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Welcome to History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site. From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History Buff wants to know.

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author


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Stonehenge was a place of burial, researchers say

WASHINGTON (AP) -- England's enigmatic Stonehenge served as a burial ground from its earliest beginnings and for several hundred years thereafter, new research indicates.
Druids perfom a blessing ceremony at Stonehenge in southern England.

Dating of cremated remains shows burials took place as early as 3000 B.C., when the first ditches around the monument were being built, researchers said Thursday.

And those burials continued for at least 500 years, when the giant stones that mark the mysterious circle were being erected, they said.

"It's now clear that burials were a major component of Stonehenge in all its main stages," said Mike Parker Pearson, archaeology professor at the University of Sheffield in England and head of the Stonehenge Riverside Archaeological Project.

Read the rest here.


Isolated tribe spotted in Brazil

The photos are being used to prove the tribe's existence
Image: Gleison Miranda, Funai

One of South America's few remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes has been spotted and photographed on the border between Brazil and Peru.

The Brazilian government says it took the images to prove the tribe exists and help protect its land.

The pictures, taken from an aeroplane, show red-painted tribe members brandishing bows and arrows.

More than half the world's 100 uncontacted tribes live in Brazil or Peru, Survival International says.

Stephen Corry, the director of the group - which supports tribal people around the world - said such tribes would "soon be made extinct" if their land was not protected.

Read trhe rest on the BBC.


Archaeologists Excavate Ancient Egyptian City in Sinai

CAIRO, Egypt — Archaeologists exploring an old military road in the Sinai have unearthed 3,000-year-old remains from an ancient fortified city, the largest yet found in Egypt, antiquities authorities announced Wednesday.

Among the discoveries at the site was a relief of King Thutmose II (1516-1504 B.C.), thought to be the first such royal monument discovered in Sinai, said Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

It indicates that Thutmose II may have built a fort near the ancient city, located about two miles northeast of present day Qantara and known historically as Tharu.

A 550-by-275-yard mud brick fort with several 13-foot-high towers dating to King Ramses II (1304-1237 B.C.) was unearthed in the same area, he said.

Read the rest on Foxnews.


Researchers Recover Thousand-Year-Old Viking DNA


By Brandon Keim

The Vikings buried on the Danish island of Funen may very well have sailed all the way to Constantinople or Baghdad or Moscow, looting and pillaging with lusty ferocity. And now we've got their DNA.

In a study published today in Public Library of Science ONE, Danish scientists describe the retrieval of genetic material from ten Viking skeletons found in an ancient burial site near the city of Odense. The remains date to 1000 AD, the twilight of Viking civilization.

The scientific team was led by the Institute of Forensic Medicine's Jorgen Dissing, who previously showed that the last Viking king was buried with his daughter-in-law, not his mom.

The discovery of the DNA is not in itself extraordinary (though it certainly is cool to have Viking DNA samples). The significance instead lies in the steps the researchers took to keep the DNA free from contamination.

Recovering ancient DNA is a notoriously tricky task. First scientists must find a decently preserved sample. Then they have to keep it from becoming tainted by other genetic material. This isn't easy. Stray DNA is to researchers what dust is to regular people: inevitable and nearly escapable.

That's what spoiled Cretaceous-era dinosaur DNA and Neolithic remains found in Spain. Academic literature is full of reports on promising samples gone bad, or parsing the techniques needed to be sure that ancient DNA doesn't actually come from a stray flake of lab technician skin.

Read the rest here.

Why gigantic winged dinosaurs preferred hunting on FOOT

An artist's impression showing the scale between a human and an azhdarchid

It seems even gigantic winged dinosaurs thought flying was for the birds.

New research released today shows that flying dinosaurs were just as happy hunting on foot as they were in the air.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have found that pterosaurs did not just gather food by swooping on fish from the water like gulls.

But they claim the azhdarchid type of pterosaur, which lived between 65 and 230 million years ago, were more likely to stalk their prey on foot.

Artists' impressions of winged azhdarchids, that lived between 65 and 230 million years ago. They were as happy on foot as in the air

Dr Darren Naish and Mark Witton said that they had come to their conclusion after studying the anatomy of the azhdarchid, their footprints and the distribution of fossils.

Dr Naish said: "Azhdarchids first became reasonably well known in the 1970s, but how they lived has been the subject of much debate.

Read the rest on the DailyMail.


Grandson of rag and bone man discovers 'Indiana Jones' gold cup may be worth £500,000

By Beth Hale

As a child, John Webber often played with the strange engraved metal cup that was lying around in his grandfather's scrapyard.

Even when he inherited the cup from the old rag-and-bone man, he assumed it was simply another piece of bronze or brass which had escaped the melting pot.

Gold cup
John Webber was left the 22 carat gold cup by his grandfather and is now planning to sell it for £500,000

Fortune: This metal cup has turned out to be an ancient treasure
Fortune: This metal cup has turned out to be an ancient treasure and dates back to before Christ

But last year Mr Webber, himself now a 70-year- old grandfather, unpacked it from its box after six decades to discover he had been sitting on a fortune.

Experts say the cup is pure gold and dates back to before the birth of Christ.

