Neanderthals were no strangers to good parenting


April 9, 2014

Source: University of York



Archaeologists are challenging the traditional view that Neanderthal childhood was difficult, short and dangerous. A new and distinctive perspective suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, used play to develop skills and played a significant role in their society.


Archaeologists at the University of York are challenging the traditional view that Neanderthal childhood was difficult, short and dangerous.


A research team from PALAEO (Centre for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins) and the Department of Archaeology at York offer a new and distinctive perspective which suggests that Neanderthal children experienced strong emotional attachments with their immediate social group, used play to develop skills and played a significant role in their society.

The traditional perception of the toughness of Neanderthal childhood is based largely on biological evidence, but the archaeologists, led by Dr Penny Spikins, also studied cultural and social evidence to explore the experience of Neanderthal children.In research published in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, they found that Neanderthal childhood experience was subtly different from that of their modern human counterparts in that it had a greater focus on social relationships within their group. Investigation of Neanderthal burials suggests that children played a particularly significant role in their society, particularly in symbolic expression.

The research team, which also included Gail Hitchens, Andy Needham and Holly Rutherford, say there is evidence that Neanderthals cared for their sick and injured children for months and often years. The study of child burials, meanwhile, reveals that the young may have been given particular attention when they died, with generally more elaborate graves than older individuals.Neanderthal groups are believed to have been small and relatively isolated, suggesting important implications for the social and emotional context of childhood. Living in rugged terrain, there will have been little selection pressure on overcoming the tendency to avoid outside groups with a consequent natural emotional focus on close internal connections.

Dr Spikins, who has a new book on why altruism was central to human evolutionary origins, How Compassion Made Us Human, (Pen and Sword) published later this year, said: "The traditional view sees Neanderthal childhood as unusually harsh, difficult and dangerous. This accords with preconceptions about Neanderthal inferiority and an inability to protect children epitomising Neanderthal decline.

"Our research found that a close attachment and particular attention to children is a more plausible interpretation of the archaeological evidence, explaining an unusual focus on infants and children in burial, and setting Neanderthal symbolism within a context which is likely to have included children.

"Interpretations of high activity levels and frequent periods of scarcity form part of the basis for this perceived harsh upbringing. However, such challenges in childhood may not be distinctive from the normal experience of early Palaeolithic human children, or contemporary hunter-gatherers in particularly cold environments. There is a critical distinction to be made between a harsh childhood and a childhood lived in a harsh environment."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

Penny Spikins, Gail Hitchens, Andy Needham and Holly Rutherford. The Cradle of Thought: growth, learning and play attachment in Neanderthal children. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 2014 DOI: 10.1111/ojoa.12030


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Article created on Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Archaeologists have uncovered the earliest evidence of the presence of humans in Scotland with an assemblage of over 5,000 flint artefacts which were recovered in 2005-2009 by Biggar Archaeology Group in fields at Howburn, South Lanarkshire. Subsequent studies have dated their use to 14,000 years ago.

Prior to the find, the oldest evidence of human occupation in Scotland could be dated to around 13,000 years ago at a now-destroyed cave site in Argyll, northwest Scotland.


Similar to finds from northern Germany and southern Denmark

Dating to the very earliest part of the late-glacial period, Howburn is likely to represent the first settlers in Scotland. The flint tools are strikingly close in design to similar finds in northern Germany and southern Denmark from the same period, a link which has helped experts to date them.


The new findings were revealed by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs in her speech at the Institute for Archaeologists’ annual conference, which is this year taking place in Glasgow. The definitive findings will be published next year in a report funded by Historic Scotland.


Pursuit of game

The hunters who left behind the flint remains at Howburn came into Scotland in pursuit of game, probably herds of wild horses and reindeer, at a time when the climate improved following the previous severe glacial conditions. Glacial conditions returned once more around 13,000 years ago and Scotland was again depopulated, probably for another 1000 years, after which new groups with different types of flint tools make their appearance.


