Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 06:55
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.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 August 2013 05:57
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.
Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 10:01
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.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 05:43
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."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 05:24
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.
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 06:34
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.
Last Updated on Sunday, 07 July 2013 08:21
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.
Last Updated on Saturday, 29 June 2013 08:25
Mystery: Archeologists have uncovered a 100-year-old watch in a tomb believed to have been undisturbed for 400 years
By CHER THORNHILL
CHINA - Archaeologists are stumped after finding a 100-year-old Swiss watch in an ancient tomb that was sealed more than 400 years ago.
They believed they were the first to visit the Ming dynasty grave in Shangsi, southern China, since its occupant's funeral.
But inside they uncovered a miniature watch in the shape of a ring marked 'Swiss' that is thought to be just a century old.
The mysterious timepiece was encrusted in mud and rock and had stopped at 10:06 am.
Watches were not around at the time of the Ming Dynasty and Switzerland did not even exist as a country, an expert pointed out.
The archaeologists were filming a documentary with two journalists when they made the puzzling discovery.
'When we tried to remove the soil wrapped around the coffin, suddenly a piece of rock dropped off and hit the ground with metallic sound,' said Jiang Yanyu, former curator of the Guangxi Museum.
'We picked up the object, and found it was a ring.
'After removing the covering soil and examining it further, we were shocked to see it was a watch,' he added.
The Ming Dynasty - or the Empire of the Great Ming - was the was ruling dynasty in China from 1368 to 1644.
Courtesy; Mail Online
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 June 2013 07:15
CAMPECHE, MEXICO - Chactún Dubbed as "Red Rock" or "Piedra Grande", this monumental area is located north of the Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul, and had its peak between 600 and 900 AD. The site "is definitely one of the largest sites in the Central Lowlands, comparable in extent and magnitude of its buildings with Becan and El Palmar" said Ivan Sprajc, the archaeologists who leads a team of national and international experts.
Located in the southeast of Campeche, Chactún is one of the largest sites registered in the Central Lowlands of this ancient civilization. Discovered a few weeks ago, it is believed that the city was the leading center of a vast region a thousand 400 years, between 600 and 900 AD, according to the researcher who heads the expedition supported by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), indicating that this is inferred by the extent of the site, more than 22 hectares, and the amount of monuments, at least a dozen of them with inscriptions.
The exploration initiative, with the approval of the INAH Archaeology Council, is funded by the National Geographic Society, and Austrian companies and Slovenia Villas Ars longa. Along the centuries, Chactún remained hidden in the jungle of northern Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul. According to Sprajc, is part of an area over 3,000 square kilometers, located between the Rio Bec and Chenes region, an area that has remained as "a total blank on the archaeological map of the Maya area.
Last Updated on Saturday, 08 June 2013 12:19
Mexican marine archaeologists have located the wreck of the 19th-century British ship HMS Forth, which sank off the Yucatan Peninsula 164 years ago, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said.
The ship, which belonged to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, sank after hitting the Alacranes reef.
HMS Forth went down on the night of Jan. 14, 1849, while sailing to Bermuda.
The ship’s crew made it to a nearby island, was rescued by a steam ship and reached Havana.
An INAH team led by archaeologist Helena Barba Meinecke explored the northern section of the reef and spotted metal items on the sea floor that gave researchers clues that it was a mail ship.
One of the other wrecks found in the area may be that of HMS Tweed, another Royal Mail Steam Packet Company vessel that sank in 1847 or of the Belgian ship Charlote, which went to the bottom in 1853.
Research conducted from 2010 to 2012 turned up historical references to 25 shipwrecks.
Marine archaeologists are planning other expeditions to explore additional wrecks, the INAH said.
Courtesy; Hispanically Speaking News
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