Read the rest on DailyMail.

2,000-year-old treasures tell wild story

This sculpture likely depicts a supervisor of Greek athletics. It was unearthed in Afghanistan.

Pendants showing the Dragon Master, a mythical nomadic man holding dragons by the leg, date back to the days of Christ.

PHOTOS BY THIERRY OLLIVIER/MUSEE GUIMET: A detailed ivory statuette of a woman probably adorned a piece of furniture in the 1st or 2nd century.

by NEELY TUCKER; The Washington Post

You can go see Indiana Jones and the temple of whatever if you like, but it’s probably not going to be as good as the Bactrian Gold and the Secret of Tillya Tepe.

The former is at any multiplex. The latter is at only the National Gallery of Art.

It’s one of those ripping good yarns of yesteryear, the kind you used to see on cliffhanger serials before the main feature. This one is set in a dusty corner of Afghanistan. It’s about ancient art, looters, gravediggers, the Russians, the French, the Taliban, an invasion or three, civil war, the Silk Road, the Dragon Master and 22,607 pieces of gold and ivory and lapis and turquoise. There’s a surprising role played by pink Chinese toilet paper and six mysterious safes in a sealed underground vault at the presidential compound.

Read the rest here.

'Maori Pompeii' yields treasures

By Craig Borley
Tawhiti Rahi Island (rear) in the Poor Knights group was inhabited by pre-European Maori. Photo / Northern AdvocateTawhiti Rahi Island (rear) in the Poor Knights group was inhabited by pre-European Maori. Photo / Northern Advocate

A New Zealand archaeologist has uncovered an untouched "time capsule" of Maori life almost 200 years ago.

The remains have lain hidden beneath the impenetrable undergrowth of the Poor Knights' northern island, Tawhiti Rahi, since December 16, 1823.

On that day, or in the few days prior, a raiding party from Northland's Hikutu hapu landed at the island's only safe landing spot - choosing a time when the island's Ngatiwai iwi chief and men were off on their own raid.

Read the rest here.

Galilee cave reveals secrets of hunter-gatherers

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Tuesday, 27 May 2008

 The cave dwelling is filled with stalactites

A wealth of new information about the way of life of early man in the eastern Mediterranean, long before the invention of the wheel, is likely to be uncovered after the startling discovery of a cave inhabited by hunter-gatherers between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Workers constructing a sewage line through a forest in northern Israel stumbled across a large cave containing stalactites and strewn with discarded fragments of prehistoric tools and the burnt bones of animals which have long been extinct in the region, including red deer, fallow deer, buffalo and even bears.

While examination of the remains is at a preliminary stage, experts have hailed the discovery – at an undisclosed location in western Galilee – as the most important of its kind in the southern Levant for up to half a century. Dr Ofer Marder, the head of the prehistory branch of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and an archaeologist colleague were lowered 30m down into the darkness by rope. He described the cave as "one of the best preserved I have seen" and added: "It was if prehistoric man had left it five days earlier."

Read the rest on The Independent.


'Indiana Jones'-Like Archeologist Says He's Found Cleopatra's Tomb

Hawass, at work in 2005, now thinks he has found the queen’s tomb

A flamboyant archeologist known worldwide for his trademark Indiana Jones hat believes he has identified the site where Cleopatra is buried.

Now, with a team of 12 archeologists and 70 excavators, Zahi Hawass, 60, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, has started searching for the entrance to her tomb.

And after a breakthrough two weeks ago he hopes to find her lover, the Roman general Mark Antony, sharing her last resting place at the site of a temple, the Taposiris Magna, 28 miles west of Alexandria.

Hawass has discovered a 400ft tunnel beneath the temple containing clues that the supposedly beautiful queen may lie beneath. “We’ve found tunnels with statues of Cleopatra and many coins bearing her face, things you wouldn’t expect in a typical temple,” he said.

A fortnight ago Hawass’s team discovered a bust of Mark Antony, the Roman general who became Cleopatra’s lover and had three children with her before their ambitions for an Egyptian empire brought them into conflict with Rome.

Read the rest here.

Report: Titanic Discovery Was Cold War Cover-Up

The man who located the wreck of the Titanic has revealed that the discovery was a cover-up for the real mission of inspecting the wrecks of two Cold War nuclear submarines.

When Bob Ballard led a team that pinpointed the wreckage of the liner in 1985, he had already completed his main task of finding out what happened to USS Thresher and USS Scorpion.

Both of the U.S. Navy vessels sank during the 1960s, killing more than 200 men and giving rise to fears that at least one of them, Scorpion, had been sunk by the Soviet Union.

Ballard, an oceanographer, has admitted that he located and inspected the wrecks for the U.S. Navy in top secret missions before he was allowed to search for the Titanic.

Read the rest on FoxNews.


"Frog-amander" Fossil May Be Amphibian Missing Link

Anne Casselman
for National Geographic News

A new fossil find may be an evolutionary missing link in the amphibian family tree, scientists say.

The 290-million-year-old fossil was first collected in Texas by a paleontologist with the Smithsonian Institution in the mid-1990s. It was rediscovered in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., in 2004.

