• Name: Paul McLerran
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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Tiberias, Jewel on the Lake

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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. Here, the Sanhedrin sat. Here also, the 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. 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 more remains of the ancient city, including a Roman theater complex in November, 2005 (November 6 to December 12) and an ancient Roman basilica and auxiliary buildings in March, 2006 (March 1 to April 7). 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 when the temperatures are comfortable. Does this sound interesting? If it does, check out the website for more information and application procedures.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Spanish Cave and a Quest for Answers

Ana Pinto, a researcher at Arizona State University, investigates the cultural deposits of a cave in Spain to find answers to questions about the relationship between prehistoric Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, and how they reacted to their environment. There is more work yet to be done and new discoveries may yet be forthcoming. Read the Story

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ancient Erbil: A Layer Cake of Civilizations

A town in Iraqi Kurdistan sits atop a layer cake of civilizations that may go back as much as 100 centuries (that's centuries, not years). Archaeologists suggest that beneath the modern town, if investigated, lies the remains of hunter-gatherers, early agriculturalists, the Hassuna, Akkadians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, and Abbasids. If future excavations confirm this, it will rival Jericho as one of the oldest, continuously occupied cities in the world. A few things stand in the way of exploration: political turmoil, lack of funds, and lack of sufficient publicity. Read the Story

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Oldest Known Sauropod Footprints in North America

St. George, Utah -- Nestled among the red cliffs, volcanic formations and ancient layer cake sediments of an American southwest desert landscape, the populous town of St. George, Utah, is best known for its imposing Mormon temple and sites representing Mormon pioneer history. But take a closer look, and you will find perhaps the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world. Housed in the newly constructed exhibition hall of the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm, a huge, ever-expanding collection of natural cast dinosaur footprints, swimming marks, and tail-drag impressions will no doubt emerge as the world's premiere site for early Jurassic dinosaur prints. The exhibition also includes natural casts of mud cracks, actual dinosaur skin impressions, fossilized bones, and the impressions and remains of other lifeforms representative of the environment that existed here at that time. Of particular interest to the scientific community, the site presents the earliest known evidence of sauropod dinosaurs in North America, as well as a "virtual snapshot" of an Early Jurassic (195 million year old) lake ecosystem that existed when the American continent was part of the supercontinent called Pangea.
See the website for more information.

Friday, August 19, 2005

In the Field: Koobi Fora Research Project Latest Dispatch

The Koobi Fora Research Project team splits into two. One team goes north to Ileret near the Kenyan/Ethiopian border, the other stays at Koobi Fora. The northern team encounters vehicle trouble in a sand river along the way. Clearly, the field experience is an adventure that entails far more than searching for fossils..........read the latest dispatch.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

In the Field: Bethsaida Week 9

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The Bethsaida Excavations Project closes another season with a final week of excavation and cleanup. Among the notable finds are more ancient Iron Age cobblestones that define a north/south oriented Iron Age cobblestone street, essentially untouched for about three thousand years. This famous city holds more secrets that await uncovery next summer. Read the Latest, with a complete photo gallery.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

New Technology Sheds Light on Prehistoric Diets

Scientists, using newly developed technology for examining the surface features of fossilized teeth, have now concluded that at least two hominin species, Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus, had diets that were more varied than previously thought. The africanus species is thought by many to be a possible ancestor to the group of early humans that led to our own species, Homo sapiens. Read the Story

Monday, August 08, 2005

Yet Another Discovery at Dmanisi

For the fifth time in five years, another 1.8 million-year-old skull has been discovered at the famous hominin site of Dmanisi, Georgia. Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, or another species entirely? Not a single scientist is 100 percent certain, but it appears to come closest to Homo ergaster.
Read the Story

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Prehistoric Site in South Carolina

Orangeburg, South Carolina - A modern day Croatan Chief came across a pleasant surprise recently as he cleared his land for the construction of an outdoor American Indian museum -- the archaeological remains of a prehistoric Native American presence. A team of archaeologists have now dated some artifacts from the site, which include ancient arrowheads, pottery shards and a partial knife, at between 8,000 and 10,000 years old. Excavations will continue, and the finds will be displayed in the new museum slated for construction near the site. Read the Story

Friday, August 05, 2005

King David's Palace Found?

An Israeli archaeologist claims to have discovered the remains of the palace of the biblical King David. Recent excavations have turned up foundation walls of what can be identified as a significant public building, built in Phoenician style, along with pottery shards dated to the 10th century B.C. Finds also include a seal of an official whose name is mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah. The 10th century is thought to be the time corresponding to the monarchies of King David and Solomon. In time, further excavation, analysis, and scholarly review will confirm the accuracy of the claim. For the interim, it is fascinating to ponder. Read the Story

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ancient Date Palm Resurrected

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An ancient date palm seed recovered during archaeological excavations at the site of Masada, King Herod's mountaintop palace and fortress (see previous posting), has begun to sprout. Touted as the "oldest tree seed ever sprouted", scientists hope that study of the plant will answer key questions about the legendary palm of ancient Judea. About 2,000 years ago, forests of these date palms characterized a lush Jordan Valley from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. Read the Story

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

In the Field: Fossil Finds Mount at Koobi Fora

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Within the first four weeks of the Koobi Fora Research Project summer season, 650 specimens of fossils have been found, including those of four hominids and much of the skeleton of (a) Holocene age individual(s) dated to around 10,000 years ago. Finds also included tools and implements from this period that may link to later civilizations further north in Africa and elsewhere. Read the latest dispatch.