These Are the Earliest Human Paintings Ever


According to new dating tests, these are the first paintings ever made by humans. They are seals painted more than 42,000 years ago, located in the Cave of Nerja, in Málaga, Spain. And they may change our ideas about humanity's evolution.


Until now, archeologists thought that the oldest art was created during the Aurignacian period, by modern humans. But these are way older, way more primitive than the ones in Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave, the 32,000-year-old paintings featured in Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams.


According to the latest dating of the charcoal found next to the paintings—used either to make the paintings or illuminate them—these seals may have been made more than 42,300 years ago. In fact, they may be as old as 43,500 years.


It's a mindblowing academic discovery, according to project leader José Luis Sanchidrián, professor at the University of Córdoba, one that can revolutionize our understanding of our history, culture and evolution:


Our latest discoveries show that neanderthals decorated their bodies with paint and had an aesthetic sense, and that's a scientific revolutions because, until now, [we] homo sapiens have attributed our selves every achievement, showing [the neanderthals] almost like monkeys.


We thought art history was exclusive to evolved humans, that our sensibility was "an intimate part of ourselves, the sapiens, because we think we are the thinkers." This discovery, if confirmed with further testing, proves this sapiens-centric idea wrong.


According to Sanchidrían, all the available scientific data shows that these pictures could only have been made by Homo Neanderthalensis instead of Homo Sapiens Sapiens, something completely unthinkable until this finding. "The charcoals were next to the seals, which doesn't have any parallelism in paleolithic art" said the professor, "and we knew that neanderthals ate seals." And there is no proof of homo sapiens in this part of the Iberian Peninsula.


Researchers think that this cave was one of the last points in Europe in which neanderthals—who lived from 120,000 to 35,000 years ago—sought refuge, escaping the push of the Cro-Magnon, the first earliest homo sapiens to reach Europe.



A meteorite as a ritual offering for ancient Britons

11 February 2012


A meteorite spanning about 1.6 feet (0.5m) across and weighing 205 pounds (93 kg) fell from space some 30,000 years ago in what is now Britain. And after much sleuthing, researchers think they know where it came from and how it survived so long without weathering away. The giant rock was likely discovered by an archaeologist about 200 years ago at a ancient burial site near Stonehenge, according to said Colin Pillinger, a professor of planetary sciences at the Open University.

     Pillinger curated the exhibition 'Objects in Space' at the Royal Society's London headquarters (through March 30) and is the first time the public will get a chance to see the meteorite. The exhibition explores not only the mystery that surrounds the origins of the giant meteorite, but also the history and our fascination with space rocks.

     As for how the meteorite survived its long stint on Earth, researchers point to the Ice Age. "The only meteorites that we know about that have survived these long ages are the ones that were collected in Antarctica," said Pillinger, adding that more recently, some ancient meteorites have been collected in the Sahara Desert. This rock came from neither the Sahara Desert nor Antarctica, but rather the Lake House in Wiltshire.

     "Britain was under an ice age for 20,000 years," Pillinger said, explaining the climate would have protected the rock from weathering. At some point, ancient people likely picked up the meteorite when scouting for rocks to build burial chambers. Then, years later, an archaeologist likely found the rock while excavating those ancient burial sites. The archaeologist then brought the rock back to his house in Wiltshire, where its more recent residents took notice and alerted researchers. "The men whose house this was found at spent a lot of time opening these burial sites 200 years ago for purposes of excavating them," Pillinger said. "Our hypothesis is that the stone probably came out of one of those burial chambers."

     Other objects on display include a much smaller meteorite, weighing about an ounce (32g), and excavated from a grain pit where peoples of the Iron Age stored their crops. It was discovered in the 1970s at Danebury Hill Fort in Hampshire, though it wasn't until the 1980s when scientists analyzed metal in the walnut-size object did they realize its extraterrestrial origin.


Edited from Discovery News, Space.com, Huffington Post (9 February 2012)



Call to conserve Neolithic grave in Delancey Park

9 February 2012 Last updated at 11:13


Plans to conserve a Neolithic site in Guernsey have been submitted to the Admiral de Saumarez Trust and the Guernsey Museums service.


Archaeologist Dr George Nash produced the Conservation Management Plan after carrying out fieldwork at the site between 2009 and 2011.


