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http://triblive.com/usworld/world/4198276-74/bones-tomb-egypt?fb_action_ids=661440601916&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582#axzz2X2omlUU8

Unchecked looting guts Egypt’s heritage, with one ancient site ‘70 percent gone’

By Betsy Hiel

Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013, 9:09 p.m.

Updated: Monday, June 17, 2013

 

ABU SIR AL MALAQ, Egypt — A wispy-haired mummy's head, bleached skulls, and arm and leg bones are piled outside looted tombs.

 

A mummified hand with leathery-skinned fingers pokes from the sand.

 

Ancient burial wrappings from mummified bodies — torn apart to find priceless jewelry — unravel across the desert like brown ribbon, or tangle near broken bits of wooden coffins still brightly painted after nearly 3,000 years underground.

 

With bones scattered everywhere, this 500-acre plot looks like the aftermath of a massacre rather than an ancient burial ground.

 

“You see dogs playing with human bones, children scavenging for pottery,” says Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna, stepping cautiously around grisly remains and deep pits dug into tombs by looters.

 

Salima Ikram, an expert in tombs and mummification who heads the Egyptology unit at American University in Cairo, gasps in horror in her home while examining Tribune-Review photographs of the site.

 

“These scattered remains … brutally pulled apart in search of one shiny piece of metal,” Ikram says in disgust.

 

“This is most horrific — someone's ribs!” she suddenly exclaims. “Oh, God! It's like the killing fields!”

 

Thieves, explorers and archaeologists have raided Egypt's ancient sites for centuries. The Tribune-Review first reported in February that the looting had become a free-for-all after a 2011 revolution toppled one government and introduced continuing turmoil.

 

The tomb raiding threatens some of Egypt's — and the world's — most revered and valuable heritage sites, many of which have never been properly studied or catalogued, experts say. A few experts privately accuse the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Morsy of ignoring the threat.

 

Some Islamist religious leaders have contributed to the frenzy by ordering “pagan” antiquities to be destroyed, or issuing directives on the “correct” Islamic way to loot them.

 

Police and local authorities insist they are overwhelmed by lawlessness and outgunned by criminal gangs with heavy weapons smuggled from Libya.

 

Meanwhile, the threatened heritage is a low priority for many Egyptians beset by daily electrical outages, fuel shortages, higher food prices, rising street crime and political instability.

 

For others, that heritage is a chance to cash in. Looted objects are sold in dirt-poor villages near sites such as Abu Sir al Malaq; others go to wealthy collectors, particularly in the United States, Europe, Japan and the Middle East, experts say.

 

Last week, Egypt's new antiquities minister pledged to improve security “at all archaeological sites and museums.”

 

But that appears to be too little too late for the sprawling cemetery complex, or necropolis, in the governorate of Bani Suef. Of three sites examined by the Trib – the others are Dahshour and El-Hibeh – it is the most extensively ravaged.

 

PIECES OF HISTORY

 

Abu Sir al Malaq is about 70 miles from Cairo, in the midst of green farm fields, palm and banana groves, all fed by a tributary of the Nile.

 

Once named in honor of the Pharaonic god Osiris, it is thought to have been a burial ground from 3250 BC until AD 700.

 

Archaeologists excavated it in the early 20th century, and its artifacts are found in museums around the world, according to Nadia Ashour, who oversees antiquities in Bani Suef. She calls it “one of the most important antiquity areas” in the governate.

 

It also is one of the most looted.

 

Hanna, the Egyptian archaeologist, has surveyed the site repeatedly.

 

“The looting is pandemic, every night and even in the morning,” she says.

 

Nearby villagers, asked for directions to the site, respond: “Antiquities? Do you want to buy antiquities?”

 

Ikram, the university Egyptologist, says Trib photos from the site indicate “intact tombs (were) completely robbed, bodies ripped apart. It is a disgrace.”

 

Some photos show ancient dog bones in front of looted tombs — the remains of animals buried in honor of Anubis, a Pharaonic, jackal-headed god worshipped as a protector of the dead.

 

“Here's a piece of a coffin and the person it belongs to,” Ikram says, studying the photos. “For almost 3,000 years, they have been left undisturbed. They were not meant to be left like this, to be eaten by dogs and foxes and jackals … broken apart by greedy people.”

 

Hanna, picking her way across the site, points out chunks of painted or inscribed limestone tomb walls. Looters often “break off the pieces that have the engraving on it, to sell,” she says.

