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Welcome to History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site. From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History Buff wants to know. And feel free to stop by History Buff's ** Author Interviews** for Q&As with authors of historical fiction. Enjoy!

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author

As an historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the past as it's unearthed and reimagined and brought to life. I spend a
large quantity of time searching for news in archaeology and history. Once in a great while a new archaeological discovery will act as an inspiration for what I'm currently writing. But most of the time the news stories I read are simply interesting tidbits of history. Unfortunately, I have disallowed comments because I travel so frequently that I can neither monitor nor respond to them. But I would still love to share the history that I find fascinating each day. So welcome! And feel free to visit my website at www.michellemoran.com.

Logo designed by Shaun Venish

Blog designed by Mia Pearlman Design

2.28.2008




Roman Soldier's Sandal Print Uncovered Near Sea Of Galilee


Roman sandal print at Hippos (Sussita) left a pattern of small perforations in cement. Average adult feet on either side of the footprint show scale. (Credit: University of Haifa)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 27, 2007) — Archaeologists have discovered a footprint made by the sandal of a Roman soldier in a wall surrounding the Hellenistic-Roman city of Hippos (Sussita), east of the Sea of Galilee.

The footprint was discovered during this eighth season of excavation, led by Prof. Arthur Segal from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa in conjunction with archaeologists from the Polish Academy of Sciences and Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This rare footprint, which is complete and well preserved, hints at who built the walls, how and when," said Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute at the University of Haifa.

The print, made by a hobnailed sandal called caliga, the sandal worn by Roman soldiers, is one of the only finds of this type. The discovery of the print in the cement led archaeologists to presume that legionnaires participated in construction of the walls.

Read the rest here.



British Museums Told to Clean House


The Museums Association, founded in 1889 to represent Britain’s museums and galleries, reversed a 30-year ban on selling art and urged its 1,500 members on Monday to get rid of objects that are gathering dust, the BBC reported. “Museums typically collect a thousand times as many things as they get rid of,” Mark Taylor, the association’s director, said in a posting on its Web site (museumsassociation.org.).

Read the rest on the NYT.


Bones Found near Pike Place Not Human



By JIM VALLEY

The King County medical examiner's office says bones found near the Pike Place Market in Seattle are not human.

An investigator said Wednesday an anthropologist made the determination, but didn't say what kind of bones they were.

Read the rest here.


2.27.2008

AD 500 - Tintagel: Has King Arthur been discovered at Tintagel?

Image

Tintagel, on the North coast of Cornwall, is famed in legend as the home of King Mark (of Tristan and Isolde fame) and the possible place where King Arthur was conceived.

Archaeologically it became important in the 1930s, when Raleigh Radford excavated there and found some very unusual pottery, which he recognised as coming from the East Mediterranean in the 5th and 6th centuries AD - the very period when King Arthur may have existed. He suggested that it was a monastery, though this suggestion has recently been challenged, and it is now thought to be a trading centre under Royal patronage.

Recently Professor Christopher Morris, of Glasgow University, has been excavating there, and in 1998 he found an inscription which may throw new light on this.

Read the rest here.



False Doors for the Dead Among New Egypt Tomb Finds

Steven Stanek in Cairo, Egypt
for National Geographic News

Three false doors that served as portals for communicating with the dead are among ancient burial remains recently unearthed in a vast Egyptian necropolis, an archaeological team announced.

The discoveries date back to Egypt's turbulent First Intermediate Period, which ran roughly between 2160 and 2055 B.C.

The period is traditionally thought to have been a chaotic era of bloodshed and power struggles, but little is known based on archaeological evidence.

In addition to the false doors, the Spanish team found two funerary offering tables and a new tomb in the former ancient capital of Herakleopolis—today referred to by its Arabic name Ihnasya el-Medina—about 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Cairo.

Previous excavations had uncovered tombs that had been deliberately burned and ransacked in antiquity, but experts are unsure if the damage was done by military conquerors or pillaging thieves.

The latest finds, along with the team's new studies of the site's charred remains, could offer a fresh look at the poorly understood First Intermediate Period.

The necropolis "is a very big site in a town that was very important in Egypt, but there is a lot that is still unknown," said excavation leader Carmen Pérez Díe of the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, Spain.

Read the rest on National Geographic News.


2.26.2008

UK paper: Photo is of boy loved by Anne Frank

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Ernst Michaelis / AFP - Getty Images: A handout picture of Peter Schiff along with a dedication are shown Monday at the Anne Frank House in The Hague. Anne met Peter at school in 1940 and later, while in hiding in Amsterdam, wrote about how much she missed him. Both died at Auschwitz.

LONDON - A British newspaper has published what it calls the first known photograph of a boy Anne Frank fell in love with and wrote about in her famous diary.

Anne Frank, the Jewish schoolgirl who wrote her diary while hiding from the Nazis in the Netherlands during World War II, was captivated by Peter Schiff.

She met him at school in 1940, his family also having fled from Germany to Amsterdam the previous year. At age 11, Anne fell in love with Schiff and later, while in hiding in Amsterdam herself, wrote about how much she missed him.

Read the rest on MSNBC.



Jerablus and the land of Carchemish

 by Edgar Peltenburg and T. J. Wilkinson


Biblical sites were highly sought after by some of our earliest and greatest archaeologists. One such site, Carchemish, was the famed city of the Hittite Empire. It attracted the attention of T.E. Lawrence and Woolley, pioneers of British Near Eastern Archaeology, who excavated there just before the First World War. Then came the crashing calamity of the Great War, and after it came new political borders...

Read the rest on Archaeology.co.uk


Uncovered Photos Offer View of Lincoln Ceremony

President Lincoln delivers his inaugural address on March 4, 1865.

In this previously known photograph of the inauguration, President Abraham Lincoln delivers his second inaugural address on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol on March 4, 1865. Courtesy Library of Congress

Morning Edition, February 18, 2008 · A news item caught my eye a few months ago that made me smile in wonder.

The Library of Congress had discovered unseen photos of President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration. They'd been housed at the library for years, hidden by an error in labeling.

As one of the producers of The Civil War series with Ken Burns, I have a personal interest in these photos.

Read the rest on NPR.


2.25.2008

500,000 BC - Boxgrove

The man who died half a million years ago

In a gravel pit at Boxgrove, just outside Chichester, the remains of a man have been discovered, half a million years old. Only a shin bone and two teeth were discovered, but his position, under thick layers of gravel show that he is the oldest 'man' so far discovered in Britain.

Image


The Boxgrove quarry

Image

The discovery was made in a gravel quarry. The gravel was laid down in a later Ice Age on top of a chalk bed, which is visible in the upper squares. Originally a stream flowed from the cliffs (bottom left, behind the camera), and around this stream, numerous remains of animal bones were found, and also numerous handaxes - and part of a human skeleton.

