Archaeology


Image: 
Charlie Phillips/flickr. CC BY 2.0

By Joel N. Shurkin, Inside Science

(Inside Science) -- The enemy of archeology everywhere is salt. It destroys buildings, disassembles art works, and can turn ancient pottery into piles of dust.


Tokat Castle. Credit: Flickr

It's not a surprise that as we get ready for Halloween season, stories will start to appear that relate to the macabre. And nothing is more macabre to modern minds than the tale of Vlad Dracul, who was on the front lines battling the Muslims in Eastern Europe and reputedly impaled 20,000 bodies as a warning to them.

It seemed to have worked, at least in that famous instance. You can imagine a sane Ottoman general seeing that spectacle and thinking 'Do we want to own a country where people have not set a guy like that on fire? The personnel headaches would be tremendous.'

Artifacts from a 325,000-year-old site in Armenia finds that human technological innovation occurred intermittently throughout the Old World, rather than spreading from a single point of origin (usually hypothesized as Africa), as previously thought. 



Metoera. Credit:Panos Photographia/Flickr

By Steve Ellen, Monash University

Everyday life is full of mini-ethical moments. Do you own up to being under charged? Do you push in when the traffic is heavy and you’re running late? Do you hassle your kid’s teacher to get little Jimmie or Jane an advantage?

Most of us do our best, but various emotions, motives, and practicalities act to push us to our limits. Sometimes our limits are breached – mine were on a recent tour in Greece.

A 1,500 year old papyrus fragment contains some of the earliest documented references to the Last Supper and ‘manna from heaven’.

Dr. Roberta Mazza of the University of Manchester came across the Greek ‘amulet’ while working on thousands of fragments of unpublished historical documents that are kept in the library’s vaults. At 1,500 years old, it is the earliest surviving document to use the Christian Eucharist liturgy - which outlines the Last Supper - as a protective charm.

Previously unknown archaeological monuments have been discovered around Stonehenge as part of a digital mapping project that will transform our knowledge of this iconic landscape – including remarkable new findings on the world's largest 'super henge', Durrington Walls.


South of Copenhagen, Danish archaeologists have done something that has not happened in over 60 years - they have found a previously undiscovered Viking fortress.

It will be a surprise to most that Vikings built fortresses at all - they were the people that caused everyone else to build fortresses, who was dangerous enough to raid them? Their fellow berserkers and pirates, of course.

Using new, precise laser measurements of the landscape out curator Nanna Holm of Nanna Holm of The Danish Castle Centre on the trail of the fortress. An almost invisible rise in the field was proved by new measurements to have a clear circular outline. 

Archaeologists and restorers, are preserving and studying 4th-century tunics ascribed to St. Ambrose. In the course of examining the valuable silk garments, they have made surprising scholarly discoveries regarding the development of early relic worship.

Born in Trier, Germany, Saint Ambrose began his career as a politician, becoming elected, in 374, the influential Bishop of the emperor’s residence of Milan. He enacted relic worship, and would become frequently quoted in the catechism. The Ambrosian chants are associated with him, and he is honored as a Doctor of the Church. Surprisingly though, the tunics at Sant’Ambrogio, which are associated with the saint and worshipped as relics, are little known.

In 1934, American archaeologist Nelson Glueck named one of the largest known copper production sites of the Levant, located deep in Israel's Arava Valley, "Slaves' Hill."

This hilltop station seemed to bear all the marks of an Iron Age slave camp – fiery furnaces, harsh desert conditions, and a massive barrier preventing escape, but new evidence uncovered by Tel Aviv University archaeologists overturns that narrative and says the people there were instead highly regarded craftsmen rather than slaves.



A key part of civilization? Credit: E Photos, CC BY-SA