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  • richardmitnick 7:58 am on July 30, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Whence Came Stonehenge’s Stones? Now We Know", , Archaeology, , , ,   

    From The New York Times: “Whence Came Stonehenge’s Stones? Now We Know” 

    From The New York Times

    July 29, 2020
    Franz Lidz

    1
    Stonehenge, roughly 5,000 years old, is made up of two kinds of stones, called bluestones and sarsens, the latter of which weigh 25 tons on average. Credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images.

    Back in the 30s — the 1130s — the Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth created the impression that Stonehenge was built as a memorial to a bunch of British nobles slain by the Saxons. In his Historia Regum Britanniae, Geoffrey tells us that Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend, was enlisted to move a ring of giant mystical stones from Mount Killaraus in Ireland to what is commonly believed to be Salisbury Plain, a chalk plateau in southern England, where Stonehenge is located.

    Back in the 50s — the 1950s — a chunk of rock went missing from the magical tumble of megaliths that now comprise Stonehenge. The chunk, a three-and-a-half foot cylindrical core, had been drilled out of one of the site’s massive sarsen stones during repairs and taken home by an employee of the diamond-cutting firm that carried out the work.

    The core, recently repatriated after 60 years, turned out to be pivotal to an academic paper published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. The study pinpointed the source of the sarsens, a mystery that has long bedeviled geologists and archaeologists.

    Although the project did not identify the specific spot where the stones came from, Mike Pitts, editor of the magazine British Archaeology, believes that the discovery makes the search for sarsen quarries a realistic option. “If we can find them, we could learn about how they were dressed and moved, and importantly we might be able to date that activity,” he said. “Dating matters, because then we can say what else was present in the landscape at the same time, what was old or gone and what was still to come — other sites are better dated — and of course who actually built the thing.”

    2
    Archaeological excavations on Stonehenge in 1958. Credit: English Heritage, via Reuters.

    Two kinds of stones make up the roughly 5,000-year-old monument known as Stonehenge. A small inner horseshoe consists of 2- to 4-ton blocks of varied geology, called bluestone after the bluish-gray hue they have when wet or freshly broken. The sarsens, sandstone slabs that weigh 20 tons on average, form Stonehenge’s enormous central horseshoe, the uprights and lintels of the ragged outer circle, as well as the outlying Heel Stone, Slaughter Stone and Station Stones.

    Geologists determined nearly a century ago that the bluestones were dragged, carried or rolled to Stonehenge from somewhere in the Preseli Hills in western Wales, some 180 miles away. Last year a team of archaeologists led by Michael Parker Pearson of University College London revealed evidence of the exact location of two of the quarries.

    As for the sarsens, conventional wisdom holds that they derived from deposits on the highest points of the Marlborough Downs, 18 miles north of Stonehenge.

    David Nash, a geomorphologist at the University of Brighton and lead author on the new sarsen study, said the idea that the slabs hailed from the Downs dates to the writings of William Lambarde, a 16th-century antiquarian.

    “Lambarde came to that conclusion based on little more than the appearance of the stones on the Downs and their similarity to those at Stonehenge,” Dr. Nash said. “This idea has stuck around for more than 400 years but has never been tested.”

    Dr. Nash has traced the source of almost all the sarsens to West Woods, on the southern edge of the Downs and several miles closer to Stonehenge. His team analyzed the geochemical fingerprint of the 52 sarsens that remain in situ at the ancient site.

    The breakthrough came last summer when the long-lost core from Stone 58 was returned to English Heritage, the charity that manages Stonehenge. The sarsen cylinder offered Dr. Nash the unique opportunity to analyze a sample unaffected by surface weathering, which can slightly alter the chemical composition. Drilling through the ancient stones is now discouraged.

    “There are literally thousands of pieces of sarsen sitting in museums across Britain,” he said. “However, to my knowledge, the core from 58 is the only piece where we can identify precisely which stone it came from.”

    4
    David Nash, a geomorphologist at University of Brighton, examining a core from Stone 58 that was stolen in the 1950s and was recently repatriated. Credit: Sam Frost/English Heritage.

    To determine its chemical makeup, researchers used a variety of noninvasive spectrometry techniques. Once the geochemical signature was established, they sampled sarsens from 20 locations across southern England, including six on the Downs. A data set comparison resulted in a single match, West Woods.

    Only two of the sarsens, Stones 26 and 160, appear to have come from elsewhere in the region. “The biggest surprise for me was finding out that the chemistry of the remaining sarsens was so consistent,” said Dr. Nash. “I expected a little more variability.”

    The only other authority thought to have linked West Woods and Stonehenge is John Aubrey, biographer and philosopher who surveyed the monument in the 17th century and was the first to record a ring of 56 chalk pits, now called Aubrey Holes. “Aubrey reckoned that he’d found the source of Stonehenge’s sarsens, a large quarry pit just 14 miles north of Stonehenge,” said Dr. Parker Pearson. “Given that West Woods is around 15 miles away, it’s very possible that he got it right the first time! And it’s taken us 340 years to find out again.”

    For his part, Dr. Nash writes it off to archaeologists “not seeing the wood for the trees.”