 

Some of the discarded linen mummy wrappings are mixed with papyrus, gypsum and mortar, then elaborately painted — “a trait of wealthier mummies,” she explains.

 

Sighing, she adds: “I think 70 percent of the site is gone.”

 

‘CRIED THE WHOLE WAY HOME'

 

Bani Suef's antiquities director, Ashour, says she is “heartbroken” that “sneak digging” is destroying such sites throughout Egypt.

 

Although Islam and Christianity forbid grave-robbing, she says, some Egyptians think their ancestors were pagans and, thus, are fair game to be robbed.

 

She blames heavily armed criminal gangs that sprang up after the revolution. Police, she insists, now conduct more investigations, more spot-checks of sites; nine looted coffins were retrieved in recent months and 15 looters imprisoned.

 

Ashour said she “cannot say for sure that antiquities have been taken out” because some villagers craft expert forgeries of artifacts. But she insists Abu Sir al Malaq “is like 80 percent stable,” although “from time to time, these attacks take place.”

 

Hanna disagrees.

 

“The first time I saw this, I cried the whole way home,” she says. “I have been coming here for six weeks now and, each time I come, the site looks different — new pits are dug.”

 

Another Egyptologist, Wahiba Saleh, raised the alarm about widespread looting at Dahshour, a 4,500-year-old necropolis where she is chief inspector. A campaign led by Hanna and international news reports led to more police and soldiers guarding that site.

 

 “Oh, my God!” she exclaims over Trib photos of Abu Sir al Malaq. “There aren't any free spots. Every place is dug up. It's worse than Dahshour.”

 

She shakes her head and tsk-tsks through the images, then whispers: “This makes me very sad.”

 

In cool, professional terms, Ikram assesses that too many sites have been “plundered and tossed about so that, archaeologically, it is very difficult to reconstruct … a huge loss for mankind.”

 

For Egyptians “who feel keenly about their past,” she adds, it is “a personal violation of the worst sort.”

 

Betsy Hiel is the Tribune-Review's foreign correspondent. Email her at bhiel@tribweb.com.

Read more: http://triblive.com/usworld/world/4198276-74/bones-tomb-egypt?fb_action_ids=661440601916&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582#ixzz2XA1gr6Mz

 

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/3028/47/Aswan-tombs-attacked.aspx

Aswan tombs attacked

The Tombs of the Nobles on the west bank of the Nile at Aswan have been looted by armed gangs

 

The present lack of security in Egypt continues to have negative effects on the country’s archaeological sites, especially those located in remote areas. , reports Nevine El-Aref

On the west bank of the Nile at Aswan where the Qubbet Al-Hawa (Dome of the Winds) ancient Egyptian necropolis is located, three dozen members of an armed gang attacked five of the tombs and robbed their contents recently, also illegally excavating the site as several holes were found nearby.

The Qubbet Al-Hawa necropolis is named after the domed tomb of a Muslim Sufi saint located on the crest of the hill. The area consists of a large collection of rock-hewn tombs of ancient Egyptian nobles from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms who ruled Aswan during different ancient Egyptian dynasties.

The tombs’ walls are decorated with vivid paintings depicting scenes of their owners’ daily lives, as well as their different titles and biographies. They also feature hieroglyphic texts showing the noblemen’s journeys to Africa.

“This is not the first time we have seen such things happening,” an archaeologist in Aswan who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Since March, the necropolis had been subjected to looting, he said, and archaeologists at the site had inspected this during routine tours around the necropolis.

Permanent security guards from the tourism and antiquities police have not been in place since the 25 January Revolution, and the guards are not well-armed to resist armed gangs.

“We are asking the police to guard the necropolis permanently in order to protect a very distinguished archaeological site,” the archaeologist said.

In a telephone interview, Mohamed Hamada, consultant at the Ministry of State for Antiquities, told the Weekly that the Aswan inspectorate had reported the case to the police, but regretfully the criminals had escaped.

The ministry had sent a committee to inspect the tombs in order to report any losses, he added.

Investigations are now taking place, said Hamada, and more measures would be taken to protect such distinguished ancient Egyptian sites.

Mohamed Al-Beyali, former head of the ancient Egyptian sector at the ministry, said that the Qubbet Al-Hawa necropolis was a virgin site that had not been totally excavated and that its looting was a great loss to humanity.

