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News

Prehistoric Rock Artists Were Stoned, Archaeologists Finally Prove


Altered states of consciousness have been posited for the artists of antiquity and finally archaeologists have found the smoking datura in California – but stress it neither proves nor disproves shamanic ritual


Were artists centuries ago stoned to the gills when painting or engraving on cave walls? The possible use of intoxicants in the artistic process during prehistory has been fiercely debated in archaeological and anthropological circles, as is the meaning of the depictions. It has never been proved one way or the other.

There could be different motives behind – and meanings ascribed to – art created in southeast Asia 60,000 years ago, the glorious animal images of paleo-Western Europe and fairly recent cave drawings in the Americas. Some may whisper of secretive shamanistic practices and maybe others were made by bored teenagers with ocher to spare. We cannot say all were driven by the same urges, but now, for the first time, researchers have proven the consumption of an intoxicant in a place where rock art was created: Pinwheel Cave, California, which had been used during the late prehistoric period and through the colonial period.

The archaeologists couldn’t prove directly that the early Californians were buzzing when decorating the cave. But they could demonstrate that quids (wads of masticated plant matter like quids of chewing tobacco) rammed into crevices in the cave ceiling contained the hallucinogenic agent datura, among other things.

More: https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/.premium-prehistoric-rock-artists-were-stoned-archaeologists-finally-prove-1.9324280?fbclid=IwAR1qx1pUS8duqnL3j5TSdSeCMOrqBgvqDA7IVtWeYzEfNNwHYOXT0KKrDiI

Jersey

Engraved stones found on Jersey 'an art form of 15,000 years ago'


Discovery of marked plaquettes at Les Varines points to earliest evidence of human art in British Isles

They are small, flat and covered in what appear to be chaotic scratches, but 10 engraved stone fragments unearthed on Jersey, researchers say, could be the earliest evidence of human art in the British Isles.

The stones were found at Les Varines, on the island, between 2014 and 2018, and are believed to have been made by a group of hunters about 15,000 years ago.

While at first glance the engravings appear to be a haphazard array of marks, experts say a careful analysis has revealed the cuts were made in deliberate ways and in a clear order with straight lines made first and deeper, curved, lines made last.

More: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/aug/19/engraved-stones-found-on-jersey-an-art-form-of-15000-years-ago?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Cerne Abbas Giant (Hill Figure)

Cerne Abbas Giant: Snails show chalk hill figure 'not prehistoric'


Snails have shown an ancient naked figure sculpted into a chalk hillside is unlikely to be prehistoric as hoped, archaeologists have said.

Tests of soil samples extracted from Dorset's Cerne Abbas Giant to determine its exact age have been delayed by the coronavirus epidemic.

They are not due until later in the year.

However, land snail shells found in the samples suggest it may date to medieval times, separate tests have found.

More: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-dorset-53313064

Newgrange (Passage Grave)

Genetics study shines light on early periods of Ireland's human history


A survey of ancient Irish genomes has found evidence that the parents of an adult male buried in the heart of the Newgrange passage tomb were first-degree relatives.

The research of the male's genome suggests that he was among a ruling social elite which is similar to the inbred Inca god-kings and Egyptian pharaohs.

The study, which was led by archaeologists and geneticists from Trinity College Dublin, focused on the earliest periods of Ireland’s human history.

The team conducted a painstaking genetic analysis of the ancient bones of 44 individuals recovered from all the major Irish burial traditions court tombs, portal tombs, passage tombs and other natural sites.

Famous for the annual winter solstice, little is known about who was buried in the heart of the Newgrange passage tomb which was built over 5,000 years ago.

More: https://www.rte.ie/news/2020/0617/1148049-genomes-study/

Boyne Valley Complex

Underwater study reveals possible quay at Brú na Bóinne


Conference hears many more discoveries could be made at archaelogical site

An underwater archaeological reconnaissance of the bed of the River Boyne near the Brú na Bóinne complex in Co Meath has revealed features that may represent log boats or man-made quays, a research conference was told on Saturday.

The sonar study, carried out by Annalisa Christie of University College Dublin and Dr Kieran Westley of University of Ulster, surveyed 10km of the river from Oldbridge to a weir 1.8km east of Slane Bridge.

Christie told the conference, titled The Pleasant Boyne and organised by the UCD school of archaeology as part of its world heritage programme, that it was likely that for the first visitors to this landscape, the river provided the easiest way to travel, offering an accessible route through a largely wooded landscape. As such, it represented a major communications artery, not just for local visitors but also connecting communities in the area to those from farther afield, such as Wales or even Orkney.

More: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/underwater-study-reveals-possible-quay-at-br%C3%BA-na-b%C3%B3inne-1.4189765

France (Country)

Oldest ever piece of string was made by Neanderthals 50,000 years ago


By Michael Le Page

A piece of 50,000-year-old string found in a cave in France is the oldest ever discovered. It suggests that Neanderthals knew how to twist fibres together to make cords – and, if so, they might have been able to craft ropes, clothes, bags and nets.

“None can be done without that initial step,” says Bruce Hardy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. “Twisted fibres are a foundational technology.”

