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  • richardmitnick 4:33 pm on August 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Unlocking the Secrets of Earth’s Magnetic Field From 9000-Year-Old Recordings", Archaeology, , , Tel Aviv University (IL) אוּנִיבֶרְסִיטַת תֵּל אָבִיב   

    From Tel Aviv University (IL) אוּנִיבֶרְסִיטַת תֵּל אָבִיב via SciTechDaily : “Unlocking the Secrets of Earth’s Magnetic Field From 9,000-Year-Old Recordings” 

    Tel Aviv University

    From Tel Aviv University (IL) אוּנִיבֶרְסִיטַת תֵּל אָבִיב



    August 18, 2021

    Excavations at Tel Tifdan / Wadi Fidan. Credit: Thomas E. Levy

    International research by Tel Aviv University, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology [Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia](IT)Rome and the University of California-San Diego uncovered findings regarding the magnetic field that prevailed in the Middle East between approximately 10,000 and 8,000 years ago. Researchers examined pottery and burnt flints from archaeological sites in Jordan, on which the magnetic field during that time period was recorded. Information about the magnetic field during prehistoric times can affect our understanding of the magnetic field today, which has been showing a weakening trend that has been cause for concern among climate and environmental researchers.

    The research was conducted under the leadership of Prof. Erez Ben-Yosef of the Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures at Tel Aviv University אוּנִיבֶרְסִיטַת תֵּל אָבִיב (IL) and Prof. Lisa Tauxe, head of the Paleomagnetic Laboratory at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (US), at University of California- San Diego(US), in collaboration with other researchers from the University of California at San Diego, Rome, and Jordan. The article was published in the journal PNAS.

    Burnt flints and ceramics used to reconstruct the strength of the ancient geomagnetic field. Credit: PNAS.

    Prof. Ben-Yosef explains, “Albert Einstein characterized the planet’s magnetic field as one of the five greatest mysteries of modern physics. As of now, we know a number of basic facts about it: The magnetic field is generated by processes that take place below a depth of approximately 3,000 km beneath the surface of the planet (for the sake of comparison, the deepest human drilling has reached a depth of only 20 km); it protects the planet from the continued bombardment by cosmic radiation and thus allows life as we know it to exist; it is volatile and its strength and direction are constantly shifting, and it is connected to various phenomena in the atmosphere and the planet’s ecological system, including – possibly – having a certain impact on climate. Nevertheless, the magnetic field’s essence and origins have remained largely unresolved. In our research, we sought to open a peephole into this great riddle.”

    Wadi Fidan. Credit: Thomas E. Levy.

    The researchers explain that instruments for measuring the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field were first invented only approximately 200 years ago. In order to examine the history of the field during earlier periods, science is helped by archaeological and geological materials that recorded the properties of the field when they were heated to high temperatures. The magnetic information remains “frozen” (forever or until another heating event) within tiny crystals of ferromagnetic minerals, from which it can be extracted using a series of experiments in the magnetics laboratory. Basalt from volcanic eruptions or ceramics fired in a kiln are frequent materials used for these types of experiments.

    The great advantage in using archaeological materials as opposed to geological is the time resolution: While in geology dating is on the scale of thousands years at best, in archaeology the artifacts and the magnetic field that they have recorded can be dated at a resolution of hundreds and sometimes even tens of years (and in specific cases, such as a known destruction event, even give an exact date). The obvious disadvantage of archaeology is the young age of the relevant artifacts: Ceramics, which have been used for this purpose up until now, were only invented 8,500 years ago.

    The current study is based on materials from four archaeological sites in Wadi Feinan (Jordan), which have been dated (using carbon-14) to the Neolithic period – approximately 10,000 to 8,000 years ago — some of which predate the invention of ceramics. Researchers examined the magnetic field that was recorded in 129 items found in these excavations, and this time, burnt flint tools were added to the ceramic shards.

    Prof. Ben-Yosef: “This is the first time that burnt flints from prehistoric sites are being used to reconstruct the magnetic field from their time period. About a year ago, groundbreaking research at the Hebrew University was published, showing the feasibility of working with such materials, and we took that one step forward, extracting geomagnetic information from tightly dated burned flint. Working with this material extends the research possibilities tens of thousands of years back, as humans used flint tools for a very long period of time prior to the invention of ceramics. Additionally, after enough information is collected about the changes in the geomagnetic field over the course of time, we will be able to use it in order to date archaeological remains.”

    An additional and important finding of this study is the strength of the magnetic field during the time period that was examined. The archaeological artifacts demonstrated that at a certain stage during the Neolithic period, the field became very weak (among the weakest values ever recorded for the last 10,000 years), but recovered and strengthened within a relatively short amount of time.

    According to Prof. Tauxe, this finding is significant for us today: “In our time, since measurements began less than 200 years ago, we have seen a continuous decrease in the field’s strength. This fact gives rise to a concern that we could completely lose the magnetic field that protects us against cosmic radiation and therefore, is essential to the existence of life on Earth. The findings of our study can be reassuring: This has already happened in the past. Approximately 7,600 years ago, the strength of the magnetic field was even lower than today, but within approximately 600 years, it gained strength and again rose to high levels.”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Tel Aviv University (IL) אוּנִיבֶרְסִיטַת תֵּל אָבִיב is a public research university in Tel Aviv, Israel. With over 30,000 students, it is the largest university in the country. Located in northwest Tel Aviv, the university is the center of teaching and research of the city, comprising 9 faculties, 17 teaching hospitals, 18 performing arts centers, 27 schools, 106 departments, 340 research centers, and 400 laboratories.

    Besides being the largest university in Israel, Tel Aviv University is also the largest Jewish university in the world. It originated in 1956 when three education units merged to form the university. The original 170-acre campus was expanded and now makes up 220 acres (89 hectares) in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Aviv neighborhood. It regularly ranks among the top academic institutions in the world by the THE World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings, and the Shanghai Ranking.

    TAU’s origins date back to 1956, when three research institutes: the Tel Aviv School of Law and Economics (established in 1935), the Institute of Natural Sciences (established in 1931), and the Institute of Jewish Studies – joined together to form Tel Aviv University. Initially operated by the Tel Aviv municipality, the university was granted autonomy in 1963, and George S. Wise was its first President, from that year until 1971. The Ramat Aviv campus, covering an area of 170-acre (0.69 km2), was established that same year. Its succeeding Presidents have been Yuval Ne’eman from 1971 to 1977, Haim Ben-Shahar from 1977 to 1983, Moshe Many from 1983 to 1991, Yoram Dinstein from 1991 to 1999, Itamar Rabinovich from 1999 to 2006, Zvi Galil from 2006 to 2009, Joseph Klafter from 2009 to 2019, and Ariel Porat since 2019.

    The university also maintains academic supervision over the Center for Technological Design in Holon, the New Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo, and the Afeka College of Engineering in Tel Aviv. The Wise Observatory is located in Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev desert.

  • richardmitnick 9:01 am on August 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Study reveals that Machu Picchu is older than expected", Accelerator mass spectrometry: an advanced form of radiocarbon dating, Antiquity, , Archaeology, , , One time country estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti located on the eastern face of the Andes Mountains.,   

    From Yale University (US) : “Study reveals that Machu Picchu is older than expected” 

    From Yale University (US)

    August 4, 2021
    Mike Cummings

    Media Contact
    Bess Connolly

    Photo by Pedro Szekely. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA 2.0.

    Machu Picchu, the famous 15th-century Inca site in southern Peru, is up to several decades older than previously thought, according to a new study led by Yale archaeologist Richard Burger.

    Burger and researchers from several U.S. institutions used accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) — an advanced form of radiocarbon dating — to date human remains recovered during the early 20th century at the monumental complex and one time country estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti located on the eastern face of the Andes Mountains.

    Their findings, published in the journal Antiquity, reveal that Machu Picchu was in use from about 1420 C.E. to 1530 C.E.— ending around the time of the Spanish conquest — making the site at least 20 years older than the accepted historical record suggests and raising questions about our understanding of Inca chronology.

    Historical sources dating from the Spanish invasion of the Inca Empire indicate that Pachacuti seized power in 1438 C.E. and subsequently conquered the lower Urubamba Valley where Machu Picchu is located. Based on those records, scholars have estimated that the site was built after 1440 C.E., and perhaps as late as 1450 C.E., depending on how long it took Pachacuti to subdue the region and construct the stone palace.

    The AMS testing indicates that the historical timeline is inaccurate.