Read the rest on Archaeology.co.uk.



The Magerius Mosaic: How a Roman amphitheatre really worked

Image"Roll up! Roll up! Roll Up! There will be a magnificent spectacle at the amphitheatre today, and you mustn't miss it! Magerius is giving it. Of course, you all know Magerius who has just finished his term of office as mayor. He's a pompous old ass but he thinks the world of himself and he's going to lay on a big spectacle and he is paying through the nose for it, and he wants everyone to know how generous he has been."

"He is bringing in the Telegenii. You've heard of the Telegenii - they are the best theatrical producers in North Africa. They have all the best beasts and all the best hunters too. Today they have for your delight four leopards, all home grown and well trained. They are called Crispinus, Luxurius, Victor - who of course is going to be conquered - and then, Ho! Hum! there's Romanus, 'The Roman' who is going to bite the dust at the hands of a hunter. And then he's got four of his best hunters, Hilarinus, Bullarius, Spittara, who always hunts on stilts, and finally the champion, Mamertinus. It's going to be a great spectacle, so hurry along to the amphitheatre. Who's going to win - the beasts or the hunters?

Read the rest here.


Ancient toy or whistle found at Pyrgos

By Demetra Molyva

A SMALL masterpiece of coroplastic Early Bronze Age Cyprus (3500- 2000 BC), believed to be a water whistle or a toy, was found during the excavations at Pyrgos/Mavrorachi, in Limassol and restored by an Italian archaeological mission led by Maria Rosaria Belgiorno.

"This is an askos, representing a load of two panniers, with its mane knotted in five bobs and a statuette of a naked child riding in the middle of the shoulder," Belgiorno said.

Donkeys loaded with baskets of fruit and vegetables are one of the most common images of the Mediterranean, she explained.

"This is a familiar subject especially on the islands, from the first appearance and domestication of small horses and donkeys. Both have played a very important role in the evolution of agriculture and culture in prehistory," she said, noting that what is more rare is the child riding on the back of the donkey.

Read the rest here.

2.24.2008

Egypt's Earliest Agricultural Settlement Unearthed


A fragment of a bangle made of a shell found only at the Red Sea suggests possible trade links with the cradle of agriculture in the Near East. (Credit: Copyright UC Regents)

ScienceDaily — Archaeologists from UCLA and the University of Groningen (RUG) in the Netherlands have found the earliest evidence ever discovered of an ancient Egyptian agricultural settlement, including farmed grains, remains of domesticated animals, pits for cooking and even floors for what appear to be dwellings.

The findings, which were unearthed in 2006 and are still being analyzed, also suggest possible trade links with the Red Sea, including a thoroughfare from Mesopotamia, which is known to have practiced agriculture 2,000 years before ancient Egypt.

"By the time of the Pharaohs, everything in ancient Egypt centered around agriculture," said Willeke Wendrich, the excavation's co-director and an associate professor of Near Eastern languages and cultures at UCLA. "What we've found here is a window into the development of agriculture some 2,000 years earlier. We hope this work will help us answer basic questions about how, why and when ancient Egypt adopted agriculture."

Just centimeters below the surface of a fertile oasis located about 50 miles southwest of Cairo, the UCLA-RUG team excavated domestic wheat and barley and found the remains of domesticated animals -- pigs, goats and sheep -- along with evidence of fishing and hunting. None of the varieties of domesticated animals or grains are indigenous to the area, so they would have to have been introduced.

Read the rest on ScienceDaily.



Cleopatra's Cosmetics And Hammurabi's Heineken: Name Brands Far Predating Modern Capitalism

ScienceDaily — From at least Bass Ale's red triangle--advertised as "the first registered trademark"--commodity brands have exerted a powerful hold over modern Western society. Marketers and critics alike have assumed that branding began in the West with the Industrial Revolution. But a pioneering new study in the February 2008 issue of Current Anthropology finds that attachment to brands far predates modern capitalism, and indeed modern Western society.

In "Prehistories of Commodity Branding," author David Wengrow challenges the widespread assumption that branding did not become an important force in social and economic life until the Industrial Revolution. Wengrow presents compelling evidence that labels on ancient containers, which have long been assumed to be simple identifiers, as well as practices surrounding the production and distribution of commodities, actually functioned as branding strategies. Furthermore, these strategies have deep cultural origins and cognitive foundations, beginning in the civilizations of Egypt and Iraq thousands of years ago.

Read the rest on ScienceDaily.

2.22.2008

A Lead on the Ark of the Covenant

Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant is carried into the Temple

When last we saw the lost Ark of the Covenant in action, it had been dug up by Indiana Jones in Egypt and ark-napped by Nazis, whom the Ark proceeded to incinerate amidst a tempest of terrifying apparitions. But according to Tudor Parfitt, a real life scholar-adventurer, Raiders of the Lost Ark had it wrong, and the Ark is actually nowhere near Egypt. In fact, Parfitt claims he has traced it (or a replacement container for the original Ark), to a dusty bottom shelf in a museum in Harare, Zimbabwe.

As Indiana Jones's creators understood, the Ark is one of the Bible's holiest objects, and also one of its most maddening McGuffins. A wooden box, roughly 4 ft. x 2 ft. x 2.5 ft., perhaps gold-plated and carried on poles inserted into rings, it appears in the Good Book variously as the container for the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:16: "and thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee"); the very locus of God's earthly presence; and as a divine flamethrower that burns obstacles and also crisps some careless Israelites. It is too holy to be placed on the ground or touched by any but the elect. It circles Jericho behind the trumpets to bring the walls tumbling down. The Bible last places the Ark in Solomon's temple, which Babylonians destroyed in 586 BC. Scholars debate its current locale (if any): under the Sphinx? Beneath Jerusalem's Temple Mount (or, to Muslims, the Noble Sanctuary)? In France? Near London's Temple tube station?

Read the rest on Time.


Roman site unearthed in Doune

Roman site unearthed in Doune


By Stephanie Black

DOUNE Primary School pupils have been discovering the hidden treasures of ancient Rome — right in the middle of their playground.

A new classroom is currently being built at Doune and because the site is home to a former Roman fort, professional archaeologists have been called in — just in case there are any historical artefacts uncovered.

Head teacher Jane McManus told the Stirling Observer: “The children have truly enjoyed this experience and have been asking the archaeologists lots of interesting questions.”

The three archaeologists from Headland Archeology have found simple pottery items and clay slingshots to the actual placement of the foundations of the Roman Fort.


Read the rest here.

2.21.2008

Possible Druid Grave Enchants Archaeologists

By Angelika Franz

Druids belong to the realm of myth -- archaeologists have never been able to prove their existence. But now researchers in England have uncovered the grave of a powerful, ancient healer. Was he a druid?

