Skull shows possible human/Neanderthal breeding

Tue Jan 16, 3:06 PM ET


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 40,000-year-old skull found in a Romanian cave shows traits of both modern humans and Neanderthals and might prove the two interbred, researchers reported on Monday.


If the findings are confirmed, the skull would represent the oldest modern human remains yet found in Europe.


The study, published in the Proceedings of the

National Academy of Sciences, will add to the debate over whether modern Homo sapiens simply killed off their Neanderthal cousins, or had some intimate interactions with them first.


DNA samples taken from Neanderthal bones suggest there was no mixing, or at least that any Neanderthal genetic contribution did not make it to the modern DNA pool.


But Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis has in the past found bones that he believes show both modern human and Neanderthal traits, and now he and colleagues have found a skull.


The skull, probably that of a teenager, has been dated to 40,000 years ago and shows many modern traits. But it also is a little flatter than most modern Homo sapiens, and exceptionally large upper molars more associated with Neanderthals.


"Such differences raise important questions about the evolutionary history of modern humans," said Joao Zilhao of the University of Bristol in Britain, who worked on the study.


It could be "evolutionary reversal" he said -- humans changing back into archaic forms.


"They could also reflect admixture with Neanderthal populations as modern humans spread through western Eurasia," Zilhao said in a statement.


"This mixture would have resulted in both archaic traits retained from the Neanderthals and unique combinations of traits resulting from the blending of previously divergent gene pools."


Modern humans are believed to have spread into Europe around 45,000 to 50,000 years ago, and had completely replaced the older Neanderthals by 30,000 years ago.


But that means at least 10,000 years of living side by side, and artifacts attributed to the more modern humans have been found at Neanderthal sites.


Neanderthals were also once designated Homo sapiens, although are a designated subspecies -- Homan sapiens neanderthalis. But some experts now designate them as a separate species -- Homo neanderthalis.


Zilhao, Trinkaus and colleagues examined the skull from the Pestera cu Oase, or the Cave with Bones, in southwestern Romania. It was mostly full of bones from cave bears but then the researchers found some human skull fragments.


They are the earliest modern human remains found in Europe, although last week researchers reported finding 45,000-year-old human artifacts in Russia south of Moscow.


European skull's evolving story

Oase 2 (PNAS)


The earliest modern humans in Europe were short of being the complete article, according to a study of a fossilised skull from Romania.


The 35,000-year-old cranium discovered in Pestera cu Oase in the west of the country shows an interesting mix of features, say scientists.


Whilst undeniably a Homo sapiens specimen, it has some traits normally associated with more ancient species.


The skull is reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Dr Helene Rougier, from Washington University in St Louis, US, and colleagues say the fossil suggests the first modern humans to enter Europe continued to evolve after they had settled.


H. sapiens is thought to have emerged in Africa more than 150,000 years ago before spreading out of the continent and arriving in Europe less than 50,000 years ago.


The reconstructed cranium - known as Oase 2 and found in a Late Pleistocene bone bed containing the remains of cave bears - comes from the earliest stages of the occupation.


In addition to its large face and retreating forehead, the specimen has the largest cheek teeth so far known for an otherwise anatomically modern human, the team reports.


The scientists say the mixture of modern and archaic features could have resulted from interbreeding between H. sapiens and the older Neanderthal humans ( Homo neanderthalensis) who were already in Europe.


But, they add, the fossil may simply also be a case of ancient traits reappearing in a modern human, or even an indication that science has not yet been able to study enough early modern people to fully understand their diversity.


Co-author Joao Zilhao of the University of Bristol, UK, said: "The ultimate resolution of these issues must await considerations of larger samples of European early modern humans and chronologically intervening specimens."


And team member Erik Trinkaus, also of Washington University, commented: "I think that what this find really shows is the ongoing nature of human evolution. Technically, this skull is a modern human, but humans as we know them today have evolved considerably since then."



Site yields up clues to the ancient past


19 January 2007 08:30

A prehistoric treasure trove spanning more than 100,000 years of Norfolk's past has been unearthed.


Travel just millimetres down through the layers of chocolate brown and olive green earth at the site outside Saham Toney, near Watton, and you are crossing millennia.


