• Name: Paul McLerran
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Monday, February 28, 2005

Archaeological Digs: The Best Listings

1. Archaeological Institute of America Fieldschool Listing

2. Earthwatch Institute Expeditions

3. Archaeological Digs and Tours for 2005

New Discoveries at Endangered Ancient Sites in Iran

Rescue archaeology in Iran may lead to some important archaeological discoveries in the near future. Recently, a joint team of Italian and Iranian archaeologists have discovered thousands of pottery shards scattered in an area that will soon be flooded by the waters of the new Sivand Dam. The shards were found in an area that bears significance in association with the King Road, the major ancient road that connected the ancient World Heritage site of Pasargadae with ancient Persepolis and Susa. The archaeological history of the area threatened by the flooding dates back to prehistoric times.

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Dig Spotlight: Digging a Medieval Fortress in Russia

About 70 kilometers east of the city of Rostov-on-Don in a beautiful, picturesque region of southern Russia lies what remains of a medieval fortress. Traces of its walls are still visible, but much is left shrouded by layers of earth. The site is identified as the Zolotiye Gorki, or "Golden Hills" fortress, dated to the 8th - 10th centuries A.D. (the "Khazar" period). The significance of this site is that it may become the first Khazar fortress of the region where sustained scientific research is possible. Any results of excavation and research will contribute to reconstructing an important part of the archaeological history of an area which remains somewhat sketchy to this day. In light of that, systematic excavations of the site were initiated in 2002 and, to date, more than 500 square meters have been excavated. The foundations of stone buildings, two kilns, and several burials were investigated, but there is much more to be done.

In the summer of 2005, Director V.V. Klyutchnikov, under the organizational auspices of Rostov University, the Donskaya Arkheologia Journal and the Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads, will be conducting continuing excavations to uncover more of the fortress secrets. Volunteers are invited to participate. No experience is necessary, but volunteers and students will be working under the guidance of experienced Russian archaeologists. Participants will be assisted by Russian interpreters. They will be working at the site during the first half of the day, followed by lectures in the afternoon and the opportunity to take excursions into the countryside and bathe in the nearby river. Two organized, full-day excursions will expose the participants to important historic and cultural sites of the area. This experience will afford students and volunteers the opportunity to operate as a close-knit, international team in a camping environment, where the expedition cooks will prepare all of the meals and a bus will provide transportation to the nearby village for those who wish to do some shopping.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Before Angkor Wat

Although the year 2006 may seem a little far off, it's not too early to reserve your place on a team that will be exploring the roots of the great Southeast Asian civilization that is credited with the famous ruins of Angkor Wat. From January 9 to March 5, 2006, Dr. Charles Higham of the University of Otago, New Zealand, will be leading an expedition of earthwatch teams in Thailand to recover and analyze evidence of a sophisticated indigenous civilization that, he suggests, may have played a major role in the foundations of the culture associated with this spectacular site. The 2006 investigations will focus on the remains of Ban Non Wat, a large mound ringed by banks and moats. A major objective will be to determine the relationship of the site to other nearby prehistoric sites. Ancient settlements dot the landscape of Thailand, many of which were large and complex enough to leave clues of social organization, technology and trade as early as 2000 B.C. Ban Non Wat represents one of these settlements.

As a volunteer, you will excavate and search for human burials, food remains, pottery, metals, and other artifacts. You will dig alongside local villagers and process finds at the field lab. You will stay in the Phimai Inn, which boasts a large swimming pool, hot showers, and air-conditioned rooms, with Western or Thai breakfasts and Thai dinners served under the pavilion next to the swimming pool. The hotel will provide lunch to take to the dig site each day. You will also have convenient access to the market and to Angkor Wat itself for sightseeing.

Not bad for a purposeful, educational experience in a far-off place.

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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Construction Site Turns Archaeological

Modern construction work, if not managed well, can destroy valuable cultural resources. But here is a hot-off-the-press example of how properly planned and executed construction work can not only avoid that destruction, but make a valuable contribution to the preservation of cultural resources and the advancement of archaeological inquiry. From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

A significant Indian archaeological site has been uncovered on the banks of the Duwamish River exactly where Sound Transit plans to build columns to carry its elevated light rail line across the river.
Archaeologists hired to survey likely spots in advance of construction have discovered more than 900 artifacts in just several small digs so far, including fire-cracked rocks, stone tools, animal bones, shells and evidence of a structure with a hearth.
The site is believed to be more than several hundred years old, going back to a time before white people arrived in the Northwest.

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Friday, February 25, 2005

World Atlas of Archaeology on the Web

If you want a single, one-stop online source that will give you information about archaeology around the world, the World Atlas of Archaeology on the Web might be a good place to start. Although new and under development, this "living document" provides a place where archaeology enthusiasts and students can go to retrieve comprehensive information related to the archaeological sites, key researchers, and institutions involved in conducting archaeological research in virtually every country of the world.

Dinosaur Digs This Summer

Some very amazing things can be found in the earth in parts west of the United States. Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming collectively make up what can arguably be said is the dinosaur capital of the world. The fossilized remnants of these Jurassic giants are being investigated again this summer, and there are a number of opportunities for public participation. The Judith River Dinosaur Institute's "Exploration 2005" is offering two 5-day sessions for interested volunteers. The goal will be to find new specimens and sites for future studies. Participants will learn methods of field exploration and excavation, how to map and record finds, identify and interpret finds, and techniques of specimen preparation and preservation in the lab. Group discussions and slide presentations round out the educational experience. As an added benefit, participants will be allowed, with professional staff approval, to actually collect and keep some dinosaur bones that are not deemed important to research. The cost for the experience is $850 per person, which includes transportation from the base camp to the field sites and back, lunch and beverages in the field, and information on their various programs. Transportation to the base and accommodations in the vicinity are the responsibility of the volunteer; however, information is provided on the available accommodation options in the area.