He said the Neolithic gallery grave in Delancey Park had been a centre for the ancient community.


Dr Nash said it had been a settlement before the site became a grave.


He added that the excavation, funded by the trust, had revealed a complex history of the site dating back to the early Neolithic period, some 5,500 years ago.


Dr Nash said the plan he submitted was a long-term strategy looking at the strengths, weaknesses and threats to the site and how they could be acted upon.


He said: "I've suggested we do certain things to enhance it, to make it more of an educational facility, but more importantly make it a marker within the park that people can respect, look at and gain some knowledge from."


Dr Nash said they found "some very nice pieces of flint, but our piece de resistance, so to speak, was the discovery of three very, very small blue glass beads, which probably date to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age, which is the next period along in the prehistoric sequence.


"It tells us there were local groups probably using the sea as their main source of economics, because of where the site is located, but it also tells something very important - that they were importing stuff from far and wide."



Ancient cremated bodies found in field

By Dan Santy 08/02 Updated: 08/02 15:14


ARCHAEOLOGISTS digging in Cawston have described the discovery of the remains of two cremated bodies dating back some 2,000 years as a major find.


Land on Calvestone Road set for a development of 129 houses by Redrow Homes is currently the subject of an archaeological dig due to its historical significance.


Until recently the dig, running until March, had uncovered only rocks and slate objects believed to date back 4,000 years to the Neolithic Age, along with evidence of ridge and furrow land used in ancient farming.


But this week saw the uncovering of bone fragments and other evidence of two cremation burials believed to date from the Iron Age.


The bodies were not intact as they were laying in sand which does not preserve bone well, but project officer for Cotswold Archaeology, Vasileios Tsamis, said it was by far the most important discovery made by his team.


"It's definitely the most significant thing we've found so far. It's a really interesting find and points to the possibility of a farming community," Mr Tsamis told The Observer.


"We have also found evidence of farmland and rocks going back as far as 4,000 years, so we're talking about some really old things here.


"A lot of the land is sandy ground in which organic material doesn't survive, so we're not sure what else we'll find down there. We will just have to wait and see."


The remains will be removed from the site for testing alongside the other objects recovered by the archaeology team.


Mr Tsamis said he and his colleagues believed the site was likely to have once been an ancient farmstead.


The discovery has created a buzz in Cawston according to Coun Mike Stokes who said nearby schools were keen to pay a visit to the dig.


He added: "This site was previously highlighted as having an archaeological interest and I understand that after some investigation, this status was removed, so it is very interesting these bodies have been found and I know the local schools are discussing the find.


"It was inevitable development would take place on this land and Redrow have been very good at communicating with the local authority, myself and fellow councillors."


Arguably the most famous archaeological find in the borough is the ancient Roman town of Tripontium. First unearthed in 1961 by the Rugby Archaeological Society, it is located some three miles north east of the town and was believed to have been inhabited for around 400 years.



Archaeologists strike gold in quest to find Queen of Sheba's wealth

A British excavation has struck archaeological gold with a discovery that may solve the mystery of where the Queen of Sheba derived her fabled treasures

Dalya Alberge

The Observer, Sunday 12 February 2012


A British excavation has struck archaeological gold with a discovery that may solve the mystery of where the Queen of Sheba of biblical legend derived her fabled treasures.


Almost 3,000 years ago, the ruler of Sheba, which spanned modern-day Ethiopia and Yemen, arrived in Jerusalem with vast quantities of gold to give to King Solomon. Now an enormous ancient goldmine, together with the ruins of a temple and the site of a battlefield, have been discovered in her former territory.


Louise Schofield, an archaeologist and former British Museum curator, who headed the excavation on the high Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia, said: "One of the things I've always loved about archaeology is the way it can tie up with legends and myths. The fact that we might have the Queen of Sheba's mines is extraordinary."


An initial clue lay in a 20ft stone stele (or slab) carved with a sun and crescent moon, the "calling card of the land of Sheba", Schofield said. "I crawled beneath the stone – wary of a 9ft cobra I was warned lives here – and came face to face with an inscription in Sabaean, the language that the Queen of Sheba would have spoken."