"It had an overall amphibian gestalt. … You know, kind of a froggy slamander-y sort of look," said Jason Anderson, a comparative biologist at the University of Calgary, Canada, who led a new analysis of the fossil.

"But also I recognized some of the archaic features too, and I thought that this would be a critical piece of evidence in trying to work out the origins of modern amphibians."

Dubbed Gerobatrachus hottoni, the animal looked somewhat like a salamander with a stubby tail and froglike ears.

"So it's kind of a frogamander, if you will," said Anderson.

Read the rest on National Geographic News.


Two women owned Elamite treasure

Part of the Ramhormoz Elamite treasure

The latest studies on the Ramhormoz treasure dating back to the Elamite period have revealed that the treasure was owned by two women.

Some 500 pieces of invaluable gold ornaments and artifacts were discovered in two coffins in Iran's southwestern province of Khuzestan.

The ancient treasure and artifacts belonging to the Elamite period (3400-550 BCE), the Achaemenid (550-330 BCE) and the Parthian (248 BCE- 224 CE) dynastic eras were discovered in May 2007.

The most recent studies reveal that the coffins and the treasure belong to a woman aged 30-35 and a young girl of about 17.

Read the rest here.

Vandals Damage Stonehenge With Hammer

LONDON — Two men attacked the ancient monument of Stonehenge with a hammer and chipped off a piece of stone the size of a large coin, a conservation group said Thursday.

Two men hacked the piece from the Heel Stone — the central megalith at the ancient site — last week, English Heritage spokeswoman Debbie Holden said. They were spotted by security guards but escaped by jumping over a fence and driving off.

Read the rest here.

Romans were upper crust on daily bread

by Tony Henderson, The Journal
Andrew Birley at the site of the Granary being unearthed at Vindolanda Roman Fort.

WHEN it came to their daily bread, troops at a Northumberland Roman fort took no chances.

Excavations at Vindolanda are revealing two massive granaries whose quality even outshone the nearby commanding officer’s quarters. The dig is also uncovering a magnificent flagged roadway next to the granaries.

“The masonry of these granaries is far superior to that of the nearby commanding officer’s residence, and although some of the walls have suffered from stone robbing, others are standing to a height of around 5ft,” said director of excavations Andrew Birley. “The magnificent section of superbly flagged Roman roadway is probably now the best example to be seen in the North.”

Samples of material trapped in vents below the flagged floors of the granaries are expected to reveal the nature of the foodstuffs and other goods once stored in the buildings, together with the bones of rodents that attempted to feed upon them.

Read the rest on


First Dinosaur Footprints Found on Arabian Peninsula

By Charles Q. Choi

For the first time, dinosaur footprints have been found on the Arabian Peninsula.

In ancient coastal mudflats in Yemen, fossils reveal that a herd of 11 gigantic dinosaurs — sauropods, the largest animals that ever walked on land — tramped deep tracks into the earth that have lasted roughly 150 million years.

Nearby, there are tracks of a lone ornithopod — a large, common vegetarian with bird-like, three-toed feet that walked on its hind legs, sometimes referred to as the "cow of the Mesozoic," or Age of Dinosaurs, said researcher Anne Schulp of the Maastricht Museum of Natural History in the Netherlands.

Read the rest here.

Found: the dustbin of history

By Khaled Diab

Our collective memory of the past is mostly confined to grand figures and epic events, while the vast majority of humanity ends up in the wastelands of oblivion.

Thanks to nearly half a million papyrus fragments uncovered in Hellenic Egyptian rubbish dumps which are being gradually decoded, however, we are, quite literally, salvaging fragments of ordinary people's lives from the dustbin of history.

The rubbish dumps in question belonged to the provincial but thriving Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus (City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish), about 100 miles south of modern Cairo, which was established during the pharaonic New Kingdom and became Hellenised in Ptolemic times, but was eventually reduced to a single standing column.

Most of the unearthed documents, discovered by two Victorian archaeologists, date from the time when Egypt was part of the Roman empire, and include a treasure trove of lost classics and non-canonical gospels.

Read the rest here.

6000-Year-Old Trade Link Between Clare & Cumbria Identified

A stone axe uncovered in Doolin, County Clare in 2000 was this week confirmed as having likely originated in the Great Langdale and Scafell areas of Cumbria.

According to John Rattigan, Curator of Clare Museum, 'The linking of this stone axe with Cumbria suggests there was contact between Neolithic people in Ireland and in mainland Great Britain.'

The Neolithic or ‘New Stone is generally regarded as the period in which Ireland became a predominantly agricultural-based society.

Read the rest here.


Parrot Fossil 55 Million Years Old Discovered In Scandinavia

Artists impression of the parrot-like bird 'Mopsitta tanta' dating back 55 million years. The fossils indicate that parrots once flew wild over what is now Norway and Denmark. (Credit: Dr David Waterhouse.)
ScienceDaily — Palaeontologists have discovered fossil remains in Scandinavia of parrots dating back 55 million years. Reported May 14 in the journal Palaeontology, the fossils indicate that parrots once flew wild over what is now Norway and Denmark.

Parrots today live only in the tropics and southern hemisphere, but this new research suggests that they first evolved in the North, much earlier than had been thought.

