82,000 year old jewellery found

By Fran Bardsley


Archaeologists from Oxford have discovered what are thought to be the oldest examples of human decorations in the world.


The international team of archaeologists, led by Oxford University's Institute of Archaeology, have found shell beads believed to be 82,000 years old from a limestone cave in Morocco.


Institute director Prof Nick Barton said: "Bead-making in Africa was a widespread practice at the time, which was spread between cultures with different stone technology by exchange or by long-distance social networks.


"A major question in evolutionary studies today is 'how early did humans begin to think and behave in ways we would see as fundamentally modern?' "The appearance of ornaments such as these may be linked to a growing sense of self-awareness and identity among humans and cultural innovations must have played a large role in human development."


The handmade beads were found at the Grotte des Pigeons, Taforalt, in Eastern Morocco during a four to five year excavation in the region.


Prof Barton said the finds suggest that humans were making purely symbolic objects 40,000 years before they did it in Europe.


The beads themselves comprise 12 Nassarius shells - Nassarius are molluscs found in warm seas and coral reefs in America, Asia and the Pacific - which had holes in them and appeared to have been suspended or hung. They were covered in red ochre.


Similar beads have been found at sites in Algeria, Israel and South Africa which are thought to date back to around the same time or slightly after the finds from Taforalt.


The team, which includes archaeologists from Morocco, France and Germany as well as the UK, believe that similar shells are present in other sites in Morocco.


Dating results from the shells are still awaited, but the team believe some may be even older than those found in Taforalt.


The team has recently secured funding for a further four to five years of research in the area from the Natural Environment Research Council. Further research will look at early humans in Africa and how they spread around the world.


A paper on the team's findings is featured in this month's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published today.


Public release date: 6-Jun-2007

Contact: Frank Rühli   frank.ruhli@anatom.unizh.ch




Mystery of 5,000 year old glacier mummy solved

Iceman 'Ötzi's' cause of death proved by researcher at the University of Zurich


An Italian-Swiss research team, including Dr. Frank Rühli of the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich in Switzerland proved the cause of death of the Iceman (“Ötzi,” 3300 BC) by modern X-ray-based technology. A lesion of a close-to-the-shoulder artery has been found thanks to a CT scan or multislice computed tomography, finally clarifying the world-famous glacier mummy’s cause of death. This scientific work appeared online in the Journal of Archaeological Science, published by Elsevier and will be covered in the German and US issues of National Geographic magazine in July.


The Iceman is a uniquely well-preserved late Neolithic glacier mummy, found in 1991 in South Tyrol at 3,210 meters above sea level. He has undergone various scientific examinations, as human bodies are the best source for the study of life conditions in the past as well as the evolution of today’s diseases.


In 2005, the glacier mummy was reinvestigated in South Tyrol by Dr. F. Rühli from the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, in close collaboration with Dr. Eduard Egarter Vigl of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy, as well as Drs. Patrizia Pernter and Paul Gostner from the Department of Radiology at General Hospital Bolzano, by state-of-the-art multislice computed tomography (CT).


Analysis of the CT images showed a lesion of the dorsal wall of the left subclavian artery, the artery underneath the clavicle, caused by an earlier, already-detected arrowhead that remains in the back. In addition, a large haematoma could be visualized in the surrounding tissue. By incorporating historic as well as modern data on the survival ship of such a severe lesion, the scientists concluded that the Iceman died within a short time due to this lesion.


“Such obvious proof of a vascular lesion in a body of this historic age is unique, and it helped to determine the cause of this extraordinary death without a destructive autopsy. We look forward to further investigating the circumstances surrounding the Iceman’s sudden death,” explains Dr. Dr. Rühli.


About the Swiss Mummy Project

Dr. Frank Rühli, senior assistant and research group leader at the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich, co-chairs with Dr. Thomas Böni of the Orthopedic University Clinic Balgrist the Swiss Mummy Project, a mummy research project running for more than 10 years at the University of Zurich. Mummy research is nowadays an interdisciplinary worldwide field of science, which is crucial in contributing to the understanding of disease and culture. Dr. Rühli, along with Drs. Egarter Vigl and Gostner, were chosen for scientific consultancy for the determination of the cause of death of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in Egypt in 2005.


The aim of the Swiss Mummy Project is, whenever possible, to use non-invasive methods to gain information on life, death and after-death alterations (e.g., embalming-related changes) on historic mummies. To achieve this, mostly radiological examination techniques such as CT are used. The work of the Swiss Mummy Project is funded by the Forschungskredit (research fund) of the University of Zurich as well as by collaborations with Siemens Medical Solutions, Zuse-Institute Berlin and the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums in Mannheim.


