22 Jan 2015

Physicists read scrolls scorched by ancient volcano By Lizzie Wade

No Comments Ancient civilizations, Explorers

To read the whole article, please go to

http:/ /news.sciencemag.org/archaeology/2015/01/physicists-read-scrolls-scorched-ancient-volcano

Herculaneum photo by SANDRO VANNINI/CORBIS

 

 

Pompeii wasn’t the only Roman town destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 C.E. The blast of hot air and rain of volcanic ash also reached nearby Herculaneum (pictured above), where it entombed a library of papyrus scrolls. Unfortunately, it also transformed them from pliable parchment into little more than blackened, carbonized lumps. Archaeologists have tried several techniques to unroll the scrolls since the library was discovered in the 1750s, but they always ran the risk of destroying them in the process. Now, a new technique using high-energy x-rays offers a nondestructive way of reading these ancient texts. By placing a rolled up scroll in the path of a beam of powerful x-rays produced by a particle accelerator, researchers can measure a key difference between the burned papyrus and the ink on its surface: how fast the x-rays move through each substance allows them to differentiate between the scroll and the writing on it . Although they’ve managed to read only a few complete words so far.   The handwriting style is characteristic of texts written in the middle of the first century B.C.E.; in fact, it looks a lot like the handwriting on a previously unrolled scroll attributed to the philosopher Philodemus, the team says. More studies with even higher energy x-rays are needed to reconstruct the whole text on this and other scrolls, but the technique offers the possibility of reading works that haven’t been seen for nearly 2000 years.

11 Jan 2015

Community Conscious Archaeology

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Sarasota Bay

By Uzi Baram

Professor of Anthropology, New College of Florida

Sarasota Bay is a dominant feature of Sarasota’s identity even though it is visible only from its shores, from high rise buildings, and from aerial views. For public enjoyment, there are public parks on the bayfront as well as Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, a marina complex, and a performing arts complex. How to use the bayfront is a continual community concern. One particular spot, an area with the performing arts center and several civic buildings but also large parking lots, is being debated these days. On November 13, 2014, 300 people came together to discuss the development of that property; Tom Tryon writing in the Sarasota Herald Tribune noted that “there was a two-point consensus on what people most want the site to offer: 1. A place to enjoy a nice glass of wine. 2. A good view of the bay while sipping that wine” (http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20141207/COLUMNIST/312079999?p=all&tc=pgall)

The image of sipping wine by the bay is appealing; if that vision comes to pass, hopefully people will be able to reflect on the heritage for the location. History might have been discussed at the gathering but it did not come up in the newspaper or social media stories. When I look at the publicly-held area, I think of it as part of Yellow Bluffs. What was once an outcropping is where Sarasota began. There was an initial Anglo-American settlement by the Whitakers as well as pre-Columbian Native American mounds with their history that stretches back centuries. The heritage for the region matters but, with historic preservation and development usually pitched against each other, how could heritage, particularly archaeo-heritage, fit into the discussions over the bayfront, to meet community concerns for the property? Read full article here.  Community Conscious Archaeology

02 Dec 2014

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

Comments Off Ancient civilizations, Early man, Explorers

To read the whole article, please go to:

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/11/13/000-year-old-man-yields-secrets-america-earliest-inhabitants/

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
141120082134-large

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

Comments Off Ancient civilizations, Ancient Egypt, Heritage
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

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