September 15, 2014

Skeletons in love

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:12 pm

Two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands found by archaeologists in Leicestershire

Centuries-old skeletons holding hands have been uncovered at a “lost” chapel by archaeologists.

The remains, of a man and a woman, were found at the Chapel of St Morrell, an ancient site of pilgrimage in Hallaton.

Tiles from a Roman building, were found underneath the chapel.

No photos except for one not showing the remains. This is probably the 6th or 7th one of these I’ve seen since blogging.


Filed under: Historic, Marine archaeology — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Lost Ship from 19th-C. Franklin Expedition Found by Arctic Archaeologists

Canadian archaeologists have found one of the Franklin Expedition’s ships — lost since the Arctic explorers famously disappeared in 1846 — off of King William Island in the Canadian Arctic. The ship is either the HMS Erebus or the HMS Terror, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on September 9.

The discovery comes in the sixth year of expeditions led by Parks Canada, which has scoured hundreds of square kilometres of ocean bottom in search of the Franklin ships. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) deployed from Parks Canada’s 10-meter survey vessel Investigator made the discovery on September 7.

Nice. No video or photos of the wreck site in that article. Probably some will be forthcoming.

Big ol’ Greek tomb update

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:07 pm

From National Geographic:

This past weekend the excavation team, led by Greek archaeologist Katerina Peristeri, announced the discovery of two elegant caryatids—large marble columns sculpted in the shape of women with outstretched arms—that may have been intended to bar intruders from entering the tomb’s main room.

“I don’t know of anything quite like them,” says Philip Freeman, a professor of classics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Bodies bodies everywhere!

Filed under: Cemeteries — acagle @ 7:05 pm

Literally. Well, not literally everywhere I guess. . . .: State archaeologist flooded with cemetery reviews

State Archaeologist Scott Anfinson was put to the test earlier this year when he received a call from a woman buying a cabin in Clear Lake, Minn., who suspected there was an Indian burial mound in her back yard. Days later, the phone rang with the reported discovery of three infant graves in Crow Wing County.

And then there were the skeletal remains stumbled upon by a construction crew in Hastings last month. Anfinson was brought in on that as well.

“It’s become a huge aspect of what I do as the state archaeologist, is deciding what to do with these burials,” Anfinson said. “It’s probably a third of my time or more; it’s the most common call I get.”

These are becoming far more common, probably in part due to increased development in marginal areas, but also because the law changed such that when finding human remains one is required to call the authorities. Plus older cemeteries are falling into disuse and being forgotten.

Oddly, I have yet to be called for a cemetery project. Even my colleagues have rarely gotten one. I think someone did an assessment of one a couple of years ago, and I just did an assessment for an unused part of an existing cemetery.

September 12, 2014

Trigger warning!

Filed under: Agriculture — acagle @ 8:48 am

What phenomenon enabled the demographic growth of Bantu farmers in Africa and led to their genetic differentiation from the Pygmy hunter-gatherer communities?

Agriculture, a trigger element in history?
Agriculture has been a major technological cultural and environmental revolution for humanity. Particularly in Central Africa, where it has fundamentally changed the landscapes and livelihoods of sub-Saharan populations since it emerged there 5,000 years ago. He was hitherto recognised that the development of this practice, thanks to the abundance of the resources created, had enabled the demographic and geographical growth of the population having adopted it, which was later known as “Bantus” in Africa. This farming people would then have gradually differentiated genetically from the pygmy hunter-gatherers communities living in forests. A genomic study, published in the Nature Communications journal, has just challenged this assumption.

September 10, 2014

RIP Fred Nick

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:41 pm

Got this sad news in the mail today:

“Dear colleagues: I know some of you have heard this news, but I wanted to make sure all of you are aware of this. Fred Nick, the former Director of CSSCR (Center for Social Science Computation and Research), died this past Friday of a heart attack. Fred retired just one year ago, after serving for more than forty years in this position. He was an indescribable support to so many social scientists, from undergraduate students to beginning graduate students, to frustrated dissertators, to junior faculty struggling to learn new systems, to seasoned social science faculty undertaking new projects, using new data sets, and to so many others. When I came to the UW in 1982, CSSCR was right down the hall from my office. I turned to Fred more times than I care to count. Fred’s constant availability, generosity, and patience, were legendary. There was no problem too small, no problem too difficult, for Fred.”

Fred was one of those Great Guys. He was there when I started grad school back in 1986. Back then, of course, computing was in its relative infancy and social scientists tended to be notoriously computer-ignorant. Not all, of course, many of the archaeology faculty were way ahead of the curve, and we ended up using the computing facilities for much of our class work. In those days there were a few PCs, but mostly we used minis and mainframes, the latter primarily DEC Vax’s of various flavors. We used terminals and line printers as well. Most of the software was some graphics (I use the term somewhat loosely) and statistics, notably Minitab and SPSS.

And fred was there as the main support contact and instructor. And he was excellent at both. He was a big bearded friendly bear of a man, and I don’t really recall him ever being snarky or mean or anything like that. He was patient with those who were new to computers and his method of teaching was very straightforward and stepwise, doing the basics of what people really needed to do without trying to instruct everyone on the ins and outs of operating systems, etc., which would just be confusing. A really excellent teacher.