About the Journal of Archaeological Science

The Journal of Archaeological Science provides an international forum for archaeologists and scientists from widely different scientific backgrounds who share a common interest in using scientific methods to increase the information derived from archaeological research. Published by Elsevier (http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/622854/description#description), this established monthly journal publishes original research papers, major review articles, and short notes of wide archaeological significance.



Sixth Salt Man Discovered in Chehr-Abad Mine

04 June 2007


LONDON, (CAIS) -- The sixth salt man was discovered in Chehr-Ābād Mine in Zanjan City. It is likely that a large number of salt men were buried in Chehr-Ābād Salt Mine, said Farhang Farokhi head of Zanjan Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ZCHTO).


Five previous discovered salt men are being kept in Washhouse Museum , he added.


Based on previous reports, Chehr-Ābād Mine had been used from the Achaemenid dynastic era (550-330 BCE) up to the early of the Sassanid dynasty (224-651 CE).


The first salt man was discovered in Zanjān’s Chehr-Ābād salt mine by accident by the miners in 1993. More than a decade later in November 2004, the body of the second salt man was discovered in the same salt mine. The year 2005 was the year of salt men discoveries and bodies of the third, fourth, and fifth salt mummies were unearthed in January, March, and December 2005.


These salt men are among rare mummies discovered around the world that are mummified as a result of natural conditions. Since the salt men have been buried in salt for centuries, most of their tissues are well preserved. Special conditions of the salt mine which prevented the activities of micro-organisms caused the excellent preservation of organic and inorganic materials in the mine.


Tests carried out by Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU) on the remains and clothing of first and second saltmen, C14 assigned date to the late Parthian dynastic era (1745 BP). The remains of other three saltmen known by numbers 3, 4 and 5, which were also victims of collapsed tunnels C14  testing have placed them in post-Achaemenid period (2245 BP).



Decapitated Man Found in Peru Tomb With Ceramic "Replacement" Head


A headless skeleton found in a Peruvian tomb is adding new wrinkles to the debate over human sacrifice in the ancient Andes.


The decapitated body was found in the Nasca region, named for the ancient civilization that thrived in southern Peru from A.D. 1 to 750.


Known for producing "Nasca lines" in the earth that depict giant figures, the culture is also noted among archaeologists for practicing human sacrifice and displaying modified human heads called trophy heads.


But experts have been divided over whether the heads were taken from enemies in war or from locals offered up for ritual sacrifice.


In 2004 Christina Conlee, an archaeologist at Texas State University, found a rare headless skeleton in a tomb sitting cross-legged with a ceramic "head jar" placed to the left of the body (see enlarged photo).


The age and condition of both the body and the jar, which is painted with two inverted human faces, suggests that the victim was killed in a rite of ancestral worship, Conlee said.


"This research is important because it provides new information on human sacrifice in the ancient Andes and in particular on decapitation and trophy heads," she said.


The skeleton appears to belong to a 20- to 25-year-old male and bears gruesome evidence of the decapitation, including cut marks indicating that the bone was fresh when damaged, she added.


"Someone spent quite a bit of effort cutting off the head," mostly likely with a sharp obsidian knife, Conlee noted.


The burial site, called La Tiza, contains only the third known Nasca head jar found with a decapitated body.


Head jars have been found at other Nasca sites and are often associated with high-status burials, though scientists know little about their function.


Conlee determined that both the jar and skeleton found at La Tiza date to the Middle Nasca period, from A.D. 450 to 550, but the artifacts were found in a cemetery from the Early Nasca period, from A.D. 1 to 450.


This placement suggests that the killing was an act of ancestral worship and that the sacrifice was meant to honor the forebears buried in the cemetery, Conlee said.


"This man may have been sacrificed in order to appease the ancestors of the community and therefore ensure continuation of life at the villages," she explained.


"This person was sacrificed during Middle Nasca, which was a time of great change," Conlee added. "It is known that throughout the Andes human sacrifice was performed in times of change to give gods an important gift to allow the people to continue."


The archaeologist also noted that the head jar is painted with the reversible image of a human face that can be seen right-side up or upside down, suggesting that the jar might have been meant as a substitute for the victim's missing head.


"The La Tiza head jar was a rather literal replacement and reflects the Nasca belief that a person needed to have a head when he entered the afterlife," Conlee said.