An equally exciting program is offered by the
Paleontology Division of the Museum of Western Colorado. This organization offers a program that includes a 1-day session for $99, a 3-day session for $695, and a 5-day session for $1,099.

For additonal information on other dinosaur dig opportunities, see the dinosaur dig section of Digs and Tours for 2005.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Best Virtual Field School Around

You want to go on an archaeological dig or attend a field school but you don't have the time and money. There are a number of interactive digs out there for your choice, but the hands-down best in terms of detail and a daily education can be found with the Smithsonian Institution's project in Olorgesaillie, Kenya, where the 2004 field season focused on investigating the world of early humans in an area considered by many as significant to understanding human origins. Visit the site and you will get a taste of what I mean.

A Rare Neanderthal Find

Rarely do archaeologists come across fossilized footprints of prehistoric humans. One immediately thinks of the famous australopithecine prints at Laetoli, Tanzania, discovered by the Leakeys. More recently, a fossilized footprint was discovered in a Romanian cave (Vartop Cave) and identified as belonging to Homo Neanderthalensis ("Neanderthal Man"). The footprint, dated to approximately 62,000 years B.P., is considered to be the first recognized and dated print for this human species. Much more prolific are the fossilized bones of these neanderthals, who walked in comparative abundance across the European landscape.

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Macedonians: They Were Not Barbarians

Many of the more "civilized" ancients regarded the Macedonians as barbarians, but recent finds in a cluster of 141 Macedonian tombs in the ancient necropolis of Archontiko in Pella prove otherwise. Dating from the first half of the sixth century B.C. to the beginning of the fifth century B.C.,the tombs contained the remains of warriors still bedecked in full armor, with helmets adorned in gold, steel swords with gold on the handles, and spears and knives. Leather breastplates, clothing, footwear and hand coverings were also adorned with gold and other ornaments. The tombs included grave offerings of gold and silver jewelry, bronze and clay vessels, clay idols, and furniture. The finds present and reinforce an image of a civilization with a highly developed socio-economic organization, including an aristocracy with sophisticated burial rituals and a high living standard. Not bad for barbarians.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Archaeological Digs

Are you interested in archaeological dig and tour opportunities for 2005? Go to digs and tours for a comprehensive listing.

The Interactive Dig at Hierakonpolis

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Read about the latest discoveries at a site where archaeologists are exploring the foundations of ancient Egyptian civilization.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Archaeological Digs in California: Finding Moses in Hollywood

For those of us interested in the archaeology of the Big Bear state, here is a listing of sites that include, among other things, the "Lost City of Cecil B. De Mille", where excavations have been conducted at the site associated with the first Cecil B. De Mille production of The Ten Commandments, produced about 60 years ago. That's entertainment.

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Coptic Manuscripts Discovered in Egypt

A Polish team excavating in the ancient city of Luxor have discovered three ancient Coptic manuscripts in a Pharaonic tomb. The event is considered by many to be the most important Coptic discovery since the famous Nag Hammadi Coptic codices found in Egypt in 1945. The manuscripts date to the sixth century and were concealed in a Middle Kingdom (2000 to 1800 BC) tomb. Scholars suggest that the texts may have been hidden there by early Christians who were being persecuted by the Romans.

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Dig Spotlight: Bethsaida, And What Lies Beneath

Excavated chamber of the Iron Age City Gate

Bethsaida, Israel – At an elevated location not far from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee lies what remains of a place identified with some of the miracles of Jesus (healing of a blind man, walking on water, and feeding of the multitudes). Birthplace of three of the Apostles (Andrew. Peter, and Philip), this site is now yielding the remains of Bethsaida, the famous town mentioned so often in the Gospels of the New Testament and, along with Capernaum, associated with the ministry of Jesus. What makes the ancient town doubly exciting, however, is what lies deeper beneath the Hellenistic/Roman layers. In 1996, while going about business as usual during the 1996 excavation season, Dr. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, began to peal away layers that covered an Iron Age city gate complex rivaling the great city gate complexes found at other great ancient sites such as Megiddo and Hazor. The complex proved to be part of a large Iron Age city that is now identified by scholars as very likely the capital of the Kingdom of Geshur, which figured prominently in events associated with ancient Israel’s King David.

This summer, Dr. Arav will be leading a team of scholars, students and volunteers in the continuing efforts to reveal the secrets of this ancient kingdom, focusing much of the work on the Iron Age city gate complex. Along with the experience of excavating at the site, you will wash, sort and catalogue artifacts and participate in afternoon sessions designed to instruct on methods of analyzing and identifying the artifacts. Educational lectures will be offered on selected evenings. Located on the shores of the historic Sea of Galilee, you will stay in air-conditioned rooms at the Ginosar Inn at Kibbutz Ginosar, where you will have access to a swimming pool and, of course, the Sea. Hugging the shore, there is an excellent museum near the kibbutz, which houses the astonishingly well-preserved remains of a typical fishing vessel (popularly referred to as the “Jesus Boat”) that is dated to the time of Jesus. Conveniences include transportation from the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv at the beginning of each 3-week dig session, and comfortable bus transportation from the kibbutz to the dig site each day.

