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Man hits 'pay dirt' when he uncovers mastodon skull Email

Thursday, 04 November 2010 11:00
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 November 2010 04:56

SNOWMASS VILLAGE — A museum volunteer digging for bones at one of at least 10 fossil sites at Ziegler Reservoir on Wednesday uncovered the skull of what paleontologists believe is a mastodon

It is the latest evidence that there could be more mastodons above Snowmass Village than mammoths — a theory held by scientists who now believe there are at least three mastodons and one mammoth at the site. Crews continue to find more mammoth and mastodon bones, so those numbers may be revised.

“This is the first time we've found teeth in a skull and the first time we've found a skull here,” said Dr. Steve Holen, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science archaeology curator and mammoth expert.

Because two mastodon tusks were found nearby, Holen and his colleagues believe the skull is also from a mastodon. Teeth provide the telltale signs when differentiating mastodons from mammoths. Luckily the skull is buried in the ground in a way that should make it easy for scientists to reach its upper jaw.

"I hit pay dirt. This is just wonderful,” said Don Brandborg, a Denver Museum of Nature & Science volunteer since 1996 who unearthed the skull in the first hour of his first day at the Snowmass dig site.

Gould Construction bulldozer operator Jesse Steele made the first mammoth discovery here Oct. 14 when he pushed up some dirt and spotted the spine of a juvenile Columbian mammoth poking out of the ground. Ever since, scientists here have been learning new things almost every day. They say even a third ancient species could be on site.

Read more: Man hits 'pay dirt' when he uncovers mastodon skull

'Drowned voice' of pristine phonograph found at Yukon site of sunken ship Email

Thursday, 04 November 2010 10:52
Last Updated on Thursday, 11 November 2010 04:56

Divers equipped with digital scanners have created a set of groundbreaking, 3-D images of the legendary Klondike-era sternwheeler A.J. Goddard, which sank in a Yukon lake in 1901 and was only discovered two years ago by a team of Canadian archeologists.

The imaging system, similar to one used recently to document the wreck of the Titanic off Newfoundland's east coast, was employed during an expedition this summer to the sunken-but-perfectly-preserved Goddard — a dive that also produced a stunning new artifact: the vintage phonograph used to entertain fortune-seekers on their long, northward steamboat voyage to the Klondike gold fields.

"They're not only stunning and amazing images, they're also an accurate measuring tool," Canadian marine archeologist James Delgado, one of the experts involved in the Goddard project, told Postmedia News.

The precise 3-D model of the wreck was generated with scanning equipment supplied by the U.S. firms Oceangate and BlueView Technologies.

While documenting the boat's pristine condition, the researchers also spotted and collected several relics that were missed during earlier dives to the Goddard, which was declared an official historic site by the Yukon government earlier this year.

Corked bottles with their liquids still intact, leather footwear and other items were added to previous discoveries of tools and clothing.

Read more: 'Drowned voice' of pristine phonograph found at Yukon site of sunken ship

What marine archeology in Nova Scotia needs Email

Wednesday, 03 November 2010 13:56
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 November 2010 13:56

3 November 2010

In July, Nova Scotia announced it would do away with its Treasure Trove Act; yesterday, legislation was introduced to make this happen. The act allowed treasure hunters to actively look for treasure on land and underwater. Most important, it allowed them to keep 90 per cent of what they found (the rest was supposed to be turned over to the province).

Doing away with the archaic act is long overdue! As Darryl Kelman, president of the Nova Scotia Archaeology Society (NSAS), said: "The proposed changes to the law bring the province in line with the rest of the country and the Western world."

Government opted for the changes after reviewing the lengthy Blackstone Report, which was started in 2005 by a Toronto consulting firm, the Blackstone Corporation, which specializes in resource management and tourism consulting. It recommended three options for Nova Scotia to consider when dealing with treasure hunting. Of course, doing away with the act completely, which the province chose to do, was one option.

While many consider the government’s decision to repeal the act a "slam dunk" for conserving the province’s underwater cultural heritage, we can learn a lot from the research done by the Blackstone consultants. They focused on several key areas, including possible legal ramifications, the potential need for institutional change, and how to improve protecting underwater cultural heritage. The three "scenarios" were weighed out against these criteria.

