Thursday, July 31, 2014
Adze Axe-like wood-working tool, but with blade at right-angles to the handle, used with pick-like motion.
Awl A pointed tool of flint, bone or bronze, used for making holes in skins, etc.
Barrow An earthen burial mound, either circular or rectangular in plan.
Burin Engraving or piercing tool, used with rotary action.
Berm Flat platform separating a mound or bank from a quarry ditch.
Cairn A heap of stones, varying in size, usually covering a burial.
Carinated A shoulder or sharp change in direction in the profile of a pot.
Chape Decorative terminal of a sword scabbard.
Cist Small rectangular pit lined with stone slabs and covered with a capstone; often a grave.
Corbelling Roofing method in which successive layers of stone rise one above the other and overlap inwards until they meet.
Cursus Long, narrow parallel-sided enclosure of the neolithic period.
Dolerite Basaltic type rock used for making axes, also in the construction of Stonehenge.
Dysse Long megalithic burial mound found in Denmark.
Gabbroic clay Clay containing crystals of the igneous rock gabbro from the Lizard peninsula.
Graver Engraving tool made from pointed, longitudinal flake, used with a straight action.
Hafted axe Axe with a wooden handle.
Halberd Bronze Age dagger at right angles to a wooden handle with metal rivets.
Henge Later neolithic circular enclosure surrounded by a bank and internal ditch, broken by one or more entrances.
Hunebeden Long megalithic burial mound found in the Netherlands.
Inhumation An unburnt human burial.
Machair Gaelic word describing lush meadowland.
Mattock Heads Pick-like tool with chisel shaped blade.
Megalithic Constructed of large stones, e.g. Stonehenge.
Midden Rubbish dump, often composed of discarded shells, bones or charcoal.
Quern Two stones used for grinding corn, either by rubbing backwards and forwards, or revolving one upon another
Revetment A facing of timber, stone or turf intended to stop the sides of a bank or mound collapsing.
Scalene triangle Unequal sided microlith, probably used as an arrow tip.
Sherds Fragments of broken pottery.
Skeuomorph An imitation.
Spelt A species of wheat: triticum spelta.
Tanged Projection at base of dagger or arrowhead used to fasten it to a handle.
Temenos Spacious enclosure of ‘consecrated’ land, attached to a temple.
Trepanation A form of brain surgery practised in the Bronze Age.
Posted by Mitch Williamson at 9:26 AM
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
French archaeologist Cecile Paresys stands next to the bones of two Gauls.
On a muddy field between a motorway and a meander of the Seine south-east of Paris, French archaeologists have uncovered an Iron Age graveyard they believe will shed light on the great yet enigmatic civilisation of Gaul.
Archaeologist Emilie Millet recently crouched at one of 14 burial sites that have been uncovered in the past few weeks after a nine-year excavation of the 260-hectare site.
At her feet were the remains of a tall warrior, complete with a 70-centimetre iron sword still in its scabbard.
"I have never seen anything like it," she said, gazing at a metal-framed shield whose wood-and-leather core has long rotted away.
Buried next to the warriors are several women, whose jewellery - twisted-metal necklaces known as torcs, and large bronze brooches decorated with precious coral - also speak of high status.
In one grave, a woman was buried next to a man, separated by a layer of soil.
"This graveyard is exceptional in more ways than one," said the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap), which excavates sites of potential interest before the bulldozers are allowed in.
The jewellery suggests the dead were buried between 325 and 260 BC, in a period known as La Tene.
Another clue may come from analysis of the scabbards, whose decoration changed according to military fashion.
Designs in this period typically had two open-mouthed dragons facing each other, with their bodies curled.
La Tene, whose name comes from an archaeological site in Switzerland, ran from about the 5th century BC to the first century AD, marking the glory years of the Celts.
During this time, the Celts expanded from their core territory in central Europe to as far afield as northern Scotland and the Atlantic coast of Spain.
They clashed with the emerging Roman empire, whose writers recorded the invaders as pale-skinned savages, dressed in breeches with bleached hair, who cut off their enemies' heads, preserving those of high rank in cedar oil.
The barbarian image, though, has been dispelled by historical research in recent decades.
It has laid bare a complex civilisation that had a mastery of metal and a trading system which spanned Europe and generated great wealth.
The find at Bucheres raises several questions, for there has never been any trace of major Celtic settlement in the neighbourhood.
The graves were uncovered at a depth of about two metres but if they had any external markers, none remain.
An earlier civilisation, from the Bronze Age, left a line of burial mounds nearby, "which would have been visible for miles around," said Inrap archaeologist Cecile Paresys.
Just as intriguing, the excavation has yet to find any pottery or evidence of food, which were often added to Iron Age burials to sustain the dead in the spirit world.
No remains of children have been found, although this absence is common to Celtic necropolises - something that anthropologists are at a loss to explain.
Years of patient forensic work lie ahead to tease out clues about how these people lived and died. In the meantime, the remains are being recorded where they lie before being gently prised from the earth and preserved.
A team of archaeologists say they have discovered the almost complete remains of a Roman gladiator school on the banks of the Danube River in Austria and virtually recreated the site.
