Sunday, 16 December 2012

University of Oxford Online Courses in Archaeology

Now is the time to enrol for Hilary term online courses in Archaeology.

Each courses lasts for 10 weeks, with the expectation of c. 10 hours study a week.  Students submit two short assignments.   

Successful completion of the courses carries a credit of 10 CATS Points.

CATS Points from these courses can now be used as part of the requirement for the new Certificate in Higher Education offered by the University of Oxford.

The following courses are available: (click on the title for further information)

Greek Mythology                  Origins of Human Behaviour               Pompey and the cities                                                                                                         of the Roman World

Ritual and Religion in Prehistory                          Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers

You can find general information about University of Oxford courses here...

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Evidence of world's 'oldest' cheese-making found

The cheese thought to have been made was likely to be a soft, cow's milk type

Scientists may be one step closer to uncovering the origins of cheese-making, as evidence thousands of years old has been uncovered. What would a Neolithic cheese have tasted like?

Truly an ancient art, no-one really knows exactly when humans began making cheese.
But now milk extracts have been identified on 34 perforated pottery vessels or "cheese-strainers", which date back 7,500 years that have been excavated in Poland.

It is unambiguous evidence for cheese-making in northern Europe during Neolithic times, scientists believe, and the findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature.

"We analysed some fragments of pottery from the region of Kuyavia [Poland] pierced with small holes that looked like modern cheese-strainers," says Melanie Salque, a postgraduate student at the University of Bristol's Department of Chemistry.

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Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Researchers find clues to the Baltic Crusades in animal bones, horses and the extinct aurochs

Stanford Assistant Professor Krish Seetah and Reading University student Rose Calis analyze animal bones in the basement of Riga Castle, Latvia. Credit: Aleks Pluskowski

Stanford researchers have discovered that pagan villages plundered by medieval knights during the little-known Baltic Crusades had some problems in common with the modern-day global village. 

Among them: deforestation, asymmetric warfare and species extinction. 

According to a research paper published in Science, a project investigating the Baltic Crusades' profound environmental legacy could yield valuable insight into colonialism, cultural changes and ecological exploitation – relevant issues not only throughout history, but especially in today's increasingly globalized society.

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Archaeology: Basilica from the time of Constantine the Great found at Sofia’s Serdica West Gate

Archaeologists in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia have found a basilica said to date from the time of emperor Constantine the Great in the area of the West Gate of Serdica, as the city was known in Roman times.

The basilica is 27 metres wide and about 100m long, according to Yana Borissova-Katsarova, head of research at the site. It featured multi-coloured mosaics. Further exploration of the find will be difficult because of its location under the modern city.

Sofia deputy mayor in charge of culture, Todor Chobanov, said that the discovery of the basilica may be proof that Constantine intended to establish the city as a centre of Christianity.

Constantine, who ruled from 306 to 337 CE, was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Sofia, as Serdica, was under Roman rule from 29 BCE and remained under Roman and later Byzantine rule, with some interruptions because of Hun invasions and destruction, for a number of centuries.

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Saturday, 8 December 2012

Gypsies arrived in Europe 1,500 years ago, genetic study says

Gypsies in a shanty town in Madrid, Spain. Photograph: Navia/Cover/Getty Images

Migrants from India came to continent much earlier than previously thought, analysis suggests, and arrived in the Balkans

In parts of Europe they are still shunned as disruptive outsiders or patronised as little more than an exotic source of music and dance, but Gypsies have ancient roots that stretch back more than a millennium, scientists have proved.

A genetic analysis of 13 Gypsy groups around Europe, published in Current Biology journal, has revealed that the arrival on the continent of their forebears from northern India happened far earlier than was thought, about 1,500 years ago.

The earliest population reached the Balkans, while the spread outwards from there came nine centuries ago, according to researchers at Spain's Institute of Evolutionary Biology and elsewhere.

