September 30, 2009

“Braaaaaains. . . .braaaaaains”

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:02 pm


An Armenian-American-Irish archeological expedition claims to have found the remains of the world’s oldest human brain, estimated to be over 5,000 years old. The team also says it has found evidence of what may be history’s oldest winemaking operation. The discoveries were made recently in a cave in southeastern Armenia.

An analysis performed by the Keck Carbon Cycle Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine confirmed that one of three human skulls found at the site contains particles of a human brain dating to around the first quarter of the 4th millennium BC.

“The preliminary results of the laboratory analysis prove this is the oldest of the human brains so far discovered in the world,” said Dr. Boris Gasparian, one of the excavation’s leaders and an archeologist from the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Yerevan. “Of course, the mummies of Pharaonic Egypt did contain brains, but this one is older than the Egyptian ones by about 1,000 to 1,200 years.”

It’s actually pretty neat. Apparently some soft tissue was preserved due to wet anaerobic conditions. Doesn’t sound like they found a big lump o’ brain, just some bits.

CSI: London

Filed under: Egypt, Mummies — acagle @ 6:57 pm

Fresh autopsy of Egyptian mummy shows cause of death was TB not cancer

The mysterious death of an Egyptian woman, whose mummy became a public spectacle in Georgian Britain, has been solved by a team of researchers in London.

Forensic analysis of tissues taken from the 2,600-year-old corpse has revealed signs of tuberculosis, a disease that was widespread in Egypt.

The mummy of Irtyersenu or “lady of the house” became the first to go under the surgeon’s knife in an autopsy in 1825, when England was in the grip of mummy mania.

Couple of odd things. The TB isn’t described as clinical, just DNA presence so the conclusion that it caused the death seems a bit premature. Seems widespread, so it may well be. Second, they say maybe they took adipocere from the mummy to make candles, but that stuff is formed during putrefaction which is supposedly arrested during mummification. The mummy seems in good condition so it doesn’t appear as if adipocere could have formed.

September 29, 2009

Media update

Filed under: Blogging update, Conservation/CRM, Media — acagle @ 7:47 pm

They interviewed me on the Voices of the Past web site.

So click to their site, and when you get there click back here to this post, from which you can click back there, and then we can get a worldwide recursive linking frenzy going and send both of our hit counts through the roof!

Homo hobbitus update

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:26 pm

And this is the final word. Again.
Hobbit species may not have been human
AFTER five years of arguments over the so-called hobbits, the University of New England paleoanthropologist who formally described the tiny new hominin species from the Indonesian island of Flores is facing another wave of controversy.

This time, Peter Brown could raise the ire of some of the scientists who supported him in an academic debate that degenerated into an international scandal.

Brown, who initially placed the species in the human genus Homo and named it Homo floresiensis, is considering stripping the hobbits of their human status.

Well, we here at ArchaeoBlog hope they keep it in Homo because “Australopithecus hobbitus” just doesn’t roll off the tongue keyboard as nicely.

And barely appropos of anything, seems to dislike “hominin” (as opposed to “hominid”) as much as I do.

Lost civilization statues. . . . .found

Filed under: Rome — acagle @ 7:20 pm

Roman Statues Found in Blue Grotto Cave

A number of ancient Roman statues might lie beneath the turquoise waters of the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri in southern Italy, according to an underwater survey of the sea cave.

Dating to the 1st century A.D., the cave was used as a swimming pool by the Emperor Tiberius (42 B.C. – 37 A.D.), and the statues are probably depictions of sea gods.

“A preliminary underwater investigation has revealed several statue bases which might possibly hint to sculptures lying nearby,” Rosalba Giugni, president of the environmentalist association, Marevivo, told Discovery News.

. . .

Dividing his time among 12 villas and orgiastic feasts, the emperor used to bath in the almost hallucinogenic blue light of the cave, swimming among naked boys and girls.

I just threw that last line in for titillation purposes.

UPDATE: The Guardian has something similar and a better headline.

Artist’s Hef’s impression of what the Blue Grotto may have looked like (SFW) (mostly) (well, no, I wouldn’t click at work. Unless you work for the NSF…..)

Egypt in popular culture

Filed under: Egypt, Media — acagle @ 11:35 am

I was perusing job sites and saw an ad for a place called Novo Nordisk. check out their logo:

That’s Hathor!

Hathor has been associated with Kom el-Hisn and is in part a cow goddess (KeH has been linked to the Estate of the Cattle in the Delta) and is associated with Re/Ra, the sun god as seen in the sun disk between the horns.

I’m not entirely sure why a pharma company chose this for a logo, I don’t recall Hathor being associated with medicine, drugs, etc. although she has been linked to “inspiration”, so maybe that’s it.

Field photos

Filed under: Egypt, Field photos — acagle @ 10:13 am

A couple from the Valley of the Kings (Egypt). These two are from one or the other of two seasons I spent with Don Ryan of PLU. We were clearing out some uninscribed tombs and mapping them, along with doing some more general surveying of the whole valley. The surveying was largely done to map out drainage channels in relation to tombs for some flood control work.

Err, wait a minute, I already did this one. But that photo hath disappeared so here is the new one:

Full image.

Well, go read that other post. I have nothing to add.

Second one though:

Full image.

This was the HQ in both years, KV-21. As you can see, it’s a pretty well-built tomb. The walls are nice and straight and unlike the other one it stayed within the Theban limestone. I include this for a couple of reasons, besides treating you to such a handsome chap. First, the dark spots in the walls are chert (aka, flint), both tabular and nodular. This stuff occurs throughout the formation and is always in those sorts of linear patterns. Chert is a precipitate rock and is really just microcrystalline quartz. The formation has been eroding and that leaves a lag deposit on the surface of gazillions of pieces of chert, both in the nodules and smaller chunks of the tabular stuff as well. It’s excellent toolstone and all over the place on some of the hills are various flakes and fairly simple tools. Which is kind of amazing for those used to finding a few stone tools and maybe fire cracked rock here in North America.