The team, announcing their findings in the journal Antiquity, say the "spectacular" find at Carnuntum was mapped and virtually reconstructed using non-invasive techniques such as aerial surveys, electromagnetic induction and ground-penetrating radar.
"The resulting archaeological maps and plans of individual buildings, streets and Roman infrastructure allow the virtual reconstruction of the city layout and the development of ancient land and townscapes in two and three dimensions," they said.
"Although some 100 ludi are thought to have existed in the Roman Empire, almost all have been destroyed or built over," the Austrian, Belgian and German team said.
Excavations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries revealed many elements of the Carnuntum complex including a legionary fortress and town, but the ludus was only discovered in 2011.
Carnuntum was the capital of Upper Pannonia in Roman times and a major trading centre for amber.
Its archaeological park contains the ruins of amphitheatres, Roman baths and the remains of a monumental arch known as Heidentor.
800,000-year-old footprints found in Norfolk, Britain; oldest ancient human footprints found outside Africa
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Footprints left by ancient humans 800,000 years ago have been found in Britain, the earliest evidence of such markings outside Africa.
The only older footprints found so far are at Laetoli in Tanzania, at about 3.5 million years old, and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years, researchers said.
"This is an extraordinarily rare discovery," Nick Ashton of the British Museum, who led the research team, said.
The find came at an archaeological site that has yielded several previous discoveries of stone tools and fossil bones, including mammoth remains.
The researchers found the prints at low tide when waves washed away much of the beach sand to expose the silt below.
"At first we weren't sure what we were seeing but as we removed any remaining beach sand and sponged off the seawater, it was clear that the hollows resembled prints, perhaps human footprints, and that we needed to record the surface as quickly as possible before the sea eroded it away," Dr Ashton said.
The group of early humans that left the footprints appeared to have consisted of at least one male and several smaller people believed to be females and youngsters, the researchers said.
"They are clearly a family group rather than a hunting party," Dr Ashton said.
Footprint owners estimated to be about as tall as modern humansAnalysis of the prints found that they were from a "range of adult and juvenile foot sizes" equating to modern shoe sizes of up to British 7 or 8.
The researchers estimated that the height of the ancient humans who left the prints varied from about 0.9 metres to over 1.7 metres, not far off the height of modern humans.
They were dated at 800,000 years old partly on the basis of the site's geological position beneath glacial deposits, but also because the fossils there come from now-extinct types of mammoth and horse and early forms of vole that were alive at that time.
But the question of exactly what type of ancient humans left their footprints in the sands of time remains a mystery.
They may have been related to people of a similar period in history found in Atapuerca in Spain, assigned to the species Homo antecessor, or Pioneer Man, said Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum.
"These people were of a similar height to ourselves and were fully bipedal," he said.
Homo antecessor apparently became extinct in Europe 600,000 years ago and was perhaps replaced by the species Homo heidelbergensis, followed by the Neanderthals from about 400,000 years ago, and eventually modern humans some 40,000 years ago.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
By Wynne Parry, LiveScience Contributor | January 16, 2014 02:46pm ET
Take a walk in the New England woods, and you may stumble upon the overgrown remains of a building's foundation or the stacked stones of a wall. Now, researchers have begun uncovering these relics from the air.
Examinations of airborne scans of three New England towns revealed networks of old stone walls, building foundations, old roads, dams and other features, many of which long were forgotten. These features speak to a history that Katharine Johnson, an archaeologist and study researcher, wants to see elucidated.
She and others know the story in broad strokes: After European settlers arrived in the 17th century, thousands of acres of forest were cleared to make way for much more intensive agriculture than that practiced by indigenous people. In the 19th century, people began leaving for industrial towns, allowing the forests to overtake their former farms.
"I think there is a general idea of what was happening, but it is not as well understood as it could be," Johnson, a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut, told LiveScience. [See the Aerial Images of 'Lost' Archaeological Sites in New England]
New Englanders have long known about these relics of the agricultural past. But Johnson and William Ouimet, her adviser and co-author, harnessed a new way to look for them, one that has proved useful in other places.
They looked at publicly available data collected by using a remote-sensing technology known as light detection and ranging (LiDAR). These scans map the surface below using laser pulses, and they make it possible for researchers to look below tree cover. LiDAR has increasingly been used in archaeology of late, with researchers, aided by the technology, finding the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire, Angkor, was even more massive than previously thought. LiDAR has also revealed a lost city beneath the Cambodian jungle (near Angkor) as well as evidence of Ciudad Blanca, a never-confirmed legendary metropolis, hidden by Honduran rain forests.
In the new study, Johnson and Ouimet focused on parts of three rural towns: Ashford, Conn.; Tiverton, R.I.; and Westport, Mass. In the scans, stone walls showed up as thin linear ridges, forming enclosures that were likely once fields, lining old thoroughfares, and clustering around the foundations at the heart of old farmsteads.
The LiDAR also picks up on modern features, leading to potential confusion. Old building foundations can resemble modern swimming pools, for example. To verify what they see in LiDAR data, Johnson and Ouimet have been visiting sites.
This new information is best used in combination with historical documents, Johnson said.
