Scientist: All Blue-Eyed People Are Related
Wikimedia Commons: A genetic mutant.
If you've got blue eyes, shake the hand of the nearest person who shares your azure irises: He or she may be a distant cousin.
Danish researchers have concluded that all blue-eyed people share a common ancestor, presumably someone who lived 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.
"Originally, we all had brown eyes," Professor Hans Eiberg of the University of Copenhagen said in a press release. "But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a 'switch,' which literally 'turned off' the ability to produce brown eyes."
Read the rest here.
Find may shed light on Roman era
A team of archaeologists from the University of Exeter has found a Roman fort dating from the 1st Century AD in fields in Cornwall.
Several items of pottery have been excavated
Several items of pottery have been excavated and a furnace which may have been used to smelt minerals.
Researchers said the find at Calstock, close to a silver mine, could show for the first time the Romans' interest in exploiting Cornish minerals.
Very little is known so far about the Roman occupation in Cornwall.
'Medieval documents '
The discovery could therefore mark an important step in piecing together this period of history.
Read the rest on the BBC.
UN vandals spray graffiti on Sahara’s prehistoric art
Spectacular prehistoric depictions of animal and human figures created up to 6,000 years ago on Western Saharan rocks have been vandalised by United Nations peacekeepers, The Times has learnt.
Archaeological sites boasting ancient paintings and engravings of giraffes, buffalo and elephants have been defaced within the past two years by personnel attached to the UN mission, known by its French acronym, Minurso.
Graffiti, some of it more than a metre high and sprayed with paint meant for use for marking routes, now blights the rock art at Lajuad, an isolated site known as Devil Mountain, which is regarded by the local Sahrawi population as a mystical place of great cultural significance.
Read the rest here.
Black Death targeted the weak
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
The Black Death, which killed one person in every three in Europe, was not as indiscriminate as thought, according to studies of remains in mass grave in East Smithfield. The toll was so high during its height in the 1300s that many have concluded that anyone and everyone who came into contact with the agent, thought to be a bacterium, was doomed.Read the rest on the Telegraph.
Unlocking Mysteries of the Parthenon
By Evan Hadingham for Smithsonian magazine
Aris Messinis/ AFP/ Getty Images
During the past 2,500 years, the Parthenon—the apotheosis of ancient Greek architecture—has been rocked by earthquakes, set on fire, shattered by exploding gunpowder, looted for its stunning sculptures and defaced by misguided preservation efforts. Amazingly, the ancient Athenians built the Parthenon in just eight or nine years. Repairing it is taking a bit longer.
A restoration project funded by the Greek government and the European Union is now entering its 33rd year, as archaeologists, architects, civil engineers and craftsmen strive not simply to imitate the workmanship of the ancient Greeks but to re-create it. They have had to become forensic architects, reconstructing long-lost techniques to answer questions that archaeologists and classical scholars have debated for centuries. How did the Athenians construct their mighty temple, an icon of Western civilization, in less than a decade—apparently without an overall building plan? How did they manage to incorporate subtle visual elements into the Parthenon's layout and achieve such faultless proportions and balance? And how were the Parthenon's builders able to work at a level of precision (in some cases accurate to within a fraction of a millimeter) without the benefit of modern tools? "We're not as good as they were," Lena Lambrinou, an architect on the restoration project, observes with a sigh.
Read the rest on the Smithsonian.
High taxes, shaky economy, rampant thugs... 1812 was Britain's worst year EVER
The year was barely an hour old before murder and mayhem struck the streets.
Young thugs, pickpockets and thieves armed themselves with knives and cudgels and went marauding through a city centre for victims to mug.
Three dozen of them steamed round William Jolly, a divinity student, and stole his money. Walter Robertson, a businessman, was held against a wall and robbed of his watch and wallet.
The year of hell: In 1812 the Napoleonic Wars were raging, as portrayed by TV's Sharpe played by Sean Bean
A watchman, Dugald Campbell, got in their way and was battered to the ground. He lay in the road dying while his attackers, the Keelie Gang, roared off in search of more trouble.
Sounds familiar? Could it have been this year, 2008, in which street robberies are so common that even the Home Secretary advises women against walking outside alone at night?