The fossil parrot was discovered on the Isle of Mors in the northwest of Denmark – far from where you’d normally expect to find a parrot. It’s a new species, officially named 'Mopsitta tanta'. However, already its nick-name is the ‘Danish Blue Parrot’, a term derived from a famous comedy sketch about a 'Norwegian Blue Parrot' in the 1970s BBC television programme ‘Monty Python’.

Read the rest here.

World First Discovery: Genes From Extinct Tasmanian Tiger Function In A Mouse

ScienceDaily — Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Texas, USA, have extracted genes from the extinct Tasmanian tiger (thylacine), inserted it into a mouse and observed a biological function -- this is a world first for the use of the DNA of an extinct species to induce a functional response in another living organism.

The results showed that the thylacine Col2a1 gene has a similar function in developing cartilage and bone development as the Col2a1 gene does in the mouse.

"This is the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce a functional response in another living organism," said Dr Andrew Pask, RD Wright Fellow at the University of Melbourne's Department of Zoology who led the research.

"As more and more species of animals become extinct, we are continuing to lose critical knowledge of gene function and their potential."

"Up until now we have only been able to examine gene sequences from extinct animals. This research was developed to go one step further to examine extinct gene function in a whole organism," he said.

Read the rest on ScienceDaily.

Ancient king's face revealed

King Svend Estridsen has been dead for over 900 years but Danes can finally get a realistic view of what the former monarch looked like thanks to a coroner and a sculptor.

A cast of the king's skull was taken at the beginning of the 1900s and has been used by the two men to create a vivid likeness of the ruler's face using the terracotta technique. The technique is used in many Western countries to recreate the faces of unidentified deceased persons and then shown publicly in the hopes of someone recognising the face.

Along with the king, who is also known as Svend II, the terracotta treatment was also applied Queen Sofie, who ruled in the 12th century. Both monarchs are interred at Roskilde Cathedral. The creations are planned to be put on display at the National Museum in the near future.

Read the rest here.

Great Guns on Alderney! The Alderney Elizabethan Shipwreck Gives Up its Guns

It has taken over 400 years but soon the Tower of London is going to get some of its guns back. On May 25, archaeologists will begin work on the recovery of cannon from a sunken Elizabethan ship that went down off the coast of Alderney in the Channel Islands in 1592.

Oxford, UK (PRWEB) -- Great guns on Alderney! It has taken over 400 years but soon the Tower of London is going to get some of its guns back. On May 25, archaeologists will begin work on the recovery of cannon from a sunken Elizabethan ship that went down off the coast of Alderney in the Channel Islands in 1592. The Duke of York is behind the work that aims to conserve, replicate and test-fire the weapons found on this important wreck.

Excavation director Mensun Bound of St Peter's College, Oxford, says, "We are not just bringing up cannon, but also muskets, grenades, swords, rapiers, body armour and helmets. This was a ship that was supplying an English army fighting in France to prevent a second Armada-style invasion by Spain."

What the archaeologists are most interested in is a cannon with a number of items cemented to it as a concretion, including a helmet and a ceramic hand grenade. The grenade was an incendiary device that shattered on impact spreading napalm-like fire over a ship.

Sir Norman Browse, the president of Alderney and the Chairman of the Alderney Maritime Trust that oversees the project, says, "This is not going to be an easy job. The wreck is sitting in soft sand in 30 metres of water in what we call the Swinge, possibly the most notorious stretch of water in the entire Channel. The team can only dive at slack water; a tiny window of just 40 minutes a time. For this reason the team will also have to work at nights." Thankfully, due to the generosity of the A scientific diving ship in Belgium is currently bunkering up for the 30 hr voyage down the Channel to Alderney. All being well they will begin the lift during the week commencing May 26.

Read the rest here.


Divers Find Golden Artifact From Keys Shipwreck

KEY WEST (CBS4) ― Treasure hunters have recovered another near priceless artifact as they follow the debris trail of a Spanish galleon that sank off the Florida Keys more than 380 years ago.

Sunday, divers from Blue Water Ventures found a gold artifact, believed to be a combination toothpick and earwax scoop, in about 22 feet of water, 32 miles west of Key West. The divers were searching the shipwreck trail of the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita that sank in a 1622 hurricane.

Read the rest here.

Martyrs or Imperial Guard?

by Sarah Yeomans


Details of faces—7th century fresco devotional fresco (The Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology)

When a sinkhole opened up after a pipe broke underneath the convent and school of the Instituto Sacra Famiglia on Rome's Via Casilina, the sisters there received a surprise--about 1,200 surprises, in fact. The partial collapse of the building's foundation revealed five large chambers in which the remains of more than a thousand individuals had been interred almost simultaneously sometime at the beginning of the third century A.D.


Crypt of San Pietro e Marcellino (The Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology)


Devotional fresco showing Peter and Marcellinus (The Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology)

Perhaps equally surprising is the location in which they were found. The convent under which the burial chambers are located sits atop the vast catacomb complex of San Pietro and Marcellinus. With three distinct gallery levels, the deepest of which is 36 feet (11m) below the surface, it is one of the largest such burial complexes in the city.

