September 17, 2015

Boiling soil and other delights

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:11 pm

Uprooted tree reveals a violent death from 1,000 years ago

Nearly 1,000 years ago, a young Gaelic man came to a violent end among the dispersed farmsteads of northwestern Ireland.

This, we know, thanks to a 215-year-old tree and a hearty Irish wind.

The young man’s remains were discovered tangled in the roots of the tree when it blew over sometime before May near Collooney in County Sligo, Ireland. That’s when an archaeologist hired by Ireland’s National Monuments Service excavated the remains.

The lower leg bones remained in the grave, but the upper part of the body was tangled up in the roots, according to Marion Dowd of Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services.

Meant to post this the other day, but this sort of thing is fairly common. Maybe not skeletons, but tree throws (as they are called) occasionally have artifacts clinging to them, so on surveys we usually examine them. It also illustrates why intact deposits can often be quite rare. Besides tree throws, you also have rodent activity, insect activity, earthworms, etc., all churning up the soil. One archaeologist observed that if you could somehow watch a time-lapse movie of a patch of ground over several hundred years it would look like the ground is boiling.

September 9, 2015

It is one of the five major food groups. . . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:33 pm

People in Southwest valued caffeine even in 750 A.D.

A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled, “Ritual drinks in the pre-Hispanic U.S Southwest and Mexican Northwest,” scrutinizes how widely caffeine was used at different time periods.

“I think the primary significance is that it shows that there was movement of two plants that have caffeine in North America – that they were either exchanged or acquired and consumed widely in the Southwest,” said University of New Mexico Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and lead author Patricia Crown.

None of it seems to be local either.

(the others being salt, fat, sugar, and alcohol)

Like, where is the Sphinx’s nose?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:27 pm

7 Ancient Mysteries Archaeologists Will Solve This Century

“There’s a reason why National Geographic is calling the 21st century the “new age of exploration,” says archaeologist and Society fellow Fredrik Hiebert. “The opportunities for what we can discover in this century — and the questions we’ll finally be able to answer — seem almost limitless.”

With that enthusiasm in mind, we asked Hiebert to share his predictions on what we may be able to look forward to in this new century of discovery:

Decent enough list. One thing I hadn’t thought of with the Qin Shi Huang Di tomb was using some form of very small drone to go into it — assuming it’s not all collapsed, which it probably isn’t — and fly around taking photos. I’d also suggest recovering bodies from the bottom of the Black Sea intact.

August 19, 2015

Well, okay, here’s another one

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:42 am

This has been getting some linkage on the Internets: The famous Robert Frost poem we’ve read wrong forever

It is the most famous poem in American literature, a staple of pop songs, newspaper columnists and valedictorian speeches. It is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.
Everyone can quote those final two lines. But everyone, writes David Orr in his new book “The Road Not Taken” (Penguin Press), gets the meaning wrong.
The poem is praised as an ode of individuality, to not follow the pack even though the path may be more difficult.
Except Frost notes early in the poem that the two roads were “worn . . . really about the same.” There is no difference. It’s only later, when the narrator recounts this moment, that he says he took the road less traveled.

I’ve never actually read it, though I am familiar with the line. I doubt this article will resolve anything since the poem itself seems to be rather confused. At first it sounds like he’s talking about two paths, equally well-traveled and he decides to take the one: his choice. Then later he says the one he took the one less-traveled.

Don’t take poets at face value. Appreciate the language.

August 10, 2015

From pot to bodies

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:17 pm

Archaeologists Excavate Graves of Jamestown’s Leaders

In late 2010, the archaeologists working at Jamestown found five deep post holes, matching colony records of a 60-foot-long church known to have been built in early 1608, after a fire destroyed much of the fort. The first Protestant church built in the New World, the building fell into disrepair during the bleak winter of 1609-10, a period known as the “starving time” in Jamestown, but was later repaired and in 1614 saw the wedding of Englishman John Rolfe to the Native American princess Pocahontas. (The red-brick tower, the only 17th-century structure still standing above ground in Jamestown, actually belonged to the colony’s fifth church, built in the 1670s-‘80s.)