The jar also bears evidence of having been used before the burial. Conlee said that decorations on head jars suggest they were used for both human- and crop-fertility rituals.


"Head jars often have images of plants growing out of them, suggesting a direct link to agriculture fertility, as well as a desire to continue the fertility of the people in the community," she said.


Conlee reports her discovery in this month's issue of Current Anthropology.


John Verano, an expert in Nasca culture and archaeologist from Tulane University, praised the find.


(Verano is a grantee of the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society.)


"This is an unusual and well-documented discovery, as few headless Nasca skeletons are known," he said.


But Verano held out the possibility that the La Tiza victim may have been a casualty of war.


"One alternative explanation is that this might simply have been someone who had been killed and decapitated in a raid and whose body subsequently was recovered by relatives who gave it a proper burial, with a ceramic vessel replacing his lost head," he said.


"But it's a great find, whatever happened to this poor guy."



More Viking treasure discovered on Gotland

Published: 5th June 2007 03:51 CET

Online: http://www.thelocal.se/7505/


A Viking treasure trove found by two brothers on Gotland last year is larger than originally believed, archaeologists say.


A press conference due to have been held on Tuesday at the site on the Swedish Baltic Sea island have been put off, after further discoveries demanded more attention from investigators. Swedish Radio Gotland reports that stone constructions have been found at the site.


"From an archaeological standpoint, this is more complicated than we believed. We haven't really got a grip of this site yet," said Majvor Östergren, head of Gotland's archaeological services.


Brothers Edvin and Arvid Svanborg made the finds last October when they were clearing bushes for a neighbour. In the ground they found a hoard of silver weighing nearly three kilos. The treasure, mainly consisting of 1,000 silver coins from the Arab world and armbands from the early Viking period in around 900 AD, was one of the 25 largest finds ever made on Gotland, one of Sweden's most historic regions.


The brothers are expected to get a reward for their discovery, but it is so far not known how much this will be. Östergren says that the coins and other discoveries are likely to be placed in the National History Museum in Stockholm, although no formal decision has yet been made.



Unearthed Indian Remains Yield Detail Of Massacre

By Paul Foy - Associated Press


SALT LAKE CITY - The remains of seven American Indians unearthed by a home builder show several were shot point-blank in the head by Mormon settlers seeking revenge during a period of pitched violence in 1853, say scientists who plan to release their findings on Friday.


The bones were discovered by contractors digging in Nephi, about 70 miles south of Salt Lake City, last summer for a house that now stands over the site.


The victims, all males about 13 to 35 years old, are believed to have been Goshute Indians who were unwitting casualties of the Walker War, a nearly yearlong clash between Mormons and other Indian tribes under the leadership of Ute Chief Walkara.


``These Indians just happened to be in the wrong place,'' said Ron Rood, an assistant state archaeologist who retrieved the bones, scraps of clothing, copper ornaments and a lead bullet from inside a skull.


By one account, the Oct. 2, 1853, killings were in retaliation for the ambush a day before of four Manti, Utah, farmers hauling wheat to Salt Lake City by oxen. That attacked occurred at Fountain Green, about halfway between Manti and Nephi.


Manti is about 30 miles southeast of Nephi, a gateway to the Wasatch Front.


The massacre occurred during a summer and fall of bloody conflict between Mormon settlers fanning out from the Salt Lake valley and raiding tribes. ``There were a whole series of tit-for-tat killings,'' he said.


Rood said his findings refute an account by a Mormon militia regiment that the Indians approached Nephi refusing to drop their weapons and attacked first, hitting a settler with an arrow.


``A discovery like this allows the victims to tell their story,'' Utah state archaeologist Kevin Jones said.


Four of the victims were shot in the head. All of the victims showed defensive wounds. The hands of one Indian were tied behind his back. Several showed evidence of blunt-force trauma.


Their bodies were heaped into a shallow grave about 3 feet wide, Rood said.


The grave was covered by a cedar plank and several feet of sediment from flash floods over the years. By last August it yielded to heavy equipment digging a hole for a foundation. Contractors stopped the excavation to call police and a medical examiner.


The event had been recorded in historical accounts as involving Isaac Morley, a leader of 225 settlers sent to Nephi by Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


``We have the personal journals of two women who witnessed this event and described it as a heinous act of murder,'' said Rood. ``This is a great example of archaeology and history coming together.''


Rood teamed up with Derinna Kopp, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Utah.


Their investigation will be the topic of a lecture Friday night at a conference of the Utah Statewide Archaeological Society at Utah Valley State College in Orem.