The walls of the tombs bore scenes relating to the development of the lives of the nobles in ancient Egyptian history and their relations with Africa. The necropolis was usually fairly inaccessible, but it showed fine examples of hieroglyphic texts detailing the careers of their owners as well as scenes of daily life in the earlier periods, he said.

Many of the tombs are linked together as family members added their own chambers. The tombs are mostly quite deep in the hillside and therefore are very dark. They are arrayed on two levels, the lower one for the tombs of the Old Kingdom nobles and the higher ones for those from the Middle and New Kingdoms.

The tombs that are open to the public include the tombs of father and son Mekhu and Sabni, who were both governors during the long reign of the Sixth Dynasty Pharaoh Pepi II.

They also include the tomb of Sarenput, a local governor and overseer of the priesthood of Satet and Khnum under the 12th Dynasty Pharaoh Amenemhat II (1922-1878 BCE). This is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved tombs, and its walls still bear the remains of vivid colours.

The tomb of Harkhuf, governor of the south during the reign of Pharaoh Pepi II, is little decorated, except for remarkable hieroglyphic texts, while the tomb of Hekaib, also known as Pepinakht, overseer of foreign soldiers during the reign of Pharaoh Pepi II, has fine reliefs showing fighting bulls and hunting scenes.

The same is true of the tomb of Sarenput I, grandfather of Sarenput II and governor during the 12th Dynasty reign of Pharaoh Sesostris I (1965-1920 BCE).

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22984959

Syria conflict: Unesco adds ancient sites to danger list

20 June 2013 Last updated at 10:56

 

Six ancient sites in Syria have been added to a UN list of endangered World Heritage sites because of the threat from the conflict there.

 

The sites were placed on the list by the UN's cultural organisation, Unesco at its annual meeting in Cambodia.

 

It is hoped the decision will rally support for safeguarding the sites, Unesco says.

 

The fighting and security situation has left Syria's archaeological sites susceptible to damage and looting.

 

Unesco said its information on the scale of the destruction was "partial" and came from unverified sources including social media and a report from the Syrian authorities which it said "does not necessarily reflect the actual situation", the AFP news agency reports.

 

Aleppo's old city, in particular, has "witnessed some of the conflict's most brutal destruction," it said, adding that the old citadel had been "caught in the line of fire".

 

"The immediate, near-term and long-term effect of the crises on the cultural heritage of Aleppo cannot be overstated," it added.

 

In April, the 11th-Century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque - one of Syria's most famous - was destroyed during clashes in Aleppo.

 

There are also fears for two castles considered architectural treasures of the 11th-13th Century Crusades - Crac des Chevaliers and Qalat Salah El-Din (Fortress of Saladin).

 

The two sites have "been exposed to clashing and gunfire", according to a report by the Syrian authorities given to Unesco.

 

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/74350/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Excavation-uncovers-ancient-Egyptian-town-in-north.aspx

Excavation uncovers ancient Egyptian town in northern Egypt

Remains of an ancient Egyptian town, inhabited from around 2000BC until the Graeco-Roman era, have been discovered in Qalioubiya governorate

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 18 Jun 2013

 

At the Hyksos fort at Tel El-Yahoud area in Qalioubiya governorate in northern Egypt, an Egyptian excavation mission by the Ministry of State for Antiquities has stumbled upon an ancient Egyptian town from the Middle Kingdom, which dates from approximately 2000 BC to 1700 BC.

The town includes a residential area with a collection of houses and royal palaces, as well as a four metre-tall mud brick fortress and a necropolis with a large number of rock-hewn tombs.

 

A collection of lamps, amulets, clay pots, scarabs and faience floor tiles that were once used to decorate the palace of the New Kingdom kings Meneptah and Ramses II were also unearthed. A collection of mud brick tombs from the Hyksos era was also found, as were remains of a temple dedicated to the god Sotekh who was worshipped during the Hyksos era was also unearthed.

 

Adel Hussein, head of the ancient Egyptian department at the antiquities ministry, said that excavation mission in Tel El-Yahoud area was resumed after having being stopped after the January 2011 revolution.

 

He pointed out that such a site is very important as it reveals the daily life of ancient Egyptians from the New Kingdom until the Graeco–Roman era.

 

The town was also important from a military point of view, Hussein said, saying that excavations had shown that the town was surrounded by a wall to protect it.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-23003797

Teston Roman villa discovery solves 140-year-old mystery

22 June 2013

 

An archaeological mystery that has eluded experts in Kent for 140 years has finally been solved following the rediscovery of the site of a Roman villa.

