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

17 Sep 2014

Divers sure of new finds at Antikythera shipwreck by Sophie Makris

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To read the whole article, please go to: http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2014/09/divers-sure-of-new-finds-at-antikythera.html#.VBmOOC5dUkh

A picture taken at the Archaeological Museum in Athens on September 14, 2014 shows pieces of the so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device known as the world’s oldest computer, which was discovered by sponge divers in 1900 off a remote Greek island in the Aegean [Credit: AFP][/caption]

Archaeologists set out Monday to use a revolutionary new deep sea diving suit to explore the ancient shipwreck where one of the most remarkable scientific objects of antiquity was found. Archaeologists set out Monday to use a revolutionary new deep sea diving suit to explore the ancient shipwreck where one of the most remarkable scientific objects of antiquity was found. The so-called Antikythera Mechanism, a 2nd-century BC device known as the world’s oldest computer, was discovered by sponge divers in 1900 off a remote Greek island in the Aegean. The highly complex mechanism of up to 40 bronze cogs and gears was used by the ancient Greeks to track the cycles of the solar system. It took another 1,500 years for an astrological clock of similar sophistication to be made in Europe. Now archaeologists returning to the wreck will be able to use a new diving suit which will allow them to more than double the depth they can dive at, and stay safely at the bottom for longer.

The suit, which resembles a puffy space suit, “expands our capabilities”, Theodoulou told AFP as the team set off for a month-long expedition to Antikythera, which lies between Crete and the Peloponnese. “I’ll be able to grasp, pluck, clench and dig… for several hours,” he said. Archaeologists believe many other artefacts are yet to be discovered in and around the wreck. Up to now they had only been able to operate at a depth of 60 metres. The mechanism was found with a spectacular bronze statue of a youth in the wreck of a cargo ship apparently carrying booty to Rome, and researchers are certain that other items on board still remain to be discovered.

“We have good signs that there are other objects present,” said Angeliki Simosi, head of Greece’s directorate of underwater antiquities, after exploratory dives in the area in 2012 and 2013. “There are dozens of items left, this was a ship bearing immense riches from Asia Minor,” added Dimitris Kourkoumelis, another archaeologist on the team. The archaeologists also hope to confirm the presence of a second ship, some 250 metres away from the original discovery site. Antikythera, which now has a population of only 44, was on one of antiquity’s busiest trade routes, and a base for Cilician pirates, some of whom once captured and held the young Julius Caesar for ransom. He later had them all captured and crucified. Monumental statues The Greek team is assisted by Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from the renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at Massachusetts, which was involved in a dive to the wreck of the Titanic. Foley has helped in outings to identify ancient shipwrecks over the last five years. “We may find one or more monumental statues that were left behind in 1901, in the mistaken belief that they were rocks,” Foley said. As well as the new Exosuit, the Antikythera expedition will also use robot mapping equipment and new [advanced closed-circuit “rebreathers”, which will allow divers much more time underwater. “We will have more bottom time than any previous human visitors to the site, because we dive with mixed gas rebreathers,” the expedition’s website said.

01 Sep 2014

Archaeologists uncover vast ancient tomb in Greece—• The Guardian, Tuesday 12 August 2014

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To read the complete article, please go to: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/aug/12/archaeologists-greece-tomb-alexander-great

Archaeologists began excavating the site in 20

The site where archaeologists are excavating a ancient tomb in Amphipolis, northern Greece. Photograph: Alexandros Michailidis/AP

12

Archaeologists have unearthed a vast ancient tomb in Greece, distinguished by two sphinxes and frescoed walls and dating to 300-325BC. The tomb, in the country’s north-eastern Macedonia region, which has been gradually unearthed over the past two years, marks a significant discovery from the early Hellenistic era. A culture ministry official said that there was no evidence yet to suggest a link to Alexander the Great – who died in 323BC after an unprecedented military campaign through the Middle East, Asia and northeast Africa – or his family.
Archaeologists began excavating the site in 2012 and expect to enter the tomb by the end of the month to determine who was buried there. “It looks like the tomb of a prominent Macedonian of that era,” said a second culture ministry official. Alexander Great died in Babylonia, in modern Iraq, and his actual burial place is not known. Archaeologists have unearthed a vast ancient tomb in Greece, distinguished by two sphinxes and frescoed walls and dating to 300-325BC.
The tomb, in the country’s north-eastern Macedonia region, which has been gradually unearthed over the past two years, marks a significant discovery from the early Hellenistic era. A culture ministry official said that there was no evidence yet to suggest a link to Alexander the Great – who died in 323BC after an unprecedented military campaign through the Middle East, Asia and northeast Africa – or his family.
and expect to enter the tomb by the end of the month to determine who was buried there. “It looks like the tomb of a prominent Macedonian of that era,” said a second culture ministry official. Alexander the Great died in Babylonia, in modern Iraq, and his actual burial place is not known.

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