Second, note how square and level the floor and the wall edge is. As I said, it’s a very well put together tomb, although it was left in undecorated state. There are parts of the walls, ceiling, and floor that are not level and some of these had already been filled with plaster. Eventually, the entire wall and ceiling surface would have been plastered over. This is fortunate in that the walls and ceiling were covered with mason’s marks. Don’t have a photo of these, but they are sitting next to me here so I will scan those and do another post later. We mapped one wall of them, but never analyzed them for patterns. They are placed fairly regularly, so it appears as if a “foreman” or whatever would come by after the masons had chipped out an area and made a mark when he had approved it. There is also a painted chalk line in the ceiling of the main shaft.

Of course, most of the time whenever a corner was reached there’d be a big ol’ chert nodule right there and they’d have to try to make a corner out of this really hard stone.

I really ought to try to get some money to go over and map out every mason’s mark there is.

Anyway, a final photo for your amusement:

Full image.
Somewhere in a museum in Europe. Heh.

September 28, 2009

Nazi archaeology

Filed under: Forensic archaeology, Historic — acagle @ 4:30 pm

Where in the World is Hitler’s Skull?

A skull long believed to be that of Adolf Hitler actually belonged to a woman, according to an American scientist who has taken DNA samples from it.

The skull was taken by Soviet forces in 1945 when they found charred remains outside the Nazi dictator’s bunker in Berlin.

. . .

Now, however, archaeologist and bone specialist Nick Bellantoni says the skull really belonged to a woman aged under 40 and not Hitler – who was 56 when he died.

Hmmmmm. this article has a photo that shows a large portion of cranium with at least one exit wound, although there’s also a large hole that also looks like it has similar beveling. Looks to be the right side with portions of the temporal, parietal, and occipital. The sutures do look a bit wide to be from a 56-year old. IIRC, there was also a mandible that supposedly matched with Hitler’s dental records as well. So, we’ll see, I guess. I emailed Bellantoni to see if it’s been published anywhere.

September 27, 2009

A brief, yet hearfelt, ode to beer

Filed under: Non-archaeology — acagle @ 7:27 pm

I love beer.

I mean it. I love beer.

I mean. . . .I. Love. Beer.

I love the way it looks, the way it smells, the way it sounds pouring out into a glass. Everything. All beer. Every beer. I don’t think there’s a beer I’ve ever tried that I actually disliked. Even cheap beer. I would wax poetic about the wonders of beer, but mere words could not begin to describe the way I feel about beer. Imagine a typical male’s reaction to coming home, opening his garage door, and seeing, say, Kate Beckinsale draped seductively across the hood of a mint condition 1967 Jaguar XKE whispering “We’re both all yours”. That’s the way I feel about beer.

And just ask the ArchaeoWife, I don’t use the L-word lightly. Or often.

Is it genetic? I’m half German and I grew up in Wisconsin, so maybe it’s in my very DNA. But whatever, I adore it. Sweet amber nectar of the gods. I could live on beer. I’d bathe in it, but that would be wasting beer. It makes, in a way, life worth living. Pale golden elixir of life, it is.

And, of course, I can’t drink it. Much. Anymore. Just goes to show just how monumentally irritating Fate can be.

No, I’m not a recovering alcoholic, although some of the amounts that I put away in college might make a good boozer blush. Sometimes I wonder how I ever made it out of undergrad school. Really, my lifestyle was somewhat akin to Animal House, except that we drank more. Mostly beer. For me, it was like soda pop with a kick, but about ten times better. Scratch that, a hundred times better.

No, I just can’t drink the stuff anymore without it causing a rather non-trivial amount of physical distress. My metabolism went whacko about 20 years ago and I started not being able to sleep at night. I tried EVERYTHING. Ended up that the only thing that worked was giving up alkyhol entirely. Really, not even a little bit on the weekend. That and around the same time I had started getting more serious about working out — hmmmmm, I hope there’s not a connection there — and for whatever reason my stomach started rebelling after only one or two beers. Or one or two anything with alcohol in it. Was it age? Mileage? My body finally deciding it had enough of being an alcohol processing factory? Whatever it was, I quit completely for several years. Slept better, worked out better, etc. Had more problems sleeping around the early 2000s and I had to severely restrict my caffeine intake, too; yes, two of the five major food groups* were now nearly off my plate. Sucks.

I’ve tried a few times to get back into the swing of things, thinking maybe I’d grown out of it or had enough time off that I could get back into at least a semi-regular quaffing of brewski. But no, it always makes me feel terrible, can’t sleep, and I end up swearing it off again. And this after like 1.5 beers on a Friday afternoon!

So these days I content myself with the occasional few swigs when I’m cooking with it. Doesn’t matter what sort it is, it’s like a little guzzle of pure heaven to me. I’ve tried the non-alky sorts, but they’re just not the same. There is no substitute for a good beer.

I sometimes contemplate going back to Wisconsin once a year and spending one afternoon and evening just swilling beer in a nice tavern somewhere, getting good and ripped, and then just suffering the consequences as a reminder of why I gave it up. Trouble is, I still can’t get two drinks down my gullet without feeling a bit sick. That which I most adore now makes me feel the worst.

Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

* Salt, fat, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.

September 26, 2009

And more coinage

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 9:26 am

Rare coins find excites experts

Four silver coins dating from Norman England have been found in Gloucestershire.

It is believed they were minted in Gloucester in 1073-1076 and represent an unrecorded type of penny.

The coins were found by a metal detector enthusiast but details of the site have not been revealed.

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