Category: Archaeology


A metal detecting enthusiast has fulfilled the dream of every amateur archaeologist after he unearthed a 2,000-year-old Roman ingot.

Jason Baker discovered the ‘very rare’ find – known as a pig – on a rally organised by the Southern Detectorists Club.

Mr Baker, who has only been metal detecting for 18 months, stumbled across the 2ft mining ingot on a farm in Wells, Somerset, with the ancient artefact inscribed with the name of emperor Marcus Aurelius Armeniacus.

The 31-year-old, from Plymouth, said the find of the ancient 38kg stone has ‘changed his life’.

He said: ‘Normally I find just a couple of Roman coins and that’s normally a good day, so to find something like this has just changed my life.

‘There’s been one sold – a smaller one – for £36,000 and I’ve heard a few reports of some fetching £250,000.’

Amateur detectorist Baker said there had been a ‘frenzy of finds’ so when his detector ‘went off’ he ‘knew it was something good’.

And according to Mr Baker, a member of staff from the Museum of Somerset in Taunton had been at the dig and said it was the ‘best thing he’d ever seen’.

He added: ‘When the Romans invaded Britain 2,500 years ago, they mined up the lead, cast it into big lead blocks and put the emperor’s name on it and sent it back to Rome.

‘Basically mine got lost on the process back to Rome,’ he said.

Sean McDonald, from the club, said the last Roman pig found was in the 18th century.

He added: ‘It is such a rare find it’s hard to put a price on it. A minimum would be £60,000 but it could go over that fivefold.

‘It doesn’t come under the Treasure Act because it’s made of lead – and not silver or gold – so Jason doesn’t have to split it 50:50 with the farmer.

‘But he is, because he is such a nice bloke.’

Source: Metal detector enthusiast unearths 2k-year-old Roman ingot worth up £250k on Somerset farm  | Daily Mail Online

Greek archaeologists believe they have discovered the lost tomb of Aristotle, the greatest philosopher in history.

Kostas Sismanidis said he was almost sure that a 2,400 year-old domed vault he unearthed in ancient Stagira was the burial place of the man credited with formalising logic.

Aristotle
Aristotle. Photograph: Alamy

“I have no hard proof, but strong indications lead me to almost certainty,” said Sismanidis.

Archaeologists have been working painstakingly at the site – the philosopher’s birthplace in 384 BC in the Greek region of Macedonia – for 20 years.

Sismanidis was due to give further details at a world congress in northern Greece of scholars specialised in Aristotle’s work. He said the architecture and location of the tomb, close to Stagira’s ancient square and with panoramic views, supported the belief that it was the philosopher’s final resting place.

Although few of Aristotle’s works have survived, two literary sources – a mainstay for archaeological discovery – suggest that the people of Stagira may have transferred his ashes from Chalcis on the island of Euboea (Chalkida on Evia today) where he is known to have died in 322 BC.

The vault, which has a square marble floor dating from Hellenistic times, appears to have been hurriedly constructed with an altar outside. Coins dated to Alexander the Great and ceramics from royal pottery were also found.

The claim was welcomed by Greece’s culture ministry; a senior aide to the minister, Aristides Baltas, said the academic community was awaiting further details.

“A team of independent archaeologists with no connection to a particular school or department have been working at the site,” the official told the Guardian. “What we know is that their excavation has been meticulous and we await further details with great anticipation.”

Plato’s star pupil, Aristotle was enrolled at the court of ancient Macedonia as the tutor of Alexander the Great. He thereafter travelled around the Aegean and Asia Minor before returning to Athens where he founded his own school, the Lyceum, in 335 BC.

Source: Is this Greek hilltop the 2,400-year-old burial place of Aristotle? | World news | The Guardian

For years Neanderthals were depicted as thuggish cavemen that scraped an existence on the cold barren plains of ice age Europe.

But a series of discoveries are now revealing Neanderthals in new light, suggesting they were skilled tool makers with adept hand eye coordination.

Now a ‘remarkable’ discovery of a ring-like stone structures in a cave in France suggests Neanderthals worked in teams to build complex structures.

Stone buildings are thought to have only emerged in modern humans with the development of farming around 10,000 years ago.

But the new study, which is published in the journal Nature, suggest that 176,000 years ago, Neanderthals were already constructing stone structures in a cave in south west France.

THE BRUNIQUEL CAVE

In 1992, a cave in south west France was discovered with around 400 structures made from broken stalagmites, about 1100 feet (336 metres) from the cave’s entrance.

Until recently, the structures in the Bruniquel cave had remained unstudied. Now a team of researchers at the University of Bordeaux have dated the structures to 176,000 years ago.

