• Name: Paul McLerran
  • Locations:Virginia, United States
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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Ancient Egyptian Seals Discovered

Archaeologists have recently uncovered a sizeable number of rare, ancient match-box size Egyptian seals in the desert outside of Cairo. The seals depict the ranks of soldiers sent out into the desert by the Pharaoh Cheops in search of red pigment to decorate the pyramids. Cheops ruled Egypt from 2551 to 2528 BC and was responsible for construction of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, well-known today by the traveling public. Read More

Friday, April 29, 2005

Dig Spotlight: In the Footsteps of Champlain

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1605 A.D. -- On the banks of the Saco River in Maine, the famous French explorer and cartographer Samuel de Champlain came in contact with inhabitants of the Native American village of Chouacoet. The encounter is documented for history, but the exact location and many of the physical characteristics of the village of that time are still a mystery. Scholars have a hunch concerning the approximate area of its remains, and will be leading a group of willing volunteers to look for its archaeological footprint, with the help of historical maps and charts created by Champlain, himself. You can be a part of this exploration from August 14 -- 19, 2005, including the opportunity to participate in lectures on field and lab techniques. Contact Becky Cole-Will at curator@abbemuseum.org or by phone at 207-288-3519 or 207-288-8979, to determine if there is a space available.

Intelligent Design Not Ready for Prime Time, Say Scientists

The search for human origins has its roots in the Theory of Evolution, taught widely in schools as part of the science curriculum. Enter the increasingly popular (and controversial) proposition that the manifestations of the evolutionary process are in fact a product of planned design by a Creator (the nature of whom or which remains undefined). Known as "Intelligent Design", the theory hangs its hat on the observation that certain processes, such as the highly complex workings of cells and living organisms, cannot be adequately explained by the hit-and-miss, random principles implicit in natural selection and evolutionary theory. These processes can be explained by a purposeful, intelligent design or plan. The assessment of many scientists, however, is that the Intelligent Design theory is not developed fully enough to be considered on a par with the traditionally accepted Theory of Evolution as an alternative body of knowledge to be taught in the schools. See a recent article for more information about this topic. As for this writer, whether we are talking about evolutionary theory or Intelligent Design, the adventure of archaeological and paleoanthropological discovery continues to fascinate.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Resource on Archaeological Sites in Israel

The World Atlas of Archaeology on the Web has published a listing of no less than 52 archaeological sites in Israel, plus additional resources on related research institutions, researchers, and cultural/historical information. Israel is rich in archaeological sites and far exceeds every country in the world in hosting teams of volunteers for archaeological digs. See the website for more information. A warning: many of the links on this site are not functioning, so you will need to do a separate search for those sites.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Early Man in Spain

Spain continues to be a country where groundbreaking research is being conducted on the presence and activities of prehistoric man in Europe. This summer, from July 5 to August 16, 2005, Professor Michael J. Walker will continue excavations at the famous Neanderthal sites of Cueva Negra and Sima de las Palomas in the province of Murcia. Cueva Negra is a Middle Pleistocene site with remains of Homo Heidelbergensis, a possible precursor to the Neanderthals. Both Acheulian and Levalloiso-Mousterian Paleolithic implements have been found at this site. Sima de las Palomas contains Upper Pleistocene remains of Neanderthals. Thus far, the skeletal remains of nine individuals have been uncovered as well as Mousterian implements and a fireplace dated to 35,000 years ago. New finds are sure to follow, adding yet more to the record and, very possibly, some new discoveries that will contribute to shaping the current picture of who lived in this region of Europe and how they lived so very long ago. For more information, e-mail walker@um.es, or go to AFOB Online. The listing is considered "preliminary" and the specific website for these projects is apparently not functional at this time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Prehistoric Jaw Bone Raises New Questions

A prehistoric human jaw bone excavated at Kents Cavern in Torquay, England in 1927 is now dated based on new research to between 37,000 and 40,000 years B.P. If the finding holds, it raises some intriguing questions about the advent and history of early man in the British Isles.
For example: If the jaw bone is that of a Cro-Magnon (modern anatomy), then these people reached Britain much earlier than previously thought. If the jaw bone is that of a Neanderthal, then it represents the first solid evidence that Neanderthals roamed Britain. Scientists hope to confirm identity by extracting ancient DNA from one of the teeth.