Digger driver Ralph Fickling made the first discovery last October - a leg bone the size of a small tree trunk protruding from a shelf of black gravel.


In the following months, with the help of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service (NMAS), three mammoths' teeth and a collection of bones were uncovered at the bottom of the half-dug lake.


NMAS's curator of geology, Nigel Larkin, realised the significance of the find and gathered a collection of experts from the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Queen Mary University of London and Norwich's Castle Museum, who have spent this week delving into its muddy secrets.


The rich history spills out as Mr Larkin breaks a clod of earth from the trench to reveal earth peppered with prehistoric remnants of tiny molluscs, seeds and even beetles.


It is with these microfossils and other clues from within the sediment that experts in a range of fields will piece together a detailed picture of the shifting Norfolk landscape from 120,000 years ago to about 10,000 years ago.


During that time the UK passed through a major ice age and the landscape would have undergone dramatic changes as the climate cooled and warmed, moving through a lush environment, scrubby arctic tundra, dead ice-locked land and back to the warmer climate of today.


The remains of the three mammoths date from about 60,000 years ago, during the stone age, at a time when Neanderthal man would have roamed a sparse frozen landscape populated with animals such as woolly rhinos, spotted hyenas, reindeer and the Arctic fox.


Simon Lewis, climate expert and lecturer at Queen Mary University, said it was extraordinary to be able to map such a vast period of history using just one site.


Months of laboratory work will follow, painting a picture of the ancient climate and landscape that will inform studies of modern-day global warming and early human history in the UK.


Mr Larkin said: “We have sediments ranging from about 10,000 years ago to 120,000 years ago. Immediately I could see this site was incredibly rich in microfossils from tiny molluscs, beetles to individual blades of grass.


“These elements are vital to the understanding of the climates and landscapes of the time; for example beetles are very specific in what habitat they like, so their presence can tell us what the climate, flora and fauna was like.


“These sediments are very important, allowing us to paint a very detailed picture of the past and you can only predict future climate change by looking at trends in the past.


“Here we will be able to find out the effect of global climate change at a local level and understand how people were able to be here and why they were here.”


The heavily-grooved, block-like teeth and the collection of rib, thigh and radius bones are also unusual because they originate not only from an adult but also two young mammoths, a teenager and one about a year old.


The mammoth's teeth are made up of layers of plates to maximise cutting edges to grind down food and get the most out of a diet of nutrient-poor grass.


In 2002, just seven miles away at Lynford, a dozen woolly mammoth skeletons were found with the remains of reindeer, woolly rhino, bison and over 50 Neanderthal flint handaxes in what is the UK's richest Neanderthal site.


The dig team are all members of the Leverhulme-funded Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project and after the dig finishes today they will spend months analysing the samples and finds.


The mammoth teeth and bones may be put on display at the Castle Museum later in the year.



Unique rock paintings reveal traces of prehistoric human settlement in Anatolia

Thursday, January 18, 2007

ANKARA – Turkish Daily News


On the shores of Lake Bafa in southwest Turkey, prehistoric rock paintings found on Mt. Latmos in the Five Fingers Mountains have been classified as unique anthropological works because of their use of language and social themes.


Archaeologist Annelise Peschlow has been conducting a survey of the area, the ancient city of Miletusare, since 1974 as part of the Latmos Project to find early traces of human settlements in the area. The city's evolution extended from prehistoric times to the Ottoman era. She found the first rock paintings in 1994.


According to her, the rock paintings found on Mt. Latmos were a significant discovery because they provided unique insight into the prehistoric culture of Anatolia.


“There are numerous rock paintings in the world. However, those in Mt. Latmos are unique in terms of their language and theme. The rock paintings discovered in Western Europe featured mainly animal figures as well as war and hunting scenes whereas the representation of family and mother-child figures are the principal motives in the rock paintings found on Mt. Latmos. There are no hunting scenes or scenes from nomadic life here. They also don't focus on the individual but show man in a social context, emphasizing social life. “


“I found the paintings featured on the rocks of Mt. Latmos to be unique piece of artwork when I compared them to those found in western Europe,” Peschlow said in a Tuesday press conference promoting the exhibition titled Prehistoric Rock Paintings which will open on Wednesday in the State Painting and Sculpture Museum in Ankara.