    Or perhaps leaving stones unturned.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:04 am on July 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Australian story told beneath the sea", Aboriginal artefacts, , , Archaeology, , , , , , , , , told beneath the sea"   

    From COSMOS: “The Australian story, told beneath the sea” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS

    2 July 2020
    Natalie Parletta

    Archaeological sites could fill vast historical gaps.

    1
    The survey area in the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. Credit: Flinders University.

    Submerged archaeological sites discovered off Australia’s northwest coast offer a new window into the migrations, lives and cultures of Aboriginal people thousands of years ago, when the continental shelf was dry.

    This was a time when around 20 million square kilometres of land was exposed, before the last glacial loosened its grip on the planet and melted ice drowned coastal areas – and large swaths of human history – under the sea.

    In Australia alone, two million square kilometres were flooded, hemming back a third of the continent.

    “You’re talking about a huge, expansive cultural landscape inhabited by Aboriginal people all over the country… which is just a blank, empty map,” says Jonathan Benjamin from Flinders University, lead author of a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE.

    “So if you’re looking for the whole picture on Australia’s ancient past, you’ve got to look under water, there’s just no question.”

    Yet the country’s appreciation for underwater archaeology is only just emerging, after taking off in Europe over the last two decades with a growing number of sites revealed in the Mediterranean, the Baltic and the North Sea.

    This is a first for Australia – and the discovery was a leap of faith.

    “It was a high-risk project,” says Benjamin. “There was no guarantee that we would make a discovery of this nature, and we did.”

    His team, which included colleagues from Flinders, the University of Western Australia and James Cook University, set out to show that ancient Aboriginal sites could be preserved on the seabed, venturing into unexplored territory with divers, boats, aircrafts and remote underwater sensing technologies.

    1
    Aboriginal artefacts discovered off the Pilbara coast in Western Australia represent Australia’s oldest known underwater archaeology. Credit: Flinders University.

    The Deep History of Sea Country project, in partnership with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, revealed two submerged settings in Murujuga Sea Country off the Pilbara coast around the Dampier Archipelago.

    One site, at Flying Foam Passage, was estimated to be at least 8500 years old and bore evidence of human activity associated with a freshwater spring 14 metres deep.

    The other was at Cape Bruguieres, with more than 260 lithic artefacts discovered up to 2.4 metres below sea level, dated to at least 7000 years old using radiocarbon and sea-level change analysis along with predictive modelling.

    The artefacts included various food processing, cutting, grinding and muller tools, such as a combined hammer stone and grindstone, which would have been used to grind seeds.

    “So you start to see the kinds of activities and the ideas that people had in mind,” says Benjamin. “They weren’t just randomly bashing rocks together; they were creating a tool that was for a purpose, whether it be a scalloped edge scraper or a long knife or a core tool that could be used like an axe.”

    One big surprise was the difference between the types of archaeological remains under water and those found on land, which clearly differentiates earlier and later cultures.

    The sites might have belonged to the same people who created the world-renowned Murujuga rock art, a heritage listing currently up for reconsideration.

    It’s hard to tie the two together with scientific evidence, says Benjamin. “But you’d have to imagine that the people who were there who left their stone tools on a dry land that is now submerged were also making rock art in the area because it goes back tens of thousands of years.”

    These things matter to people today, even if they’re 40,000 years old, he adds.

    “It matters in the way we protect sites, it matters in the way we create National Parks, it matters in the way we protect against destruction and development. So the marine environment, why would it be treated any differently?”

    “That should make some waves, if you pardon the pun, but it should change the landscape and the way that heritage practice and development-led archaeology is done in Australia.”

    The preserved remains have vast potential. The sites could offer insights into how Aboriginal people dealt with climate change during the last glacial. Present-day people might have a relationship with the sites from their ancestral heritage. And it could shift the timing of Aboriginal settlement back even further.

    “Much of what we currently understand about Australia’s deep past is based on sites which are further inland,” says Flinders’ Chelsea Wiseman, a co-author.

    “This study indicates the potential for Indigenous archaeology to preserve underwater, and that in some cases the artefacts may remain undisturbed for millennia.”

    Benjamin says it’s an exciting step for Australia “as we integrate maritime and Indigenous archaeology and draw connections between land and sea,” which he hopes will continue “long after you and I are gone”.

    “These new discoveries are a first step toward exploring the last real frontier of Australian archaeology.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 10:37 am on June 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Diving for the Bones of the Ice Age", , Archaeology, Giant ground sloth's pelvis recovered from Hoyo Negro., Hoyo Negro, ,   

    From UC San Diego: “Diving for the Bones of the Ice Age” 

    From UC San Diego

    Jun 11, 2020
    Xochitl Rojas-Rocha

    1
    Cave divers carefully maneuver the giant ground sloth’s pelvis through Hoyo Negro. Photo Credit: Sam Meacham, CINDAQ

    For thousands of years, the massive pelvis lay undisturbed at the bottom of the watery black pit. Approximately four feet across and weighing an estimated 80 pounds, it had once belonged to a giant ground sloth, an elephant-sized animal that roamed the ancient Americas alongside the saber-tooth cat and the woolly mammoth.

    Sometime during its life, the sloth lumbered into a labyrinth cave system and wandered until it encountered the subterranean pit known today as Hoyo Negro, or “Black Hole.” Blind in the darkness, the sloth took a fatal step over the edge of the pit and plummeted nearly 100 feet. The impact would have killed it instantly.