Hundreds of individuals were consulted for the report. Many are world experts in the field of marine archeology. How the science is done in other countries was also described in detail.

Read more: What marine archeology in Nova Scotia needs

Metal Detectorist Steve Blair finds Iron Age burial ground Email

Saturday, 30 October 2010 08:03
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 October 2010 08:07

29 October, 2010

HAVING wielded a metal detector for 15 years, a builder finally struck lucky when he stumbled across an Iron Age burial ground.

Steve Blair, of Heaverham Road in Kemsing, has a passion for history and archaeology and had always hoped to uncover artifacts more significant than his usual finds of Victorian pennies.

His luck changed when his detector found three cremation urns dating back to the late Iron Age and early Roman period.

His once-in-a-lifetime find led to professional archaeologists uncovering 19 more.

Mr. Blair made the discovery after the field was dug up by South East Water for a new pipeline.

He said: "The archaeologists are excited because nothing like this has been discovered between Otford Mount and Oldbury Hill.

"I'd been out for 20 minutes and then the metal detector sounded off and I started to look.

"I found the edge of the first one and I cleaned around it and I noticed the white bone inside. Then I called the archaeologists."

Read more: Metal Detectorist Steve Blair finds Iron Age burial ground

Report: Ancient ruins worldwide 'on verge of vanishing' Email

Thursday, 28 October 2010 09:35
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 October 2010 09:43

Twelve historic sites around the world are "on the verge of vanishing" because of mismanagement and neglect, according to a new report.

The report, by San Francisco-based Global Heritage Fund (GHF), identifies nearly 200 heritage sites in developing nations as being at risk, highlighting 12 as being on the verge of irreparable loss and destruction.

Three sites in the Middle East, Iraq's Nineveh, Palestine's Hisham's Palace, and Turkey's Ani, are among those most in danger.

The ruined city of Ani, on the border of Turkey and Armenia, dates back to the 11th century. Once known as "The City of a Thousand Churches," many of its remaining buildings are now on the brink of collapse.

GHF executive director Jeff Morgan told CNN, "Ani is probably one of the top 10 sites in the world, right up there with Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat. It's incredible."

Read more: Report: Ancient ruins worldwide 'on verge of vanishing'

SPAIN’S SEA TREASURE –NOT UP FOR GRABS Email

Thursday, 28 October 2010 09:24
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 October 2010 09:24

The Spanish sea bed is alleged to be littered with treasure from sunken ships dating back over 4 centuries. 

Now that a multitude of new technology makes finding the sunken gold and valuable antiques a lot easier, the race is on to see who is capable of locating the booty first.  Odyssey Marine Exploration took home a trove of gold and silver from the wreck of the Spanish vessel Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes two years ago, not without a fair amount of controversy.  The treasure hunters have yet to return their find, despite several court decisions in Spain’s favour.

Ever since, authorities have started taking the protection of the country’s underwater archaeological heritage seriously.  Until recently, only the regions of Catalonia, Valencia and Andalusia had specific centres devoted to this type of cultural asset. But now, the central government is getting involved and the navy recently sent the minesweeper Sella out for a month to comb the bottom of the Gulf of Cádiz in search of archaeological remains.

Read more: SPAIN’S SEA TREASURE –NOT UP FOR GRABS

Archaeologists Find Three Ceramic Offerings at Machu Picchu Email

Friday, 24 September 2010 17:11
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 15:11

LIMA – A team of archaeologists from the National Culture Institute found three ceramics from the Inca era that had been used as offerings in the citadel of Machu Picchu in southeastern Peru, according to a report in Lima.

The three ceramic vessels with long necks and pointed bases were coated with circular pieces of stone, archaeologist Ruben Maqque told the official Andina news agency.

According to Maqque, the objects would have been part of a ceremonial rite of tribute to the earth during the time of the Inca Empire (13th-16th centuries), the first of their kind found in Machu Picchu, in an area known as the "cemetery," though no human remains have ever been found in the citadel.

Also found at the site were nine kinds of stone brought by the ancient pilgrims from different parts of the neighboring region, including the valley of the Urubamba River and the Sicuani district, the experts were able to determine.