But the newly discovered burial chambers pre-date the extensive catacomb complex, which was believed to have been used by Christians from the mid-third century A.D. with permission from the emperor Gallienus who was anxious to make peace with them after the savage persecution they suffered at the hands his father, Valerian. And although the famed archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi explored and recorded the catacomb at the end of the nineteenth century, there is no indication that he ever even knew of the presence of these chambers.

Read the rest on


Heads or tails?

TWO rare gold coins from the reign of Emperor Valens have been unearthed in Egypt. Nevine El-Aref reports on the find. Archaeologists from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) carrying out a routine archaeological survey at Sail Al-Tofaha area, west of Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, have chanced upon two gold Byzantine coins bearing the head of Emperor Valens (364-378 AD). A number of grotto caves and fragments of clay and glass have already been found in the area.

Read the rest here.

Einstein Letter Doubting Religion Sells for $400,000

LONDON — A letter in which Albert Einstein dismissed the idea of God as the product of human weakness and the Bible as "pretty childish" has sold at auction for more than $400,000.

Bloomsbury Auctions said Friday that the handwritten letter sold to an overseas collector after frenetic bidding late Thursday in London.

The sale price of $404,000, including the buyer's premium, was more than 25 times the pre-sale estimate.

Bloomsbury did not identify the buyer, but managing director Rupert Powell said it was someone with "a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails."

"This extraordinary letter seemed to strike a chord, and it gave a deep personal insight one of the greatest minds of the 20th century," Powell said.

Read the rest here.

Inca Skull Surgeons Were "Highly Skilled," Study Finds

Scott Norris
for National Geographic News

Inca surgeons in ancient Peru commonly and successfully removed small portions of patients' skulls to treat head injuries, according to a new study.

The surgical procedure—known as trepanation—was most often performed on adult men, likely to treat injuries suffered during combat, researchers say.

Inca skull picture

A similar procedure is performed today to relieve pressure caused by fluid buildup following severe head trauma.

Around the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, remains dating back to A.D. 1000 show that surgical techniques were standardized and perfected over time, according to the report.

Many of the oldest skulls showed no evidence of bone healing following the operation, suggesting that the procedure was probably fatal.

But by the 1400s, survival rates approached 90 percent, and infection levels were very low, researchers say.

Read the rest on National Geographic News.


Dead Sea Scroll Put on Rare Display in Israel

By Matti Friedman in Jerusalem
Associated Press

One of the most important Dead Sea scrolls is going on display in Jerusalem this week—more than four decades after it was last seen by the public.

The 24-foot (7.3-meter) scroll with the text of the Bible's Book of Isaiah had been in a dark, temperature-controlled room at the Israel Museum since 1967. It went on display two years earlier, but curators replaced it with a facsimile after noticing new cracks in the calfskin parchment.

The museum decided to put the scroll back on show for three months as part of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations.

Great Find

The priceless manuscript, written by a Judean scribe around 120 B.C., was in a long glass case Tuesday, its neat rows of Hebrew letters distinct and legible. President Bush, visiting Israel this week for the anniversary celebration, will be one of the first to view it.

The Isaiah manuscript was the only complete biblical book discovered among the Dead Sea scrolls, one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century.

The ancient documents, which include fragments of the books of the Old Testament and treatises on communal living and apocalyptic war, have shed important light on Judaism and the origins of Christianity.

Read the rest on National Geographic.

New Archaeological Discovery in Bulgaria's Hisar

By Blaga Bangieva

Marble consecrated slab stone from the Rome epoch was discovered in archaeological excavations by the director of Archaeological Museum in Hisar town doctor Mitko Madjarov.

The precious found has sizes 50 to 50cm and presents the three Rome nymphs - patronesses of the mineral springs.

Read the rest here.


Ancient church emerges from flooded valley for first time in 50 years in most striking image of Barcelona drought

An ancient church has emerged from a flooded valley for the first time in 50 years as Spain's worst drought in decades forced the city of Barcelona to begin shipping in drinking water.

For the majority of the past four decades, all that has been visible of the village of Sant Roma has been the belltower of its stone church, peeping above the water beside forested hills from a valley flooded in the 1960s to provide water for the Catalonia region.

This year, receding waters have exposed the 11th-century church completely, attracting crowds of tourists who stand gazing around it on the dusty bed of the reservoir.

Barcelona drought
For much of the past four decades, all that has been visible of the village of Sant Roma has been the belltower of its stone church

A ship carrying 5million gallons (19,000 cubic meters) of water from nearby Tarragona docked in Barcelona's port this morning. A second vessel from Marseille, France, is scheduled to arrive in the coming days.

The bustling port city on Spain's Mediterranean coast is among the areas hardest hit by the worst springtime drought in the country since records began 60 years ago.

With reservoirs at dramatically low levels and no substantial rainfall in sight, authorities hope a new desalination plant - one of the biggest in Europe - will be operational in May of next year and resolve much of Catalonia's water woes.

Barcelona drought
Crowds of tourists have been attracted to the site

The regional government of Catalonia said six ships a month will bring in a total of 438million gallons (1.66million cubic meters) of water in an unprecedented effort to avoid water restrictions before the start of the holiday season.