    2
    Brett Butler (front center), Jeffrey Sandubrae (left) and other members of the Qualcomm Institute’s Prototyping Lab stand around the cradle that would ultimately carry the giant ground sloth pelvis to the surface. Photo Credit: Alex Matthews, QI

    These days, Hoyo Negro is a morbid treasure trove for paleontologists: a collection of partially fossilized, Ice Age-era skeletons belonging to saber-tooth cats, several species of ground sloths, an extinct species of bear and Naia, a young woman who lived and died approximately 13,000 years ago. Dominique Rissolo, a research scientist and archaeologist with UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute (QI), and colleagues have studied their bones for the past eight years to learn more about the region’s history.

    3
    Hoyo Negro. http://hoyonegro.ucsd.edu/

    “The abundance, diversity, and integrity of Late Pleistocene fossils from Hoyo Negro give us a unique opportunity to reconstruct animal and plant life on the Yucatán Peninsula at the end of the last Ice Age,” said Rissolo.

    In November 2019, a group of researchers including Rissolo and a cave diving team led by Alberto Nava set out to recover the giant ground sloth’s pelvis through a meticulously planned expedition. Rising sea levels had flooded the cave system at the end of the last Ice Age, making the pelvis’ retrieval impossible for all but the most experienced divers. Over the course of the expedition, the team would have to work across international lines and unite talents in paleontology, 3D-modeling, engineering and virtual reality to safely bring this fragment of history back to light.

    New discovery (and a challenge) for science

    Cave divers discovered the giant ground sloth’s remains during initial dives into Hoyo Negro in 2007. Under the direction of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the expert guidance of James Chatters and Blaine Schubert, paleontologists specializing in late-Ice Age species, divers removed all of the sloth’s bones save for a few vertebrae, an arm and its pelvis. With the bones in hand, researchers made a marvelous discovery: the sloth was a member of an entirely new species.

    “For a new species, it’s pretty good to have that much [of the skeleton],” said Chatters. “The preservation is absolutely incredible.”

    Scientists named the giant ground sloth Nohochichak xibalbahkah, Mayan for “The great claw that dwells in the underworld.” Alive, it would have stood at six to seven feet on its hind legs and weighed an estimated 2,000 pounds. Its pelvis was the last major bone missing from its skeleton and a key component in reconstructing its likeness.

    Rissolo and colleagues began preparing for the effort to retrieve the pelvis a full year in advance. Using QI’s high-resolution, walk-in virtual reality facility, the SunCAVE, they planned the divers’ route through the cave system and into Hoyo Negro. From the diving platform, the divers would descend in almost complete darkness into a narrow corridor and travel 200 feet to the edge of the black pit. The pelvis lay 90 feet below, upside down and darkened with age.

    The bone’s remarkable size posed an additional challenge. The team would have to design a support frame that was sturdy enough to protect its cargo, but not so bulky that it would scrape against the tunnel walls. Using images captured during a previous dive, Chatters and engineers at the QI Prototyping Lab, QI Drone Lab and East Tennessee State University recreated the pelvis as a 3D, digital model that they could rotate and study in close detail. Now, they could identify weak spots in the bone and design a frame that would cradle each part of the pelvis.

    The design seemed to be coming along. The bulk of the team had already set out for the Yucatán to prepare the camp site and look after logistics. All that remained was for the engineering team back home to finish their design, 3D-print the frame and send it on its way.

    Then, days before the dive, researchers had to abandon their plan. The frame they’d drafted was too expensive to produce, and its dimensions made it impossible for their 3D printer to process.

    In a burst of inspiration, Brett Butler, an engineer with the QI Prototyping Lab, turned to a local surfboard shaper with a background in industry. The engineering team needed a material that would be easy to maneuver underwater and fiberglass, a material used to build surfboards, fit the description. Butler told the surfboard shaper what he had in mind.

    “Of course, he thought I was crazy,” said Butler. “Who would call someone and ask them to help build a custom cradle for a 40,000-year-old giant ground sloth pelvis within a week?”

    Luckily, the surfboard shaper agreed. As he crafted a cradle for the sloth’s pelvis out of fiberglass, Butler and the other engineers created supporting materials that would protect the pelvis as it was lifted by divers from its depth of 140 feet below sea level, hoisted 30 feet up and out of the cave entrance, and driven over jungle roads.

    They finished just in time. On November 11, 2019, Butler flew to Mexico to deliver the pelvis’s cradle to the team waiting in the jungles of the Yucatán. Soon afterward, Rissolo, Butler and their colleagues settled in to watch as divers strapped on layers of dive gear, checked their closed circuit rebreathers, and ferried their invention into the cave.

    History, reassembled

    The team waited four hours for the divers to return. Emotions during the wait were mixed; Chatters, who had eight years of experience extracting fossils from Hoyo Negro, said he felt confident that the divers had a reliable routine. Others were less sanguine.

    When the divers reappeared below the diving platform for a safety stop, pelvis in tow, the entire camp celebrated. Team members took turns lying on the platform with their faces in the water, peering through a dive mask at the fossil they had dreamed of for months.

    “The giant ground sloth pelvis is the biggest fossil ever recovered from Hoyo Negro and the underwater portion of the recovery went exactly as planned and rehearsed. It was a fantastic way to end a long day in the jungle,” said Butler.

