June 13, 2016

Wait, what?

Filed under: Stonehenge — acagle @ 7:04 pm

Original Stonehenge was dismantled in Wales and moved to Wiltshire, archaeologists believe

Why would the English settlers bother to make a lengthy pilgrimage for Welsh stone when they had perfectly good local sandstone quarries nearby – from which they would later cut the imposing ‘sarsen’ stones for Stonehenge.

The answer is that the stones were probably brought by the Welsh themselves, when they decided to relocate to the area, and did not want to leave their ancestors behind.

I suppose it make intuitive sense. . . .

June 7, 2016

Middens to the rescue!

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:00 pm

Prehistoric Native Americans harvested Bay oysters sustainably, study finds

Based on shellfish studies elsewhere, Rick said, they expected to find really big oysters in the distant past, and that their size got smaller over time as bigger bivalves were systematically harvested for food. They did find oyster sizes varied through the ages, but were surprised that there was not a clear, straight-line decline over time.

“Archaeologists all over the world have documented size declines where indigenous peoples were intensively harvesting shellfish,” said Rick, who’s curator of North American archaeology for the natural history museum. “We didn’t find that at all.”

The headline makes it sound as if they were ecologically minded shellfishermen, but they probably just couldn’t overfish it with the existing technology. Also, they added maize agriculture to the diet at some point and that would have taken some pressure off of the shellfish harvesting. That didn’t really happen up here in the NW.

Irritant: Some have demanded that we refer to fishing as separate from hunting/gathering which I think is stupid. Because they must like typing hunter-gatherer-fishers or something.

June 6, 2016

Free pizza and beer?

Filed under: Stonehenge — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Stonehenge wasn’t so hard to build after all, archaeologists discover

Just how did prehistoric Britons manage to transport the huge bluestones of Stonehenge some 140 miles from the Preseli Mountains in Wales to their final home on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

The answer is surprisingly simple. The feat really isn’t as hard as everyone imagined.

An experiment by University College London found that mounting huge stones on a sycamore sleigh and dragging it along timbers required far less effort than was expected.

Soudns good to me.

June 1, 2016

Yes, life then sucked

Filed under: Public Health — acagle @ 7:24 pm

‘Eye-watering’ scale of Black Death’s impact on England revealed

Scraps of broken pottery from test pits dug by thousands of members of the public have revealed the devastating impact of the Black Death in England, not just in the years 1346 to 1351 when the epidemic ripped Europe apart, but for decades or even centuries afterwards.

The quantity of sherds of everyday domestic pottery – the most common of archaeological finds – is a good indicator of the human population because of its widespread daily use, and the ease with which it can be broken and thrown away. By digging standard-sized test pits, then counting and comparing the broken pottery by number and weight from different date levels, a pattern emerges of humans living on a particular site.

Professor Carenza Lewis has analysed of tens of thousands of bits of datable broken pottery, excavated from almost 2,000 test pits in eastern England. The sherds, taken from the levels relating to the periods before and after the Black Death, suggest a population collapse of around 45%. In some areas, such as Binham, north Norfolk, where there was a 71% fall in the amount of pottery, the figure is much worse.

I like the idea of coming at it from a different perspective, but I’m not sure how well the actual method measures what they think it measures. Guess we’ll see how they explain it once the paper comes out.

Beer: Is there anything it can’t do?

Filed under: Alcohol — acagle @ 7:20 pm

Archaeologists discover remnants of the oldest known beer brewery in China

Archaeologists have discovered the remnants of the oldest known beer brewery in China, unearthing an array of ancient pottery vessels including funnels, pots, and jugs containing residual traces of the beverage from about 5,000 years ago.

Uncovered at an archaeological site at Mijiaya in northern China, the beer vessels were found in pits dating back to between 3400 and 2900 BC. A faint chemical residue inside the pottery is what gave away the kit’s original purpose, with the researchers finding evidence of ancient grains used as ingredients in beer fermentation.

The researchers think the early evidence of barley suggests the grain may have entered China primarily for its use in making alcohol, before going on to find a home in other agriculture.

Some people have been arguing that for a while now, that much of cereal agriculture was intensified for making beer rather than as food, per se (beer was generally regarded as food until very recently).

May 26, 2016

Well, huh.

Filed under: Neanderthals — acagle @ 3:08 pm

Neanderthals built cave structures — and no one knows why

Little video at the link which gives a decent overview of the area. The burning certainly points to people doing it, but there are apparently no other artifacts present, which seems very odd to me.

May 23, 2016

Okay. I don’t really get this at all.

Filed under: Media, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:13 pm

The future of archaeology starts with No Man’s Sky

Archaeogaming, as defined by scholar Meghan Dennis, is “the utilization and treatment of immaterial space to study created culture, specifically through videogames.” It’s a new field of study that is only now starting to dig its way into academia. Three books on the topic are scheduled to arrive in 2017 alone, the latest of these being The Interactive Past, which was successfully crowdfunded by the VALUE project on Kickstarter.

I just don’t know about this. I did always think that the sort of video games like Civilization might be a good way to study how people go about making decisions based on a number of factors in simplified-but-real-world(ish) scenarios, but I kinda don’t get this.

Speaking of vampires. . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:03 pm

Which we weren’t, actually, but whatever:
Archaeology of the Undead

In folkloric sources as diverse as Babylonian literature, the shroud-eating Nachzehrer of Germanic tradition, and the Chiang-Shih “hopping vampires” of Chinese legend, notions of corpses rising from the grave have long been documented. But what these new archaeological datasets reveal is that these ancient accounts weren’t just stories that our ancestors told to each other on dark and stormy nights. Many of our forefathers were genuinely scared, taking time and trouble to ensure that the dead stayed where they belong.

Pretty good little summary article. One of the studies is available online here. They do note that — as I think I’ve mentioned once or twice — that one shouldn’t automatically assume “vampire” whenever a burial looks funny, although they may often have been thinking more like “zombie”.

I’m tired of zombies, btw.

May 17, 2016

Megafauna extinctions

Filed under: Extinctions — acagle @ 11:46 am

The Extinct Ice Age Mammals of North America

University of Washington Anthropology Professor Donald Grayson and recipient of the 2015 University Faculty Lecture Award delivers the University Faculty Lecture on April 28, 2016. Toward the end of the Ice Age, North America saw the extinction of an astonishing variety of often huge animals. Mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, lions, armadillos the size of small cars, sloths the size of elephants, beavers the size of bears, and many others were all gone by about 10,000 years ago. We do not know what caused these extinctions, but our knowledge of the Ice Age archaeology and paleontology of the deserts of western North America provides a novel opportunity to examine the common but contentious argument that people were behind all of them.

Video of the lecture.

May 16, 2016

Tiny, tiny mummy

Filed under: Egypt, Mummies — acagle @ 7:22 pm

Mummified body of miscarried baby found in tiny Egyptian coffin

The tiny body of a miscarried baby, dating back more than 2,000 years, has been discovered hidden in a tiny Egyptian sarcophagus, no bigger than a shoe-box.

The care with which the foetus was mummified and interred in the miniature coffin – with its arms crossed protectively over its chest – betrays the devastation felt by its parents, who took great pains to ensure its journey to the afterlife.

Egyptologists at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge made the discovery after scanning the coffin using modern imaging techniques for the upcoming exhibition Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of ancient Egypt.

I kinda bleeped over this earlier, but I decided it’s interesting. They didn’t say who it may have belonged to though, but one would suspect a royal, due to the crossed arms and the care of the body.

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