In fact, the year in question was 1812, and those events in the early hours of New Year's Day in Edinburgh were only the start of an extraordinary 12 months of crime and civil unrest.
Britain was in the doldrums. There seemed no end in sight to a dozen years of war with the ever-expansionist tyranny of Napoleon Bonaparte and his version of a united Europe.
Nelson's glorious victory seven years earlier at Trafalgar seemed a lifetime away.
Read the rest on the DailyMail.
The Liar's Diary
Although this has nothing to do with archaeology, anthropology, or even history, I would like to take a moment to recommend to every one of my readers a wonderful author named Patry Francis who is celebrating her book's paperback debut today. THE LIAR'S DIARY
is a fantastic - and extremely creepy - read for fans of thrillers and literary fiction. And while this should be Patry's most triumphant day, she has been unable to do publicity due to her sudden fight against cancer. In order to help publicize what is a really great work, more than 300 bloggers are blogging about Patry today. You can read on Patry's blog
about her fight, or checkout her website at patryfrancis.com
Congratulations on a wonderful debut!
Missing for a half century, a cache of photos
By ANDREW HIGGINS
On the night of April 24, 1944, British air force bombers hammered a former Jesuit college here housing the Bavarian Academy of Science. The 16th-century building crumpled in the inferno. Among the treasures lost, later lamented Anton Spitaler, an Arabic scholar at the academy, was a unique photo archive of ancient manuscripts of the Quran.
The 450 rolls of film had been assembled before the war for a bold venture: a study of the evolution of the Quran, the text Muslims view as the verbatim transcript of God's word. The wartime destruction made the project "outright impossible," Mr. Spitaler wrote in the 1970s.
Mr. Spitaler was lying. The cache of photos survived, and he was sitting on it all along. The truth is only now dribbling out to scholars -- and a Quran research project buried for more than 60 years has risen from the grave.
"He pretended it disappeared. He wanted to be rid of it," says Angelika Neuwirth, a former pupil and protégée of the late Mr. Spitaler. Academics who worked with Mr. Spitaler, a powerful figure in postwar German scholarship who died in 2003, have been left guessing why he squirreled away the unusual trove for so long.
Read the rest on the WSJ here.
Rescuing citadel: A ray of hope for Iraq
This undated photo provided by Gema Art Group shows an aerial view of the citadel in Irbil, 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq. Towering above the bustling markets and painted blast walls of modern Irbil, the citadel's narrow alleyways and dusty courtyards stand almost deserted. Its mud brick houses, built atop layers of ancient civilizations stretching back through millennia, are crumbling. (AP Photo/Gema Art Group)
IRBIL, Iraq—Towering above the modern streets and buildings of Irbil, the citadel's narrow alleyways and dusty courtyards stand almost deserted. Its mud-brick houses, built atop layers of ancient civilizations stretching back through millennia, are crumbling.
Irbil's citadel, claimed to be one of the longest continuously inhabited urban areas on Earth with a history of more than 8,000 years, is in danger. Its slopes are eroding and its buildings are collapsing.
But authorities in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region have a plan to rescue it. They hope to turn the citadel, and the vast archaeological wealth buried within the mound on which it stands, into a world-renowned tourist site complete with hotels, coffee houses, art galleries -- and a vibrant, permanent living community.
The planned reconstruction is a beacon of hope for Iraq's rich cultural heritage, and highlights the vast differences between the relatively tranquil Kurdish region in the north, and the violence in other parts of the country.
Read the rest on Boston.com.
How can the Government destroy a True Brit?
The Royal Mint confirmed Britannia will be removed
Ever since she appeared on a farthing in the reign of Charles II more than 300 years ago, the image of Britannia sitting on her rock wearing her Greek helmet and flowing classical robes, holding her trident with a lion at her feet has made a continuous appearance on British coins.
But now the Royal Mint has confirmed that, before he left the Treasury for Number 10, Gordon Brown personally approved a new set of coins from which she has been entirely removed.
How profoundly depressing. No other name is more redolent of our country. No symbol, other than the Union Flag, better sums up these islands.
Yet we are told that under the most significant overhaul of coinage since decimalisation, she is to be replaced with a representation of modern Britain, whatever that may be.