 

The remains of a bath house were first unearthed in hop gardens on the banks of the River Medway at Teston in 1872, but after some excavations it was covered over until 1972, when archaeologists reinvestigated the site but failed to locate any trace of ancient remains.

 

Nearly 20 years later, in 1991 during the emergency renewal of a sewer, Southern Water uncovered Roman building materials and pottery, with archaeologists subsequently revealing the remains of a Roman masonry building.

 

Parts of a possible corridor or portico, a courtyard and at least one tiled floor were uncovered and the route of the pipeline was diverted to protect the discovery.

 

However, it was only last year, after a a geophysical survey identified possible masonry walls, that the owner of the site invited the Kent Archaeological Field School to undertake further investigations in the search for the bath house originally discovered in the 19th Century.

 

Earlier this year, a team of archaeologists dug tests pits and rediscovered the villa.

 

Dr Paul Wilkinson, director of the Swale and Thames Survey Company (SWAT) Archaeology, said the location of the 1872 discovery was identified and found in the north-west area of the villa.

 

Rooms with under-floor heating, a 127ft (39m) wall with substantial towers or pavilions at each end, marble from a mosaic pavement, painted plaster and window glass were among the remains uncovered.

 

http://www.livescience.com/37531-ancient-toilet-reveals-parasites-in-crusader-poop.html

Ancient Toilet Reveals Parasites in Crusader Poop

Megan Gannon, News EditorDate: 18 June 2013 Time: 04:09 PM ET 

 

Intestinal parasites have been found lurking in ancient poop in the toilet of a medieval castle in western Cyprus, scientists report.

 

The findings paint a less than pretty picture of the health and hygiene of crusaders stationed on the Mediterranean island 800 years ago. Poor sanitation likely meant that food and water supplies were contaminated by fecal material, allowing parasitic infections to spread, the study suggests.

 

Researchers from the University of Cambridge dug into the pit of dried-out waste under a latrine in the remains of Saranda Kolones (Greek for "Forty Columns") at Paphos, a city at the southwestern tip of Cyprus and a UNESCO World Heritage site. [Through the Years: A Gallery of the World's Toilets]

 

Overlooking Paphos harbor, and next to a complex of Roman villas with remarkably intact floor mosaics, Saranda Kolones was long thought to be a temple because of the granite columns that littered its ruins. But excavations in the 1950s revealed that it was actually a short-lived concentric castle.

 

English King Richard the Lionheart sold the island of Cyprus to the Frankish crusader Guy de Lusignan in May 1192. Archaeologists believe the Franks built Saranda Kolones to defend Paphos harbor soon after their occupation of the island began. But in 1222, the city was rocked by a powerful earthquake thought to be at least 7.0 in magnitude. Much of the fortress was left in ruins, never to be rebuilt, but the latrines on its lower floors survived.

 

These toilets were carved to fit the human form, with a half moon-shaped hole in the seat leading to a sewer below. Cambridge researchers Evilena Anastasiou and Piers Mitchell, who study ancient parasites, collected samples from one of those cesspools, rehydrated the waste and strained it through a micro-sieve to catch parasite eggs, each smaller than a tenth of a millimeter.

 

Under a microscope, the researchers saw that the samples contained the eggs of two of the world's most common and widespread intestinal parasites: whipworms (Trichuris trichiura), which cause the infection known as trichocephalus, and giant roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides), the largest of the nematodes found in human intestines, with adults that can grow to more than 1 foot (30 centimeters) long.

 

People with a light load of these worms may experience no symptoms. But when whipworms and giant roundworms heavily colonize the digestive tract, they compete with their hosts for food, siphoning off the nutrients that would normally be absorbed in the intestines. Eggs of the parasites pass through the feces and spread to other hosts by ingestion (say, when a human doesn't wash their hands and spreads the parasite to food or other objects that get consumed). That means infections are most common in places with poor hygiene and sanitation as well as areas where human waste is used as fertilizer or where people defecate in the soil.

 

Mitchell has estimated that during a two- or three-year crusade expedition, noblemen and clergy were just as likely to die in battle as they were to succumb to malnutrition and disease. Presumably, the risk of malnutrition would have been even worse for poor foot soldiers with fewer resources. The new study suggests that parasites likely contributed to the demise of many soldiers who died of starvation or disease.