Springville, Utah, historian D. Robert Carter plans to set the stage for Rood with an overview of settler and Indian conflict in Utah valley.





08:00 - 01 June 2007


It has remained hidden for centuries but space-age technology has stripped away layers of history to discover what excited archaeologists believe could be a missing section of Offa's Dyke.


Aerial laser technology, which allows the experts to see what is hidden below the trees and the undergrowth, has discovered a long strip of earthworks in the Forest of Dean.


And archaeologists believe they may have finally found a missing 250-metre stretch of the Dyke built by King Offa between 757 to 796 AD to keep the English and the Welsh apart. Now they are planning a major study to check out if the findings taken from the air match those on the ground.


"The study has produced some exciting results," said senior project officer John Hoyle, the man charged with interpreting the results from the latest Lidar technology.


"There's a section of earthworks which looks like it could be a missing section of Offa's Dyke. Everybody assumed that particular section had been destroyed by quarrying but this shows it could still be there, hidden under all the brambles and bracken.


"But this isn't an exact mathematical process so now we have to validate the findings by pulling on our boots and trying to find it on the ground."


According to the earliest records by King Alfred's biographer Asser, the dyke built by the former King of Mercia to separate England and Wales, stretched "from sea to sea".


Much of the 80-mile stretch snaking from the Wye Valley to Wrexham is still visible and in places walkers can see the original ditch and rampart which was 27ft wide and eight metres high.


But farming has destroyed some sections in the Welsh Marches and some believe extensive mining and quarrying in the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley is responsible for large gaps at the Gloucestershire end.


The gaps led some historians to question whether Offa did build his dyke sea to sea or stopped short of the Severn estuary, but local archaeologists believe there is enough evidence to prove he did reach Beachley.


The newly found hilltop earthworks at Wyeseal Woods, near St Briavels, fills the main gap on the Tutshill to Redbrook section of the 8th century barrier and is near the site of a disused quarry.


The new section could prove the dyke did go all the way to the Severn and and help back a theory that any differences in construction are because Offa's ancient builders took a few lazy short cuts in the county and filled in the gaps between older, less impressive earthworks, rather than start from scratch.


The mystery earthwork was pinpointed by the 'Lidar' which sends out 33,000 pulses per second to map the ground below the trees and bushes which are later digitally removed from aerial pictures to reveal what lies underneath.


It is the first time the technology has been used on such a large scale and experts from Cambridge University spent hours flying over the Forest in a small plane mapping 280 square metres of forestry.


English Heritage, the Forestry Commission and the local council paid £100,000 for the cost of the survey to help county archaeologists find out more about what lies under the woodlands.


And the missing section of Offa's Dyke is not the only thing local archaeologists are excited about after seeing an initial Lidar report.


It has helped them identify sites of charcoal, iron and coal workings dating back to Roman times.




By Caroline Lewis     08/06/2007


The Victorians were great inventors, and their progress in the field of sewage disposal was not one of their least achievements. Thomas Crapper is famed for popularising the flush lavatory in the 19th century, but not many examples of his early ‘work’ survive.


So archaeologists from the University of Sheffield got quite excited when they found a toilet dating back around 150 years in an old cutlery and grinding works, believing it to be an original Crapper.


Further research revealed that the design of this particular Bramah pan closet toilet was a little more unusual, not a Crapper, but definitely a high class throne that would have been used by the company directors.


The archaeology team have spent the last two years surveying, investigating and unravelling the history of the Grade II* listed Butcher Works in Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter, prior to its redevelopment.


Brothers William and Samuel Butcher established their cutlery and grinding works in the early 19th century and by 1822 it was a major producer of edge tools and cutlery in the city. The Butchers became world players by the 1850s, establishing a New York office.


The specialist team from the Archaeological Research and Consultancy at the University of Sheffield (ARCUS) ascertained that the works buildings, on the west side of Arundel Street, grew originally from two small plots on Eyre Lane in the late 18th century. They expanded in the next century to form the existing works.


Toilets were not provided for the workers at the factory until the late 19th century, by which time pan closets had fallen out of favour and the valve closet toilet – essentially what we use today – was universally adopted.


Asked what the workers would have used before being provided with toilets, ARCUS Director Dr James Symonds said: “They probably used buckets, I suppose. Sheffield was a pretty grimy place!”


When the chimney was in use, two of the cubicles would have been heated. The managers would have got top dibs on these, it is likely, with their use restricted to them.


“Access was probably by key,” explained Dr Symonds. “Access around the different rooms would have been very carefully controlled.”