Connections not yet well understood

The nature of the physical connections made between the peoples in Scotland, Germany and southern Denmark is not yet understood. However the similarity in the design of the tools from the two regions offers tantalising glimpses of connections across what would have been dry land, now drowned by the North Sea.


Alan Saville, President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Senior Curator, Earliest Prehistory at the National Museums of Scotland and a specialist in the study of flaked flint and stone tools said: “These tools represent a real connection with archaeological finds in north-west Germany, southern Denmark and north-west Holland, a connection not seen elsewhere in Britain at this time. This discovery is both intriguing and revolutionises our ideas about where humans came from in this very early period. In southern Britain, early links are with northern France and Belgium. Howburn is just one chance discovery and further such discoveries will no doubt emerge.”

Source: Historic Scotland



-         Meaning of intriguing carvings in rock surfaces remains a mystery  -

-         Recognition of work by volunteers to record Prehistoric rock art in the North East of England  -


Seventeen examples of prehistoric rock art in the North East of England have been scheduled as Ancient Monuments by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport following advice from English Heritage drawing on the work of volunteer researchers.


The term ‘prehistoric rock art’ describes a specific style of carvings created in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age, around 3800 BC to 1500 BC. These intriguing, abstract carvings share some motifs, with variations around main themes, and are found throughout northern Europe. Motifs range from the common ‘cup mark’, essentially a small bowl-shaped carving, or the ‘cup and ring’ which is a cup mark surrounded by one or several circular grooves, to linear grooves, arcs and even rare rosette forms. These motifs may appear singly, in small groups, or over large areas of rock surface.


The meaning of the designs remains a mystery but they seem to be abstract and held some unknown, possibly sacred meaning for those who created them. Over 5000 separate rock art sites are known in Britain of which more than half are in England and while some examples do occur further south, they can mainly be found in the upland areas of the north, hidden amongst the bracken. The 17 newly designated sites are considered to be particularly well preserved examples, displaying a wide range of motifs and enhancing our knowledge of Prehistoric society.

A particularly arresting example of Northumberland’s rock art is Ketley Crag where the stone base of a rock shelter has been extensively carved with a complex and fluid range of motifs, complete with well preserved pick marks made by the instrument used to make the carvings.

Other rock art sites added to the National Heritage List for England are:

A panel at Whitsunbank and a group of panels in Buttony, all in Northumberland displaying a variety of carvings ranging from cups and rings to the more unusual circular grooves and rosette forms.

·           A group of panels on Doddington Moor, Northumberland displaying a range of motifs including a rosette form made up of a central cup surrounded by 10 other cups and 2 outer rings.

·           A panel in Heddon Hill, Northumberland unusually situated within igneous rocks.

·           A group of panels on Weetwood Moor, Northumberland.

·           A group of panels in Amerside Law, Northumberland.

·           Small group of panels in Howden Hill, Northumberland.

·           A panel in Welhope, Northumberland.

·           Two sites, Lemmington Wood and Goatscrag rock shelter in Northumberland, include prehistoric carvings alongside carvings from a different period: the panel at Lemmington Wood bears a deeply carved linked prehistoric motif alongside an extremely rare early medieval Runic inscription; scholars have identified one possible meaning as ‘relic’ perhaps giving a tantalising insight into early medieval perspectives on the past. At Goatscrag, a small group of prehistoric motifs are accompanied by four carvings of goats or deer which have been carved onto part of the wall of the shelter, considered to be of late Prehistoric, Romano-British or Early Medieval date.


These sites were scheduled thanks to information gathered by The Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Project (NADRAP), supported by English Heritage. It involved around 100 volunteers from the surrounding area, keen to immerse themselves in local history who, supported by specialists from English Heritage and the local council, captured details of 1500 individual rock art panels situated across several different sites.


Designation team leader in the North, Nick Bridgland said: “These examples of rock art from the Neolithic and Bronze ages have been scheduled because they are reasonably well preserved and studying their individual carvings and motifs will enhance our knowledge of prehistoric society.”