There's a joke among archaeologists: Two of their kind, in the future, find a present-day public toilet. "We've discovered a holy site!" cries one. "Look, it has two separate entrances," says the other. "This here," he says, pointing to the door with a pictogram of a woman, "was for priests. This is evident by the figure wearing a long garment."


The joke rests on a perennial sore point for archaeologists: There are things they simply can't prove. The list includes love, hate, fear, desire and, well, faith. Which hasn't stopped many reports from being written about who loved or hated whom in ancient cultures -- who was threatened by what, who tried to win something else.

Philip Crummy is an archaeologist who tries not to pass off ancient toilets for holy sites. But lately the director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust has been pulling a number of artifacts from the ground near the site of an ancient city, Camulodunum, that would tempt any archaeologist to speculate, at least a little. Crummy has stumbled upon a small cemetery about 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) southwest of present-day Colchester. The dead were all buried between the years 40 and 60 AD. For a cemetery that's a short lifespan; but in Britain it's an important period, because in the year 43 AD the island became a Roman colony.

Read the rest here.



Most Detailed Global Study Of Genetic Variation Completed

ScienceDaily — University of Michigan scientists and their colleagues at the National Institute on Aging have produced the largest and most detailed worldwide study of human genetic variation, a treasure trove offering new insights into early migrations out of Africa and across the globe.

Like astronomers who build ever-larger telescopes to peer deeper into space, population geneticists like U-M's Noah Rosenberg are using the latest genetic tools to probe DNA molecules in unprecedented detail, uncovering new clues to humanity's origins.

The latest study characterizes more than 500,000 DNA markers in the human genome and examines variations across 29 populations on five continents.

"Our study is one of the first in a new wave of extremely high-resolution genome scans of population genetic variation," said Rosenberg, an assistant research professor at U-M's Life Sciences Institute and co-senior author of the study, to be published in the Feb. 21 edition of Nature.

"Now that we have the technology to look at thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of genetic markers, we can infer human population relationships and ancient migrations at a finer level of resolution than has previously been possible."

The new study, led by Rosenberg and National Institute on Aging colleague Andrew Singleton, produced genetic data nearly 100 times more detailed than previous worldwide assessments of human populations. It shows that:

Read the rest on ScienceDaily.



ANCIENT BURIALS IN ARGYLL AND BUTE REVEAL FOREIGN LINKS IN PREHISTORIC SCOTLAND

a map with plotted dots and arrows showing the site of an excavation

Site plan, showing in red the features excavated in 2005. © AOC Archaeology Group

By Richard Moss

Recent analysis of 4,000-year-old pots recovered during an excavation of two graves at Upper Largie, near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, has provided exciting evidence linking prehistoric Scotland with the Netherlands.

Analysis of the pots by Alison Sheridan, of National Museums Scotland, has revealed early international-style Beakers of the type found around the lower Rhine, which is the modern-day Netherlands and a strange hybrid of styles that suggest Irish and Yorkshire influences.

“These finds are very rare,” said Martin Cook, the AOC Archaeology Project Officer, who oversaw the excavations in 2005. “I think there are three or four other examples that early in Scotland. We initially didn’t realise how unusual they were, as it is so unusual to find three beaker ceramic vessels in the same feature.”

“The actual structure was very unusual, there’s only been one other grave excavated like that in Scotland – you just don’t get features like that generally.”

Upper Largie Footed Food Vessel © Trustees of National Museums Scotland

a photo of a circular ribbed pot with cracks across it
Read the rest here.

2.20.2008

Unique Roman Amphitheatre Slumbers Beneath Sofia Downtown

сердика

Author: international.news.bg

Some archaeologists say that Bulgaria may be called Rome of the Balkans, The Standart shares.

Serdica - an ancient names of Sofia, was a military, economic and culture centre in the Roman Empire.

And while local culture tourism is redirected to Perperikon and other spots dispersed all over this country, a mystic town slumbers beneath Sofia downtown, told from Standart.

The excavations under the medieval St. Sofia church started in the 1940s.

There is a huge Roman necropolis under the church with dozens of tombs stretching under the building of the National Assembly.

Archaeologists and historians reckon the remnants from Roman times and the later cultural strata are unique and can be found nowhere else in the world.

There appears the problem. Round 10 million EUR are needed to take at the surface all the Roman rests.

Read the rest here.



Pierced skull and bones recovered

A worker dredging a river in Suffolk has discovered a skull and other human remains believed to date back to before the Middle Ages.

An examination revealed the skull had been penetrated by what could have been an iron arrow or spear.

This identified them as medieval, from between AD1066 and 1540, but they could even be Roman or Saxon, experts said.

The remains came from the River Lark at West Row near Mildenhall and the police were called in the first instance.

Read the rest on the BBC.


2.19.2008

Ancient city discovered in India

By Sandeep Sahu
Bhubaneswar

Pillars (Pic: Sanjib Mukherjee)
Eighteen stone pillars have been excavated (Pics: Sanjib Mukherjee)
Indian archaeologists say they have found remains which point to the existence of a city which flourished 2,500 years ago in eastern India.

The remains have been discovered at Sisupalgarh near Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern state of Orissa.

Researchers say the items found during the excavation point to a highly developed urban settlement.

The population of the city could have been in the region of 20,000 to 25,000, the archaeologists claim.

The excavations include 18 stone pillars, pottery, terracotta ornaments and bangles, finger rings, ear spools and pendants made of clay.

Read the rest on the BBC.



Abbey body identified as male lover of Edward II

By Laura Clout

A mutilated body found in an abbey graveyard has been identified as that of a notorious medieval villain rumoured to have been the gay lover of Edward II.

The remains, which bear the hallmarks of having been hanged, drawn and quartered, are thought to be those of Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger, who was executed as a traitor in 1326.

Edward II
Sir Hugh was executed after Edward II was deposed from the throne in 1326

Sir Hugh had been favourite of Edward II - who was widely believed to have been homosexual - but was brutally executed before a mob after the king was ousted from the throne.

The decapitated remains, buried at Hulton Abbey, Staffs, have intrigued experts since they were uncovered during the 1970s and now Mary Lewis, an anthropologist, says she has uncovered compelling evidence of their true identity.

The manner of execution, carbon-dating of the bones, and the absence of several parts of the body all point towards Sir Hugh being the victim, she said.

"If the remains are those of Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger, then this is the first time such an execution victim has been identified," she added.

Sir Hugh insinuated himself into the king's favour by backing him in his battles with the barons. Through a series of ruthless deals, he consolidated a huge fortune, winning himself a legion of enemies in the process, including Edward's wife, Queen Isabella.

His downfall came when the queen and her ally, Roger Mortimer, deposed the king in 1326.

Sir Hugh was judged a traitor and a thief. He was hanged and, still conscious, castrated, disembowelled and then quartered before his head was displayed on London Bridge.

