• Name: Paul McLerran
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Thursday, June 30, 2005

A Stone Age Tool Factory

French archaeologists investigating a site in Kenya have announced the discovery of a 2.34-million-year-old tool manufacturing center. The discoveries at the site suggest a level of sophistication that has not conventionally been attributed to early hominins of the time. Were the toolmakers australopithecine or homo? Nobody knows, yet. Read More

Monday, June 27, 2005

In the Field: Bethsaida Week 4

After a one-week break, excavations resume at the famous New Testament site and the ancient Geshurite city complex. Rubble from the collapsed Roman wall continues to be removed from the ancient cobblestone street, and more excavating within City Gate Chamber No. 2. Small finds were also unearthed, including a small (possibly) Roman coin and small fishing weights...........

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Ancient Minoans in Israel

A limited archaeological excavation currently being conducted at the Middle Bronze Age site of Tel Kabri holds out the possibility of future seasons of continuing expanded excavations. Excavations and survey work this summer will focus on determining the remaining dimensions and potential features of a Middle Bronze Age palace that contains Minoan-style frescoes, as well as an Iron Age fortress that is attributed to Greek mercenaries. One of the aims of the project, if expanded, will be to deepen current knowledge about the connection between the ancient Minoans of Crete and Greek mariners whose descendants colonized this part of the world and established a foothold. The project organizers hope to expand on the work previously done at the site. Read More

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Bit of Homo Antecessor

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Recent cataloguing of homin finds excavated from the site of Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain turns up a remarkably well-preserved mandible bone of a 800,000 year old specimen of Homo Antecessor, a species of Homo that may occupy an important branch in our ancient family bush.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Europe's Earliest Civilization

Archaeologists are uncovering the remains of a relatively advanced civilization located in Europe approximately 2,000 years before the pyramids of Egypt dotted the desert landscape of the Nile river valley. Now considered to be the remains of Europe's oldest civilization, 150 large earth- and wood-built temples were uncovered across central Europe, the largest complex having been discovered in the area of Dresden, Germany. The structures are dated to between 4800 and 4600 B.C. Along with the architectural remains, stone and bone tool and ceramic figurine artifacts were unearthed. The discovery is so recent that scholars have not yet had time to determine a name for the civilization or to identify it with any other European culture of the time period.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

In the Field: Bethsaida Week 3

Clearing the rubble atop an ancient cobblestone road, digging deeper within an ancient chamber of an Iron Age city gate complex...............

Read the recap of the third week of activity at the Bethsaida Excavations Project, as reported by Shai Schwartz.

Ancient Judean Date Palm Resurrected

Scientists may not ever be able to reproduce dinosaurs, as dramatically depicted in the popular film "Jurassic Park" -- but ancient date palms? That's another trick, entirely......but a successful one. Israeli scientists have recently successfully germinated a nearly 2,000 year old date palm seed excavated from Masada, the ancient cliff-top fortress where, in 73 A.D., a group of 960 Jewish zealots held out against a Roman siege before finally ending their own lives rather than succumbing to the hands of Roman victors. By studying the resurrected date palm, scientists hope to discover what made the famous Judean date palm so well regarded in ancient times for its shade, beauty, medicinal products and food.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Human Evolution Not So Simple

A recent study is suggesting that the evolutionary picture of our species' descent from a source population in Africa is somewhat more complex than previous research indicates. Read the post on the "Nusapiens" blog for more information.

Stone Tools in Iran Dated to 400,000 Years B.P.

Recent studies conducted by a team of archaeologists in Iran have revealed that stone tools uncovered there are determined to be about 400,000 years old. They were discovered in an area where it has long been held that human presence dates back to about 50,000 years. If the earlier date holds, the tools could be associated with a hominid species that sojourned here long before our own (homo sapiens).

