NEOLITHIC DEATH RITUAL INCLUDES EARLIEST EVIDENCE FOR EUROPEAN BEER
Article created on Saturday, November 23, 2013
Spanish excavations in Can Sadurní cave (Begues, Barcelona) have discovered four human skeletons dated to about 6,400 years ago. The skeletal remains of the individuals are particularly important as they are in a very good state of preservation.
An archaeological campaign carried out previously identified other individuals which were not so well preserved but belong to the same stratigraphic layer.
Archaeologists excavating in 1999, also discovered within the cave, evidence for the earliest European beer, which may have been included as part of the death ritual.
A small landslip from the outer part of the cave must have taken place when the bodies had been newly interred, or at least when they had just began the decomposition process, as it has protected them in the position in which they had originally been placed. The group of four consists of a 50-year-old adult male, a sub-adult, and two children aged 3-4 and 5-6 years old. The adult male was accompanied by various burial goods including a two handled drinking vessel and joints of meat from two goats and a calf. Under the left arm, near the elbow, a polished bone pendant was found.
The bodies lay in a line and were curled up in tight foetal positions resting on their right side with their backs to the north wall of the cave. The rather extreme foetal position indicates that they may have been tied and wrapped in some kind of shroud.
Most ancient beer fermentation remains in Europe
The four individuals were not buried, but were placed around the north wall of the cave with a one metre gap between each of them. Nearby, evidence of a fire, possibly lit as part of the burial ritual was also found. It is estimated that similar burial rituals were performed over the space of more than two-hundred years at this site. Sediment had accumulated over the corpses and later, more bodies were placed over the top. After this a stronger landslip took place spreading the remains of the last bodies placed there.
In 1999, researchers found a shard of a cup like container in which oxalate and barley-corn phytoliths were identified. This was determined to be the earliest scientific evidence of fermented beer ever found in Europe.
Source: University of Barcelona
Wine Cellar, Well Aged, Is Revealed in Israel
A storage room unearthed from the ruins of a 1700 B.C. Canaanite palace in northern Israel held the remains of 40 ceramic jars.
Eric H. Cline/George Washington University
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: November 22, 2013
Near the banquet hall where rulers of a Middle Bronze Age city-state and their guests feasted, a team of American and Israeli researchers broke through to a storage room holding the remains of 40 large ceramic jars. The vessels were broken, their liquid contents long since vanished — but not without a trace.
A chemical analysis of residues left in the three-foot-tall jars detected organic traces of acids that are common components of all wine, as well as ingredients popular in ancient winemaking. These included honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins used as a preservative. The recipe was similar to medicinal wines used for 2,000 years in ancient Egypt and probably tasted something like retsina or other resinous Greek wines today.
So the archaeologists who have been exploring the Canaanite site, known as Tel Kabri, announced on Friday that they had found one of civilization’s oldest and largest wine cellars. The storage room held the equivalent of about 3,000 bottles of red and white wines, they said — and they suspected that this was not the palace’s only wine cellar.
“This is a hugely significant discovery,” said Eric H. Cline, a co-director of the Tel Kabri excavations, in a statement issued by George Washington University, where he is chairman of the department of classical and Near Eastern languages and civilizations. “It’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in its age and size.”
Dr. Cline and the other co-director, Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa in Israel, described their findings Friday in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. Another member of the team, Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, reported the results of the organic residue analysis, emphasizing the quantity of the samples and thoroughness of the testing. The researchers had to work fast to examine the residues before they became contaminated on exposure outside the storage room.
The archaeologists said that much of the palace, including the banquet hall and the wine storage room, was destroyed 3,600 years ago in some violent event, perhaps an earthquake. The wine cellar was covered with thick debris of mud bricks and plaster. That and the fact that no subsequent buildings were erected on top of the site have made Tel Kabri an inviting place for archaeological studies.
Team members said some older discoveries had been made before in tombs, but nothing on the scale of Tel Kabri. Patrick McGovern of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania said he had “reservations about a finding for which a detailed scientific report has not been published.” He said in an email that “the oldest chemically confirmed ‘wine cellars’ are those in the tomb Scorpion I of Egypt” about 3150 B.C.
“If we are making the claim only for ancient Canaan, and put the emphasis on ‘palatial,’ ” Dr. McGovern suggested, “the Kabri might well be the earliest.”
Dr. McGovern and other researchers have been able to re-create ancient wines and beers from the dregs from long-ago tastings. Dr. Koh said his group expected to produce a reasonable facsimile of the 1700 B.C. vintage favored by the palace elite in the land of Canaan.
