Friday, April 07, 2017

Why you should take your kids to Britain's smelliest attraction


Scent is the most underrated element of travel. Consider: lavender-infused Provencal fields or sulphuric water in Iceland. Each smell evokes a fundamental aspect of its place of origin. And, if you are under the age of 12, or know someone who is, consider this particular whiff: rotting flesh, with more than a hint of human excrement.

Nothing brings history alive like the scent of a turd, particularly when accompanied by a fossilised version, which you will find on display in a new case at Jorvik Viking Centre, which re-opens this weekend, 17 months after floods destroyed one of York’s most memorable attractions.

Vikings are heroes for my children’s generation thanks, in part, to How to Train Your Dragon, the historical drama Vikings and the Scandi clothing invasion, which features cheerful bearded Nordic faces on just about anything.

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Divers search lake for Roman Emperor Caligula's pleasure barge, site of wild orgies

Today, the serene waters of Lake Nemi make it a quaint getaway, one that is best known for its peaceful landscapes and the area's delicious wild strawberries.
But in ancient Roman times, the volcanic lake southeast of Rome was the anchor point for Emperor Caligula's pleasure ships - massive and ornate barges that were rumored to be the sites of wild orgies and other excessive indulgences.
For nearly 2,000 years, the sunken remains of Caligula's pleasure ships tantalized divers, who launched expeditions to recover them, with little success.
It wasn't until 1927, when Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered Lake Nemi drained, that two of the ships began to be fully revealed. Measuring 230 and 240 feet long, the "Nemi ships" recovered over the next several years astounded researchers with their advanced technology.
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A Lost Roman City Has Been Discovered in Southern France


For the first time in over a thousand years, archeologists have laid eyes on the ancient Roman town of Ucetia, which is decked out with some surprisingly well-preserved mosaics.

The discovery by the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) was made near modern-day Uzès in the south of France during the construction of a school. The 4,000-square-meter (43,056-square-foot) site contains artifacts ranging from the Roman Republic era (1st century BCE) to the late antiquity (7th century), right through to the Middle Ages.

The town’s existence was first hinted at when researchers found an inscription saying Ucetia on a stone slab in nearby Nîmes. A few isolated fragments and mosaic pieces suggested the site of the mysterious Roman town, but it remained hidden until INRAP started to dig beneath the surface.

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Prehistoric cannibalism not just driven by hunger, study reveals

Humans are less nutritious than other forms of meat, findings show, indicating complex social motivations may be behind our ancestors’ cannibalism


Evidence of cannibalism found at a number of prehistoric sites indicate our ancestors as well as other hominins such as Neanderthals sometimes ate each other. 
Photograph: Nikola Solic/Reuters/Corbis

Thursday 6 April 2017 14.00 BST Last modified on Thursday 6 April 2017 14.14 BST
Cannibalism among prehistoric humans was more likely to have been driven by social reasons than the need for a hearty meal, research suggests.

Evidence of cannibalism, in the form of cut marks, tooth marks and tell-tale bone breakage has been found at a number of prehistoric sites, including in France, Spain and Belgium, revealing that our ancestors as well as other hominins such as Neanderthals and Homo antecessor at least occasionally ate each other.
But how common cannibalism was and to what extent it was driven by the need for nutrition has been a matter of debate, with remains from some sites showing evidence of ritual treatment.

The latest study adds weight to the idea that cannibalism might have been driven by more than the necessity of hunger.

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Rome Metro workers accidentally discovered an ancient aqueduct

The aqueduct. Photo: Archaeological Superintendency Rome
A 2,300-year-old aqueduct uncovered by workers on Rome's new Metro line has been hailed as "a sensational discovery of enormous importance" by the city's Superintendency for Archaeology.
Archaeologists first stumbled across the impressive ruin at the end of 2016, though it was not publicly announced until Sunday. On Wednesday, the team presented the results of analysis of the structure, along with that of other recent finds, at a conference hosted by Rome's Sapienza university.

Simona Morretta, who led the team of archaeologists, said the 32-metre stretch was likely part of the Aqua Appia - the oldest known Roman aqueduct, which dates back to 312 BC.
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Crusader Wreck Tells Tale Of Crusader Holy Land Conquest

Christian knights and Mameluke warriors were fighting on the walls. Now the wreck of a 13th century ship reveals the desperate bid to save the Holy Land.


A Crusader-era book illumination showing a Christian ship at sea. A wreck near the port of Acre dates from the fall of that city — and the last hours of the Crusader state [Credit: WikiCommons]

The port of the city of Acre was a vital lifeline for Crusader knights and settlers alike. Through it streamed European pilgrims, horses, fighting men and manufacturing goods, all vital to sustain Christianity’s tenuous hold in what would later become Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

In return, ships carried precious cargoes of sugar, spice and exotic textiles. But, in 1291, it all came crashing down.