Heritage Minister Ed Vaizey said: “The UK’s unique and varied heritage comes in many forms and these prehistoric rock carvings are absolutely worthy of protection, giving an insight into prehistoric society of the time. I particularly want to thank the many volunteers from the surrounding community whose work in capturing the detail of these carvings will protect them for generations to come.”


For further press information contact Rosie Ryder: rosie.ryder@english-heritage.org.uk, 020 7973 3250

For images go to: https://plus.google.com/photos/101554616913588617820/albums/5997282813680135441?authkey=CI_rraKErcfAEg



Bronze Age skeleton of dagger-clutching Racton Man could have been a King or priest buried in Sussex

By Ben Miller | 11 April 2014


Amy Roberts, the Collections Officer at the Novium in Chichester, introduces the Bronze Age Racton Man who could have national importance


"It’s a complete skeleton, and it was found in a crouched position. The dagger was found, I believe, in his right hand.


There’s some staining to the bones themselves, so we can tell that they were probably holding the dagger up at the time, in their chest sort of area.


We are calling him the Mystery Man because we’re waiting for all this analysis to try and find out more about him.


It was actually discovered in 1989. A metal detectorist found the dagger and the jawbone, but because of the lack of resources at the time no further analysis was really undertaken.


There was an excavation of the site which discovered further rivets and the rest of the skeletal remains – the rest of the human himself. But other than that, very little has been found out about him.


There was an initial report in a local journal but no real publication of information. We don’t know whether it’s a he or a she at the moment.


We think it may be a man because they – I keep saying he, sorry, it’s a force of habit – have quite long longbones.


You would think he would be quite a high-status individual. You don’t get many finds of this sort of nature.


Our archaeology collection is kept at Fishbourne Roman Palace in our Collections Discovery Centre. It’s a joint store between the Novium and Fishbourne.


The bones have been kept there since it opened in 2007, and prior to that it was in storage in Chichester.


James Kenny [Chichester District Council's Archaeology Officer] spoke to a Bronze Age specialist about the find and he became quite interested in it, which is how the whole project came about, really.


That was maybe about a year and a half ago. We’ve been sourcing the funding in the meantime.


We applied to the South Down National Park Authority’s Sustainable Communities Fund and got a grant of £1,980. What we’re using the majority of that money for is the isotopic analysis and the carbon dating, at the National Museum of Scotland, and also the osteological analysis of the remains themselves.


We’ll have a specialist come down and look at the remains for that. He came and had an initial look – we needed to do initial cleaning as the remains had not been cleaned post-excavation, so there was still quite a lot of excess dirt on the bones, so it was very difficult for him to know what he was looking at because he couldn’t see if there was any trauma or pathology or anything like that on the bones themselves.


That was the first stage of the project which, over the next few days, should be completed, allowing him to come and have a look at the bones.


We’ve been guided by him as to cleaning the bones in the best possible way. They are quite fragile because they’re 4,000-odd years old.


The project will culminate in an exhibition in September, so all the report-writing and research will have to be done before that time.


We have a foyer area where we’ll be displaying them in a case as they were found – in a crouched position with the dagger close by. That will be done by the osteologist, because it’s quite a tricky thing to have him laid out in the right sort of position.


There are further remains in the collection: we have a big archive of Anglo-Saxon remains. We have other sites that are cremation burials as well.


It’s not just about funding – the types of investigations you can do have changed. Isotopic analysis wasn’t available when they were found, so we can gain further analysis now that we would not have been able to get at the time.”



The die that struck Britain’s first coins?

April 11, 2014 • 4:52 pm

Ian Leins and Emma Morris, curators, Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum


One of the most recent acquisitions made by the Department of Coins and Medals is a highly unusual object – an ancient punch or ‘die’ used to manufacture coins in the second century BC. The die was found in Bredgar, Kent by a metal detector user in 2013 and is being used to shed new light on when the first coins were made in Britain.