More Information and Application

Monday, February 21, 2005

Jordan, Treasure Trove of Sites

When we think of the archaeological sites in Jordan, most of us picture the sensational architectural remains of the ancient cities of Jerash and Petra; however, these are but the tip of the iceberg of archaeological sites to be found in the Hashemite Kingdom. Here is a listing of at least 50 prominent sites, many of which are still under active archaeological investigation. Given its rich ancient history, it goes without saying that Jordan is a country that will offer numerous excavation opportunities for future scholars, students and volunteers.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Perhaps, like many of us, the closest you have come to actually being on a dig was watching Indiana Jones do it in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or watching one of those well-scripted documentaries by National Geographic. In case you are thinking about it, here are 10 good reasons to try it first-hand:

1. If you want to go somewhere “foreign”, it is a good excuse to take that unusual vacation to an exotic location and really have something to “write home about” and share with friends and family. You have one mortal life on this planet. Do something exciting.

2. There is something to be said for making new, lasting friendships with people who have a common interest. The strong group and teamwork aspect of a dig makes it difficult to avoid this. You won’t take your house or your car with you when you leave this world, but friendships and memories go with you.

3. It is satisfying to know that you are part of something larger than yourself, and that your contribution is making some difference. Digging, sorting and processing finds, and recording data leaves your mark on the effort.

4. Education is a lifelong endeavor. An archaeological excavation offers the opportunity for everyone to learn and gain new skills, regardless of age or station in life. You don’t need a Ph.D. to be a dig volunteer – only a willingness to learn and work with others as a team….and you get to hob-nob with the professors and dig directors.

5. You have the chance to help develop a cultural resource that will benefit a surrounding community and enrich the lives of the local population, both in terms of the tourism it could bring and the employment it could generate. Not a bad way to give back to the world community.

6. Being a part of a scientific expedition distills a sense of importance that can't be matched by a traditional vacation.

7. It is just plain fun, in addition to the “meat and potatoes” work of the day, to experience the interesting evening lectures, field trips, and the many cultural and recreational amenities that the host country or community has to offer. This is another memory builder.

8. For most of us, an archaeological dig will be an “out of the box” experience. It will broaden the mind a little more.

9. If you are out on the dig long enough, you will no doubt learn some things about yourself that you didn’t know before. This will be different for each person.

10. Finally, it is the next best thing to time travel. There is a pure thrill about holding something in your hand or touching an ancient wall that was left in place long ago. It has a story to tell about the person or group who left it there. The context of the find will say something, but the rest is still a mystery. In a very real way, you are making or amending history.

Read what an
excavation director has to say about why diggers dig.

Read what a volunteer has to say about her own experience on a dig.

Here is a HUGE listing of Dig and Tour Opportunities for 2005

Friday, February 18, 2005

Dinosaur Footprints -- They're Iranian

Iran is not a place one normally thinks of when contemplating dinosaurs and their fossil remains. Yet in the fossil rich Kerman province of central Iran, the footprints of three Jurassic/Cretaceous-period dinosaurs were recently unearthed. The footprints are just now under study and it is too early to determine the size and type of dinosaurs that left them.

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Early Man Thrived Where the Sahara Desert is Today

Jennifer R. Smith, Ph.D., Washington University assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, and her doctoral student Johanna M. Kieniewicz, are conducting analyses of ancient freshwater snail deposits and carbonate silts from a small lake (now dry) in the Kharga Oasis of western Egypt to reconstruct climatic conditions during the lifetime of the lake. Their analyses support a surprising picture of arid Egypt: 130,000 years ago, what everyone considers an eternal desert was actually a thriving savannah, complete with humans, rhinos, giraffes and other wild life.
Evidence for hominin (prehistoric human) presence abounds near the lake in the form of Middle Stone Age artifacts such as stone scrapers and blades.
"The artifacts provide a record that people were coming to the lake," said Smith. "Genetic evidence suggests that 100,000 to 400,000 years ago was a critical time in the evolution and dispersal of African hominins. Our climate data from this 130,000-year-old humid event suggest that this would have been a particularly good time for a northward migration through Africa following reliable water resources, since it seems to be the strongest humid phase in this region over the past 400,000 years. We're also testing the hypothesis that humid events were more frequent than previously thought, which would have allowed for greater mobility throughout the region."

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The Biblical Edomites Were Real

Many scholars have argued that the ancient Edomites who interacted with the Israel of kings David and Solomon were not real. But recent evidence uncovered through excavations and research at Khirbat en-Nahas in Jordan under the direction of Professor Thomas Levy of the University of California, San Diego, show massive 10th Century B.C. fortifications and copper production facilities attributed to the Edomites. The facilities were determined to have been active during the period of the United Monarchy (the reigns of kings David and Solomon).

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Archaeological Tour: New Discoveries In the World of the Ancient Maya

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If you are not in the mood to do some digging in the jungles of the ancient Maya but you want the chance to survey first-hand some of the latest research sites where on-going excavations and investigations are being conducted, here is an archaeological tour that may do the trick. This will afford the opportunity to explore recently discovered archaeological sites in Guatemala's Peten Jungle, where you will often find archaeologists at work. You will reach many of these sites via boat on jungle rivers and lakes, and some hiking will be required. Needless to say, you will need to be physically fit. You will also need to specially request this arrangement. Here is the itinerary:

Day One
Arrive Guatemala City. Participants will be met on arrival and escorted to Hotel Biltmore Express in Guatemala City's fashionable Zona Rosa. Tour orientation at the hotel. (B.L.D.)

Day Two
Guatemala's Verapaz Region. Early drive through a tropical cloud forest which is home to the elusive Quetzal, Guatemala's national bird. Brief hike in the cloud forest to admire the flora and to look for the colorful Quetzal. As you descend from the cloud forest to the lowlands you will pass through coffee and cardamom plantations to the lands of the Maya Kekchi people. Arrive at the Candelaria Caves in time for dinner and overnight at the Cuevas de Candelaria Lodge. (B.L.D.)