    “Until now, estimates of Machu Picchu’s antiquity and the length of its occupation were based on contradictory historical accounts written by Spaniards in the period following the Spanish conquest,” said Burger, the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “This is the first study based on scientific evidence to provide an estimate for the founding of Machu Picchu and the length of its occupation, giving us a clearer picture of the site’s origins and history.”

    The finding suggests that Pachacuti, whose reign set the Inca on the path to becoming pre-Columbian America’s largest and most powerful empire, gained power and began his conquests decades earlier than textual sources indicate. As such, it has implications for people’s wider understanding of Inca history, Burger said.

    “The results suggest that the discussion of the development of the Inca empire based primarily on colonial records needs revision,” he said. “Modern radiocarbon methods provide a better foundation than the historical records for understanding Inca chronology.”

    The AMS technique can date bones and teeth that contain even small amounts of organic material, expanding the pool of remains suitable for scientific analysis. For this study, the researchers used it to analyze human samples from 26 individuals that were recovered from four cemeteries at Machu Picchu in 1912 during excavations led by Yale professor Hiram Bingham III, who had “rediscovered” the site the previous year.

    The bones and teeth used in the analysis likely belonged to retainers, or attendants, who were assigned to the royal estate, the study states. The remains show little evidence of involvement in heavy physical labor, such as construction, meaning that they likely were from the period when the site functioned as a country palace, not when it was being built, the researchers said.

    On Nov. 30, 2010, Yale University and the Peruvian government reached an accord for the return to Peru of the archaeological materials Bingham excavated at Machu Picchu. On Feb. 11, 2011, Yale signed an agreement with the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco establishing the International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture, which is dedicated to the display, conservation, and study of the archaeological collections from Bingham’s 1912 excavations. All human remains and other archaeological materials from Machu Picchu have subsequently been returned to Cusco, the former capital city of the Inca Empire, where they are conserved at the Museo Machu Picchu.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Yale University (US) is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701 as the Collegiate School, it is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine Colonial Colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The Collegiate School was renamed Yale College in 1718 to honor the school’s largest private benefactor for the first century of its existence, Elihu Yale. Yale University is consistently ranked as one of the top universities and is considered one of the most prestigious in the nation.

    Chartered by Connecticut Colony, the Collegiate School was established in 1701 by clergy to educate Congregational ministers before moving to New Haven in 1716. Originally restricted to theology and sacred languages, the curriculum began to incorporate humanities and sciences by the time of the American Revolution. In the 19th century, the college expanded into graduate and professional instruction, awarding the first PhD in the United States in 1861 and organizing as a university in 1887. Yale’s faculty and student populations grew after 1890 with rapid expansion of the physical campus and scientific research.

    Yale is organized into fourteen constituent schools: the original undergraduate college, the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and twelve professional schools. While the university is governed by the Yale Corporation, each school’s faculty oversees its curriculum and degree programs. In addition to a central campus in downtown New Haven, the university owns athletic facilities in western New Haven, a campus in West Haven, Connecticut, and forests and nature preserves throughout New England. As of June 2020, the university’s endowment was valued at $31.1 billion, the second largest of any educational institution. The Yale University Library, serving all constituent schools, holds more than 15 million volumes and is the third-largest academic library in the United States. Students compete in intercollegiate sports as the Yale Bulldogs in the NCAA Division I – Ivy League.

    As of October 2020, 65 Nobel laureates, five Fields Medalists, four Abel Prize laureates, and three Turing award winners have been affiliated with Yale University. In addition, Yale has graduated many notable alumni, including five U.S. Presidents, 19 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 31 living billionaires, and many heads of state. Hundreds of members of Congress and many U.S. diplomats, 78 MacArthur Fellows, 252 Rhodes Scholars, 123 Marshall Scholars, and nine Mitchell Scholars have been affiliated with the university.


    Yale is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) (US) and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. According to the National Science Foundation (US), Yale spent $990 million on research and development in 2018, ranking it 15th in the nation.

    Yale’s faculty include 61 members of the National Academy of Sciences (US), 7 members of the National Academy of Engineering (US) and 49 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (US). The college is, after normalization for institution size, the tenth-largest baccalaureate source of doctoral degree recipients in the United States, and the largest such source within the Ivy League.

    Yale’s English and Comparative Literature departments were part of the New Criticism movement. Of the New Critics, Robert Penn Warren, W.K. Wimsatt, and Cleanth Brooks were all Yale faculty. Later, the Yale Comparative literature department became a center of American deconstruction. Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstruction, taught at the Department of Comparative Literature from the late seventies to mid-1980s. Several other Yale faculty members were also associated with deconstruction, forming the so-called “Yale School”. These included Paul de Man who taught in the Departments of Comparative Literature and French, J. Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartman (both taught in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature), and Harold Bloom (English), whose theoretical position was always somewhat specific, and who ultimately took a very different path from the rest of this group. Yale’s history department has also originated important intellectual trends. Historians C. Vann Woodward and David Brion Davis are credited with beginning in the 1960s and 1970s an important stream of southern historians; likewise, David Montgomery, a labor historian, advised many of the current generation of labor historians in the country. Yale’s Music School and Department fostered the growth of Music Theory in the latter half of the 20th century. The Journal of Music Theory was founded there in 1957; Allen Forte and David Lewin were influential teachers and scholars.

    In addition to eminent faculty members, Yale research relies heavily on the presence of roughly 1200 Postdocs from various national and international origin working in the multiple laboratories in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and professional schools of the university. The university progressively recognized this working force with the recent creation of the Office for Postdoctoral Affairs and the Yale Postdoctoral Association.

    Notable alumni

    Over its history, Yale has produced many distinguished alumni in a variety of fields, ranging from the public to private sector. According to 2020 data, around 71% of undergraduates join the workforce, while the next largest majority of 16.6% go on to attend graduate or professional schools. Yale graduates have been recipients of 252 Rhodes Scholarships, 123 Marshall Scholarships, 67 Truman Scholarships, 21 Churchill Scholarships, and 9 Mitchell Scholarships. The university is also the second largest producer of Fulbright Scholars, with a total of 1,199 in its history and has produced 89 MacArthur Fellows. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs ranked Yale fifth among research institutions producing the most 2020–2021 Fulbright Scholars. Additionally, 31 living billionaires are Yale alumni.

    At Yale, one of the most popular undergraduate majors among Juniors and Seniors is political science, with many students going on to serve careers in government and politics. Former presidents who attended Yale for undergrad include William Howard Taft, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush while former presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton attended Yale Law School. Former vice-president and influential antebellum era politician John C. Calhoun also graduated from Yale. Former world leaders include Italian prime minister Mario Monti, Turkish prime minister Tansu Çiller, Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, German president Karl Carstens, Philippine president José Paciano Laurel, Latvian president Valdis Zatlers, Taiwanese premier Jiang Yi-huah, and Malawian president Peter Mutharika, among others. Prominent royals who graduated are Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, and Olympia Bonaparte, Princess Napoléon.

    Yale alumni have had considerable presence in U.S. government in all three branches. On the U.S. Supreme Court, 19 justices have been Yale alumni, including current Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh. Numerous Yale alumni have been U.S. Senators, including current Senators Michael Bennet, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Chris Coons, Amy Klobuchar, Ben Sasse, and Sheldon Whitehouse. Current and former cabinet members include Secretaries of State John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Cyrus Vance, and Dean Acheson; U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Robert Rubin, Nicholas F. Brady, Steven Mnuchin, and Janet Yellen; U.S. Attorneys General Nicholas Katzenbach, John Ashcroft, and Edward H. Levi; and many others. Peace Corps founder and American diplomat Sargent Shriver and public official and urban planner Robert Moses are Yale alumni.

    Yale has produced numerous award-winning authors and influential writers, like Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Sinclair Lewis and Pulitzer Prize winners Stephen Vincent Benét, Thornton Wilder, Doug Wright, and David McCullough. Academy Award winning actors, actresses, and directors include Jodie Foster, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Elia Kazan, George Roy Hill, Lupita Nyong’o, Oliver Stone, and Frances McDormand. Alumni from Yale have also made notable contributions to both music and the arts. Leading American composer from the 20th century Charles Ives, Broadway composer Cole Porter, Grammy award winner David Lang, and award-winning jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer all hail from Yale. Hugo Boss Prize winner Matthew Barney, famed American sculptor Richard Serra, President Barack Obama presidential portrait painter Kehinde Wiley, MacArthur Fellow and contemporary artist Sarah Sze, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau, and National Medal of Arts photorealist painter Chuck Close all graduated from Yale. Additional alumni include architect and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Maya Lin, Pritzker Prize winner Norman Foster, and Gateway Arch designer Eero Saarinen. Journalists and pundits include Dick Cavett, Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Fareed Zakaria.