    4
    For thousands of years, the fossilized pelvis lay submerged, upside down, on the floor of Hoyo Negro, the “Black Hole.” Here, cave divers attach an engineered framework to the pelvis to lift it from the cave floor. Photo Credit: Mike Madden and Sam Meacham, CINDAQ

    The team used their engineered cradle to connect the pelvis to a line-and-pulley system and hoisted it 30 feet from the diving platform through the mouth of the cave. A final cheer heralded the fossil’s return to the world aboveground, and a success for the partnership between paleontology and engineering.

    After weathering thousands of years underwater, the pelvis now rests within Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology. The information gleaned from the fossil will contribute to INAH’s larger mission of documenting, studying and preserving Mexico’s paleontological history. Roberto Junco Sanchez, Subdirector of Underwater Archaeology with INAH, says that the next step will be to share the results with others for future research.

    “It’s a unique opportunity to study new species, a heaven in terms of the Pleistocene fauna that roamed the Yucatán,” said Junco Sanchez.

    The effort to recover the pelvis of Nohochichak xibalbahkah was a highly collaborative process that drew on partnerships with many individuals and organizations. In addition to those named in the text, CHEI would like to thank Helena Barba Meinecke, Director of the Hoyo Negro Project; Brian Strauss; divers Roberto Chavez and Alex Alvarez; Christian McDonald of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, professional photographer and videographer Mike Madden; scientific diver Sam Meacham of El Centro Investigador del Sistema Acuífero de Quintana Roo; Vid Petrovic, computer scientist and software engineer at QI; David Zollinger, engineer at East Tennessee State University; and Jeffrey Sandubrae and Falko Kuester at QI.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of California, San Diego (also referred to as UC San Diego or UCSD), is a public research university located in the La Jolla area of San Diego, California, in the United States.[12] The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha).[13] Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling about 22,700 undergraduate and 6,300 graduate students. UC San Diego is one of America’s Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States. UC San Diego was ranked 8th among public universities and 37th among all universities in the United States, and rated the 18th Top World University by U.S. News & World Report ‘s 2015 rankings.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:51 am on July 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Why Archaeologists and Volcanologists Are Clashing Over Excavations at Pompeii", , Archaeology, ,   

    From smithsonian.com: “Why Archaeologists and Volcanologists Are Clashing Over Excavations at Pompeii” 

    smithsonian
    From smithsonian.com

    July 24, 2019
    Meilan Solly

    Volcanologist Roberto Scandone argues that enthusiasm for archaeology has yielded an “act of vandalism to volcanology”.

    1
    Volcanic deposits found at Pompeii could yield insights on Vesuvius’ future (Morn the Dorn via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0)

    Since its launch in 2012, the Great Pompeii Project has unearthed finds including mythological frescoes, a “fast food” counter, a preserved horse still in its harness, and a charcoal inscription suggesting Mount Vesuvius erupted in October of 79 A.D.—two months later than has long been believed.

    These discoveries have helped archaeologists paint a clearer portrait of life in the ancient Roman city, but as a team of volcanologists argues in the journal Nature, ongoing excavations come at a high cost: namely, the destruction of volcanic deposits that could yield insights on Vesuvius’ future.

    “[Archaeologists] seem not to realize that the enthusiasm for archaeology is committing an act of vandalism to volcanology,” Roberto Scandone, a volcanologist at Roma Tre University and co-author of the open letter, tells the Guardian’s Hannah Devlin. “Leaving some of the deposits in place is valuable not only for scientists but also for visitors, who will be able to see … first hand how the volcano destroyed the town.”

    According to Newsweek’s Hannah Osborne, Vesuvius is one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. Some three million individuals, 600,000 of whom reside in a so-called “red zone,” live in Vesuvius’ shadow, and over the past 2,000 years, the volcano has erupted between 40 to 50 times.

    Still, Christopher Kilburn, a volcanologist at University College London and co-author of the letter, says, researchers aren’t wholly concerned about an imminent eruption—it’s been 75 years since the peak’s last spurt of activity, suggesting Vesuvius is currently dormant. Instead, volcanologists hope to maintain their chances of studying pyroclastic flows, or clouds of gas and magma, and volcanic processes evident in the nearly 2,000-year-old deposits. Per the Nature commentary, similar investigations conducted during the 1980s “revolutionized archaeological reconstructions” of the disaster, pinpointing pyroclastic flows, rather than a rainstorm of pumice, as the main culprit in Pompeii residents’ demise.

    2
    Vesuvius last erupted in 1944 (Public domain)

    As Kilburn explains to Devlin, “Today we hope to use the archaeology to understand the details of how real pyroclastic flows sweep around real buildings, in order to improve methods of protecting future populations not only on Vesuvius but at similar volcanoes around the world.”

    In a statement provided to Newsweek, Massimo Osanna, general director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, notes that an agreement allowing volcanologists to study the area already exists. He adds, “All the excavation activities … were supervised by the volcanologists [from the] University of Naples Federico II, who were able to record the stratigraphy, take samples and construct a damage mapping.”

    Speaking with Osborne, Scandone acknowledges the veracity of Osanna’s words but emphasizes the fact that just one volcanologist and his collaborator have been granted access to the site to date. Meanwhile, the deposits are actively being removed, preventing any possibility of future study.