Day Three
Cancuen and Its Spectacular Palace. Morning transfer via road and river boat to the Maya site of Cancuen. In 2001 archaeologists discovered a spectacular seventy-two room Maya Palace here. Excavation is still in progress. Dinner and overnight at the Cuevas de Candelaria Lodge. (B.L.D.)

Day Four
Cuevas de Candelaria. Explore the Candelaria Caves. The Maya believe these caves are an entrance to the underworld. Following lunch drive to Sayaxche for a boat ride on the Rio Pasion and across Lake Petexbatun to the Chiminos Island Lodge. Time to explore before dinner and overnight at the Chiminos Island Lodge. (B.L.D.)

Day Five
Aguateca Mayan Ruins. Perched on a high outcrop on the southern tip of Lake Petexbatun, you will see the temples of Aguateca. The site has a magical atmosphere, encompassed by dense tropical forest and with a superb view of the lake. Following lunch continue to Flores for overnight at the Hotel Peten Esplendido on the shore of Lake Peten Itza. (B.L.)

Day Six
Waka and the Mayan Queen. After breakfast enjoy the lush scenery along the San Pedro River as your boat approaches Waka Archaeological Site, which was previously called "El Peru". In May of 2004, archaeologists discovered the 1,200 year old tomb and skeleton of a Mayan queen. She appears to have been the leader of a city that was once home to tens of thousands of people. Waka was inhabited as early as 500 BC but reached its peak between 400 and 800 AD. Dinner and overnight at the Guacamaya Research Center.

Day Seven
La Joyanca. Morning scenic boat ride followed by a jungle hike to the archaeological site of La Joyanca. This Mayan city was brought to the attention of the public by French archaeologists in 2002. Return to Flores this afternoon for overnight at the hotel Peten Esplendido on the shore of Lake Peten Itza. Tonight dinner is on your own. You might enjoy walking into the island village of Flores to try one of the attractive waterfront restaurants. (B.L.)

Day Eight
Holmul and Yaxha. Visit the partially excavated site of Holmul. Continue to Yaxha with its towering pyramids and large concentration of buildings in its central plaza. German archaeologists are currently at work here. Afternoon return to Flores Airport for flight to Guatemala City. Farewell dinner and overnight at the Hotel Biltmore Express. (B.L.D.)

Day Nine
DepartureBreakfast and transfer to airport. (B.)

INCLUDED: A bilingual expert guide, all land and boat transportation, flight from Flores to Guatemala City, entrance fees, eight nights accommodations, and meals as per the itinerary. The PRICE: Standard Double $1,945; Standard Single $2240 PRICE WITH FOUR PARTICIPANTS: Double $1,597. Single occupancy: $1,844.

Mayatour: The New Discoveries Tour

For more archaeological adventure travel options, see my page on digs and tours for 2005.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Investigating Early Man in South Africa

Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai -- for students and others versed in the historic drama of the discovery of human origins, these famous South African sites played a salient role in the ongoing efforts to piece together the puzzle of mankind's beginnings. Now, you can have the opportunity to visit these sites and play a part in the continuing research. A month-long field school in paleoarchaeological excavation and research is being sponsored this summer by the University of Witwatersrand from mid-July to mid-August. Directly from their website, here is the itinerary:

The field school will begin with tours of three famous palaeoanthropological sites near Johannesburg - Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Kromdraai, home of hominid fossils of Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and Homo ergaster. Students will learn about cave formation, the fossilization process (4 to 1 m. y. ago), palaeo-environments, and archaeological site formation processes (2 to 1 m. y. ago). Prof Ron Clarke, distinguished palaeoanthropologist and discoverer of the most complete Australopithecus skeleton ever found, will provide a seminar at the Wits University fossil lab. Students will see original hominid fossils and discuss human evolution with the aid of the extensive collection of casts held in the Sterkfontein Research Unit. Dr Kathleen Kuman, archaeologist at Sterkfontein caves and senior researcher at Wits, will conduct the hominid site tours and practical exercises in stone tool identification, with viewing of Oldowan and early Acheulean artifacts from Sterkfontein. Professor Travis Pickering of Indiana University will conduct additional seminars on taphonomy. The school will then travel to their excavation site in the beautiful Limpopo River Valley along the northern border of South Africa. En route, students will visit the Makapan Valley complex of three famous sites: the Australopithecus site of Makapansgat, the Cave of Hearths Acheulean to Iron Age site, and the Historic Cave.
The Makapan Valley contains extensive palaeontological and cultural deposits. The Makapansgat Limeworks is known for 3-million-year old faunal deposits that have yielded fossils of Australopithecus. The adjacent Cave of Hearths is one of only two deeply stratified Stone Age cave sites in southern Africa, containing a long sequence from the Earlier, Middle and Later Stone Ages to the Iron Age. The Historic Cave is famous for the siege of Makapan in 1854. Here Chief Makapan and several thousand members of the Kekana chiefdom took refuge after their attack on a party of Voortrekkers led to a month-long siege. In the Limpopo Valley, students will excavate open-air lithic sites atop an ancient terrace of the river where Dr Kuman and her students are doing research on the Acheulean and the Middle Stone Age. Although this region is well known for its important Iron Age sites, this is the first Earlier and Middle Stone Age research to be conducted along the Limpopo River of South Africa. The emphasis during the fieldschool will be on understanding the site formation processes and contexts in which the Stone Age sites are preserved. While in the Limpopo, students will visit the Iron Age sites of K2 and Mapungubwe. These sites lie near the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers (where South Africa meets Zimbabwe and Botswana) and have been of interest to archaeologists for over six decades. Between 1000 and 1300 AD social complexity evolved, characterized by class distinction and sacred leadership. Known as the Zimbabwe Culture, Mapungubwe pre-dated the world-famous site of Great Zimbabwe.

