Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dendrochronology find - German tomb

A 2,600 year old tomb in southern Germany contains the remains of oak wood in a suprising state of preservation. This offers the opportunity to accurately date the remains. Of course, international news has picked up the story as there is lots of shiny gold too ... !

Read more here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


The 32nd TAG (Theoretical Archaeology Group) Conference went off without a hitch this weekend - thanks to all the organisers for all their hard work!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The (Mona Lisa) eyes say it all

Leonardo Da Vinci's 500-year-old Renaissance masterpiece has long been steeped in mystery, and even today the true identity of the woman with the alluring smile still far from certain.

Now members of Italy's National Committee for Cultural Heritage have revealed that by magnifying high resolution images of the Mona Lisa's eyes letters and numbers can be seen.

"To the naked the symbols are not visible but with a magnifying glass they can clearly be seen," said Silvano Vinceti, president of the Committee.

Read more here

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Robot films interior of Feathered Serpent Temple, Teotihuacan, Mexico

The first images of the interior of the tunnel found under the Feathered Serpent Temple, in Teotihuacan, captured by a small robot introduced by archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), were presented to the media due to the relevance of the event in the history of Mexican archaeological research.

This is the first time a robot is integrated to archaeological exploration in Mexico; a similar devise was used in Egypt 10 years ago to explore a tomb.

Tlaloque 1, named after the mythological beings that helped Tlaloc, covered the first stretch of a tunnel that has not been walked for 1,800 years. Images reveal that the passageway built more than 2,000 years ago to represent the underworld, is stable enough to be explored by archaeologists soon.

During the presentation of the images to communication media representatives, the INAH national coordinator of Archaeology, Salvador Guilliem, was present. It was mentioned that this robotic device adds up to the technologies used by archaeologists in this project. Several weeks ago, geo radar was used to determine with precision that the tunnel conducts to 3 chambers, where the remains of important characters might have been buried.

Archaeologist Sergio Gomez Chavez, director of “Tlalocan Project: Underground Road”, informed that this is the first time that this kind of device is used in Mexico; “Apparently it had been used in Egypt, and us, as INAH researchers, are the first ones to develop it and use it in our country”.

Click here for a slideshow of images

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poster Presentation - Women and Religion Conference

I will be presenting a poster at the forthcoming Women and Religion conference, "Anti-Religion: Women of the Hell-Fire Clubs".

The First BIRTHA Postgraduate Women and Religion Conference will be held at Bristol University on 20 November 2010.   The keynote speaker will be Dr Carolyn Muessig, Reader in Medieval Religion in the Theology and Religious Studies department of the University of Bristol, and the concluding address with be given by Dr Martin Seeger, Lecturer in Thai Language and Culture, and Director of Thai Studies at Leeds University.  This conference brings together doctoral researchers and early career academics from a variety of disciplines and fields to explore the role and place of women in religion. Presenters will be coming from Universities in the UK and from Europe (France and Italy) and panels will include papers on the role and status of women in Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam both in the present and historically, and from a wide range of perspectives (textual, sociological, historical).  Registration is free but required as the number of places is limited. More information and registration form can be found at

Friday, November 5, 2010

Archaeology isn't just about holes in the ground

A new exhibition is challenging how we view what is archaeology and what is not.
The exhibition showcases online designs from the earliest times of the Internet.

Web design is now an industry, but early in the Internet's evolution there was an explosion of amazing design innovation. This expression of creativity is now being collected and save by some fans of web layouts.

Read more here

Ancient party garden!

A newly discovered 7th century B.C. palace garden near Jerusalem could reveal details about how royals liked to let loose in ancient times.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and Germany's Heidelberg University uncovered the royal garden at the site of Ramat Rachel, a kibbutz (communal farm) in Israel, and are leading the first full-scale excavation of this type of archaeological site in Israel.

"We have uncovered a very rare find," archaeologist Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University said.

The garden was a massive and lush green space royals would use to relax. Such pleasure spots were once the ultimate symbol of power, according to the researchers.

Read more here

35,000-year-old axe head places Aboriginal ancestors at the cutting edge of technology

THE oldest ground-edge tool in the world has been discovered in Arnhem Land, prompting scientists to reconsider exactly when the technique of grinding to make tools sharp entered the Stone Age.

Unearthed from a sandstone cave in a remote part of south-west Arnhem Land in May, the basalt axe piece measuring 4 centimetres in length has been radio-carbon dated at 35,000 years old.