Since Britannia has seen off all manner of changes and modern fads over her venerable lifetime - although never perhaps quite the deep loathing for this country's history that the current Labour Government exhibits - you would hope that she could have been allowed to stay with us. Read the rest on the DailyMail.
Grim secrets of Pharaoh's city
By John Hayes-Fisher
Evidence of the brutal lives endured by some ancient Egyptians to build the monuments of the Pharaohs has been uncovered by archaeologists.
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Bones reveal the darker side to building Ancient Egypt
Skeletal remains from a lost city in the middle of Egypt suggest many ordinary people died in their teenage years and lived a punishing lifestyle.
Many suffered from spinal injuries, poor nutrition and stunted growth. Read the rest on BBCNews.
Graeco-Roman mummies, painted wooden sarcophagi, jewellery and papyri have been unearthed in Deir Al-Banat necropolis in Fayoum
by Nevine El-Aref
Deir Al-Banat necropolis, which lies in the southern Fayoum, comprises a series of rock hewn tombs dating from the Graeco-Roman period through to early Christian times. To the north is a well preserved ruin of a mediaeval monastery with a fired brick church at its centre, a mud brick residential area and a refectory where the monks would have communal meals.
Between 1980 and 1995 the necropolis was the site of major excavations by the Egyptian Antiquities Authority, now the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). A collection of intact Roman burials were discovered along with disturbed Coptic graves containing bones and skulls. The necropolis was then neglected until 2002 when a joint Russian-American mission was given permission to conduct excavations and an anthropological survey.
Early studies of the necropolis revealed that the north western section had been subjected to widespread clandestine digging throughout the 1970s. The anthropological survey of unearthed skulls revealed that the majority of females died by the age of 30 with only 1.5 per cent reaching the age of 50. While males also had a high mortality rate between 18 and 30 far more survived into their 40s.
Read the rest here.
Gold coins show ‘Emperor of Britain’
Two “extremely important” gold coins that shed light on a little-known rebel Roman emperor from the 3rd century AD have been unearthed by a farmer in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area. They relate to the Roman commander Carausius, who declared himself Emperor of Britain around 286 or 287 after the Emperor in Rome ordered his execution. He was overthrown in a coup d’état by his finance minister, Allectus, in 293.Read the rest on TheTimesOnline.
New Discoveries At The Ash Altar Of Zeus Offer Insights Into Origins Of Ancient Greece's Most Powerful God
Top: Altar of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion. Left to right: Dan Diffendale, University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Arthur Rhon, Wichita State University, and Arvey Basa, University of Arizona. Bottom Left: Crystal lentoid seal of a bull, Late Minoan I or II, ca. 1400 B.C. Diameter 3 cm. Bottom Right: Reverse of Arcadian League silver stater, Zeus Lykaios seated on a throne with an eagle in his left hand. 5th century B.C. Diameter 2 cm. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Pennsylvania Museum)
ScienceDaily (Jan. 23, 2008) — The Greek traveler, Pausanias, living in the second century, CE, would probably recognize the spectacular site of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion, and particularly the altar of Zeus. At 4,500 feet above sea level, atop the altar provides a breathtaking, panoramic vista of Arcadia.
“On the highest point of the mountain is a mound of earth, forming an altar of Zeus Lykaios, and from it most of the Peloponnesos can be seen,” wrote Pausanias, in his famous, well-respected multi-volume Description of Greece. “Before the altar on the east stand two pillars, on which there were of old gilded eagles. On this altar they sacrifice in secret to Lykaion Zeus. I was reluctant to pry into the details of the sacrifice; let them be as they are and were from the beginning.”
What would surprise Pausanias—as it is surprising archaeologists—is how early that “beginning” actually may be. New pottery evidence from excavations by the Greek-American, interdisciplinary team of the Mt. Lykaion Excavation and Survey Project indicates that the ash altar—a cone of earth located atop the southern peak of Mt Lykaion where dedications were made in antiquity— was in use as early as 5,000 years ago—at least 1,000 years before the early Greeks began to worship the god Zeus.Read the rest on Science Daily.
DNA tests finally solve the riddle of what happened to the last tsar's two children
For 90 years, it has been an enduring mystery - did some members of the Russian royal family survive execution by the Bolsheviks in 1918?
Now DNA tests carried out on two sets of bones found in the Ural Mountains appear to have solved the riddle.
