Archaeology news

Greek Fire June 28th ... Greek inventor Archimedes is said to have used mirrors to burn the ships of an attacking Roman fleet advancing on Syracuse. The story comes from the medieval period and appears to be an attempt, at that time, to try and understand what Archimedes did. New research has suggested he may have used steam cannons and fiery cannonballs, instead of mirrors (a process that is too slow). The battle took place between 214 and 212BC but no contemporary Greek or Roman source mentions a device involving mirrors.

exhibition in Oxford

There is an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford on 'The Lost World of Old Europe' - basically, Europe between 6000 and 3000BC, the Climatic Optimum (or a period of history sandwiched between two events). Various objects from the Danube civilisation and the Balkans will be on display, including from the Varna civilisation. There is evidence of widespread trade from northern France, Germany and Denmark, across central and eastern Europe into South Russia, and the artifacts reflect this situation. Exhibition from now until August 15th.

Atlatl Dart recovered from melting glacier

This story is interesting as it involves melting mountain glaciers - alleged to be the result of global warming. A new field of archaeological investigation has developed over the last 8 years or so as it was realised some well preserved artifacts were being uncovered by melting ice - not just in North America, as in this instance, but in the Alps and other locations. It is a well established fact that some mountain glaciers melt on a regular basis.

Peopling North America

From the nature of the title it is obvious this is a study with a focus on North America - and basically, it has been found that mtDNA amongst Native Americans is more varied than earlier studies claimed. It also adhers to the favoured North American position on the date of entry (from Beringia), between 18 and 15,000 years ago (at the end of the Ice Age). This heavily loaded statement, the consensus opinion, is an influence on the arguments made - so one has to read between the lines.

Egypt's Pre-dynastic

At there is a report of a plan by Zahi Hawass to introduce museums that specialise - including one housing artifacts of the Pre-dynastic period which he intends to establish at Qena. The Pre-dynastic phase represent the period preceding unification. Neolithic people appeared around 5000BC, the general date, replacing earlier hunter-gatherer socieities on the Nile river terraces.

Ice Age face reconstruction

Excellent but long article on Ice Age Homo sapiens and Neanderthal interaction prompted by a Russian restoration of the facial features of a 30,000 years old skull (see It appears the mtDNA of the Ice Age man still survives in modern European populations - but there is the usual recital of the consensus theory concerning the origins and spread of humans and assumptions on migration routes based on the Ice Age theory of a c

Tutankhamon - another theory on the cause of death June 25th reports on a German theory that rejects malaria as the cause of death but blames sickle cell disease (quoting a letter written to the Journal of the American Medical Association by a couple of medical scientists).

Copper exploitation June 26th ... pieces of copper slag from smelting activity have been found in Serbia dating back as early as 7000 years ago. This is 500 years earlier than any significant sign of metallurgy in the Middle East - namely, in southern Iran around 6500 years ago. The Journal of Archaeological Science has the paper and says that other sites in SE Europe date from 6000 years ago and the contemporary Vinca culture is famous for its metal objects, including copper vessels.

Jill Eyers on Roman brothel in a des res village in the Thames Valley

Hambledon village, between Henley and Marlow, a short distance from the Thames Long Distance footpath, is an upmarket village with a nearby winery and toff food on offer, yet it has been hiding a secret. The presence of a brothel. In this instance the brothel is a Roman one and was attached in some way to a villa complex near the modern village - now under a field of growing barley. The story comes from BBC News and will shortly be the focus of a BBC2 programme.

Megaliths, Roman Cornwall, Caral ... and those darn Neanderthals again ...

At we have an article that suggests Neanderthals separated from other Homo sapiens as early as one million years ago - going by DNA analysis. Once again, this is an exercise in computer simulation dressed up as fact, and it goes on to conclude no actual hominid ancestor for either Neanderthals or Homo sapiens has been found - the missing link is still missing. In the study only dental morphology was analysed - nothing else but teeth.