The discovery is significant as it predates by at least 5000 years the oldest known examples of other ground-edge implements from Japan and Australia, which have been dated at 22,000 to 30,000 years old. By comparison, the earliest ground-edge axes from Europe, West Asia and Africa are about 8,500 years old.

Full story here

Skulls of 4 extinct animals discovered underwater in the Yucatan

Four complete skulls and jaws of a species extinct in America, Arctotherium, that lived during the Pleistocene and disappeared 11,300 years ago, were found by sub aquatic archaeologists in the bed of a cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

These are the only specimens of their type found until now in this region of the country, and add up to the list of Prehistorical fauna located inside this kind of water bodies, which before glaciations were dry caves.

Sub aquatic archaeologist Guillermo de Anda Alanis, from the Yucatan Autonomous University (UADY), who conducts this research as part of the project authorized by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) “El Culto al Cenote en el Centro de Yucatan” (Cult to Cenote in Central Yucatan) since 2007, announced the details of the discovery at the International Congress American Cultures and their Environment: Perspectives from Zoo Archaeology, Paleo Botanic and Ethno Biology, organized by UADY and taking place from November 1st to 5th 2010 in Merida, Yucatan.

Guillermo de Anda Alanis declared that the remains were located in a submerged cavern between the towns of Sotuta and Homun, in Yucatan, at 40 meters depth. Bones were dispersed in a 120 meter diameter surface, and it has been estimated that they could correspond to a family of bears, since the 2 adult skulls belonged to a male and a female, while the other 2 skulls did not reach their full development. They were all from the same species.

The archaeologist indicated that besides the mammals’ remains, 5 ancient human bone remains, still to be dated, were located 30 meters away from the bears, but it is still unknown if they are related.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The wonders of the internet - Dead Sea Scrolls to go online

The Dead Sea Scrolls, among the world's most important, mysterious and tightly restricted archaeological treasures, are about to get Googled.

The technology giant and Israel announced Tuesday that they are teaming up to give researchers and the public the first comprehensive and searchable database of the scrolls – a 2,000-year-old collection of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek documents that shed light on Judaism during biblical times and the origins of Christianity. For years, experts have complained that access to the scrolls has been too limited.

Once the images are up, anyone will be able to peruse exact copies of the original scrolls as well as an English translation of the text on their computer – for free. Officials said the collection, expected to be available within months, will feature sections that have been made more legible thanks to high-tech infrared technology.

Read more:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Trincomalee - Tamil Tablet

Millennium old Tamil inscription found in Trincomalee

A stone slab having a Tamil inscription, clearly in the alphabet of the Chola times, was found in Trincomalee while digging for cricket stadium construction work recently. The land where it was found is a part of the esplanade, on the right side of the Koa’neasvaram Road leading to the Siva temple inside Fort Frederick and is adjacent to the bay where the temple’s Theerththam (water cutting) ritual is held. Sometimes back, a Buddhist Vihara and another structure called Sanghamitta Buddhist Rest were constructed at this place. The inscribed slab was taken into possession by the Trincomalee police and was sent to the Department of Archaeology in Colombo.

Read more here.

Bridal colours of the wind?

Her life has been celebrated in song, story and a Disney cartoon, but no one knew where Pocahontas tied the knot with a tobacco farmer—until now.

Archaeologist Bill Kelso and his team were digging this summer in a previously unexplored section of the fort at Jamestown, Va., the country's oldest permanent English colony, when they uncovered a series of deep holes. They believe the holes once anchored heavy, timber columns supporting the fort's first church, known to have been built in 1608 and the place where Pocahontas got married in 1614

Read more of Kelly Crow's article here.

Recycling Romans!

The 21st century's three Rs -- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle -- were all the rage in Britain during the last century of Roman rule, a compositional analysis of ancient Roman glass tableware has revealed.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, large quantities of glass were recycled in Britain during the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D.

The reason wasn’t exactly a desire to go green, but a shortage of raw glass in the northern regions of the Roman Empire during the last centuries of Roman rule.

“It appears much of the glass reaching Britain in the late Roman period was manufactured from recycled material,” Caroline Jackson, at the archaeology department of the University of Sheffield, U.K., told Discovery News.

Believed to have originated in Mesopotamia around 2500 B.C., the art of glass-making spread to Egypt, with the most significant technological revolution -- glass blowing employing a tube -- occurring in the 1st century B.C. in the area of Syria and Palestine.