Forensic experts say initial results show the human remains belong to 13-year-old Crown Prince Alexei and his sister Princess Maria, 19.
Executed: Tsar Nicholas II and his family, with Maria and Alexei circled
The pair were shot on the orders of Lenin along with their father Nicholas II, the last tsar, their mother and three sisters in the year after the Russian Revolution.
Other tests are under way in Britain, where researchers hope to match DNA to members of the British Royal Family, notably Prince Philip.
Read the rest on the DailyMail.
It's No Dud: Bomb Squad Disposes of Live Rocket on Display in Veterans' Museum
CUMBERLAND, Maryland — History could have come to life in very much the wrong way at a veterans' museum where a rocket on display for two years was discovered to be live.
After Allegany County authorities were notified Wednesday that the Mark 1 rocket on display in Cumberland might be live, the state fire marshal's office and the FBI confirmed it was. Bomb experts removed the ordnance and rendered it safe.
Read the rest on FoxNews.com
Ancient Maya sacrificed boys not virgin girls: study
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The victims of human sacrifice by Mexico's ancient Mayans, who threw children into water-filled caverns, were likely boys and young men not virgin girls as previously believed, archeologists said on Tuesday.
The Maya built soaring temples and elaborate palaces in the jungles of Central America and southern Mexico before the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s.
Read the rest here.
100,000-year-old human skull found
By Wang Shanshan (China Daily)
An almost complete human skull fossil that could date back 100,000 years was unearthed in Henan last month, Chinese archaeologists announced Tuesday.
"It is the greatest discovery in China after the Peking Man and Upper Cave Man skull fossils were found in Beijing early last century, and will shed light on a critical period of human evolution," said Shan Jixiang, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Rare Middle-Class Tomb Found From Ancient Egypt
Archaeologists have unsealed the intact burial chamber of an ancient Egyptian official, providing a rare glimpse into the burial customs of the Old Kingdom's middle class.
The relatively modest tomb, belonging to a fifth dynasty priest and politician named Neferinpu, was discovered in 2006 at Abusir, the ancient necropolis of the fifth and 26th dynasties, located near modern-day Cairo.
Photograph courtesy Miroslav Barta
Only recently, however, did a Czech team open the tomb's burial chamber, a tiny room about 33 feet (10 meters) below ground packed with offerings and personal effects that had remained undisturbed for nearly 4,500 years.
"The most important conclusion to be connected with this discovery—which is, in principle, a major discovery—is that everything we saw was found intact, which means nobody has seen or touched this burial since the Old Kingdom," said Miroslav Barta, the Czech archaeologist who led the excavation.
It is rare to unearth intact burials of upper-middle class officials such as Neferinpu—a tier below extravagant royal burials but more elaborate than those of the lower classes—he added.
Read the rest on National Geographic.
Ancient tannery in Pompeii to undergo restoration this year
ROME – An ancient tannery in the archaeological complex of Pompeii, a city destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the first century, will be restored, officials said Monday.
The tannery – discovered in the 19th century and excavated in the 1950s – includes water pipes, 15 round tubs and the tannery manager's house, archaeological officials said. A drying area is also believed to have been part of the complex.
Read the rest here.
Stolen boomerang comes back
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Proving boomerangs really do come back, an Australian town was Thursday celebrating the return of a boomerang stolen from an outback museum by an American tourist 25 years ago.
Read the rest on Yahoo.
Tithebarn could yield medieval treasures
The burial ground found on a development site near Marsh Lane
Medieval treasures could be buried beneath the site of Preston's £750m regeneration project, it has been claimed.
Archaeologists think there could be relics from the "medieval and post-medieval periods, and perhaps even earlier" under the 30-acre site.
Investigations are to start next month so that, should anything be found, it can be incorporated into the already delayed time schedule.
Council bosses have stressed that the work is routine for a planning application of this size.
Last year, a development was delayed when 30 graves, 12 of them containing virtually complete skeletons, were discovered off Marsh Lane.Read the rest here.
Ancient queen’s tomb discovered in Ibb
By: Mohammed al-Kibsi
Three tombs believed to date back to the Hemiriate dynasty have been discovered in the al-Usaibyah area of the al-Sadda district of Ibb last week.