In the Middle Bronze Age, from 2000 to 1550 B.C., Canaan was a confederation of city-states, the most important of which seems to have been Hazor, in a region that included what today is Israel, Lebanon, northwestern Jordan and parts of western Syria. At the time, Canaanites were farmers, merchants and early seafarers to Cyprus and the Aegean Islands. These were the centuries preceding the appearance of the biblical Hebrews. In the biblical narrative, God promised Canaan as a gift to Abraham; some modern scholars have stirred controversy suggesting that the early Israelites were in fact themselves Canaanites.
As for the ancient beverage, the presence of tartaric acid was “a surefire marker” of grape juice or wine, Dr. Koh said in a teleconference briefing with reporters on Thursday. Other recognized ingredients were consistent with winemaking recipes in ancient texts from the ruins of Mari, an early city on the Euphrates River in what is now Syria.
“They wrote about the recipes,” Dr. Cline said, referring to the Mari texts. “Here, for the first time, we believed, we have these crafted wines that verified the recipes beyond shadow of doubt.”
Thirty-eight of the 40 vessels contained recognizable wine residues. “This wasn’t moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements,” Dr. Koh noted. “This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.”
The current excavations began in 2005. Four years later, archaeologists uncovered spectacular frescoes from the Aegean Islands, and last year they found the banquet hall. This July, they started finding one after another of the ceramic jugs in the 15-by-25-foot storage room. Support for the project was provided by the National Geographic Society, the Israel Science Foundation, the Institute for Aegean Prehistory, the Bronfman Philanthropies, George Washington University, Haifa University and private donations.
More discoveries may be in the offing. Just days before the archaeologists wrapped up this summer’s work, they came upon two doors leading out of the wine cellar where they had been digging, one to the south, and one to the west. They will have to wait until the next excavation season, in 2015, to find out if the doors lead to additional storage rooms, possibly with more wine that the Canaanite connoisseurs of the grape never got to swoon over at their goat-meat banquets.
Another piece in Stonehenge rock source puzzle
19 November 2013 Last updated at 18:31
By Neil Prior
Research to be published this month may bring us a step closer to understanding how bluestones from Pembrokeshire ended up at Stonehenge.
Scientists from Aberystwyth University, University College London and National Museum of Wales have located the specific outcrop, Carn Goedog, in the Preseli Mountains.
This is where the distinctive spotted dolerites originated.
The findings are to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Geologist Herbert Henry Thomas first proposed in 1923 that the rocks which form the giant inner ring were specifically quarried for Stonehenge by Neolithic man around 5,000 years ago, and were hauled to Wiltshire via land and sea.
However, other geologists theorise that they were carried east on an ice-age glacier 20,000 years ago.
Trying to match the rocks at Stonehenge to a specific outcrop is considerably more complicated than looking for a needle in a haystack”
While the new discovery will not answer the debate, according to Dr Richard Bevins, of the National Museum Wales, it may eliminate some of the unknown variables.
"I'm not here to come down on one side of the argument or the other," he explained.
"But our research is aimed at better informing the debate."
Dr Bevins, keeper of natural sciences, added: "Trying to match the rocks at Stonehenge to a specific outcrop is considerably more complicated than looking for a needle in a haystack but the more we can trace them back to their original source, the closer archaeologists and geologists can hunt for clues to back-up their theories.
The research has brought together archaeologists and geologists
"Archaeologists can now search an area of hundreds of metres rather than hundreds of kilometres for evidence of Neolithic quarrying.
"While geologists supporting the glacier theory know exactly where to hunt for the scarring they'd expect to find on the landscape if enormous chunks of the stone had indeed been swept east on a glacier."
As the name suggests, the spotted dolerites have highly distinctive markings created by the elements contained within, cooling at different rates in the minutes after they were spewed out of an underwater volcano 450 million years ago.
In 2011, Dr Bevins's team located the source of another of Stonehenge's Pembrokeshire Bluestones - the rhyolites - 3km away from the spotted dolerites at Craig Rhos y Felin.
Although the relative proximity of the two discoveries offers evidence to both camps.
"Three kilometres is both closer and farther away than expected, depending on which theory you support.
"From a geologist's point of view, 3km is nothing, and the rocks which ended up close to each other in Wiltshire could easily have been carried on the same glacier.
"However, for the archaeologists a distance of 3km between the potential quarries could be seen as evidence of planning and forethought, and a suggestion that the different types of stone were chosen for some specific purpose."
