Medieval castle unearthed in Maenclochog


A team of professional and voluntary archaeologists have uncovered what seem to be the remains of a medieval castle in a north Pembrokeshire car park.


The dig, organised by PLANED, Cambria Archaeology and the National Park, and funded by the EU Transnational project, is taking place at the castle site in Maenclochog, beneath the village's car park.


So far excavators have uncovered what look to be the outer walls of a medieval castle, as well as post holes, the hearth of a medieval house and fragments of medieval pottery.


They have also discovered the skeleton of a dog, which archaeologists think is likely to be a family pet dating from the Middle Ages.


"When they first discovered bones the first thought was 'Oh my goodness it's a human,'" said PLANED's Christian Donovan, "But it is a dog.


"It looks like it was laid to rest carefully, which has lead the team to conclude that it was someone's pet."


She said that the discovery of the stone walls, dating from the early middle ages was really exciting .


"I don't think they expected to find that. It is looking as if it was a site for a medieval castle and possibly even a castle before that. We will know a lot more once the experts have had time to analyse the finds."


The dig came about after documentary research, commissioned by the local community forum, identified the possibility of a castle existing on the site.


"The information had been passed down the generations by word of mouth but nobody knew if it was really there," said Christian.


"The only way to find out was to dig."


Volunteer archaeologists, many from the local community, are being trained and are working alongside professionals from Cambria Archaeology.


Visitors to the site are given daily tours and children from local schools are also getting the chance to get their hands dirty.


"It's a living history lesson about what was in their community," said Christian.


Excavations at the site are continuing until September 30th.



Public release date: 24-Sep-2007

Contact: Lisa Nelson



Northern Arizona University

Research team says extraterrestrial impact to blame for Ice Age extinctions


What caused the extinction of mammoths and the decline of Stone Age people about 13,000 years ago remains hotly debated. Overhunting by Paleoindians, climate change and disease lead the list of probable causes. But an idea once considered a little out there is now hitting closer to home.


A team of international researchers, including two Northern Arizona University geologists, reports evidence that a comet or low-density object barreling toward Earth exploded in the upper atmosphere and triggered a devastating swath of destruction that wiped out most of the large animals, their habitat and humans of that period.


“The detonation either fried them or compressed them because of the shock wave,” said Ted Bunch, NAU adjunct professor of geology and former NASA researcher who specializes in impact craters. “It was a mini nuclear winter.”


Bunch and Jim Wittke, a geologic materials analyst at NAU, are co-authors of the paper, which fingers an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago for the mass extinctions at the end of the Ice Age. The paper was just released online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research team includes several members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and researchers from Hungary and the Netherlands.


No one has found a giant crater in the Earth that could attest to such a cataclysmic impact 13,000 years ago, but the research team offers evidence of a comet, two and a half to three miles in diameter, that detonated 30 to 60 miles above the earth, triggering a massive shockwave, firestorms and a subsequent drastic cooling effect across most of North America and northern Europe.


“The comet may have broken up into smaller pieces as it neared the Earth and then these pieces detonated in various places above two continents,” Bunch said.


The evidence for multiple detonations comes from a four-inch-thick “black mat” of carbon-rich material that appears as far north as Canada, Greenland and Europe to as far south as the Channel Islands off the coast of California and eastward to the Carolinas. Two sites exist in Arizona at Murray Springs and Lehner Ranch, both near Sierra Vista.


Evidence of mammoths and other megafauna and early human hunters, known as the Clovis culture, are found beneath the black mat but are missing entirely within or above it. This led the research team to conclude an extraterrestrial impact wiped out many of the inhabitants of the Late Pleistocene. Bunch notes that some animals may have survived in protected niches.


The black mat was formed by ponding of water and algal blooms and contains carbon, soot and glassy carbon—remnants of burned materials. Some of these remnants are extraterrestrial in nature. For example, the research team has identified fullerenes, spherical carbon cages resembling a soccer ball, which are formed in shock events outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Trapped inside the fullerenes is a concentration of helium 3 that is many times greater than what is found in the Earth’s atmosphere.


