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Sherlock

The Celestial Computers of Ancient Greece

The Antikythera Mechanism
© davelin66
The Antikythera Mechanism at the Boston Museum of Science.
Just before Easter 1900, Greek sponge-fishers were on their way to the waters of Tunisia when a violent storm threw their boats to Antikythera, a tiny island located north of Crete in the Aegean.

After the storm, the sponge-fishers explored the waters of Antikythera for sponges. One of the divers, Elias Stadiatis, discovered the remnants of an ancient ship full of statues - horses, men, women and vases.

Of several treasures, the most precious was a very small piece of metal with gears, which the archaeologists of the National Museum in Athens originally dubbed astrolabe, which in Greek means, "star catcher." Astrolabes helped figure out the position of the sun and the stars in the sky. Astrolabes were not complicated devices. However, the machine of Antikythera was complex and, eventually, Greek archaeologists renamed it the Antikythera Mechanism and dated it from 150 to 100 BCE.

The shipwreck probably happened in the middle of the first century BCE. The doomed Roman ship was sailing from Rhodes to Rome. It carried looted Greek treasure: more than 100 bronze and marble statues, amphorae and coins.

Magic Wand

Austrians hail a 'fairy-tale find' of medieval riches

Image
© Bettina Sidonie Neubauer-Pregl / BDA via AP
This photo provided by Austria's federal conservation authority shows a brooch that was unearthed in a backyard south of Vienna.
Authorities say 'Andreas K.' found jewels and ornaments in his backyard

A man turning dirt in his backyard stumbled onto buried treasure - hundreds of pieces of centuries-old jewelry and other precious objects that Austrian authorities described Friday as a fairy-tale find.

Austria's department in charge of national antiquities said the trove consists of more than 200 rings, brooches, ornate belt buckles, gold-plated silver plates and other pieces or fragments, many encrusted with pearls, fossilized coral and other ornaments. It said the objects are about 650 years old and are being evaluated for their provenance and worth.

While not assigning a monetary value to the buried bling, the enthusiastic language from the normally staid Federal Office for Memorials reflected the significance it attached to the discovery.

"Fairy tales still exist!" said its statement. "Private individual finds sensational treasure in garden."

It described the ornaments as "one of the qualitatively most significant discoveries of medieval treasure in Austria."

Arrow Down

Parts of ancient vessels discovered in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's National Archaeological Department has discovered the parts of 20 ancient vessels in the south of the country, an archaeologist said Thursday.

Sanath Karunarathne, an archaeologist with the National Archaeological Department said the ancient vessel parts were discovered as they were conducting a marine archaeological survey in the southern coastal belt.

Karunaratne said they have also been able to locate wreckage of a very ancient ship close to the historical Godavaya Port in the Hambantota District.

Sherlock

UK: Anglo-Saxon hall unearthed at Bamburgh Castle

An archaeological research team in Northumberland has unearthed a medieval hall underneath Bamburgh Castle.

Image
© unknown
The research group started in 1996 to investigate the history of the castle
Bamburgh Castle Research Project dug up a small trench under the inner courtyard at the core of the castle and discovered an Anglo-Saxon hall.

The team believes that the discovery probably dates back to medieval times.

The dig was carried out after the researchers invited Channel 4's Time Team to the castle to help them with their latest archaeological project.

Graham Young, Director of Bamburgh Castle Research Project, said: "Although it's a small trench, because we've seen rock-cut structural features elsewhere, we can fit that into a background.

"We know it's occupied, it's written about in contemporary texts so it's fascinating to see the actual material itself, the archaeology."

Fish

US: Archaeological research gives glimpse of life on Maine coast

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© Courtesy of: Dr. Arthur Spiess
The darker cod vertebra, left, was excavated from a shell midden site in Acadia National Park and is estimated to be 2,000 years old. It is shown in comparison to vertebra from a more recently caught cod, right.
An archaeological research project focusing on the food remnants left by pre-Columbian inhabitants of coastal Maine is shedding new light on the diet and habits of some of Maine's earliest citizens. The big find: indigenous people in Maine held to the coast during the winter until the arrival of Europeans changed their long established migratory patterns.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Arthur Spiess - who is both the lead archaeologist for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and a board member with Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor - have since the summer of 2010 been examining items recovered from a coastal shell midden within Acadia National Park. The project was funded by the L.L. Bean Acadia Research Fellowship and was facilitated by Acadia National Park staff.

A shell midden is essentially an ancient dump site where the leftovers of the meals of native Maine inhabitants were discarded. According to Spiess, the discovery of clam and mussel shells mixed with bones of other food animals at such sites is a great boon to archaeologists. Typically, the acidic soil common to Maine will cause most discarded bones to completely decompose within 100 years. The presence of shells at midden sites has the effect of neutralizing the soil, allowing fish, bird and mammal bones to remain intact for millennia. There reportedly exist thousands of shell middens worth excavating along the coast of Maine, three quarters of which are located around Frenchman Bay.

