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Posts Tagged ‘archaeology’

It sounds like a prehistoric epic, made into a Hollywood movie. Nearly 10,000 years ago, the bottom of Lake Huron was dry land. Stone-Age hunters stalked herds of caribou here.

How do we know this? NewScientist.com tells us:

Scientists sonar-imaged the floor of Lake Huron and found snaking human-built structures. John O’Shea and Guy Meadows of the University of Michigan say that when the huge Laurentide ice sheet melted and flooded the basin, it potentially preserved intact Native American sites – which are rare in the Great Lakes region.

The sonar images reveal a rocky topography with cliffs and dead-ends that would have been ideal for posting lookouts and ambushing migrating caribou.

The scans also show some structures which the two scientists believe are human-made. A line of large rocks, sometimes arranged one upon the other, form a long parapet. At the end of the parapet are boulders, seemingly pushed together into several piles.

Now, these rock arrangements – they look remarkably similar to the hunting drives and blinds that Inuits currently use – and have used – in the Canadian Arctic for hundreds of years. The parapet, or “drive”, helps guide the animals towards archers hiding behind the groups of boulders, or “hunting blinds”. It’s an amazing find of native North American cultural continuity. There’s more here.

This is the sort of discovery we at Travel Dynamics International really like. That’s why we’ve invited Scott Demel, a Great Lakes archaeologist with Chicago’s Field Museum, to join us on our Great Lakes cruise from July 18-25. He’s extensively researched the Archaic prehistory of the Great Lakes region (9,000-2,500 years ago), a really fascinating epoch: the Laurentide ice sheet melted about 8,000 years ago, creating the Great Lakes.

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…until someone gets their head stuck in a 3,600-year-old Sumerian pot. From McSweeney’s Internet Tendency:

Beautiful piece. In excellent condition. One of only two complete pots from a pottery works at Larsa, dated to the reign of Rim-Sim I.

I honestly didn’t think my head would fit into it.

But it did, and now I can’t get it out. In addition to my extensive knowledge of the ancient Near East, I am blessed with a near-inexplicable touch-typing ability, so, if you will, picture me sitting at the computer with a pot on my head that dates from roughly the time when the Hittites invented iron-forged weapons. Or, to put it in more familiar terms, the pot on my head was about 400 years old when Troy was sacked.

It is of course priceless, which means I must extract my head without breaking it. Or, perhaps, my head should be cut off. But that would still leave the head-in-a-pot problem unresolved, wouldn’t it?

Welcome to Friday Funnies, Travel Dynamics International-style. Read the rest here. But don’t break your head trying to understand it.


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SCIENCE-US-BRITAIN-ROMAN-FINDIt’s called the “millefiori” (“a thousand flowers”) dish, and it’s “a miracle to have survived,” according to archaeologists in London.

Dating from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, and acquired by a citizen of the ancient Roman outpost of Londinium, it is made of hundreds of mosaic tiles shaped like petals, blue with white bordering. And nothing like it has ever been found intact in the Western Roman Empire.

The artifact was found 2.5 to 3 meters (yards) down at a sprawling ancient cemetery in Aldgate, east London, just beyond the old city walls. Romans were required by law to bury their dead outside the city gates.

It formed part of a cache of grave goods found close to a wooden container holding the ashes of a probably wealthy Roman citizen of Londinium.

Other artifacts recovered with the bowl included ceramic pottery and glass flasks which once contained perfumed oil used to anoint the body.

<Read more here>

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Agrigento today.

Agrigento today.

We’re disappointed and discouraged to learn, from The Independent today, that the Italian government has approved plans to build a gigantic liquid gas storage site less than a mile away from the famed World Heritage Site of Agrigento, the storied Valley of the Temples in Sicily.

Greek colonists from Gela colonized this part of Sicily in the 6th century B.C. and adorned it with seven monumental Doric temples. They are the best-preserved examples of ancient Greek architecture outside Greece. The spacious site is one of our favorite places to visit, and you can see why in the photo above.