    In business, Yale has had numerous alumni and former students go on to become founders of influential business, like William Boeing (Boeing, United Airlines), Briton Hadden and Henry Luce (Time Magazine), Stephen A. Schwarzman (Blackstone Group), Frederick W. Smith (FedEx), Juan Trippe (Pan Am), Harold Stanley (Morgan Stanley), Bing Gordon (Electronic Arts), and Ben Silbermann (Pinterest). Other business people from Yale include former chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings Edward Lampert, former Time Warner president Jeffrey Bewkes, former PepsiCo chairperson and CEO Indra Nooyi, sports agent Donald Dell, and investor/philanthropist Sir John Templeton,

    Yale alumni distinguished in academia include literary critic and historian Henry Louis Gates, economists Irving Fischer, Mahbub ul Haq, and Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman; Nobel Prize in Physics laureates Ernest Lawrence and Murray Gell-Mann; Fields Medalist John G. Thompson; Human Genome Project leader and National Institutes of Health (US) director Francis S. Collins; brain surgery pioneer Harvey Cushing; pioneering computer scientist Grace Hopper; influential mathematician and chemist Josiah Willard Gibbs; National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee and biochemist Florence B. Seibert; Turing Award recipient Ron Rivest; inventors Samuel F.B. Morse and Eli Whitney; Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate John B. Goodenough; lexicographer Noah Webster; and theologians Jonathan Edwards and Reinhold Niebuhr.

    In the sporting arena, Yale alumni include baseball players Ron Darling and Craig Breslow and baseball executives Theo Epstein and George Weiss; football players Calvin Hill, Gary Fenick, Amos Alonzo Stagg, and “the Father of American Football” Walter Camp; ice hockey players Chris Higgins and Olympian Helen Resor; Olympic figure skaters Sarah Hughes and Nathan Chen; nine-time U.S. Squash men’s champion Julian Illingworth; Olympic swimmer Don Schollander; Olympic rowers Josh West and Rusty Wailes; Olympic sailor Stuart McNay; Olympic runner Frank Shorter; and others.

  • richardmitnick 9:49 am on July 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Aleppo Forever", Ahmed Fatima Kzzo, Archaeology,   

    From University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH): “Aleppo Forever” 

    From University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH)

    5 Jul 2021
    Andres Eberhard

    Ahmed Fatima Kzzo once documented ancient inscriptions in Aleppo that dated back to the Ottoman Empire. Shortly thereafter, large parts of his hometown were reduced to rubble. The Syrian archaeologist is currently researching at UZH under a scholarship.

    Ahmed Fatima Kzzo in Zürich: “I’ve traveled and traveled, basically my whole life.” (Image: Marc Latzel)

    As a boy, Ahmed Fatima Kzzo would often travel across the desert. His father had a job in Saudi Arabia and commuted between there and Aleppo, his family’s hometown. His children often traveled with him, sitting in the back of the car.

    “There was a kind of castle along the road,” recalls Kzzo. “And every time we passed by it, I’d ask my father: ‘Can you stop? I want to see it’.”

    But his father never did. The ruins were most likely too insignificant to warrant a stop. One day, though, while 10-year-old Ahmed was dozing on the back seat, his father did pull over. “My father said, ‘It’s now or never’, and that’s how I ended up climbing over ruins in the middle of the desert, half asleep.”

    No stranger to traveling

    This story tells us two important things about Ahmed Fatima Kzzo, now 37. The first is that he is no stranger to traveling. “I’ve traveled and traveled, basically my whole life,” he says. In 2008, three years before the war, he left Syria, and has since lived in Rome, Bern and Amman. And now in Zürich. But he’s only here until the summer, as that’s when his scholarship from the Zürich Center for the Study of the Ancient World (ZAZH) at the Department of Religious Studies of UZH expires.

    Where will he go next? “No idea.” The Syrian researcher doesn’t sound too preoccupied about his uncertain future plans, though.

    Fascination with historical sites

    The second thing the story about the castle ruins in the desert tells us about Kzzo is that his fascination with historical sites goes way back. Asked why he decided to become an archaeologist, he responds with a laugh: “I have eight siblings. I’m the second youngest. When I joined uni, law and archaeology were the only options left.”

    His answer reveals his keen sense of humor. Of course, it’s no coincidence that Kzzo went into archaeology: “I love discovering historic sites and cultures.”

    Hometown in ruins

    Unfortunately, the past few years have given Kzzo plenty to be sad about. His hometown of Aleppo has been ravaged by three years of war. It has been years since the researcher last saw most of his family. The only family members he’s seen in the past few years are his father and his sister, once in Lebanon. Luckily, Kzzo’s parents and siblings survived the war, but several of his cousins did not.

    In addition to this personal grief, Kzzo is pained by the destruction of his city. Aleppo has become a ghost town. “The city has lost its joy,” the Aleppo native says.

    Designated as a Unesco World Heritage site, the historic city center with its ancient suq (marketplace), its palaces, residential streets, mosques, churches and synagogues – all lie in ruins. Ahmed Kzzo clicks through the photos on his laptop to show the extent of the destruction.

    Minarets used by snipers

    The interior facade of Shaikh Abulhuda Al-Sayyadi’s zawiya (a type of monastery) has been reduced to rubble. A snapshot of him and his friends in the Great Mosque, now a distant memory.

    “It’s a disgrace that all this has been destroyed by the country’s own people,” he says. Who is responsible? “That’s a highly political question. Government forces and Islamist rebels each blame the other side.” It’s obvious, however, that the city’s tall towers and historic minarets were used by snipers at some stage.

    Ottoman mysteries

    In a perhaps ironic twist of fate, in 2007, only a few years before the war, Kzzo and other former students completed a laborious research project in the historic city center of Aleppo. The group of friends volunteered to decipher all the inscriptions that date back to the Ottoman Empire in and around Aleppo. They recorded around 7,000 inscriptions on more than 200 buildings, including mosques, schools, hammams, mausoleums and cemeteries.

    “We had no money, so we had to hitchhike to the more remote places,” recalls the researcher. When asked about his motivation for taking part in this research project, he responds with a laugh: “We just wanted to get our names in the history books.”

    Young and crazy

    Pictures show the young men and women tracing the inscriptions onto transparent paper – amid some daunting circumstances, for example standing on tied-together ladders or sitting atop steep roofs.

    “We were young and crazy,” says Kzzo. Translating the inscriptions proved quite a challenge, since they weren’t only in Arabic, but also in Ottoman Turkish, Armenian and Syriac.

    And it sometimes seemed as if the ancient Ottomans had deliberately wanted to throw off researchers. For instance, rather than a clear date, some foundations featured a line of poetry, with individual letters representing numbers. “Fortunately, the older residents knew about this. Otherwise we would never have figured it out,” says the researcher.

    A three-volume book

    The group’s work was published as a three-volume book in 2010, so in a way, they did end up getting their names in the history books and preserved some of the cultural heritage for posterity.

    A year later the war began, and many of the documented sites were then destroyed. Ahmed Kzzo and his friends are now thinking about setting up a new project using the many pictures they took of the sites all those years ago. “An interactive online map, for example.” Kzzo also gives talks about Aleppo and how it used to look.

    Plundered antiquities

    During his guest stay at UZH, Kzzo is focusing on his postdoc project on scroll seals discovered in the ancient Syrian city of Ebla. These seals were used to verify important documents and could hold the key to understanding a previously unknown part of Syrian history.

    The site of Ebla, just 55 kilometers southwest of current-day Aleppo, was excavated by Italian researchers some 50 years ago [“The Archives of Ebla”-Giovani Pettinato; “Ebla”-Paolo Matthiae; “Eblaitica” edited by Gary Rendsburg; “Eblaite Personal Names and Name Giving”- A. Archi]. “Until then, it was believed that Syria had been under Mesopotamian rule in the centuries before our time,” says the archaeologist. Thanks to the excavations, however, we now know of the independent ancient kingdom of Ebla that existed in Syria.

    The seals, which date back to around 2,000 to 1,500 BC, could shed light on the political life back then. “They might also contain clues as to why Aleppo went on to become more important than other cities in Syria,” believes Kzzo.

    Disheartening side note

    But this project too comes with a disheartening side note. Parts of the ancient site were plundered and destroyed by fighters from the so-called Islamic State – it is believed that antiquities trafficking was one of the terrorist group’s source of funding.

