6 September 2019
Drought reveals long lost megaliths in Spain
Low water levels in a reservoir on the River Tagus near Peraleda de la Mata, about 160 kilometres west-southwest of Madrid, have revealed the long submerged Grand Dolmen of Guadalperal. Last seen before the area was flooded in 1963, it dates from the Bronze Age - 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.
The 144 granite stones define a ringed oval burial chamber 5 metres in diameter, an outer ring of stones that supported the tumulus, and an entrance corridor. Some of the stones stand 2 metres high, others have fallen. They are almost completely surrounded by the vestiges of a broad tumulus. At the end of the 21 metre long corridor is a menhir carved with a wavy line and several cup marks - the only stone on which carvings can now be seen.
Archaeologists know the site was damaged by Roman soldiers two millennia ago.
The dolmen stood neglected until the 1920s, when a German priest and archaeology enthusiast excavated the site and took whatever treasures could be moved back to Germany where they are displayed in a museum in Munich. Obermaier's drawings were published in 1960 by Georg and Vera Leisner.
Angel Castanyo, a local resident leading an effort to preserve the site before the rains come, says, "We grew up hearing about the legend of the treasure hidden beneath the lake and now we finally get to view them." He believes the serpentine line on one stone is a map of the river.
One of the few points where it was possible to cross the river, a sizeable town on the opposite side had to be demolished when the dam was built, and the remains of two Roman temples in the old town relocated to a small park by the new bridge.
Stone platform discovered at Trethevy Quoit
A geophysical survey earlier this year in the field around Trethevy Quoit in Cornwall, southwest England, recorded a number of below-ground anomalies which were targeted through excavation.
The largest hidden feature was close to the Quoit itself - a significant platform of greenstone. The material had been quarried locally and brought to the site. It was clearly an integral part of the monument, and will fundamentally alter our understanding of the prehistoric site. The findings will soon be reviewed and published.
Edited from Cornwall Heritage Trust (15 July 2019)
Neolithic decorated stone discovered in Orkney
Archaeological excavations of well-preserved and sophisticated complex of stone buildings began at Ness of Brodgar (Orkney, Scotland) more than 15 years ago. The site was built and occupied more than 5,000 years ago and covers an area of about 2.5 hectares.
Recently an 18 centimetre long notch-marked slab bearing faint incised lines was found among the rubble, followed by further discoveries of smaller carved stones. Painted stonework and tools are among other previous finds made at Ness of Brodgar.
Middle Stone Age hunter-gather camp found in northern Scotland
Work to improve a notorious hairpin bend on the A9 near a scenic viewpoint about 90 kilometres north-northeast of Inverness at Berriedale Braes revealed evidence of a Mesolithic camp including an array of stone tools. Archaeologists believe the site was used as a base for hunting, and that the finds date from 6,000 BCE - some of the earliest traces of humans to have lived in the area. The finds will be displayed for the public to view at Dunbeath Heritage Museum in the coming weeks.
Edited from BBC (29 August 2019)
4 September 2019
People arrived in North America earlier than previously thought
Stone tools and other artefacts from the Cooper's Ferry site on the Salmon River in western Idaho, about 600 kilometres east-southeast of Seattle, support the hypothesis that initial human migration to the Americas followed a Pacific coastal route rather than an inland ice-free corridor.
The site includes two dig areas. In the lower part of Area A, researchers uncovered several hundred artefacts, including stone tools, charcoal, fire-cracked rock, and animal bone fragments. They also found evidence of a fire hearth, a food processing station, and other pits created as part of domestic activities at the site. Radiocarbon dating shows many artefacts from the lowest layers are 15,000 to 16,000 years old - at least a thousand years before before the ice-free corridor opened.
The oldest artefacts are also very similar in form to older artefacts found in northeastern Asia, particularly Japan.
Other finds include tooth fragments from an extinct form of horse known to have lived in North America at the end of the last glacial period, making Cooper's Ferry the oldest radiocarbon-dated site in North America that includes artefacts associated with the bones of extinct animals.
Edited from Phys.Org (29 August 2019)
3 September 2019
4000-year-old neolithic petroglyph found in Indian forest
Three teachers on an expedition to Silanaiyakkanur forest discovered a 4,000-year-old neolithic petroglyph of a bull engraved on the surface of a boulder.
Archaeologist R Parthiban said, "Six months ago, three teachers - A. Anbalagan, D. Thiruppathi and M. Muruga - found a painting on a boulder while exploring Silanaiyakkanur forest, which is 1.5 km away from Thallapallam village. Recently, it was identified to be a 4000-year-old petroglyph that had a few similarities with the one found in a neolithic settlement site at Bellary in Karnataka". Asked what he inferred from the discovery, the archaeologist said, "Finding petroglyphs in Tamil Nadu is a rarity. In this case, two bull images were identified - on a hillside and another engraved atop a boulder. This shows that the people, who lived in Thallapallam during the neolithic age, had used the lands for cattle grazing".