On a mound nearby she found parts of columns and finely carved stone channels from a buried temple that appears to be dedicated to the moon god, the main deity of Sheba, an 8th century BC civilisation that lasted 1,000 years. It revealed a victory in a battle nearby, where Schofield excavated ancient bones.


Although local people still pan for gold in the river, they were unaware of the ancient mine. Its shaft is buried some 4ft down, in a hill above which vultures swoop. An ancient human skull is embedded in the entrance shaft, which bears Sabaean chiselling.


Sheba was a powerful incense-trading kingdom that prospered through trade with Jerusalem and the Roman empire. The queen is immortalised in Qur'an and the Bible, which describes her visit to Solomon "with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold and precious stones ... Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices."


Although little is known about her, the queen's image inspired medieval Christian mystical works in which she embodied divine wisdom, as well as Turkish and Persian paintings, Handel's oratorio Solomon, and Hollywood films. Her story is still told across Africa and Arabia, and the Ethiopian tales are immortalised in the holy book the Kebra Nagast.


Hers is said to be one of the world's oldest love stories. The Bible says she visited Solomon to test his wisdom by asking him several riddles. Legend has it that he wooed her, and that descendants of their child, Menelik – son of the wise – became the kings of Abyssinia.


Schofield will begin a full excavation once she has the funds and hopes to establish the precise size of the mine, whose entrance is blocked by boulders.


Schofield said that as she stood on the ancient site, in a rocky landscape of cacti and acacia trees, it was easy to imagine the queen arriving on a camel, overseeing slaves and elephants dragging rocks from the mine.



Tests by a gold prospector who alerted her to the mine show that it is extensive, with a proper shaft and tunnel big enough to walk along.


Schofield was instrumental in setting up the multinational rescue excavations at the Roman city of Zeugma on the Euphrates before it was flooded for the Birecik dam. Her latest discovery was made during her environmental development work in Ethiopia, an irrigation, farming and eco-tourism project on behalf of the Tigray Trust, a charity she founded to develop a sustainable lifestyle for 10,000 inhabitants around Maikado, where people eke out a living from subsistence farming.


Sean Kingsley, archaeologist and author of God's Gold, said: "Where Sheba dug her golden riches is one of the great stories of the Old Testament. Timna in the Negev desert is falsely known as 'King Solomon's Mines', but anything shinier has eluded us.


"The idea that the ruins of Sheba's empire will once more bring life to the villages around Maikado is truly poetic and appropriate. Making the past relevant to the present is exactly what archaeologists should be doing. "



Archaeology: Acropolis of forgotten kingdom uncovered

Thanks to Italian excavations in southern Cappadocia

10 FEBRUARY, 15:36



Numerous archaeological excavations are underway at a huge site in Anatolia which will uncover an ancient and rich yet forgotten kingdom known as Tuwana from the darkness of history, which will be featured in an open-air museum. The news was reported by Lorenzo d'Alfonso, an Italian archaeologist leading the joint mission by the University of Pavia and NYU, who provided details on the excavation campaign in a press conference in Istanbul this month, during which the details of the Italian archaeological missions in Turkey were explained. This "new discovery" from the pre-classical age which "needs to be continued" in southern Cappadocia took place in Kinik Hoyuk, the scholar said, referring to a site mainly involving the beginning of the first millennium BC. The area is "fully" part of the "forgotten kingdom" of Tuwana, said d'Alfonso, known until now through hieroglyphics and from several sources from the Assyrian Empire, but "never studied archaeologically": "A completely intact site that has been left untouched", trying to "place it historically to understand which civilisation it belonged to and what it's role was in the region". Kinik Hoyuk, the archaeologist said, is "one of the major sites" in terms of size in pre-classical Anatolia, if you leave the capital of the Hittites out: the most conservative estimates say that it spans 24 hectares "but topographers say that it could cover 81 hectares". "A completely new mission" is working here, jointly began last year by the University of Pavia and NYU, which began collaborating with Turkish universities such as Erzurum and Nigde. "The site was uncovered by excavations conducted by several colleagues, but its importance emerged in a campaign that we conducted," said d'Alfonso, who said that "southern Cappadocia is important because it controlled the Cilician Gates, or the passageway between the East and the West and between Europe and Asia": essentially, "one of the most important junctions" in the world during that period and at the "centre" of which lies Kinik Koyuk. Tuwana was a small buffer state between the Phrygian kingdom and the Assyrian Empire "and this is why it was particularly rich": "one of the great subjects of our study involves the cultural richness of this kingdom," said D'Alfonso, referring mainly to the development of the alphabet. He pointed out that three steles from the Iron Age were uncovered in the area, "which are not very well preserved", but which do say a lot "about the importance that the site had". The strategy of the excavation, said the archaeologist, was guided by "geomagnetic surveys in 2010 which revealed particularly significant remains of the acropolis wall and buildings at the centre of the acropolis itself": "monumental" walls excavated "to a height of 6 metres" in an outstanding state of preservation (or at least which "are not easily comparable to other pre-classical sites in Anatolia, particularly the central region"). "Original plaster was found" on the walls and we are planning on reinforcing it before restorations take place" starting next year. The excavation campaign was "planned from the very beginning to be transformed into an open-air museum": Kinik Hoyuk, underlined D'Alfonso, is "easily accessible". Its "strength" is that it is only 45 minutes from the major tourist attractions in Cappadocia (and less than 2km from one of the major 4-lane roads in the region).