The Romans exploited the technique, and glass-making spread throughout the empire, with glass becoming a common household material.

Made out of sand, glass takes on the color of the chemical elements present in raw material. For example, sand containing iron produces blue-green glass, while iron and sulfur elements make a brownish glass.

Skilled Roman craftsmen were able to control glass color through a careful selection of the raw materials, and produced colorless glass by adding a decolorizer, an element which oxidizes the chemicals in the sand to remove the color.

“In the Roman period, this element would have been antimony or manganese,” said Jackson.

Resembling crystal, colorless glass was much valued. According to the Roman author, Pliny, the emperor Nero (37-68 A.D.) gave 6,000 sestertia (roughly $250,000) for two clear glass cups of ordinary size, with handles.

A highly developed and successful industry, Roman glass-making still holds some mystery. It is unknown where colorless glass was produced, and scholars still debate how the glass industry was organized.

Read more of Rossella Lorenzi's article here (

Friday, October 22, 2010

China's inland waterways under archaeological investigation

East China's Jiangxi Province will launch an underwater archaeological investigation in Poyang Lake next month, China's first such project in inland waters.

"This time, we will go into China's largest fresh-water lake to study its repository of underwater sites and artifacts," said Fan Changsheng, director of Jiangxi Provincial Institute of Archeology.

Archaeologists will start by identifying submerged indigenous sites, waterlogged ancient battlefields, and shipwrecks at "Laoyemiao" , a mysterious and dangerous area in Poyang Lake, according to Fan.

World-class equipment, including advanced sonar sound machines and sand pumps, will be used for the mission, said Fan.

The development of China's underwater archaeology began in the late 1980s when China start salvaging its ancient shipwrecks. While a new field of exploration, it has seen rapid development in recent years.

"China has previously conducted several maritime archaeological projects in its coastal regions, but this will be the first time it will take place in the country's fresh waters," said Fan.

Along with Laoyemiao, the Anhui sections of the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers have been selected as the second coveted spot for such underwater archaeological studies.

Laoyemiao, a narrow water channel linking Poyang Lake and the Yangtze River, was chosen for its historical and archeological significance.According to Fan, ancient vessels carrying famous Jingdezhen-made porcelain ware had to pass this gateway before heading out to destinations outside China.

Read more here

Pyramids, with homes on top?

John Roach at National Geographic News has a lot to say about an odd pyramid that had rooftop homes and possible ritual sacrifices ... At rare Peru site, elites linked to copper industry lived on high, experts say.

Yes, it's yielded human remains—including five females who may have been ritually sacrificed. But it's the signs of life that make a half-excavated Peruvian pyramid of the Moche culture stand out, archaeologists say.

"Often these pyramidal mounds were built as mortuaries more than anything else," said excavation co-leader Edward Swenson. (See pictures from the tomb of the Moche "king of bling.")

"In most instances [a pyramid] is not where people live, it is not where they were cooking their food," the University of Toronto archaeologist added.

But the newly exposed 1,400-year-old flat-topped pyramid supported residences for up to a couple dozen elites, who oversaw and perhaps took part in copper production at the site, evidence suggests.

The pre-Inca pyramid dwellers likely presided over important rituals, feasted on roasted llama and guinea pig, and drank corn beer, according to archaeologists working at the site.

Among the signs of occupation are at least 19 adobe stands where large vessels of water and corn beer were stored, as well as scattered llama, dog, guinea pig, and fish bones and traces of coca leaves and red peppers.

"There's a far more robust domestic occupation than what we would have expected," said expedition co-leader John Warner, an archaeologist with the University of Kentucky.

Read more of his great article here.

35 new archaeology jobs created (kind of)

In the news today:

"Headland Archaeology to create 35 jobs

Headland Archaeology today officially launched an office in Dublin, adding to its Cork, Galway, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London locations.

The new office will create five new jobs immediately, with a further 30 roles expected over the next 12 months.

The company, which supplies commercial archaeology services to the UK, Ireland and Europe, said the establishment of a permanent office in Dublin was “the next logical step”."

So, really five jobs have been created - yes, great, but is this really news worthy?

Is that the level of desperation we are at now that 5 new jobs and a probable 30 more is the stuff of headlines??? Especially with no actual guarantee of the 30 other jobs.