The earliest coins found in Iron Age Britain date from around the second century BC and, until recently, it was believed that they were produced in Gaul (a region roughly equivalent to modern day France and Belgium) and imported into south-east England. These coins, known as Gallo Belgic A, were based on the gold coinage (staters) issued by King Philip II, ruler of the Greek kingdom of Macedon from 359 – 336 BC and father of Alexander the Great.


Philip’s coin shows a representation of the god Apollo on one side and a chariot drawn by two horses on the other. Iron Age coins derived from these staters carry abstract versions of these images. The hair and laurel wreath on the image of Apollo, for example, are much exaggerated. Similarly, the image of the horse on the reverse of the coin has been stylised and is reminiscent of the Prehistoric chalk horses found on the hillsides of Britain, such as the one at Uffington.


Close examination of the coin die revealed that it was used in the production of the early Gallo-Belgic A coins. What this means is that, although it is the third Iron Age coin die to be found in the UK (the others are also in the British Museum), it is almost certainly the earliest. The most significant aspect of this discovery is the fact that it is a British find. This raises the intriguing possibility that the earliest known coins from Britain were actually made here and not just imports from the Continent.


Around 250 Gallo-Belgic A coins are known from Britain and France, but unfortunately the new die cannot be linked to any of them. This fact has been used to suggest that it may have been a forger’s die. In reality, however, we can read very little into the fact that we do not have an example of a coin struck using this die. Little is known about the mechanics of coin production in the Iron Age and, in particular, about the authorities that produced them. The distinction between an ‘official’ and a ‘forger’s’ die may not be have been relevant in Iron Age society. A programme of scientific analysis will tell us more about how the die was made and used, but its precise origins are likely to remain a mystery.

The die is on display in the Citi Money Gallery.




Leicester dig unearths Iron Age mint and Roman tile with dog paw prints

By Leicester Mercury  |  Posted: April 09, 2014

By Peter Warzynski


Archaeologists believe they might have stumbled across an Iron Age mint which produced gold and silver coins for the coveted Hallaton Treasure.


The dig at Blackfriars, in the city, unearthed coin mould fragments which, combined with evidence from previous excavations, seems to confirm the site was a 2,000-year-old Corieltauvi tribe mint.


The Corieltauvi controlled most of the East Midlands, with Leicester as its capital.


Archaeologists believe the Blackfriars site could have produced some of the 5,000 silver and gold coins found in 2000, near the Leicestershire village of Hallaton.


Senior project manager Nick Daffern said: "We've got over 20 coin moulds, which at an urban site like this is quite significant – a lot of them would have been damaged over time.


"This is an exciting find and gives us an idea of where some of the Hallaton Treasure actually comes from."


The team also found a Roman tile in the northern half of the site, with what appear to be dog paw imprints embedded in the ceramic.


Nick said: "When tiles were made in Roman times, they used to get local clay and leave it out in the sun to dry and pets and animals used to escape across them leaving these kinds of imprints – it was quite a common thing to find.


"We've also found some floor or roof tiles with sheep or goat prints here as well."


The tiles were found within a Roman townhouse, which dates from about 100AD.


The dig revealed large outer walls, internal floors and the bases of a colonnade – a line of columns enclosing a courtyard or garden.


Nick said: "There was also painted plaster, which indicates that the site was high status.


"And it looks as if the function of it changed over time, from residential to industrial, before the masonry was taken during medieval times to construct new buildings."


The dig is being carried out by Wardell Armstrong Archaeology on behalf of developers Watkin Jones, who are planning to build student flats on the site.


Work started in January and is expected to end at the beginning of May.


The Hallaton Treasure is the largest hoard of British Iron Age coins discovered in the UK.


It was unearthed by volunteers from the Hallaton Fieldwork Group.


The initial find was made by metal detectorist Ken Wallace on November 19, 2000, when he discovered about 130 coins.