It is in the heart of a tourist route which is among the most important in Turkey, and therefore, the archaeologist said, the local government "fully supports the mission, seeing great possibilities for development in it". (ANSAmed).



Ancient Greek Pills Found in Greek Shipwreck

By Fani Toli on February 5, 2012 In News


In 130 BC, a ship fashioned from the wood of walnut trees, bulging with medicines and Syrian glassware, sank off the coast of Tuscany, Italy. Archaeologists found its precious load 20 years ago and now, for the first time, archaeobotanists have been able to examine and analyse pills that were prepared by the physicians of ancient Greece.


DNA analyses show that each millennia-old tablet is a mixture of more than 10 different plant extracts, from hibiscus to celery.


“Medicinal plants have been identified before, but not a compound medicine, so this is really something new,” says Alain Touwaide, director of the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions, which has the world’s largest digital database of medical manuscripts.


The pills, which researchers believe were diluted with vinegar or water to make them easier to ingest, were preserved inside tin boxes and were the size of coins.


“What is remarkable is that we have written evidence [from the ancient Greeks] of what plants were used for which disorders,” says Alisa Machalek, a science writer for the National Institute of Health, one of the world’s leading research centres.


“This research is interesting, especially for medical historians, because it confirms that what we eat affects our bodies.”


The shift toward synthetic chemical medicines occurred in the 20th Century, but according to Mark Blumenthal, the founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, there is renewed interest in the medicinal benefits of natural foods – including those found in the pills.



Census Declares Thousands of China’s Heritage Sites “Disappeared”

About 44,000 archaeological or heritage sites in China completely disappeared, according to a recent census. Why?

By Heritage on the Wire   Tue, Feb 07, 2012


The results are in from China’s most recent national heritage census — the first in more than 20 years — and they’re not good.

According to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH), around 44,000 of China’s 766,722 registered heritage sites have completely disappeared, while approximately a quarter of those remaining are either “poorly preserved” or “in a state of disrepair.”  No sites were specifically mentioned in the census, but the study included ancient ruins, temples and other cultural relics.

According to Liu Xiaohe, deputy director of the survey, economic construction is among the biggest reasons for the destruction.  Many of the vanished sites were completely unprotected or ignored by protection units overseeing national and provincial cultural relics, thereby allowing their demolition in favor of construction projects.  In addition, some heritage sites were destroyed without explanation.

Meanwhile, a recent Guardian article reported on the increasingly sophisticated looting gangs that have devastated China’s heritage sites, with a national network of as many as 100,000 looters working to serve international dealers and collectors.  According to the report, the thieves use dynamite and sometimes bulldozers to break into the ruins, then search and pillage using night vision goggles and oxygen canisters.

One archaeologist whose teams researched more than 900 tombs in Shaanxi province found that almost every one had been raided.  (The SACH survey additionally deemed Shaanxi province the hardest-hit region, with more than 3,500 cultural sites having vanished.)

“Before, China had a large number of valuable ancient tombs, and although it was really depressing to see a tomb raided, it was still possible to run into a similar one in the future,” said Wei Zheng, a Peking University archaeologist, in the Guardian article.  “Nowadays too many have been destroyed.  Once one is raided, it is really difficult to find a similar one.”