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Tiberias Dig Renews Excavations in November, 2005

Tiberias Israel -- The Tiberias Excavations under the direction of Yizhar Hirschfeld of the Hebrew University will continue excavations at the ancient site of the same name in November of 2005. A call for volunteers has been published at the project's website, which posts more information about the dig, including opportunities in the Spring and Summer of 2006. The November dig will focus on uncovering more of the features of a Roman theatre complex, which may have had a seating capacity of up to 5,000 individuals. In addition to excavation and the processing of artifacts, the experience will include fascinating evening lectures and field trips to other archaeological sites which are, as anyone who is familiar with the archaeological treasures of this country would say, a real treat (along with the unforgettable experience of the dig itself). More information about the specific dates will be posted soon.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

In the Field: "Hominid!", Says Louise

Louise Leakey discovers a molar which she identifies with Paranthropus Boisei. Read about it, and much more, in her latest dispatch from the Koobi Fora Research Project.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

In the Field: Bethsaida Week 2

Shai Schwartz reports from the Field (see the previous posting for background):

Dr. Nicolae Roddy brought a group of 11 volunteers from the
Omaha area which included 5 from Creighton University where he teaches. Work continued to explore the Hellenistic/Roman structures in area "C" where Elizabeth McNamer and group were digging through Thursday. The area across from the "clinic" house is looking like another house with a wall projecting toward the "clinic" house. A coin was found that is probably Hellenistic. Coins are normally so encrusted that it is very difficult to ascertain when they are from until they are properly cleaned. In the past Rami has gotten Arieh Kindler, the famous numismatist (whom I feel privileged to have met) to clean & catalogue the coins found at Bethsaida.

Work continues leveling the Iron Age street leading north from the main gate. The surface layer is quite packed down from the traffic (a little trivia - the Syrians had a position at Bethsaida until June 1967, so lots of military vehicles came in and out) leading into the site. Just under the surface we see many very large basalt boulders that are rubble that fell from the city walls after destruction and subsequent earth quakes. Near the bastion east of the city gate work continues to clear out the collapse of the Roman city wall.

In Chamber 2 (inside the Iron Age city gate on the left as you enter) layers of brick were removed that were from the collapse of the 2nd story structure. Again, this was from the destruction of the city and subsequent earth quakes.

The "find of the week" is a large piece of a "crater" (a large bowl) probably from the 11th century BCE. It's covered with "reed impressions". The "reed impressions" were made by taking a piece of reed and poking the end into the wet clay to make a pattern on depressions. It probably was used for ritual purposes to the chthonic gods as it appears to have a scheme reminiscent of a snake; revered by ancient peoples.

We also found a beautiful bead which looks like it's composed of glass fused onto glass. It was found during sifting when the conscientious volunteer broke open a clump of dirt; pointing out how important each phase of digging, sifting, washing is.

See the official website for more information about the Bethsaida Excavations Project.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Ancient Tombs and Village Discovered in China

Construction work on an expressway in northern China has turned up remains of ancient tombs and a 4,000 year old village. After archaeological experts were called in, no less than seventeen tombs were immediately identified, consisting of bodies that had been placed in jars, basins and pots. The tombs were dated to the Chinese Warring States Period (403 to 221 B.C.). Some of the artifacts recovered from the village included stone axes, spades and adzes. Work on the site is continuing.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Getting Into Graduate School in Archaeology

If you are an undergraduate student or graduate looking toward a possible advanced degree in archaeology...........or even if you are far beyond those years in your life journey but you would like to get some additional education -- here is a website full of information and resources to help you plot your educational roadmap.

In the Field: The Koobi Fora Research Project

As noted in a previous posting, the Koobi Fora Research Project has fielded its operations and the team is now fully engaged in excavating and surveying the rich fossil exposures near the eastern shore of Lake Turkana. Led by Meave and Louise Leakey (both related to the famous scientists, Mary and Louis Leakey), the long-term project holds the promise of adding significantly to piecing together the puzzle of human origins. To give you a taste of what is happening, here is a full "reprint" of the first Dispatch from the field. There are other, more recent dispatches, all of which are written personally by Louise Leakey herself:

DISPATCH 01: Preparing to Leave

NAIROBI, Kenya -- We have received our grant for the next three months of field work from the National Geographic Society – Missions Program Special Projects. We were then able to make necessary purchases for the field. The lists of supplies were left with the supermarket and members of the team went in different directions in pursuit of hardware, plastic water drums, gasoline and food stuffs The team left in one landcruiser and the heavily laden truck. They had a burst tyre and three flats on the lorry all of which they had to fix in the heat of the day miles from any garage. A U bolt broke on the land cruiser and they were able to strap the spring together to get them in to camp.Someone broke into the back of the truck at Loyengelani at night and made off with some food stuffs- fortunately nothing else went missing. They arrived at Koobi Fora as I landed in the plane. This year I have company, my five month old daughter is with me! Meave is going to drive north next week with Patrick Gathogo the geologist so they can do some work at the south of the lake on their way up. We are going to get the camps set up so we can get to work as soon as possible.

See the website for more.