Sponsored by the Berlin-based German Archaeology Institute and Koç Holding, the exhibition, which is the culmination of five years of work, marks the beginning of the German term presidency of the European Union and features over 80 rock paintings as well as graphical works.


Peschlow said so far they had found 170 rock paintings dating back to 6,000 B.C. in the region, which also offered a wide array of traces of human settlements which began in prehistoric times and continue through the Middle Ages in western Anatolia.


Stating that they also found ornaments and symbols during the survey, she said: “The images belonged to the settled communities who used to live in caves at the time. They also shed light on the conceptual and imaginary world of the prehistoric communities living in Anatolia and they are the first to give testimony to prehistoric human settlement in western Anatolia.”


“The most common figure in the paintings is the figure of Mt. Latmos. There is an important link between the images and Mt. Latmos, which is a volcanic formation. People reflected the volcanic change of the mountain into the rock paintings in which they sometimes depicted the mountain as a dragon or a sacred place. The mountain signified a holy place of worship for them because they used to believe that the changes were the will of a mountain god. That's why the mountain is an important motif in their paintings,” she noted.


Peschlow is now trying to convert the Five Fingers Mountains, one of the richest regions of Turkey in terms of archaeological remains, into a National Park.


 “It is not only because I am in love with the region,” she said, adding: “The natural landscape of Mt. Latmos is unique in the world and there is no protection. The area should be preserved and utilized for tourism. Tourists are bored of sun and sea holidays in Turkey and it is an ideal site for cultural tourism. The site can be a great source of income for Turkey and the locals can be the natural protectors of the area.


  Peschlow also officially applied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the inclusion of the Five Fingers Mountains on UNESCO's World Heritage List but this is not enough,” she says.


  The exhibit, which will be open until Feb.25, ran in Germany, Italy and Istanbul where visitors showed great interest and will move to the Muğla Archaeology Museum for a permanent display starting May 25.



Archeological dig Web site diary offered

BALTIMORE, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. Egyptologist Betsy Bryan is sharing her work with the world through an online diary, detailing the day-to-day life at an archaeological dig.


Starting Friday and through late February, visitors to "Hopkins in Egypt Today" ( http://www.jhu.edu/neareast/egypttoday.html ) will find photos of Bryan and her colleagues working on Johns Hopkins University's 12th annual excavation at the Mut Temple Precinct in Luxor, Egypt.


The exploration centers on the Egyptian New Kingdom (1567 to 1085 B.C.), known as the "golden age" of Egyptian temple building.


This is the seventh year Bryan and her team will be excavating the area behind the temple's sacred lake, where in previous years their finds have included industrial and food processing installations such as granaries and bakeries.


Bryan said the goal of the "Hopkins in Egypt Today" Web site is to educate visitors by showing them elements of archaeological work in progress.


The Web site usually records more than 50,000 hits every winter when the dig is active. The site will resume in June when Bryan will be working with a larger team, including students from Johns Hopkins and several stone conservators.


Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.



A culture shaped by natural disasters

Archaeologist Christos Doumas says ancient Thera’s civilization was influenced by its response to chronic earthquakes and volcanic explosions

By Iota Sykka - Kathimerini


Those who lived on ancient Thera often attributed the island’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to the wrath of the gods. But this mythmaking that arose from the need to explain the chronic destruction also contributed greatly to the creation of the island’s culture, a leading archaeologist said last week.


“The volcano of Thera was a permanent challenge to local residents, to which they came up with various responses,” said Professor Christos Doumas, director of the Akrotiri excavations on Santorini, in a lecture last Thursday at the Archaeological Society.



Doumas noted that the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri suffered numerous earthquakes in the course of its 3,000-year history, which shaped it both physically and socially.


“Many of [the tremors] were of moderate intensity, merely jolts, and they left no visible signs,” he said. “Other more powerful ones caused damage we can still trace today amid the successive layers of ruins.”


