• Name: Paul McLerran
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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Origins: Before Angkor Wat

Beginning in January, 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.

He will deploy a team of Earthwatch volunteers to excavate and search for human burials, food remains, pottery, metals, and other artifacts. They will dig alongside local villagers and process finds at the field lab. They 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. Volunteers will also have convenient access to the market and to Angkor Wat itself for sightseeing.

If you are interested in joining the team, see the website for more information.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Study Supports Natural Selection in Recent Human Evolution

A human DNA study now suggests that natural selection played a salient role in the recent evolution of human species, supporting the basic Darwinian theory about how humans evolved over the past several million years. Read More

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Origins: Early Man in Spain

Orce, Andalusia, Spain -- Here in southern Spain, palaeontologists have found human-made tools that are up to 1.7 million years old. This rivals finds of early man in Africa, where, according to the prevailing theory, humans originated. When, exactly, did humans first arrive in Europe, and how did they get here? How did they live? A father and son team, Dr. Josep Gibert Clols and Luis Gibert believe they can find the answers in the sediments of the Guadix-Baza basin, with your help. So far, excavators have found stone flakes, fragmentary human remains, and, most interestingly, parts of elephants and hippos together with evidence of human tools, suggesting that the animals were killed, butchered, and carried to some other location. These sorts of detailed scenarios are precisely what the Giberts are hoping to reconstruct. You can join them next summer as they attempt to uncover more evidence that may shed light on an area that, along with Dmanisi, Georgia, may have harbored the presence of some of the first humans in Europe. See the website for more information.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Origins: Salvaging the Fossil Record at Olduvai Gorge

Tanzania, East Africa -- Olduvai Gorge. This is where Louis and Mary Leakey made history with their groundbreaking fossil discoveries that set the clock back on the human evolutionary time scale. Discoveries are once again being made there as Dr. Fidelis Masao of the Open University of Tanzania leads an effort to recover as much of the remaining fossil record as possible before erosion washes it away from humanity's grasp. Working against time and the elements, his staff and teams of Earthwatch volunteers are working feverishly to salvage what is left, making new discoveries along the way, such as two hominid (early human species) teeth and a hominid skull fragment, as well as the complete remains of a million-year-old elephant. Earthwatch teams of volunteers are again being fielded during the summer of 2007, beginning May 11 and ending September 4. Volunteers have the option of participating on a two-week team or a three-week team. This is exciting stuff, and there is more to come. If you are interested in joining the effort, go to the website and read more about it. In addition, you may be interested in reading an excellent volunteer account.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Origins: Digging an Early Mayan Site in Guatemala

One site holds promise for answering questions about the origins of ancient Mayan civilization. Perched between the pacific coast and a chain of volcanoes in western Guatemala, the largely unexcavated site of Chocola is revealing evidence that a large Mayan city thrived here in Preclassic times long before the great dynasties of Tikal, Palenque, and Copan made their debut. Monumental sculpture, architecture, and a sophisticated hydraulic system have already been discovered, but what makes the site significant is its location, early dates, and cultural remains. Interpreting the data collected here will have implications for the seminal developments that led to the rise of the classic period Mayans. To be sure, the research here will be key to a better understanding of the origins of this great Mesoamerican civilization.

Dr. Jonathan Kaplan of the University of Mexico and Dr. Juan Antonio Valdez of the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, will be leading a team consisting of Earthwatch volunteers and others next summer to find answers. Volunteers will survey, map, excavate, and do lab and archival work. They will also have the opportunity to visit places such as picturesque Lago de Atitlan, colorful local markets, or Abaj Takalik, another early Mayan archaeological site in the area. The season begins May 24th and ends August 23rd, but it is divided into 2-week sessions or "teams" from which participants may choose.

If you are interested in reading more about this opportunity,
click here for details.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Megalithic Site Discovered in Tunisia

A team of Italian archaeologists have recently discovered an ancient megalithic complex in Tunisia. Considered the largest such site found in Africa, it consists of 18 stone slab dolmens, megalithic walls, stone circles and an East-West oriented row of 30 standing stones. It is comparable to the famous Stonehenge complex in the United Kingdom. Read About It

Friday, October 07, 2005

Upper Paleolithic Jewelry Discovered

Jewelry crafted about 15,500 years ago and hidden in a cave by Cro-Magnon people was recently discovered by a team of archaeologists excavating into Upper Paleolithic deposits in the Basque Country. It now represents one of the most significant assemblages of the Upper Paleolithic Period. Read the Story

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

First Temple Period Seal Discovered

An ancient 1-centimeter seal impression containing three lines of Hebrew script was recently discovered in piles of rubble at Jerusalem's Temple Mount. The artifact, or "bulla", as it is identified by Israeli archaeologists, is said to be approximately 2,600 years old and predates the destruction of the First Temple that stood in Jerusalem prior to the onslaught of the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. This makes the discovery the first of its kind from the Temple Mount area. Read the Story

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ancient Inscriptions in Yemen

Ancient 3,000 year old wood cylinders recently discovered in Yemen are found to be engraved with the records of the everyday life of a people who lived there approximately 3,000 years ago. The engravings, in a script identified as zabur-script, contain accounts of such things as letters, contracts, receipts, lists of personal names, and notes of debts, to name only a few. Read the Story