• Name: Paul McLerran
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Thursday, July 28, 2005

In the Field: Bethsaida Week 8

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The latest report from the Bethsaida Excavations Project includes the discovery of an ancient anchor (see above). The discovery adds further evidence that the site of Bethsaida, now more than a mile away from the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee (or Kinneret), once hugged this sea with fishermen. In Hebrew, the name translates as "House of the Fisherman", and the town played prominently in the life and ministry of Jesus. See the report by dig volunteer Shai Schwartz.

Soil Analysis May Reveal Paleo-Climates

By examining and analyzing core samples of sediment removed from ancient lake beds in Africa, scientists will try to reconstruct the climates that existed when our ancient ancestors walked this part of the world as far back as 1.5 million years ago. Read the Story

Monday, July 25, 2005

Oldest Records in America

At the time the ancient Egyptians were constructing the first pyramid at Saqqara, ancient Americans were constructing impressive pyramid-shaped public/ceremonial structures north of Lima, Peru. Known as Caral, this ancient city boasts 5,000 year-old structures, representing a sophisticated civilization that left the very first vestiges of lifeways that became the foundation for the Incas and perhaps other civilizations that thrived in the Americas long before the advent of Western colonization. Recently, archaeologists have also uncovered an ancient system of records here that may well have been the forerunner of the system maintained by the Incas. Read About It

Thursday, July 21, 2005

In the Field: Koobi Fora Dispatch 2

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Two pieces of hominid cranium recovered, and intensive work on excavating the remains of a tortoise and several crocodiles that wandered the Turkana Basin two million years ago.............read the latest dispatch by Louise Leakey from the Koobi Fora Research Project.

Early Jewish Catacombs in Rome

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Historians and archaeologists have long thought that the ancient catacombs of Rome saw their origins with burials of early Christians, but new discoveries suggest they were actually predated by Jewish counterparts. At least one Jewish catacomb, Villa Torlonia, is dated from 50 B.C. to 400 A.D. Read the story.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

In the Field: Bethsaida Week 7

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Shai Schwartz, Bethsaida Excavations Project volunteer, writes the following recap of last week's activities:

Week 7 was a hot one, with temperatures getting up to about 100 °F (38°C). Dr. Savage's group continued working in the Roman area inside the city just west of the city gates. It appears to be a complex of small buildings with Hellenistic floors and Roman walls built at a later date. There might be a connection between them and the temple that Dr. Arav believes is in this area by the Iron age palace. They cleaned out a silo (see above photo) from the Roman period that was dug into the floor of a Hellenistic outside courtyard. A number of interesting pieces were found such as coins, shoe nail, bronze earring and half of a face of a ceramic figurine.
Work continued to clear off the surface material from the northern end of the Iron age street leading to the main city gates. A section of the street had been cleared down to the cobblestone pavement during earlier weeks of this session. The challenge is to repeat this clearing down to the street level in the 2 weeks remaining for this session. Much dirt, small rocks and many small pottery sherds (that were used as fill material) were taken out and it now appears that we're getting down to the destruction layer formed by the collapse of the city wall caused by the violent earthquake during the middle of the 4th century AD.
A small trench was excavated on the west side of the outer city wall just behind where the city street is being dug. More work will have to be done in order to get down to this wall's base.

View pictures and more information about the Bethsaida Excavations Project.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ape to Man: A Journey Through the History of a Science

The words "human evolution" evoke for many the notion that we, as human beings, are the products of a long, ancient line that extends back into time to an ancestral ape -- and, in a deceptively simplified sense, this may be true. The History Channel's world premier special "Ape to Man" takes this often controversial topic by the horns and relates the basic grist of it by highlighting the salient events, discoveries, and scholars that have defined the science. Through a series of reenactments and interviews, it presents the human drama involved, largely unknown to the general public, and how the concepts of our origins have evolved as new discoveries changed or overturned the generally accepted conventions. The dramatic reenactments make up perhaps 60 percent of the content and are fairly well executed, but the voice-over narration and the interviews steal the show, infusing depth and interpretation to what would otherwise be a mere collection of overly dramatized scenes and characters in not-quite-believable costumes, ape-suits, and make-up reminiscent of the old Planet of the Apes movies. To be sure, the story of human evolution is most likely far more complex than the impression with which one is left after viewing the production; however, it is an entirely watchable piece that sparks an understanding and appreciation for the human adventure, sacrifices, and thought processes that have constituted the search for our origins.