Archaeologists who have examined the ruins on Santorini, Thera’s modern name, say that there’s every indication that residents knew what to do in case of an earthquake.


After a tremor, they would clear the roads of rubble and pull goods from the wreckage. This is why objects such as furniture, household goods and even food have been found outside the ruined city in temporary camps. Excavators have discovered beds and a sack of rye, and even a jar of fish has been found.


“We now find them buried under pumice,” he said.


The Therans reacted to earthquakes in an orderly, disciplined and coordinated manner, he added.


“They didn’t consider deserting their island, even if it did flatten their houses from time to time,” he said. “On the contrary, immediately after the earthquake, they got to work rebuilding, of which there is archaeological evidence; piles of stones and soil, materials that were separated by the ruined walls, have often been found buried under the pumice, as have the goods that were pulled from the ruins.”


They would rebuild using material from their ruined houses.


“The fact that similar piles of stones have been found at deeper Middle Cycladic strata, that is, from the 18th or the early 17th century BC, shows that this practice had been used much earlier and had become standard,” Doumas said.


They didn’t leave matters to fate, but “rebuilt their houses while seeking ways and means, if not to neutralize the earthquakes, then at least to improve the resistance of their buildings.”


Doumas cited examples: “Beneath a Middle Cycladic-era building, on which what is known to us as the Western House was built, was found a layer of fragments of porous lava, 4-6 centimeters in diameter. These fragments, known to the people of Akrotiri today as adralia, are to be found in abundance on nearby Mavros Rachidi hill. It might seem like chance; if we hadn’t also found one beneath the foundations of a second building of the same age, Xestis 3.”


The layer of adralia acted as a cushion, absorbing the seismic tremors. The wooden webs used to reinforce walls in multistory buildings were another form of protection.


Thera was first settled in the middle of the 5th millennium BC. Recent geological surveys show that at the center of the island there was a caldera with water in it, which had a single outlet to the sea, “between where the lighthouse is now and Aspronisi.” There was an islet in the northern part of the caldera.


“This means that the early inhabitants had access to both the lava which it was made of and to the interior of the caldera. So the volcanic stones were almost the sole raw material both for building houses and making vessels and tools,” Doumas said.


They used malleable lava from Mavro Rachidi and Mesovouna to build the first huts as well as objects such as pestles and mortars for processing food.


Doumas mentioned a 1.30-meter stone jar dating from the third millennium BC, and a stove made of andesite which was probably mined nearby. Given its dimensions, the jar may have been one of a kind, and it is the most tangible evidence of how man met the challenges of the environment.


If we take into account the tools that the artisan had to hand to carve it, we can assume that this was a lifetime’s work.


Santorini and its volcano still produce material and intellectual culture, Doumas noted. He reminded his audience how it contributed to the construction of the Suez Canal, when for years it furnished factories with pumice stone and Theran soil. The local residents made their houses from those materials, the superb flavor of the local wine is attributed to the volcano, and writers and visual artists have been inspired by its beauty and civilization.


Doumas paid tribute to the residents who fought to meet the challenges of the volcano which helped cultivate this intriguing Aegean civilization.



1,100 relics unearthed at Beijing venue sites

Thu Jan 18, 2007 7:57 AM GMT18


BEIJING (Reuters) - About 1,100 cultural relics were unearthed at Beijing Olympic venue construction sites last year, state media reported on Thursday.


The relics were discovered at 10 different venues and included about 700 tombs dating from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Xinhua news agency said, citing Shu Xiaofeng, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Relics.


Beijing is building or renovating 31 venues for the Games, and has embarked on a $40 billion upgrade of the city's infrastructure.


Last October, work was halted at the Beijing Olympic shooting venue after workers found an imperial-era tomb several hundred meters away from the site of several Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) tombs unearthed during construction of the Beijing shooting range hall in May.


Archaeologists in Greece were also kept busy in the lead-up to the 2004 Athens Games, with antiquities discovered at several Olympic venue sites.



Tomb raiders find treasure trove

From correspondents in Jakarta

January 19, 2007


FARMERS have sold hundreds of gold artefacts stolen from skeletal corpses unearthed at a newly-found ancient burial complex in Indonesia, media reported today.