Oh dear, archaeology has really been hit hard!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Knock, knock on 5,00 year old door

Archaeologists in the Swiss city of Zurich have unearthed a 5,000-year-old door that may be one of the oldest ever found in Europe.

The ancient poplar wood door is "solid and elegant" with well-preserved hinges and a "remarkable" design for holding the boards together, chief archaeologist Niels Bleicher said Wednesday.

Using tree rings to determine its age, Bleicher believes the door could have been made in the year 3,063 B.C. — around the time that construction on Britain's world famous Stonehenge monument began.

"The door is very remarkable because of the way the planks were held together," Bleicher told The Associated Press.

Harsh climatic conditions at the time meant people had to build solid houses that would keep out much of the cold wind that blew across Lake Zurich, and the door would have helped, he said. "It's a clever design that even looks good."

The door was part of a settlement of so-called "stilt houses" frequently found near lakes about a thousand years after agriculture and animal husbandry were first introduced to the pre-Alpine region.

It is similar to another door found in nearby Pfaeffikon, while a third — made from one solid piece of wood — is believed to be even older, possibly dating back to 3,700 B.C., said Bleicher.

The latest find was discovered at the dig for what is intended to be a new underground car park for Zurich's opera house.

Archaeologists have found traces of at least five Neolithic villages believed to have existed at the site between 3,700 and 2,500 years B.C., including objects such as a flint dagger from what is now Italy and an elaborate hunting bow.

Source: click here

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's all Greek to me!

One of the world's most important caches of Greek manuscripts is going online, part of a growing number of ancient documents to hit the Web in recent years.

The British Library said Monday that it was making more than a quarter of its 1,000 volume-strong collection of handwritten Greek texts available online free of charge, something curators there hope will be a boon to historians, biblical scholars and students of classical Greece alike.

Although the manuscripts — highlights of which include a famous collection of Aesopic fables discovered on Mount Athos in 1844 — have long been available to scholars who made the trip to the British Library's reading rooms, curator Scot McKendrick said their posting to the web was opening antiquity to the entire world.
Source/Read more here

Set Sail for Singapore!

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Singapore Tourism Board and the National Heritage Board of Singapore today announced a partnership to organize the first exhibition and international tour of one of the oldest and most important marine archaeological finds of the late 20th century. The exhibition will focus on the 1998 discovery of a ninth-century shipwreck and its astonishing cargo of about 60,000 objects from Tang dynasty China, ranging from mass-produced ceramics to rare and extraordinary items of finely worked gold. The cargo had laid undisturbed on the ocean floor for more than 1,100 years until sea-cucumber divers discovered it off the coast of Indonesia's Belitung Island. The ship, an Arab dhow, and its contents confirm the existence of a direct maritime trade route (alluded to in ancient Chinese and Arabic texts) from China to the Persian Gulf and beyond-well before the Portuguese set sail in the 15th century.
Source/Read more here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Playing games with archaeology

Did you know: the work checkmate comes from the Persian "Shah Mat", which means "the king is dead"...

Chess seems to have followers across the globe, and further back in history it was no different. It is disputed as to where the game was invented, but likely candidates are northern India or China. By the year 1,000 A.D. the popular game had spread to Europe.

Now a collection of 2,500 year old chess pieces have been discovered in China. The 10 pieces are made of bone and were found piled one atop the other. According to the researcher Fan Shuai, from the Hebei Institute of Archaeology, such chess pieces are very rare. Read more here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Breaking into history...

I know very few archaeologists who haven't broken into their fair share of archaeological sites, out of general interest and just to have a poke around.

Sometimes, people get a little carried away and climb on things they shouldn't (pictured), or, even worse scratch their names on 3000-year old sites!

If you decide to get up to such mischief while in India, watch out for their new CCTV system, click here to read more.

As everyone knows, Hazel Dodge is a legend

And now even more famous, click here to find out more.

Titled “Roman Spectacle in the Greek East,” the free talk will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Morgan Room of Poling Hall. It is sponsored by the MC Classics Department, in cooperation with the Western Illinois Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sri Lanka - South Asian Archaeology Conference

One thing I regret from my time in Sri Lanka is not being able to do any wreck diving or underwater archaeology (due to bombings at the time). There is an incredible wealth of maritime treasures that is sure to provide fantastic discoveries - shipwrecks, sunken cities and who knows what else! There is real potential for huge developments.