 

"In these circumstances [it] is quite likely that medieval soldiers with a heavy parasite load would have been at increased risk of death from starvation during famine episodes such as long sieges or expeditions when supplies ran out," the researchers wrote. "This is because they would have had to share the limited available food with their parasites."

 

Studying feces is a rather unglamorous but useful way for archaeologists to reconstruct the diets, health and lifestyle of ancient people. The parasites described in this study are hardly the oldest ever found in Cyprus. A recent analysis of human waste up to 10,000 years old revealed roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms at the Neolithic Cypriot sites of Khirokitia and Shillourokambos.

 

The research was detailed in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

 

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitterand Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook& Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

 

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/06/this-castles-toilet-still-holds-parasites-from-crusaders-feces/

This Castle’s Toilet Still Holds Parasites From Crusaders’ Feces

June 18, 2013

 

Cyprus, the Mediterranean island nation just south of Turkey, took centuries to gain its independence. The Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Ottomans, British and others all took their turns taking over the island, and each left their mark on the archeological record. But in a ruined chamber in a castle on the western corner of the island, it may be more apt to say the invaders left a smear.

 

In 1191, during the Third Crusade, King Richard I of England invaded Cyprus and ordered that a castle be built on the island’s western corner in order to defend the harbor there. Called Saranda Kolones, the castle’s name refers to its many monolithic columns. But in typical tumultuous Cyprus fashion, the medieval castle was only used for thirty years before it was destroyed by an earthquake. By then, King Richard had sold Cyprus to Guy de Lusignan, the King of Jerusalem. Lusignan and his successors had other plans for expanding the island. The wrecked port was abandoned and the castle never rebuilt.

 

As castles go, Saranda Kolones had a pretty poor run. But two University of Cambridge researchers recently realized that, precisely thanks to the castle’s short use, a priceless treasure had been left behind in the Saranda Kolones’ bowels. One of the centuries-old castle latrines (read: ancient toilet), they found, was still full of dried-up poo. That feces, they thought, could provide valuable insight into what kind of parasites plagued the former residents’ guts. And because only 30 years’ worth of waste clogged the ancient sewage system, those parasites could provide specific insight into what ailed medieval crusaders. The researchers rolled up their sleeves and collected samples from the dessicated cesspool.

 

To rehydrate the ancient night soil, the team placed one gram of their sample into a chemical liquid solution. They used micro sieves, or tiny strainers to separate parasite eggs from the digested remains of the crusaders’ meals. They created 20 slides, and peeked into their microscopes to see what creatures the soldiers may have left behind.

 

The samples revealed 118 “lemon-shaped” Trichuris trichiura eggs–a type of roundworm commonly called the whipworm–as well as 1,179 Ascaris lumbricoides, or giant roundworm, eggs. A control sample of non-toilet soil they tested did not contain any parasite eggs, confirming that the eggs did indeed come from the toilet, they report in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

 

The study of ancient parasites, whether through old bones that reveal leprosy-causing pathogens or dried up leaves that elucidate the cause of the Irish potato famine, is a thriving field. In this case, the long-dead parasite eggs were pooped out by the crusaders using the toilet years ago. These species reproduce within human bodies, and go on to infect new hosts through egg-contaminated soil or food delivered courtesy of the host.

 

Heavy infection with either of these worms was no picnic. The authors write, first of giant roundworms:

 

The mature female then starts to lay about 200,000 eggs per day that can be fertile or unfertile if no male worms are present. Although a mild infection with roundworms is mostly asymptomatic, heavy burdens with Ascaris can cause intestinal blockage and abdominal pain in adults. Because children are less able to tolerate parasites that compete with them for nutrients in their diet, heavy infection with roundworms can cause nutritional impairment, vitamin deficiencies, anaemia and growth retardation.

 

And of whipworms:

 

When the females reach maturity they can release 2000–10,000 eggs per day. As with roundworm a heavy worm burden may contribute to malnutrition, stunted growth in childhood and sometimes mechanical damage of the intestinal mucosa, diarrhoea and prolapsed rectum.

 

The presence of these worms, the authors write, attests to the poor hygienic conditions the castle residents likely practiced and put up with. “Poor hygiene with dirty hands, contamination of the food and water supplies with faecal material, inadequate disposal of the faecal material, and consumption of unwashed vegetables fertilized with human faeces are some of the means through which roundworms and whipworms are spread.”