Skeletons wearing chains of gold rings around their necks, heads, hands and feet were found in the tombs in a rice field at Kendal Jaya village, about 60km east of Jakarta, the Seputar Indonesia daily said.


They were buried with other accessories made of precious stones or gold as well as axes and other pottery articles.


Between 15 and 25 people are estimated to have been buried at the site at a depth of only about 1.5m.


Archaeologists expressed concern at reports that hundreds of villagers have been selling gold necklaces and ornaments they found at the site over the past week.


“We only take the gold, because we can sell it for 120,000 rupiah ($16.50) per gram,” local farmer Surip, 29, who has been digging for the past week, told the paper.


Rumasih, 40, said she had collected around 100g  in the past week.


“I have bought 100 grams, this week alone. And there are many other buyers here, so most likely there are hundreds of grams found so far,” she said, adding that she sold the gold at a local market.


The newspaper estimated that already hundreds of kilograms of gold ornaments and jewellery had been taken from the site.


“They shouldn't have sold the findings, there are laws against it,” Peter Ferdinandus, from the Ministry of Education's Archaeological Study, said.


“We should quickly investigate this and stop what they're doing. And if possible get back whatever has been sold off,” he said.


There has been no official announcement on the find and the archaeologist said he only heard of it from the media.


Ferdinandus, who has worked on an archaeological site near the new finds since 1993, said the graves could date from the Buni people who lived around the second century AD, roughly 1800-1900 years ago.


“In the Batu Jaya ancient temple site we found traces of the Buni people. Carbon dating results estimated the complex to be from around the second century AD,” he said.


There are 24 ancient Buddhist temples in the Batu Jaya complex.


Two other findings thought to be from ancient temples were found in Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces recently.


Local residents in Yogyakarta have reported finding statues of Buddha and of monkeys, lions and religious symbols.


An archaeological team working in Magelang district near Yogyakarta has also unearthed a site from the Mataram Kingdom dating back to the ninth century AD.


The site at Losari village is believed to possibly be even bigger than the famous Borobudur Buddhist monument near Yogyakarta city, which also dates back to around the ninth century.


The head of the Yogyakarta ancient heritage office, Manggar Sariayuwati, said the findings were estimated to be dated from the eighth to the ninth century AD.


Java has many ancient sites dating back to the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms which flourished from the seventh century onwards.



Railway construction unearths ancient artifacts in Germany

By Colin Nickerson, Globe Staff, January 21, 2007, COLOGNE, Germany


Genialinius Gennatus was one fine duck hunter.


In the third century , he recorded his prowess in high Latin on a stone tablet that he dedicated to Jupiter. That and a hefty donation probably ensured that the tablet won display in the temple to the Roman god in the settlement then called Colonia.


Five or six centuries later, Cologne's early Christians, perhaps offended by the tablet dedicated to a pantheist god, chucked it into the silting channel between the Rhine river port and a small island on the Rhine, unknowingly ensuring the hunter's immortality.


Historians now know the ordinary man named Gennatus hunted ducks and prayed to Jupiter because of Cologne's decision to punch 2 1/2 miles of new north-south light railway tunnel through the silt and sediment that lie beneath one of Germany's oldest cities.


"It would not have seemed valuable to anyone at the time," said Bernhard Irmler, one of scores of researchers mucking through damp tunnel s beneath Cologne in Europe's largest ongoing archeological dig. "But for us it's another small window into a long-ago time."


The $1 billion cost of the rail project includes $194 million for 100 archeologists to dig, sift, and probe the depths in front of the giant, boring machines and other equipment that will chew out the subway tubes .


And what a fine mess archeologists and diggers alike are making. Great swaths of downtown Cologne are cordoned off for the scientific sleuths working against construction deadlines -- the dig started two years ago and subway trains are supposed to be zipping from Breslauer Platz to Market Strasse in 2010.


In a sense, that's lightning speed by local standards: the landmark Cologne Cathedral was more than 630 years in the making, from conception in 1248 to consecration in 1880.


"Modern Germans are a bit more impatient," Irmler, an associate archeologist with Cologne's famed Romano-Germanic Museum , said in an interview by the site. "Almost the instant the archeologists finish [searching] a section, the construction crews are right behind us."


