02 Dec 2014

9,000-year-old man yields secrets of America’s earliest inhabitants By Dan Springer

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To read the whole article, please go to:


Kennewick Man may have more secrets to spill, according to top anthropologists. (Smithsonian)


Eighteen years after his near-complete skeletal remains were found along the bank of the Columbia River in eastern Washington, Kennewick Man is finally telling his 9,000-year-old story — and reshaping our knowledge of how North America was first populated by humans.

The prehistoric man’s bones have yielded clues about his diet and lineage, convincing forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History that he was an immigrant who had come a long way before his death. Based on his diet of seals and other marine mammals and the shape of his skull, the theory is he and his relatives traveled in boats from Polynesia, along the coasts of Japan, Russia, Alaska, Canada and eventually up the Columbia River.

The dramatic scientific discovery almost didn’t happen because of the federal government. The Army Corps of Engineers tried to give the bones to local tribes for re-burial before they could be studied, but a lawsuit filed by several scientists blocked the transfer. The Corps did manage to prevent any further finds around where the bones were discovered, dumping 2 million pounds of dirt and planting several thousand trees on top of Kennewick Man’s burial site.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Jelderks, who heard the scientists’ case, wrote in his opinion the Army Corps of Engineers had ‘prejudged the outcome’ in the interest of fostering a climate of cooperation with the tribesStill, the Army Corp of Engineers is defending its effort to hand the bones over to the tribes.

Jelderks, and later the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, disagreed with the government and demanded the Army Corps of Engineers allow the bones to be studied. Owsley ran tests on Kennewick Man over a 16-day period.

The Umatilla Tribe continues to fight.

“We maintain, and nothing has been published to date to refute, that the Ancient One is one of our ancestors,” the tribe wrote in a statement.

Anthropologists say the tribes are just trying to flex political muscle and the Corps capitulated.

“That law is supposed to be a compromise between the scientists and Native Americans, not just a one-sided law that hands everything over,” said James Chatters, the first forensic anthropologist to study Kennewick Man.

01 Dec 2014

Laser from a plane discovers Roman goldmines in Spain

Comments Off Ancient civilizations, Scientific Revolution

These are ancient goldmines in the Eria river valley, with channels and reservoirs for exploitation. The model generated with LiDAR data (left) allows these structures to be located on aerial photos (right). Credit: J. Fernández Lozano et al.

Excerpted from Science Daily Featured Research. Read full article at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141120082134.htm
Hidden under the vegetation and crops of the Eria Valley, in León (Spain), there is a gold mining network created by the Romans two thousand years ago, as well as complex hydraulic works, such as river diversions, to divert water to the mines of the precious metal. Researchers from the University of Salamanca made the discovery from the air with an airborne laser teledetection system.

Las Médulas in León is considered to be the largest opencast goldmine of the Roman Empire, but the search for this metal extended many kilometres further south-east to the Erica river valley. Thanks to a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) laser system attached to an aircraft, the ancient mining works of the area and the complex hydraulics system used by the Romans in the 1st century BC to extract gold (including channels, reservoirs and a double river diversion) have been discovered.

“The volume of earth exploited is much greater than previously thought and the works performed are impressive, having achieved actual river captures, which makes this valley extremely important in the context of Roman mining in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula,” as Javier Fernández Lozano, geologist at the University of Salamanca and co-author of this study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, said.

READ THE FULL STORY AT: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141120082134.htm

05 Nov 2014

Archaeology helps recover the lives of children in Roman Egypt

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Roman boy with his hair worn in the Egyptian style with a “lock of Horus”. First half of the second century CE. Museum of Cultural History, Oslo. Credit: Museum of Cultural History

Roman boy with his hair worn in the Egyptian style with a “lock of Horus”. First half of the second century CE. Museum of Cultural History, Oslo.
Credit: Museum of Cultural History

“It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. By examining papyri, pottery fragments with writing on, toys and other objects, we are trying to form a picture of how children lived in Roman Egypt,” explains social historian and historian of ideas Ville Vuolanto, University of Oslo. What she and Dr April Pudsey of the University of Newcastle have found is evidence from Roman Egypt that shows that 14-year-old boys were enrolled in a youth organization in order to learn to be good citizens.

The research is part of the University of Oslo project ‘Tiny Voices from the Past: New Perspectives on Childhood in Early Europe’. The documentary evidence comes from 7,500 ancient documents written on papyrus that originate from Oxyrhynchos in Egypt, which in the first five hundred years CE was a large town of more than 25,000 inhabitants. Oxyrhynchos had Egypt’s most important weaving industry, and was also the Roman administrative centre for the area. Researchers possess a great deal of documentation precisely from this area because archaeologists digging one hundred years ago discovered thousands of papyri in what had once been the town’s rubbish dumps.