The Egyptian Mameluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil — leading an army of 100,000 men and horses — rolled back the Christian defences, weakened by almost two centuries of fighting to maintain control over the Holy Land.

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DÉCOUVERTE D’UN SANCTUAIRE GALLO-ROMAIN À MURVIEL-LÈS-MONTPELLIER


Cette fouille a donné lieu à la découverte des vestiges d’un sanctuaire gallo-romain. Dimanche 9 avril 2017, les archéologues présenteront leurs découvertes au  public, lors de visites guidées.

Àl’occasion de l’aménagement d’un lotissement par Rambier Aménagement à Murviel-lès-Montpellier, une fouille préventive prescrite par l’État (Drac Occitanie) a donné lieu à la découverte des vestiges d’un sanctuaire gallo-romain. Les archéologues de l’Inrap, en partenariat avec le service Archéologie et Patrimoine de la Communauté d’agglomération du Bassin de Thau (CABT) enrichissent ainsi la  connaissance de l’agglomération antique fouillée sur la commune depuis de nombreuses années.  

Dimanche 9 avril, les archéologues présenteront leurs découvertes au  public, lors de visites guidées proposées toute la journée. 

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Geologists reveal how violent 'Brexit 1.0' separated Britain from Europe

Bathymetry map of the strait of Dover showing prominent valley eroded through the centre. Note the rock ridge made of chalk in southern Britain and northern France which would have connected across the strait prior to breaching.
Photograph: Imperial College London/Professor Sanjeev Gupta and Dr Jenny Collier

Once attached to the European mainland, a new study shows how catastrophic flooding led to Britain becoming an island about 125,000 years ago

Brexit might be causing political chaos but whatever Theresa May has up her sleeve it is unlikely to be as catastrophic as the first separation of Britain from the continent.

A new study has revealed how giant waterfalls and, later, a megaflood severed our connection to France, resulting in the creation of island Britain and the watery moat of the English Channel.

“A chance series of geological events set the stage for Britain becoming an island,” said Sanjeev Gupta, professor of earth science at Imperial College London and co-author of the research.

“If it weren’t for these events, in a sense the history of Britain would have been completely different,” he added, pointing out that if the ridge had never been breached, Britain would have remained attached to northern France with easy access to the rest of Europe.

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Evidence of ancient 'geological Brexit' revealed


The UK has now started the formal process of leaving the EU, but scientists say they have evidence of a much earlier "Brexit".
They have worked out how a thin strip of land that once connected ancient Britain to Europe was destroyed.
The researchers believe a large lake overflowed 450,000 years ago, damaging the land link, then a later flood fully opened the Dover Strait.
The scars of these events can be found on the seabed of the English Channel.

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Monday, April 03, 2017

Tiller the Hun? Farmers in Roman Empire converted to Hun lifestyle -- and vice versa

New archaeological analysis suggests people of Western Roman Empire switched between Hunnic nomadism and settled farming over a lifetime. Findings may be evidence of tribal encroachment that undermined Roman Empire during 5th century AD, contributing to its fall.


Example of a modified skull, a practice assumed to be Hunnic that may have been appropriated by local farmers within the bounds of the
Credit: Susanne Hakenbeck

Marauding hordes of barbarian Huns, under their ferocious leader Attila, are often credited with triggering the fall of one of history's greatest empires: Rome.

Historians believe Hunnic incursions into Roman provinces bordering the Danube during the 5th century AD opened the floodgates for nomadic tribes to encroach on the empire. This caused a destabilisation that contributed to collapse of Roman power in the West.


According to Roman accounts, the Huns brought only terror and destruction. However, research from the University of Cambridge on gravesite remains in the Roman frontier region of Pannonia (now Hungary) has revealed for the first time how ordinary people may have dealt with the arrival of the Huns.

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Rare ‘Coffin Birth' Found At Black Death Burial Site In Northern Italy


Researchers investigating a 14th century burial ground have identified a rare case of "coffin birth" - a gruesome phenomenon in which a deceased pregnant woman's fetus is expelled within the grave.


The remains of a mother and fetus were buried alongside those of two other children in the early days of the  Black Death in Italy, however researchers cannot say for certain that they died of the plague 
[Credit: Fabrizio Benente (Universita di Genova – DAFIST)]

The event, which has seldom been reported in archaeology, is known as postmortem fetal extrusion. It results from a build-up of gas pressure within the decomposing body.

"In this case, we have a partial expulsion of a 38- to 40-week-old fetus, which was found to be complete and to lie within the birth canal," Deneb Cesana, at the University of Genova, told Seeker.

