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Archaeologists condemn National Geographic over claims of Honduran 'lost cities' Email

Thursday, 12 March 2015 22:13
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 March 2015 22:13

More than two dozen archaeologists and anthropologists have written an open letter of protest against the “sensationalisation” of their fields, with one accusing National Geographic of reverting to “a colonialist discourse” in announcing researchers had found two city-like sites in the deep jungles of Honduras.

They also say National Geographic has ignored decades of research that suggests Honduras was home to a vibrant chain of kingless societies, which merged qualities of the Maya to the north with other people’s less stratified, more equal cultures.

The scholars criticize National Geographic and the media for what they describe as the aggrandizement of a single expedition at the expense of years of research by scientists and decades of support from indigenous people of the dense rainforests in Honduras’ Mosquitia region.

John Hoopes, a signatory and professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas, said that National Geographic had shown “a disrespect for indigenous knowledge”. The expedition was co-coordinated by two American film-makers, National Geographic and Honduras’ national institute of anthropology.

Read more: Archaeologists condemn National Geographic over claims of Honduran 'lost cities'

An embarrassment of riches: UK museums struggle with archaeological archives Email

Wednesday, 11 March 2015 14:21
Last Updated on Sunday, 15 March 2015 12:57


By Emily Sharpe

Museum professionals and archaeologists met in London today to discuss how to tackle the growing issue of what to do with archaeological archives in the UK as institutions rapidly run out of space to store them. In fact, many museums have stopped acquiring these types of collections, even though excavations continue to be big business.

“We have archival material in museums that are becoming increasingly inaccessible because of the lack of specialist archaeology curators and we have museums that are ceasing to collect this material which has created a backlog that has nowhere to go,” said Duncan Brown, the head of archaeological archives at English Heritage, who was one of the speakers at the Museums Association’s conference “Dig It! Museums and Archaeology”, held at the British Museum on Friday. A 2012 report on the subject, by the consultant Rachel Edwards for the Society for Museum Archaeologists and English Heritage, stated that there are more than 9,000 un-depositable archives in the UK.

Read more: An embarrassment of riches: UK museums struggle with archaeological archives

Armed attack on tourists recorded archaeological site El Caracol Email

Sunday, 05 October 2014 12:54
Last Updated on Sunday, 05 October 2014 13:24

BELIEZE - A group of tourists visiting the archaeological site of El Caracol, in the border area between Guatemala and Belize were able to document in this video, an armed incident which killed a park ranger. The attack, apparently perpetrated by illegal traffickers of a plant named Xate (Shatay), with whom the park rangers maintain a constant battle.

The video was captured by tourists and published in a Belizean media, revealing that at the time of the shooting the group of visitors were at the top of the complex in the center of the ruins, accompanied by local guide who immediately asked them to take shelter between the walls.



The body of Danny Conorquie, a guard at the site, was located on the side of one of the trails in the main square of the park and was immediately guarded by fellow agents according conversations evidenced in amateur video. Officials blame trafficking groups of Xate for retaliation against the work of the guards to prevent looting of the listed plant.

As explained by the Tourist Guides, Park ranger recently stumbled on a group of traffickers smuggling Xate in the area and days before the event. The dead guard had managed to seize some horses out of the archaeological site and it is believed that the group of traffickers returned to take revenge.

Traffic Xate

The archaeological site El Caracol is located 40 kilometers south of Xunantunich and the town of San Ignacio Cayo. The city, which had its heyday in the classic period, was probably the most important political center of the Maya in the present territory of Belize.

The demand for the plant Xate has increased internationally in the last decade in the forested area of Petén and Belize border where more is this plant that has different uses, mainly ornamental. Since the country has regulated the trade of the plant Xate, by the National Council of Protected Areas (Conap), groups of illegal traffickers have proliferated.


Courtesy LIBRE.COM / Guatemala

Franklin wreck found in Arctic identified as the HMS Erebus Email

Saturday, 04 October 2014 11:53
Last Updated on Saturday, 04 October 2014 12:36

Experts identified a shipwreck uncovered last month in the Arctic as the HMS Erebus, the ship British Rear Adm. Sir John Franklin was likely sailing on when it vanished along with another vessel 170 years ago, Canada's prime minister announced Wednesday.

Experts believed the shipwreck was either the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, both of which sailed under the command of Franklin on an unsuccessful search for the Northwest Passage.


Stephen Harper said in Parliament that experts have identified the wreck as the HMS Erebus, which Franklin was believed to have been aboard and perhaps died on.

Harper's office said confirmation was made by underwater archeologists, following a meticulous review of data and artifacts observed from the Arctic Ocean's seabed and using high-resolution photography, high-definition video and multi-beam sonar measurements.

Canada announced in 2008 that it would look for the ships, and Harper's government has poured millions into the venture, with the prime minister himself taking part in the search. It's all part of Harper's plan to boast Canadian nationalism and a sense of ownership of the north. Harper's government made the project a top priority as it looked to assert Canada's sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, where melting Arctic ice in recent years has unlocked the very shipping route Franklin was after.

Read more: Franklin wreck found in Arctic identified as the HMS Erebus

NOAA expands Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron Email

Monday, 08 September 2014 10:43
Last Updated on Monday, 08 September 2014 11:05

NOAA today released a final rule and environmental impact statement expanding the boundaries of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron from 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles. The new boundaries now include the waters of Lake Huron adjacent to Michigan’s Alcona, Alpena and Presque Isle counties to the Canadian border.



The expansion is based on several years of research by NOAA and its many scientific partners, and now protects an additional 100 known and suspected historic shipwreck sites.