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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Palaeolithic Macedonia: Landscape in the Mist

What do we know about paleolithic Macedonia? Some scarce finds, mostly stone tools, and usually “orphan”, and some general dating references maintain until today a fragmentary, rather distorted picture about this distant era, a picture which is being even more obscured by soil erosion and climate changes that occurred over the last 100,000 years.

Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Nikos Efstratiou, spoke about the need for new, dynamic approaches to this research field, in his announcement at the conference entitled “Hundred Years of Research in Prehistoric Macedonia”.

Mr. Efstratiou pointed out that prehistoric research in Macedonia is still in its infancy and said that one of the most significant problems is the fragmentary character of all periods of the Pleistocene. He also referred to institutional problems, lacking of educational and research programs about this period, as well as the general conditions that do not encourage the realization of systematic paleolithic surveys. The surveys conducted allow a reduced archaeological “visibility” of paleolithic groups, because of the features of the geomorphological landscape of the region and the paleoenvironmental changes, that interfere in a dramatic way in every attempt to reconstruct settlement systems.

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Bulgaria Unearths Ancient 'Millionaire's' Treasure

Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed 40 silver coins during excavations in the second largest city of Plovdiv.

The coins, dating from the 3rd century A.C., have images of a number of Roman Emperors or different Gods.

They are extremely well-preserved, meaning they have not been in circulation, experts say.

The coins were located in an ancient hiding place and were a real treasure for this period with their owner being a very wealthy man, they further explain, adding the hiding place in the floor showed the said owner had intentions to get them back at some point, but was prevented, most likely because he was killed.

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Thursday, 22 November 2012


Site: Emporion Pistiros, between the small towns of Septemvri and Vetren,  Southern Bulgaria.
Project Venue: the spa village of Varvara, Southern Bulgaria is situated 14 km away from the site, in the foothills of majestic Rhodopi Mountains. There are several spa & wellness hotels and swimming pools with mineral water in the village that is also a stop on the picturesque narrow gauge railway (the last functioning one in Bulgaria) from Septemvri to Dobrinishte. 
Period(s) of occupation: Classical, Hellenistic (5th – 2nd century BC)

Further information...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Bulgarians Want Unique Thracian Treasure Back in Hometown

An object from the unique gold Thracian treasure recently discovered in Bulgaria. 
Photo by BGNES 

Residents of Bulgaria’s town of Isperih plan to launch a petition to have the unique gold Thracian treasure, recently discovered in the nearby famous Sveshtari tomb, to be returned to them.

The news was reported by Standard daily, citing the secretary of the Town Hall.

The precious find is now on display at the Archeology Museum in the capital Sofia, but locals demand from the Culture Ministry to have it back in Isperih.

Isperih Mayor, Beysim Basri, has talked to the Director of the local museum, Boryana Mateva. Together with the museum and the police, the municipality is committed to preserve both the treasure and the archaeological reserve Sboryanovo with the Sveshtari tomb since treasure hunters have shown huge interest after the latest find.

The tomb is on the world cultural-historical heritage list of UNESCO.

Mateva notes that according to the Cultural and Historical Heritage Act, archaeological discoveries must be transferred to the museum which initiated the unearthing or to the storage closer to the site.

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Der Neandertaler in uns

Der Neandertaler in uns
(Deutschland, 2010, 52mn)
Regie: Tamara Spitzing

A video over recent research into the Neandertal genome.

This video is available in either Gerrman or French.

Watch the video...

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Slavic Origins. A Linguistic-Historical Workshop

Slavic Origins. A Linguistic-Historical Workshop

Wolfson College, Oxford, 10 December 2012
organized by Ilya Yakubovich and Marek Jankowiak
Research Fellows at Wolfson College

Slavic origins remain a highly contentious topic. Within their respective fields, scientists
produced widely diverging visions of the emergence of the Slavic language
and identity. From the picture the gradual emergence of common Slavic from
Balto-Slavic inherent in the methodology of traditional historical linguistics,
to a historian’s vision of the making of the Slavs in the shadow of Justinianic
limes on the Danube in the 6th century AD, the divide seems impossible to
bridge. Are these perspectives irreconcilable? What are the premises of the
respective positions? What do we mean by “Slavic origins”?