The black mat also has turned up nanodiamonds, which are formed in the interstellar medium outside the solar system, by or by a high-explosive detonation.


“Either these things came in with the impactor or they were made during impact detonation. We have no other explanation for their presence,” Bunch said.


The magnitude of the detonations would have been huge.


“A hydrogen bomb is the equivalent of about 100 to 1,000 megatons,” Bunch said. “The detonations we’re talking about would be about 10 million megatons. That’s larger than the simultaneous detonation of all the world’s nuclear bombs past and present.”


The research team believes the detonations destabilized a vast ice sheet, known as the Laurentide Ice Sheet, that covered most of what was then Canada and the northern United States. Heat from the detonation and firestorms would have melted much of the ice sheet, releasing water vapor into the atmosphere.


“The result was rapid cooling of about eight degrees over the next 100 years,” Bunch said. The melting of the ice sheet and subsequent climate change would explain the water-based nature of the black mat.


Catastrophic extraterrestrial impacts are not new. Scientists theorize a much larger asteroid impact annihilated the dinosaurs and about 85 percent of the Earth’s biomass about 65 million years ago. The most recent incident, known as the Tunguska event, occurred in 1908 in Russia. The Tunguska explosion was an airburst of a comet or meteorite estimated at 10-15-megatons that destroyed tens of millions of trees across more than 800 square miles.


Bunch says impact airbursts may be more common than previously thought with possibly two or three such events having occurred over the last 100,000 years. And more are sure to follow.


NOTE: The work by an international team of researchers that points to a comet or low-density asteroid as the cause of the massive Ice Age extinctions has attracted widespread attention. The National Geographic Channel, which was on campus in May to film Northern Arizona University’s Ted Bunch and Jim Wittke, will air a documentary on the research on Sunday, Oct. 7, at 10 p.m. EST. Discover magazine cited Bunch in an article on “The Great American Extinction” that appeared in the August issue.



Remains May Be Children of Last Czar


MOSCOW (AP) — There is a "high degree of probability" that bones found recently near the Russian city of Yekaterinburg are those of a daughter and son of the last czar, an official said Friday, citing preliminary forensic work.


If confirmed, the latest find would fill in a missing chapter in the story of the doomed Romanov family, whose reign was ended by the violent 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which ushered in more than 70 years of communist rule.


The bones were found by archaeologists in a burned field near Yekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains where Czar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their five children were held prisoner by the Bolsheviks and then shot in 1918. The discovery was announced in August.


"Investigators have made a preliminary conclusion that there is a high degree of probability that the bones ... belong to the Crown Prince Alexei and Princess Maria," said Vladimir Gromov, deputy forensic chief in the Sverdlovsk region, in televised remarks.


NTV television said in August that along with the remains archaeologists found shards of a ceramic container of sulfuric acid as well as nails, metal strips from a wooden box, and bullets of various caliber.


Prosecutors have announced they would reopen an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the royal family.


In 1998, remains unearthed from a mining pit in Yekaterinburg and identified as those of Nicholas and Alexandra and three of their daughters were reburied in a ceremony in the imperial-era capital of St. Petersburg. The ceremony, however, was shadowed by statements of doubt — including from within the Russian Orthodox Church — about their authenticity.



Ancient Fishermen Lured Fish With Fire

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News


Sept. 25, 2007 — Fishermen around areas mentioned in the New Testament worked the night shift, suggests fishing gear found in a 7th century shipwreck off the coast of Dor, Israel, west of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have preached.


The standout item among the found gear is a fire basket, the first evidence for "fire fishing" in the ancient eastern Mediterranean. Early images and writings indicate fires were lit in such baskets, which were suspended in giant lantern devices from the end of fishing boats.


Light emitted from the fire both attracted and illuminated fish, as well as other sea creatures, like octopus, which men then speared or captured in nets.


"Striking at night is classified as fire hunting," explained archaeologists Ehud Galili and Baruch Rosen, who excavated the shipwreck.


Their findings have been accepted for publication in The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.


The researchers, from the Israel Antiquities Authority, added that the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (approximately 428-348 B.C.) wrote about the practice, which involved striking fish forcefully from above or below the water.  