Wish I could attend the conference in Colombo today! The 3rd International Congress of the Society of South Asian Archaeology (SOSAA)
I am really glad to see that there is still a focus on the archaeological wealth in this region - it deserves proper attention.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Archaeology field school places in high demand

It's no surprise that field school places are in high demand - smart students know that getting some field experience is worth its weight in gold and is the best way to land a job in commercial archaeology.

The Irish Times has reported that a County Clare field school has attracted three applicants for every place. This is bad news for the students that miss out but good news for those running the course.

The course helps fund research in the area, as part of the Caherconnell Archaeological Project.

Most of the applicants are from North America - the source of much funding for Masters and PhD programs in Ireland and the UK (as such students pay international fees - their contribution is tremendously important).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

BBC Radio 5 Live Interview!

Catch me on BBC Radio 5 this Saturday 17th July at 8am! I'll be talking about high-end memorabilia, particularly movie merchandise (like the recently auctioned Terminator robotic arm)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Easter Island and Thor

As if you needed more proof that Norwegians are just amazing - check out details of Thor Heyerdahl...yes, he name really was Thor!

Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) was a Norwegian ethnographer who explored the archaeology of the Pacific and excavated at Easter Island. He fought with the Free Norwegian Forces in World War II, and was decorated for his bravery.

In 1947, he embarked on his legendary Kon-Tiki expedition from Peru to Polynesia, travelling over 6,000 kilometers on a small balsawood raft. The expedition proved that it was possible for such a tremendous journey to be made on a lift raft and affirmed Heyerdahl's belief that this is how the string of islands across the Pacific Ocean came to be populated millennia ago.

His epic journey was filmed, winning Heyerdahl and Oscar for Best Documentary, and turned into a book, selling 60 million copies worldwide.

While on his sea hop Thor enjoyed the simpler things in life, like catching sharks for dinner...!

In 1970, he crossed the Atlantic on a papyrus raft, Ra II, undermining the belief that Columbus was first to cross the ocean. His adventures always included an international crew and they always flew a UN flag, in support of Heyerdahl's internationalism convictions. He was also concerned with the damage to the planet caused by pollution.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

South Asia's oldest living city

Most cities and dwellings see a natural rise and fall, with periods of occupation followed by reduction in size or abandonment.
Going back to at least 539BC, the city of Peshawar commands the title of South Asia's oldest living city, based on excavations at Gor Khatri.

You can read more about the archaeological work in the city here.

Pioneering maritime work in China

I am absolutely delighted about this. $40 million has been invested into maritime archaeology work in China, led by Zhang Wei of the National Museum of China. After receiving training from Texas A&M, Wei removed an 800 year old sunken merchant ship, dubbed South China Sea No. 1, and moved it to the Maritime Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang.

I did some research into Chinese maritime archaeology, specifically the Opium Wars, back in 2007. While all the museums were very nice to me and helpful, maritime interests didn't seem to be fully developed. This new investment by the government is definitely a step in the right direction.

Read more about Zhang Wei's work here.

Global warming reveals more archaeology

Not really a silver lining to the possible destruction of the earth...but new archaeology discoveries in any case...sigh...
Melting ice patches in Colorado have revealed archaeological remains that have been preserved for thousands of years. 10,000 year old weapons have been discovered by archaeologist Craig Lee of the University of Colorado.
Researchers have little choice but to collect all of the finds as they find them as, otherwise, the items will very quickly degrade due to their fragile condition.
You can read a bit more about the weapons here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to make me grind my teeth

Using the "Mother Goddess" name in vain...!

So, my posts have not been of a very personal nature, but, if you want to know how to get my blood boiling, then feast your eyes on the last paragraph taken from The Archaeological Institute of America Vol.63, No.3 May/June 2010 "Clonycavan and Old Croghan Men" by Lobell and Patel.

It's not all bad - an interesting subject, lots of fun archaeological facts, funky hair, trade routes, and an Irish focus.

BUT... then they have to go and RUIN it by talking about the "Mother Goddess". Honestly, there just simply is not much in the way of evidence, just wild speculation.

For your reading pleasure, get the full article here.

The section that really pushed my buttons is:
"The bodies served as offerings to the goddess of the land to whom the king was wed in his inauguration ceremony. According to Kelly, both men’s multiple injuries may reflect the belief that the goddess was not only one of the land and fertility, but also of sovereignty, war, and death. “By using a range of methods to kill the victim, the ancient Irish sacrificed to the goddess in all her forms,” he says."
This seems like a bit of a leap to me - stating that the bodies were an offering to the Mother Goddess....hmmmm...
I just can't bring myself to believe this absolute link with the Mother Goddess - prove it to me! Send me some evidence I can sink my teeth into! Convert me! I am sure Mr. Kelly of the National Museum of Ireland knows a billion times more than me, so I am very confused by all of this.

