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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

Public input sought on Florida comprehensive historical preservation plan Email

Tuesday, 13 August 2013 10:16
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 10:24

Submitted by Gillian Finklea

Sarasota, Florida -- State and county staff will host a public input session 3-5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 15 at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota on the proposed Florida's Statewide Comprehensive Historic Preservation Plan. The plan has been developed by the Florida Department of State's Division of Historical Resources.

Participants will discuss how the plan can guide efforts to work together to preserve Florida's history and historical, archaeological, and cultural resources. Full color copies and an executive summary will be available. "We are pleased to partner with the State Division of Historical Resources to offer the community the opportunity to review this important plan," said Lorrie Muldowney, manager, Sarasota County Historical Resources. "Sarasota County is a virtual treasure trove of historical sites so we are encouraging the community to share their priorities about protecting our irreplaceable cultural resources."

The Mission of the Florida Division of Historical Resources is to inspire a love of history through preservation and education. Departments in the Division of Historical Resources include the Bureau of Historic Preservation which conducts programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, preserving and interpreting the historic and folklife resources of the state. The Bureau also manages one of the largest state supported grants-in-aid programs in the country, providing funds to help preserve and maintain the state's historic buildings and archaeological sites.

The Bureau of Archaeological Research is responsible for the state's archaeology program. The bureau's archaeologists carry out archaeological surveys and excavations throughout the state, mostly on state-owned lands. They maintain records on historical resources that have been recorded, and assist consultants and planners in protecting sites. The state's underwater archaeology program includes not only historic shipwreck sites but also pre-Columbian sites in underwater contexts.

For more information, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000, or visit www.scgov.net.

Courtesy; WTSP

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Mayan Discovery Reveals Turmoil Email

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 11:25
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 11:34


Maya hieroglyphs on Stela 44, a monument at the El Peru-Waka archaeological site in Guatemala, refer to a Maya Snake queen known as Lady Ikoom. The queen is thought to have played a role in a multigenerational story of power shifts in the Maya world.


A stone slab dated 564 A.D., which tells a story of a struggle between Royalty in the Mayan Empire has been discovered.  It reveals the turmoil of an ancient power struggle lasting for seven years.

Archaeologists are calling it a “dark period.”  The slab was found beneath the main temple of El Peru-Waka’, an ancient Maya city in northern Guatemala.  The hieroglyphics tell the story of a princess whose family survived a struggle between two royal dynasties.  The slab reveals that the battles were often extremely bloody.

David Freidel, PhD, a professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), said “great rulers took pleasure in describing adversity as a prelude to ultimate success.” In this case, Lady Ikoom, known as the Snake queen, “prevailed in the end.”

The slab also revealed the names of two rulers who were previously unknown.

The kingdom of the Mayans flourished for nearly 600 years, and then they seem to have disappeared around 900 A.D.  Among the Mayans many accomplishments was the construction of the massive city of Tikal, developing a hieroglyphic writing system, and a calendar, which famously ended in 2012.  Very little of their writings remain, because they were mostly on paper instead of stone.

Read more: Mayan Discovery Reveals Turmoil

Treasure ahoy! Email

Sunday, 07 July 2013 13:06
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 July 2013 13:21


Iron fencing seals off a shipwreck site off Vietnam’s central coast for excavation. Photos by Hien Cu


A shipwreck discovered last September off the coast of central Vietnam is the oldest, least damaged ever found in the country, and possibly the “most special one” of its kind in Asia, archaeologists say.

While they are intrigued by the antique artifacts found on the boat, they add that the ship itself is as valuable as all the items found in it.

The ship is relatively intact and has some rare materials and a unique structure compared to five other ancient boats found in Vietnam.

At a press briefing held June 30, it was announced that the ship, discovered off Quang Ngai Province, has been identified as a three-story merchandise sailing vessel 700 years old, 20.5 meters long and 5.6 meters at its widest part, and built with 12 bulkheads for 13 compartments.

This was determined after salvage operations conducted between June 4 and 23.

It appears that there had been a fire accident on the ship. However, despite being under water for a long time, one-third of the boat’s height is still intact.

The bottom of the ship, still buried under the seabed, is 80 percent intact while its rudders are in almost pristine condition.

Read more: Treasure ahoy!