The fact that Plato should write about this method "reflects the importance of fire fishing in the ancient Mediterranean," according to the researchers, and reveals that fire fishing was practiced throughout the New Testament era and for several centuries thereafter.

Aside from the iron fire basket, the shipwreck yielded rectangular lead fishing net sinkers used to weigh down cast nets. A five-pronged fishing spear made of iron was also in the wreck, as was a tubular, iron sounding lead.


Sounding leads are metal bobs used to measure water depth. Fishermen would fill the hollow portion with tallow, attach the bob to the end of a sounding line, and then fling them over the side of the boat. Both the length of the line and debris stuck to the tallow would indicate depth measurement.


The scientists think the sounding lead provides further evidence for fire fishing at night, since fishermen then charted their course using the stars, but would need the sounding lead "to locate a specific fishing ground."


"When returning home at night, or in conditions of low visibility, the sounding lead was an essential navigational aid," they explained.


A bronze steelyard weight in the shape of a woman was also found in the shipwreck. It was probably used to balance the heft of fish on a makeshift scale.


Multiple bronze coins, also found among the ship's remains, date the wreck to around 665 A.D., right after a Muslim conquest. It is therefore possible that the fishermen and their boat were causalities of the Byzantine-Muslim conflict at the time.


K.C. Hanson, editor and chief of Wipf and Stock Publishers, researched ancient fishing practices associated with the New Testament for a Biblical Theology Bulletin paper.


Hanson told Discovery News that fire fishing is not directly mentioned in the Bible, but the Bible does include information about the other artifacts and early fishing practices.


"Keep in mind that four of the original disciples were fishermen," he said. "And how would an individual such as Jesus connect and meet new people? By building networks based on fishing villages around the Sea of Galilee."


Hanson explained that early fishermen from the region, including the apostles, probably used most of their catch for garum, "which was a very important source of protein, particularly for the poor who couldn't afford whole, fresh fish."


He said garum consisted of fish pieces preserved in a salt brine or olive oil. It would have been more liquefied than today's canned tuna and other fish, and was used in soups, with grains and in other preparations.


Hanson added, "Writings from the time reveal that some people loved it, while others thought it tasted like dreadful glop."



Stone Age rice farms found in China

Scientists find evidence of mass rice cultivation 7,700 years ago.


Thursday, September 27, 2007


Stone Age Chinese began cultivating rice more than 7,700 years ago by burning trees in coastal marshes and building dams to hold back seawater, converting the marshes to rice paddies that would support growth of the high-yield cereal grain, researchers plan to report today.


New analysis of sediments from the site of Kuahuqiao at the mouth of the Yangtze River near Hangzhou provides the earliest evidence in China of such large-scale environmental manipulation, experts said.


"It shows people were changing the environment, actively manipulating the system, and well on their way to having an agricultural way of life," said University of Toronto anthropologist Gary Crawford, who wasn't involved in the study.


Using data from the site, it is possible to extrapolate a timeline back to the first attempts at domesticating rice, which would have occurred about 10,000 years ago, said archaeologist Li Liu of La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia, who was also not involved. That is contemporary with the development of agriculture in the Middle East.


The finding, being published today in the journal Nature, also sheds new light on an ongoing controversy in archaeology: How long did it take for crops to become fully domesticated?


The evidence from China, and new finds from elsewhere, indicate that the process took much longer than researchers previously thought, said archaeobotanist Dolores Piperno of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.


Nonetheless, she said, there is now "little doubt that by 7,700 years ago, these people were dedicated rice farmers. ... I think people were getting all the benefits of agriculture before plants were fully domesticated."



Archeologists probe secret tunnels coursing underneath Chinatown



FRESNO, Calif.


Tunnels run beneath Chinatown: brick-walled passages that were once home to people and activities that couldn't be mentioned aboveground.


Rick Lew knows, because he walked the passages as a child, entering through a trapdoor in his grandfather's liquor store.


"There was a nightlife you couldn't see from the streets," he said.


But to many others, the lace-work of tunnels sprawling under the city was just another tall tale from Fresno's days as a Western railroad town and a hub of gambling and prostitution.


