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Sherlock

8,000 year-old Ancient Bulgarian settlement destroyed by bulldozers

An archaeological site in Bulgaria, including remnants of a village said to date back 8000 years, has been destroyed by bulldozers, allegedly the work of a construction company building part of a new road from Bulgaria to Greece. A special commission from the Ministry of Culture is inspecting the damage to the site, near Momchilgrad, and police are investigating.

Zharin Velichkov, chief inspector of the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture said that the site had individual layers dating back thousands of years, believed to reach back as far as 6000 BCE. He said that he could not say who had committed the destruction but it was most likely the company that had been carrying out work in the area.

The construction company had been given accurate maps of the area, with archaeological sites marked. The mound of the site, which also included a medieval church, were a few hundred metres from the planned road to Greece. Archaeologists are now trying to rescue anything remaining after the bulldozing.

Sherlock

17th century shipwreck found off Swedish coast

A shipwreck discovered in the murky waters of the Baltic Sea is believed to be a legendary 17th century warship whose captain went down with it in battle rather than surrender to the enemy.

Deep Sea Productions, an underwater research team, said Wednesday it believes the 25-meter (82-feet) wooden wreck it found off the island of Oland this summer is the ship Svardet, which sank when Sweden was defeated by a Danish-Dutch fleet in a 1676 naval battle.

Malcolm Dixelius, a member of the research team, said that wood samples show the wreck is from the 17th century. He also said the stern of the ship is missing, which is consistent with historical reports that Svardet went under after a fire and explosion at the stern.

Thousands of other wrecks - from medieval vessels to warships sunk during the world wars - have been found in the Baltic Sea, which doesn't have the ship worm that destroys wooden wrecks in saltier oceans.

Pharoah

15,000 year-old rock art in Egypt discovered

Image
© RMAH, Brussels
Belgian archaeologist Wouter Claes poses with a panel with wild bovids (Bos primigenius or aurochs) at the Qurta II site.
Using a new technology known as optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), a team of Belgian scientists and Professor John Coleman Darnell of Yale have determined that Egyptian petroglyphs found at the east bank of the Nile are about 15,000 years old, making them the oldest rock art in Egypt and possibly the earliest known graphic record in North Africa.

The dating results will be published in the December issue of Antiquity (Vol. 85 Issue 330, pp. 1184 - 1193). The site of the rock art panels is near the modern village of Qurta, about 40km south of the Upper-Egyptian town of Edfu. First seen by Canadian archaeologists in the early 1960s, they were subsequently forgotten and relocated by the Belgian mission in 2005. The rediscovery was announced in the Project Gallery of Antiquity in 2007.

The rock art at Qurta is characterized by hammered and incised naturalistic-style images of aurochs and other wild animals. On the basis of their intrinsic characteristics (subject matter, technique, and style), their patina and degree of weathering, as well as the archaeological and geomorphological context, these petroglyphs have been attributed to the late Pleistocene era, specifically to the late Palaeolithic period (roughly 23,000 to 11,000 ago). This makes them more or less contemporary with European art from the last Ice Age - such as the wall-paintings of Lascaux and Altamira caves.

Sherlock

11th-century stone tower excavated in Bac Ninh Vietnam

Image
© File Photo
The foundation of a tower has been excavated at the site of Dam Pagoda.
The foundation of an 11th-century stone tower has been unearthed at Dam Pagoda in the northern city of Bac Ninh, 30km northeast of Ha Noi, revealing complex features of Buddhist architecture of the period.

Located on the southern side of Lam Son Mountain, construction of Dam Pagoda was begun in 1086 under the reign of Ly Nhan Tong and completed in 1094.

It was one of the leading examples of Buddhist architecture in the north during the Tran (1225-1400) and Le (1428-1788) dynasties. In the Tran dynasty, the pagoda consisted of 12 buildings while in the Le dynasty, it was expanded to over 100 rooms.

According to researcher Le Dinh Phung, who directed the excavation, the foundation formed a square measuring 8.4m by 8.4m. The missing tower was assumed to face east to a height of 1.56m and built with stones decorated in wave patterns.

It may have carried Buddha statue on top to face the remaining stone column at the pagoda, Phung said.

Upon excavating the foundation and a site of 300sq.m, archaeologists found building materials from the Ly, Tran and Le dynasties and concluded that Dam Pagoda was an architectural complex of four layers covering an area of over 7,500sq.m following the slope of Lam Son Mountain.

Blackbox

Vikings Navigated With Translucent Crystals?

Image
© The Natural History Museum / Ala
Icelandic spar (pictured) may have helped Vikings navigate.
Vikings may have navigated by looking through a type of crystal called Icelandic spar, a new study suggests.

In some Icelandic sagas - embellished stories of Viking life - sailors relied on so-called sunstones to locate the sun's position and steer their ships on cloudy days. (See Iceland photos submitted by readers like you.)

The stone would've worked by detecting a property of sunlight called polarization.

Polarization is when light - which normally radiates randomly from its source - encounters something, such as a shiny surface or fog, that causes the rays to assume a particular orientation.

Due to this property, as sunlight moves through the atmosphere, the resulting polarization gives away the direction of the original source of the light.

Detecting light's polarization is a natural ability of some animals, such as bees. (See "'Weird Beastie' Shrimp Have Super-Vision.")

In 1969, a Danish archaeologist suggested real-life Vikings might have used sunstones to detect polarized light, using the stones to supplement sundials, stars, and other navigational aids.

Since then, researchers have been probing how such a sunstone might have worked. On that point, though, the sagas were silent.

