Posts tagged archaeologist

(Source: tezcatlipolka)

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oldowan:

Archaeology: Date with history

By revamping radiocarbon dating, Tom Higham is painting a new picture of humans’ arrival in Europe.
Beside a slab of trilobites, in a quiet corner of Britain’s Oxford University Museum of Natural History, lies a collection of ochre-tinted human bones known as the Red Lady of Paviland. In 1823, palaeontologist William Buckland painstakingly removed the fossils from a cave in Wales, and discovered ivory rods, shell beads and other ornaments in the vicinity. He concluded that they belonged to a Roman-era witch or prostitute.
“He did a good job of excavating, but he interpreted it totally wrong,” says Tom Higham, a 46-year-old archaeological scientist at the University of Oxford’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. Buckland’s immediate successors did a little better. They determined that the Red Lady was in fact a man, and that the ornaments resembled those found at much older sites in continental Europe. Then, in the twentieth century, carbon dating found the bones to be about 22,000 years old1 and, later, 30,000 years old2— even though much of Britain was encased in ice and seemingly uninhabitable for part of that time. When Higham eventually got the bones, his team came up with a more likely scenario: they were closer to 33,000 years old and one of the earliest examples of ceremonial burial in Western Europe

oldowan:

Archaeology: Date with history

By revamping radiocarbon dating, Tom Higham is painting a new picture of humans’ arrival in Europe.

Beside a slab of trilobites, in a quiet corner of Britain’s Oxford University Museum of Natural History, lies a collection of ochre-tinted human bones known as the Red Lady of Paviland. In 1823, palaeontologist William Buckland painstakingly removed the fossils from a cave in Wales, and discovered ivory rods, shell beads and other ornaments in the vicinity. He concluded that they belonged to a Roman-era witch or prostitute.

“He did a good job of excavating, but he interpreted it totally wrong,” says Tom Higham, a 46-year-old archaeological scientist at the University of Oxford’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. Buckland’s immediate successors did a little better. They determined that the Red Lady was in fact a man, and that the ornaments resembled those found at much older sites in continental Europe. Then, in the twentieth century, carbon dating found the bones to be about 22,000 years old1 and, later, 30,000 years old2— even though much of Britain was encased in ice and seemingly uninhabitable for part of that time. When Higham eventually got the bones, his team came up with a more likely scenario: they were closer to 33,000 years old and one of the earliest examples of ceremonial burial in Western Europe

(Source: theolduvaigorge)

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Precolumbian Rain God Vessel, c. 1100–1400Mexico, Colima, El Chanal, Mixtec style, Middle Post Classic period (1200–1400)Polychromed ceramic.

Precolumbian Rain God Vessel, c. 1100–1400
Mexico, Colima, El Chanal, Mixtec style, Middle Post Classic period (1200–1400)
Polychromed ceramic.

(Source: anormaux, via anordinaryethnography)

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This is a so-called Chac Mool statue from Chichén Itzá. They’re a fairly typical piece of sculpture at sites dating to a period of mixed Toltec / Maya culture in 11th and 12th century Mesoamerica (the “mix” thought by most to have resulted from a Toltec invasion of the northern Yucatán peninsula). That flat spot on its stomach is thought to have been used as a place to leave offerings to the gods (the sometimes gruesome nature of the offerings being left to your imagination).

They were named (supposedly after the Mayan for “thundering paw”) by a 19th century explorer and antiquarian named Augustus Le Plongeon — an eccentric figure now known more for his fanciful speculation than for his actual (impressive) achievements. In particular, Le Plongeon and his collaborator (later, wife) Alice Dixon spent a decade documenting and photographing the then-newly-discovered Maya ruins of the Yucatán peninsula. Le Plongeon and Dixon went on to develop a number of speculative theories on the history of the Maya (essentially all now discounted by modern scholarship), including supposed links between the Maya and both ancient Egypt as well as the fabled lost continent of Atlantis. In Le Plongeon’s and Dixon’s alternative history, Chac Mool statues were representations of a prince of Atlantis (of the same name).

Although most of the Chac Mool examples have been found at Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, and Tula, Hidalgo, we also know of its existence in other pre-Hispanic sites located in the states of Quintana Roo, Michoacan, Veracruz and even in Mexico City.

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 Leith’s historic defences laid bare

A SECTION of Leith’s 16th century defences have been uncovered ahead of a proposed housing development.