Field School Training Seminars on the hominid sites and on the Earlier Stone Age of South Africa will be conducted at the camp in the Limpopo, and students will have an introduction to lithic analysis during lab work. In the field, students will learn excavation techniques, data recording, and use of the total station EDM for on-site recording. The students will be introduced to survey methods and conduct field walking to locate Middle Stone Age sites. Students will participate in a modern taphonomic research component conducted by Prof Travis Pickering.

Costs: $3000 US Dollars. This excludes airfare but includes collection from Johannesburg International Airport and travel during the field school, course registration/tuition fees, lodging and meals.

Accommodations: The first three days of the course are spent in Johannesburg, where students will be housed on campus and provided with meals and transportation. Accommodation and meals on the rest of the trip will be provided in either a research house or a safari bush camp, depending on the size of the group. Both camps have proper shower facilities and flush toilets. If desired, students may also bring their own tents with the permission of the organizers. The accommodation and research areas are adjacent to the Botswana border and this part of the country is remote. Students can expect a peaceful African environment where wild animals are common. Large parts of the research area have already been incorporated in the Vhembe/Dongola National Park. Both camps have a typical rustic African atmosphere and great views can be enjoyed from the doorsteps. There are no shops or restaurants and other facilities, but personal items can be bought once a week during trips to Musina.

More Information

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Early Homo Sapiens.......VERY Early

Kibish, Ethiopia, 1967 -- The fossilized bones of two early homo sapiens (anatomically modern humans) were discovered by scientists within a rock formation and dated to 130,000 years B.P. This placed the emergence of modern humans earlier than ever before. A new study of the same site, however, now places the date of those bones to approximately 195,000 years, pushing back the dawn of this emergence more than 65,000 years. What makes this determination all the more interesting is that it neatly matches the date suggested by genetic studies.

Read more about this fascinating discovery..........

Dig Spotlight: Digging the Rich History of York

One need not go only to Italy or locations near the Mediterranean to dig into what remains of the ancient Roman Empire. The United Kingdom boasts a rich heritage that reaches back through the time of Roman settlement and long before. Things like Hadrian's Wall and Roman fortress outposts come to mind. Equally as fascinating are the architectural remains and artifacts of medieval history, a time period that few other countries can match, archaeologically speaking.

A new excavation this summer in York will give scholars, students and volunteers a chance to taste a little of that history. The York Archaeology Trust, in partnership with the York Museums Trust, will be conducting a new excavation in the northern part of the precinct of St. Mary's Abbey. The targeted site lies within an area that scholars suspect may be a possible annex to a Roman fortress. In addition, it lies within the precinct walls of St. Mary's Abbey, affording an exciting opportunity to investigate medieval deposits and features that have not yet been explored. The objectives of the excavation will be to determine if there was a Roman annex to the fortress, to investigate signs of occupation from circa 500 to 1,000 AD (the Anglican-Viking period), to identify the functions of this part of the medieval abbey, and to study the post-medieval sequence of deposits. Students and volunteers will learn how to identify, record and excavate archaeological deposits; process, sort, and examine finds; process and sort environmental samples; and examine the site archive to determine the broader context of the investigation. The experience is supplemented with tours and lectures. Staying in modern student resident halls or other locations in York, the participant will have the opportunity to taste the culture that England has to offer, including the historical/archaeological sites of the surrounding area as well as all of the other modern amenities of a city.

The excavation season runs from June 20 to September 9, 2005, and it is open to anyone over the age of 16 (although this age limit is negotiable, contact below). The minimum period of participation is flexible: Volunteers and students may come for one day, up to a module of three weeks or the entire season. Contact:

Toby Kendall
York Archaeology Trust
Cromwell House
13 Ogleforth
York, YO1 7FG England
e-mail: tkendall@yorkarchaeology.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 1904 663015
Mobile: +44 (0) 7717 535393
Fax: +44 (0) 1904 663024

Visit the website, where details will soon be posted.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Tel Rehov, Rising Again from the Dust

You will not find the name of the great ancient city of Rehov mentioned much, if at all, in the pages of the Old Testament. Yet, among the great cities of its time in ancient Canaan, it was well known. Egyptian texts list it among the other prominent cities of Canaan, and the evidence of greatness -- monumental architecture and the shear magnitude of its spatial layout -- testify that it must have been a place of great significance.

Located about a half-hour south of the Sea of Galilee by automobile, on the western edge of the Jordan River Valley, it is one of the largest tels in the Holy Land. Excavations there from 1997-2003 have revealed successive occupational layers from the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I (12th - 11th centuries BCE) and large, well-preserved buildings from occupation layers dated to the 10th - 9th centuries BCE (the time of the United Monarchy of David and Solomon and the Divided Monarchy under Omri and Ahab). Remains of the 8th century BCE city that was destroyed by the Assyrians in 732 BCE include an 8-meter wide mudbrick wall surrounding the acropolis. Evidence of slaughter by the Assyrians was found in the destroyed houses of this time period. Other finds have included pottery vessels, pottery cult stands, clay figurines, seals, ivories and other objects from the Iron Age II city. Tel Rehov has became a major site for investigating the material remains of the Iron Age II in Israel and in answering questions about the chronology and nature of this period, which included the reigns of some of ancient Israel's greatest kings, such as David and Solomon.

This summer, Professor Amihai Mazar of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be leading a team of professional archaeologists, other experts, students and volunteers to continue the excavation work and reveal more of the significance of this important site.