Miss Lewis, a biological anthropologist at the University of Reading, found that the Staffordshire skeleton had been beheaded and chopped into several pieces with a sharp blade, suggesting a ritual killing.

There was also evidence of a stab wound to the stomach.

She said: "This form of public execution was high theatre that aimed to demonstrate the power of government to the masses. High treason dictated that the perpetrator should suffer more than one death."


Read the rest on The Telegraph.


Ancient frog was as big as a bowling ball

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A frog the size of a bowling ball, with heavy armor and teeth, lived among dinosaurs millions of years ago -- intimidating enough that scientists who unearthed its fossils dubbed the beast Beelzebufo, or Devil Toad.

art.frog.jpg

Artist rendering of a Beelzebufo ampinga facing off against its largest known living cousin, the Malagasy frog.

But its size -- 10 pounds and 16 inches long -- isn't the only curiosity. Researchers discovered the creature's bones in Madagascar. Yet it seems to be a close relative of normal-sized frogs who today live half a world away in South America, challenging assumptions about ancient geography.

The discovery, led by paleontologist David Krause at New York's Stony Brook University, was published Monday by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read the rest on CNN.


2.18.2008

Get ready for the eclipse that saved Columbus

The Moon will turn an eerie shade of red for people in the western hemisphere late Wednesday and early Thursday, recreating the eclipse that saved Christopher Columbus more than five centuries ago.

In a lunar eclipse, the Sun, Earth and Moon are directly aligned and the Moon swings into the cone of shadow cast by the Earth.

But the Moon does not become invisible, as there is still residual light that is deflected towards it by our atmosphere. Most of this refracted light is in the red part of the spectrum and as a result the Moon, seen from Earth, turns a coppery, orange or even brownish hue.

Lunar eclipses have long been associated with superstitions and signs of ill omen, especially in battle.

The defeat of the Persian king Darius III by Alexander the Great in the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC was foretold by soothsayers when the Moon turned blood-red a few days earlier.

And an eclipse is credited with saving the life of Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1504.

Stranded on the coast of Jamaica, the explorers were running out of food and faced with increasingly hostile local inhabitants who were refusing to provide them with any more supplies.

Columbus, looking at an astronomical almanac compiled by a German mathematician, realised that a total eclipse of the Moon would occur on February 29, 1504.

He called the native leaders and warned them if they did not cooperate, he would make the Moon disappear from the sky the following night.

The warning, of course, came true, prompting the terrified people to beg Columbus to restore the Moon -- which he did, in return for as much food as his men needed. He and the crew were rescued on June 29, 1504.

Read the rest here.



Jewelry and makeup in ancient Persia

By Hedieh Ghavidel, Press TV, Tehran
Acheamenid Jewelry


Archaeological finds in Iran show that women and men applied makeup and arrayed themselves with ornaments approximately 10,000 years ago, a trend which began from religious convictions rather than mere beautification motivations.


Archaeologists have discovered various instruments of make-up and ornamental items in the Burnt City, which date back to the third millennium BCE.

The caves of the Bakhtiari region, where the first hunter-gatherers settled at the end of the ice age, have yielded not only stone tools, daggers and grindstones but also several stones covered with red ocher.

Parthian goat-shaped vessel
As no cave paintings have been found in this area, researchers believe the people of this era bepainted their faces and bodies with ocher.

Other caves in Kermanshah have also yielded several samples of animal bones with traces of paint. Again, as the cave walls are undecorated, it can be inferred that the residents used these bones as ornaments.

The tombs found in Kerman have all yielded white powder made of lead or silver suggesting the people of this region were the first to use white powder for beautification purposes.

Read the rest here.
Read the rest here.


Found at last: the world's oldest missing page

By Andrew Johnson

A year after the Romans packed up their shields in AD410 and left Britain to the mercy of the Anglo-Saxons, a scribe in Edessa, in what is modern day Turkey, was preparing a list of martyrs who had perished in defence of the relatively new Christian faith in Persia.

In a margin he dated the list November 411. Unfortunately for the martyrs, history forgot them. At some point, this page became detached from the book it belonged to. Since 1840, the volume has been one of the treasures of the British Library. It is known only by its catalogue code: ADD 12-150

The missing page has always been a fascinating mystery for scholars and historians. Now, after an extraordinary piece of detective work, that page has been rediscovered among ancient fragments in the Deir al-Surian monastery in Egypt. It is, according to Oxford University's Dr Sebastian Brock, the leading Syriac scholar who identified the fragments, the oldest dated Christian text in existence.

Read the rest on the Independent.


Rock carving found after recent storm sheds further light on bronze age art

by JAMES MORGAN

A rock carving dating back to the bronze age has been uncovered by forestry workers clearing trees which fell during the recent storms.

The mysterious rock art had been hidden by a huge tree in Forestry Commission Scotland's Achnabreac Forest, in West Argyll, until it was blown down around three weeks ago.

The carving - believed to be around 5000 years old - is of a dice-like pattern.

Read the rest on The Herald.


Rare Egyptian "Warrior" Tomb Found

Steven Stanek in Cairo, Egypt
for National Geographic News

An unusual, well-preserved burial chamber that may contain the mummy of an ancient warrior has been discovered in a necropolis in Luxor.

Scientists opened the tomb—found in Dra Abul Naga, an ancient cemetery on Luxor's west bank—on Wednesday.

Inside the burial shaft—a recess crudely carved from bedrock—experts found a closed wooden coffin inscribed with the name "Iker," which translates to "excellent one" in ancient Egyptian.

Near the coffin they also found five arrows made of reeds, three of them still feathered.

A team of Spanish archaeologists made the surprise find during routine excavations in a courtyard of the tomb of Djehuty, a high-ranking official under Queen Hatshepsut whose burial site was built on top of graves dating to the Middle Kingdom, 2055 to 1650 B.C.

Read the rest on National Geographic News.


2.17.2008

Florida Boys Find Live WWII Grenade with Metal Detector

(AP) PACE, Fla. — An 8-year-old boy and his friend found a live, World War II-era hand grenade while searching for buried treasure with a metal detector.

Sidney Mathis and his friend had found nails, bolts and a toy car by sweeping the detector over a field near their home Thursday. But it was their other find that alarmed Sidney's father, Chris Mathis.

He arrived home Thursday to find the boys about to put the grenade into a bucket of water. Chris Mathis grabbed the grenade and dangled it outside the window of his sport utility vehicle as he drove away from the apartment complex.

Mathis had second thoughts.

2.16.2008

Bones of contention


The controversy over the status of the 'hobbit' continues. Cosmos looks on as two teams of spirited scientists try to settle things once and for all.