Work by the team of Peruvian archaeologists began in 2007 and is focused on an excavation near the so-called Mirador, or Lookout Point, visited by hundreds of tourists every day, Maqque said.

He added that the budget for excavation and conservation works in Machu Picchu this year is around 350,000 sols (somewhat more than $100,000).

Courtesy Latin American Herald Tribune

Saxon boat uncovered in Norfolk's River Ant Email

Saturday, 04 September 2010 00:00
Last Updated on Friday, 29 October 2010 05:35

A Saxon boat has been found during flood defence work on a Norfolk river.

The boat, which is about 9.8 ft (3m) long and had been hollowed out by hand from a piece of oak, was found at the bottom of the River Ant.

Five animal skulls were found near the boat, which has been taken to York for treatment to preserve it.

The Environment Agency had commissioned work to take place between Horning Hall and Browns Hill when the discovery was made last month.

Once preservation has been finished the vessel will return to Norfolk, where the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service want to display it at Norwich Castle Museum, an Environment Agency spokeswoman said.

Environment Agency project manager, Paul Mitchelmore, said: "This is the latest in a number of remarkable finds on the project.

"We are pleased that the Environment Agency has been able to uncover items that contribute to the knowledge of the rich history of the local area."

Courtesy BBC News

Archaeo­logists attack BP’s drilling plans Email

Thursday, 02 September 2010 00:00
Last Updated on Friday, 29 October 2010 05:34

LONDON. From Greek and Roman shipwrecks to 20th-century warships; from ancient streets with intact buildings and mosaics to am­phorae and ingots, the Mediter­ranean is a subaqueous treasure trove. So BP’s plans to drill exploratory oil wells off Libya has raised serious concerns among archaeologists, historians and heritage preservation organisations.

The global energy giant says that it will begin the $900m project to drill five exploratory wells in the Gulf of Sirte “before the end of this year” despite the fact that the cause of the blowout of its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico has yet to be determined. The Libyan wells will be 200 metres deeper than the Macondo.

“An oil spill off the coast of Libya would be a complete disaster,” said Claude Sintes, the director of the subaquatic team of the French archaeological mission to Libya and director of the Museum of Ancient Arles, France. According to Sintes, there are two archaeologically rich areas along the Libyan coast—Cyrenaica and Tripoli­tania. Within Cyrenaica lies Apollonia, an ancient harbour submerged five metres under the water. “It’s a complete town under the sea with streets, walls and houses. Slow tectonic movement caused it to sink,” said Sintes.

Tripolitania, which extends from Tripoli to the Tunisian border, includes two important ancient sites on the shore: Leptis Magna, a once powerful Roman city and harbour, and Sabratha which has the remains of a theatre and a Roman bath with spectacular mosaics. Both are Unesco World Heritage sites. “These sites are archaeologically significant because they allow us to understand the complete evolution of this part of the world from Greek colonisation in the seventh century BC to the Arab invasion in the seventh century AD,” said Sines.

James Delgado, the president of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, stressed the archaeological importance of the Mediterranean as a highway for ideas, trade and settlement, noting that thousands of wrecks from various historical periods lie within in its depth. “There is a complete record of thousands of years of history on the bottom of the Mediterranean,” said Delgado. Both Sines and Delgado said that although the area is still largely yet unexplored, given its significant history they expect significant finds in the future.

In the wake of the Macondo blowout, teams of scientists are in the process of analysing water samples in the Gulf and monitoring the 22-mile oil plume floating 3,500 ft. under the sea. According to BP spokesman Robert Wine: “So far no notable volumes of oil have been found on the seabed,” but added that “studies will continue.”

The biggest concern is that oil could congeal on the seabed, coating wood, stone and metal artefacts, hindering the recovery of traces of organics, pollens, DNA and “timbers so fragile that when excavated they have the consistency of ricotta cheese”, said Delgado. Sites such as Sabratha are so close to the shore that large waves often cover portions of the ruins. Oily waves could harm Sabratha’s delicate mosaics.

“I don’t think drilling should be allowed until sufficient studies are completed to ascertain the effects of oil movement in the water and the risks to historic shipwrecks and other underwater cultural heritage sites,” said Steven Anthony, the president of the Maritime Archaeological and Historical Society.