More than 10,000 artifacts have been unearthed from the site, from the duck hunter's tribute to Jupiter to lumpy-looking rejects from a 15th-century pottery maker.


"The finer flagons would have been exported to centers across Europe," Irmler said. "The ones we are finding are flawed vessels that were probably sold cheap locally for use as chamber pots."


At an average depth of 50 feet below the surface, the tunnel is too deep to disturb the ruins and relics enshrined beneath Cologne, even though the line will pass directly under the center of the old city.


But the eight entrances to planned subway stops will plunge through more than 20 centuries of history.


That's why Germany sent in the archeological brigades first -- to ferret out what can be saved and to record what will be destroyed.


Not everything in the path of the construction can be preserved.


For example, the rediscovered foundations of all-but-forgotten St. Katherine's Church -- a medieval house of worship that according to legend was coated with solid gold -- will be blasted away to make room for the Severin Strasse station.


But fragments from the church's ornate columns have been rescued.


"Look closely, and you can see flecks of gold," Irmler said.


None of the discoveries so far will set archeology on its ear. Cologne's history is well recorded. But researchers are excited to find substantial remnants of the ancient Roman harbor wall, constructed of thick oak timbers almost perfectly preserved through the centuries.


The harbor lay in a long-lost channel between Cologne and the small island in the Rhine, both covered for more than 1,000 years by the expanding city.


"Every day we find something that may not change history, but helps us better understand the past of this specific place," said Irmler .


Among the other yields: amphorae, two-handled jars with a narrow neck used by the Romans to carry wine or oil, strewn everywhere.


Shells from oysters carried from Normandy as a delicacy. Burial urns. Old fortifications and sewage systems. Hair combs made of wood. Intriguing scraps from a workshop where crystal minerals from distant mountains were carved into religious displays for the cathedral.


"We find the stories of the city written in debris," said the archeologist, noting that scientific crews will scrutinize more than 20,000 cubic meters, about 706,000 cubic feet, of excavated material . "Every scoop is a new page from the past."

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.



Archaeological finds 'up by 45%'

Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 15:43 GMT


Archaeological finds in the UK have risen by 45% as a result of continuous work by metal detector enthusiasts, according to a report.


In 2005/2006, there were 57,566 finds reported to the government-funded Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) compared with 39,933 in 2004/2005.


Culture Secretary David Lammy praised the "responsible approach" of amateur metal detectorists in reporting finds.


He said they were the "unsung heroes of the UK's heritage".


Speaking at the British Museum on Wednesday, he said: "Thanks to the responsible approach they display in reporting finds and the systems we have set up to record them, more archaeological material is available for all to see at museums or to study online.


"It is through the work of metal detectorists that we are encouraging the next generation to be interested in our history."


The number of "treasure finds" - gold and silver items more than 300 years old - is also up from 426 in the previous year to 506.


Significant finds in 2005/2006 include a series of Viking silver bracelets buried in Cheshire and a fourth century Roman copper-alloy dog found on the Isle of Wight.


Children's illustrator Alan Rowe said the Roman dog figurine was the "nicest object" he had unearthed in 25 years of making finds.


Because the dog, worth up to £600, is made of copper-alloy and not gold or silver it does not qualify as a treasure find.


Under the Treasure Act 1996, people who find gold and silver objects more then 300 years old have a legal obligation to report them to the authorities.


Despite the act, thousands of items claiming to be treasure appear on auction websites.


Many of these items were fake, a spokesman for the National Council for Metal Detecting said.



Quarrying firm wins 'Stonehenge' battle

PLANS to quarry more land close to one of the area's most important ancient sites have been given the go-ahead by North Yorkshire councillors.

At a meeting in Masham this week they approved "downsized" plans by Tarmac to extend its operations near Thornborough Henges, north of Ripon, which have been described as the Stonehenge of the North


The county council's planning committee approved extraction of sand and gravel on a site east of the existing Nosterfield Quarry at Ladybridge Farm – but only on condition that the company gives legal safeguards to protect the Iron Age site.