    Ebla saw further destruction as the Syrian Arab Army reclaimed lost territory. And the ongoing civil war in his home country means that Ahmed Kzzo has no other option but to analyze the ancient scroll seals from his computer – using photos.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Zürich (Universität Zürich) (CH), located in the city of Zürich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 26,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy.

    Currently, the university has seven faculties: Philosophy, Human Medicine, Economic Sciences, Law, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Theology and Veterinary Medicine. The university offers the widest range of subjects and courses of any Swiss higher education institutions.
    Since 1833

    As a member of the League of European Research Universities (EU) (LERU) and Universitas 21 (U21) network, the University of Zürich belongs to Europe’s most prestigious research institutions. In 2017, the University of Zürich became a member of the Universitas 21 (U21) network, a global network of 27 research universities from around the world, promoting research collaboration and exchange of knowledge.

    Numerous distinctions highlight the University’s international renown in the fields of medicine, immunology, genetics, neuroscience and structural biology as well as in economics. To date, the Nobel Prize has been conferred on twelve UZH scholars.

    Sharing Knowledge

    The academic excellence of the University of Zürich brings benefits to both the public and the private sectors not only in the Canton of Zürich, but throughout Switzerland. Knowledge is shared in a variety of ways: in addition to granting the general public access to its twelve museums and many of its libraries, the University makes findings from cutting-edge research available to the public in accessible and engaging lecture series and panel discussions.

    1. Identity of the University of Zürich


    The University of Zürich (UZH) is an institution with a strong commitment to the free and open pursuit of scholarship.

    Scholarship is the acquisition, the advancement and the dissemination of knowledge in a methodological and critical manner.

    Academic freedom and responsibility

    To flourish, scholarship must be free from external influences, constraints and ideological pressures. The University of Zürich is committed to unrestricted freedom in research and teaching.

    Academic freedom calls for a high degree of responsibility, including reflection on the ethical implications of research activities for humans, animals and the environment.


    Work in all disciplines at the University is based on a scholarly inquiry into the realities of our world

    As Switzerland’s largest university, the University of Zürich promotes wide diversity in both scholarship and in the fields of study offered. The University fosters free dialogue, respects the individual characteristics of the disciplines, and advances interdisciplinary work.

    2. The University of Zürich’s goals and responsibilities

    Basic principles

    UZH pursues scholarly research and teaching, and provides services for the benefit of the public.

    UZH has successfully positioned itself among the world’s foremost universities. The University attracts the best researchers and students, and promotes junior scholars at all levels of their academic career.

    UZH sets priorities in research and teaching by considering academic requirements and the needs of society. These priorities presuppose basic research and interdisciplinary methods.

    UZH strives to uphold the highest quality in all its activities.
    To secure and improve quality, the University regularly monitors and evaluates its performance.


    UZH contributes to the increase of knowledge through the pursuit of cutting-edge research.

    UZH is primarily a research institution. As such, it enables and expects its members to conduct research, and supports them in doing so.

    While basic research is the core focus at UZH, the University also pursues applied research.

  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on May 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Climate change could erase ancient Indonesian cave art", , Archaeology, , , The study revealed evidence for salt crystallisation (haloclasty) on Pleistocene-aged rock art panels at 11 limestone cave sites in Maros-Pangkep.   

    From Griffith University (AU): “Climate change could erase ancient Indonesian cave art” 

    Griffith U bloc

    From Griffith University (AU)

    May 14, 2021
    Carley Rosengreen

    Credit: Basran Burhan.

    Griffith University-led research has revealed that some of the world’s earliest known rock art is disappearing at an alarming rate. This includes cave paintings dated to at least 44,000 years ago that are believed to be the oldest surviving artistic depictions of hunting scenes and supernatural beings.

    In a study published in Scientific Reports, a team of Australian and Indonesian archaeological scientists, conservation specialists and heritage managers documented the mechanisms behind increasing loss of painted limestone cave surfaces in southern Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    Staff from the BPCB conservation agency undertaking rock art monitoring in Maros-Pangkep. Credit: Rustan Lebe.

    Their findings indicate that deterioration of these globally significant artworks is accelerating in step with climate change.

    The study revealed evidence for salt crystallisation (haloclasty) on Pleistocene-aged rock art panels at 11 limestone cave sites in Maros-Pangkep.

    Study lead, Dr Jillian Huntley from the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, specialises in rock art conservation. Her research scientifically describes the properties of rock art and the caves or rock shelter environments where it survives today.

    Dr Huntley said she was shocked by the extent of salt weathering on the painted limestone cave surfaces in Sulawesi.

    “I was gobsmacked by how prevalent the destructive salt crystals and their chemistry were on the rock art panels, some of which we know to be more than 40,000 years old,” she said.

    Unlike the temperate climates where famous European ice age cave art sites such as Altamira and Lascaux are found, the ancient Indonesian paintings are located in the tropics, the most atmospherically dynamic region on the planet. The mid-latitudes act as the heat engine for global climate cycles, and global warming can be up to three times higher in the tropics as a result.

    Dr Huntley said high temperatures and more consecutive dry days were combining with the retention of monsoonal rains in rice fields and aquaculture ponds to provide ideal conditions for stone decay.

    Climate change could erase ancient Indonesian cave art.

    “Our analyses show that haloclasty is not only chemically weakening the cave surfaces, the growth of salt crystals behind ancient rock art is causing it to flake off the walls – it is disappearing before our eyes,” she said.

    “In my opinion, degradation of this incredible rock art is set to worsen the higher global temperatures climb.”

    The research collaboration was undertaken with specialists from Indonesian peak bodies, the National Research Centre for Archaeology (ARKENAS) and Makassar’s culture heritage department, Balai Pelestarian Cagar Budaya (BPCB).

    ARKENAS director I. Made Geria said: “The rock art of Maros-Pangkep provides crucial insight into the world of ancient Indonesia. Preserving this art for future generations requires the cooperation and long-term commitment of scientific research institutions, cultural heritage agencies, government authorities, and local communities. It also requires us to educate people in Indonesia – and throughout the world – about the urgent need to study and safeguard this irreplaceable evidence of past human civilization.”

    Adhi Agus Oktaviana, an Indonesian rock art expert with ARKENAS and Griffith PhD scholar, said the true extent of the region’s rock art remained unknown.

    “We have recorded over 300 cave art sites in Maros-Pangkep. Our teams continue to survey the area, finding new artworks every year. Almost without exception the paintings are exfoliating and in advanced stages of decay. We are in a race against time,” he said.

    Rustan Lebe, a BPCB archaeologist based in Maros-Pangkep, coordinates an emerging program of rock art and microclimate monitoring in the region. According to Rustan “we have recorded rapid loss of hand-sized spall flakes from these ancient art panels over a single season (less than five months)”.

    “Apart from studying how the salts are forming on the cave walls, it is important to consider the analysis of rock art pigment composition and image production techniques, which could possibly provide insight into why some individual motifs exfoliate more quickly than others.”

    Sulawesian archaeologist and Griffith PhD scholar Basran Burhan was also an integral member of the study team.

    Credit: Linda Siagian.

    “Cave art discoveries are revealing more and more about how advanced the cultural lives of the first peoples living in Sulawesi were. Detailed paintings of animals, hand stencils and narrative scenes of great antiquity show that people have been connected to this place for tens of thousands of years,” he said.

    Aside from the direct impacts associated with industrial development such as mining, altered climate states resulting from global warming are the biggest threat to the preservation of the ice age art of the tropics.

    “The challenges of climate change adaptation for the Indonesian Maritime Continent are complex,” Dr Huntley said.

    “Understanding the mechanisms of rock art weathering is even more critical in this context. Some of the solutions of looming food insecurity such as the expansion of rice fields and aquaculture ponds can have unintended consequences. Holding surface water in these ways enhances humidity, prolonging the seasonal shrink and swell of geological salts, as well as leading to more mineral deposition. All of which leads to rock art degradation.”

    “We urgently need further rock art and conservation research to have the best chance of preserving the Pleistocene cave paintings of Indonesia.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Griffith U Campus

    In 1971, Griffith University (AU) was created to be a new kind of university—one that offered new degrees in progressive fields such as Asian studies and environmental science. At the time, these study areas were revolutionary—today, they’re more important than ever.

    Since then, we’ve grown into a comprehensive, research-intensive university, ranking in the top 5% of universities worldwide. Our teaching and research spans five campuses in South East Queensland and all disciplines, while our network of more than 120,000 graduates extends around the world.