According to Delgado advance seismic surveys are the key to protecting these sites: “The [oil] industry already does this, especially in the Gulf. The other safety measures I would like to see are, I am sure, ones the oil and gas industry would also like to see” he said, adding that many of these measures are already being applied. “The Gulf spill was not beneficial to BP on many fronts, albeit it was a rare accident. I cannot believe they want to see a repetition.”

Robert Wine stressed that BP has conducted archaeological and seismic surveys off the coast of Libya and that its “oil spill plans for Libya have been reviewed in light of the Gulf of Mexico incident”. He also said they intend to drill many miles offshore, “well beyond any possible ancient sites”.

Courtesy The Art Newspaper

Giant Freeze Dryer To Preserve Ship Pieces At Texas A&M Lab Email

Tuesday, 31 August 2010 00:00
Last Updated on Friday, 29 October 2010 05:35

COLLEGE STATION, Aug. 31, 2010 – Texas A&M University researchers working to restore the hull of La Belle, a light frigate recovered from its underwater grave, are using an unconventional method to preserve the pieces: a state-of-the-art freeze dryer big enough to hold a few head of cattle.

La Belle was carrying 43 people when it sank in Matagorda Bay in January 1686. The ship's remains now lie in a vat of oily preservative on Texas A&M's Riverside Campus, the former Bryan Air Force Base that serves as headquarters for research and related activities, including a division of the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation.

The massive freeze dryer, at 40 feet long with an 8-foot internal diameter, is the largest such machine for conservation use in the hemisphere, says Peter Fix, the maritime center's assistant director and project conservator for the La Belle.

The instrument arrived Monday, and Fix plans to test some smaller pieces of other objects before dismantling the carefully tended timbers of La Belle and placing them in the cavernous cavity.

Freeze Dryer entrance

Freeze dryer entrance

Within three years, the hull will be reintroduced to the world, reassembled as part of a keynote exhibit in the center of the Bob Bullock Museum in Austin.

In 1996-97, researchers from Texas A&M aided in the Texas Historical Commission's excavation of the ill-fated ship of famous French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. The recovered hull was transported for painstaking reconstruction to the Conservation Research Laboratory at the Riverside Campus.

"We will take a piece of the ship, make a mold for each piece of timber to accurately mimic the curvature of the hull, put it in the freeze dryer and in four to six months, the freeze-drying process will slowly sublimate the water from the timber," says Fix. "It's a much gentler process than straight dehydration, and it is slightly revolutionary in that no one has tried it before. An awful lot of engineering and understanding of the complex shapes of the ship have to be compensated for in advance of freeze-drying."

Freeze dryerDonny Hamilton, head of the university's anthropology department, says the new method will reduce the preservation time by about three years and cut the costs by more than a half million dollars. That's important, because total cost of the project has risen from the initial estimate of $330,000 to more than $1.5 million. That's largely because the cost of polyethylene glycol, a petroleum-based substance, has skyrocketed more than four-fold in recent years.

The machine cost about $500,000, but Hamilton thinks that can be recouped through future restoration projects, such as disaster recovery. "We could put in there the whole inventory of a library that has been flooded out, and bring the books back to a useful form," he says.

After the timbers spend a few months in the freeze-dryer, they will be stored until reconstruction in the museum begins in October 2013.

"This is not only to install an exhibit, but also to demonstrate the processes of ship-building," Fix says. "Being a nautical archaeology program we love ships, and we understand what specifically has to be done in order to have the timber emerge from the chamber in the correct form."

Glenn P. Grieco, a research associate at Texas A&M who has built two models of La Belle, says the archaeological remains provide a case study of a little-understood vessel type and as an example of several construction techniques used in French shipyards at the end of the 17th Century.

Fix says what the researchers from the lab are doing is important on many levels.

"It's important to everyone because it is a bit of Texas history. It's equally important to people in France because it's a remnant, a trace of their history," he says. "It's physical and tangible. You can go to a museum and you can look at this ship and you can say, 'How did 42 or 43 people ever fit on this,' where you may not get the same understanding if you just look at a drawing in a book."

Courtesy Texas A&M News & Information Services