Ice Age struck Australia's Aboriginals hard

Population numbers plummeted due to harsh conditions at the peak of the last Ice Age, says a new study.



A NEW STUDY HAS revealed how indigenous Australians coped with the last Ice Age, roughly 20,000 years ago.


Researchers say that when the climate cooled dramatically, Aboriginal groups sought refuge in well-watered areas, such as along rivers, and populations were condensed into small habitable areas.


Professor Sean Ulm, lead author of the research at James Cook University in Townsville, says the vast majority of Australia was simply uninhabitable at this time. “Forests disappeared, animals went extinct; major areas of Australia would have been deprived of surface water.”


How humans coped with the last Ice Age


To understand how Aboriginal people responded to the conditions, a team of experts from Australia, England, and Canada used the radiocarbon dates of thousands of archaeological sites to study the distribution of people across the landscape over time.


The findings, published recently in The Journal of Archaeological Science, suggest that about 21,000 years ago, almost all people in modern-day Australia migrated into smaller areas, abandoning as much as 80 per cent of the continent.


“In Lawn Hill Gorge in northwestern Queensland, at the coldest point of the last glacial period, all of the stone, raw materials and food remains are exclusively from the Gorge area," says Sean. "This indicated very limited or no use of the surrounding broader landscape.”


This massive consolidation had drastic effects on the population as well. “There was likely a birth rate decline of over 60 per cent,” says Alan Williams, a PhD student at the Australian Nation University who worked on the study. “It would have been very ugly.”


Can humans cope with climate change?


Sean says the next step would ideally be to study the resulting cultural shifts, however, this may prove to be difficult given that close to one third of what was Australia at the time of the Ice Age is now underwater. “By 10,000 years ago, sea levels were visibly rising, sometimes on a daily basis,” says Sean.


Extreme changes in the environment continued for thousands of years, and Aboriginal life readjusted in the process. Sean says this makes it unlikely that researchers will ever know the full societal ramifications of the Ice Age.


What the study does reveal, however, is that humans have withstood massive climate change on this continent in the past, and this might prove vital for preparing for future events.


“A lot of the current climate reports that we read about in Australia...their records only go back a couple of hundred years,” says Sean. “That’s a very short time span to base our model for future climate change on.”


Sean adds that, thanks to studies like this, archaeologists may soon have the potential to extend these data sets.



2500-Year-Old Horse Remains in Bulgaria Suggest Creatures Were Buried Upright*

September 27, 2013, Friday // 15:1

by Sarah Griffiths

The Daily Mail


Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a Thracian carriage and two horses that appear to have been buried upright.


The chariot and horse skeletons are 2,500-years-old and were discovered in the village of Svestari in north-east Bulgaria.


The two-wheeled carriage and carcasses of the horses were found in a Thracian tomb along with some decorations.


Professor Diana Gergova of the National Archaeology Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, who led the dig, said: 'The find is unique, it is not resembling any other carriage dating from the Thracian era ever uncovered in Bulgaria.'


According to Sofia News Agency, the discovery of the carriage was unexpected as treasure hunters have plundered many of the ancient mounds found in the region in a bid to find gold, despite a UNESCO ban of this activity.


The particular mound where the carriage was discovered, is adjacent to the well known Mound of Bulgarian Khan Imurtag, where the same research team uncovered a hoard of gold last year.


A Roman chariot complete with a seat and boot was unearthed along with two buried horses in the village of Borissvovo in Bulgaria in 2010, which shows similarities to the new find, despite being younger in age.


It was thought to belong to Thracian nobility living in the second half of the 1st century AD, judging by the imported goods found in nearby graves.


The burial mount yielded seven burial structures and two pits, one of which held the carriage and horses, HorseTalk revealed.


Experts believe the chariot was placed in a narrow hole with a sloping side to allow horses, decorated with elaborate harnesses, to pull it into its final resting place, after which they were killed.


The evidence of small metal disks on the horses' heads at the new sight, suggest they too were wearing harnesses.


The Borissovo chariot was supported by stones in order to keep it in its final position and offers researchers the chance to see how the vehicles were put together, including a 'boot' which held a bronze pan and ladle, grill and bottles.


A skeleton of a dog chained to the cart was also discovered, and nearby the grave of the warrior who is presumed to have owned the carriage, complete with his armour, spears and swords as well as medication and an inkwell, signifying he was well educated.


Archaeologist Veselin Ignatov, who was involved in the discoveryry of another the chariot near the southeastern village of Karanovo, said around 10,000 Thracian mounds - part of them covering monumental stone tombs - are scattered across the country.