The presence of the mysterious structures so deep in the cave, along with marks caused by fire, shows the Neanderthals must have mastered how to work underground and use their own artificial light.

Archaeologists first discovered the ring of 400 broken pieces of stalagmites about 1,100 feet (336 metres) from the entrance of the Bruniquel cave in 1992.

They formed several rings – one of which was nearly 22 feet wide.

However, they remained unstudied until a team of researchers at the University of Bordeaux decided to look at them.

They have now dated the structures to 176,000 years ago.

They say the structures could have formed part of a refuge or had a symbolic meaning to the Neanderthals who built them.

‘We did not expect a Neanderthal attendance in the deep underground cave, so far from the entrance,’ Professor Jacques Jaubert, lead author of the study, told MailOnline.

He said the structures suggest the Neanderthals must have moved up to 2.5 tons (2.3 tonnes) of material to build them.

This, he said, would have required a remarkable amount of cooperation as the group worked together with a preconceived plan with leaders, advisers and manufacturers.

HOW WERE THE STRUCTURES BUILT

The Neanderthals must have moved 400 pieces, weighing up to 2.5 tons (2.3 tonnes).

It would have required the group to work together with a preconceived plan with leaders, advisers and manufacturers.

‘All this indicates a structured society,’ lead author Professor Jacques Jaubert told MailOnline.

Previous examples of human habitation reach 98 or 130 feet (30 or 40 metres) into the dark zones of caves from sites of this or even greater age in Africa.

‘But the Bruniquel occupation is around ten times deeper into the cave, and shows constructions as complex as some made by modern humans only 20 or 30,000 years ago,’ Professor Stringer said. This means they must have had some form of artificial light.

He said: ‘All this indicates a structured society – having a project, then to find the raw material, then tear [the] stalagmites. Then fragmenting, knapping [them] into regular elements.’

The researchers also found the remains of marks left by fire, which suggests the Neanderthals used artificial light to help them work so far underground.

The findings ‘would be significant for any period of time, but at around 175,000 years, these must have been made by early Neanderthals, the only known human inhabitants of Europe at this time,’ Professor Chris Stringer, anthropologist at the Natural History Museum, who was not involved in the research, told MailOnline.

Neanderthals lived in Eurasia from around 400,000 to 40,000 years ago, at which point anatomically modern humans settled in.

Previous examples of human habitation reach 98 or 130 feet (30 or 40 metres) into the dark zones of caves from sites of this or even greater age in Africa.

‘But the Bruniquel occupation is around ten times deeper into the cave, and shows constructions as complex as some made by modern humans only 20 or 30,000 years ago,’ Professor Stringer said.

‘This discovery provides clear evidence that Neanderthals had fully human capabilities in the planning and the construction of ‘stone’ structures, and that some of them penetrated deep into caves where artificial lighting would have been essential.’.

‘If the dates are correct then this is a hugely exciting development in our understanding of the lives of the Neanderthals,’ Dr Simon Underdown, senior lecturer in Biological Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University told MailOnline.

‘The considerable time and effort needed to build such a structure clearly indicates a shared plan and extensive cooperation.’

The complex Bruniquel structures have been dated to within a long cold glacial stage, and at that time the cave might have provided a temporary refuge from the cold.

‘It’s finally time to put away the old image of the Neanderthals as stupid and embrace them as a fully human species,’ added Dr Underdown.

But why the Neanderthals built the structures remains a mystery.

‘The purpose of the structures and concentrated combustion zones which are mostly on the broken stalagmites rather than on the ground remain enigmatic, but they demonstrate that some Neanderthals, at least, were as much ‘at home’ deep within the cave as at its entrance’ Professor Stringer said.

The researchers hope to excavate the site to find remains of the humans that may have constructed the structures.

‘The project this year [is] to make a test-pit inside the great structure, to survey the archaeological soil and, if it’s possible, to find some remains’ Professor Jaubert said.

If there is still-buried debris from occupation, it would help to determine whether this was a functional refuge or shelter, perhaps roofed using wood and skins, or something which had more symbolic or ritual significance.

The axe fragment is about the size of a thumbnail and dates back between 46,000 and 49,000 years — around the time people first arrived on the continent, and more than 10,000 years earlier than any previous ground-edge axe discoveries.

“This is the earliest evidence of hafted axes in the world. Nowhere else in the world do you get axes at this date,” said co-author Prof. Sue O’Connor, from the Australian National University.

“In Japan such axes appear about 35,000 years ago. But in most countries in the world they arrive with agriculture after 10,000 years ago.”