Since I was kind of a geek, I hung out at CSSCR a lot. And made a lot of good, though sadly as it turned out, temporary friends there. Mostly with his undergraduate research assistants who worked there as consultants and helped us a lot with our geeky extra-curricular projects. Some of these may or may not have involved text-based and semi-graphical adventure games, but mostly it was a lot of data whacking. And Fred was always there to answer our questions and shoot the breeze with us. I went back a few years ago for some reason, and Fred was still there and took out some time to talk over whatever it was. I’m guessing he would have been able to make a bundle in the private sector in an IT department somewhere, but I think he was happy where he was.

So long, Fred. I’m sure you’ll be up there ready to show us the ropes when we get there as well.

I’m leaving this up all day tomorrow (Sep 11) so it will be at the top of the page for a full day.

And something else to chew on

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:08 pm

Not literally: Clues to animal extinctions found on the walls of Egyptian tombs

Six thousand years ago, Egyptian lions hunted wildebeests and zebras in a landscape that resembled the Serengeti more than the Sahara. Since then, the number of large mammal species has decreased from 37 to eight, says quantitative ecologist Justin Yeakel of the Santa Fe Institute. New research using ancient animal depictions tracks the collapse of Egypt’s ecological networks one extinction at a time, offering a glimpse into how climate change and human impacts have altered the structure and stability of ecosystems over millennia.

I’m guessing the paintings/extinctions portion of the paper is relatively minor, but it makes for good press. At the end of the linked article the main problems are expressed, namely that artistic representation is a pretty dicey thing to hang your empirical hat on.

More papers!

Filed under: Egypt, Forensic archaeology, Online publications — acagle @ 6:56 pm

Neolithic Tooth Replacement in Two Disturbed Burials from Southern Egypt

ABSTRACT During the excavation of a Late Neolithic cemetery near Nabta Playa, Egypt, two crania were recovered that evidenced tooth replacement in antiquity. Both were apparently collected and redeposited by Neolithic people after being disturbed by later burials. In the first case, a young female’s maxillary anterior alveoli contained a combination of mandibular and misplaced maxillary teeth. In the second case, another young female’s maxilla and mandible contained two incorrectly placed teeth. This, and other evidence, suggest that attempts were made to return these individuals to the soil in as complete of a state as possible—being limited only by the ancient grave-digger’s level of anatomical knowledge. A review of the mortuary literature and inquiries made to several leading bioarchaeologists suggest that the tooth replacement seen here may be unique; we have been unable to document comparable treatment in any other context worldwide.

This is post-mortem replacement, btw, not early dentistry. The whole paper is there, all by Joel Irish.

And another one, which I have downloaded: Early Cemeteries of the East Delta: Kafr Hassan Dawood, Minshat Abu Omar, and Tell Ibrahim Awad

I’m looking at it because I want to see if I can compare some of our Kom el-Hisn burials to other early ones.

And yet another one: Evidence for Prehistoric Origins of Egyptian Mummification in Late Neolithic Burials

An amulet, but not from Egypt

Filed under: Biblical archaeology — acagle @ 6:53 pm

One of world’s earliest Christian charms found

1,500 year-old papyrus fragment found in The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library has been identified as one the world’s earliest surviving Christian charms.
. . .
Faint lettering on the back of the charm is thought to be a receipt for the payment of grain tax which was certified by the tax collector from the village of Tertembuthis – this is in the countryside of the ancient city of Hermoupolis (modern el-Ashmunein).
Dr Mazza said: “The amulet maker would have cut a piece of the receipt, written the charm on the other side and then he would have folded the papyrus to be kept in a locket or pendant. It is for this reason the tax receipt on the exterior was damaged and faded away.”

Lots of papyrus was recycled. I’d never heard of Christian ‘amulets’ before though.

September 8, 2014

Why you should never believe the press

Filed under: Vikings! — acagle @ 9:52 am

Well, I exaggerate. Somewhat. But we’ve been through this before: Raining On Your Parade About Those Women Viking Warriors

Here’s a headline that just sounds awesome: Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female.

A lot of people have sent us this link these past two days. It raised my “Really?” flag, so I got the original source paper, “Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 ad” by Shane McLeod, published in the journal Early Medieval Europe in 2011. Then I read it all the way through. And, unfortunately (meaning I really hate to ruin everyone’s fun here): That’s not what it says at all.
. . .
The paper then looks at grave sites at which the sex of the remains was determined using the bones themselves. This method, while still not foolproof, is much more accurate at determining sex than using other, non-human-remains stuff that was buried in the grave along with the body. A really clear pattern emerged when comparing the male/female ratios at the sites that used grave goods against the ratios at the sites that used bones to determine sex. When the bones made the determination, more of the remains were identified as female.

Goes on to note that the females were only described in the papers as ‘migrants’ and not as ‘warriors’. The source paper notes that it’s generally held that women only migrated in after (primarily male) armies had already invaded. That wasn’t my understanding — I vaguely recall a few articles that described the Viking invasions as consisting of these sorts of mixed-sex migrants, not just armies of men — but then I’m not a specialist.

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