'Each piece of the puzzle'
Dr Bevins's team are able to say so categorically that they have discovered the source of the spotted dolerites thanks to a range of laser mass spectrometry techniques which analyse both the chemical composition of the rock and the microbiology present when it was formed.
He says that the chance of them having originated anywhere other than Carn Goedog is "statistically-speaking, infinitesimally small".
And while he is the first to admit that this discovery on its own gets us no closer to solving the riddle, he believes a definitive answer will come eventually.
"I've been studying the bluestones for over 30 years now, and I'm no closer to finding an answer which convinces me either way. But the one thing which I am increasingly sure of is that each piece of the puzzle we find brings us another step closer to the truth.
"We've located two of the sources, and there's another five or possibly six to go."
He added: "By the time we have identified those then I'm certain we'll have an answer either way. Whether that happens in my career, or even my lifetime, who knows?"
Gambling of high-living Anglo-Saxons revealed by archaeological find
Top-quality backgammon piece found at 7th-century habitation site in Kent
The Guardian, Friday 22 November 2013
It would have been a very expensive toy, expertly crafted and imported across the Channel – and archaeologists say it provides a glimpse of the luxurious life of Anglo-Saxon nobles in 7th-century Kent.
The little gaming piece is the only one discovered at an Anglo-Saxon habitation site, although many cruder examples have been found in graves. It is the first piece of such quality found since the excavation of a princely grave in Buckinghamshire in the 1880s.
"This piece comes from a high-end – Harrods – backgammon set," the Reading University archaeologist Gabor Thomas said. "Not only high-end but quite possibly Italian – Ferrari – high-end, as the best parallels outside England are from the 6th-century Lombard kingdom. If such pieces are indeed of Lombardic manufacture, then the implication is that the kings of Kent enjoyed the latest fashions in gaming culture, courtesy of their far-reaching continental contacts."
There must have been some cursing 1,300 years ago when the game was set out in the hall in Lyminge, and it was discovered one piece was missing.
Gaming pieces made from simple chunks of bone or wood were common, but this was a special toy, made from a hollow piece of bone closed with delicately turned wooden caps, held in place with a bronze pin.
"It is very probably a stray loss," Thomas said, "perhaps cast away in disgust by a king with a reputation for being a very bad loser."
The archaeologists found it in the remains of one of the wooden halls adjoining a great feasting hall, the largest known in the south-east, its foundations lying beneath the village green, yards from the Coach and Horses pub, in the Kent village. The site has already turned up quantities of pottery, animal bone, bronze objects including a horse harness and jewellery, and more glass – some of it recycled from Roman sites into pieces of jewellery – than any other Anglo-Saxon habitation site.
The side halls were the accommodation blocks for the great central hall, where, as in Heorot in the epic poem Beowulf, seasonal parties went on for days with drinking, presenting of gifts, gaming and storytelling, as well as sumptuous meals.
The Anglo-Saxons were avid players of board and gambling games: tabula, an early form of backgammon, and latrunculi, a game similar to draughts, are both recorded. Many men were buried with their dice or gaming pieces.
The only other pieces as fine as the Lyminge one were found more than a century ago, in an aristocratic grave excavated at Taplow in Buckinghamshire. The 10 pieces, clearly a prized possession since they were found under the feet of the dead man, are now in the British Museum: they were so neatly laid out, it is believed they may originally have been placed on a board, ready to play.
At Lyminge, the foundations of the immense hall, 8.5 by 21 metres, large enough to hold at least 60 people, were uncovered in 2012, and this summer's excavations, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, found more of the associated buildings. The halls had doors flanked by massive timber posts, and floors made of crushed mortar and tile, a surface only previously found in the earliest Anglo-Saxon churches.
Gabor believes the halls and the pagan feasts were abandoned as the tribes adopted the powerful new Christian religion, and founded a new settlement on the nearby hill surrounding what is still the village church.
500 Year-Old Love Letter Found Buried with Korean Mummy
By SANSKRITY SINHA : Subscribe to Sanskrity's RSS feed | November 22, 2013 8:36 AM GMT
A poetic love letter written by a mourning Korean wife that was found beside the mummified body of the woman's husband has grabbed the limelight many a time since its discovery more than a decade ago.
Archaeologists at Andong National University found a 16th century male mummy in Andong City in South Korea in 2000. Along with it was a heart-rending letter written by the dead man's pregnant wife who poured out her grief into what has become a testament of loss, lamentation and berievement.
The 5-feet-9-inches mummy was identified as that of Eung-tae, after a total of 13 letters addressed to that name were found in the tomb.