"It's just another day for us," Thomas Sutikna tells me, boarding a beat-up minibus bound for Middle Earth. He and his team from the Indonesian Centre for Archaeology spend their days hunting 'hobbits' – a race of extinct, metre-high humans whose remains they discovered in Liang Bua Cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores. The only thing different about this day is that Sutikna and crew will have 40-odd experts peering over their shoulders and into their digs, debating if and how their work should rewrite what it means to be human.

Since the announcement of the new hominid species Homo floresiensis on the front cover of U.K. journal Nature in October 2004, scientists have argued fiercely about the implications of a few handfuls of tiny bones. A majority of researchers welcome the Flores fossils as a new species of human. They embrace the view that we were not alone, at least not until recently, and that some of the hallmarks of humanity – big brains atop long legs – stand to be revised. A vocal minority, meanwhile, rejects the new species. They say the Flores fossil is one of us, a modern Homo sapiens, albeit diseased and deformed.

The debate became personal at the end of 2004, when emeritus professor Teuku Jacob from Indonesia's Gadjah Mada University 'borrowed' the Liang Bua bones from Jakarta's Centre for Archaeology and debunked Homo floresiensis in the media.

Australian anthropologist Mike Morwood, of the University of Wollongong in New South Wales and a partner on the Liang Bua find, cried foul on an institutional agreement regarding management of the bones. The brouhaha descended to "a level of shouting and name-calling that you do not often hear in Indonesia," Morwood would later report. Most distressing, however, was that the bones were returned to the centre scarred, broken and clumsily repaired. A member of Jacob's lab confessed that the damage was the result of botched efforts to cast the crumbly remains.

Read the rest on Cosmo.


2.15.2008

Lasers conserve Pictish treasures

Pictish carved stone
The Pictish carved stones date from the decades before 843 AD
High-tech laser technology has been used to record and conserve one of the finest collections of Pictish carved stones in Scotland.

The St Vigeans Stones from Arbroath are being cleaned by a specialist team of Historic Scotland experts in Edinburgh.

Earlier efforts at conservation, dating back to the 1960s, carried out using the best techniques of the time have now reached the end of their life.

The project removes the earlier repairs and uses more modern treatments.

The project is part of works to upgrade St Vigeans Museum of Pictish Carved Stones in Arbroath.

It is hoped the stones will be returned by the end of this year with the new-look museum reopening in time for Easter 2009.

Fresh research into the 38 stones suggests St Vigeans was once home to an important royal monastery.

Read the rest on the BBC.



Church's pre-historic past unearthed

By Tony Henderson

Work on a town’s church has revealed that the site may have been used for ritual and worship for thousands of years.

Major refurbishment work on the Grade I-listed St Michael and All Angels church in Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne and Wear, began last month and has involved digging up the floor to install a new heating system.

The church, dating back to Norman times, is the oldest building in the town.

A carved stone above a tiny doorway, featuring a carving of mysterious intertwined animals known as the Houghton Beasts, may be from before the Norman Conquest.

But investigation by archaeologists as the refurbishment has continued has revealed whinstone boulders under the church, which are thought to have been part of an early prehistoric burial cairn or ritual site. A line of similar boulders has been found under the churchyard wall.

Archaeologist Peter Ryder, of Riding Mill in Northumberland, said: “It looks like a prehistoric site. We can’t think of any other reason why these very large boulders should be inside the church.”

Under the central tower of the church, which was restored in about 1350, the work has uncovered huge Roman stones thought to have come from a Roman temple.

“These are massive and spectacular foundations for the tower, using huge stones which must have come from a major Roman building,” said Peter.

A Roman stone coffin lid has been in the churchyard for many years.

Read the rest on JournalLive.


2.14.2008

Gorillas in a Tryst

By BRYAN WALSH
Gorillas
Thomas Breuer - WCS/MPI-EVA

Leah was staring at George. A series of rapid, pulsating whimpers escaped her lips. She then drew near to George, who locked gazes with her, his face unreadable. His shoulders were relaxed, and when Leah was within his grasp he opened his right arm and embraced her. Leah lay on the ground and George looked into her eyes. He bent over to lie on her, while Leah wrapped her legs around George's waist...

Is this a missing letter from the Penthouse Forum? The steamy section of a well-thumbed romance novel? Try neither: The scene is actually taken from the April 2007 issue of the Gorilla Gazette, a primatology journal. Leah and George aren't star-crossed lovers caught in mid-tryst. They're western gorillas in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, observed by primatologists whose interest is far more scientific than it is prurient. There's reason to watch — Leah and George's moment in the Mbeli Bai forest clearing, captured on film by a team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, is one of the only times gorillas have been seen mating face to face, rather than face to back. "It's an extremely rare behavior," says Thomas Breuer, the primatologist who photographed the pair through a telelens. "We haven't seen this in 13 years of observation. If you look at the photos it's a very nice piece of action."

Read the rest on Time.



Man Says He Found Missing Treasure, But State Won't Let Him Dig

It's a mystery going back more than 140 years. Many have searched, but no one has found the millions of dollars in gold lost during the Civil War in Elk County. Now, one treasure hunting team from Clearfield says it knows where the gold is.The story dates back to around the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

According to legend, Abraham Lincoln ordered a gold shipment to help pay Union soldiers and the route for the shipment came right through Elk County. The soldiers transporting the gold made it to Ridgway and St. Mary's, but after that they disappeared -- except for the wagon train's guide, a man known only as Conners." (Conners) was the guide of the whole expedition and when he made it into Huntingdon, he claimed he couldn't remember anything. He couldn't find the dead bodies; he couldn't find anything," said Dennis Parada, who runs Finders Keepers USA, a treasure hunting crew from Clearfield.

For years, treasure hunters have speculated about the fate of the gold shipment. The story has become a local legend and has been passed down from generation to generation. Some say a raiding party killed most of the soldiers escorting the gold. Parada, however, said he believes the gold's disappearance was part of an inside job."

Conners ambushed and killed the rest of the guys -- and killed them off completely. He planned this whole thing from the Ridgway point of this trip," Parada said.

The gold shipment was originally worth around $2 million, but Parada estimates its value at around $30 million today.Though many have searched for it without success, Parada said he finally knows where it is: near the Cameron County border around the village of Dents Run.

"This site is on the same mountain that the dead bodies were found. It's on the same mountain that the wagons were found; the location of the site is perfect. ... It seems so easy that if I had the wagon train and I was going to hide something, this site is perfect. I just wonder why nobody has got on to this before," he said.

After detector readings indicated that gold and iron were 6 feet below the site, Finders Keepers workers were ready to dig. But that's where things got complicated."The state doesn't want it dug up, that is basically where we're at. It appears they are stalling from every direction to prevent us in digging anything up. For what reason? Maybe -- at a later date -- so they can dig it up and claim part of it," he said.

Read the rest here.