    Griffith continues the progressive traditions of its namesake, Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, who was twice the Premier of Queensland, the first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and the principal author of the Australian Constitution.


    Griffith researchers work in 38 centres and institutes, investigating areas such as water science, climate change adaptation, criminology and crime prevention, sustainable tourism and health and chronic disease.

    The University’s major research institutes include:

    Advanced Design and Prototyping Technologies Institute (ADaPT)
    Australian Rivers Institute
    Cities Research Institute
    Environmental Futures Research Institute
    Griffith Asia Institute
    Griffith Criminology Institute
    Griffith Institute for Educational Research
    Griffith Institute for Tourism
    Institute for Glycomics
    Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems
    Menzies Health Institute Queensland (formerly the Griffith Health Institute)
    Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD)

    Additionally, Griffith hosts several externally supported centres and facilities, including:

    Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention
    National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
    Smart Water Research Centre
    NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Nursing

    Research commercialisation

    Griffith offers research commercialisation and services for business, industry and government through Griffith Enterprise.

    Other centres

    As well as research centres and institutes, Griffith has a number of cultural and community focused organisations. These include the EcoCentre, which provides a space for environmental education activities, exhibitions, seminars and workshops; and the Centre for Interfaith & Cultural Dialogue (formerly the Multi-Faith Centre).

  • richardmitnick 1:06 pm on February 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stonehenge may be dismantled Welsh stone circle", , Archaeology, , , Waun Mawn stone circle   

    From University College London (UK): “Stonehenge may be dismantled Welsh stone circle” 

    UCL bloc

    From University College London (UK)

    11 February 2021
    Jane Bolger
    +44 (0)20 3108 9040

    The stunning discovery, published in Antiquity, has been secretly documented by filmmakers and is the subject of an exclusive BBC programme, Stonehenge: The Lost Circle Revealed.

    The world-famous monument’s smaller stones, or bluestones, are already known to have come from the Preseli Hills of Wales and are thought to have been first erected 5,000 years ago, centuries before Stonehenge’s larger sarsen stones were brought from just 15 miles away.

    Now, the Stones of Stonehenge research team, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson (UCL Institute of Archaeology), has identified megalith quarries for the bluestones and a dismantled stone circle nearby, pointing to them being taken from the circle and recycled 140 miles away, perhaps as a result of migration.

    Professor Parker Pearson said: “I have been leading projects at Stonehenge since 2003 and this is the culmination of twenty years of research. It’s one of the most important discoveries I’ve ever made.”

    The find goes a long way to solving the mystery of why the Stonehenge bluestones were brought from so far away, when all other stone circles were erected within a short distance of their quarries.

    Only four stones remain at Waun Mawn, which is now revealed as having been the third biggest stone circle in Britain, after Avebury in Wiltshire and Stanton Drew in Somerset, and also one of the earliest.

    Archaeological excavations in 2018 revealed empty stoneholes at Waun Mawn, confirming that the four remaining stones were part of a former circle. Scientific dating of charcoal and sediments in the holes confirmed that it was put up around 3400 BC.

    Significantly too, both Waun Mawn and Stonehenge were aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise. One of the bluestones at Stonehenge has an unusual cross-section that matches one of the holes left at Waun Mawn. Chippings in that hole are of the same rock type as the Stonehenge stone. In addition, the Welsh circle had a diameter of 110 metres, the same as that of the ditch that encloses Stonehenge.

    Waun Mawn is further evidence that the Preseli region of Wales was an important and densely settled place in Neolithic Britain, within a concentration of megalithic tombs, or dolmens, and large enclosures. Yet, evidence of activity in the thousand years after 3000 BC is almost non-existent.

    Professor Parker Pearson said: “It’s as if they just vanished. Maybe most of the people migrated, taking their stones – their ancestral identities – with them, to start again in this other special place. This extraordinary event may also have served to unite the peoples of east and west Britain.”

    Recent isotopic analysis of people buried at Stonehenge when the bluestones are thought to have arrived reveals that the first people to be buried there came from western Britain, very possibly west Wales.

    Some 43 bluestones survive today at Stonehenge, although many of these are today buried beneath the grass. Another long-distance mover is the Altar Stone, recently confirmed as sourced from the Brecon Beacons in South Wales.

    Professor Parker Pearson wonders if this too may have been part of another Welsh monument: “With an estimated 80 bluestones put up on Salisbury Plain at Stonehenge and nearby Bluestonehenge, my guess is that Waun Mawn was not the only stone circle that contributed to Stonehenge. Maybe there are more in Preseli waiting to be found. Who knows? Someone might be lucky enough to find them.”

    The Stones of Stonehenge research team is led by UCL with Bournemouth University, the University of Southampton, the University of the Highlands & Islands and Aerial-Cam Ltd.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCL campus

    UCL (UK) was founded in 1826 to open up higher education in England to those who had been excluded from it – becoming the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms with men in 1878.

    Academic excellence and research that addresses real-world problems inform our ethos to this day and are central to our 20-year strategy.

  • richardmitnick 11:46 am on January 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A New Archaeology for the Anthropocene Era", Addressing such thoroughly modern challenges as biodiversity; conservation; food security and climate change., , , Archaeology, Archaeology today has a great deal to contribute to addressing the challenges of the modern era., Humans in the present era have become one of the great forces shaping nature., Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) [Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte] (DE),   

    From Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) [Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte] (DE): “A New Archaeology for the Anthropocene Era” 

    Max Planck Gesellschaft

    From Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) [Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte] (DE)

    January 18, 2021
    Prof. Nicole Boivin

    Scantily clad tomb raiders and cloistered scholars piecing together old pots – these are the kinds of stereotypes of archaeology that dominate public perception. Yet archaeology in the new millennium is a world away from these images. In a major new report, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History probe a thoroughly modern and scientific discipline to understand how it is helping to address the considerable challenges of the Anthropocene.

    Information from disciplines like archaeology, history, historical ecology and palaeoecology has an important role to play in shaping sustainable solutions to the challenges of the Anthropocene. Credit: Michelle O’Reilly, MPI-SHH.

    Indiana Jones and Lara Croft have a lot to answer for. Public perceptions of archaeology are often thoroughly outdated, and these characterisations do little to help.

    Yet archaeology as practiced today bears virtually no resemblance to the tomb raiding portrayed in movies and video games. Indeed, it bears little resemblance to even more scholarly depictions of the discipline in the entertainment sphere.

    A paper published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution aims to give pause to an audience that has been largely prepared to take such out-of-touch depictions at face value. It reveals an archaeology practiced by scientists in white lab coats, using multi-million-euro instrumentation and state of the art computers.

    It also reveals an archaeology poised to contribute in major ways to addressing such thoroughly modern challenges as biodiversity conservation, food security and climate change.

    “Archaeology today is a dramatically different discipline to what it was a century ago,” observes Nicole Boivin, lead author of the study and Director of the Institute’s Department of Archaeology. “While the tomb raiding we see portrayed in movies is over the top, the archaeology of the past was probably closer to this than to present-day archaeology. Much archaeology today is in contrast highly scientific in orientation, and aimed at addressing modern-day issues.”

    Around the world today, we can find many examples of how past cultural and technological practices and solutions are being revived to address pressing environmental and land management challenges. Examples include (left to right) mobilization of ancient terra preta (anthropogenic dark earth) technology, revitalization of landesque capital (long-term landscape investments) and adoption of traditional fire management regimes. Credit: Michelle O’Reilly, MPI-SHH.

    Examining the research contributions of the field over the past few decades, the authors reach a clear conclusion – archaeology today has a great deal to contribute to addressing the challenges of the modern era.

    “Humans in the present era have become one of the great forces shaping nature,” emphasizes Alison Crowther, coauthor and researcher at both the University of Queensland and the MPI Science of Human History. “When we say we have entered a new, human-dominated geological era, the Anthropocene, we acknowledge that role.”

    How can archaeology, a discipline focused on the past, hope to address the challenges we face in the Anthropocene?

    “It is clear that the past offers a vast repertoire of cultural knowledge that we cannot ignore,” highlights Professor Boivin.

    The two researchers show the many ways that data about the past can serve the future. By analysing what worked and didn’t work in the past – effectively offering long-term experiments in human society – archaeologists gain insight into the factors that support sustainability and resilience, and the factors that work against them. They also highlight ancient solutions to modern problems.

    “We show how researchers have improved the modern world by drawing upon information about the ways people in the past enriched soils, prevented destructive fires, created greener cities and transported water without fossil fuels,” notes Dr. Crowther.