Read the full story here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141105084711.htm

24 Oct 2014

Archaeologists rush to save Yup’ik treasures threatened by vanishing shoreline

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By Lisa Demer, Alaska Dispatch News

QUINHAGAK — On the eroding Bering Sea coast of far Western Alaska, archaeologists from around the world are unearthing remnants of an ancient Yup’ik village frozen in place for hundreds of years.

Archaeologists involved say it’s the biggest excavation of Yup’ik artifacts from before the arrival of Russians and other Europeans in the early 1800s. The research is taking place in this remote Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta village as well as labs in Europe, Canada and the United States. A leading anthropologist last week sat down with elders to see what they can tell about the finds from stories passed down over generations.

Until the permafrost began melting and the edge of the tundra eroded into the sea, the old village site, down to wooden cooking spoons, was well-preserved in the hard-frozen earth.

“There are all sorts of ghastly consequences to global warming but the one we’re worried about is the loss of cultural heritage,” Knecht said. “Because people live on these coastlines and the archaeological record is here.”

Just in the past five years, 30 feet at the edge of the dig site has been lost.

“It’s really going fast, right in front of our eyes,” Knecht said. Had the work not started when it did in 2009, thousands of artifacts at this one site would have washed away.

Read the full article at: http://www.adn.com/article/20140830/archaeologists-rush-save-ancient-yupik-treasures-threatened-melting-permafrost

04 Oct 2014

Another Lesson that Provenience Matters: The Little Manatee River Drum found in 1967

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Uzi Baram
Director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab and
Professor of Anthropology, New College of Florida

Provenience and Provenance

Students of archaeology wrestle with the terminology for artifacts. In the very useful about-com, K. Kris Hirst offers the debate over the terminology: provenience is “the precise location where an artifact or archaeological sample was recovered archaeologically” while provenance is “the detailed history of where an artifact has been since its creation” (http://archaeology.about.com/b/2006/05/16/provenience-provenance-lets-call-the-whole-thing-off.htm) but recognizes that the overlap can be confusing. One focuses on the archaeological record as the context for an artifact, or assemblage of artifacts, while the other traces the chain-of-ownership for an object. Provenience matters, as the example of the drum from the Little Manatee River can show.

During the search for material evidence of the early 19th century maroon community known as Looking for Angola (see my essay on the project in the October 2013 Time Sifters Archaeology Society Newsletter https://www.academia.edu/4736370/Partners_in_Search_of_History), one particular artifact haunted the research process. We know little of Angola beyond the growth of the maroon community in the aftermath of the battles at the Apalachicola River (1816) and Suwannee River (1818) and the destruction of the settlement in 1821, just as Spain handed Florida over to the USA. The archaeological traces by the Manatee Mineral Spring suggest the connections among British filibusters, Cuban fishermen, and Seminoles with the maroons but the material culture is mundane, consisting of the mass-produced ceramics of the era. There is one notable exception. Jane Landers in Black Society in Florida (1999:232) published a black and white photograph of a drum with the caption: “African-inspired mahogany drum found in the bank of the Little Manatee River.” That drum, featured on the cover of the recent Africa in Florida: Five Hundred Years of African Presence in the Sunshine State (edited by Amanda B. Carlson and Robin Poynor in 2014), could be a substantial contribution to revealing the African heritage of Gulf Coast Florida.

Could be.

The drum is made of wood, mahogany as Professor Landers (1999: 232) noted in Black Society in Florida. Today, mahogany is rare in Florida but Swietenia mahagoni is native. And we know that drums are important in the history of the enslaved rising up to gain freedom because they were outlawed.  So an African-inspired drum is significant for locating the maroons, self-emancipated people of African heritage, sometime called escaped slaves. While the drum is evocative, the provenience limited interpretation. Now stored at the Florida Museum of Natural History the artifact, cataloged as E183, has received only minor attention (the museum has a file listing all who requested information on the drum – it is a thin file). Florida is famous for its wet sites, with many examples of amazing preservation of wood and other organic materials. So preservation through the centuries is possible for the drum. But without archaeological dating, one can reasonably propose a range from the earliest African settlements in Florida to mid-20th century craft production for the tourist trade and its history is not known. Why?

Link to the full story here: Baram 2014 Little Manatee River Drum for Time Sifters

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