Lead author Prof. Peter Hiscock, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney, added: “the axe revealed that the first Australians were technological innovators.”

“Since there are no known axes in Southeast Asia during the Ice Age, this discovery shows us that when humans arrived in Australia they began to experiment with new technologies, inventing ways to exploit the resources they encountered in the new Australian landscape.”

The axe fragment was initially excavated in the early 1990s at Carpenter’s Gap 1, a large rock shelter known to be one of the first sites occupied by modern humans in Windjana Gorge National Park in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The new study has revealed that it comes from an axe made of basalt that had been shaped and polished by grinding it against a softer rock like sandstone.

This type of axe would have been very useful for a variety of tasks including making spears and chopping down or taking the bark off trees.

“Polished stone axes were crucial tools in hunter-gatherer societies and were once the defining characteristic of the Neolithic phase of human life,” Prof. Hiscock said.

“But when were axes invented? This question has been pursued for decades, since archaeologists discovered that in Australia axes were older than in many other places. Now we have a discovery that appears to answer the question.”

“Evidence suggests the technology was developed in Australia after people arrived around 50,000 years ago,” Prof. O’Connor said.

“We know that they didn’t have axes where they came from. There are no axes in the islands to our north. They arrived in Australia and invented axes.”

According to Prof. Hiscock, the ground-edge axe technology specifically arose as the dispersing humans adapted to their new regional landscapes.

“Although humans spread across Australia, axe technology did not spread with them,” he said.

“Axes were only made in the tropical north, perhaps suggesting two different colonizing groups or that the technology was abandoned as people spread into desert and sub-topical woodlands.”

“These differences between northern Australia, where axes were always used, and southern Australia, where they were not, originated around the time of colonization and persisted until the last few thousand years when axes began to be made in most southern parts of mainland Australia.”

Source: Australian Archaeologists Find Fragment of World’s Oldest-Known Axe | Archaeology | Sci-News.com

Stone tools and butchered (or scavenged) mastodon bones found at the Page-Ladson site, Florida, show ancient humans lived in the southeastern United States 14,550 years ago — at least 1,500 years earlier than previously suspected, according to a team of archaeologists.

In the 1980-90s, David Webb and co-author James Dunbar from Aucilla Research Institute investigated the Page-Ladson site — an archaeological site that is 26 feet (8 m) underwater in a bedrock sinkhole on the Aucilla River, near Tallahassee — and retrieved several stone tools and a mastodon tusk with cut marks from a tool in a layer more than 14,000 years old.

However, the findings received little attention because they were considered too old to be real and questionable because they were found underwater.

Between 2012 and 2014, Dunbar and other researchers excavated stone tools and bones of extinct animals. They also found a biface — a knife with sharp edges on both sides that is used for cutting and butchering animals.

Co-author Dr. Daniel Fisher from the University of Michigan also took another look at the mastodon tusk that Dunbar had retrieved during the earlier excavations.

He concluded that the original interpretation — that the deep, parallel grooves in the surface of the tusk are cut marks made by humans using stone tools to remove the tusk from the skull — is correct.

“These grooves are clearly the result of human activity and, together with new radiocarbon dates, they indicate that humans were processing a mastodon carcass in what is now the southeastern U.S. much earlier than was generally accepted,” Dr. Fisher said.

“In addition, our work provides strong evidence that early human hunters did not hunt mastodons to extinction as quickly as supporters of the so-called ‘Blitzkrieg’ hypothesis have argued. Instead, the evidence from this site shows that humans and megafauna coexisted for at least 2,000 years.”

Dr. Fisher’s re-examination of the tusk revealed more than a dozen deep, parallel linear grooves on the end of the tusk that attached to the skull.

The grooves are perpendicular to the long axis of the tusk. Most are 2.4 to 3.15 inches (6 – 8 cm) long and 1.5 mm deep or less.

“The tusk may have been removed to gain access to edible tissue at its base,” Dr. Fisher said.

“Each tusk this size would have had more than 7 kg of tender, nutritious tissue in its pulp cavity, and that would certainly have been of value. Another possible reason to extract a tusk is that ancient humans who lived in this same area are known to have used ivory to make weapons.”

Using the latest radiocarbon dating techniques, the team found all artifacts dated about 14,550 years ago.

Prior to this discovery, archaeologists believed a group of people called Clovis — once widely considered the first inhabitants of the Americas — settled the area about 13,200 years ago.

The team’s research was published in the May 2016 issue of the journal Science Advances.

Source: Evidence of Pre-Clovis Occupation in Southeastern US Discovered | Archaeology | Sci-News.com

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