    People also continue to use, and adapt, ancient technologies and infrastructure, including terrace and irrigation systems that are in some cases centuries or even millennia old.

    But the researchers are keen to highlight the continued importance of technological and social solutions to climate change and the other challenges of the Anthropocene.

    “It’s not about glorifying the past, or vilifying progress,” emphasizes Professor Boivin. “Instead, it’s about bringing together the best of the past, present and future to steer a responsible and constructive course for humanity.”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH)[Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte] (DE) in Jena was founded in 2014 to target fundamental questions of human history and evolution since the Paleolithic. It currently consists of three interdisciplinary research departments that integrate methods and research questions from the natural sciences and the humanities: the Department of Archaeology, the Department of Archaeogenetics, and the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution.

    The MPI-SHH assembles experts, and large datasets, from research areas as diverse as archaeological science, anthropology, bioinformatics, proteomics, ancient genetics, quantitative linguistics, and others, to explore big questions of the human past:

    the settlement history of the world through past human migrations and genetic admixture events
    the impact of climatic and environmental change on human subsistence in different world regions
    human modification of ecosystems
    past human nutrition
    the spread and diversification of human-associated microbes and infectious diseases
    the spread and diversification of languages, cultures, and social practices
    the co-evolution of genes and culture

  • richardmitnick 9:52 am on January 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Bitter Archaeological Feud Over an Ancient Vision of the Cosmos", , Archaeology, , ,   

    From The New York Times: “A Bitter Archaeological Feud Over an Ancient Vision of the Cosmos” 

    From The New York Times

    Jan. 19, 2021
    Becky Ferreira

    The Nebra sky disk under a scanning electron microscope in a laboratory in Grevesmuehlen, Germany, in 2003.Credit: dpa picture alliance/Alamy.

    The disk is small — just 12 inches in diameter — but it has loomed large in the minds of people across millenniums. Made of bronze, the artifact was inlaid in gold with an ancient vision of the cosmos by its crafters. Over generations, it was updated with new astronomical insights, until it was buried beneath land that would become the Federal Republic of Germany thousands of years later.

    This is the Nebra sky disk, and nothing else like it has been found in European archaeology. Many archaeologists have declared it the oldest known representation of the heavens, and to Germans it is a beloved emblem of heritage that connects them with ancient sky watchers.

    “The sky disk is a window to look into the minds of these people,” said Ernst Pernicka, a senior professor at Tübingen University and a director of the Curt-Engelhorn Center for Archaeometry in Mannheim.

    Rupert Gebhard, the director of the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich, said, “It’s a very emotional object.”

    But while Dr. Gebhard and Dr. Pernicka both acknowledge the disk’s past and present cultural resonance, they do not agree about much more. The two men and others are polarized by a bitter archaeological feud over the object’s true age. Many side with Dr. Pernicka in saying that the object is roughly 3,600 years old and comes from the Bronze Age. But Dr. Gebhard and some colleagues hold firm to their arguments that it must be about 1,000 years younger, saying it shares more with totems of the Iron Age.

    The dispute is an “unhappy situation,” said Harald Meller, a professor at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg and director of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, the German institution that is the sky disk’s home. He stands by his conclusion that the disk dates to the Bronze Age.

    A paper published late last year by Dr. Pernicka and Dr. Meller offered a strong rebuttal to the case for the Iron Age made by Dr. Gebhard and Rüdiger Krause, a professor of prehistory and early European history at Goethe University Frankfurt. While some believe this should settle the argument, other archaeologists think the debate will, and should, continue.

    “This controversial discussion of questions that have not yet been finally clarified will trigger new investigations, especially in Halle, and motivate research to make progress,” said Wolfgang David, the executive director of the Archaeological Museum Frankfurt, who has not been involved in either side’s studies.

    The Nebra sky disk is plundered treasure. This is where the problems all begin.

    Two men claimed they found the disk, along with other ancient artifacts, during the summer of 1999 on a hillside called the Mittelberg near the town of Nebra, about an hour’s drive southwest of Halle. After denting and scratching the artifact as they dug it up, they sold it and the rest of the hoard to a trader in black market antiquities.

    Authorities recovered the disk in a 2002 sting operation, which Dr. Meller participated in, and prosecuted the original looters, who ultimately revealed the site where they had discovered the disk in exchange for a plea bargain.

    Dr. Meller also led the excavation of the Nebra site and worked with other archaeologists to establish its Bronze Age provenance. In earlier years, some scientists said the object was a forgery. But consensus eventually emerged that the disk was made by ancient people, and Dr. Meller has promoted the interpretation of the object as the oldest known human expression of clear astronomical phenomena, such as the Pleiades star cluster.

    “There’s plenty of evidence for archaeoastronomical orientations and an interest in cosmology and the night sky, the day sky, the planets and the stars during the Bronze Age,” said Alison Sheridan, an archaeologist who has worked with National Museums Scotland and was formerly president of the Prehistoric Society, an international group that promotes prehistoric research. However, the Nebra sky disk is “the oldest example of when somebody made a representation of that on material culture,” she said.

    The sky disk may reach new heights later this year when Matthias Maurer, a German astronaut, heads to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX capsule. Dr. Maurer incorporated the disk’s iconography into the design of the patch he will wear during the mission.

    Dr. Gebhard and Dr. Krause challenged that Bronze Age timeline in a study published last year in the journal Archäologische Informationen, saying that the object originated in the Iron Age, about 1,000 years later.

    “There is a very unclear situation about the history of finding the disk,” Dr. Krause said. “This is the big problem we have to solve somehow.”

    The two archaeologists argue that the disk must have been found at another location and reburied with unaffiliated artifacts at the Mittelberg site to make it appear to be from the Bronze Age, and therefore more valuable. They point in part to an account that one of the looters gave in a book, and claim that since they published their study in September other traders in the antiquities black market contacted them to affirm rumors that the disk was from another spot.

    “This site at the Mittelberg is obsolete,” Dr. Gebhard said. “We think it’s necessary to look around to a new site.”

    They believe that because of the enormous cultural significance of the disk for Saxony-Anhalt, the German state where Halle and Nebra are, criticism of its popular origin story has been stifled.

    Dr. Pernicka, Dr. Meller and other colleagues responded with a rebuttal published in November in the journal Archaeologia Austriaca that reasserts the Bronze Age roots of the artifact.

    To counter rumors that the disk came from another site, they first point out that both looters testified in court that they had unearthed the hoard, complete with the disk, at the Mittelberg site. That testimony “was corroborated by a lot of scientific or forensic evidence,” said Flemming Kaul, a senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, who was not involved with either study.

    Dr. Meller and his colleagues think the disk fulfilled sophisticated religious and calendric purposes for the people who made it. In their new study, they speculate that the Mittelberg site may have been selected as the resting place for the disk — along with two swords, two axes, a chisel and arm spirals in the hoard — because it served as an elevated perch for astronomical observations.

    “It was not thrown away,” Dr. Pernicka said of the contents buried at the site. It was a deliberate arrangement, he said, which might have been a ceremonial burial without a body or an offering to the gods.

    “We see this actually quite a lot in the Bronze Age, these so-called depositions, or ‘hoards of bronzes,’” said Maikel Kuijpers, an assistant professor in European prehistory at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who was not involved in either study.

    The scientific basis for the claim of Bronze Age origin rests on a small piece of birch bark, ensconced in the handle of one of the swords, which was carbon-dated to about 1,600 B.C. Over all, the hoard appears typical of the Bronze Age, which some experts think strengthens the case that the disk also hails from that era.

    “Unless it can be proved that the looters intentionally assembled a perfectly calibrated set of objects to set off an intellectual feud among specialists, the most parsimonious interpretation is that the pieces were found together,” said Bettina Arnold, an archaeologist and professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who was not involved with either study.

    The teams also disagree on evidence provided by soil samples, the provenance of the disk’s metals and the meaning of the bewitching celestial scenes that decorate its face.

    Dr. Pernicka’s analysis of the Mittelberg site revealed concentrations of gold and copper in the soil, suggesting that metals from the disk had leached out over thousands of years. Dr. Gebhard and Dr. Krause are not convinced that those particles are linked to the disk, and they recommend further comparative soil analysis.

    A detail of the disk.Credit: Kenneth Garrett/Danita Delimont, via Alamy.

    The debate over whether the disk’s iconography evokes the Bronze or Iron Age is more nebulous. Take the curious semicircle at the bottom of its face: Many archaeologists believe this feature, which was added some time after the disk was first created, represents a solar barge, a mythological vessel associated with an ancient Egyptian religion. The presence of this barge, known also as a barque, could hint at the northward spread of Mediterranean motifs across Europe in the Bronze Age.