Mr Ignatov said up to 90 per cent of the tombs in the region have been completely or partially destroyed by treasure hunters who smuggle the most precious objects abroad.


*The title has been changed by Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency)


- See more at: http://www.novinite.com/articles/154033/2500-Year-Old+Horse+Remains+in+Bulgaria+Suggest+Creatures+Were+Buried+Upright#sthash.0OtVVI76.dpuf



World's oldest bog body hints at violent past

By Matt McGrath

Environment correspondent, BBC News

24 September 2013 Last updated at 01:09


Cashel Man has had the weight of the world on his shoulders, quite literally, for 4,000 years.


Compressed by the peat that has preserved his remains, he looks like a squashed, dark leather holdall.


Apart, that is, from one forlorn arm that stretches out and upward and tells us something of the deliberate and extremely violent death that he suffered 500 years before Tutankhamen was born.


As part of that decommissioning, their nipples are mutilated”

Eamonn Kelly

National Museum of Ireland


Cashel Man is now being studied at the National Museum of Ireland's research base in Collins Barracks, Dublin. He was discovered in 2011 by a bog worker in Cashel bog in County Laois.


When the remains are brought out of the freezer, it is hard to tell that this was ever a human being.


Scientists say that there were significant clues to the social status of three bog bodies found in Ireland since the start of this century


Clonycavan Man (L) was said to be wearing a type of expensive, imported hair gel

Old Croghan Man (C) had finely manicured nails

Cashel Man (R) was found very close to the inauguration site for the kings of Laois

"It does look like mangled peat at first," says researcher Carol Smith.


"But then you can see the pores on the skin and it takes on a very human aspect quite quickly."


Carol starts to spray the body with non-ionised water. This prevents it deteriorating when exposed to room temperatures.


As we peer at the glistening bog-tanned body, we can see small, dark hairs on the skin, and a trail of vertebrae along his back.



Experts say that the remains of Cashel Man are extremely well preserved for his age. Radiocarbon dating suggests that he is the earliest bog body with intact skin known anywhere in the world. He is from the early Bronze Age in Ireland about 4,000 years ago.


Bog bodies with internal organs preserved have cropped up in many countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Scotland and Spain.


But in Ireland, with its flat central, peaty plain, they have been particularly plentiful.


In the past 10 years, there have been two other significant finds, in varying states of decay. Both Clonycavan Man and Old Croghan Man, who were discovered in 2003, were violently killed but the preservative powers of the bog have allowed science to piece together their stories.


"The bog is an amazing place," says Isabella Mulhall, who co-ordinates the bog bodies research project at the museum.


"It is basically an anaerobic environment and the oxygen that bacteria feed off is not present, and therefore decomposition does not occur."


The process of preservation though is complicated, involving several factors including Sphagnum moss, which helps extract calcium from the bones of buried bodies.


Another critical element is acidity.


"The pH levels vary in bogs and in some cases you may not get the bog mummy; you may get a bog skeleton," says Isabella Mulhall.


"Even within a site, you may have a body partially mummified and the lower half could be skeletonised."


While the preservation offered by the bog gives scientists huge amounts on information on the diet, living conditions, background and lifestyle of the bodies, there is no such thing as a free lunch.


The bog destroys the DNA, depriving researchers of genetic information and making it very difficult for Irish people to claim descent from these ancients.


hand bog

Researchers have to keep the remains of Cashel Man moist to prevent deterioration at room temperature

The Iron Age bodies of Clonycavan Man and Old Croghan Man are on display at the museum, which sits in a wing of Leinster House, the Irish parliament.


You can see those arms cradling a baby, or caressing a lover, or wielding a sword”

Eamonn Kelly

National Museum of Ireland


Eamonn Kelly is the long-time Keeper of Irish Antiquities and a man who has worked on all the major bog body finds.


He is an archaeologist of the old school, with a deep knowledge of Irish and European mythology and symbolism.


He patiently explains the stories behind the bodies on display, where the well-preserved hands are a striking feature.


"They are so evocative really. You can see those arms cradling a baby, or caressing a lover, or wielding a sword. But the personality is there; it's been preserved in their remains," he says.


Eamonn, or Ned as he is universally known, has developed a theory that connects the significant finds made in Ireland.


He argues that the bodies, all male and aged between 25 and 40, suffered violent deaths as victims of human sacrifice.


"When an Irish king is inaugurated, he is inaugurated in a wedding to the goddess of the land.


"It is his role to ensure through his marriage to the goddess that the cattle will be protected from plague and the people will be protected from disease.