But one letter, a love poem written by his wife in old Latin and addressed to "Won’s Father", depict the state of a love-lorn widow left in the world alone with a child in the womb. She had placed the letter on the dead man's chest, asking him in tear-tinged sweetness to "look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail."
The letter dates to 1568 AD, about 30 years before Shakespeare penned his eternal love tragedy Romeo and Juliet -- For never was a story of more woe -- and paints a tragedy of similar magnitude.
In the letter, the woman asks her dead husband why he left her alone and tells him she wants to see him and listen to him in her dreams. She confesses that now that he has gone, she cannot live without him.
“I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit,” Eung-tae’s wife, whose identity remains a mystery, wrote.
Mummy’s inspiring love life
Eung-tae was a tall man, much taller than the average Koreans and his skin and beard were well-preserved.
"The dark mustache made me feel that he must have had a charming appearance," Se-kwon Yim, former director of the Andong National University Museum, was quoted as saying by the Archaeology journal.
Eung-tae apparently had a love life that is moving hearts even 445 years after his death. The love letter written by his wife has inspired novels, a feature film and an opera.
The love eulogy of the woman did not end with her love poems, as next to Eung-tae’s head the archaeologists discovered a paper parcel that contained slippers made from her hair. Writings on the wrapping paper read: “with my hair I weave this” and “before you were even able to wear it.”
“There are references in Korean literature to the tradition of making shoes with human hair as a symbol of love or hope for recovery from an illness,” Yim said.
According to Chris Scarre, head of archaeology department at the University of Durham, in medieval Korea certain burials were sealed in concrete, resulting in the exceptional preservation of organic materials, including written documents as in Eung-tae’s case.
These documents provide an insight into the emotional relationships of people in the medieval times.
“As well as studying changes in rank and ideology, archaeologists who investigate tombs are often moved to wonder about the character of the deceased, the thoughts of the mourners and their hopes and fears on the passing of a person dear to them. In this extraordinary burial from Korea, we hear these voices directly,” Scarre wrote in the Antiquity journal.
A widow’s love eulogy
The full transcript of the letter is below (Courtesy Andong National University).
“To Won's Father
June 1, 1586
You always said, "Dear, let's live together until our hair turns grey and die on the same day. How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me?
How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we lay down together you always told me, "Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?" How could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me?
I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where would I put my heart in now and how can I live with the child missing you?
Please look at this letter and tell me in detail in my dreams. Because I want to listen to your saying in detail in my dreams I write this letter and put it in. Look closely and talk to me.
When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.
You are just in another place, and not in such a deep grief as I am. There is no limit and end [to my sorrows] that I write roughly. Please look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail and tell me. I believe I can see you in my dreams. Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say and I stop here.”
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Uncovering Innu history
More than 40,000 artifacts discovered at Muskrat Falls
Derek MontaguePublished on November 21, 2013
For thousands of years, the Innu people have used the Muskrat Falls area for seasonal encampment. This is made evident by the approximately 40,000 Innu artifacts that have been found in the Muskrat Falls area over the past couple of years.
The artifacts range from 3,500 years old to 150 years old. During a presentation in Sheshatshiu on Nov. 19, Senior Archeologist Dr. Fred Schwarz showed some of the most impressive pieces found in the Muskrat Falls area.
Although most of the 40,000 artifacts found are stone chips, Schwarz said he was in “awe” of the craftsmanship found in some of the stone tools. On rare occasions, the archeology team would come across artifacts that were perfectly intact, such as a stone knifepoint, or a scraping tool.
All the different artifacts, combined with other features such as fire pit sites, provides a large picture of how the Innu used Muskrat Falls hundreds — and even thousands — of years ago.
“It’s all about the context that the artifacts were found in,” says Schwarz. “The context of the artifact really tells us the story. It tells us how old they are, what they were used for. It tells us what time of the year people were camping there… how they lived their lives.
“What we’re attempting to do is remove the cultural materials from these sites, in such a way that we can reconstruct through photographs…and 3D models, the camp sites. So we have to record every rock that we find.”
Amongst all the artifacts and features found during the archeological digs, there was some very surprising finds that may shed new light on how the Innu once lived in the pre-contact era. One of the big surprises was the discovering of pottery pieces.
“One of the things that is potentially interesting for us is the presence of First Nation pottery. It is very rare in Labrador in pre-contact sites,” said Schwarz. “It is not unknown; pottery has been found in other sites. But it is generally very rare… mobile hunting and gathering people generally try to avoid using heavy pottery.”