The town ditch was constructed to protect the port from English sieges.

Archaeologists now hope to discover more about the history of Leith which hundreds of years ago was such an important port that it became pivotal to the control of Scotland.

With much of the former fortifications now built on, this section provides one of the best opportunities to learn more about the extensive defences built by Mary of Guise in 1548 when she moved the seat of government to Leith.

The fortifications enclosed most of the area now bounded by Bernard Street, Constitution Street and Great Junction Street and a small stretch of the west bank around Sandport Place. The defences were constructed to withstand the siege of Edinburgh and Leith by English forces in 1548/9.

These defences were again brought into action in 1559/60 when Leith was besieged by Protestant forces. Demolished soon after this siege they were re-erected around a hundred years later during the Civil War Period and defined the town boundaries until around the start of the 19th century.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure Convenor for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “This is a rare opportunity to further our knowledge of the fortifications and defences that defined Leith in the past. I look forward to seeing what fresh information might be uncovered about this very important period in Leith’s history.”

Martin Cook, AOC Archaeology Group Project Manager, said: “As the archaeologists in charge of this important excavation, we’re intrigued to uncover what might lie beneath the surface. When the Port of Leith Housing Association acquired the site we examined it and found evidence of the medieval defences of Leith. As one of the only parts of the fortifications that has not yet been built on this section could provide a real insight into the late-medieval defences of Leith.”

A viewing window will be erected throughout the excavations for the public to view works on site.

Once the dig is completed work will begin on an affordable housing development by Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA).

PoLHA Chief Executive Keith Anderson said: “Leith is a place which combines a rich historical past with an important role to play in the present day and future. This is a good opportunity for archaeologists to find out more about the area’s history before we continue with plans to provide much-needed affordable housing to safeguard Leith’s ongoing story.”

The site was formerly occupied by an indoor market comprising stalls and a supermarket which was destroyed by fire in September 2000.

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Genetic analyses of individuals buried in funereal monuments near a volcano in southern Peru have revealed the family relationships and burial traditions of ancient Peruvians that lived before Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas.

The ancient Peruvians buried their dead in “chullpas,” structures resembling vertical tombs, which can be up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) high. Researchers hadn’t known how the individuals buried within one chullpa were related.

Families were organized into “ayllu,” a group of relatives that shared common land and responsibilities. Historians think that men retained the ancestral land, and they traded their sisters for wives, in a sort of “sister exchange.”

Ancient genes

In the new study, researchers from the University of Warsaw, in collaboration with Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria, retrieved and analyzed genomic sequences of 41 individuals buried in six chullpas located 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) up the side of the Cora Cora Mountain in southern Peru. Though the site had been looted, the remains were well preserved by the cold and the dryness of the land, and the researchers were able to isolate DNA from the bones and teeth of 27 individuals.

They looked at the nuclear DNA, which is our main genetic code and is inherited from both parents, along with the maternally inherited mitochondrial genome (which is separate from the nuclear genome, and runs the cell’s energy factory, the mitochondria); they also analyzed genetic sequences from the Y chromosome, which is inherited from the father and determines that an individual is male.

They used this information to identify the sex of each individual and compare their genes in order to figure out the family relationships between them. They also compared their DNA with a sample of 700 individuals from contemporary Amerindian populations from South America.

The researchers found that the people from the chullpas were genetically similar to modern Andean populations from Peruvian regions like Puno, San Martin, Ancash and Yungay. European colonization of the area didn’t seem to have an impact on the genetics of the people living in the region.

Family connections

The researchers also found that the family connections between individuals were the strongest within each chullpa, and most likely a given ayllu buried its members in one chullpa for many generations.

Two of the chullpas contained sets of males with identical Y chromosomes, which meant these were two groups of directly related males (fathers, sons, brothers) of several generations buried together.This finding matched the currently accepted male-dominated ayllu theory.

There was an outlier, though. In a third chullpa three different male lineages were found. Comparison of the maternal DNA of these males suggests that two of the males had the same mother but different fathers, and the third male was related to one of the mothers (but not the fathers), probably a half brother.

The researchers explain this oddity in their paper, published online April 23 in the journal BMC Genetics, by saying that “the rules governing marriages and social organization were an idealization, and we cannot exclude a situation that was intentionally or unintentionally violated in some situations.”

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