Monday, June 28, 2010


An ancient island complex has been discovered in Connemara.

The Crannog site was found in Lough Dú Litir close to Carna and is believed to be over a thousand years old.

Local silversmith and archaeology student Ruairi O'Neill and colleague Sean Foley stumbled upon the crannog while exploring in the area.

Source: Galway Bay FM

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

First Icons of St Peter and Paul - discovered using lasers

ROME — Twenty-first century laser technology has opened a window into the early days of the Catholic Church, guiding researchers through the dank, musty catacombs beneath Rome to a startling find: the first known icons of the apostles Peter and Paul.

Vatican officials unveiled the paintings Tuesday, discovered along with the earliest known images of the apostles John and Andrew in an underground burial chamber beneath an office building on a busy street in a working-class Rome neighborhood.

The images, which date from the second half of the 4th century, were uncovered using a new laser technique that allows restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the brilliant dark colors of the paintings underneath.

The technique could revolutionize the way restoration work is carried out in the miles (kilometers) of catacombs that burrow under the Eternal City where early Christians buried their dead.

The icons were discovered on the ceiling of a tomb of an aristocratic Roman woman at the Santa Tecla catacomb, near where the remains of the apostle Paul are said to be buried.

(Story Source)

Strike at Glasgow University Arts Faculty, including Archaeology Dept.

Lecturers from one of Scotland’s leading universities have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over job cuts.

The move, by academics from Glasgow University yesterday, means there could be a summer of disruption to student admissions and the marking of resit exams.

A ballot was held by the University and College Union (UCU) after the university management refused to rule out compulsory redundancies in ongoing plans for job cuts.

The university has targeted up to 80 jobs in a number of different academic disciplines, including archaeology, biomedical and life sciences, and the education department.

The union argues job losses are unnecessary because the university is heading for a £6 million surplus and will do lasting damage to the university’s academic reputation.

However, the university argues the job cuts are necessary because of specific financial issues in some of the ­departments, while also warning of future threats to public funding of universities generally.

The announcement on the result of the ballot comes on the eve of a meeting of the univer sity’s ruling court, which will decide on whether to pursue compulsory redundancies.

Mary Senior, UCU Scottish official, said: “There is a clear mandate for industrial action, but we hope the dispute can be resolved without recourse to strikes. The Glasgow University Court cannot ignore its staff and must agree to work together to resolve the situation without forcing job cuts.”

She added: “We are calling on the Court to end the uncertainty for staff in the threatened departments or risk damaging the university’s proud international reputation.”

However, a spokesman for the university said: “We are disappointed at the UCU ballot result as industrial action will only harm students.

“We continue to consult with staff and their unions and Glasgow University will do all in its power to minimise the effects of any action on students and the university as a whole.”

Earlier this year, the university announced plans for up to 80 job cuts in a number of different departments, including the Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (Guard).

Established in 1989, Guard is a commercial enterprise run by university academics which provides archaeological services to businesses and public bodies across Scotland.

It is best known for its work on Time Team, presented by Tony Robinson, and BBC2’s Two Men In A Trench, co-presented by Neil Oliver and Tony Pollard, head of Guard’s Centre for Battlefield Archaeology.

After the plight of Guard was featured in The Herald, the university’s ruling court gave it a temporary reprieve to allow for closer scrutiny of its finances.

(Story Source)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Secret Sardinian Spirals Exposed!

Oh! Conspiracy! Attempting to hide ancient spiral fresco designs! This is an absolutely bizarre case.

Diego and Paola Meozzi, the Italian archæology journalists who produce the admirable Stone Pages website, have alerted the outside world to an amazing discovery on the Italian island of Sardinia.

It involves a Neolithic site now referred to as tomba della scacchiera (“the chequered tomb”), near Bonorva. Diego and Paola met a local man, Antonello Porcu, who told them about the site.

In 2007, the Bonorva municipality initiated an archæological survey of the area, where there is a known prehistoric necropolis. This led to an excavation programme in 2008. Despite the lead archæologist saying that they hadn’t yet found anything of interest, Porcu noticed that for several consecutive days workers coming down from the excavation area were covered by rock powder. He queried them in Sardinian (not the same as Italian) and they hinted that something remarkable had been uncovered up in the hills. Their curiosity tweaked, Porcu and his brother went up there. They were staggered by what they found.