Edited from The New Indian Express (1 September 2019)
Stone Age camp discovered in far north of Scotland
Remains of a Stone Age camp that was inhabited in the far north of Scotland around 8,000 years ago have been discovered during the upgrade of a notorious stretch of the A9 trunk road. It is thought the seasonal camp may have been used around 6,000 BCE with a number of flints and other small tools, used for hunting and the preparation of animal hides, discovered.
The remains of small shelters and fires were found near Berriedale Braes and could have been left behind by the earliest inhabitants of Caithness, archaeologists believe.
The archaeological finds will be displayed for the public to view at Dunbeath Heritage Museum in the coming weeks.
Edited from Scottish Government, The Scotsman (30 August 2019)
2 September 2019
Unknown monuments identified close to Newgrange
Around 40 previously unknown monuments have been identified in a survey of the Bru na Boinne area close to Newgrange, about 40 kilometres north-northwest of Dublin (Ireland). Researchers want to find out if the southern side of the river is as interesting as the northern side.
Dr Steve Davis of the University College Dublin School of Archaeology, who has worked for over a decade on the Bru na Boinne landscape, said the newly discovered monuments appear to range from early Neolithic houses and timber enclosures, to Bronze Age burial monuments, and some early medieval farmsteads.
The area includes locations on both sides of the Boyne - within the bend of the river, and across from the megalithic tombs at Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. The research is part of the "Boyne to Brodgar" project examining connections between Neolithic sites in the Boyne Valley and the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. When completed the project will have surveyed more than five square kilometres.
Dr Davis confirms that a 2017 survey revealed a spectacular monument aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise, in a field just metres from the Newgrange passage tomb. He believes it probably developed over several phases, and comprised a timber or stone passage surrounded by a large rectangular arrangement of wooden posts, the whole enclosed with several rings of smaller timber posts. Despite significant tomb-like features Dr Davis believes it is unlikely to be a tomb, and is 200-300 years younger than Newgrange.
Edited from Irish Examiner (6 August 2019)
Rare prehistoric stones discovered in central France
In a first of its kind discovery in the region, around 30 prehistoric monoliths and a human skeleton have been found in a 150-metre-long excavation in central France ahead of the widening of the A75 motorway near Veyre-Monton, about 360 kilometres south-southeast of Paris.
This is the first time that menhirs have been found in Auvergne, or anywhere in the centre of France.
The menhirs were toppled into pits and buried some time in prehistory, remaining hidden until now. The stones measure between 1 metre and 1.6 metres, and likely extend beyond the excavation area. They are in a north-south alignment, in the style of megalithic Armorican monuments. Similarly to Carnac, the largest stones atood at the top of the slope towards the north, and the smallest stones closer together towards the south. One group is bordered by another alignment, of which five stones are arranged in a horseshoe curve. Six other regularly spaced blocks form a 15-metre diameter circle. One stone is more sculpted, and largely anthropomorphic - the only example known in the Auvergne. It has a rounded head, rough shoulders, and two small breasts.
The excavation also revealed a burial with the remains of a tall man covered by a quadrangular cairn 14 metres long and 6.5 metres wide. Like the alignments of monoliths, this too had been deliberately erased from the landscape.
There appears to be little to help date the stones precisely, but a series of analyses are planned. Early estimates suggest that the finds could date to the Neolithic or Bronze Age - anywhere from 6,000 to 1,000 BCE.
1 September 2019
Standing stones may hold answer to 60 year old dolmen mystery
Sion is a cantonal capital in southwest Switzerland. 58 years ago, in 1961, several dolmens and 30 anthropomorphic engraved stelae had been uncovered in the nearby Petit-Chasseur district.
Although initially dated at approximately 2,500 BCE their origins and meaning had, until recently, proved to be a mystery. Now, following archaeological investigations prior to the construction of a new residential building, some light has been shed on their possible origins.
What has now been found is an alignment of six standing stones. Half of these stones were also adorned with anthropomorphic engraving, very similar to the dolmens uncovered in 1961. Couple this with the fact that the stones also showed signs of having been deliberately broken, led the team from the Department of Buildings, Monuments and Archaeology to the conclusion that the two sites may well have a common history, although a substantial amount of further research is needed before that can categorically be established.
Edited from Swissinfo.ch (26 July 2019)
Evidence of cereal production found in Bronze Age Austria
The Austrian Archaeological Institute has recently been carrying out excavations on a hill fort called Stillfried an der March, located at the crossroads of two major trade routes and which was a settlement of the Late Urnfield period, particularly the period between 1,000 and 900 BCE.
Due to its strategic position is was chosen as a good grain storage depot but there was also quite a lot of evidence of commercial activity and trade, including textile and metal products. The find which is causing the excitement is that of some dried and charred cereal rings, similar in shape but larger than the modern day commercial breakfast cereal known as 'Cheerios'. These were found in a silo pit alongside clay ring fragments.