Sherlock

Israeli experts decode only Arabic Crusader inscription ever found

Archaeologists have deciphered a grey marble slab whose 800 year old Arabic inscription makes it the only Crusader artefact in that language ever found in the Middle East, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said Monday.

The inscription bears the name of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and the date '1229 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Messiah,' leading the IAA to proclaim it 'a rare archaeological find.'

The inscription was found years ago on a wall in Tel Aviv, near adjacent Jaffa, but thought to have been from the Ottoman Period, and so not given priority by archaeologists.

Only when they began deciphering it, did they realise the inscription dated from the Crusader period of the Middle Ages, Professor Moshe Sharon, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said.

Frederick II, who led the Sixth Crusade (1228-29) fortified the castle of Jaffa and left in its walls two inscriptions, one in Latin and the other in Arabic.

'The Arabic inscription was drafted by Frederick's officials, or possibly even the emperor himself, and it is the one which has been now deciphered,' said Sharon, one of the two archaeologists who deciphered the inscription.

Info

Ice Age Hominins and Their Adaptability to Climate Change

Early Hominins
© Michael Barton/Arizona State University
Computer agents (colored dots) simulating prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups are superimposed over a map of Late Pleistocene western Eurasia. Gray shows Pleistocene land area with lowered sea levels, black lines show modern coastlines, white areas show ice sheets. The blue dots represent groups of “modern” humans, red dots represent groups of Neanderthals, and yellow dots represent groups with biological mixtures of modern and Neanderthal genes. This is a snapshot of the simulation after hundreds of cycles in which the hunter-gather groups have higher mobility in response to changing glacial climate. The data and corresponding analyses were cited by archeologists from Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Denver in findings published in the December issue of the journal Human Ecology, available online Nov. 17.
Complex computational modeling provides clues to Neanderthal extinction

Computational modeling that examines evidence of how hominin groups evolved culturally and biologically in response to climate change during the last Ice Age also bears new insights into the extinction of Neanderthals. Details of the complex modeling experiments conducted at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Denver will be published in the December issue of the journal Human Ecology, available online Nov. 17.

"To better understand human ecology, and especially how human culture and biology co-evolved among hunter-gatherers in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia (ca. 128,000-11,500 years ago) we designed theoretical and methodological frameworks that incorporated feedback across three evolutionary systems: biological, cultural and environmental," said Michael Barton, a pioneer in the area of archaeological applications of computational modeling at Arizona State University.

Question

How did Eskimos get hold of a bronze 'buckle' 1,400 years ago?

Eskimo bronze buckle dig
© AP
Mystery find: University of Coloardo researchers excavate the 1,000-year-old Inupiat Eskimo home at Cape Espenberg where the 'buckle' was discovered
The buckle may have been brought by Eskimons from East Asia around 1,500 years ago

A bronze 'buckle' believed to be 1,400 years old had been unearthed in Alaska for the first time - and archeologists are mystified about how it got there.

The artifact was found in sediment as they dug on a site where a 1,000-year-old Inupiat home was built.

The two inch by one inch object - which seems to have been molded - appears to have been part of a harness.

How it got to Alaska is a mystery - although it is thought it may have been brought by Eskimos from East Asia around 1,400 years ago and passed down through the generations.

Info

Divers Find the Wreck of 17th Century Warship

Battle of Öland
© Wikimedia Commons
Battle of Öland. Claus Møinichen, 1686.
Swedish divers have discovered the wreck of one of the largest 17th century warships.

Found off the coast of the Baltic island of Öland at a depth of between 160 and 320 feet, the wooden wreck is believed to be that of the royal warship Svärdet.

According to Deep Sea Productions, the underwater research team who identified the wreck, the vessel is "a prime example of richly decorated 'gaudy' ships, built largely to impress the enemy."

The 82-foot Svärdet (the Sword) sank in 1676 in the largest naval battle in the Baltic, when Sweden was defeated by a Danish-Dutch fleet.

After fighting for five hours, the Svärdet was set afire by a Dutch ship.

"The commander, admiral Claes Uggla, chose to go under with his ship, rather than surrender to the enemy," Deep Sea Productions said in a statement.

The Svärdet went down with its sister ship the Kronan (the Crown), whose wreck was discovered in 1981. It has yielded more than 30,000 archaeological artifacts, many of which are displayed at the Kalmar County Museum in Sweden.

Info

Tribal Fates: Why the Navajo Have Succeeded

The 3 Sisters Rock
© David P. Smith | Shutterstock
The Three Sisters rock formation found in the Navajo nation land of Monument Valley. Two geographers argue that the relatively isolated and rugged nature of Navajo country ultimately contributed to the tribe's success.

While other tribes have disappeared from North America over the centuries, the Navajo Nation has done the opposite. Two geographers from the University of California, Los Angeles, offer an explanation for why the Navajos have been able to grow to more than 300,000 members today: a combination of geography and culture.

Jared Diamond and Ronan Arthur propose that the geographical isolation and cultural flexibility of the Navajos, who call themselves the Diné, allowed them to expand, even after the arrival of Europeans in North America in 1492 and efforts four centuries later to assimilate them into white U.S. culture.

"Many tribes decreased their numbers, disappeared or lost their homeland, language or cultural identity," Arthur and Diamond write in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal Science. "The Navajos are a striking exception."

In fact, they are arguably the largest American Indian tribe in the United States. (The Cherokee Nation, with different membership requirements, also can make that claim.) And the Navajo reservation, established in 1868, has expanded from roughly 3.3 million acres to more than 17 million in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.