The University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) excavated the site and found more than 5,000 coins, a silver-gilt Roman parade helmet, jewellery, and other objects, which date from the 1st century AD.


It is believed that 4,835 of the coins discovered in Hallaton were from the Corieltauvi tribe.


Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Leicester-dig-unearths-Iron-Age-mint-Roman-tile/story-20931780-detail/story.html#ixzz2ynhnONOC



Archeologists' findings may prove Rome a century older than thought

As Italian capital approaches 2,767th birthday, excavation reveals wall built long before official founding year of 753BC

John Hooper in Rome

The Guardian, Sunday 13 April 2014 17.38 BST


It is already known as the eternal city, and if new archeological findings prove correct Rome may turn out to be even more so than believed until now.


Next week, the city will celebrate its official, 2,767th birthday. According to a tradition going back to classic times, the brothers Romulus and Remus founded the city on 21 April in the year 753BC.


But on Sundayit was reported that evidence of infrastructure building had been found, dating from more than 100 years earlier. The daily Il Messagero quoted Patrizia Fortini, the archaeologist responsible for the Forum, as saying that a wall constructed well before the city's traditional founding date had been unearthed.


The wall, made from blocks of volcanic tuff, appeared to have been built to channel water from an aquifer under the Capitoline hill that flows into the river Spino, a tributary of the Tiber. Around the wall, archaeologists found pieces of ceramic pottery and remains of food.


"The examination of the ceramic material was crucial, allowing us today to fix the wall chronologically between the 9th century and the beginning of the 8th century," said Fortini.


It was already known that the settlement of Rome was a gradual process and that the traditional date for its foundation was invented by a later writer. There is evidence of people arriving on the Palatine hill as early as the 10th century BC.


The find would appear to show that construction in stone began earlier than previously established. The discovery was made close to the Lapis Niger ('Black Stone' in Latin): a shrine that later Romans associated with their city's earliest days. The site includes a stone block that carries the earliest inscription found in Rome. Written in the 5th century BC, its meaning is not fully clear, but it is thought to place a curse on anyone who violates the site.


• The standirst on this article was amended on 13 April to reflect the correct date of Rome's founding



Roman Imperial Port Facilities Emerge Under Archaeological Investigation

Archaeologists uncover buried structural remains and artifacts that help tell the story of an ancient Roman port system in Italy.

Fri, Apr 11, 2014


Known as Vada Volaterrana, it has been identified as a key port system located in present-day Tuscany, Italy, used anciently by the Romans of the city of Volaterrae (today's Volterra) for the import and export of trade goods throughout the Mediterranean. The main harbor was located north of the mouth of the Cecina river, at S. Gaetano di Vada. Here, the University of Pisa has been excavating, since the 1980s, a significant commercial quarter that has yielded major structures and numerous artifacts that have testified to a facility built during the Augustan age but lasting through to the sixth-seventh centuries, C.E.

Currently led by Simonetta Menchelli of the Laboratory of Ancient Topography of the University of Pisa and Stephano Genovesi of the Archaeological Superintendences of Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia, the team has uncovered two thermal baths, a large warehouse (horreum) with about 36 cells, a large water tank, a monumental fountain, and a building with three large apses, decorated with remarkable wall paintings and surrounding an open squared courtyard.

"The findings of amphorae, pottery, coins, glass vessels and marbles testify to the intensive trade activities; every kind of goods arrived from the entire Mediterranean Sea basin, to be redistributed from the port to the countryside and the city of Volaterrae, and here local products were shipped out," report the excavation directors. "[The] production of wine was especially developed; [we found] many workshops where amphorae were made. The main trade route of Volterra’s wine led to the South of France and, further north, to the river Rhine, where the wine was consumed mainly by Roman legionaries stationed in the camps guarding the borders of the Empire."*

The ancient city of Volterra, or Volaterrae, which was served by the Vada Volaterrana port system, was first settled by the Etruscans in the 8th century B.C.E. During the succeeding centuries the village had developed into a major city with power over a vast territory, rich in mineral resources and salines. Tombs excavated in the area revealed the existence of a wealthy Etruscan aristocracy, with the means to acquire bronze and ceramic objects from the cities of Southern Etruria, and from Greece. During the 3rd century, B.C.E, the city was absorbed under the rule of Rome. Eventually, some of the members of the Volterran aristocracy became Roman senators, injecting influence into the affairs of an expanding Roman Empire. The city features an ancient Roman theater and thermal baths and houses, which have been the subject of previous archaeological investigations.