Andreas Heiss, the lead author of the findings, is quoted as saying "Although the rings were food items the overall unusual final assemblage [in the silo pit] suggests that there may have been some further symbolic meaning to them". He went on to add "... the similarity in shape between the functional clay rings and the dough rings suggest that maybe the latter had been imitations of the clay loom weights".
Edited from Smithsonian.com (12 June 2019)
6,000 year old dart tip found in Canadian heritage park
Every year for the past nine years archaeological students from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada have been conducting field schools in the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, near Saskatoon, specifically an area of the Park known as the Wolf Willow dig site. The Park had been set up to honour the First Nations people and explore their culture and spirituality.
The area had supported human occupation for over 6,000 years and so was an ideal place for studying the First Nations anthropology and archaeology. It was on the last day of the very last summer dig that an excited student, Kristina Chomyshen, made an exciting and quite significant discovery.
The culture of the Northern Plains of Canada can be traced back to 8,000 BCE and are sometimes referred to as the Gowen Culture after the discoverer Charles Gowen, from the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Saskatchewan, following an accidental uncovering of archaeology by heavy earth moving equipment in 1977.
Since then the search has been ongoing to discover more evidence of this culture although, until the discovery by Kristina, very little had been found within the Park. What she had found was the tip of a Gowen dart, which predates the arrow and which was used by hunters over 6,000 years ago.
Despite this significant discovery the University is still closing the field camp. Glenn Stuart, faculty member from the University, is quoted as saying "You're always finding something and learning new things, but we're kind of thinking that maybe it's time to leave the site alone. We always want to leave stuff, you never want to excavate the whole site".
Edited from Saskatoon StarPhoenix (8 July 2019)
Was this Britain's Bronze Age Pompeii?
During the late Bronze Age, between 1,100 BCE and 800 BCE, a settlement was built in the wetlands near Whittlesey, to the east of Peterborough (UK). The settlement comprised wooden roundhouses (at least 5) with thatched roofs, supported above the wetlands on a series of thick wooden stilts.
Sometime shortly after their construction, estimated at a year, a devastating fire occurred and the whole settlement collapsed into the water below, gradually being covered and preserved in a thick layer of non-porous river silt. It lay undisturbed for thousands of years until its discovery during the construction of a nearby brick quarry.
The latest research into the archaeology of the site is being conducted by a team from the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, led by Mark Knight. As well as the burnt timber structures, hundreds of other artefacts have been uncovered including textiles, wooden objects and metalwork.
In reply to the site being named as Britain's Pompeii, Mark Knight is quoted as saying "In broad terms the site fits the allegory perfectly: a snapshot of a once living community, stopped at a moment in time". He went on to add however "In terms of its temporality, we can imagine that the settlement took a matter of weeks to build, months to occupy, days to burn and years to decay, anything but a moment in time".
Edited from Gizmodo (12 June 2019)
Stone Age 'Atlantis' discovered under North Sea
At the time of the last Ice Age, the glacial melt led to enormous increases in sea levels. This meant that relatively flat coastal areas were prone to be lost to the sea. This was the case in the East Anglian area of the UK, where it faced the North Sea.
A combined team of archaeologists from the Universities of Bradford (UK) and Ghent (Belgium) have, for the very first time, planned and carried out a systematic survey of the seabed in the area of a sunken river estuary off the coast of Norfolk. Using existing knowledge of other researched and recorded Stone Age activity and settlement patterns they concentrated on a specific area of the seabed.
Their research had been extremely well founded and they were pleasantly surprised to find what they thought had been a Stone Age settlement, 35 metres under the water, drown over 8,000 years ago but which later proved to be even older, dating from 8,200 to 7,700 BCE.
Furthermore they also remarkably recovered two artefacts of immense significance. The first was a fragment broken off a hammer stone (estimated to have been about the size of a grapefruit). The second major find was a small flake of flint, with evidence of having been finely worked.
These finds have encouraged the team to continue with the next phase of research and Dr. Simon Finch, of the University of Bradford, is quoted as saying "Our ongoing research will hopefully enable us to reconstruct what life was like on a more than 100,000 square miles of former land under what is now the North Sea and the Irish Sea, before it was inundated by sea level rise 10,000 to 7,000 years ago".
Edited from The Independent (11 June 2019)
Azilian Culture art found in Southern France
INRAP is the short form name of an impressive organisation called the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research. Although their origins are in France, they operate worldwide but it is a home grown find which is currently of high interest.
Since April 2018 they have been excavating three prehistoric sites, ranging from Final Palaeolithic to Mesolithic, just outside the commune of Angouleme in the Charente department of France.
A recent find at this site was that of an engraved piece of stone where the shape of a headless horse is clearly visible. The fragment is decorated on both sides and it is thought to be a piece of Azilian art dating to approximately 12,000 BCE, although further detailed investigations are being carried out.
The Azilian Culture stretches back as far as the Early Mesolithic period and covered areas of Northern Spain and Southern France. Other artefacts have been discovered in the same area including fireplaces, heated pebbles, a flint post and animal bones, suggesting a hunting site.
Edited from BBC News (6 June 2019)