Now, a group of archeologists is using ground-penetrating radar to find evidence of the secret passages, which are believed to branch out from long-abandoned basements littered with animal and human waste, cobwebs and other filth.


The project, funded by the city and headed by a group working to preserve Chinatown, will take data gathered via radar and compare the findings to the memories of those who recall the neighborhood's heyday, said Kathy Omachi, vice president of Chinatown Revitalization. That will help archeologists decide where to dig trenches and look for the passages, researchers said.


The approximately six blocks just west of the railroad tracks that make up the historic Chinatown were Fresno's birthplace, said Karana Hattersley-Drayton, the city's historic preservation officer. Unlike the better-known Chinese quarters of San Francisco and New York, there's little left of it today - at least on the surface.


But fire insurance maps from the 1880s show a densely populated area offering a stark contrast from the wide-open ranch and farm country all around.


It was home to the Chinese laborers who laid Fresno's foundations, and to successive layers of immigrants - Japanese, Armenians, Mexicans, Portuguese, Basque and others - who were kept separate from the growing white population by the iron boundary of the train tracks.


The area long housed family run stores, temples, churches, Chinese and Japanese schools. But it was also host to illicit activities - gambling, drinking during Prohibition, and prostitution - not deemed respectable enough for the "good side of town."


Omachi's father, a Japanese immigrant, was born here in 1913 "between a bar and a house of ill repute," she said.


Many establishments had basements, some of them interconnected. Of those that can still be seen today, some end in bricked-off walls that longtime residents say hide tunnel entrances.


As late as the 1950s, when Lew was a boy, Chinatown was still thriving - both its respectable establishments and as its shadier side.


He remembers visiting the underground world with his father, first passing though a dark basement before descending into a lit tunnel with an arched roof and enough space for two people to pass by each other. There were people there he recognized from the neighborhood. And then there were the glamorous women whose images remain seared in his memory decades later.


"They were off to the side, in bright satin dresses, one red, one blue," said Lew, speculating that they were probably prostitutes. "I later asked my father about it. He said it was something we don't mention."


Jon Brady, lead archaeologist on the project, said the tunnels may have been built to provide cool underground storage in a region known for sweltering summer heat. But they later proved handy for communication, transportation, and even escape when necessary.


"These groups that lived on the fringe could have resorted to them to protect themselves, communicate away from public view, who knows what else," Brady said.


Local lore holds, though it still hasn't been proved by research, that a tunnel one time extended beyond the railroad tracks into the traditionally white part of town, possibly allowing "respectable" citizens access to the illicit charms of Chinatown.


"Some say that was blown up during prohibition," said Hattersley-Drayton, who got a lot of calls from longtime residents once the project got started. "I'm hearing that from a lot of people, but we just don't know yet."


In the 1950s and '60s, many of Chinatown's buildings were torn down to make way for new development or freeways, and much of the history was buried, Lew said.


"Many of the older residents packed up and left, and it started getting rough," Lew said. He now lives far from Chinatown, but remains surrounded by artifacts from the days his family was an important part of the neighborhood: tall, elaborately decorated vases, paintings and sculptures handed down by his grandfather, and the old manual cash register that rang up purchases at the liquor store.


Today, Fresno's Chinatown is largely abandoned, peopled by the homeless, with many of its facades boarded up and only a few remaining businesses - an herb shop, a fish market - serving as evidence of the lively commercial center and night spot it once was.


It's a part of the region's history that's been forgotten, but that was an important aspect of the city's development, and of the settlement of the West, researchers said.


"This is an opportunity for us to look at where we were," said Patti Miller, spokeswoman for the city. "As we turn our eyes to revitalizing downtown, this aspect is critical."


Although the archaeological study is just beginning, there appears to be some evidence of underground "linear structures" that could be large drainage pipes, or tunnels, said Brady.


Hattersley-Drayton hopes someday Chinatown and its excavated tunnels might be developed for heritage tourism, bringing some income to what is now an impoverished area.


For now, it's just about understanding what's there, Brady said.


"This is a first step, and it's about approaching parts of community history that are not in books," said Brady. "Parts that are literally below the surface, but that deserve to be told."