Peering beneath a groundsheet placed there by the excavators, the Porcu brothers discovered an entrance passage with a rock-cut façade leading into a large tomb with three side cells. The tomb interior has huge bull horns carved on the long side of the main chamber, whose stone roof is carved in a way reminiscent of timber planks and is painted in dark blue and white. But most striking of all is a series of seven bright red ochre spirals, each up to 70cm across, painted on a side cell; they were executed with skillful bravura. On the roof of a side cell there is also a geometric figure very rarely found in a Sardinian tomb – a black and white chequered motif. The best guess so far is that the monument dates to the so-called Ozieri culture (3800 to 2900 BC).

Stirred by this find, Antonello Porcu informed the mayor of Bonorva. The man was astonished, saying he had not been informed about it by anyone connected with the survey. Fortunately for us, Porcu had the presence of mind to take photographs of the tomb’s interior, because a few months later official representatives of the Soprintendenza Archeological for Nuoro and Sassari (the local branch of the Italian Ministry for Heritage) put a massive block of rock in front of the only entrance of the tomb, filling everything with concrete and covering the whole area with a thick layer of soil, sealing the tomb once again. This was done in order “to protect the tomb against looters”.

The local Sardinian archæological author ities are driven by the desire to protect the site and do not want word spread about it, but Diego and Paola Meozzi dis agree. “Our heritage is a national treasure and must be shared: protection is one thing, but hiding an ancient site indefinitely – even if motivated by preservation princ iples – is something else,” Diego comments. “We wonder just how many remarkable monuments have been found, studied and sealed once again over the years by the archæologists in Sardinia with only a few authorized persons aware of them.” He asks that people around the world send messages to the Soprintendente Archeologico for Sassari and Nuoro (Dr. Bruno Massabò – e-mail address: bmassabo@arti.beniculturali), urging a re-think of the closure policy. So go to it, dear readers. Stone Pages, 21 April 2010.

A concluding observation (remember you read it here first): if we look at the picture here of one panel of the tomb’s paintings, showing spirals either side of a thick vertical line, it calls to mind the arrangement of motifs on the entrance stone to the Neolithic passage grave of Newgrange in Ireland – see the picture of that here also and compare. (Indeed, the motif of spirals either side of a vertical line recur on other nearby Boyne Valley monuments too.) One archæo logical researcher has already noted that the tomba della scacchiera spirals are more reminiscent of rock art motifs in Atlantic coastal Europe than, say, the painted spirals inside the Hal Saflieni hypogeum on Malta. This could all have implications as to who came from where in prehistory –what more might Sardinia’s other hidden secrets be able to tell us? (Archæologist George Nash, one of this columnist’s editorial colleagues at Time and Mind, is becoming actively engaged in trying to encourage a differ ent heritage approach by Sardinian archæological author ities. See Time and Mind for updates in due course.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

City of Avaris, discovered by radar

This is what I like to see! Not to be confused with Avarice or Avatar...
Very exciting stuff, locating city remains using radar imaging.

An ancient Egyptian city believed to be Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos people who ruled 3,500 years ago, has been located by radar, Egypt's culture ministry says.

A team of Austrian archaeologists used radar imaging to find the underground outlines of the city in the Nile Delta, a now densely populated area.

The Hyksos were foreign occupiers from Asia who ruled Egypt for a century.

Avaris was their summer capital, near what is now the town of Tal al-Dabaa.

The radar images show the outlines of streets and houses underneath the green farm fields and modern towns in Egypt's Delta.

Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said in a statement that the area could be part of Avaris, the summer capital of the Hyksos who ruled Egypt from 1664-1569 BC, during the 15th Dynasty.

"The pictures taken using radar [imaging] show an underground city complete with streets, houses and tombs which gives a general overview of the urban planning of the city," Dr Hawass said in a statement.

Irene Mueller, who heads the Austrian team, said the main purpose of the project had been to determine how far the underground city extended.

"The aim of the geophysical survey was to identify the size of the ancient city and the mission managed to identify a large number of houses and streets and a port inside the city," she said.

"The mission also identified one of the Nile river tributaries that passed through the city, as well as two islands," she was quoted as saying in the statement.

(Story Source: BBC)