Thursday, March 31, 2011


Archaeological brains that is! Incredible, rare find of a 2,500 year-old, mostly-intact, brain.

A 2,500-year-old human skull uncovered in England was less of a surprise than what was in it: the brain. The discovery of the yellowish, crinkly, shrunken brain prompted questions about how such a fragile organ could have survived so long and how frequently this strange type of preservation occurs.

Except for the brain, all of the skull's soft tissue was gone when the skull was pulled from a muddy Iron Age pit where the University of York was planning to expand its Heslington East campus.

"It was just amazing to think that a brain of someone who had died so many thousands of years ago could persist just in wet ground," said Sonia O'Connor, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Bradford. O’Connor led a team of researchers who assessed the state of the brain after it was found in 2008 and looked into likely modes of preservation.

"It's particularly surprising, because if you talk to pathologists who deal with fresh dead bodies they say the first organ to really deteriorate and to basically go to liquid is the brain because of its high fat content," O'Connor said.

When it was found, the skull — which belonged to a man probably between 26 and 45 years old — was accompanied by a jaw and two neck vertebrae, bearing evidence of hanging and then decapitation. Cut marks on the inside of the neck indicate that the head was severed while there was still flesh on the bones, O'Connor said. There is, however, no indication of why he was hanged, and the rest of his remains have yet to be found.

Full story from Wynne Parry, here

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Theologian proposes God had a wife in earlier versions of the Bible

As reported by Dean Praetorius ,The Huffington Post:

God's Wife, Asherah, May Have Been Edited Out Of The Bible Says Theologian

This might not exactly be the version of the Bible you remember from Sunday school.

Early versions of the Bible apparently featured a fertility godess, Asherah, who may have been God's wife, at least according to one British theologian. Back in 1967, historian Raphael Patai mentioned ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah, according to Discovery.

Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, is shedding new light on the theory. However, even if she's right, the Bible's editors may very well have wiped her almost clean from the document, reports TIME.

What remains of God's purported other half are clues in ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in an ancient Canaanite coastal city, now in modern-day Syria. Inscriptions on pottery found in the Sinai desert also show Yahweh and Asherah were worshipped as a pair, and a passage in the Book of Kings mentions the goddess as being housed in the temple of Yahweh.
J. Edward Wright, president of The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, backs Stavrakopoulou's findings, saying several Hebrew inscriptions mention "Yahweh and his Asherah."
It's all a bit Dan Brown-ish, but apparently there are still a few signs of her in the Bible.

Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, "is the Bible's admission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem. In the Book of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her."

Whether the goddess was actually edited out of the document is debatable, but Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, told TIME the ancient Isrealites were, in fact, polytheists.

Stavrakopoulou's books and papers have become the basis for a documentary series in Europe where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Volunteers needed to help on my project


Site A

Reconstructed monastic site:

  • Recon. survey 4th April
  • Mag., Res., EDM., & building survey work 5th - 8th April (approx. dates, may take more or less time)

Site B

Artificial cave complex:

  • Building survey and EDM survey
  • (Exact dates to be confirmed pending permissions)


  • Landrovers will be taken from the University of Bristol carpark, leaving morning, returning evening. No overnight stays.
  • Sites are approx. 2 hours drive from the University.
  • Overall, the project should take 8 days to survey both sites.
  • Attendance is flexible.

Further details coming soon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Arnos Vale Cememtery survey

What a fantastic opportunity to test out the EDM equipment - thanks to Lindsay (pictured below) for letting me help out. You can read more about Arnos Vale here

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Battle Practice, Blaise Castle

I was really lucky to tag along and make this little video! The gang had a crazy day, with very few injuries.

Lost city of Atlantis - new claims!

A U.S.-led research team may have finally located the lost city of Atlantis, the legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain.

"This is the power of tsunamis," head researcher Richard Freund told Reuters.

"It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that's pretty much what we're talking about," said Freund, a University of Hartford, Connecticut, professor who lead an international team searching for the true site of Atlantis.

To solve the age-old mystery, the team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site just north of Cadiz, Spain. There, buried in the vast marshlands of the Dona Ana Park, they believe that they pinpointed the ancient, multi-ringed dominion known as Atlantis.

The team of archeologists and geologists in 2009 and 2010 used a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping, and underwater technology to survey the site.

Freund's discovery in central Spain of a strange series of "memorial cities," built in Atlantis' image by its refugees after the city's likely destruction by a tsunami, gave researchers added proof and confidence, he said.

Atlantis residents who did not perish in the tsunami fled inland and built new cities there, he added.

The team's findings will be unveiled on Sunday in "Finding Atlantis," a new National Geographic Channel special.

While it is hard to know with certainty that the site in Spain in Atlantis, Freund said the "twist" of finding the memorial cities makes him confident Atlantis was buried in the mud flats on Spain's southern coast.

"We found something that no one else has ever seen before, which gives it a layer of credibility, especially for archeology, that makes a lot more sense," Freund said.

Greek philosopher Plato wrote about Atlantis some 2,600 years ago, describing it as "an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Hercules," as the Straits of Gibraltar were known in antiquity. Using Plato's detailed account of Atlantis as a map, searches have focused on the Mediterranean and Atlantic as the best possible sites for the city.