Last February, North Yorkshire County Council rejected an application to quarry a larger site after concerns were raised about the impact sand and gravel extraction would have on the archaeology of the area.


The revised plan sees the extraction area reduced from 45.7hectares to 30.9, the 'mineral yield' decreased from 2.2m tonnes to 1.1m tonnes and the area identified by English Heritage as being of archaeological interest omitted from the application.


English Heritage had no objection to the revised proposals, although campaign groups, including the Friends of Thornborough, remained opposed to any further quarrying activity in the area.


Speaking after the meeting, County Coun John Fletcher, chairman of the planning committee, said: "The planning committee's decision was unanimous and this reflects the high quality of discussion and debate the members were able to engage in determining this application."


The decision means existing jobs at the quarry will be safeguarded. Tarmac estates manager, Bob Nicholson, said: "We are delighted that county councillors have voted to approve the application and their decision will come as great relief to our workers, the hauliers and other people whose livelihoods rely upon the quarry.


"May I take this opportunity to reiterate that we are committed to the long-term protection and management of Thornborough Henges – a scheduled ancient monument.


"The Ladybridge site sees quarrying move further away from the henges than our current operation and there is no planning application for Thornborough Moor."

19 January 2007



Suspicions remain over quarry site

THE decision reached this week over controversial plans to quarry more land close the ancient Thornborough Henges is perhaps the best that could realistically have been expected.

The thousands of people who signed protest petitions wanted nothing less than a complete cessation of quarrying activities in the vicinity of a site of national importance that has been dubbed the ‘Stonehenge of the North’.


They will clearly not be happy that North Yorkshire County Council has agreed to allow Tarmac to quarry a further one million tonnes of sand and gravel from such a sensitive area.


But it could have been much worse. Only a year ago, the county council was recommending approval of plans that would have seen twice the amount of quarrying, despite massive objecton from campaign groups and English Heritage, who feared loss of valuable archeaological evidence.


With Tarmac substantially reducing the proposed quarry area and English Heritage withdrawing its objection, it came as little surprise that the company’s revised plans were passed on Tuesday.


But, while workers at the quarry are delighted their jobs are secure for a little longer, campaigners fear the risk to the setting of the henges remains.


The county council is seeking legal safeguards that will protect the site, and Tarmac has given an assurance there are no plans to quarry the sensitive Thornborough Moor area. However, suspicions will remain that, once the currently approved quarry is exhausted, a further application for another extension will follow.

19 January 2007



Hunt for Saxon cathedral

By Claire Ward-Willis


PLANS are underway to carry out a survey of the ground underneath and around Crediton Parish Church to try and trace the town's original Saxon cathedral.


The survey is being planned as part of a Festival of Crediton in 2009 to mark the 1,100th the anniversary of the founding of the cathedral, which will be held in May and June.


It was suggested that they could use ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to look beneath the ground of the church, the churchyard and the surrounding area to try and find the Saxon Cathedral.

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They are hoping to carry out the survey this year, with a display of the results being displayed during the festival.


The group, which is now a sub-committee of the parochial church council, are now looking into funding for the project.


Keith Barker, chairman, said: "Early discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund identified 'Your Heritage' grants, which exist to support projects which 'encourage communities to identify, look after and celebrate their heritage' as being the best potential source of funding.


"We know that our project will encourage Crediton to do all three.


"Crediton has an incredibly rich heritage dating back at least 1,300 years - and possibly a lot further.


"It is one of which the townspeople can justly be proud.


"We cannot know what the proposed surveys might uncover but we are sure that through them this pride will be enhanced."


As part of the project, members of the Crediton Photography Club have agreed to make a photographic record of the surveys and all the activities surrounding them.


Among many other events, Exeter Museum will be involved and will run a "finds" day, when anyone can bring items found in back-gardens and elsewhere for identification by archaeologists.


The sub-committee is looking into other activities, exhibitions and talks to take place before, during and after the surveys (between March 2007 and March 2009).


Any suggestions for the celebration should be sent to Keith Barker at 5 Penton Close, Crediton EX17 1BQ, or by calling 01363-773940.


11:27am Thursday 18th January 2007