The remains of the woman and her unborn baby were originally uncovered in 2006, interred with two other young individuals that scientists say were aged 12 and three years old. Only recently has the discovery been fully investigated.

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Rich Roman haul surprises Dutch archaeologists

A Roman ring, found at the dig. Photo: William Hoogteyling via HH 

Archeologists digging at a site in Tiel in the province of Gelderland, have found a rich haul of Roman artefacts, among which a statue of the god Jupiter, a grave stone inscribed DEAE (to the goddess), 2,500 bronze objects and a unique ointment pot. 

The dig is one of a number of archaeological activities taking place on an 80 hectare site which is projected to become part of the adjacent Medel industrial estate. As with any major construction work, archaeologists are invited to investigate what is in the ground before any building is done. 

The area has yielded treasure before. In November last year archaeologists found numerous artefacts dating back some 6,000 years, and a Roman funerary urn with a small glass bottle inside it.

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A decorated raven bone discovered in Crimea may provide insight into Neanderthal cognition


The cognitive abilities of Neanderthals are debated, but a raven bone fragment found at the Zaskalnaya VI (ZSK) site in Crimea features two notches that may have been made by Neanderthals intentionally to display a visually consistent pattern, according to a study by Ana Majkic at the Universite de Bordeaux and colleagues, published in the open access journal, PLOS ONE on March 29, 2017.
Majkic and colleagues conducted a mixed-methods study to assess whether the two extra notches on the ZSK raven bone were made by Neanderthals with the intention of making the final series of notches appear to be evenly spaced. First, researchers conducted a multi-phase experiment where recruited volunteers were asked to create evenly spaced notches in domestic turkey bones, which are similar in size to the ZSK raven bone. Morphometric analyses reveal that the equal spacing of the experimental notches was comparable to the spacing of notches in the ZSK raven bone, even when adjusted for errors in human perception. Archeological specimens featuring aligned notches from different sites were also analyzed and compared with the ZSK raven bone specimen.
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Iron Age chariot and horse found buried together in Yorkshire


The two Iron Age horses, once used to pull the chariot are examined on site by archaeologists 
Henry Hayhurst-France/David Wilson Homes

The Ancient Brits loved their wheels. Indeed they seem to have been so attached to their sports-car-style chariots that they may even have thought they could use them to get to the next world.

Academic knowledge about these elegant high status prehistoric British vehicles is now set to increase significantly, following the discovery of an ancient Briton buried inside his chariot in East Yorkshire.

Although around 20 other similar chariot graves have been found over the past century or so in the UK (mainly in Yorkshire), this new discovery, unearthed on the outskirts of the market town of Pocklington at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, is the only example ever excavated by modern archaeologists in which the two horses, used to pull the vehicle, were also interred.

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Crete’s Late Minoan Tombs Point Way To Early European Migration


Researchers at the University of Huddersfield have visited Rethymnon in Crete, to collect samples from the late Bronze Age Necropolis of Armenoi, one of the world's finest archaeological sites. DNA analysis of the ancient skeletal remains could provide fresh insights into the origins of European civilisation.


View of the Late Minoan necropolis at Armeni [Credit: West Crete]

Dr Ceiridwen Edwards and PhD student George Foody were permitted to take bone samples and teeth from over 110 of the more than 600 skeletons discovered in the Necropolis, a rock-hewn burial site from the Late Minoan period dating to more than 4,000 years ago. During their two-week visit, the Huddersfield researchers – part of a team that included colleagues from Oxford University and the Hellenic Archaeological Research Foundation – also took DNA swabs from more than 100 contemporary Cretans. They sought people whose grandmothers were from Crete in order to analyse links to the Minoan period.

When the ancient DNA samples are compared with those of modern Cretans, there is the potential to find solutions to many issues surrounding the ancient migration of people and culture to an island where the Bronze Age Minoans and their successors the Mycenaeans laid foundations for later European civilisation and culture.

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Medieval villagers mutilated the dead to stop them rising, study finds

The Wharram Percy excavation area as it looks today. 
Photograph: Pete Horne/Historic England/PA

A study by archaeologists has revealed certain people in medieval Yorkshire were so afraid of the dead they chopped, smashed and burned their skeletons to make sure they stayed in their graves.

The research published by Historic England and the University of Southampton may represent the first scientific evidence in England of attempts to prevent the dead from walking and harming the living – still common in folklore in many parts of the world.

The archaeologists who studied a collection of human bones – including the remains of adults, teenagers and children excavated more than half a century ago, and dated back to the period between the 11th and 14th century – rejected gruesome possibilities including cannibalism in times of famine, or the massacre of outsiders. The cut marks were in the wrong place for butchery, and isotope analysis of the teeth showed that the people came from the same area as the villagers of Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire – a once flourishing village which had been completely deserted by the early 16th century.

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