April 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:56 pm

Concrete pyramid update Pyramids packed with fossil shells

Many of Egypt’s most famous monuments, such as the Sphinx and Cheops pyramid at Giza, contain hundreds of thousands of marine fossils, according to a new study.

Most of the fossils are intact and preserved in the monument walls, giving clues to how the monuments were built.

The authors suggest the stones that make up the Giza plateau, Fayum and Abydos monuments must have been carved out of natural stone as they reveal what chunks of the sea floor must have looked like over 4000 years ago, when the buildings were erected.

Well, there’s this whopper: “There is no evidence known that suggests the ancient Egyptians had cranes,” he says. “Without cranes, it is difficult to imagine how they could have lifted giant stones, some as heavy as 200 tonnes.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:54 pm

Continental rift

Most scientists accept that humanity originally evolved in Africa. About 2m years ago, our predecessors Homo erectus – tall, tool-making, small-skulled apemen – emerged from the continent and began spreading around the Old World. But what came next is hotly disputed.

Not much new there, just a short summary.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:52 pm

Cave woman is laid to rest after 1,900 years

THE remains of a woman have been laid to rest in a hidden location in the Yorkshire Dales – about 1,900 years after she died.
She was returned in a special ceremony to the mysterious limestone cave where she was discovered by two Yorkshire divers more than a decade ago.

Phillip Murphy, an academic at Leeds University, and his friend Andrew Goddard found the woman’s skull by chance during a diving mission at the cave, dubbed the Wolf Den, in 1997.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:48 pm

Canaveral National Seashore’s Turtle Mound survives

Scores of Native American mounds have been lost through time, but the one thought to be the nation’s highest — Canaveral National Seashore’s Turtle Mound — survived.

Preservation of the mound has saved many of its secrets, clues to the past never unearthed.

That’s why archaeologists and park rangers are excited to learn as much as they can from new holes dug into the massive oyster-shell pile last week.

Pretty good article and it’s got a video, too. What was with the post-hole diggers?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:47 pm

Sunflower Debate Ends in Mexico, Researchers Say

Ancient farmers were growing sunflowers in Mexico more than 4,000 years before the Spaniards arrived, according to a team of researchers that includes Florida State University anthropologist Mary D. Pohl.

In an article published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Pohl and lead author David Lentz of the University of Cincinnati said their evidence confirms that farmers began growing sunflowers in Mexico by 2600 B.C. The paper is in response to scientists who still believe that sunflowers were first domesticated as an agricultural crop in eastern North America and that the Spaniards introduced the sunflower to Mexico from further north.

“The evidence shows that sunflower was actually domesticated twice — in Mexico and then again hundreds of miles away in the Middle Mississippi Valley,” Pohl said.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:43 pm

You Are What You Eat? Maybe Not for Ancient Man

Careful analysis of microscopic abrasions on the teeth of early human “cousins” by resesarchers at Johns Hopkins, University of Arkansas, Cambridge University and Stony Brook University show that although equipped with thick enamel, large jaws and powerful chewing muscles, this ancient species may not have eaten the nuts, seeds or roots their anatomy suggests. Instead, the tooth wear suggests a more general diet, as reported in next week’s Public Library of Science One.

“For so many years we’ve operated under the assumption that the shape of something’s teeth, jaws and skull tells us what they habitually ate,” says Mark Teaford, Ph.D., a professor of anatomy at Hopkins’ Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution. “But it seems like we had the wrong idea-just because they’re capable of eating hard foods doesn’t mean that they did-it really makes us rethink some of our basic assumptions.”

Which is interesting. Also, more here. I suppose the shape of the jaw and skull and what not could still be an adaptation for the ability to eat hard (less desirable) foods, just not on a regular basis. I.e., selected for in times of scarcity.

UPDATE: See also this on Neanderthal diet.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:39 pm

GLOUCESTER’S ROMAN MASS GRAVE SKELETONS WERE PLAGUE VICTIMS

A mass Roman grave, discovered in Gloucester in 2005, may have contained the victims of an acute disease of epidemic proportions, possibly plague.

This is the startling conclusion to a new report by Oxford Archaeology and archaelogical consultancy CgMs, who have been conducting an 18-month programme of scientific study on the grave, which contained around 91 skeletons.

Few photos at the link.

April 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:52 am

Well, this doesn’t look good Regarding this story making various blog rounds about a couple of parents who had their child taken into protective custody for giving the kid and alcoholic beverage:

If you watch much television, you’ve probably heard of a product called Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

And if you ask Christopher Ratte and his wife how they lost custody of their 7-year-old son, the short version is that nobody in the Ratte family watches much television.

The way police and child protection workers figure it, Ratte should have known that what a Comerica Park vendor handed over when Ratte ordered a lemonade for his boy three Saturdays ago contained alcohol, and Ratte’s ignorance justified placing young Leo in foster care until his dad got up to speed on the commercial beverage industry.

Even if, in hindsight, that decision seems a bit, um, idiotic.

Ratte is a tenured professor of classical archaeology at the University of Michigan, which means that, on a given day, he’s more likely to be excavating ancient burial sites in Turkey than watching “Dancing with the Stars” – or even the History Channel, for that matter.

No comment on the actual merits of the whole imbroglio. But PLEASE, my fellow academicians, pay some attention to popular culture! Force yourself to watch one hour of MTV per week so you can at least know that when someone wants to “chop it up with you” they’re not discussing vegetable preparation.

About 15 years ago I took a class on Rome and the (quite older) professor asked the class for the name of a currently popular musical group and someone suggested Guns ‘n Roses. “Guns And Roses? Well, all right. I’ll trust that if you say there is a group of this name that there actually is.” Kind of quaintly humorous, but lawdy it feeds the stereotype.

OTOH, it might look weirder to have your 50-something prof actually know what Panic! At The Disco is. . . . .

Blogging note: Kind of light posting for this week as I am in the final throes of a paper preparation and have an all-day conference tomorrow (Wed).

April 27, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:39 am

ArchaeoForum update Two notes:

1) The anti-spam device seems to be working, so no fear of popping over only to see a thousand posts advertising [censored].

2) Kat has a post in the Old World section inquiring about the role of thesis people.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:05 am

Neanderthal update Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Neanderthals living in southwestern France 55,000 to 40,000 years ago mostly ate red meat from extinct ancestors of modern bison, cattle and horses, according to a new study on a large, worn Neanderthal tooth.

The extinct hominids were not above eating every edible bit of an animal, since they were dining for survival, explained Teresa Steele, one of the study’s co-authors.

While a steak dinner “is probably the closest modern comparison,” Steele said, “remember too that they were consuming all parts of the animals, definitely the bone marrow and probably also the organs, not just the ‘prime cuts.’”

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