The items Spiess and his team have been studying recently are estimated to be around 2,500 years old - a period of time known as the ceramic period - and were excavated from a site within Acadia National Park in the late 1970s by University of Maine archaeologist Dr. David Sanger. For Spiess, the research of items from the Acadia shell midden site is one small part of a larger study.

Magnify

UK: Secret history of Cwmbran revealed in community project

Image
© unknown
The project has involved 150 volunteers from the surrounding area
Historical secrets uncovered during one of Wales' largest community archaeology projects are to be revealed at a public meeting.

Local volunteers joined archaeologists to investigate several ancient sites in Cwmbran, Torfaen, with obscure origins.

The research focused on sites of archaeological interest in the Thornhill and Greenmeadow areas, one of which dates back more than 3,500 years.

Project leader Richard Davies said the work had "only scratched the surface".

Cwmbran is mainly known for the post-war new town, but the area has been inhabited since Neolithic times.

The Iron Age Silures tribe later held sway before being subdued by the Romans but this 18-month series of investigations has proved a history stretching back to the Bronze and Stone Ages.

Info

Did Neanderthals Believe in an Afterlife?

Neanderthal Burials
© Corbis
Neanderthals may have conducted burials and possessed symbolic thought before modern humans had these abilities. The site, Sima de las Palomas in Murcia, Southeast Spain, may also be the first known Neanderthal burial ground of Mediterranean Europe.

Evidence for a likely 50,000-year-old Neanderthal burial ground that includes the remains of at least three individuals has been unearthed in Spain, according to a Quaternary International paper.

The deceased appear to have been intentionally buried, with each Neanderthal's arms folded such that the hands were close to the head. Remains of other Neanderthals have been found in this position, suggesting that it held meaning.

Neanderthals therefore may have conducted burials and possessed symbolic thought before modern humans had these abilities. The site, Sima de las Palomas in Murcia, Southeast Spain, may also be the first known Neanderthal burial ground of Mediterranean Europe.

"We cannot say much (about the skeletons) except that we surmise the site was regarded as somehow relevant in regard to the remains of deceased Neanderthals," lead author Michael Walker told Discovery News. "Their tools and food remains, not to mention signs of fires having been lit, which we have excavated indicate they visited the site more than once."

Walker, a professor in the Department of Zoology and Physical Anthropology at the University of Murcia, and his colleagues have been working at the site for some time. So far they have found buried articulated skeletons for a young adult female, a juvenile or child, and an adult -- possibly male -- Neanderthal.

Light Sabers

Northern England: Prehistoric war unearthed in Peak District

Evidence for a hitherto totally unknown prehistoric war has been discovered in northern England. Archaeologists excavating the remains of a large fortified Iron Age settlement at Fin Cop in the Peak District have so far found the skeletons of nine victims of what they believe was a massacre which took place around 2400 years ago.

However, they suspect that dozens of other victims may still lie buried there. Poignantly, the nine corpses - mainly of women and children - had been thrown into a two metre deep rock-cut ditch originally built to defend the settlement.

Only ten out of 400 metres of the ditch have so far been excavated. So it's conceivable that the entire rock-cut dry moat could contain literally hundreds of victims. As well as killing the women and children of the ten acre settlement, the attackers also systematically destroyed it, tearing down the dry stone defences with extraordinary ferocity.

Magnify

Archaeological Survey of India to hold exhibition at Khirsara

The excavation branch of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will organise an exhibition at Khirsara in Kutch on Monday to draw attention towards this site of western Kutch once citadel of Harappan civilisation.

"We are holding this exhibition at primary school of Khirsara to mark the World Heritage Day," says superintending archaeologist (excavation branch) of ASI's Vadodara circle Jitendra Nath.

ASI is conducting excavations at Khirsara in Nakhatrana taluka of Kutch district since 2009-10. "The excavations carried during last two seasons have yielded very interesting results," says Nath, adding that the tripartite plan shows that there was a fortified settlement at Khirsara comprising a citadel, a habitation annexed and even a 'ware house'.

Sherlock

Russia: Archeologists Find Mysterious 4200-Year-Old Circles in Murmansk Region

Image
© Unknown
An earlier unknown monument of archeology has been discovered on Peninsula Sredniy, Murmansk Region.

Workers of the Arctic Technologies company carrying out geological exploration occasionally found strange circles of stones and then the object was examined by archeologists.

Archeologists were amazed at strange constructions of boulders - these are well distinguishable stone-laid circles six meters in diameter with a crosswise masonry inside.