"If these calamities should occur, the king will be held personally responsible. He will be replaced, he will pay the price, he will be sacrificed."


Nipple evidence

Eamonn says that Cashel Man fits this pattern because his body was found on a border line between territories and within sight of the hill where he would have been crowned. He suffered significant violent injuries to his back, and his arm shows evidence of a cut from a sword or axe.


However, a critical piece of information that would cement this argument is missing.


Because Cashel Man's chest was destroyed by the milling machine that uncovered him, the researchers are unable to examine the state of his nipples.


In the other two bog body cases, says Eamonn Kelly, the nipples had been deliberately damaged.


"We're looking at the bodies of kings who have been decommissioned, who have been sacrificed. As part of that decommissioning, their nipples are mutilated.


"In the Irish tradition they could no longer serve as king if their bodies were mutilated in this way. This is a decommissioning of the king in this life and the next."


The real surprise with Cashel Man is his age, being 1,500 years older than the other significant finds. But he may not be the last.


As the midland bogs are depleted, the scientists believe they could find other bodies of a similar age.


In December last year, more remains were found in Rossan bog, Co Meath, of a body that's being called Moydrum Man. Isabella Mulhall says there are indications that it could be the same age as Cashel Man.


"He hasn't been dated as yet, but we suspect that he would come as well from the very early levels of the bog and he would fit into that Bronze Age date range as well. But we have to confirm that with carbon dating," she says.


In the future, Cashel Man is likely to join the other bodies in the National Museum. Like the others, he will be treated sympathetically and with some reverence. This is hugely important to Eamonn Kelly and all the staff.


"I see these bodies as ambassadors who have come down to us from a former time with a story to tell. I think if we can tell that story in some small measure we can give a little added meaning to those lives that were cut short.


"And even though it was thousands of years ago, it is still in each and every case a human tragedy."



Bronze Age 'boat building' discovery in Monmouth


Archaeologists believe they have found the remains of a Bronze Age boat building community in Monmouth.


Excavations show 100ft-long (30m) channels in the clay along which experts think vessels were dragged into a long-gone prehistoric lake.


Monmouth Archaeological Society started to unearth new findings when work started on Parc Glyndwr housing estate two years ago.


The research is being published in a book called The Lost Lake.


Author and archaeologist Stephen Clarke, 71, said: "I started digging here with the society 50 years ago - I wish I had another 50 years."


He said finds had helped the group to better understand the ancient history of Monmouth long before Roman times.


The town is served by three rivers but the group said it had evidence to suggest it was actually built on what was a huge prehistoric lake which became a home to hunter gatherers.


Over millennia it drained away and finds including charcoal from fires, flint shards and pottery from the Stone Age, Iron Age and Roman times have been found by the town's professional and amateur archaeologists.


Reconstruction of a boat by Peter Bere

Reconstruction of a boat which may have made the marks in the ground

They have been excavated in sites around the town and in different layers of clay, sand, gravel and peat as the earth-bed composition changed from lake, lagoon, marsh and dry land, according to Mr Clarke.


Among the discoveries are a pair of "dead-straight" metre-wide channels in the clay shaped like the bottom of wooden canoes - along with a third smaller groove.


Mr Clarke said it supported the theory of a vessel having a support arm, adding he was seeking the opinion of marine archaeologists.


These channels were found over a mound of burned earth which has been carbon dated to the Bronze Age although other finds around the area date back to the Stone Age.


"I have seen 14-tonne machinery sliding in the clay so it would have been easy to push a boat," said Mr Clarke.


He believes the finds suggest a settlement and boat building industry although no boat timbers have been found.


"There is a lot to explain," said Mr Clarke, adding that the area "must have been alive with activity for thousands of years".


"It is so new [the findings] that most people in the country do not know about it," he said.




Article created on Friday, September 27, 2013


An eight week dig at the Roman settlement site at Maryport has revealed the remains of six buildings, including at least one shop, and a Roman road.

The dig has been commissioned by the Hadrian’s Wall Trust and funded by philanthropist Christian Levett.  Oxford Archaeology North, from Lancaster, have been carrying out the dig assisted by a team of volunteer and trainee excavators.

Shop with flagged floors

Stephen Rowland, project manager for Oxford Archaeology North said: “Previous detailed geophysical surveys of the site have shown lines of structures likely to be buildings either side of the main street running from the north east gate of the fort, so we had a good idea where to start digging and we’ve been able to confirm the survey results.

“The building we’ve spent most time looking at this year might have been a shop at some point during its use. It is stone built and 5 metres wide by 20 metres long with several rooms, some with flagged floors.