Volunteers will stay in air-conditioned cabins at Kibbutz Nir David. Each cabin can accommodate up to five people and includes a bedroom, living room, loft, front porch, shower, toilet, kitchenette, and cable TV. As part of the excavation's general education program, all participants will acquire skills in excavation and artifact processing and analysis, and will attend bi-weekly lectures and have the opportunity to participate in field trips to other archaeologically significant sites.

More Information

Monday, February 14, 2005

An Archaeological Society Near You

Whether you are a professional or an avocational archaeologist, or simply someone who is exploring the field and its opportunities as a new interest, chances are there is an organized group of enthusiasts in your area (particularly if you live near a large city) that can facilitate your interest and provide opportunities for participation. In America, the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) has an organized affiliate system of groups that meet this purpose. Here is a listing of local societies affiliated with the SAA. If you are interested, locate the group that is closest to you and contact them for more information:

Arch Society of Central Oregon PO Box 8146 Bend, OR 97708-8146

Archaeological Soc of Alberta 97 Eton Road West Lethbridge, AB T1K 4T9 Canada

Archaeological Society of NM PO Box 3485 Albuquerque, NM 87190-3485

Archeological Soc of Maryland 4302 Crow Rock Rd Myersville, MD 21773-8826

Archeological Society of Virginia Attn: William A. Thompson, Jr. 536 Summit Ridge Drive Chesapeake, VA 23322

Arizona Archaeological Council P.O. Box 210026 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721-0026

Arizona Archaeological Society Box 9665 Phoenix, AZ 85068-9665

Arkansas Archeological Soc 2475 N Hatch Ave Fayetteville, AR 72704-5590

Colorado Archaeological Soc PO Box 866 Attn Terry Murphy Castle Rock, CO 80104-0866

Ft Guijarros Mus Foundation PO Box 23130 San Diego, CA 92193-3130

IL Assn/Advancmnt of Archaeol RR 1; Box 63 Huntsville, IL 62344-9728

Kansas Anthropological Assn 6425 SW 6th Ave c/o KSHS Dept of Archaeology Topeka, KS 66615-1099

Kansas City Archaeological Soc 641 E Gregory Blvd Attn: Jerry Finke Kansas City, MO 64131-1348

Louisiana Archaeological Soc 9364 Rainford Rd. Attn: David Jeane Treasurer Baton Rouge, LA 70810-4129

Massachusetts Arch Society PO Box 700 Middleboro, MA 02346-0700

Mississippi Arch Association PO Box 571 Jackson, MS 39205-0571

Missouri Archaeological Soc PO Box 958 Columbia, MO 65205-0958

Nevada Archaeological Assn PO Box 73145 Las Vegas, NV 89170-3145

Oregon Archaeological Society PO Box 13293 ATTN: Mike Taylor Portland, OR 97213-0293

San Diego Archaeological Cen. 16666 San Pasqual Valley Road Cindy Stankowski Director Escondido, CA 92027-7001

San Diego County Arch Society PO Box 81106 San Diego, CA 92138-1106

Saskatchewan Arch Society #1-1730 Quebec Avenue Saskatoon, SK S7K -1V9 Canada

Society for California Archaeology Dept of Anthropology, CSU Chico Chico, CA 95929-0001

Society for Pennsylvania Arch 301 North Dr c/o Judy Duritsa Jeannette, PA 15644-9402

Society of Primitive Tech. 2550 Elberton Road The Woods Carlton, GA 30627-2719

Suffolk County Arch Assn PO Box 1542 c/o Gaynell Stone Phd Stony Brook, NY 11790-0910

Texas Archeological Society 6900 N Loop 1604 W CAR/UTSA San Antonio, TX 78249-1130

Wyoming Archaeological Society 1617 Westridge Ter Casper, WY 82604-3305

The Society for American Archaeology

Archaeological Digs and Tours for 2005

For a comprehensive listing of dig and tour opportunities for 2005, click here.

A Roman Death in London

An ancient Roman wooden coffin dated to AD 120 was recently stumbled upon during construction work in London. The archaeologists who later investigated the find were amazed that it had survived intact, centuries after other wooden coffins had disintegrated with only the telltale nails left behind as evidence. The wood survived because it was kept in wet conditions without oxygen, and the weight of the skeleton left an impression of the ribs, spine and knee-joints. The coffin dates from a time when Roman London was quite prosperous.

More Information

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Archaeological Tour: Viewing Prehistory from the Hopi Perspective

If you have taken an educational tour of a native American archaeological site in the American Southwest, your tour guide was most likely a National Park Ranger or a trained, Anglo-American professional archaeologist. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But you were missing something.......The unique cultural/historical perspective of a Native American. I say this because the way they view their history and the material ruins of their past can be quite different than the canned, albeit very "scientific" view you get from the conventionally educated tour guide.

If you are interested in a different perspective, you may want to try Hopi Tours. It is a Hopi-owned and operated business organized by a native-born professional Hopi anthropologist (Micah Loma'omvaya) and Hopi colleagues. Their objective is to help you understand the ancient history of the Southwest ruins and people, as the Hopi see it. It is a relatively inexpensive cultural experience and a chance to tour ancient ruins through the eyes of the ancient inhabitants' descendants. In addition, part of the tour proceeds are invested toward developing a Hopi Natural Resources Center, for research and education in Hopi ethnobiology, sustainable Hopi land management, and traditional farming and Hopi arts and crafts preservation for their future generations.

It's nice to know that, while we are enriching ourselves and enjoying the vacation, we are making a contribution to sustaining an indigenous American culture.

More Information

Friday, February 11, 2005

New Inroads to Finding the Lost Colony?