Read the Story

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dig Spotlight: The Ancient Theatre at Paphos

Constructed in 300 B.C., the ancient theatre at Nea Paphos, Cyprus, eventually measured 100 meters in length at its height and seated a capacity crowd of 8,500 spectators. Although much work has been done in terms of defining the characteristics, dimensions and context of the site, more work is needed to clear the theatre seating and excavate the orchestra. The 2005 season calls for new volunteers to focus on these areas, which may also include completing the excavation of a large mosaic. See the project website for details.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ancient Tomb Found at Hierakonpolis

Hierakonpolis, Egypt -- A team of archaeologists led by Egyptologist Renee Friedman have uncovered a tomb complex here dated to about 3,600 years B.C.E., several centuries before the invention of hieroglyphic writing and the rise of the first pharaohs. The tomb contained four bodies and a wooden offering table. Hierakonpolis is considered to be the political center of a civilization that later extended its influence throughout the Nile area, including the Nile Delta in the north of Egypt.

Read More

Visit Archaeology Magazine's interactive dig website about the excavations at Hierakonpolis.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Confirming a Founding Father's Remains

As a follow-up to a posting made previously on this site -- Archaeologists have recently been given permission to extract DNA from the exhumed remains of an American founding father's sister in England in order to confirm the identity of the remains of the famous Jamestown colonist discovered during excavations at James Fort (of Jamestown) on Jamestown Island, Virginia. The DNA will be taken from what remains of Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, buried at a church on the border of Suffolk and Essex, England. She was the sister of Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, who is largely regarded as the man who established the first permanent (enduring) English colony in the New World. More developments to come.

Read more details

Read about ongoing archaeological investigations at Jamestown.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Prehistoric Cave in Greece

A cave in Thessaly, Greece, that harbors evidence of prehistoric human habitation will soon be open to visitors world-wide. Known as the Cave of Theopetra, it was inhabited by humans from the Middle Paleolithic (110,000 B.C.E.) to the Upper Paleolithic (3,000 B.C.E.). Featured are four human footprints, skeletons dated to 15,000, 9,000, and 8,000 B.C.E., stone tools, and remains of fire that took place approximately 46,330 years ago. See the website for details.

Read about opportunities to excavate in one of France's famous prehistoric caves.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

New Resource on Archaeological Digs in Peru

The World Atlas of Archaeology on the Web has developed and released a new, updated resource on archaeological sites and archaeological digs in Peru. Included are site descriptions and history, research institutions, researchers, and other related cultural information. See the website for more information.

The Great Human Migration

The prevailing theory among scholars, based on genetic studies, is that Homo sapiens (modern humans) originated somewhere in Africa around 200,000 B.P. and then began their great migratory journey to colonize the globe around 60,000 B.P. The details of that migration are still elusive, but scientists hope to come one giant step closer to filling in the knowledge gaps by conducting a worldwide project to collect and test the DNA of diverse populations and thereby trace the pattern and directions of the migratory routes. Called the Genographic Project, it will be the largest study of its kind ever undertaken. Some of the questions the project hopes to address are rather intriguing: Was there interbreeding between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens? Is it possible to extract DNA from the remains of extinct hominids? Who is the oldest population group? What are the origins of human population differences? Did any migrations to the Americas come across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans?

Read More

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

An Ancient African Kingdom

The archaeological remains of a powerful ancient African kingdom that thrived between 900 and 1300 A.D. will likely become the major attraction in a proposed new conservation area currently under negotiation between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Known as Mapungubwe, the site represents an African Iron Age kingdom, the archaeological remains of which evidences a sophisticated social organization with trading ties that extended as far as Arabia and India. For its time, it was Africa's largest and most powerful kingdom.

Read More

Read about an archaeological field school being conducted in the area, focusing on the evidence for early and middle stone age hominid activity. A visit to Mapungubwe is included as part of the program of studies.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Palace of Herod Antipas Discovered?

Tiberias, Israel -- A First Century CE marble floor was recently uncovered during excavations at the ancient site of Tiberias, near the Sea of Galilee. According to Professor Yizhar Hirschfeld, Director of the excavation, it may well be remnants of the pavement of the palace of Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas ruled the Galilee area from 4 B.C.E. to 38 C.E. He is best known from the New Testament story that recounts the event where Salome, the daughter of Herod Antipas' wife, danced in exchange for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Other finds of this season's dig include a Roman-Byzantine period street, coins with depictions of Jesus, mosaics and remains from the Islamic period.

See the website for the weekly reports of excavation progress, including photographs. There will be opportunities to participate in a new session in the fall of 2005. Watch for updates at the website and at this site for details.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Dinosaur Eggs in China

Construction workers excavating in China's Hubei Province stumbled upon 14 pale blue fossilized dinosaur eggs while going about business as usual. Upon further investigation, scientists determined that the location in which the fossilized eggs were found was actually part of a 5,000 square meter region loaded with dinosaur eggs. Construction was stopped pending further archaeological investigation. See the story for more information.

