Archaeology

Whales were the economic drivers of the 1850s. So important was this resource that the founder of the U.S. Oceanographic Office, Matthew Fontaine Maury, created a map showing the worldwide distribution of sperm and right whales in 1851.

“Whale oil then was like petroleum is today,” says Christopher Baruth. “This is a graphic device that showed where the whales were located by type and season.”

Baruth is curator of the American Geographical Society (AGS) Library, where a copy of the whale map is one of thousands of rare cartographical materials and geographical photographs.

The Mappamundi, the oldest original map in the AGSL holdings, was produced in 1452 by the Venetian cartographer Giovanni Leardo.


Cashew nut fossils have been identified in 47-million year old lake sediment in Germany, revealing that the cashew genus Anacardium was once distributed in Europe, remote from its modern “native” distribution in Central and South America.

It was previously proposed that Anacardium and its African sister genus, Fegimanra, diverged from their common ancestor when the landmasses of Africa and South America separated. However, groundbreaking new data in the October issue of the International Journal of Plant Sciences indicate that Europe may be an important biogeographic link between Africa and the New World.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Yang Cai is developing new technology that could revolutionize the way archeologists work. Cai, director of the Ambient Intelligence Lab at Carnegie Mellon CyLab, is developing new software to scan 200-year-old gravestones at Old St. Luke’s Church in nearby Carnegie to help its Episcopal pastor identify all the names on the cemetery’s tombstones.

“We are very excited and pleased that Professor Cai and his research team are helping us reclaim our past by identifying some of the 20 graves at our cemetery,” said Rev. Richard Davis, director of Old St. Luke’s Church at 330 Old Washington Pike.

Amihai Mazar, Eleazar L. Sukenik Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, revealed that the first apiary (beehive colony) dating from the Biblical period has been found in excavations he directed this summer at Tel Rehov in Israel’s Beth Shean Valley. This is the earliest apiary to be revealed to date in an archaeological excavation anywhere in the ancient Near East, said Prof. Mazar. It dates from the 10th to early 9th centuries B.C.E.

Tel Rehov is believed to have been one of the most important cities of Israel during the Israelite monarchy. The beehives there were found in the center of a built-up area there that has been excavated since 1997 by Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Hebrew University. Three rows of beehives were found in the apiary, containing more than 30 hives.


It is summertime in Greece, and with it come the traditional wildfires. These are not natural forest fires; at least, it is thought that most of them are the result of deliberate arson. This is the product of a conflict between Greek law and society that has been going on for years. Most forested land in Greece is protected from development.
Excavations of an underwater Stone Age archaeological settlement dating back 8000 years are taking place at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

Maritime archaeologists from the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology (HWTMA) have been working at the site just off the Isle of Wight coast. Divers working at depths of 11 metres have raised sections of the seabed, which have been brought to the NOCS laboratories for excavation.

An artificial big toe attached to the foot of an ancient Egyptian mummy could prove to be the world's earliest functional prosthetic body part, say scientists. If true, the toe will predate what is currently considered to be the earliest known practical prosthesis - Roman Capua Leg from 300BC, made from bronze - by several hundred years. The leg was held at the Royal College of Surgeons in London but was destroyed by Luftwaffe bombs during the Second World War.

Research at The University of Manchester is hoping to prove that the wood and leather artefact in the Cairo Museum not only looked the part but also helped its owner walk 'like an Egyptian'.

The prosthetic toe in the British Museum.


Scientists at the University of Sheffield, collaborating with colleagues at the Universities of Portsmouth and Reading, have taken a step back in time and provided a new insight into the lifestyle of a prehistoric flying reptile.

Using new physical and mathematical modelling, Dr Stuart Humphries from the University of Sheffield, along with scientists from the Universities of Portsmouth and Reading, has shown that suggestions that extinct pterosaurs gathered their food by ‘skimming’ the surface of the ocean with their beaks are inaccurate.

Fossils discovered in the oft-painted arroyos of northern New Mexico show for the first time that dinosaurs and their non-dinosaur ancestors lived side by side for tens of millions of years, disproving the notion that dinosaurs rapidly replaced their supposedly outmoded predecessors.

The fossils were excavated from the Hayden Quarry at Ghost Ranch, an area made famous through the paintings of Georgia O'Keefe, by a team of paleontologists from the University of California, Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History and The Field Museum. The finds, including fossil bones of a new dinosaur predecessor the researchers have named Dromomeron romeri, are described in a cover story in the July 20 issue of Science.

Preliminary results from DNA tests carried out on a mummy believed to be Queen Hatshepsut is expected to support the claim by Egyptian authorities that the remains are indeed those of Egypt’s most powerful female ruler.

Egyptologists in Cairo announced last month that a tooth found in a wooden box associated with Hatshepsut exactly fitted the jaw socket and broken root of the unidentified mummy.

Now, Dr Angelique Corthals, a biomedical Egyptologist at The University of Manchester, says that DNA tests she helped carry out with colleagues at the National Research Centre in Cairo have promising preliminary results suggesting the identity of the queen.