi, Campeche, where the findings were of no less in importance. This cave – with more than 500 meters (1640.41 feet) in length at its widest part, also has two slopes – is found inside the Miramar archaeological site, still unexplored in the Chenes region. Inside the cave, which one must rappel 20 meters (65.61 feet) to get through, there are nearly 50 spaces with offerings of distinct proportions. Carbon samples were taken to estimated the approximate date while archaeologist Eunice Uc, investigator of the INAH Center – Yucatan, works on defining the ceramic types to provide an appropriate timeline; the context of the ceramic elements has been preliminarily supposed to date back to the Classic Mayan period (600 – 900 AD). Also, next to these materials, fragments of mural paintings were detected in different chambers of the cave. The small symmetry between their designs (anthropomorphic as well as representations of vegetables and insects that inhabit the subterranean environment), and the fact that they were elaborated with red clay, taken from inside the cave, could mean these were older than the rest of the elements found. Aktun aam Cave The cave was baptized as Aktun aam because of the great quantity of violinist spiders [also known as the “brown recluse”] (Loxosceles laeta) found in its corners. The cave is also located in Campeche and it’s accessed by rappel at a 15º angle. It is possible that initiation ceremonies or purification ceremonies were performed in the cave given the disposition of the objects that were discovered. Also, several strewn materials around the cave suggest the objects were elaborated inside the cave. Archaeologist Barba Meinecke explained that in each branch of the cavern – 200 meters (656.16 feet) -, were placed, generally in ensembles, decorated black colored pots and metates [ a stone block with a shallow concave surface, used for minor grinding], intentionally broken, and that were elaborated with the same limestone from within the cave.
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Southampton City Council to cut archaeology unit
12:10pm Sunday 9th December 2012 in News By Patrick Knox, Senior Reporter
FOR more than 54 years it has unveiled Southampton’s illustrious Roman, Saxon and mediaeval past.
But the city council archaeology unit now faces becoming consigned to history.
Council bosses want to axe it because they say it lost the city £128,000 last year and is forecasted to lose £65,000 this year.
This comes as the council needs to slash £20m from its budget next year.
For council leisure boss Warwick Payne, it all boils down to hard cash: “If the archaeological team was even close to turning a profit there is no way this saving would put forward. Unfortunately it’s not even close.”
So the council now plans to bring in outside archaeological services when required instead.
But heritage bodies are fuming. Diana Friendship-Taylor, chairman of The British Archaeological Trust, said: “If Southampton is serious about its aspirations to become an international city of culture, which places great emphasis on the city’s internationally unique heritage resource, then the closure of the unit and the loss of local expertise is very much a backward step.”
The city’s archaeology unit can trace its origins back to the first appointment of a professional archaeologist in 1958.
Mrs Friendship-Taylor added: “The current staff of the unit have amassed a wealth of expertise on the history and archaeology of Southampton that is unparalleled and is irreplaceable.
“The proposed closure of the unit would be a significant loss to the people of Southampton, and to those developers who seek knowledge and expertise for the efficient investigation of archaeological remains within the city.
“There will also be a knock-on effect for the management of the city’s council’s large portfolio of legally protected ancient monuments as this function is also carried out by the archaeology unit.”
Arthur Jeffrey, acting chairman of the City of Southampton Society, said he understood that the council coffers were under strain but said the city’s heritage would suffer without its own team of archaeologists.
He said: “Things will crumble literally.
There would be wear and tear that the city council cannot maintain.
“I just hope this is closed for the short term and in open again in the long term.”
Eric Payne Danson, Southampton Tourist Guides Association general secretary, said: “What happens when rare and valuable treasures like Above Bar are allowed to decline without upkeep, until they can no longer be conserved?
“We have the Bargate which is probably the most important gateway of its type, in the whole of England, with the exception of York. The list of rare or unique things that Southampton has to offer goes on and on.”
The council’s nine-strong archaeology team, which provides briefings to developers and excavations of sensitive sites to ensure no archaeology is damaged during construction work, face redundancy. And a monthly meeting of the city’s young archaeology club, which has 15 m e m b e r s , and is run by the archaeology team, could now fold.
Most recently the archaeology unit has helped bring to life the city’s history at the new £15m SeaCity Museum and has overseen a restoration of the city’s 15th century Tudor House, now reopened as a popular visitor attraction.
The council is considering all its cuts proposals up until February when the city budget is set.