How can this happen, you ask? Aren’t those UNESCO World Heritage Site designations supposed to protect, well, the world’s heritage from the depredations of the modern era? We suppose the lesson here is: don’t ever underestimate governments’ desires and bureaucratic malfeasance. The Italian government is merely ignoring the existence of the Heritage Site – because there are no people living there.

…a ruling signed into law on 28 September by the Environment Minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, backed by the Culture Minister, Sandro Bondi, stated that the planned €500m plant “does not infringe on the special protected zone at a community level, inasmuch as the closest affected district is between 13 and 20km (8-12mi) from the area of the planned development.”

Thus, the Environmental Impact Assessment is clean: notwithstanding the fact that Agrigento’s entire economy is structured around tourist revenue from The Valley of the Temples. The present-day communities might be 8-12mi from the proposed gas plant, but its two holding tanks (each over 1,200,000 square feet and 154 feet high, plus a 130-foot-high flame tower), are located less than a mile from the archaeological site. There seems to be little doubt this plant would seriously damage the aesthetic appeal of a sacred site more than 2,500 years old.

According to The Independent article, the Mafia is especially powerful in the region, perhaps involved in the many illegal building developments that have crept ever closer to Agrigento, and it may well be greasing the wheels of the Italian government in this case. Luckily, the threat is so egregious that UNESCO and the European Union environment minister are actively investigating. Now the Mayor of Agrigento, Franco Zambuto, and the president of the park’s ruling body, Rosalia Camerata Scovazzo, have agreed to challenge the project “in every court in the land.”

They better. We are particularly alarmed by this situation. If you share our concern, please email EU Environment Minister Stavros Dimas: stavros.dimas@ec.europa.eu with your thoughts and your support.

The future view of Agrigento?

The future view of Agrigento?

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And just when you thought there was nothing new under the sand. Archaeologists have sprung a 4,300-year-old Pyramid from the Egyptian desert: a 16-foot-tall tomb for Queen Sesheshet, the mother of King Teti who was the founder of the 6th Dynasty of Egypt’s Old Kingdom. It’s in Saqqara, the vast necropolis of ancient Memphis.

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And it looked so innocent.

And it looked so innocent.

(ANSAmed) – BERLIN, AUGUST 21 – Troy was much bigger than what was believed until now, Ernst Pernicka, professor of Archeometry at the University of Tuebingen and in charge of the excavations under way in Turkey, affirms. While the scholars believed for long time that the legendary city spans on a surface of at most 27 hectares, in fact Troy was located on a surface of 35 hectares, Pernicka told the German media. The continuation of a defensive trench from the Bronze Age was recently discovered by the archaeologists and it allowed evaluating unequivocally the real expansion of Troy. (ANSAmed).

See the newly uncovered trench and affirm all your Brad Pitt-related fantasies on the Journey of Odysseus next autumn.

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By VESELIN TOSHKOV, Associated Press Writer

SOFIA, Bulgaria – Archaeologists have unearthed a 1,900-year-old well-preserved chariot at an ancient Thracian tomb in southeastern Bulgaria, the head of the excavation said Thursday.

Daniela Agre said her team found the four-wheel chariot during excavations near the village of Borisovo, around 180 miles east of the capital, Sofia.

“This is the first time that we have found a completely preserved chariot in Bulgaria,” said Agre, a senior archaeologist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

She said previous excavations had only unearthed single parts of chariots — often because ancients sites had been looted.

At the funerary mound, the team also discovered table pottery, glass vessels and other gifts for the funeral of a wealthy Thracian aristocrat.

In a separate pit, they unearthed skeletons of two riding horses apparently sacrificed during the funeral of the nobleman, along with well preserved bronze and leather objects, some believed to horse harnesses.

The Culture Ministry confirmed the find and announced $3,900 in financial assistance for Agre’s excavation.

Agre said an additional amount of $7,800 will be allocated by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences for an initial restoration and conservation of the chariot and the other Thracian finds.

The Thracians were an ancient people that inhabited the lands of present day Bulgaria and parts of modern Greece, Turkey, Macedonia and Romania between 4,000 B.C. and the 6th century, when they were assimilated by the invading Slavs.

Some 10,000 Thracian mounds — some of them covering monumental stone tombs — are scattered across Bulgaria.

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