    “The Nebra sky disk should be considered as a religious object of utmost importance for our understanding of Bronze Age religion,” Dr. Kaul said. “When considering this figure as a solar barque in particular, it stands among the earliest renderings of the sun ship in the iconography of Europe.”

    The solar barge interpretation is challenged by Dr. Gebhard and Dr. Krause, who think the curved shape of the figure does not match contemporaneous depictions of such sky boats found in dig sites from Egypt up through Scandinavia.

    “We have no pictures, indeed, with barges which are totally round,” Dr. Gebhard said.

    If their hypothesis about the solar barge is accurate, it raises doubts about the circular icon on the disk, commonly thought to be the sun. Dr. Gebhard and Dr. Krause counter that it is a full moon, situated to the left of the crescent phase. This interpretation of the disk, along with the presence of so many stars, corresponds to how European cultures of the Iron Age viewed the night sky, they say.

    “In the Bronze Age, the disk is unique in form and decoration,” Dr. David said. “The representations are too naturalistic for the early and middle Bronze Age, in which lunar and solar motifs are represented in a very abstract way.”

    However, some archaeologists have come to the opposite conclusion. Dr. Arnold said the disk was “much more consistent with Bronze Age iconographic and ideological concepts than those of the Iron Age in Central Europe,” and Dr. Kaul said he had “no problems with the iconography of the Nebra sky disk in European middle Bronze Age context.”

    Dr. Kuijpers sees problems with both sides’ views on the iconography because the disk “doesn’t fit either period,” he said. In his view, the fixation on an artifact that is without parallel is the biggest problem with this dispute.

    “It’s really unfortunate if we put all our focus on one exceptional status object,” Dr. Kuijpers said. “I think that’s not helping our discipline and what we can actually do. It’s great and fantastic to study and look at, but also, in a way, irrelevant to the bigger picture of normal early Bronze Age society.”

    While parts of the iconography debate will remain subjective, Dr. Sheridan said she thought Dr. Pernicka and Dr. Meller’s article should settle the argument that the artifact was “a genuine early Bronze Age find.”

    But the Nebra sky disk is an archaeological wild card, made as much from secrets as it is from gold, bronze and copper. The visual flare of its cosmic tableau continues to captivate public imagination, even as its elusive significance and the crimes that led to its excavation imbue the relic with tantalizing mystery.

    “While on balance the evidence (such as it is) is tilted in favor of a Bronze Age date,” Dr. Arnold wrote in an email, “the Nebra Disk is a fascinating but tragic find whose true importance will likely remain obscure no matter how many tests it is subjected to.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 11:04 am on January 16, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Hidden secrets revealed in microscopic images of ancient artifacts", , Archaeology, , , , , ,   

    From Live Science: “Hidden secrets revealed in microscopic images of ancient artifacts” 

    From Live Science

    Mindy Weisberger

    Close-up images display the unseen beauty in objects from the past.

    As seen under a microscope, a basalt inclusion in a ceramic tile from Gordion, an ancient site in what is now Turkey.
    © Courtesy of Penn Museum.

    Highly magnified views of archaeological artifacts display their extraordinary hidden beauty and reveal intriguing clues about how they were crafted and used long ago.

    For example, a 17th-century Persian textile contains fibers of silk thread that were individually wrapped with thin strips of metal. And the microstructure of a needle from Cyprus retains the touch of the person who shaped it, in traces of dark corrosion that emerged as the needle was rotated and hammered.

    These and other zoomed-in archaeological images are showcased in a new exhibit called Invisible Beauty: The Art of Archaeological Science, which opens at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia on Jan. 16.

    In another striking image, a bit of basalt glitters in a ceramic roof tile from Gordion, a site in Turkey that was inhabited from at least 2300 B.C., during the early Bronze Age (the tile dates to the first half of the sixth century B.C.). Basalt, a volcanic rock, looks dull and black to the naked eye. But when viewed in polarized light under a microscope, it shimmers with vivid colors.

    Inclusions such as basalt in a roof tile can tell archaeologists if the tile was made locally or imported, and this information can help them piece together historic trade routes and exchange networks, said Marie-Claude Boileau, co-curator of the exhibit and director of the Penn Museum’s Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAMM).

    The image is stunning not only because of the color-saturated crystals but also for the story it tells, she told Live Science.

    “We’re also trying to figure out the technology of those who made those tiles — how they mixed the clays and how they added any type of inclusions, including those pieces of basalt,” she said. All of the imaging in the exhibit was carried out at CAMM, most of it conducted by undergraduate and graduate students.

    Analysis of light-colored spots on a gold bead from the cloak of Queen Puabi of Ur helps researchers trace the geological origin of the gold. Credit: Penn Museum.

    Since the invention of the microscope in the 16th century, scientists have used magnification and light to peer at organisms and structures too small to be seen with the naked eye. Today, high-powered modern microscopes offer a glimpse of worlds that researchers centuries ago could only dream of seeing, such as a water flea giving birth, vessels surrounding the brain of a juvenile zebrafish and even footage of individual living cells in 3D.

    Discoveries of ancient mummies, long-lost cities, tools, jewelry and other items help experts piece together humanity’s past, and imaging technologies allow scientists to conduct noninvasive investigations that don’t damage delicate materials. With microscopy, X-rays, magnetic radiometry, and infrared and ultraviolet light, scientists can access concealed evidence about ancient societies.

    “People are really used to seeing archaeologists in the field doing the excavations; we really wanted to show the scale of analysis that we can do,” Boileau said. “Even from the smallest piece of an artifact or specimen, we get a lot of information about the past.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 10:24 am on September 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How Old Is This Ancient Vision of the Stars?", , Archaeology, , ,   

    From The New York Times: “How Old Is This Ancient Vision of the Stars?” 

    From The New York Times

    Sept. 13, 2020
    Becky Ferreira

    The Nebra sky disk, an ancient ornament discovered near Nebra, Germany, which two scientists have proposed is 1,000 years younger than originally believed. Credit: Hildegard Burri-Bayer.

    The Nebra sky disk has been hailed as the oldest known representation of the cosmos. Uncovered by looters in 1999 and then recovered in a sting by archaeologists and law enforcement a few years later, the ancient bronze artifact, inlaid with gold decorations of the night sky, has provoked heated debates.

    Now, a pair of German archaeologists are calling into question the age and origin of the disk, adding another chapter to the complex saga of the enchanting object.

    The disk is currently judged to be about 3,600 years old, dating it to the Bronze Age. The looters who initially uncovered it said it was buried on a hilltop near the town of Nebra in Germany, next to weapons from the same era.

    Rupert Gebhard, director of the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich, and Rüdiger Krause, a professor of early European history at Goethe University Frankfurt, now propose that the disk is a product of the Iron Age, which would make it about 1,000 years younger.

    The researchers also argue that the disk was most likely moved by looters to the Nebra site from another location, meaning it may not be associated with the other artifacts, or Nebra itself, according to a study published this month in the journal Archäologische Informationen.

    “We regard the disk as a single find, as a single artifact, because nothing fits to it in the surrounding area,” Dr. Krause said.

    The State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany, which exhibits the Nebra sky disk, issued a statement [https://www.lda-lsa.de/aktuelles/meldung/datum/2020/09/03/himmelsscheibe_von_nebra_eisenzeitlich_eine_richtigstellung/ (English follows German)] calling the team’s conclusions “demonstrably incorrect” and “easily refuted.”

    “The biggest mistake in science is if you don’t refer to the whole data,” said Harald Meller, the museum’s director. “What these colleagues do is refer only to very limited data that seems to fit their system.”

    Dr. Gebhard and Dr. Krause raised doubts about several earlier assumptions concerning the disk.

    The artifact is thought to be affiliated with the Bronze Age items in part because soil on the objects indicated a common period, but the study points to conflicting court documents about those assessments. Some of the weapons associated with the disk may not date to the Bronze Age, or come from the same deposit, according to Dr. Gebhard and Dr. Krause.

    The researchers suspect that the original looters may have moved the artifacts to the Nebra location to keep their site a secret from professional archaeologists.

    “They never tell you the place where they excavated because it is like a treasure box for them,” Dr. Gebhard said. “They just go back to the same place to get, and sell, new material.”

    Disputes about the authenticity of the Nebra sky disk are not uncommon. Its spectacular design has awed both experts and the public, but it has also provoked concerns [The Guardian] that it could be a forgery.