Read the rest on DailyMail.

Divers find Caesar bust that may date to 46 B.C.

In this undated image released by France's Culture Ministry Tuesday May 13, 2008, a life size marble bust of Julius Cesar is seen. The bust, probably dated 46 BC, was discovered last year after underwater searches in the Rhone River near Arles, southern France. (AP Photo/Culture Ministry, C. Chary/HO)

AP Photo: In this undated image released by France's Culture Ministry Tuesday

PARIS (AP) - Divers trained in archaeology discovered a marble bust of an aging Caesar in the Rhone River that France's Culture Ministry said Tuesday could be the oldest known.The life-sized bust showing the Roman ruler with wrinkles and hollows in his face is tentatively dated to 46 B.C. Divers uncovered the Caesar bust and a collection of other finds in the Rhone near the town of Arles — founded by Caesar.

Among other items in the treasure trove of ancient objects is a 5.9 foot marble statue of Neptune, dated to the first decade of the third century after Christ.

Two smaller statues, both in bronze and measuring 27.5 inches each also were found, one of them, a satyr with his hands tied behind his back, "doubtless" originated in Hellenic Greece, the ministry said.

Read the rest on Yahoo.

Sunken Steamship Off Louisiana Coast Produces Trove of Rare Gold Coins

AP: NEW ORLEANS — A steamship that sank off the Louisiana coast during an 1846 storm has produced a trove of rare gold coins, including some produced at two, mostly forgotten U.S. mints in the South, coin experts say.

Last year, four Louisiana residents salvaged hundreds of gold coins and thousands of silver coins from the wreckage of the SS New York in about 60 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico, said David Bowers, co-chairman of Stack's Rare Coins in New York.

"Some of these are in uncirculated or mint condition," Bowers said, predicting the best could bring $50,000 to $100,000 each at auction.

Of particular interest to coin experts — numismatists — are gold pieces known as quarter eagles and half eagles, which carried face values of $2.50 and $5, respectively, in the days before the United States printed paper currency.

Those coins were struck at mints in New Orleans; Charlotte, N.C.; and Dahlonega, Ga. The Charlotte and Dahlonega mints operated from 1838, when the first significant U.S. gold deposits were found in those areas, until the start of the Civil War in 1861, said Douglas Mudd, curator of the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum in Denver. Neither mint ever reopened.

Read the rest on FoxNews.


Revealed: The world's first mobile phone was the size of a dustbin lid - and had a range of just half a mile in 1902


It was the size of a dustbin lid and had a range of just half a mile.

The world's first mobile phone could hardly be more different to today's devices, which are small enough to slip inside a pocket and can call almost anywhere in the world.

But its inventor, Nathan Stubblefield, is finally being recognised as the father of mobile phone technology exactly 100 years after he patented his design for a "wireless telephone".

The melon farmer came up with his invention in 1902 after devoting every spare hour and penny he had to establishing a telephone service in his rural home-town of Murray, Kentucky.

Field test: Receiver in hand, Nathan Stubblefield demonstrates his invention in his orchard (the mast can be seen in the centre of the picture)

He constructed a 120ft mast in his orchard, which transmitted speech from one telephone to another using magnetic fields.

However, the total amount of wire required for the coils in the phones was far longer than what would be required to simply connect them - but the invention allowed mobility.

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German Archaeologist on Trail of Ark of the Covenant

BERLIN — It is only a breathless Hollywood script: treasure-hunter Indiana Jones races with German archaeologists to track down the fabled Ark of the Covenant, the chest that held the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were etched.

Now German researchers claim to have found the remains of the palace of the Queen of Sheba — and an altar that may have held the Ark.

The discovery, announced by the University of Hamburg last week, has stirred skeptical rumblings from the archaeological community.

The location of the Ark, indeed its existence, has been a source of controversy for centuries.

Regarded as the most precious treasure of ancient Judaism, it is at the heart of a debate about whether archaeology should chronicle the rise and fall of civilizations or explore the boundaries between myth and ancient history.

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Clue unearthed Fossil shatters previous theories about human migration to Europe, U-M researcher says

The Ann Arbor News

Hidden underneath layers of sediment in a cave in northern Spain was an unassuming but breakthrough scientific find: the jawbone of the oldest-known human ancestor in Europe.

The fossil, dated at approximately 1.2 million years old, shatters scientists' previous theories about human migration to Europe, said University of Michigan researcher Josep Pares, who was a member of the team that found the jawbone last summer.

"We totally confirmed that human occupation in Europe was much earlier than previously thought. ... I think that the present theories need to be reconsidered, honestly,'' said Pares, who left May 2 to return to the Spanish work site for three months.

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Medieval shipwreck found in Barcelona city centre

By ThinkSpain

The wreck of a 13th or 14th century ship has come to light on a construction site in Barcelona's Barceloneta district - beside the Balaurd del Migdia and behind Francia train station - that used to be under water.

The remains were discovered at around seven metres below sea level on the site of a new residential apartment block being built by the Sacyr Vallehermoso company on a plot previously owned by Renfe.