His team has been excavating the Abri du Maras caves in south-east France where Neanderthals lived for long periods. Three metres below today’s surface, in a layer that is between 52,000 and 41,000 years old, it found a stone flake, a sharp piece of rock used as an early stone tool.

Examining the flake under a microscope revealed that a tiny piece of string (pictured top right), just 6 millimetres long and 0.5 millimetres wide, was stuck to its underside. It was made by twisting a bundle of fibres in an anticlockwise direction, known as an S-twist. Three bundles were twisted together in a clockwise direction – a Z-twist – to make a 3-ply cord.

“It is exactly what you would see if you picked up a piece of string today,” says Hardy. The string wasn’t necessarily used to attach the stone tool to a handle. It could have been part of a bag or net, the team speculates.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2240117-oldest-ever-piece-of-string-was-made-by-neanderthals-50000-years-ago/#ixzz6JAE2zndN

Stonehenge and its Environs

Stonehenge A303 tunnel given go ahead by chancellor


Plans to dig a two-mile (3.2km) road tunnel near Stonehenge have been given the go ahead by the chancellor.

The A303, which often suffers from severe congestion, currently passes within a few hundred metres of the ancient monument.

The plan is to build a dual carriageway alternative out of sight of the World Heritage site but it is opposed by some archaeologists and environmentalists.

Rishi Sunak told the commons: "This government's going to get it done."

More: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-wiltshire-51838402

Chauvet Cave (Cave / Rock Shelter)

Meet Our Ancestors


Chauvet Cave: a 36,000-year-old art gallery, normally closed to the public, opens to everyone through immersive tech

More: https://artsandculture.google.com/project/chauvet-cave

Shropshire

British Museum acquires 3,000-year-old Shropshire sun pendant


Gold bulla is described as one of the most important bronze age finds of the last century

The British Museum has acquired a shimmering 3,000-year-old gold sun pendant heralded as one of the most important bronze age finds of the last century.

The astonishingly well-preserved pendant, or bulla, was discovered by a metal detector enthusiast in Shropshire in 2018.

Neil Wilkin, the museum’s bronze age curator, recalled dropping everything when he first saw it. “I was absolutely flabbergasted, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said. “To me it is the most important object from this period, the first age of metal, that has come up in about 100 years.”

The pendant has been purchased for £250,000 using money from the Art Fund and the American Friends of the British Museum.

More: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/mar/04/british-museum-acquires-3000-year-old-shropshire-sun-pendant

News

Neanderthal 'skeleton' is first found in a decade


By Paul Rincon Science editor, BBC News website

Researchers have described the first "articulated" remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.

An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.

The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.

Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.

During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.

This "flower burial" captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view - prevalent at the time - that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.

More: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51532781

London

Mudlarker unearths a Neolithic skull on the banks of the River Thames


Martin Bushell spotted the 5,600-year-old skull fragment digging in the muddy banks of the Thames

A human skull from the Neolithic era has been put on display at the Museum of London.

But the incredibly rare specimen wasn't found in some elaborate archaeological dig. The skull was unearthed by a sharp-eyed mudlarker strolling the banks of the River Thames.

"When I first saw it, I thought it was a pot that might have been upside down — like a ceramic pot," Martin Bushell told As It Happens host Carol Off. "It looked more like a crab shell."

Mudlarkers are amateur archeologists who scour the banks of the Thames at low tide for treasure and historic artifacts. The tradition dates back to the Victorian era.

More: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-thursday-edition-1.5028070/british-mudlarker-unearths-a-neolithic-skull-on-the-banks-of-the-river-thames-1.5028073

Jersey

Jersey ‘drowned landscape’ could yield Ice Age insights


Archaeologists are planning an ambitious survey of part of the seabed off Jersey where Neanderthals once lived.

The site is part-exposed during spring low tide, giving the team a four-hour window to dig while the sea is out.

Stone tools and mammoth remains have been recovered from the Violet Bank over the years.

More: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51299755

Denmark (Country)

Neolithic chewing gum helps recreate image of ancient Dane


Analysis of birch tar describes a female hunter-gatherer with dark skin and blue eyes

At the dawn of the Neolithic era, a young woman discarded a lump of ancient chewing gum made from birch tar into a shallow, brackish lagoon that drew fishers to the coast of southern Denmark.

Nearly 6,000 years later, researchers excavating the site spotted the gum amid pieces of wood and wild animal bone and from it have reassembled her complete DNA and so painted the broadest strokes of her portrait.

More: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/17/neolithic-dna-ancient-chewing-gum-denmark?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Eire

Why have thousands of archaeological sites ‘disappeared’?


While the archaeologists have been busy finding new monuments of interest, the State has been busy facilitating their systematic removal

Mon, Dec 9, 2019, 05:00

Mark Clinton

According to the legal definition, there are five alternative criteria under which a monument qualifies as a national monument. Defying alphabetical order, “historical interest” is the first listed criterion. In 2003 the Carrickmines Castle site was recognised as a national monument before the Supreme Court. And now we are launching the history of the settlement and fortification, its long-term occupants the Walshes, their cousins in Shanganagh, Kilgobbin, Balally, etc, and, among many other players, that of the besieger of Carrickmines in March 1642, Sir Simon Harcourt. It is a colourful story, with a big finale. Truly, a site worthy of its national monument status.