New Dinos May Have Killed Like Sharks, Ate Like Hyenas

Two 110-million-year-old fossils of meat-eating dinosaurs that once ruled the southern continents have been found in Africa, scientists announced.

First discovered in 2000, the new species are theropods—two-legged carnivores—that lived in the same habitat and grew to about 25 feet (7.6 meters) long.

Eocarcharia dinops, or "fierce-eyed dawn shark," was likely an ambush predator armed with massive, shark-like teeth. Kryptops palaios, or "old hidden face," is thought have been a hyena-like scavenger that feasted on carcasses.

Read the rest on National Geographic News.


2.13.2008

'Freakish' Duckbilled Dinosaur Discovered in Mexico

SALT LAKE CITY — A Mexican paleontologist was cleaning up after lunch with a group of schoolchildren she'd been teaching to dig for bones in northeastern Mexico when she found the dinosaur bone.

"I was basically collecting trash," Martha Carolina Aguillon Martinez recalled at a news conference Tuesday.

Twelve years later, after much digging, drilling and piecing together, it became clear that the helmet-crested, duck-billed dinosaur didn't belong to any previously identified species. This was new.

Read the rest on FoxNews.



Health-care plan in ancient Egypt? Research suggests more than spells, prayers

S|New Scientist Magazine

As Egyptian mummies go, Asru is a major celebrity. During her life in the 8th century B.C., she was known for her singing at the temple of Amun in Karnak; now she's famous for her medical problems. Forensic studies have revealed that although Asru lived into her 60s, she was not a well woman. She had furred-up arteries, desert lung (pneumoconiosis) caused by breathing in sand, osteoarthritis, a slipped disc, periodontal disease and possibly diabetes, as well as parasitic worms in her intestine and bladder. Her last years must have been full of pain and suffering. After all, what could her doctor do to help? Say a few prayers and recite a spell or two?

If you read the history books, that's about as much as Asru could expect. But not according to Jackie Campbell at the KNH Center for Biomedical Egyptology at the University of Manchester in England. Her research suggests that Asru's doctor probably consulted a handbook of remedies and prescribed something to soothe her cough, deaden the pain in her joints and perhaps even expel some of those worms. What's more, Campbell's findings indicate that Asru's doctor had more than 1,000 years of pharmaceutical expertise to draw on.

If she's right, the history of medicine needs rewriting.

The biggest obstacle to determining the ancient Egyptians' grasp of pharmacology has been translation, their pharmacy records left on a handful of papyrus scrolls in a long-forgotten language.

"I'm not a linguistics expert so I used science to authenticate the prescriptions," Campbell says. With most drugs extracted from plants, her first check was whether a plant named in a prescription grew or was traded in Egypt at the time the papyri were written. If it wasn't, she could rule it out. Fortunately, the flora of ancient Egypt is well-known. Campbell's second approach was pharmacological: Could the named ingredient have worked the way a prescription indicated? Normally, this would be the province of a forensic chemist, who would take a sample, analyze its constituents and check for biological activity. Sadly, archaeologists have yet to find any pots of ointment or neatly molded suppositories. "But we had something better," she says. "Recipes."

Detailed prescriptions

Although often prefaced by a prayer or spell, each prescription provides all the information needed to reproduce the remedy, from its ingredients and method of preparation right down to the dose.

They follow a standard format, listing the active ingredient first, followed by stabilizers, flavorings to mask unpleasant tastes, perhaps a soothing agent to help it down and sometimes secondary drugs to alleviate the side effects of the principal drug. Last of all comes the medium, or "vehicle," in which everything is mixed.

Focusing on four key papyri, which contain 1,000 prescriptions and date from 1,850 B.C. to about 1,200 B.C., Campbell analyzed each prescription and compared it with contemporary standards and protocols.

Read the rest here.


2.12.2008

Attila the Hun: Why does his destruction of a civilisation have parallels with today?

By WILLIAM NAPIER

Never before had the citizens of the Roman Empire seen invaders so alien and terrifying as this.

Erupting in a thunder of hooves and drums, spears held aloft, the marauding army darkened the sky with their arrows.

Their heads were part-shaven, their hair tied in top-knots, their faces decorated with tattoos made with needles dipped in soot.

Attila the Hun
Scourge of God: Attila the Hun as depicted in the BBC film

They rode dressed in furs, with capes of buffalo hide, atop horses whose reins hung with the severed heads of their enemies.

And upon their broad chests were etched suns and moons and faces with writhing snakes for hair, their dusty backs adorned with bloody handprints slapped on by their comrades.

Some set deer's antlers on their horses' heads to make them appear more fearsome or filed their own teeth to sharp points and smeared red berry juice around their mouths.

Others dyed the manes and fetlocks of their horses a similar colour, as if they had already waded deep in blood.

These were the warriors who, as one chronicler of the time put it with ghastly simplicity, "ground the whole of Europe to dust."

And at their head rode a man whose name has remained a byword for terror, bloodshed and atrocity for 16 long centuries: Attila The Hun.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.



Secrets behind your favorite toys

(Mental Floss)

art.mr.potato.gi.jpg
Hasbros held a 50th birthday party for Mr. Potato Head in 2002.


1. How the Slinky got stuck between a cult and a mid-life crisis

In 1943, Richard James, a naval engineer, invented the Slinky. A spring fell off of his workbench and began to "walk" across the floor. He figured he could make a toy out of it; his wife Betty agreed and she came up with the name Slinky. Introduced in 1945, Slinky sales soared (say that three times fast), but Richard James grew bored.

Despite his success, by 1960 Richard James was suffering from a serious mid-life crisis. But instead of falling for fast cars, dyed hair and liposuction, Richard James went a different route, and became involved with a Bolivian religious cult. He gave generously to the religious order and left his wife, six children and the company to move to Bolivia.

Stuck with the debts left by her husband and a company that desperately needed her leadership, Betty James took over as the head of James Industries. A marketing savant, Betty James was responsible for additions to the Slinky line including Slinky Jr., Plastic Slinky, Slinky Dog, Slinky Pets, Crazy Slinky Eyes and Neon Slinky.

It was great for boys and girls around the world that Betty James didn't suffer a midlife crisis. In 2001, she was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and perhaps even more laudably, her Slinky dog was forever immortalized in Disney's Toy Story movies.

2. Why the guy behind the Erector Set Saved Christmas

Because of the market pressures of World War I, the United States Council of National Defense was considering a ban on toy manufacturing. Amazingly, one man's impassioned speech successfully stopped that from happening.

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was known as "Man Who Saved Christmas." (There's even a movie starring Jason Alexander in the title role.) But Gilbert was more than just a gifted orator, he was truly a renaissance man. He was an amateur magician, a trained doctor, an Olympic Gold Medallist (in the pole vault), a famous toy inventor and Co-Founder of the Toy Manufacturers of America. Most famously, however, he was the man behind the Erector Set.