    “The archaeologists do not see a problem at all,” Scandone says. “Tension [between volcanologists and archaeologists] is avoided because archaeologists simply ignore the question and believe that the site is their property. Two volcanologists have been permitted to see some of the new sections cut through the deposits, but they have no say in whether the sections can be preserved. Until now, this means that no deposits have been preserved in place.”

    According to the Nature letter, volcanologists have asked Italy’s minister for culture to leave strategic portions of Vesuvius’ volcanic deposits untouched. This move, the authors argue, would help experts transform Pompeii and its neighboring settlements into a “natural super-museum for generations to come,” but as Scandone tells Newsweek, archaeologists have yet to comply with the request.

    “There’s a sense of frustration that volcanology is not being taken terribly seriously,” Kilburn explains to the Guardian’s Devlin. “You go to Pompeii and there’s virtually no mention of the volcano at all.”

    Gary Devore, an archaeologist who has previously worked in Pompeii, tells Devlin that researchers are doing their best to “walk that tightrope between slow, meticulous, careful excavation of new rooms … and conserving what they expose as they work.”

    He concludes, “I hope both parties [can] cooperate and respect the value of both side’s expertise. Pompeii is big enough.”

    See the full article here .

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    Smithsonian magazine and Smithsonian.com place a Smithsonian lens on the world, looking at the topics and subject matters researched, studied and exhibited by the Smithsonian Institution — science, history, art, popular culture and innovation — and chronicling them every day for our diverse readership.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:16 am on March 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ARC-Australian Research Council, Archaeology, ,   

    From Curtin University: “New ARC-funded research uses new tool to examine world’s oldest rocks” 

    From Curtin University

    19 March 2019

    Yasmine Phillips
    Media Relations Manager, Public Relations
    Tel: +61 8 9266 9085
    Mob: +61 401 103 877
    yasmine.phillips@curtin.edu.au

    Curtin University researchers will develop a new fingerprinting tool capable of delving deeper into the Earth’s rock layers, in what promises to be an important development for Australia’s mining and petroleum sectors.

    The research will enhance industry’s understanding of the Earth’s sedimentary rocks by investigating case studies at the Yilgarn Craton, Australia’s premier gold and nickel province spanning from Meekatharra to WA’s South-West including Kalgoorlie, as well as the Canning Basin, located in the Kimberley, and the Northern Carnarvon Basin.

    The project secured $352,000 from the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Project scheme as part of the latest funding announcement made by the Federal Minister for Education, the Hon. Dan Tehan, today.

    Curtin University Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Garry Allison said the research had potentially important implications for the mining and petroleum sectors.

    “Western Australia’s mineral and petroleum exports are major contributors to the Australian economy, but in recent years the number of significant discoveries has fallen and those that have been identified tend to be at greater depths,” Professor Allison said.

    “This new research will develop a new fingerprinting tool capable of shedding more light on some of the world’s oldest rocks with the aim of helping Australian mining and petroleum explorers to uncover major new mineral and hydrocarbon deposits.”

    The state-wide isotope-based research project will be led by Associate Professor Chris Kirkland and Professor Chris Elders, both from the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin University.

    Curtin University researchers will work with Northern Star Resources and the Geological Survey of Western Australia, within the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, on the project.

    As part of the latest round of ARC grants announced today, Curtin University researchers will also work on an international project, led by The University of Western Australia, that will test and review the success of teaching Einstein’s theories of space, time, matter, light and gravity. That project was awarded $898,560 in ARC funding.

    See the full article here .

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    Curtin University (formerly known as Curtin University of Technology and Western Australian Institute of Technology) is an Australian public research university based in Bentley and Perth, Western Australia. The university is named after the 14th Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, and is the largest university in Western Australia, with over 58,000 students (as of 2016).

    Curtin was conferred university status after legislation was passed by the Parliament of Western Australia in 1986. Since then, the university has been expanding its presence and has campuses in Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Mauritius. It has ties with 90 exchange universities in 20 countries. The University comprises five main faculties with over 95 specialists centres. The University formerly had a Sydney campus between 2005 & 2016. On 17 September 2015, Curtin University Council made a decision to close its Sydney campus by early 2017.

    Curtin University is a member of Australian Technology Network (ATN), and is active in research in a range of academic and practical fields, including Resources and Energy (e.g., petroleum gas), Information and Communication, Health, Ageing and Well-being (Public Health), Communities and Changing Environments, Growth and Prosperity and Creative Writing.

    It is the only Western Australian university to produce a PhD recipient of the AINSE gold medal, which is the highest recognition for PhD-level research excellence in Australia and New Zealand.

    Curtin has become active in research and partnerships overseas, particularly in mainland China. It is involved in a number of business, management, and research projects, particularly in supercomputing, where the university participates in a tri-continental array with nodes in Perth, Beijing, and Edinburgh. Western Australia has become an important exporter of minerals, petroleum and natural gas. The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Woodside-funded hydrocarbon research facility during his visit to Australia in 2005.
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  • richardmitnick 12:16 pm on November 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A low-altitude meteor explosion around 3700 years ago destroyed cities villages and farmland north of the Dead Sea rendering the region uninhabitable for 600 to 700 years, An exploding meteor may have wiped out ancient Dead Sea communities, , Archaeology,   

    From Science News: “An exploding meteor may have wiped out ancient Dead Sea communities” 

    From Science News

    November 20, 2018
    Bruce Bower

    Archaeologists at a site in what’s now Jordan have found evidence of a cosmic calamity.