The tombs housed three women, one of them believed to be a queen. Local sources from al-Sadda confirmed that golden jewels were found in the tomb, believed to be for a queen or a princess. Other jewels were found in the other two tombs. In addition, a bronze spear was found in a second tomb and a 70 centimeter sword in a third tomb.
The three tombs were found in a rocky room around five meters deep and about 3 meters wide. The room contained large pieces of alabaster, each piece around 150 cubic centimeters. The room also contained a 20 centimeter bronze belt.
The al-Usaibyah area is near the Raidan Palace, not far from the ancient city of Dhafar, the capital of the Saba and Tho Raydan kingdoms. Dr. Abdullah Ba-Wazir, head of the General Authority of Antiquities and Museums, said that the discovery in al-Ausaibyah came about after two tribes began fighting about the discovery the tombs. When local authorities intervened to resolve the conflict between the two tribes, they discovered the tomb.Read the rest here.
Bronze Age site is found in city
Archaeologists in Cambridge have unearthed the first hard evidence that an area of the city was occupied during the Bronze Age.
In 2007 Bronze Age remains were found near Peterborough
The remains were found during a dig at Fitzwilliam College and probably belonged to a 3,500-year-old farmstead.
Read the rest here.
Scans Show Culture Fundamentally Alters the Brain
It's no secret that culture influences your food preferences and taste in music.
But now scientists say it impacts the hard-wiring of your brain.
New research shows that people from different cultures use their brains differently to solve basic perceptual tasks.
Neuroscientists Trey Hedden and John Gabrieli of MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research asked Americans and East Asians to solve basic shape puzzles while in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.
They found that both groups could successfully complete the tasks, but American brains had to work harder at relative judgments, while East Asian brains found absolute judgments more challenging.
Previous psychology research has shown that American culture focuses on the individual and values independence, while East Asian culture is more community-focused and emphasizes seeing people and objects in context.
This study provides the first neurological evidence that these cultural differences extend to brain activity patterns.Read the rest here.
Jesus 'Tomb' Controversy Reopened
The Talpiot tomb.
Discovery / EPA
By TIM MCGIRK/JERUSALEM
When the Discovery Channel aired a TV documentary last year raising the possibility that archeologists had found the family tomb of Jesus Christ in the hills behind Jerusalem, it caused a huge backlash among Christians. The claim, after all, challenged one of the cornerstones of Christian faith — that Jesus, after his crucifixion, rose bodily to heaven in his physical form.
The Lost Tomb of Jesus, made by Hollywood director James Cameron and Canadian investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici, was shown only once on Discovery. Britain's Channel 4 canceled its own plans to air the documentary, which reexamines an archeological find from 1980 in which a crypt was found containing what were said to be the ossuaries of Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the son of Joseph, Mariamne (possibly Mary Magdalene, say the filmmakers) and Judah, son of Jesus. Given the highly explosive nature of its conclusion and its slapdash sleuthing, it was no surprise that the film was panned by some academics and many Christian clerics.
Still, even after the furor over the film faded, the questions it raised about the tomb unearthed in 1980 continued to make waves among archeologists and Biblical scholars. A leading New Testament expert from Princeton Theological Seminary, Prof. James Charlesworth, was intrigued enough to organize a conference in Jerusalem this week, bringing together over 50 archeologists, statisticians and experts in DNA, ceramics and ancient languages, to give evidence as to whether or not the crypt of Christ had been found. Their task was complicated by the fact that since the tomb was opened in 1980, the bones of the various ossuaries had gone missing through a mishap of Israeli bureaucracy. Also gone were diagrams made by excavators that showed where each stone sarcophagus lay inside the tomb, and what the family relationships might have been, say, between Jesus and Mary Magdelene, who some speculate may have been his wife.
After three days of fierce debate, the experts remained deeply divided. Opinion among a panel of five experts ranged from "no way" to "very possible". Charlesworth told TIME: "I have reservations, but I can't dismiss the possibility that this tomb was related to the Jesus clan." Weighing the evidence, says Charlesworth, "we can tell that this was the tomb of a Jewish family from the time of Jesus. And we know that the names on the ossuaries are expressed the correct way as 'Jesus, son of Joseph.'"Read the rest on Time.com.