“The reason we think it may have been a shop is the fact there isn’t a stone wall at the end facing the road. Instead, there could have been a booth-like timber frontage, or perhaps double doors that have long since rotted away.  This kind of construction has been found at other sites.

“At Maryport we have possible evidence of a stairwell too, perhaps suggesting that people would have worked on the ground floor and lived upstairs. We haven’t yet been able to determine what was sold here, but we have found a large in situ sharpening stone, and lots of smaller whet stones for honing blades and tools.”

Other small finds from inside the building include glass beads, remains of pots for processing food, fragments of amphorae that could have contained oil or wine, glass vessels and a spindle whorl.

The land to the rear of the buildings, equivalent to a modern backyard, is surrounded by a ditch. It contains several pits, perhaps used for outdoor toilets or for dumping rubbish, and at least three square wells or cisterns for holding water.

The civilian settlement is the largest currently known along the Hadrian’s Wall frontier, and is next to the Roman fort in Maryport.

Nigel Mills, director of world heritage and access for the Hadrian’s Wall Trust said: “The part of the site we’ve been examining appears to date to around the second and third centuries AD.

Abandoned around AD250

“It looks like people abandoned this area around AD250, which seems to have happened at other sites along the frontier too.

“At Maryport, we know from earlier excavations on the fort that it was occupied through the third and fourth centuries, while the recent excavations by the Newcastle University team for the Temples Project have revealed evidence of a late fourth century building on top of the hill.

“One explanation could be that as time went on the garrison became smaller and some parts of the settlement moved into the fort itself. The truth is nobody knows yet, archaeological excavation often raises new questions at the same time as providing some answers.

“There’s much more to do, but we’ve got off to a great start this season. We’d like to thank both the volunteer diggers and the Senhouse Roman Museum volunteer guides without whom we couldn’t have achieved so much in such a short time.”

First phase

The dig is the first phase of the £200,000 two year Settlement Project.  The cost includes the excavation itself, follow-up research, analysis of findings and their publication.

Christian Levett, who is funding the project said: “I’ve been interested in the Roman period since I was a child and have collected Roman coins and artefacts for many years.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to be part of a team that is adding even more academic knowledge to Romano British history and particularly to life on the Roman frontier.”

The Maryport Settlement dig follows the Roman Temples excavation earlier this year which was commissioned by the Senhouse Museum Trust with in-kind support from Newcastle University.

All the excavations are on land owned by the Hadrian’s Wall Trust at Camp Farm, the site of the proposed Roman Maryport heritage and visitor attraction, near to the Senhouse Roman Museum and part of the world heritage site.

Long-term programme of archaeological research

The excavations are an important step towards establishing a long-term programme of archaeological research at Maryport, which is a key element in the development of Roman Maryport being taken forward in partnership by the Hadrian’s Wall Trust and the Senhouse Museum Trust.

Rachel Newman of the Senhouse Museum Trust said: “This has been a very exciting year with two complementary projects on different parts of the site. Over the next few months we’re looking forward to hearing more from both teams as they analyse the information they’ve gained from the digs.

“After recording and conservation the finds will return to the Senhouse Roman Museum to be displayed alongside the world famous Roman altar stones dedicated by the commanders of the fort.

“The excavation teams will be both back next year too, and there will be more opportunities for volunteers to get involved.”

Source: Hadrian’s Wall Trust



Diet of Easter Islanders Revealed: Rats!



The inhabitants of Easter Island consumed a diet that was lacking in seafood and was, literally, quite ratty.


The island, also called Rapa Nui, first settled around A.D. 1200, is famous for its more than 1,000 "walking" Moai statues, most of which originally faced inland. Located in the South Pacific, Rapa Nui is the most isolated inhabited landmass on Earth; the closest inhabitants are located on the Pitcairn Islands about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) to the west.


To determine the diet of its past inhabitants, researchers analyzed the nitrogen and carbon isotopes, or atoms of an element with different numbers of neutrons, from the teeth (specifically the dentin) of 41 individuals whose skeletons had been previously excavated on the island. To get an idea of what the islanders ate before dying, the researchers then compared the isotope values with those of animal bones excavated from the island. [Photos of Walking Easter Island Statues]


Additionally, the researchers were able to radiocarbon date 26 of the teeth remains, allowing them to plot how the diet on the island changed over time. Radiocarbon dating works by measuring the decay of carbon-14 allowing a date range to be assigned to each individual; it's a method commonly used in archaeology on organic material. The research was published recently online in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.