    “The problem here is that it’s such a one-off,” said Alison Sheridan, former president of the Prehistoric Society, who is not involved with either team. “That’s why people have said, Maybe it’s a fake.”

    Emilia Pásztor, an archaeologist at the Türr István museum in Hungary who has studied the disk, noted that its black market background amplifies these uncertainties.

    “The Nebra disk, due to the circumstances of the discovery,” she said, “belongs to those archaeological finds that can be debated forever until some very accurate absolute dating method can be found for metals.”

    Still, there is now a strong consensus that the Nebra sky disk is a bona fide ancient artifact.

    “It’s original. It’s not a fake,” Dr. Krause said of the disk. “What you can make out of it is a very interesting scientific discussion that shows the various different sides, or objectives, of how to judge this object, either in the Bronze or in the Iron Age.”

    To that end, Dr. Meller’s team intends to publish a rebuttal of the new study. Other archaeologists think they will have plenty to work with.

    “What’s been presented here certainly does not blow out of the water the argument that it’s Bronze Age,” Dr. Sheridan of the new study.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 9:50 am on August 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Southeast Asian megadrought dating back 5000 years discovered in Laos cave", Archaeology, Evidence for the megadrought came from Laos’ Luang Prabang Province where White has worked since 2001., Joyce White, Much like tree rings stalagmites have rings that contain datable signs of changing climate., , ,   

    From Penn Today: Women in STEM-“Southeast Asian megadrought dating back 5,000 years discovered in Laos cave” Joyce White 

    From Penn Today

    August 21, 2020
    Michele W. Berger

    In a Q&A, Penn archaeologist Joyce White discusses the partnership with paleoclimatologists that led to the finding, plus possible implications of such a dramatic climate change for societies at that time.

    Penn archaeologist Joyce White (center) has been working in Laos since 2001 with teams like the one shown here. Discovering evidence of a 1,000-year drought in a Laos cave was unexpected, she says, but does answer some questions about the Middle Holocene, a period she’d previously described as the “missing millennia.” (Pre-pandemic image: Courtesy of Joyce White.)

    Southeast Asia typically evokes rich and wet tropical forests. So, the discovery of a drought more than 1,000 years long beginning about 5,000 years ago was an unexpected outcome from research started by the Penn Museum’s Joyce White nearly two decades ago. She and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine; William Paterson University; the University of Quebec; and more published these findings in the journal Nature Communications.

    Evidence for the megadrought came from Laos’ Luang Prabang Province, where White has worked since 2001. A Henry Luce Foundation grant enabled the research program to expand starting in 2008, and a paleoclimate team that included William Paterson’s Michael Griffiths and Kathleen Johnson of UCI, co-lead authors on the latest paper, joined in 2010. Some of their work included collecting stalagmite samples from the Tham Doun Mai cave along the Ou River.

    Much like tree rings, stalagmites have rings that contain datable signs of changing climate. As rainwater drips through cracks in a cave’s roof, it interacts with a mineral called calcite to form stalactites on the cave’s ceiling. As that water-mineral mixture drips from the stalactite, stalagmites form on the floor below, building over time, layer by layer.

    “From those rings, we can interpret the occurrence of various climate events,” says White, who directs the Penn Museum’s Middle Mekong Archaeological Project and is an adjunct professor in Penn’s Department of Anthropology. “In this case, two of the stalagmites stopped growing for several hundred years, then started to grow again.” Chemical analyses confirmed that a prolonged drought lasting more than 1,000 years caused the cessation.

    When combined with climate modeling, the cave evidence seems connected to changes in vegetation and dust in northern Africa that happened around the same time—right around when the Sahara transitioned from forest to desert. The modeling also showed how such changes in northern Africa could affect rainfall across Southeast Asia. Penn Today talked with White about what the discovery means, plus the work that led to it.

    Rock shelters in Laos near the Tham Doun Mai cave where researchers found evidence of the 1,000-year megadrought. (Pre-pandemic image courtesy of Joyce White)

    What’s the main finding of this research?

    There was this absolutely huge drought that lasted for more than 1,000 years that occurred in the Middle Holocene. That’s amazing in and of itself and wasn’t really anticipated by other research. This is outstanding evidence for the type of climate change that must have affected societies, what plants were available, what animals were available. All of biotic life had to adjust to this very different climate. From an archaeological point of view, this really is a game changer in how we try to understand and reconstruct this period.

    When you refer to the Middle Holocene, what do you mean?

    The Holocene in general is commonly considered to begin about 11,000 years ago, and the Middle Holocene is from about 6,000 to 4,000 years ago.

    Before this finding, what did we know about the Holocene?

    We understood pretty well what was going on in the Early Holocene, essentially hunting and gathering. We also knew that the Late Holocene was an agrarian period. The link between the two was still a mystery, mysterious partly because there is a Middle Holocene gap in the archaeological record in interior Southeast Asia, what I’d been calling the missing millennia.

    There’s a mountain range between Vietnam and the Mekong Valley, where Laos is. On the Vietnam side, there are many Middle Holocene sites, but I wanted to find those on the west side, on the Laos side in the Mekong Valley. Archaeology is very much the tortoise and not the hare; you can’t necessarily go into a region and know you’re going to find evidence for whatever you’re hypothesizing. You record whatever you find, and that takes energy and time. We knew the Middle Holocene had to be there somewhere. I figured we just didn’t quite understand the landscape yet. This was before we knew about this drought.

    How did this archaeological work in Laos begin?

    Like many countries in Southeast Asia, Laos was not accessible to research until the ’90s. However, Thailand has been an area of archaeological study since the 1960s, and Penn was one of a handful of pioneering universities that undertook fieldwork there. The site we’re most famous for is Ban Chiang, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and research related to that site is one of my main research endeavors.

    In the late 1990s, the director of the Penn Museum urged me to set up a project in Laos. In those days, that wasn’t an easy thing to do. When I got there, I was assigned a counterpart. We rented a truck and drove around first near Vientiane, the capital, followed by a brief trip to Luang Prabang, a former royal capital. In about two and a half days in Luang Prabang, I saw evidence of 10,000 years of human occupation, which is not an everyday occurrence for an archaeologist. It was mind-blowing.

    During that initial trip, you’ve said that you noticed Luang Prabang was located at the intersection of the Seuang, Khan, and Ou rivers, where they meet and flow into the Mekong. How did that guide your next steps?

    I decided I wanted to do a regional survey that looked at all three rivers, not just one, because you could pick the wrong one. We would use mobile GIS, which was cutting edge at that time, and have three separate teams exploring each river independently. Then we’d collate the data. I took another trip to get the Lao government to agree to my plan, and it took a year or two to raise money.

    In 2005, with grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society, we conducted the first formal survey of the Middle Mekong Archaeological Project. Everything was joint teams; I wanted 50-50 Lao, non-Lao teams. In about three weeks, we found nearly 60 sites, which demonstrated that this was an archaeologically rich area. We found evidence of the Stone Age, ceramics of a wide variety, the kind of thing you can find on the surface of sites and in caves.

    We started test excavations of cave sites beginning in 2007. The research being published today is from 2010, the first season the paleoclimatologists joined us. They looked at many other sites, but that one on the Ou River and in the Tham Doun Mai cave was the outstanding one.

    How did the team unearth the megadrought?

    When rainwater from stalactites drips, stalagmites form beneath. Based on their growth and chemistry, the layers can be dated. For two of the stalactites, the dripping stopped, and preliminary data show it was for 1,000 to 2,000 years. That indicates that it wasn’t just a dry spell. It was massive.

    This type of complete change in climate has to have an impact on the biotic life, but we don’t really understand that in detail yet. That being said, I think this is going to change the conversation about that whole period across Eurasia and certainly Southeast Asia. The fact that there are profound climatic phenomena at a continental scale in the Holocene timeframe is quite new in scholarly conversations among archaeologists. This kind of research, when you combine archaeology, paleoclimatology, and modeling, will more effectively bring out this type of finding.

    What’s next for your work?

    With COVID, who knows when we can start fieldwork again. We didn’t finish our survey on the Ou River so I would like to do that. But to flesh out the human part of the story, we need to look at aspects of our excavated evidence, including shells we had collected from the four tested sites, which were different ranges of species. Once you know what the shell is adapted to, you can get human-scaled evidence for change of subsistence and environment. We made great headway this past January and we have other animal remains to study, too. You can get some nice tight data that inform much more on the human dimension in relationship to the massive climate shifts.

    See the full article here .


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    Stem Education Coalition

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