Read more: NOAA expands Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron

More cannon found on Alderney Elizabethan wreck Email

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 11:42
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 11:35


Three cannon have already been raised from the site along with 1,000 artefacts


The Alderney Maritime Trust and staff from Bournemouth University dove the site in October, the first time work had been carried out since 2008.

During the dive three cannon and "substantial ship timbers" were found and photographed.

Mike Harrison, coordinator trustee, said more work on the site was going to go ahead next summer.

He said: "Things move very slowly with marine archaeology, the work we've done in the last few years... has been conserving objects."

The unnamed ship sunk in November 1592 and was discovered by local fishermen Bertie Costeril and Fred Shaw in 1977.

The trust was established in 1994 and in 2004 the Duke of York became the group's patron.

Three cannon were among about 1,000 artefacts raised from the site in 2008 and replicas of the cannon were fired as part of tests about the technology of the time.

Two of those cannon have returned to Alderney after conservation work and the third is due to come to the island in the spring.

Other finds from the ship include what could be a Viking navigational aid called a sunstone.

The dive in October started clearing debris left by previous dives and carried out preparation work for a further geophysical survey to be carried out by Bournemouth University in the summer.

Mr Harrison said this survey was dependent on securing the necessary funding.

He said: "It's very, very expensive... we've got a lot of fundraising to do, it's tens of thousands of pounds, conserving a cannon is £10,000 for example."

Courtesy BBC

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New technology set to transform archaeology Email

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 11:47
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 11:55


Taking portable XRF into the field to survey for geochemical indicators of human occupation


Obsidian, naturally occurring volcanic glass, is smooth, hard, and far sharper than a surgical scalpel when fractured, making it a highly desirable raw material for crafting stone tools for almost all of human history. The earliest obsidian tools, found in East Africa, are nearly two million years old, and obsidian scalpels are still used today in specialized medical procedures.

The chemistry of obsidian varies from volcano to volcano, and the chemical “fingerprints” allow researchers to match an obsidian artifact to the volcanic origin of its raw material. The chemical tests often involve dedicated analytical laboratories, even nuclear reactors, and take place months or years after an archaeological site has been excavated.

The new process uses an analytical technique called portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF), which involves a handheld instrument about the size, shape, and weight of a cordless drill. This portability enables archaeologists to identify the origins of stone tools in the field rather than having to send off artifacts to a distant lab. The newly developed method, which saves time and money, will first be used to study obsidian tools made by early humans, including Neanderthals and Homo erectus, tens of thousands of years ago.

Read more: New technology set to transform archaeology

Archaeologists use drones to protect and explore ancient ruins Email

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 10:35
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 10:57


Peruvian archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo flies a drone over Cerro Chepén, one of thousands of ancient ruins across Peru. Photograph: Mariana Bazo/Reuters


In Peru, home to the spectacular Inca city of Machu Picchu and thousands of ancient ruins, archaeologists are turning to drones to speed up sluggish survey work and protect sites from squatters, builders and miners.

Remote-controlled aircraft were developed for military purposes and the US is increasingly using them to attack alleged terrorists, but the technology's falling price means it is increasingly used for civilian and commercial projects around the world.

Small drones have been helping a growing number of researchers produce three-dimensional models of Peruvian sites instead of the usual flat maps – and in days and weeks instead of months and years.

Speed is important to archaeologists here. Peru's economy has grown at an average of 6.5% a year over the past decade, and development pressures have surpassed looting as the main threat to the country's cultural treasures, according to the government.

Researchers are still picking up the pieces after a pyramid near Lima, believed to have been built 5,000 years ago by a fire-revering coastal society, was razed in July by construction firms. The same month, residents of a town near the pre-Incan ruins of Yanamarca reported that miners digging for quartz were damaging the three-story stone structures.

And squatters and farmers repeatedly try to seize land near important sites such as Chan Chan on the northern coast, thought to be the biggest adobe city in the world.

Archaeologists say drones can help set boundaries to protect sites, monitor threats and create a digital repository of ruins that can help build awareness and aid in the reconstruction of any damage.

Read more: Archaeologists use drones to protect and explore ancient ruins

Why Shipwrecks in Antarctica Are Well-Preserved Email

Monday, 19 August 2013 14:50
Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 15:01


The Endurance and its crew became stuck among the ice floes of the Weddell Sea in the Southern Ocean in 1914. (Library of Congress)



If the wreck of the Endurance, the ship abandoned nearly 100 years ago by Ernest Shackleton and his crew in one of history's greatest sagas of polar exploration, were to be found today beneath the icy waters of Antarctica, it might be in surprisingly pristine condition. The ship is one of several wooden vessels presumed to be lying untouched on the Southern Ocean's floor.

"Untouched" and "wooden" are words rarely used to describe the same shipwreck -- sea worms and other creatures usually bore into the wood with such vigor that by the time archaeologists discover the remnants, the ship's skeleton has often completely disintegrated. But now, researchers from the Royal Society in London have discovered that there are virtually no wood-threatening organisms in Antarctic waters.

Read more: Why Shipwrecks in Antarctica Are Well-Preserved

Stunning Maya Sculpture Unearthed from Buried Pyramid Email

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 10:29
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 10:43


By Dan Vergano

An international archaeology team on Wednesday reported the discovery of a "stunning" stucco wall sculpture, its colors intact, unearthed in Guatemala beneath a Maya pyramid.

Guatemalan antiquity officials announced the discovery of the stucco frieze, 30 feet long and 6 feet tall, found on the inside of a pyramid at the Maya city site of Holmul.

"It is one of the most fabulous things I have ever seen," says archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli of the Holmul Archaeological Project. "The preservation is wonderful because it was very carefully packed with dirt before they started building over it."

Read more: Stunning Maya Sculpture Unearthed from Buried Pyramid