Some of the finds raise more questions than answers.
Schwarz and his team found some interesting stone features in the area, which has led Schwarz to form a theory that some canoe building took place in the Muskrat Falls area.
“The context of the stone features that we find…we appear to have some evidence for canoe building, at least two of the sites that we excavated to date,” said Schwarz. “And that’s interesting, I think, to see how canoe building is built into the seasonal round of people living in Labrador thousands of years ago.”
It’s also interesting to see what kind of stone materials the Innu used to make their tools. As expected, one of the main rock types used in quartzite, which is very common in the upper Lake Melville region.
“But there’s also some materials that are a bit more exotic. We find some glossy, colourful stone…called Saunders chert. We find implements of Ramah chert, which comes from the Torngat coast.”
The archeology project is part of the Muskrat Falls Historic Resources Recovery program, which aims to recover historic artifacts before the Muskrat Falls project would make it impossible to do so.
The recovery program began in the 1990’s, when the Muskrat Falls hydro project was getting serious consideration.
“We knew from the history of the area, from the traditional knowledge that we had gained from the elders, that there is a high historic resources potential in the area,” explained Nalcor’s Environmental Assessment Lead, Marion Organ.
“So from that we knew that there were sites within the (hydro) project footprint. For us, we certainly would not proceed with any construction until those sites had been fully recovered.”
The early surveying work revealed 33 sites within the project footprint; 25 on the southside of Muskrat Falls and eight on the north spur. The other sites are located within the reservoir, and will be recovered before the area is flooded.
The archeological team that’s doing the fieldwork includes several members of the Innu community. Schwarz said that it’s important to have them onsite because — after all — it was their ancestors who used the tools.
“I think it’s hugely important…and it’s very enjoyable to have Innu youth working (with us),” says Schwarz. “They’re generally very excited about the work that they do…and I find it very pleasurable to share in that excitement.”
Even though they try to get all the artifacts before construction begins, Organ admits there’s a chance an artifact can be found during construction. Organ says employees at the Muskrat Falls site go through environmental awareness training, which helps them in identifying potential artifacts.
“We would minimize the risk of something being inadvertently found during construction by surveying…that’s our first line of defense,” says Organ who adds that environmental monitors are also on site when construction work is being done.
“That being said, there is always a risk of inadvertently — during construction — we would find something…we teach and train every single person who comes on site…to be aware of historic resources. What they look like and what sort of things would be indicative of an artifact.”
Organ says that on only one occasion was an artifact found by accident during work. That happened on the North Spur. Organ said proper procedures were followed upon the discovery of the artifact.
“When that happened…we shut down the site…we were able to identify that (archeological) site and recover all the artifacts.”
Vatican to display bones of St. Peter
Kim Allegrezza DC Christian Perspectives Examiner
November 24, 2013
Friday, November 22, 2013, the Vatican announced the bones believed to belong to St. Peter will go on display today, Sunday, November 24, 2013. This is the first time the bones will be displayed to the public.
There is much intrigue and mystery concerning these bits of bone. A Pope has never declared these bones to be the remains of St. Peter. In 1968 Pope Paul VI did state that the bones found underneath St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome “could be identified in a way that we consider convincing”. However, archeologists dispute this finding.
According to a story in the book The Ears of the Vatican, by Bruno Bartoloni, the relics were discovered in 1939 as archeologists were excavating the grottoes of St. Peter’s Basilica to bury Pope Pius XI. A casket was discovered with an engraving in Greek that read, “Peter is here.”
Bartoloni also writes about a 1,000 year old curse written on secret apocalyptic documents. They state anyone who disturbs the peace of Peter’s tomb “will meet the worst possible misfortune”.
Pope Francis prayed before the fragments at the start of Sunday's service and then clutched the case in his arms for several minutes after his homily. The pieces of bone sat in a jewel box inside a bronze display case at the side of the altar during a Mass commemorating the end of the Vatican's yearlong celebration of the Christian faith.
Mystery of moving Egyptian statue is solved
21 November 2013 Last updated at 12:40 GMT
When an Egyptian statue started turning slowly of its own free will in the Manchester Museum, there were whispers that it could be an ancient curse.
But an engineer, called in to look at the statue, found that that vibrations from a busy nearby road were causing the 3,800-year-old stone figure to rotate.
The convex base of the figure made it "more susceptible" to spin around than the cabinet's other artefacts.
Dr Campbell Price, curator at Manchester Museum, told BBC Radio 5 live's Drive: "There were several supernatural explanations... but Egyptian stuff attracts that."