Reports like these appear in stark contrast to China’s recently adopted guideline to promote cultural development.  Although the guideline focused mainly on boosting China’s soft power and producing new movies, music, books and art, the tragic loss of thousands of cultural relics does not correlate with cultural development.

News Source: Global Heritage Fund

See more about the Global Heritage Fund at www.globalheritagefund.org.



The 'Pompeii' of the Western Front: Archaeologists find the bodies of 21 tragic World War One German soldiers in perfectly preserved trenches where they were buried alive by an Allied shell

Men were killed when a huge Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in eastern France in 1918, causing it to cave in

Engineers find trench network 18ft beneath the surface near town of Carspach while excavating for a new road

Scene likened to Pompeii after skeletal remains found in same positions the men had been in at the time of the collapse


Last updated at 6:37 PM on 10th February 2012


The bodies of 21 German soldiers entombed in a perfectly preserved World War One shelter have been discovered 94 years after they were killed.

The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when a huge Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918, causing it to cave in.

Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter, but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.

Nearly a century later, French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front in eastern France during excavation work for a road building project.


Some 7.5million men lost their lives on the Western Front during World War One.

The front was opened when the German army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium in 1914  and then moved into the industrial regions in northern France.

In September of that year, this advance was halted, and slightly reversed, at the Battle Of Marne.

It was then that both sides dug vast networks of trenches that ran all the way from the North Sea to the Swiss border with France.

This line of tunnels remained unaltered, give or take a mile here and a mile there, for most of the four-year conflict.

By 1917, after years of deadlock that saw millions of soldiers killed for zero gain on either side, new military technology including poison gas, tanks and planes was deployed on the front.

Thanks to these techniques, the Allies slowly advanced throughout 1918 until the war's end in November.

Many of the skeletal remains were found in the same positions the men had been in at the time of the collapse, prompting experts to liken the scene to Pompeii.

A number of the soldiers were discovered sitting upright on a bench, one was lying in his bed and another was in the foetal position having been thrown down a flight of stairs.

As well as the bodies, poignant personal effects such as boots, helmets, weapons, wine bottles, spectacles, wallets, pipes, cigarette cases and pocket books were also found.

Even the skeleton of a goat was found, assumed to be a source of fresh milk for the soldiers.

Archaeologists believe the items have been so well-preserved because hardly any air, water or lights had penetrated the trench.

The 300ft-long tunnel was located 18ft beneath the surface near the small town of Carspach in the Alsace region of France.

Michael Landolt, the archaeologist leading the dig, said: 'It's a bit like Pompeii. Everything collapsed in seconds and is just the way it was at the time.

'Here, as in Pompeii, we found the bodies as they were at the moment of their death. Some of the men were found in sitting positions on a bench, others lying down. One was projected down a flight of wooden stairs and was found in a foetal position.

'The collapsed shelter was filled with soil. The items were very well-preserved because of the absence of air and light and water.

'Metal objects were rusty, wood was in good condition and we found some pages of newspapers that were still readable. Leather was in good condition as well, still supple.

'The items will be taken to a laboratory, cleaned and examined.'

Archaeologists also uncovered the wooden sides, floors and stairways of the shelter.

The dead soldiers were part of the 6th Company, 94th Reserve Infantry Regiment.

Their names are all known - they include Musketeer Martin Heidrich, 20, Private Harry Bierkamp, 22, and Lieutenant August Hutten, 37, whose names are inscribed on a memorial in the nearby German war cemetery of Illfurth.

The bodies have been handed over to the German War Graves Commission but unless relatives can be found and they request the remains to be repatriated, it is planned that the men will be buried at Illfurth.

The underground tunnel was big enough to shelter 500 men and had 16 exits.

It would have been equipped with heating, telephone connections, electricity, beds and a pipe to pump out water.

The French attacked the shelter on March 18, 1918 with aerial mines that penetrated the ground and blasted in the side wall of the shelter in two points.

It is estimated that over 165,000 Commonwealth soldiers are still unaccounted for on the Western Front.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099187/Bodies-21-German-soldiers-buried-alive-WW1-trench-perfectly-preserved-94-years-later.html#ixzz1mCtMAmNk