April 22, 2014

Older AND bigger

Filed under: Rome — acagle @ 8:01 pm

All at one time! Ancient Rome was bigger than previously thought, archaeologists find

British scientists have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the river port of ancient Rome which they say proves that the city was much larger than previously estimated.

Researchers from the universities of Southampton and Cambridge uncovered the extra section of the wall at Ostia while conducting a survey of an area between the port and another Roman port called Portus – both of which are about 30 miles from the Italian capital.

Scholars had thought the Tiber formed the northern edge of Ostia, but this new research, using geophysical survey techniques to examine the site, has shown that Ostia’s city wall continued on the other side of the river.

OJ, stat!

Filed under: Historic, Public Health — acagle @ 7:58 pm

Severe Scurvy Struck Christopher Columbus’s Crew

Severe scurvy struck Columbus’s crew during his second voyage and after its end, forensic archaeologists suggest, likely leading to the collapse of the first European town established in the New World.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic, beginning Europe’s discovery of the New World. Two years later on his second voyage, he and 1,500 colonists founded La Isabela, located in the modern-day Dominican Republic.

The first permanent European town in the Western Hemisphere, La Isabela was abandoned within four years amid sickness and deprivation.

I’m not altogether sure how easily scurvy is identified skeletally, but I would assume it’s fairly diagnostic. If they were carrying on their European dietary lifestyle they might not have eaten the local fruits. Something like what Diamond was arguing about a few years ago in relation to Vikings not adopting Inuit practices and eventually leaving Greenland. But it’s also worth noting that they weren’t intent on colonizing for the most part; it was a commercial venture.

Stories like this always make me want to go drink some lemonade. . . . .

April 21, 2014


Filed under: Mummies — acagle @ 7:48 pm

The Mysterious “Accidental Mummies” of Medieval Siberia

Russian archaeologists are once again digging at Zeleniy Yar, a remote excavation site near the Arctic circle. This same site produced nearly a dozen extraordinary mummies a few years ago — including unintentionally preserved corpses wearing copper masks. The researchers are now hoping to learn more about this mysterious northern community.

Early last decade, Russian archaeologists discovered 34 shallow graves at Zeleniy Yar, the site of a medieval necropolis. They were forced to stop their excavations in 2002 due to objections made by locals living on the Yamal peninsula; they feared the archaeologists were disturbing the souls of their ancestors. But work has now resumed, including a genetic study of the remains.

It’s Siberia, but it appears they mummifiction — such as it is — was accomplished by copper coming in contact with parts of the bodies rather than permafrost as one might expect.

Yeah, it’s kind of like that

Filed under: Biblical archaeology — acagle @ 7:44 pm

The Exodus: Does archaeology have a say?

The short answer is “no.” The whole subject of the Exodus is embarrassing to archaeologists. The Exodus is so fundamental to us and our Jewish sources that it is embarrassing that there is no evidence outside of the Bible to support it. So we prefer not to talk about it, and hate to be asked about it.

For the account in the Torah is the basis of our people’s creation, it is the basis of our existence and it is the basis of our important Passover festival and the whole Haggada that we recite on the first evening of this festival of freedom. So that makes archaeologists reluctant to have to tell our brethren and ourselves that there is nothing in Egyptian records to support it. Nothing on the slavery of the Israelites, nothing on the plagues that persuaded Pharaoh to let them go, nothing on the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, nothing.

That’s a pig of a web site. Errr, well, he says rather ironically (it loads slow and bogs everything down on my older computer, that is). Anyway, you might not expect them to write down something that was a defeat, or at least if they did, make it sound like a great victory, as in the Battle of Kadesh. Or more likely (IMO) it was a fairly minor thing that they just didn’t bother with even though it meant an awful lot to the Jews.


Filed under: Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 7:38 pm

Archaeologists busy in N.D.

North Dakota’s oil boom has come with its share of problems, from crowded roads to increased crime, but it has also led to an increase in the discovery of historical sites and an increase in business for archaeological firms.

Cultural resource site records have increased 97 percent over the past five years, according to the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office.

“The inundation of people, machinery and development to what was a predominantly rural region of farmers, ranchers and open space has stretched resources across the state including the NDSHPO,” a statement from the office said.

Anyone wanting fieldwork for the summer could probably just head there.

Related: How B.C.’s resource and development boom allows a new generation of archaeologists to dig for a living

Oh yeah, that was today. Or yesterday.

Filed under: Rome — acagle @ 7:36 pm

Archaeologists’ findings may prove Rome a century older than thought

It is already known as the eternal city, and if new archaeological findings prove correct Rome may turn out to be even more ancient 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 Sunday it 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.

Yeah, in most cases it’s tricky to point to the origin of anything, unless it truly was founded at a specific time for a specific reason, like Amarna.

Historic archaeology

Filed under: Historic, Media — acagle @ 10:19 am

Sort of. More or less. Well, it’s cool anyway: British Pathé Uploads Entire 85,000-Film Archive to YouTube in HD

It’s at Variety’s site so there may be an annoying auto-play advert at the top. I had my sound off so I didn’t get any sound. Channel is here.

I latched onto this one first:

And this one’s kind of morbid:

April 20, 2014

Field photos

Filed under: Field photos — acagle @ 7:05 pm

Just a few photos from a job I went out on last week. Nothing interesting found. It was a culvert replacement for a stream going under a road.

Desert Fox
That’s looking down from the road at the ravine with the creek in the bottom. The ravine would have been continuing where the road is now, but they just filled it in with fill and rubble and put the road on top of it, with the culvert and creek running underneath.

Desert Fox
That’s the creek, obviously. Nice little thing. Typical junk on the sides, beer cans, bottles, etc. Also:

Desert Fox
An old electrical transformer. There was a larger concrete platform above it which we thought probably held a power pole at one time.

Desert Fox
Just sort of a beauty shot. Those big plants are western skunk cabbage.

April 19, 2014

Unfortunately, it hasn’t lived up to its name

Filed under: Antiquities Market, Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 10:36 am

Marred By Vandals, Hidden Cave Gets Restoration

High on a hill east of Fallon, a team of archaeologists is working at a site that holds thousands of years of our history.

That work, however, is not aimed at uncovering that history, but repairing damage left by modern-day vandals.

Sometime in February or early March, a group of people gained entrance to Hidden Cave and, in an act of juvenile arrogance, left their mark inside and out.

“It’s certainly disheartening and unexplainable,” says Bryan Hockett, leader archaeologist for the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada.

It is a legitimately famous site in Great Basin archaeology. But then, see previous post.

Back to looting and UNESCO

Filed under: Academia, Antiquities Market, Conservation/CRM — acagle @ 10:30 am

If you recall this post, there are a couple of letters in response.

I might disagree somewhat with the first one on at least this bit: Archaeologists don’t seek “treasure.” We seek information about how people lived in the past to help us better understand our own existence.

That’s one way to put it. Another way is that archaeologists seek stuff they can use to get PhDs and plum university jobs and write much-cited papers about.

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