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Sherlock

'Incredibly exciting' rare pre-Ice Age handaxe discovered on Orkney

Rare handaxe

Discovered: The tool could potentially 'set back our known history'.

A Palaeolithic handaxe has been found by a local walker on an Orkney beach.

An "incredibly rare" pre-Ice Age handaxe which may have been used to kill woolly mammoths, has been found on an Orkney beach.

The Palaeolithic - or Old Stone Age - tool, which could be anything between 100,000 and 450,000 years old, is one of only ten ever to be found in Scotland. The axe, which was found on a stretch of shore in St Ola by a local man walking along the beach, is the oldest man-made artefact ever found in Orkney.

The stone tool, which is around five-and-a-half inches long, has been broken, and originally would have tapered to a point opposite the cutting edge, but at some point in time, the point broke off and someone reworked the flint to its present straight edge.

Orkney-based archaeologist Caroline Wickham-Jones, who has studied the axe, described its discovery as "incredibly exciting".

Ms Wickham-Jones, who a lecturer in archaeology at Aberdeen University, said: "This axe is definitely older than 100,000 years - so old it's become geology.

Document

Huge Ancient Language Dictionary Finished After 90 Years

Ancient Dictionary
© University of Chicago
Martha Roth, Editor in Charge of the Assyrian Dictionary at the University of Chicago, puts the final volume in the set of books.

An ambitious project to identify, explain and provide citations for the words written in cuneiform on clay tablets and carved in stone by Babylonians, Assyrians and others in Mesopotamia between 2500 B.C. and A.D. 100 has been completed after 90 years of labor, the University of Chicago announced June 5.

To mark the completion of the 21-volume Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, the Oriental Institute at the University, where the project was housed, held a conference on June 6, during which scholars from around the world discussed the significance of the achievement.

"I feel proud and privileged to have brought this project home," said Martha Roth, editor-in-charge of the dictionary and dean of Humanities Division at the University of Chicago, who has been working on the project since 1979. "I feel this will be a foundation for how to do more dictionary projects in the future."

"The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary is one of the most important and unique contributions of the Oriental Institute to understanding the civilizations of the ancient Near East," said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute. "The CAD is the single most impressive effort I know of to systematically record, codify and make accessible the Akkadian language that forms the heart of the textual record of civilization in the place of its birth: Mesopotamia.

Pharoah

Mysterious Spots on King Tut's Tomb Suggest Hasty Burial

Wall in Tutankhamen's Tomb
© Robert Jensen / J. Paul Getty Trust
Photo of a wall in Tutankhamen's tomb, taken in February 2009.

Mysterious brown spots covering the surfaces of King Tut's tomb have long puzzled scientists trying to identify them. Now a new study reveals ancient Egyptian microbes left these blemishes.

The spots offer insight not only into the boy king's death, but also into the haste of his burial, according to researcher Ralph Mitchell, an expert in cultural heritage microbiology at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

When the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities asked the Getty Conservation Institute to investigate whether the spots signaled the tomb's deterioration, they turned to Mitchell. Combining classical microbiology with DNA analysis, he studied the mysterious dark spots that have seeped into the tomb's paint and plaster.

Magnify

Archaeologists discover Skeleton in Doctor's Garden

Image
© Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol
A University of Bristol archaeologist uncovering the skeleton in Dr Jenner's garden
A skeleton, possibly dating from Roman times, has been unearthed by archaeologists from the University of Bristol during a dig in the garden of vaccination pioneer Dr Edward Jenner in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.

The archaeologists, led by Professor Mark Horton and Dr Stuart Prior, have been excavating part of the garden of The Chantry, the former country home of vaccination pioneer, Dr Edward Jenner (1749-1823), during a series of annual digs since 2007. They have already established that Berkeley is an important Anglo-Saxon site with a mynster of the same scale and status as Gloucester.

Sherlock

Nubian Mummies Had 'Modern' Disease

Nubian Mummy
© Dennis Van Gerven
One of the Nubian mummies studied by the team led by Amber Campbell Hibbs and George Armelagos at Emory University.

A "modern" disease of humans may have been what sickened ancient Nubian cultures, research on more than 200 mummies has found. The mummies were infected by a parasitic worm associated with irrigation ditches.

The disease, called schistosomiasis, is contracted through the skin when a person comes into contact with worm-infested waters. The disease infects over 200 million people worldwide a year; once contracted, the disease causes a rash, followed by fever, chills, cough and muscle aches. If infection goes untreated, it can damage the liver, intestines, lungs and bladder.

The species of Schistosoma worm, called S. mansoni, found to be prevalent in the Nubian mummies had been thought of as a more recent agent of disease, linked to urban life and stagnant water in irrigation ditches.

"It is the one most prevalent in the delta region of Egypt now, and researchers have always assumed that it was a more recent pathogen, but now we show that goes back thousands of years," said study researcher George Armelagos of Emory University in Atlanta.

Although Armelagos and his colleagues weren't able to discern how bad the infections were in these Nubians, they said those who were infected would have felt run down - which would have affected their work (mostly farming).