Introduced in 1913 with the catchy name The Mysto Erector Structural Steel Builder, the toy was based on Gilbert's observation of how power line towers were constructed. The quickly retitled Erector Sets sold well and were limited only by a child's imagination as to what could be built.

But "The Man Who Saved Christmas" (who also held over 150 patents) wasn't a one-trick pony. His other inventions included model trains, glass blowing kits (think about the liability today!), chemistry sets (one chemistry set was even designed specifically for girls) and in 1951 (during the cold war) he even introduced a miniature Atomic Energy Lab with three very low-level radioactive sources and a real working Geiger counter. Now there's a toy even a real patriot could love.

Read the rest on CNN.



Scientists prove Napoleon was NOT poisoned by the British

napoleon
Napoleon: NOT poisoned by his British jailers, according to scientists

Italian scientists say they have proved Napoleon was not poisoned, scotching the legend the French emperor was murdered by his British jailors.

Napoleon's post-mortem said he died of stomach cancer aged 51, but the theory he was assassinated to prevent any return to power has gained credence in recent decades as some studies indicated his body contained a high level of the poison arsenic.

"It was not arsenic poisoning that killed Napoleon at Saint Helena," said researchers at the University of Pavia who tested the theory the British killed him while he was in exile on the South Atlantic island in 1821.

The Italian research - which studied hair samples from various moments in his life which are kept in museums in Italy and France - showed Napoleon's body did have a high level of arsenic, but that he was already heavily contaminated as a boy.

The scientists used a nuclear reactor to irradiate the hairs to get an accurate measure of the levels of arsenic.

Looking at hairs from several of Napoleon's contemporaries, including his wife and son, they found arsenic levels were generally much higher than is common today.

"The result? There was no poisoning in our opinion because Napoleon's hairs contain the same amount of arsenic as his contemporaries," the researchers said in a statement published on the university's website.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.



New Mini-Pterodactyl Among Smallest Known

Kevin Holden Platt in Beijing, China
for National Geographic News

A new species of miniature flying reptile that lived more than 120 million years ago has been unearthed in China, researchers announced today.

The mini-pterosaur, dubbed Nemicolopterus crypticus, had a wingspan of only 10 inches (25 centimeters)—about the size of a modern sparrow.

This is "one of the smallest pterosaurs known," said co-discoverer Alexander Kellner, an adjunct professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

The newfound creature might provide clues to the evolution of later, more massive pterosaurs, the largest of which measured nearly 40 feet (12 meters) from wing tip to wing tip.

Read the rest on National Geographic News.



Greeks race to replant burnt Ancient Olympia ahead of Beijing flame ceremony

The Associated Press


White and purple flowers run riot among toppled temples at the site where the ancient Olympic Games were born 2,800 years ago.

But in the fire-blackened hills and river banks just beyond, a desperate race is on to replant large swathes of forest wiped out by massive summer wildfires that killed 66 people and ravaged southern Greece.

At stake is the image that will be broadcast worldwide during the March 24 flame-lighting ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Greek officials say the vast effort will pay off, and some 30,000 young plants will be in place for the elaborate ceremony, held in Ancient Olympia since the 1936 Berlin Games.

"We are working seven days a week, late into the evening," project supervisor George Lyrintzis said. "We have completed 75 percent of the work at an intensive pace, and the planting will be finished by the end of this month."

Read the rest on the Herald Tribune.

2.11.2008

Druid Grave Unearthed in U.K.?

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Digging for History
Digging for History

Feb. 11, 2008 -- Historical records tell of a mystical, priestly and learned class of elite individuals called Druids among Celtic societies in Britain, but there has been no archaeological evidence of their existence. Until, perhaps, now.

A series of graves found in a gravel quarry at Stanway near Colchester, Essex, have been dated to 40-60 A.D. At least one of the burials, it appears, may have been that of a Druid, according to a report published in British Archaeology.

Mike Pitts, the journal's editor and an archaeologist, authored the piece. Pitts studied classical Greek and Roman texts that mention the Druids in early France and Britain. The most detailed description, Pitts found, dates to 55 B.C. and comes from Roman military and political leader Julius Caesar.

"Druids, he says, were prestigious ritual specialists who performed human sacrifices, acted as judges in disputes, were excused action in battle and taught the transmigration of souls -- when you die, your soul is passed on to another living being," Pitts told Discovery News.

Other historians link the Druids to soothsaying and healing practices.

Within the wooden, chambered burial site, researchers have excavated a wine warmer, cremated human remains, a cloak pinned with brooches, a jet bead, divining rods (for fortune-telling), a series of surgical instruments, a strainer bowl last used to brew Artemisia-containing tea, a board game carefully laid out with pieces in play, as well as other objects.

Read the rest on Discovery Channel.



Viking women had sexy style

Women who lived in the major Viking settlement called Birka in the 9th and 10th centuries dressed in a much more provocative manner than previously believed.

When the area around Lake Mälaren was Christianized about a century later, women’s dress style became more modest, according to archaeologist Annika Larsson.

Previously, it was thought that Viking ladies wore a long garment held up by braces, made of square pieces of wool whose front and back sides were contained with a belt. The characteristic decorative circular buckles, a common find at many Viking-era grave sites, were believed to have been worn at the collarbone.

“The excavations which were done way back in the 1800s showed that this is not correct, and that the buckles instead were placed centrally over each breast. The traditional interpretation is that the buckles fell down to the waist after the body decomposed, but that is a prudish reconstruction,” says archaeologist Larsson.

Her theory is based partly upon a recent discovery in the Russian town of Pskov, Novgorod, which is located on the trade routes which took the Vikings eastward. Substantial finds in Russia of Viking women’s wear have provided a better understanding than could previously be gleaned from the small bits of fabric discovered at Birka, a major Viking island settlement some 30 kilometers West of Stockholm.

“The (Russian) discovery is totally inconsistent with the way the Viking women are usually depicted. For example, that part of the garment which was assumed to be the front is too broad. I don’t think it was a front, but was instead worn behind like a train,” explains the researcher.

Larsson’s theory that the well-dressed Viking woman’s garment was open at the front and had a train is supported by a gilded bronze figure discovered in the county of Uppsala. She feels that some aspects of the heathen fashion were too much for Christian missionaries.

Read the rest here.


SCOTTISH MASONS' MYSTERIOUS SIGNATURES IN STONE TO BE RECORDED

photo of a geomteric etching on stone

Courtesy Historic Scotland

Mysterious symbols carved into Scotland’s medieval churches, castles and bridges are to be studied and recorded in a new scheme supported by Historic Scotland.

Masons’ marks are enigmatic signatures cut into stone wherever they worked, and hold clues as to dates of construction as well as the craftsmen who worked on the structure. However, little is known about the identities and life stories of these men who played such an important role in creating the country’s most cherished buildings from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. The exact function of the marks is not even known.