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1,000 Ancient Tombs, Unique Remains Found in Colombia

José Orozco in Caracas, Venezuela
for National Geographic News

Builders clearing land for a housing project in Colombia have uncovered an ancient burial site containing nearly a thousand tombs linked to two little-known civilizations.

The site covers some 12 acres (5 hectares) in the impoverished Usme district in southeast Bogotá and includes one set of remains that some researchers believe could be a victim of human sacrifice.

Skeleton found in Colombia tomb picture

The possible victim is a young woman who seems to have been buried alive, said Ana Maria Groot, one of the lead anthropologists from the National University of Colombia working at the site.

"Her mouth is open as if in terror, and her hands seem contracted as if she had tried grabbing hold of something," Groot said.

Another tomb contains the remains of a man with a curved tibia, or shinbone, possible evidence that the man was a shaman, she added.

Spanish observers in the 1500s wrote of indigenous shamans spending long periods in caves with no exposure to sunlight. A lack of sunlight would produce a shortage of vitamin D, causing curving of the bones, explained Groot's colleague, Virgilio Becerra.

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Spain Claims Sunken Treasure from Florida Deep-Sea Explorers

MADRID, Spain — Spain formally laid claim Thursday to a shipwreck that yielded a US$500 million treasure, saying it has proof the vessel was Spanish.

Officials demanded the return of the booty recovered last year by a U.S. deep-sea exploration firm, saying the 19th-century shipwreck at the heart of the dispute is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes — a Spanish warship sunk by the British navy southwest of Portugal in 1804 with more than 200 people on board.

Tampa, Fla.-based Odyssey Marine Exploration had announced in May 2007 that it had discovered the wreck in the Atlantic — and its cargo of 500,000 silver coins and other artifacts worth an estimated US$500 million.

At the time, Odyssey said it did not know which ship it was, and flew the treasures back to Tampa without Spain's knowledge, from an airport on the British colony of Gibraltar on Spain's southwestern tip.

The Spanish government filed evidence in a Tampa federal court to support its claim.

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Gene trawl shows Druze are living "gene sanctuary"

A Druze child gestures during a protest against Israel's annexation ...
A Druze child gestures during a protest against Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights in the northern Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights February 14, 2008.
(Dror Artzi/Reuters)

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Druze people of Israel are a genetic sanctuary of ancient lineages of DNA, researchers reported on Wednesday.Not only does the exclusive religious community offer a snapshot into the history of the Middle East, but their well-preserved diversity may provide opportunities for medical research, the team at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology said.

The researchers looked at mitochondrial DNA, a type of genetic material that is passed down virtually unchanged from mother to daughter. It can provide a kind of snapshot of the ancestry of a person.

"Altogether we sampled 311 different paternal households from 20 Druze villages in Northern Israel, and 208 surnames were identified," Karl Skorecki and colleagues wrote in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

The mitochondrial DNA backed up the legendary origin of this close-knit religious group, believed to number 1 million or fewer.

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Egyptian elite tombs accessible for all

A number of elite tombs from Ancient Egypt are now accessible to all thanks to the launch of the Mastabase. The Mastabase is a CD-ROM containing descriptions and hieroglyphic inscriptions of scenes of daily life from 337 Mastaba tombs. This resource will make research into these elite tombs a lot easier. On 13 May 2008, Dutch Egyptologist René van Walsem will officially present the MastaBase in Leiden, Netherlands.
A Mastaba is an elite tomb from the Memphite area in Ancient Egypt (2600-2150 BC). The tombs contain scenes depicting daily life, often accompanied by inscriptions. Elite tombs are extremely complex works of art. They contain various main themes, which are further divided into sub-themes. Main themes are, for example, scenes depicting offerings, farming, fishing, et cetera. The theme fishing, for instance, can then be broken down into various sub-themes, such as fishing with a dragnet or seine, the transportation of fish and the processing of fish.

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How iconic photo of Russians raising flag over burning Berlin was airbrushed to save soldier from Stalin's rage

The photograph of Russian troops hoisting the red flag over burning Berlin is recognised as one of the most famous wartime images.

Sixty three years after the photograph was taken, a new exhibition in Germany reveals the image was doctored to protect the soldier from the wrath of Joseph Stalin.

Despite having no problem with his Red Army troops raping German women, Stalin took exception to looting and warned any soldiers caught doing so would face execution.

Russians raising red flag over Berlin 1945 AIRBRUSHED
Iconic: The edited image of Russians raising the flag over burning Berlin in 1945, which was seen the world over, shows the bottom right soldier with only one watch and more dramatic smoke

Russians raising red flag over Berlin 1945 NON-AIRBRUSHEDThe real McCoy: The original image shows the soldier in the bottom right wearing two watches

Stalin's no-looting rule created a problem for the soldier raising the flag on the roof of the Reichstag building - because he was clearly wearing two watches in the photo.

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100 BC - The Snettisham Treasure

The 'Marriage Torc' from Snettisham. The upper part of the terminal of this gold torc shows a stylised human face. Does the main terminal represent a symbolic belly with the gold ring representing the umbilical cord that attaches to the other terminal?