Inside the chancel, or altar area, located at the east end of the ruined 1608 church, archaeologists found four side-by-side graves. Excavations of the graves in November 2013 yielded only 30 percent of each skeleton, but the researchers were able to use forensic testing along with archaeological, historical and genealogical records to determine the identity of the graves’ inhabitants.

The interesting bit is the part about the box.


Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:11 pm

Cannabis discovered in tobacco pipes found in William Shakespeare’s garden

South African scientists have discovered that 400-year-old tobacco pipes excavated from the garden of William Shakespeare contained cannabis, suggesting the playwright might have written some of his famous works while high.
Residue from early 17th century clay pipes found in the playwright’s garden, and elsewhere in Stratford-Upon-Avon, were analysed in Pretoria using a sophisticated technique called gas chromatography mass spectrometry, the Independent reports.

Better article.

I suppose it’s not all that secure that, even if the piped were found in his garden, that he was the one using them. That said, people were doing an awful lot to make themselves feel better including drinking prodigious amounts and smoking a lot of stuff.

August 6, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:16 pm

French archaeology students find 560,000-year-old human tooth

Two students have found a human tooth from about 560,000 years ago in a famous prehistoric cave in southwestern France, a discovery praised by archaeologists as the oldest human body part ever discovered in the country and being rare from that period in Europe.

The tooth was found last week during excavations at Tautavel, one of Europe’s most important prehistoric sites, where about 40 volunteers are working under the supervision of scientists.

Paleoanthropologist Tony Chevalier, researcher at Tautavel’s archaeological laboratory, called it a “major discovery.”

I was all set to make a sorta snarky comment on the hotness of the (female) “French archaeology student” but she’s 16 so forget it.

August 5, 2015

And they’re awful cute

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:20 pm

Sea Otters Use Tools, and Archaeologists Are On the Case

For a long time, we thought of tool use as the thing that made us human, but we actually share the ability with many other primates, as well as surprising animals like crows and sea otters. Some archaeologists are interested in studying sea otters’ tools.

Archaeologists have studied the history of human tool use, through the physical things our ancestors left behind, for decades. In recent years, some archaeologists have started using the same methods to study chimpanzee tool use by looking at the tools they discard, and even the waste that gets left behind when a chimpanzee makes a tool. Now, a small group of primate archaeologists wants to take a look at sea otters.

Sea otters are one of handful of non-primate species in the world that uses tools. From a young age, some sea otters learn to use rocks to crack snail shells to get at the soft, edible bits inside.

That was pretty long ago that anyone thought that tool use was a human-defining trait, but point taken.

July 29, 2015

Misuse of ‘archaeologist’ #13,478

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:15 pm

Alaskan Archaeologists Find and Identify New Plesiosaur Species

An Anchorage, Alaska-based fossil collector named Curvin Metzler has recently announced that discovery of fossil bones of an elasmosaur—a type of plesiosaur. Metzler says that this species has very long limbs and necks like paddles, a feature which would have definitely allowed the animal to swim efficiently underwater.

According to University of Alaska Museum of the North earth science curator and marine expert Patrick Druckenmiller, notes, “Picture the mythical Loch Ness monster and you have a pretty good idea what it looked like.”

Not a terribly exciting story but I wanted to point that out.

July 23, 2015

Same ones that brought the chickens?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 8:56 am

Studies find genetic signature of native Australians in the Americas

The first paper takes the view that it’s a product of a later addition to the already established population in North America, probably brought in by a group that was largely East Asian but had interbred with Australo-Melanesians. Whatever this group was, it appears to have vanished from Siberia and East Asia.

The second paper, however, argues that the Australo-Melanesian DNA couldn’t have gotten to the Amazon undisturbed if it were just randomly being spread through interbreeding. Instead, a distinct population must have taken it there. Because the population is still largely Native American on the DNA level, but contains some DNA distantly related to Australo-Melanesians, its authors argue that this population originated in Asia and came to the Americas via a second migration.

These chickens. Purley speculation on my part.

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