    1
    ANCIENT WIPEOUT Preliminary evidence indicates that a low-altitude meteor explosion around 3,700 years ago destroyed cities, villages and farmland north of the Dead Sea (shown in the background above) rendering the region uninhabitable for 600 to 700 years.

    A superheated blast from the skies obliterated cities and farming settlements north of the Dead Sea around 3,700 years ago, preliminary findings suggest.

    Radiocarbon dating and unearthed minerals that instantly crystallized at high temperatures indicate that a massive airburst caused by a meteor that exploded in the atmosphere instantaneously destroyed civilization in a 25-kilometer-wide circular plain called Middle Ghor, said archaeologist Phillip Silvia. The event also pushed a bubbling brine of Dead Sea salts over once-fertile farm land, Silvia and his colleagues suspect.

    People did not return to the region for 600 to 700 years, said Silvia, of Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque. He reported these findings at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research on November 17.

    Excavations at five large Middle Ghor sites, in what’s now Jordan, indicate that all were continuously occupied for at least 2,500 years until a sudden, collective collapse toward the end of the Bronze Age. Ground surveys have located 120 additional, smaller settlements in the region that the researchers suspect were also exposed to extreme, collapse-inducing heat and wind. An estimated 40,000 to 65,000 people inhabited Middle Ghor when the cosmic calamity hit, Silvia said.

    The most comprehensive evidence of destruction caused by a low-altitude meteor explosion comes from the Bronze Age city of Tall el-Hammam, where a team that includes Silvia has been excavating for the last 13 years. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the mud-brick walls of nearly all structures suddenly disappeared around 3,700 years ago, leaving only stone foundations.

    What’s more, the outer layers of many pieces of pottery from same time period show signs of having melted into glass. Zircon crystals in those glassy coats formed within one second at extremely high temperatures, perhaps as hot as the surface of the sun, Silvia said.

    High-force winds created tiny, spherical mineral grains that apparently rained down on Tall el-Hammam, he said. The research team has identified these minuscule bits of rock on pottery fragments at the site.

    Examples exist of exploding space rocks that have wreaked havoc on Earth (SN: 5/13/17, p. 12). An apparent meteor blast over a sparsely populated Siberian region in 1908, known as the Tunguska event, killed no one but flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest. And a meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 injured more than 1,600 people, mainly due to broken glass from windows that were blown out.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 10:36 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Archaeology, , Teen Discovers Lost Maya City Using Ancient Star Maps   

    From GIZMODO: “Teen Discovers Lost Maya City Using Ancient Star Maps” 

    GIZMODO bloc

    GIZMODO

    5.10.16
    George Dvorsky

    1
    Google Earth and satellite photos appear to reveal the site of a pyramid cloaked in foliage. (Image: Google Earth, CSA)

    Using an unprecedented technique of matching stars to the locations of temples on Earth, a 15-year-old Canadian student says he’s discovered a forgotten Maya city in Central America. Images from space suggest he may actually be onto something.

    William Gadoury, a teen from Saint-Jean-de-Matha in Lanaudière, developed an interest in archaeology after the publication of the Maya calendar announcing the end of the world in 2012. After spending hours pouring over diagrams of constellations and maps of known Maya cities, he noticed that the two appeared to be linked; the brightest stars of the constellations overlaid perfectly with the locations of the largest Maya cities. As reported in The Telegraph, no other scientist had ever discovered such a correlation.

    Here’s how he discovered the lost city: After studying 22 different constellations, Gadoury noticed that they neatly corresponded to the locations of 117 Mayan cities located in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. When looking at a 23rd constellation, he was able to match two stars to known cities—but a third star remained unmatched. Using transparent overlays, Gadoury pinpointed a location deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

    2
    Google Earth and satellite photos show what looks to be a cluster of structures. (Image: Google Earth, CSA)

    “I did not understand why the Maya built their cities away from rivers, on marginal lands, and in the mountains,” explained Gadoury in Le Journal de Montreal. “They must have had another reason, and as they worshiped the stars, the idea came to me to verify my hypothesis. I was really surprised and excited when I realized that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched the largest Maya cities.”

    3
    Image: Canadian Space Agency

    Taking this idea further, Gadoury contacted the Canadian Space Agency, who provided him with space-based images from NASA and JAXA. These satellite images revealed a batch of undeniably geometric structures hidden under the jungle canopy. Gadoury, along with Dr. Armand LaRocque, a remote sensing specialist from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, believe it’s an ancient Maya pyramid surrounded by 30 smaller structures. The teen has named the city—which has yet to be explored and verified—K’aak Chi, which means “Mouth of Fire.” If confirmed, it would be among the largest Maya cities ever discovered.

    4
    William Gadoury, 15, explains his theory of the existence of an unknown Maya city before scientists at the Canadian Space Agency. (Image: Canadian Space Agency)

    LaRocque said the use of satellite images, as well as the contribution of digital image processing, helped to confirm the possible existence of this forgotten city. “Geometric shapes, such as squares or rectangles, appeared in these images, forms that can hardly be attributed to natural phenomenon,” LaRocque said.