"Ape to Man" premiers on The History Channel on August 7 from 9-11 pm Eastern/Pacific time, 8-10 pm Central.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Another Temple Discovery in India

The layers of sand removed by last December's tsunami have again aided archaeologists with a recent discovery of the remains of a second Pallava temple in India. T. Satyamurthy, superintending archaeologist of the Madras Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India, suggests that it may indeed be one of the famous missing "pagodas" associated with the legend of the Seven Pagodas. Read More

Monday, July 11, 2005

In The Field: Bethsaida Week 6

An amphora handle piece, a spindle whorl, an Egyptian scarab, and a cache of eight Roman nails highlight some of the discoveries during Week Six of the Bethsaida Excavations Project. See details and pictures provided by dig volunteer Shai Schwartz.

In the Field: Koobi Fora Research Project Summer Fieldwork Begins

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The search for new fossil evidence of early man begins anew for the summer of 2005 in the Lake Turkana Basin as the Koobi Fora Research Project fields a full crew of 25, many of which are fossil hunters. See the latest dispatch.

In the Field: Return to Sagalassos

The field season has begun at the great mountaintop city of Sagalassos in southwestern Turkey, the remains of which are aguably described by archaeologists as the best preserved structures for its time in a country prolific with classical ancient sites. Since 1990 the Catholic University of Leuven, under the direction of Marc Waelkens, has been conducting extensive research and excavation of the site. The team is now exposing the monumental city center and is completing four major restoration projects there. See the fieldnotes for the project at Archaeology Magazine's Interactive Dig site for more details.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Human Footprints in Mexico are Pre-Clovis

Scientists recently confirmed that footprints identified as human and uncovered in a layer of solidified volcanic ash in Mexico are approximately 38,000 years old. This pre-dates the Clovis culture, long held by most scientists as the cultural remains associated with the first Native Americans, by about 25,000 years. The finding may also support the fascinating, albeit controversial, hypothesis that humans also arrived in America by sea, venturing out from east Asia and hugging the pacific coastline. The date was confirmed using a variety of dating methodologies, including radiocarbon dating. The footprint site adds to a handful of other archaeological sites throughout America that show evidence of a Pre-Clovis human presence. Read More

Friday, July 08, 2005

Simulating the Anasazi

After hundreds of years, they suddenly disappeared from their impressive array of homes and ceremonial structures that dotted the Four Corners region of the American Southwest. Now, new research using simulation models suggests that the great puebloan people known as the Anasazi met their rapid demise in the 14th Century A.D. as a result of a complex set of factors or causes, not just climate change. Read More

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

In the Field: Bethsaida Week 5

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Remains of the outer city wall that collapsed during the 4th Century A.D. were removed, revealing more of the ancient cobblestone street leading to the main city gate complex.........excavators reach a compacted floor level in chamber 2 of the city gate............a bead composed of glass or semi-precious stone unearthed.................base stones of the outer city wall discovered.............Read the Details

Sunday, July 03, 2005

In the Field: Koobi Fora Continues

The Koobi Fora Research Project -- that human origins research expedition at the Lake Turkana Basin in Kenya, led by Dr. Louise Leakey -- took a break. Plans were to resume in early June with a full team. Little emerged from efforts made at the site of Ileret earlier this year, but focus will shift to a different location and, in the field of paleoanthropology where patience and determination must rule the field activity, there are hopes for good things during the summer. Watch for upcoming dispatches from the field at the Project website and, in the mean time, check out the interesting Human Origins Safari link at the same location.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A 6,000 Year-Old City in China

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient city in China dated to about 6,000 years ago. The discovery will shed additional light on the beginnings of civilization in this part of the world.

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