A new translation of a 16th-century Spanish document may reinforce a hypothesis that the ill-fated Lost Colonists settled more toward the middle of Roanoke Island near Shallowbag Bay, rather than the north end of the island, where archaeologists have been searching for more than a century.
Working off a copy of the original document that was located at the Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain, James Lavin, professor emeritus with the department of modern languages and literature at The College of William and Mary, said that Spanish pilot Pedro Diaz described a “flimsy” wooden fort that is “in the water,” possibly indicating a moat, and that it was located in a wet, marshy spot.
That could mean that the elusive “Cittie of Raleigh” – which housed Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1587 colony of 117 men, women and children – had been situated near Mother Vineyard or Shallowbag Bay, miles away from the once-presumed location at what is now Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

Catherine Kozak, The Virginia Pilot, February 3, 2005


Pushing Back the Dates: Human Presence in North America

Excavations being conducted at a site near the Savannah River in South Carolina may debunk the conventional theories long held by scholars that humans (modern homo sapiens) began inhabiting the North American continent approximately 12,000 years ago. The most popular theory suggests that humans began arriving via the Bering Land Bridge around 12,000 years ago after the closing of the Ice Age exposed negotiable land for their trek from points east in Asia. The findings, if confirmed and accepted by the scholarly community, suggest that America was inhabited by humans about 34,000 years earlier than the 12,000 year benchmark date. Albert Goodyear of the University of South Carolina has been directing excavations there since 1998, but recent laboratory results from radiocarbon dating of organic materials found in association with flint blade and tool chip artifacts unearthed at the site indicate that the artifacts are close to 50,000 years old. Moreover, he maintains that the tools resemble those found in Asia at about the same time period. "Man is a traveler, an explorer," he says. "In retrospect, it's almost absurd to insist that people could never get into North America before the last Ice Age."

Goodyear's discoveries are not alone. Excavations in Chile and Oklahoma suggest that humans were present as early as 30,000 years ago, and excavations at Cactus Hill in Virginia and Meadowcroft Rock Shelter in Pennsylvania have also pushed back the dates. These excavations will change the scope and focus of many archaeological investigative efforts as american archeology moves through the 21st Century. New possibilities for human entry are being considered, such as a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska that may have existed before the last Ice Age, or maritime activity involving coastal fishermen who gradually island-hopped their way into the Americas.


An excellent book on the topic at Amazon.com: The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology's Greatest Mystery . Once I started reading, I couldn't stop!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Archaeological Tour: Try Peru

You are into archaeology but you don't particularly want to get your hands dirty with digging or you have an injury or physical condition that precludes you from the kind of activity involved in excavation work. Or, you would like to take your spouse on an archaeological adventure but he/she is not much interested in digging or the other activities associated with a dig. You have the vacation time, expense is not a huge obstacle, and you want an educational and cultural experience to enrich your mind and life. Does this describe you?

Perhaps an archaeological study tour will fit the bill. The Archaeological Institute of America offers an array of high-quality archaeological tours for your consideration. They know what they are doing because they have been in this business the longest and, compared to most other "adventure travel" itineraries, their tours are archaeologically intense, yet sprinkled with the luxuries and variety that normally attends a well-planned vacation package.

I perused a few and here is one that caught my eye. Perhaps it will catch yours, too:

Explore the archaeological sites, variety of museums, picturesque villages, and modern cities of Peru, including two days among the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu. Visit the site of the rich Moche burial tombs of Sipan at Huaca Rajada, including the Tombas Reales Museum; tour the vast collection of treasures in Lima's National Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; and wander the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lima and Cusco. Travel to Chan Chan, capital of the ancient Chimu Empire and one of the largest cities in pre-Columbian South America; the imposing Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo; and the famed oracle of Pachacamac. Enjoy special events throughout the program, including a private tour of the Puruchuco lab by Guillermo Cock to see mummy bundles, a private dinner party in the Precolumbian Museum in Cusco, and a private tour of the excavations at Pachacamac.

This looks incredibly good to me. I'll need to wait until my children are out of college. That's a couple of years down the road. But this might fit neatly into your life right now. The tour starts July 29 and ends August 15. That's 19 days of new memories.

Go to this
archaeological tour site to see the above excerpt in its context.

If you wish to look into other organizations that specialize in archaeological/cultural/adventure travel packages, see the archaeological tours section of my digs and tours page.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Tiberias, Jewel on the Lake

Tiberias, Israel -- Like a great jewel, the modern city of Tiberias rises on the slopes hugging the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is, among other things, a popular resort destination in Israel. But not far from its shops and hotels lies another Tiberias......an ancient one. In about 20 C.E., Herod Antipas saw this location as a seat of power and established Tiberias as a governing center and a city of prominence. In addition to its association with a region where Jesus walked, taught and performed his many miracles, it became a center of Jewish political and spiritual leadership during the period of Roman Palestine and the Diaspora. Here, the Palestinian Talmud was compiled and edited. In the Byzantine period, it drew thousands of Christian pilgrims and during the time following the Arab conquest it served as the capital of northern Palestine. Needless to say, its ancient political, spiritual, and attendant economic significance endows the location with archaeological treasures yet to be unearthed. Add to this the fact that the ancient site has been relatively unaffected by later construction, and you have a site that promises incredible potential for new archaeological discoveries.

In March, 2005, Professor Yizhar Hirschfeld of the Hebrew University and Professor Katharina Galor of Brown University will be leading a team of scholars, students and volunteers to uncover what remains of a Roman basilica and a large market area. You will learn excavation techniques and participate in afternoon workshops, slide show lectures and field trips to other nearby sites of archaeological significance. You will be staying in the Aviv hotel, situated near the shore of the Sea of Galilee, just 5 - 10 minutes' walk from the excavation site. Rooms are air-conditioned, with TV, telephone, private bathroom and a balcony. Breakfasts are at the site and lunch and dinner are at the hotel dining room. You will also be close to the tourist attractions in Tiberias, Tiberias Hot Springs and the Promenade with its various restaurants and pubs. As if this isn't enough, you will be there in March, when the temperatures are comfortable and the foliage is at it's peak.