Key

Ancient Iberian sanctuary uncovered in Villajoyosa

Iberian Sanctuary
© Town Hall
The dig in Villajoyosa

Evidence of an ancient Iberian sanctuary dedicated to the Mother Goddess has been uncovered at a site in Villajoyosa. EFE reports that the project is sponsored by the French Foreign Ministry in collaboration with the local Town Hall.

Archaeological experts from the Town Hall and the universities of Alicante and Paris have been working at the dig at La Malladeta since 2005 and their findings are due to be presented in Madrid this summer. They have found clues hidden in the 190 archaeological strata they have investigated which suggest that the site was active as an Iberian sanctuary over the 4th-1st Centuries BC.

Magnify

Forerunner of Egyptian Pyramids found in Romania?

Tomb Romania

Archaeologists claim to have found a forerunner to the pyramids not in Egypt - but in southern Romania.

The discovery being hailed as a sensation has been dated as being over 4,500 years old after it was unearthed in Aricestii Rahtivani, in Prahova county in southern Romania.

Archaeologist Alin Franculeasa, from the History and Archeology Museum in Prahova, said: "If we take the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen - he reigned between 1333 - 1323 BC, but this tomb is even older - from a man who obviously also had great wealth and importance but who would have lived 4,500 years ago.

"There are clearly similarities between the tomb we are looking at and that of the pyramids.

Info

Human Ancestors in Eurasia Earlier Than Thought

Homo Erectus
© photolibrary.com
A new find has muddied the water on the origins of Homo erectus.

Archaeologists have long thought that Homo erectus, humanity's first ancestor to spread around the world, evolved in Africa before dispersing throughout Europe and Asia. But evidence of tool-making at the border of Europe and Asia is challenging that assumption.

Reid Ferring, an anthropologist at the University of North Texas in Denton, and his colleagues excavated the Dmanisi site in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. They found stone artefacts - mostly flakes that were dropped as hominins knapped rocks to create tools for butchering animals - lying in sediments almost 1.85 million years old. Until now, anthropologists have thought that H. erectus evolved between 1.78 million and 1.65 million years ago - after the Dmanisi tools would have been made.

Furthermore, the distribution of the 122 artefacts paints a picture of long-term occupation of the area. Instead of all the finds being concentrated in one layer of sediment, which would indicate that hominins visited the site briefly on one occasion, the artefacts are spread through several layers of sediment that span the period between 1.85 million and 1.77 million years ago. The findings are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.1

"This is indeed suggestive of a sustained regional population which had successfully adapted to the temperate environments of the southern Caucasus," explains Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Pharoah

Pyramid Hieroglyphs Likely Engineering Numbers

Hieroglyphs
© Djedi Team
Hieroglyphs written in red paint on the floor of a hidden chamber in Egypt's Great Pyramid are numerical signs meaning 100, 20 and 1.

Mysterious hieroglyphs written in red paint on the floor of a hidden chamber in Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza are just numbers, according to a mathematical analysis of the 4,500-year-old mausoleum.

Shown to the world last month, when the first report of a robot exploration of the Great Pyramid was published in the Annales du Service Des Antiquities de l'Egypte (ASAE), the images revealed features that have not been seen by human eyes since the construction of the monument.

Researchers were particularly intrigued by three red ochre figures painted on the floor of a hidden chamber at the end of a tunnel deep inside the pyramid.

"There are many unanswered questions that these images raise," Rob Richardson, the engineer who designed the robot at the University of Leeds, told Discovery News. "Why is there writing in this space? What does the writing say? There appears to be a masonry cutting mark next to the figures: why was it not cut along this line?" Richardson wondered.

Magic Wand

Athos of Romania: The mystical cave churches and the Buzau Mountains' enigma

Image
© Unknown
One of the most interesting ecumenical sites in Romania is just a stone´s throw away from Bucharest, though far away from any civilisation or tourism circuit. An isolated, spiritual and magical place, full of history, where time seems to stand still. The cave churches and settlements of Buzau are not less than the cradle of Christianity on Romanian territory - an archaeological and cultural treasure amidst breathtaking landscape.

Locals believe in the spirituality of this region, which has been used as a worship place for several thousands of years. Hundreds of legends and paranormal appearances have been reported. Even dictator Nicolae Ceausescu sent a special agent of his secret service to investigate the so-called enigma of Buzau Mountains. Today, only very few tourists visit this extraordinary region, not only due to the missing infrastructure, but also due to the widely neglected tourism promotion by local authorities.

This place is unlike any other tourism destination in Romania. It is not made for hundred of buses, even off-road cars cannot access some areas. It is not made just to take some pictures and to eat some grilled meat with French fries.

The journey is the reward. You can already feel it once you have left the national road between Buzau and Brasov, in the village of Patarlagele where you enter the amber region of Colti, the only place in Romania where amber was extracted. Amber is a fossil resin and estimated to be 50-60 million years old. The Romanian amber is regarded as one of the oldest in the world. Amber is said to have special healing properties and is used as talisman in many cultures. The exploitation of amber in Colti is done since time immemorial, mostly for making jewels or religious objects.