Read the rest on 24 Hour Museum.



Cistern found to have been ancient tomb

Studies at Limestone Heritage, the museum/park which traces the use of stone in Malta, have confirmed that a bell-shaped cistern in the Siggiewi quarry where the museum is located, is an ancient tomb of Punic or Roman origin.

The studies were conducted by Dr Nicholas Vella, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the Department of Classics and Archaeology of the University of Malta.

Entrance into the tomb is now through one of its two burial chambers but in antiquity the tomb was reached from the fields above, down a deep shaft. In later years, the shaft was refashioned into a bell-shaped cistern to collect rainwater.

The tomb was cut into the soft limestone that outcrops in this area. The 2.30 metre-deep shaft would probably have been rectangular with footholds dug on the side to allow the funeral undertaker to descend to its bottom.

Two burial chambers, one opposite the other, are found at the bottom of the shaft. They are small rooms, roughly rectangular in shape, entered through low arched doorways.

Read the rest here.



The Romans carried out cataract ops

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

An eye stamp
An eye stamp: the equivalent of the modern medicine label
Think of the Roman legacy to Britain and many things spring to mind - straight roads, under-floor heating, aqueducts and public baths.

But they were also pioneers in the health arena - particularly in the area of eye care, with remedies for various eye conditions such as short-sightedness and conjunctivitis.

Perhaps most surprisingly of all is that the Romans - and others from ancient times, including the Chinese, Indians and Greeks - were also able also to carry out cataract operations.

The Romans were almost certainly the first to do this in Britain.

Read the rest on the BBC.



Ancient tooth suggests Neanderthals were more mobile

A 40,000-year-old tooth. Analysis of the tooth uncovered in southern Greece indicates for the first time that Neanderthals may have traveled more widely than previously thought.

Greek Culture Ministry via AP
A 40,000-year-old tooth. Analysis of the tooth uncovered in southern Greece indicates for the first time that Neanderthals may have traveled more widely than previously thought.

ATHENS — Analysis of a 40,000-year-old tooth found in southern Greece suggests Neanderthals were more mobile than once believed, paleontologists and the Greek Culture Ministry said Friday.

Analysis of the tooth — part of the first and only Neanderthal remains found in Greece — showed the ancient human to whom it belonged had spent at least part of its life away from the area where it died.

"Neanderthal mobility is highly controversial," said paleoanthropology Professor Katerina Harvati at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Read the rest on USAToday.


Robbers Steal $160M in Art From Zurich

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) - Armed robbers stole paintings by Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Monet worth $163.2 million from a Zurich museum, police said Monday, calling it a "spectacular art robbery."

Police in the Swiss financial center said the robbery of the four paintings from the E.G. Buehrle Collection, one of Europe's finest private museums for Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, occurred Sunday. Three masked men who entered the building with pistols are still at large.

Read the rest here.


2.09.2008

First in history? How a night of passion between a sheep and a goat led to Lisa the GEEP

Leaping into the air, she looks like something from the funny farm.

But this curious creature is making scientists do a double-take. Meet Lisa the geep... a cross between a goat and a sheep.

She was born after an unscheduled amorous encounter on the farm of Klaus Exsternbrink, in Schwerte, in northern Germany's Ruhr Valley. One of his young billy goats leapt over a fence and had a passionate liaison with a ewe.

geep

A woolly jumper: Lisa the geep leaps into the air

The result a month ago was Lisa - resembling a lamb in shape and stature, but with the colouring and agile back legs of a goat.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.


2.08.2008

Ancient Maya Used "Glitter" Paint to Make Temple Gleam

Dave Hansford
for National Geographic News

The ancient Maya painted some of their ornate temples with mica to make them sparkle in the sun, a new study suggests.

Scientists discovered traces of the shiny mineral while analyzing flakes of paint taken from the Rosalila temple in Copán, Honduras.

The temple, built in the sixth century A.D., today sits "entombed" in a giant pyramid built around it.

The covering of sparkling paint likely gave the sacred site a dazzling appearance, said the study's lead author, Rosemary Goodall, a doctoral student in physical sciences at Australia's Queensland University of Technology.

"The mica pigment would have had a lustrous effect," Goodall said.

Read the rest on National Geographic.



Unravelling the North West’s Viking past

The blood of the Vikings is still coursing through the veins of men living in the North West of England — according to a new study which has been just published.

Focusing on the Wirral in Merseyside and West Lancashire the study of 100 men, whose surnames were in existence as far back as medieval times, has revealed that 50 per cent of their DNA is specifically linked to Scandinavian ancestry.

The collaborative study, by The University of Nottingham, the University of Leicester and University College London, reveals that the population in parts of northwest England carries up to 50 per cent male Norse origins, about the same as modern Orkney. The 14-strong research team, funded by the Wellcome Trust and a prestigious Watson-Crick DNA anniversary award from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), was led by the University of Nottingham’s Professor Stephen Harding and Professor Judith Jesch and the University of Leicester’s Professor Mark Jobling.

Stephen Harding, Professor of Physical Biochemistry in the School of Biosciences said; “DNA on the male Y-chromosome is passed along the paternal line from generation to generation with very little change, providing a powerful probe into ancestry. So a man’s Y-chromosome type is a marker to his paternal past. The method is most powerful when populations rather than individuals are compared with each other. We can also take advantage of the fact that surnames are also passed along the paternal generations. Using tax and other records the team selected volunteers who possess a surname present in the region prior to 1600. This gets round the problems of large population movements that have occurred since the Industrial revolution in places like Merseyside.”

Read the rest here.


Stolen 15th-Century Map Finds Way Back to Spain

Harold Heckle in Madrid, Spain
Associated Press

A stolen 15th century map dating to the dawn of modern printing—a decade before Christopher Columbus sailed to America—was returned to Spain on Monday.

The map was discovered missing from Spain's National Library in August, cut out of a 1482 edition of Claudius Ptolemy's Cosmographia. Fifteen other irreplaceable documents also disappeared.

A Uruguayan-born researcher, Cesar Gomez Rivero, was charged in the thefts.

Scattered Around the World

The Cosmographia map was seized by Australian Federal Police at an art gallery in Sydney, after it passed through dealers in Argentina, London, and New York, a spokesperson for the Spanish library told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Eight other maps were recovered in Buenos Aires. Two others were tracked to New York and handed over in November to Spain's police chief.

At least four maps dating from between the 15th and 17th centuries were still missing, Spain Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said in November.

Ptolemy

Cosmographia was printed by 15th century cartographers using original calculations made by Ptolemy, a second-century Greek astronomer and geographer.

World maps by Ptolemy were used by travelers for hundreds of years. Columbus is believed to have used Ptolemy's maps when he sailed to America in 1492.

Read the rest on National Geographic.