The Snettisham treasure was first discovered in 1948. The field was being ploughed deeper than usual, and in the course of ploughing the ploughman discovered an interesting lump of metal. He took it to the foreman and asked him what it was. The foreman pronounced it to be part of a brass bedstead: and thus a gold torque - now one of the finest treasures in the Norwich Museum - lay for a week by the side of the field. Then more fragments of metal turned up and a local businessman recognised it as an antiquity, and took it to Norwich Museum where the keeper, Rainbird Clark, confirmed its importance. They returned to the field and the brass bedstead was recognised as being a gold torque.

Excavations were carried out in the vicinity and the sites of the hoards were discovered, shallow pits, numbered A B and C. From now onwards, every time the field was ploughed the ploughman was on the lookout for discoveries. Finds were made in 1950, 1964, 1968 and 1973.

By this time it was assumed that everything that was to be found had already been ploughed up, and there was nothing more left to discover. Thus when Squadron Leader Hodder in 1989 sought permission from the estate to use his metal detector in the field, permission was readily granted. At first he found little, though there were traces of metal fragments and one or two gold coins. However on 25th August 1990 he struck lucky. It was the Friday of the Bank Holiday Weekend, and he found something very interesting. Finding that the archaeologists were not present at the unit over the weekend and fearing that he should not leave his hole open, he decided to uncover it himself. It turned out to be a large pile of scrap metal all in a bronze container.

This suggested that there might be further hoards in the field, below the level of the plough, but vulnerable to the new power of the metal detector. The British Museum were called in, and Dr Ian Stead launched intensive excavations which have revealed five further hoards, have more than doubled the number of finds .

Mr Hodder s hoard is labelled hoard F. This was unusual in that it was a scrap hoard, that is a hoard of objects collected waiting to be re-cycled in the melting pot. But the next five hoards were repository hoards, in which treasures had been deposited for safe-keeping.

The big surprise was that three of the pits were double pits with two compartments one on top of the other. It seemed almost as if this was an anti-treasure hunter device designed so that a looter who found the upper pit would not think of digging down for the lower pit underneath. The objects were placed in a very definite order, for in each case the most precious torque was at the top of the lower installment.

By this time the British Museum team had cleared nearly quarter of an acre by hand down to the natural. They had been hoping to find evidence for Iron Age activity, but all they found - apart from the hoards - were the bottoms of half a dozen Neolithic pits. They therefore decided to use a box scraper to remove the plough soil over a somewhat larger area.

Finally, on the last day of the excavation, they hit gold, literally. This was Hoard L. The upper compartment consisted of a small nest of 7 silver and bronze torques. Then in a corner of the shallow pit, there was an opening to a larger pit which had the richest treasure of all. There were 2 bronze bracelets at the top, then two silver torques and finally ten gold torques: it was an unforgettable sight.

The most fantastic excavation photo of all. Hoard L , twelve torcs, gleaming with gold and silver as they were found in a pit in the ground.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries: heritage in ruins

Apart from his red hair, beard, giant girth and his equally gargantuan appetite for wives, the one thing we all associate with Henry VIII is the event that the authors of 1066 and All That called, with an eye for a memorable spelling mistake, ‘the Disillusion of the Monasteries’.

Other countries had embarked on national programmes of monastic closure before Thomas Cromwell realised that was a way to make his king rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Indeed,earlier monarchs were in the habit of temporarily seizing the assets of priories tied to French mother houses whenever England was at war with France, and Henry V finally ‘nationalised’ all these ‘alien priories’ by act of Parliament in 1414. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge, not to mention Eton College, were great beneficiaries of the closure of monasteries whose wealth was diverted into education.

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Italian builders uncover 2,000-year-old tombs

ARCHAEOLOGISTS were yesterday celebrating the discovery of 27 2,000-year-old tombs in Italy's "Valley of the Dead". The tombs, some dating back to the 7th century BC, were found by chance while builders carried out work.

The whole area was sealed off yesterday and put under police guard to prevent anyone from trying to steal artefacts inside the burial chambers.

Grave robbers, or tombaroli as they are known in Italy, make a lucrative living from selling such objects to museums or private collectors.

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Metal detectorists thrilled at Viking sword find

GLIMPSE OF HISTORY: The fragments of a Viking sword found in the north west of the Isle of Man
GLIMPSE OF HISTORY: The fragments of a Viking sword found in the north west of the Isle of Man

BURIED for more than a 1,000 years, these beautifully cast fragments of a Viking sword could be a once-in-a-lifetime find for two metal detector enthusiasts in the Isle of Man.
Only the 13th recorded Viking sword found in the Island, it was unearthed by Dan Crowe and Rob Farrer while metal detecting in the north west of the Island.

The two Manx Detectorists Society members have found many interesting artefacts over the years, so they knew the importance of what they had found.

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Irish Viking trade centre unearthed

Viking re-enactment
Almost 6,000 artefacts and a Viking chieftain's grave have been discovered

One of the Vikings' most important trading centres has been discovered in Ireland.

The settlement at Woodstown in County Waterford is estimated to be about 1,200 years old.

It was discovered during archaeological excavations for a road by-pass for Waterford city, which was founded by the Vikings.

The Irish government said the settlement was one of the most important early Viking age trading centres discovered in the country.

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