New Resources on Archaeological Sites in Mexico and Greece

The World Atlas of Archaeology on the Web has published a new listing of resources related to archaeological sites in both Mexico and Greece, two countries well known for their great ancient civilizations and the archaeological treasures they left behind. The listing dealing with Mexico details the research and discoveries at 45 sites, and the listing for Greece details no less than 60 sites. They also include sections addressing the relevant research institutions, current researchers, and related cultural history. Many of the sites listed have ongoing excavations. Click on the links below for more information.


New Dinosaur Footprints Discovered

Two additional dinosaur footprints have been discovered in the fossil-rich area of Kerman in Iran. This brings the number of dinosaur footprints discovered recently in the same locality to five. It is estimated that the footprints were left there between 65 and 195 million years ago. Further study of the fossil footprints and additional related research will help to identify the dinosaur type that left the mark so long ago.......

More Information

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Publish Your Dig Experience

Going on a dig this summer? Have you been on a dig within the last year or two? If so, perhaps you have kept, or plan to keep, a personal dig journal recounting your experiences and discoveries. Or, lacking a journal, perhaps the significant events of that last dig are still fresh in your mind and you would like to share your experience -- get it out there for others to see.

Whether you have already been on a dig or plan to participate in a dig this summer or at some point in the future, one of the most satisfying aspects of this kind of activity is to actually publish your thoughts and experiences and share them with a world-wide readership. Others will be interested in what you have to say, especially individuals who are contemplating the prospect of "doing a dig" some day. If you are interested in publishing your experience, Archaeological Digs invites you to submit your written account to be considered for publication in this weblog. Feel free to submit photographs to illustrate your experience.

Dig directors and scholars often publish the results of their excavations and research to share with the educational community and others. They are "rewriting" history in this way. Dig volunteers and students -- the "foot soldiers" of archaeological projects, do not usually have this opportunity, although their experiences and personal discoveries are equally worth sharing with the public. Take this opportunity to make a difference for a more "public" archaeology. Submit your write-ups and photographs to pdmclerran@yahoo.com. All submissions will be given serious consideration and, depending upon the volume, it may be possible to publish every write-up submitted.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Dig Spotlight: Digging at Williamsburg

For individuals knowledgeable about American colonial history, the town of Williamsburg, Virginia, constituted the very essence of life in the pre-Revolutionary War British colonies and conjures up images of many of the key events and figures of the historical drama that led to American independence from Britain. Today, Williamsburg presents a dual personality -- that of the modern town built around the academic community associated with the College of William and Mary -- and that of the old, meticulously restored 18th Century colonial Capital. In fact, the restored town is perhaps one of the world's best examples of an open-air living history museum, due in large part to decades of extensive and thorough archaeological research and excavation. For the United States, the field of historical archaeology has its Mecca here. For you, as a student, scholar, or volunteer, the projects and programs here will provide an opportunity in historical archaeology that is rarely matched anywhere else.

This summer, the Department of Archaeological Research of Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary will be conducting two five-week archaeological field schools. Each five-week session will introduce participants to the theory and methods of American historical archaeology, including excavation techniques, laboratory procedures, artifact analysis and identification, geographic database systems, computer-assisted mapping, and environmental sampling. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to learn through workshops, lectures and field trips.

If you are serious about getting a first-rate education and exposure to American historical archaeology, go to the
website for more information.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Dig Spotlight: The Lost City of Helike

For the sea was raised by an earthquake and it submerged Helike, and also the temple of Poseidon........

---- Strabo

In 373 B.C., a massive earthquake and associated tsunami destroyed and sunk the ancient Greek city of Helike on the shores of the Gulf of Corinth. With it went scores of bronze and marble works of classical sculpture. Throughout most of history, its remains and exact location remained lost to the world........until 2001, when explorers discovered traces of the city under an ancient lagoon. Thus far, the finds include the workshops and public buildings of a Hellenistic town, a long section of the Roman road between Corinth and Patras, and a well-preserved Bronze Age town with large structures and cobblestone streets. The evidence points to not one but two cities submerged in the same area by earthquakes, the first having occurred twenty centuries before the second sealed the fate of its Classical successor. Continuing investigations and excavations hold the promise of many more discoveries.

This summer, Professor Spyridon Marinatos, Director General of Antiquities for Greece, will be leading excavations at the ancient site. He is calling for volunteers to help in that effort. No experience is necessary. Members of the professional staff will provide all of the necessary training and oversight. Volunteers will stay at the Hotel Poseidon Beach in the village of Nikolaiika, not far from the excavation site. There will be opportunities to relax and enjoy the beach, as well.

If you are interested in this opportunity for education, discovery, and a unique working vacation in a Greek setting, visit the website for more information.

Did Our Prehistoric Ancestors Laugh?

Did our hominid forebears of two million years ago laugh? If the conclusions of a recent study in animal behavior are correct, the answer to that question is most likely yes............

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