"On a historical map, you might see just one dot, and a person's name representing a farmstead, but if you compare that with the LiDAR you might see all of the buildings, in addition to the layout, and the fields, and the road leading to it," she said.
Sometimes the past lives on in the modern landscape. Many stone walls that showed up in the scans of Westport, Mass., delineated property lines, both in modern times and on a map from 1712, she said.
This research will be detailed in the March issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, and is now available online.
Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.
Monday, December 30, 2013
Brown-eyed, bearded, furrow faced, and tired: this is how Ötzi the Iceman might have looked, according to the latest reconstruction based on 20 years of research and investigations.
Realized by two Dutch experts, Alfons and Adrie Kennis, the model was produced with the latest in forensic mapping technology that uses three-dimensional images of the mummy's skull as well as infrared and tomographic images.
In 1991 two hikers discovered the frozen body of a Bronze Age man in glacier ice in the Similaun Pass in the Tyrol Alps between Austria and Italy. Modern archaeological and biological forensic techniques have provided a wealth of information about the life and death of this mummified 5,000-yearold person.
"Otzi the Iceman," "Similaun man," or just "Iceman" was discovered by chance. At first the hikers and authorities thought he was of very recent provenance, but this serendipitous find turned out to be the oldest complete human body ever found. Over the next few years, although now carefully preserved at the University of Innsbruck's Institute of Prehistory and Early History, the Iceman was examined by numerous international scientific experts, for twenty-minute intervals, each adding their expertise, building up as complete a picture of his life and death during the Bronze Age as evidence allowed.
The Iceman was discovered at an altitude of 3,200 meters, making him not only the oldest body to be found in Europe, but also the highest prehistoric find as well. His body had been air dried before being enveloped by the glacier about 5,300 years ago. He was between thirty and forty years old, based on dental evidence, and he was 156-160 centimeters (5 feet 2 inches) high. His brain, muscles, heart, liver, and digestive organs were in good condition, although his lungs were blackened-probably from smoke from open fires. Eight of his ribs had been fractured, some of these had healed and others were healing when he died. Tattoos were found on both sides of his lower spine and on his left calf and right ankle, comprising two-centimeter-long parallel vertical blue lines. On his inner knee there was a tattoo of a blue cross. Most of his fingernails, except one, had dropped off. Analysis of the remaining one indicated that he had used his hands to work, and that he had also been ill, based on reduced nail growth, at four, three-, and two-month intervals before his death. DNA analysis of his tissue confirmed that he was of central or northern European origin.
The Iceman died with a variety of clothing and other possessions made from organic materials that usually do not survive. In this case, because they had been frozen, they had been preserved. These were the everyday belongings of a man from the late Stone Age, which, until now, had been the subject of speculation and ethnographic analogy. The Iceman's clothing, comprising pouch, loincloth, and leggings, were made from eight different species of animal, were carefully stitched together with sinew, and had been repaired. His coat was deerskin, his hat was bearskin, his calfskin shoes were filled with grass for warmth, and he had an outer cloak of woven grass or reeds. This latter garment was similar to those recorded as being worn by local people as late as the nineteenth century. His clothing did not belong to someone of high social status-evidence that the Iceman was probably a farmer and a shepherd.
The Iceman's equipment is the earliest of its kind to be found in Europe and comprised over 70 artifacts. He carried a small, 9.5-centimeter copper ax, with a yew wood haft and leather binding. He also had an unfinished yew bow, with 14 arrows in a deerskin quiver, only two of which were ready to use, with flint tips and feather fletching. Other artifacts found with the Iceman included a flint knife with a wooden handle and grass string sheath; a hazel and larch wood frame of what was probably a rucksack; a lime wood handle with a sharpened antler tip inserted into one end; a retouching tool for flint scraping; two birch bark containers; a small marble disc on a leather thong; a piece of net; two types of fungus-one a tinder fungus, and the other, on a leather thong, may have been medicinal; other flints, such as a scrapers and awls, and one for making fires; and small quantities of antlers and bones for sharpening into points. Iceman had used a surprisingly large variety of different plants to manufacture his kit. Food evidence included a sloe (a kind of plum) berry, fragments of meat bone from the vertebrae of an ibex, and some cereal grains.
Radiocarbon dates confirmed that Iceman died 5,200 years ago (ca. 3200 BC) at the beginning of the European Bronze Age. The wide variety of wood and animal species used by the Iceman in his tool kit and clothing is impressive. So too are his techniques for working wood, flint, leather, and grasses. In fact, the archaeological evidence revealed more about the Bronze Age world than just the body. However, all of this evidence, and the evidence from his body, particularly his age, diet, diseases, and genetics, greatly enhanced our understanding of the early Bronze Age in Europe. And all of this from a chance discovery that could have disappeared back into the snow again without ever being found.
Further Reading Bortenschlager, S., and K. Oeggl, eds. 2000. The Iceman and his natural environment: Palaeo-botanical results. Vienna, Austria: Springer. Dubowski, M. 1998. Ice mummy: The discovery of a 5,000-year-old man. New York: Random House. Fowler, B. 2001. Iceman: Uncovering the life and times of a prehistoric man found in an alpine glacier. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.