    Daniel de Lisle of the Canadian Space Agency said he was fascinated by the depth of Gadoury’s research, and that linking the position of stars and the location of a lost city “is quite exceptional.” He told The Independent that “There are linear features that would suggest there is something underneath that big canopy,” adding that “There are enough items to suggest it could be a man-made structure.”

    What needs to happen now is a ground expedition, but that won’t come cheap, nor will it be easy. The location of the site is in one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of Mexico. And as LaRocque put it, “Expedition costs are horribly expensive.” Gadoury has contacted a team of Mexican archaeologists, and he’s hoping to take part in any subsequent mission to the site.

    “It would be the culmination of my three years of work and the dream of my life,” said the cool teen.

    So, uh, can someone get a Kickstarter going for this kid immediately please?

    See the full article here .

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    GIZMOGO pictorial

     
  • richardmitnick 4:46 pm on August 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ales Stenar Swedish Stonehenge, , Archaeology,   

    From livescience: “Swedish Stonehenge? Ancient Stone Structure Spurs Debate” April 2012, but Very Cool 

    Livescience

    April 18, 2012
    Crystal Gammon

    Temp 1
    An ancient megalithic structure shaped like a ship in Sweden seems to have a similar geometry to Stonehenge, and may have been used as an astronomical calendar, one scientist says.
    Credit: Steffen Hoejager | Shutterstock

    Ancient Scandinavians dragged 59 boulders to a seaside cliff near what is now the Swedish fishing village of Kåseberga. They carefully arranged the massive stones — each weighing up to 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) — in the outline of a 220-foot-long (67-meter) ship overlooking the Baltic Sea.

    Archaeologists generally agree this megalithic structure, known as Ales Stenar (“Ale’s Stones”), was assembled about 1,000 years ago, near the end of the Iron Age, as a burial monument. But a team of researchers now argues it’s really 2,500 years old, dating from the Scandinavian Bronze Age, and was built as an astronomical calendar with the same underlying geometry as England’s Stonehenge.

    2
    A fuller picture. Ale’s Stones at Kåseberga, around ten kilometres southeast of Ystad.

    “We can now say Stonehenge has a younger sister, but she’s so much more beautiful,” said Nils-Axel Mörner, a retired geologist from Stockholm University who co-authored the paper on the interpretation, published in March in the International Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    Other researchers familiar with the site are skeptical. Among other arguments, they cite the results of carbon dating to reject Mörner’s interpretation.

    Inspired by Stonehenge?

    Mörner says his team observed that the sun rises and sets at specific points around Ales Stenar at the summer and winter solstices, hinting that an ancient culture could have built it as an astronomical calendar to time things like annual religious ceremonies or planting and harvesting crops.

    They also observed that certain aspects of the stone ship’s geometry matched those of Stonehenge, a Bronze Age monument that some enthusiasts believe was used as a calendar. (Those claims are contentious, and there are many other theories of Stonehenge’s original purpose.)

    The similarities led Mörner to propose the mysterious stone structure of Sweden was a Stonehenge-inspired astronomical calendar constructed by a Bronze Age Scandinavian community that regularly traveled and traded throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.

    “The first thing is to see that, yes, it’s a calendar,” Mörner told LiveScience. “But Ale’s Stones also tells us a lot more than we knew before about trading and travel in the Bronze Age among Scandinavia, England and Greece.”

    Beowulf, not the Bronze Age

    Other researchers are not convinced.

    “The idea that the stone ship might have been an astronomical calendar has no supporters among academic archaeologists,” said Swedish archaeologist Martin Rundkvist, managing editor of the archaeology journal Fornvännen.

    Rather, Ales Stenar was probably an ornate grave marker, he said.

    The Swedish countryside is home to many similar megalithic structures, which are generally known as stone ships. Most of them date back to Sweden’s Late Iron Age (approximately A.D. 500-1000), and they serve as burial monuments, Rundkvist said.

    Archaeologists using radiocarbon dating have calculated that Ales Stenar was built about 1,400 years ago, near the end of Scandinavia’s Iron Age — long after the construction date estimated by Mörner’s team. [Photos: Mysterious Stone Structures]

    Ales Stenar was built by members of a warlike community of seafarers who used oxen, slaves, rope, sleds, wooden spades and simple steel tools to collect and raise the huge boulders, Rundkvist said.

    “This was the world of Beowulf,” Rundkvist said, referring to the epic poem set in Iron Age Scandinavia.

    Ships were an important part of life in this nautical culture, which may have inspired communities to mark the graves of important people with stone ships, some scholars say.

    Rundkvist believes there’s no evidence for anything beyond that — including Mörner’s Stonehenge theory.

    “New Age mystics like standing stones,” Rundkvist told LiveScience.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 8:04 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Archaeology,   

    From NOVA: “Fossil Fuels Are Destroying Our Ability to Study the Past” 

    PBS NOVA

    NOVA

    21 Jul 2015
    Tim De Chant

    It’s been used to date objects tens of thousands of years old, from fossil forests to the Dead Sea Scrolls, but in just a few decades, a tool that revolutionized archaeology could turn into little more than an artifact of a bygone era.