Does this sound interesting? If it does, check out the
website for more information and application procedures.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Dig Spotlight: House of the Fisherman, and What Lies Beneath

Bethsaida, Israel -- At an elevated location not far from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee lies what remains of a place identified with some of the miracles of Jesus (healing of a blind man, walking on water, and feeding of the multitudes). Birthplace of three of the Apostles (Andrew, Peter and Philip), this site is now yielding the remains of Bethsaida (Hebrew for "House of the Fisherman"), the famous town mentioned so often in the Gospels and, along with Capernaum, associated with the ministry of Jesus. What makes the ancient town doubly exciting, however, is what lies yet deeper beneath it. In 1996, while going about business as usual during the 1996 excavation season, Dr. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, began to peal away layers that covered an Iron Age city gate complex rivaling the great city gate complexes found at other great ancient sites such as Megiddo and Hazor. The complex proved to be part of a large Iron Age city that is now identified by scholars as very likely the capital of the kingdom of Geshur, which figured prominently in events associated with ancient Israel's King David.

This summer, Dr. Arav will be leading a team of scholars, students and volunteers in the continuing efforts to reveal the secrets of this ancient kingdom, focusing much of the work on the Iron Age city gate complex. Along with the experience of excavating at the site, you will wash, sort and catalogue artifacts and participate in sessions designed to instruct on methods of analyzing and identifying the artifacts. Educational lectures will be offered on selected evenings. Located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, you will stay in air-conditioned rooms at the Ginosar Inn at Kibbutz Ginosar, where you will have access to a swimming pool and, of course, the Sea of Galilee. There is an excellent museum near the Kibbutz, which houses the astonishingly well-preserved remains of a typical fishing vessel (popularly referred to as the "Jesus Boat") that is dated to around the time of Jesus. Conveniences include transportation from the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv at the beginning of each dig session, and comfortable bus transportation from the kibbutz to the dig site each day.

More Information and Application

Archaeological Sites in France

France is rich in archaeological treasures and sites. Go here to see a long listing of very interesting sites, some of which may have ongoing excavations open to volunteers and students.

Pushing Back Erect Posture

As Duma, Ethiopia -- Scientists here have found the fossil remains of nine hominids dated to between 4.5 and 4.3 million years ago. Mostly teeth and jaw fragments, the finds also include a pedal phalanx (foot bone), the examination of which confirms that this species of early hominid, called Ardipithecus ramidus, walked upright. Scientists suggest that this species may be the forerunner to the Australopithecus group, a type of early hominid that was ancestral to later humans, such as Homo Erectus and Neanderthal Man.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Man the Hunter from Man the Hunted

A book due to be published later this month makes the argument that, despite the popular theory that archaic homo sapiens and other hominids were primarily hunters in prehistoric times, they were more often hunted than hunting. The author suggests that this state of affairs and the necessity of coping with it for survival actually underpinned the evolution of cooperative behavior and other types of social behavior that laid the foundations for the sustenance of our species and the development of civilization.

See the complete article.

A Founding Father Found?

Dr. William Kelso of the University of Virginia, in conjunction with the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) has recently excavated the remains of a 17th century sea captain, believed to be Captain Gosnold, a "founding father" of the Jamestown colony, the first permanent English settlement of colonial America. To verify the claim, scientists are attempting to acquire DNA bone samples from Gosnold's sister and niece, whose remains are buried in the UK. The project is funded by the National Geographic Society and, if they are successful, the effort and results will be shown in a documentary slated for November.

Gosnold was one of the most influential leaders of the Jamestown colony, which established the English language, rule of law and representative government as foundations for what would eventually become the United States.

See my previous posting about the Jamestown Rediscovery Project.

Digging Without Digging at Tiwanaku

University of Pennsylvania Museum archaeologists at the ancient site of Tiwanaku in Bolivia are beginning a large-scale, subsurface surveying project using equipment and techniques that may become a forerunner for methodologies used in future archaeological efforts worldwide. The three-year project, called "Computing and Retrieving 3D Archaeological Structures from Subsurface Surveying", seeks to collect detailed, three-dimensional data of archaeological remains from about 60 subterranean acres of Tiwanaku, the spectacular remains of the ancient pre-Inca civilization located in Bolivia--without the use of the traditional tools used for digging. The University of Pennsylvania article says it best:

"What's new, and especially exciting, about this project is how we will be going beyond the employment of geophysical surveys, which archaeologists have been doing with increasing regularity over the last decade," noted Dr. Alexei Vranich, American section Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, a Co-Principal Investigator of the grant and Field Director, with Jose Maria Lopez Bejarano, at the excavations at Tiwanaku since 1995. "The problem has recently been a kind of 'technological bottleneck,' where large areas are surveyed, but efforts at processing and fusing the data from multiple sensors has slowed the process down considerably. By bringing this level of technological and computer expertise to bear, we should be able to develop a methodology for quickly and efficiently processing the huge amounts of sub-surface data we collect. This will permit archaeologists to develop a far deeper understanding of broad spatial layouts of complex urban sites, like Tiwanaku."

"Our collaboration with anthropologists goes back to two years ago when we started building 3D models of surface structures from camera images," noted Dr. Kostas Daniilidis, leading Principal Investigator and Associate Professor, Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania. "The scientific challenge in this NSF project is in solving the inverse problem of recovering surface 3D structures from their tomographic projections. We really want to resolve the bottleneck between the huge amount of raw signal data and meaningful information in the form of 3D geometric models."

See the full article.