And yet, the site, the national monument, is no more, save for some sad remnants, scattered about a busy roundabout. Ah yes, the Carrickmines junction. A junction not connecting with any national routes or, indeed, with a road of any significance. A junction whose planning origins remain unknown despite the best efforts of the Flood-Mahon tribunal. One of a daisy-chain of junctions along a motorway originally designed to carry national traffic unimpeded around Dublin city. A junction that effectively destroyed the integrity of the national monument. How did this happen?

The National Monuments Act, passed in 1930, brought legal protection to our ancient built heritage. On a number of subsequent occasions the Act was amended and strengthened to remove weaknesses and loopholes. Particular credit should go to former ministers Michael D Higgins and Síle de Valera for their significant contributions to the protective legislation.

More: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/why-have-thousands-of-archaeological-sites-disappeared-1.4103381?fbclid=IwAR3zs9yezDZ02D85XGVIGsLazia-AuDR9RKcSbQfQoqKtXJInbP2dMVHCTo

Herefordshire

Detectorists hid find that rewrites Anglo-Saxon history


An expert gasped when he saw coins unearthed by two men now convicted of theft

On a sunny day in June 2015 amateur metal detectorists George Powell and Layton Davies were hunting for treasure in fields at a remote spot in Herefordshire.

The pair had done their research carefully and were focusing on a promising area just north of Leominster, close to high land and a wood with intriguing regal names – Kings Hall Hill and Kings Hall Covert.

More: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/nov/21/detectorists-hid-find-that-rewrites-anglo-saxon-history

County Donegal

Hoard of the Rings - Bronze Age treasure on display


The heaviest intact prehistoric gold hoard ever found in Ireland has gone on public display at the
Donegal County Museum in Letterkenny.

More: https://www.rte.ie/news/ulster/2019/1119/1092820-donegal-gold-hoard/

Knocknarea (Cairn(s))

Conservation plan required for cairn of Queen Maeve atop Knocknarea


A meeting of Sligo County Council has heard there is an incredible amount of damage being done to one of the most significant historic monuments in the country, the stone cairn over Queen Maeve’s grave on the summit of Knocknarea.

Sinn Fein Councillor Chris MacManus says a small number of people climb on top of the cairn while Fine Gael Councillor Sinead Maguire says people can be seen coming down the mountain carrying rocks from the cairn.

A local resident in the area also told Ocean FM News recently that some people have been digging up quartz stones from around the base of the cairn.

More (including a short poscast): https://www.oceanfm.ie/2019/11/12/conservation-plan-required-for-cairn-of-queen-maeve/?fbclid=IwAR1a2nXG8r302c0nimDg6CjVi-rTSgn2ZOhumlnKeEYZfIlfPttgmVOE-xA

Boyne Valley Complex

Archaeologists say they've discovered what could be Neolithic log boats near Newgrange


The river bed of the Boyne is being searched by archaeologists.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS HAVE IDENTIFIED what could be Neolithic log boats as well as boulders, perhaps intended to be used in the building of Newgrange or Knowth, in the river bed of the Boyne, near to the famous monuments.

More: https://jrnl.ie/4878107

France (Country)

Neanderthal footprints found in France offer snapshot of their lives


Scientists find 257 prints that were preserved in wind-driven sand 80,000 years ago

Scientists have found hundreds of perfectly preserved footprints, providing evidence that Neanderthals walked the Normandy coast in France.
The prints suggest a group of 10-13 individuals, mostly children and adolescents, were on the shoreline 80,000 years ago.
Neanderthals, the closest evolutionary cousins to present-day humans and primates, have long been thought to have lived in social groups, but details have been hard to establish.

More: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/sep/10/neanderthal-footprints-found-in-france-offer-snapshot-of-their-lives?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Dinas Dinlle (Cliff Fort)

Dinas Dinlle dig uncovers Iron Age roundhouse and Roman coins


A huge Iron Age roundhouse, thought to be about 2,500 years old, and roman pottery have been uncovered during an archaeological dig at a coastal fort.

Volunteers have joined experts to find out more about the little-known Dinas Dinlle National Trust-owned monument in Gwynedd before it falls into the sea.

The 43ft (13m) wide roundhouse was buried by coastal sand, thought to have blown there during a sandstorm in 1330.

Coins found at the fort near Caernarfon suggest it was occupied in Roman times.

The "well-preserved" roundhouse - with its 8ft (2.5m) thick walls - was uncovered close to the cliff edge buried underneath 3ft (1m) of sand during a two-week dig.

More: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-49397328?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_wales_news&ns_linkname=wales&ns_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR0nyySxlVuqawKkRL7-6vl6GmiF38rLZlWAO78mVxWtmVuS46jdmbJoHvw
Showing 1-20 of 70 news posts. Most recent first | Next 20
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