Last modified: September 27. 2007 1:58PM



Life was the pits 4000 years ago

ADAM MORRIS (amorris@edinburghnews.com)


BRONZE Age pits have been unearthed that shed fresh light on life on the banks of the Forth 4000 years ago.


Archaeologists carrying out a routine inspection found pottery and eight small pits in a routine inspection of a site in South Queensferry.


Melanie Johnson, project manager for archaeologists CFA, said the discovery off Echline Avenue came out of the blue.


She said: "It didn't look too promising when we started out on this site. But we then found pottery which we could tell was around 4000 years old buried in small pits which were around half a metre deep.


"It was a surprise when we found this, and it helps fill in a lot of gaps and gives us an idea of what life was like here 4000 years ago."


It is thought the small pits would have been used for rubbish or burials and proves there were people either living, working or taking part in some kind of activity in the area at the time.


Although other discoveries from the early Bronze Age have been made in areas such as South Gyle and various parts of East Lothian in recent years, it is the first find from the period in South Queensferry. Before this discovery, the oldest evidence of life in the area dated back just 2000 years.


Ms Johnson said it was likely the finds were evidence of farmers or people in the fishing trade.


She added: "It is more likely to find either pottery or people than homes, because at that time people would have lived in wooden homes and probably been cremated. At that time it would have been surrounded by fields.


"It's quite nice to find something like this. It is a small-scale find but still very significant.


"Things like this, however small, can help fill in other gaps and that's how we build a picture of things."


Archaeologists will continue to excavate the pits for another two days to try to unearth other clues to Bronze Age life in the area.


The dig is being carried out as part of a planning condition for a development of homes on the site.


Although the discovery is significant, it will not jeopardise or delay the development.


The city council's head archaeologist, John Lawson, said the find would help paint a picture of how people began settling in the Lothians.


He said: "In local terms this is a very important discovery.


"It's the first piece of real evidence we have of prehistoric occupation in South Queensferry, taking us back an extra couple of thousand years.


"At the moment we are finding quite a lot of prehistoric stuff in rural areas - usually most of it is buried under towns and cities.


"Anything we find like this is significant, because it helps us form an idea of how occupation first came to the Lothians.


"It is something we don't know an awful lot about and things like this help us greatly."


This article: http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1552002007

Last updated: 28-Sep-07 11:56 BST





Cabin from Viking Era Discovered in West Fjords?

09/28/2007 | 11:24


An archeological expedition on the island Hrútey in Mjóifjördur fjord in Ísafjardardjúp, the West Fjords, have revealed the ruins of a cabin which may have been built during the Viking Era.


According to Ragnar Edvardsson, an archeologist at the West Fjords’ Natural Science Center, diggings had revealed an oval building structure with a double layer of rocks and turf in between that can at least be traced back to the Middle Ages.


“Such thick walls could indicate that the building derives from the Viking Era,” Edvardsson told Morgunbladid. “It was obviously a place where someone lived, probably in relation to mountain dairy farming.”


“We discovered a hearth and an elevation in one place which is likely a bedstead [a place to sleep], for one or more people,” Edvardsson added.


Archeologists aim at finishing their diggings on Hrútey this weekend. Extensive road constructions are currently taking place there.



Archaeologists discover portable altar

Published: 27th September 2007 16:10 CET

Online: http://www.thelocal.se/8628/


Archaeologists have uncovered a one thousand-year-old portable altar at an excavation site in Varnhem in western Sweden.


The stone object was found resting on the skeleton of a heavy set man believed to have been a priest.


Archaeologist Maria Vretemark from Västergötland's Museum describes the miniature altar as "a fabulous find".


"When a priest travelled around to say mass in areas where there weren't many sacred altars, he would bring with him this little stone.


"It was blessed as an altar and is a very beautiful stone," she said.


The stone tablet, made of green porphyry from Greece, is small enough to fit inside a human hand.


"The portable altar could be placed on a wooden table where it took on the same properties as a sacred altar," said Vretemark.


Excavation work at Varnhem, home to Sweden's oldest stone church, began in 2005 and was concluded this week.