The most recent excavations of the port system commercial facilities in 2013 revealed the remains of a rectangular structure with thick (90 cm) walls. Three rooms have thus far been identified, with a northern-most room exhibiting a semi-circular apse-like feature, tentatively interpreted as a possible small shrine. Within the same excavation area archaeologists have unearthed some remains of a Late Antiquity (fifth-sixth century C.E.) necropolis, where they found two burials featuring bodies that were interred using large re-used amphorae. Not uncommon, it is a burial type called enchytrismós. "A few bones allowed us to identify one of them as the burial of a 4 - 5-year-old child," reported the directors.**

In 2014, archaeologists hope to continue their excavations at the newly discovered structure to develop a better understanding of the stratigraphic sequence and construction phases of the building; further explore the tombs containing amphorae burials; conduct GPR surveys to identify workshop structures; and survey other areas with an eye toward extending investigations around the settlement. 

For more information about the project and how one can participate and otherwise support the work at the site, go to the website for more information.






4,500-year-old boat among Viking artifacts hoard discovered in Galway

Jane Walsh @irishcentral April 10,2014 04:00 AM


Twelve boats, dating from 2,500 BC to the 11th century AD, along with other Viking artifacts have been discovered in Lough Corrib in Connemara, County Galway.


Archaeologists have used radiocarbon dating to establish that one of the boats dates from 2,500 BC. Other items that were found include several battle axes and other weapons.


The ancient items were discovered by Captain Trevor Northage, a marine surveyor mapping the lake to update British admiralty charts. The Underwater Archaeology Unit (UAU) from the National Monuments Service then carried out a series of investigative dives.


The 4,500-year-old log boat settled into the mud when it sank and was covered over time. A mixture of organic sediment and lake water assisted in the preservation process. Even the seats in the boats are preserved.


The three Viking-style battle axes will form a centerpiece for the National Museum of Ireland’s Battle of Clontarf commemoration exhibition, marking the 1,000th anniversary of the battle and the death of King Brian Boru.


The weapons, including bronze spearheads and a rare wooden spear, have been recovered for conservation by the National Museum. As yet, there are no plans to raise the boats.


The oldest of the vessels is the Annaghkeen log boat, which is 4,500 years old, close to the age of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Northage pointed out, while speaking to the Irish Times, that it had been at the bottom of the lough for 3,500 years when the Vikings arrived.


The 12-meter boat is very similar to the Lurgan boat found in 1902 and the Carrowneden boat found near Ballyhaunis, in County Mayo, in 1996.


UAU archaeologist Karl Brady said, “The Annaghkeen boat was made from a very big tree, and it took a lot of skill and effort to make it.


“The fact that all three boats were located within 30 miles of each other would suggest that they were made by the one builder, or that there was a vogue for early Bronze Age boats of this type.”


Brady believes that another boat, dating from the 11th or 12th century, found near Carrowmoreknock on the Lough, may have been on a raid when it sank. They believe the warriors were Irish.


Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, called the find “exceptional” and said all the artifacts are protected on the National Monuments Act.


He also commented on the fact that the artifacts provide “a unique insight into a wide range of prehistoric and medieval activities, including raiding, hunting, wood working, boat building, trade, travel and transport.”


Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/4500-year-old-boat-among-Viking-artefacts-hoard-discovered-in-Galway.html#ixzz2ynkFoIgW