The pan closet was a rare find as their moving mechanical parts and metal fittings tended to rust away, and crucially failed to provide an effective seal against sewer gases. The cast iron bowl of the Sheffield discovery would have originally been topped by a (possibly decorated) ceramic bowl. Remnants of the cast iron and ceramic lip have survived.


The early executive toilet was just one find at the works. In the site’s four main ranges, which extend three or four storeys, the team found evidence of grinding wheels. The buildings surround an enclosed yard with a tall brick chimney and the toilet block. One of the site’s ranges had grinding workshops arranged on three floors, supported on brick arches and cast iron columns.


“The works is probably one of the most significant sites of its kind that survives in Sheffield,” commented Dr Symonds.


“This development is an excellent example of how heritage-led regeneration can transform a down-at-heel location, while at the same time protecting one of Sheffield’s most important historic buildings.”


The developers, JF Finnegan, have honoured an agreement not to significantly alter the structure of the buildings and have retained part of the original works that will be open to the public as a kind of museum display on the works (with input from ARCUS).


The Science Museum in London is one of the few places where a pan closet is on public display.



Archaeologists find slave passageway at George Washington house

By Rubina Madan


3:23 p.m. June 7, 2007


PHILADELPHIA – Archaeologists unearthing the remains of George Washington's presidential home have discovered a hidden passageway used by his nine slaves, raising questions about whether the ruins should be incorporated into a new exhibit at the site.


The underground passageway is just steps from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It was designed so Washington's guests would not see slaves as they slipped in and out of the main house.


 “As you enter the heaven of liberty, you literally have to cross the hell of slavery,” said Michael Coard, a Philadelphia attorney who leads a group that worked to have slavery recognized at the site. “That's the contrast, that's the contradiction, that's the hypocrisy. But that's also the truth.”


Washington lived and conducted presidential business at the house in the 1790s, when Philadelphia was the nation's capital.


The findings have created a quandary for National Park Service and city officials planning an exhibit at the house. They are now trying to decide whether to incorporate the remains into the exhibit or go forward with plans to fill in the ruins and build an abstract display about life in the house.


Making that decision will push back the building of the exhibit, which had been slated to open in 2009. But the oversight committee won't rush into construction, said Joyce Wilkerson, the mayor's chief of staff.


“We never thought we'd be faced with this kind of decision,” she said. “We would've been happy to have found a pipe! And so we don't want to proceed blindly or say, 'This isn't in the plan.'”


Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., was so moved when he visited the site last week that he declared: “We need to rethink what we're doing here.”


“It's astounding, absolutely astounding,” Brady said. “I'm going to fight to keep it open, I'll tell you that much.”


Aside from the passageway, archaeologists have uncovered remnants of a bow window, an architectural precursor to the White House's Oval Office, and a large basement that was never noted in historic records.


“We actually found a lot more of the remains of the President's House than anyone expected. Myself included,” said Jed Levin, an archaeologist with the National Park Service.


Thousands of visitors have been drawn to the ruins, standing on a small wooden platform to gaze down at the house's brick and stone foundation. The public response spurred officials to continue the excavation until at least July 4; it began in March and had been scheduled to end last month.


Archaeologists have served as guides, answering visitors' questions. Cheryl LaRoche, a cultural heritage specialist, said she enjoys educating people about how even a prominent statesman like Washington could own slaves.


“We've been striving to present a balanced view of history that stands apart from what's been taught in history books,” LaRoche said.


Most of Washington's slaves lived at his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. When Washington died in 1799, he had more than 300 slaves. In his will, he arranged for them to be freed after the death of his wife.


Before the ruins were unearthed, officials had planned an exhibit without archaeological findings. The planned design included a framework of the house, LED screens and other audiovisual elements explaining its history, including stories of Washington's slaves.


The remains would crumble if left unprotected. If the design included elevators, ramps or stairs to move visitors down into the newly dug ruins, costs would increase significantly.


Coard said he is confident the oversight committee will find the best way to tell the slaves' stories.


“Everybody's on board in terms of seriously considering incorporating the architectural dig into the design,” Coard said. “The question now is: Is it doable? Nobody is saying, 'No, it shouldn't be done.'”


David Orr, an anthropology professor at Temple University, has visited the site at least four times. He posted a note on the President's House Web site urging officials to keep the ruins on display.


“It's just fantastic,” Orr said. “I can't tell you enough how exciting it is. For years and years and years I've been trying to promote that kind of public archaeology.”