Tsunamis in the region have been documented for centuries, Freund says. One of the largest was a reported 10-story tidal wave that slammed Lisbon in November, 1755.

Debate about whether Atlantis truly existed has lasted for thousands of years. Plato's "dialogues" from around 360 B.C. are the only known historical sources of information about the iconic city. Plato said the island he called Atlantis "in a single day and night... disappeared into the depths of the sea."

Experts plan further excavations are planned at the site where they believe Atlantis is located and at the mysterious "cities" in central Spain 150 miles away to more closely study geological formations and to date artifacts.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune) / Source

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Owner Sought for Historic Warship in Philly

The USS Olympia, a one-of-a-kind steel cruiser from the Spanish-American War, needs $2 million to $5 million in immediate repairs to stabilize it and an additional $10 million to $20 million for dry dock and restoration. The Independence Seaport Museum says it's looking for someone to take ownership of the National Historic Landmark.

The museum posted a transfer application Monday on its website. It's looking for a state, city or charitable organization that will assume ownership of the Olympia. Individuals and for-profit groups are not eligible to apply.

The museum is holding a summit at the end of March for potential buyers, and museum officials are hoping to have the transfer wrapped up by November 2012. They said they cannot afford the repairs and that the Olympia, purportedly the world's oldest steel warship still afloat, will be scrapped or scuttled if a new owner is not found.

The 344-foot-long protected cruiser ideally should have been dry-docked every 20 years for maintenance, but it has not been out of the water since 1945 and its hull has extensive damage at the water line. Its caretakers have said that without major repairs, the Olympia could sink at its moorings on the Delaware River.

Since taking stewardship of the floating museum from a cash-strapped nonprofit in 1996, the Independence Seaport Museum has spent $5.5 million on repairs, inspections and maintenance. About 90,000 people visit the 5,500-ton ship every year.

From Olympia's bridge on May 1, 1898, during the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines, Commodore George Dewey uttered the famous command: "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley." The Spanish fleet was decimated, making Dewey and the Olympia national heroes.

The ship later was active in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean, served as a Naval Academy training vessel, and took part in the 1918 Allied landing at Murmansk during the Russian Civil War.

Its final mission was bringing home the body of World War I's Unknown Soldier from France in 1921.

Source: here

Independence Seaport Museum:

Archaeologists from INAH Conduct Research at Hoyo Negro Flooded Cave in Quintana Roo

MEXICO CITY.- The finding of a human skull and bones of Prehistoric mega fauna, among them a gomphothere, in a flooded cave at the Peninsula of Yucatan, motivated the implementation of the interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) to continue exploration at the site and the study of these archaeological vestiges that could be more than 10,000 years old.

Archaeologist Pilar Luna Erreguerena, subdirector of INAH Underwater Archaeology, informed that after the ancient remains were discovered by 3 specialized speleodivers, a specific project will be formulated for the site known as Hoyo Negro, part of the Aktun-Ha flooded caves system in Quintana Roo.

“This might be a very ancient site, so we need to protect it with great care. According to images captured to conduct registration, materials present a good conservation state. Besides the skull, we found a large bone that might be a humerus”.

The INAH specialist mentioned that the finding took place after a long exploration stage that began 4 years ago. Speleodivers covered the 1200 meters long tunnel up to the entrance to a pool known as Hoyo Negro and then descended 60 meters, where they detected a human skull and long bone, remains of extinct mega fauna and ashes of a bonfire”.

She added that material was found at 3 different points of the flooded cave, “they were found 20 to 30 meters away from each other, so we cannot determine that they all correspond to a single event; it is necessary to conduct further studies. Vestiges cannot be connected yet with any culture nor establish its exact dating”.

Luna Erreguerena commented that while other findings of bone remains made in flooded caves at the Peninsula of Yucatan are dated 10,000 years old, this discovery’s age cannot be determined until morphological and DNA studies are completed.

“This will happen after the In-situ registration stage and sampling for their analysis is concluded. Based on a meticulous study, we will consider taking the vestiges off the water without damaging them”.

Pilar Luna commented that the multidisciplinary project will count on with the participation of archaeologists from the INAH Underwater Archaeology Sub direction (SAS), specialists in other disciplines and the speleodivers that made the discovery.

The SAS head remarked the role of the speleodivers that made the discovery, Alex Alvarez, Attolini Franco and Alberto Nava, who, facing the importance and fragility of the elements, gave notice to INAH to protect the site from alterations.

Pilar Luna commented that INAH has exhorted divers not to explore caves like Hoyo Negro or other caves with archaeological vestiges, since they are at risk of being damaged and even destroyed due to human activity.

Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda, from the National University of Yucatan (UAdY) commented that this is the first exploration of the flooded cave, implying a long registration and observation process, tasks that have required special water transportation devices and specialized speleodivers.

De Anda remarked the relevance of coordination been conducted by INAH, as well as the formalization of the multidisciplinary project, to investigate the remains that correspond to humans and mega fauna, among which a gomphothere has been identified.

Source: here