The researchers found that throughout time, the people on the island consumed a diet that was mainly terrestrial. In fact, in the first few centuries of the island's history (up to about A.D. 1650) some individuals used Polynesian rats (also known as kiore) as their main source of protein. The rat is somewhat smaller than European rats and, according to ethnographic accounts, tasty to eat.


NEWS: Super-Rat Roamed Earth 160 Million Years Ago

"Our results indicate that contrary to previous zooarchaeological studies, diet was predominantly terrestrial throughout the entire sequence of occupation, with reliance on rats, chickens and C3 plants," the researchers write in their journal article, noting that the resources from C3 plants (or those that use typical photosynthesis to make sugars) would have included yams, sweet potatoes and bananas.


The islanders' use of rats was not surprising to the researchers. Archaeological excavations show the presence of the Polynesian rat across the Pacific. The Polynesian form commonly travels with humans on ocean voyages and, like any other rat, multiplies rapidly when it arrives on a new island. In some cases, the rats were probably transported intentionally to be used as food, something supported by ethnographic accounts stating that, in some areas of Polynesia, rats were being consumed at the time of European contact. Additionally, previous research has suggested the rats were at least partly responsible for the deforestation of Rapa Nui.



Scientists Reveal Source of Medieval Europe's "Year Without Summer"

Mon, Sep 30, 2013


The massive 13th century volcanic eruption could also lead to a forgotten "Pompeii of the Far East".

Scientists Reveal Source of Medieval Europe's "Year Without Summer"

Chemical tracers in ice core records obtained and analyzed by scientists over the past few decades have revealed the historic occurrence of some major volcanic eruptions that otherwise would have gone unrecognized regarding the magnitude of their global impact. The source of one such eruption, the massive mysterious eruption of 1257 AD that substantially affected climate and agricultural productivity in northern Europe (the cool "year without summer"), has eluded scientists for many years. The pyroclastic blast altered atmospheric patterns and cooled the Earth's surface, causing crop failure and bringing famine, pestilence and death that accounted for the mass Medieval period burials in London in the 13th century AD.

The identitication of the source of that eruption is no longer a mystery. A team of researchers have announced that they have acquired evidence that pinpoints the source of the 1257 AD eruption as the Samalas volcano, located adjacent to the better-known Mount Rinjani volcanic complex on Lombok Island in Indonesia. By examining a robust new body of evidence from ice core glass shard deposits, radiocarbon dates, tephra geochemistry, and stratigraphic data, and coupling it with medieval chronicles, Franck Lavigne of the University of Paris and colleagues from an international consortium of institutions have developed what they maintain is a compelling case.

Report Lavigne, et al.: "The tropical location, the size of its caldera (Segara Anak), the timing of the eruption, its magnitude, and the match between the geochemical composition of Mount Samalas ash with glass shards found in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica that are associated with the largest sulfate spike in the [last] 7,000 years, all point to this volcano as the source of the great mid- 13th century stratospheric dust veil. The identification of this exceptional eruption of Mount Samalas places another Indonesian volcano (along with Toba, Tambora, and Krakatau) in the spotlight of efforts to understand the abrupt environmental and societal changes associated with major episodes of volcanism and caldera genesis."*

The researchers determined that the eruption ejected about 10 cubic miles of rock and ash, exceeding even the cataclysmic Tambora eruption of 1815, an event, also in Indonesia, that destroyed and buried an entire local civilization on the island of Sumbawa. That was thought to be the largest known eruption during the past 10,000 years. Their findings also revealed that the Samalas event had occurred sometime between May and October of 1257 AD, likely leaving much of Lombok, neighboring Bali and part of Sumbawa uninhabitable for many years after.


But the findings also open up fascinating new possibilities for archaeological research on Lombok. "This finding might provide insights as to the reasons why the Javanese King Kertanegara, who invaded Bali in A.D. 1284, did not encounter any resistance by local population," wrote Lavigne, et al. "The Babad Lombok [an Indonesian historical record written on palm leaves in Old Javanese] indicates that the eruption of Mount Samalas destroyed Pamatan, the capital of the Lombok kingdom. We speculate that this ancient city lies buried beneath tephra deposits somewhere on the island. Should it be discovered, Pamatan might represent a "Pompeii of the Far East," and could provide important insights not only into Indonesian history but also into the vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience of past societies faced with volcanic hazards associated with large-magnitude explosive eruptions."*

The details of the study have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “Source of the great A.D. 1257 mystery eruption unveiled, Samalas volcano, Rinjani Volcanic Complex, Indonesia,” by Franck Lavigne et al.


* http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1307520110