 

The worms also could have jeopardized the health of their hosts, especially during years of famine when both parasite and human competed for scarce nutrients from meals few and far between. Previous studies found that between 15 to 20 percent of nobles and the clergy died from malnutrition and infectious disease during the crusades. Although death records for poor soldiers are not available, the authors think it’s safe to assume that malnutrition probably hit the lower-ranking crusaders even harder.

 

“It is quite likely that a heavy load of intestinal parasites in soldiers on crusade expeditions and in castles undergoing long sieges would have predisposed to death from malnutrition,” they write. “This clearly has implications for our understanding of health and disease on mediaeval military expeditions such as the crusades.”

 

Before contemporary readers breathe a sign of relief that these parasites infested the guts of people living more than 800 years ago, it’s important to note that the giant roundworm infests an estimated one-sixth of all humans living today. As the authors write, “In modern times A. lumbricoides and T. trichiura are two of the most common and widespread intestinal parasites.” Other parasites continue to plague human populations worldwide, especially in developing countries. Who knows what the archaeologists of the future will find in the scum of your latrine?

 

Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/06/this-castles-toilet-still-holds-parasites-from-crusaders-feces/#ixzz2XA6k6rRD

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mick_Aston

Mick Aston

Born    Michael Antony Aston

1 July 1946 (age 66)

Oldbury, England, United Kingdom

Occupation     Archaeologist

Known for       Time Team

Professor Michael Antony 'Mick' Aston, FSA (1 July 1946 - 24 June 2013) was a prominent English archaeologist. As an academic, he has taught at a number of universities across the United Kingdom, and has helped popularise the discipline amongst the British public by appearing as the resident academic on the Channel 4 television series Time Team from 1994 to 2011. Through the series, Aston has become iconic to the viewing public for his trademark colourful jumpers and flowing, untidy hairstyle.[1] He has also published a number of books on the subject of archaeology, some of which are written for an academic audience, and others for the general public.

Born into a working-class family in Oldbury, West Midlands, Aston studied geography at the University of Birmingham before going on to become a professional archaeologist and gaining further degrees in the subject. Working for Oxford City and County Museum and then becoming the first County Archaeologist for Somerset, he also taught classes at the University of Birmingham, University of Oxford and the University of Bristol. With the television producer Tim Taylor, Aston began to work on creating shows that would bring archaeology into popular consciousness, being involved in the creation of the short lived Time Signs (1991), which was followed by the far more successful Time Team, which began airing in 1994 and continues today. He retired from his university posts in 2004, but continued working on Time Team and commenced writing regular articles for British Archaeology magazine.

Aston is a specialist in landscape archaeology, focusing on the study of British landscapes in the Early Mediaeval period (circa 400 to 1200 CE). He has a particular research interest in the archaeology of towns and monastic sites from this period.[2][3] As site director, he also undertook a ten year project investigating the manor at Shapwick, Somerset.[4]

 

Aston was born in the town Oldbury in the English Black Country, he attended Oldbury Grammar School and studied geography at the University of Birmingham. At the same time he pursued his interest in archaeology both academically and through fieldwork, finding his vocation as a landscape archaeologist.[5]

Academic work[edit]

While researching for a higher degree, he taught at the Extra-Mural Department of the University of Birmingham. When he moved to Oxfordshire to take up a post at the Oxford City and County Museum, he taught many extramural classes for the University of Oxford. From there he moved to Taunton to become the first County Archaeologist for Somerset. Again he taught extramural classes, this time for the University of Bristol. In 1978 he became a full-time tutor in local studies at the Oxford University External Studies Department. Then in 1979 he returned to the West Country as tutor in archaeology at the University of Bristol Extra-Mural Department. He was awarded a personal chair at Bristol University in 1996.[6]

When he retired in 2004, he became an emeritus professor at Bristol University, and an honorary visiting professor at the University of Exeter and the University of Durham. In the same year he was awarded an Honorary D.Litt by the University of Winchester, formerly King Alfred's College. He had long been associated with this college as an external examiner. The archaeology students of King Alfred's also participated in a 10-year project led by Aston to investigate the manor of Shapwick in Somerset. He received an honorary degree from Worcester University on 31 October 2007. His academic colleagues have contributed to a festschrift in his honour, published in 2007.[7]

Following his retirement from academia, Aston continued to return to the universities at Exeter, Durham and Bristol to do occasional teaching.[8]

Aston has published many works, particularly on landscape archaeology and monasteries.[9] He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1976[10] and was the 21st member of the Institute of Field Archaeologists.