    Radiocarbon dating may be the latest unintended victim of our burning of fossil fuels for energy. By 2020, carbon emissions will start to affect the technique, and by 2050, new organic material could be indistinguishable from artifacts from as far back as AD 1050, according to research by Heather Graven, a lecturer at Imperial College London.

    1
    The Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the seven Dead Sea Scrolls, has been dated using the radiocarbon technique.

    The technique relies on the fraction of radioactive carbon relative to total carbon. Shortly after World War II, Willard Libby discovered that, with knowledge of carbon-14’s predictable decay rate, he could accurately date objects that contained carbon by measuring the ratio of carbon-14 to all carbon in the sample. The less carbon-14 to total carbon, the older the artifact. Since only living plants and animals can incorporate new carbon-14, the technique became a reliable measure for historical artifacts. The problem is, as we’ve pumped more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we’ve unwittingly increased the total carbon side of the equation.

    Here’s Matt McGrath, reporting for BBC News:

    At current rates of emissions increase, according to the research, a new piece of clothing in 2050 would have the same carbon date as a robe worn by William the Conqueror 1,000 years earlier.

    “It really depends on how much emissions increase or decrease over the next century, in terms of how strong this dilution effect gets,” said Dr Graven.

    “If we reduce emissions rapidly we might stay around a carbon age of 100 years in the atmosphere but if we strongly increase emissions we could get to an age of 1,000 years by 2050 and around 2,000 years by 2100.”

    Scientists have been anticipating the diminished accuracy of radiocarbon dating as we’ve continued to burn more fossil fuels, but they didn’t have a firm grasp of how quickly it could go south. In the worst case scenario, we would no longer be able date artifacts younger than 2,000 years old. Put another way, by the end of the century, a test of the Shroud of Turn wouldn’t be able to definitively distinguished the famous piece of linen from a forgery made today.

    See the full article here.

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    NOVA is the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:56 pm on February 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Archaeology,   

    From Archaeology: “Rome’s Imperial Port” 

    ArchaeologyMag bloc

    Archaeology Magazine

    February 10, 2015
    JASON URBANUS

    1
    Portus, now some two miles from the Mediterranean shoreline, was built by the Romans in the 1st century [CE] to be their main maritime port. A 16th-century fresco in the Vatican Palace shows an idealized reconstruction of Portus’ grand architectural and engineering features. ((De Agostini Picture Library/Bridgeman Images)

    Twenty miles southwest of Rome, obscured by agricultural fields, woodlands, and the modern infrastructure of one of Europe’s busiest airports, lies what may be ancient Rome’s greatest engineering achievement, and arguably its most important: Portus. Although almost entirely silted in today, at its height, Portus was Rome’s principal maritime harbor, catering to thousands of ships annually. It served as the primary hub for the import, warehousing, and distribution of resources, most importantly grain, that ensured the stability of both Rome and the empire. “For Rome to have worked at capacity, Portus needed to work at capacity,” says archaeologist Simon Keay. “The fortunes of the city are inextricably tied to it. It’s quite hard to overestimate.” Portus was the answer to Rome’s centuries-long search for an efficient deepwater harbor. In the end, as only the Romans could do, they simply dug one.

    Although it had previously received little attention archaeologically, over the last decade and half Portus has been the focus of an ambitious project that is rediscovering the grandeur of the port, its relationship to Rome, and the unparalleled role it played as the centerpiece of Rome’s Mediterranean port system. Keay, of the University of Southampton, is currently director of the Portus Project, now in its fifth year, but has been leading fieldwork in and around the site since the late 1990s. He is part of a multinational team investigating Portus’ beginnings in the first century [CE]., its evolution into the main port of Rome, and, ultimately, the complex dynamics of the port’s relationship with the city and the broader Roman Mediterranean. The multifaceted project involves a number of institutions, including the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British School at Rome, the University of Cambridge, and the Archaeological Superintendency of Rome.

    2
    Still visible today, Portus’ hexagonal basin and its adjacent canal facilitated the transfer of goods up the Tiber River to Rome. (Courtesy Simon Keay/The Portus Project)

    One of the difficulties the team has faced in addition to the site’s enormous size is its complexity. Portus encompasses not only two man-made harbor basins, but all of the infrastructure associated with a small city, including temples, administrative buildings, warehouses, canals, and roads. Archaeologists have taken many approaches to investigating Portus. “Methodologically, the strategy has been to combine large-scale, extensive work using every kind of geophysical and topographic technique, with excavation reserved for relatively focused areas,” says Keay. “The aim is to try and understand a key area at the center of the port, which could provide a point from which to understand how the port worked as a whole.” The current archaeological research is offering a new understanding of just how Portus’ construction enabled Rome to become Rome.

    See the full article here.

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    ARCHAEOLOGY magazine offers compelling narratives about the human past from every corner of the globe. Edited for a general audience, our news, features, and photo essays employ in-depth reporting, cogent analysis, and vivid storytelling to provide an accurate and often surprisingly intimate look at the record of human existence. Our pieces offer insights into the beginnings and ends of cultures, as well as examining the full expression of those cultures. ARCHAEOLOGY’s stories share one distinctive trait—they rest on the close investigation of archaeological evidence—of the things, in short, that we leave behind.

    ARCHAEOLOGY magazine has been published continuously for more than 65 years. It is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, a 133-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of human heritage.

     
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