Further information...

Wawel architectural complex – Centuries of Slavic heritage

Wawel is an architectural complex erected over many centuries atop a limestone outcrop on the left bank of the Vistula River in Kraków, Poland, at an altitude of 228 metres above the sea level. It is a place of great significance to the Polish people. The Royal Castle with an armoury and the Cathedral are situated on the hill. Polish Royalty and many distinguished Poles are interred in the Wawel Cathedral. Royal coronations took place there also.

Wawel began to play the role of a centre of political power at the end of the first millennium AD. In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vistulans tribe (Polish: Wiślanie). The first historical ruler Mieszko I of Poland (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslaw I the Brave (Polish: Bolesław I Chrobry; 992-1025) and Mieszko II (1025–1034) chose Wawel as one of their residences. At that time Wawel became one of the Polish main centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque buildings were erected there including a stone cathedral serving the bishopric of Kraków in the year 1000. Since the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034–1058) Wawel became the leading political and administrative centre for the Polish State.

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Slavic Germany

There was very little known about Slavs and their culture who lived in present day Mecklenburg, Western Pomerania until the end of the World War 2. During 2nd and 3rd Reich, for political reasons, archaeological artefacts found in these areas were attributed to ‘German Vikings’ instead of the confederation of western Slavic tribes known as Obodrites.

The landmarks such as ramparts of Mecklenburg, Dobin, Ilow, Quetzin, Teterow, Werle and others from the period during which the region was populated by Slavic tribes were also attributed to ‘German Vikings’.

After World War II much was done to restore historical justice by historians, archeologists and scientists of German Democratic Republic. In particular, by Professor Ewald Shuldt  whose ancestors were from Mecklenburg land. Since his appointment as the director of the prehistoric department of Historical Museum of Schweriner in 1953, he devoted his life to the study of Slavic settlements around the cities of Schwerin (Slavic: Zverin) – Rostock and Neubrandenburg.
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Bogomilism among Slavic people

Bogomilism was a heretical Gnostic dualistic sect, the synthesis of Armenian Paulicianism and the Bulgarian Slavonic Church reform movement, which emerged in Bulgaria between 927 and 970 and spread into Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, Serbia, Bosnia, Italy, and France.

Bogomils, adherents of Bogomilism, were followers of an Orthodox Cleric, likely a priest, from Bulgaria by the name of Bogomil (Gr. Theophylus) active around 950 A.D. Their doctrine most resembles Armenian Paulicianism and earlier Gnostic sects in its insistence upon Dualism. In its Christian form Gnosticism tended to insist upon an “appearance” of flesh for Christ since “true flesh” would be a hindrance to his work of Salvation rather than an aid.

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Summer Courses in Archaeology

Oxford Experience Archaeology Courses

The Oxford Experience Summer School offers weekly introductory courses in the Sciences and Humanities.  Participants stay in Christ Church, the largest and one of the most beautiful Oxford Colleges.

You can find out more about the Oxford Experience here...

Friday, 16 November 2012

19th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists 2013 Pilsen

The 19th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists will be held in Pilsen (Plzeň), Czech Republic, 4th – 8th September 2013.

The meeting is organized by the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen and Guarant International.

The meeting is supported by the City of Pilsen, Governor of Pilsen region, Institute of Archaeology – Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, V.V.I., Museum of West Bohemia in Pilsen, National Heritage Institute, Pilsen 2015 European Capital of Culture.

The conference venue is the Campus of University of West Bohemia at Plzeň-Bory (Univerzitní 18, Plzeň). The campus is conveniently located near to the main accommodation facility Parkhotel and easy to access by the public transport from the city centre.

Pilsen is served by the Václav Havel International Airport Prague-Ruzyně with frequent flight connections to most cities in Europe and beyond. There will be a shuttle service organized during the main time of arrivals and departures.

Further information...

Russia: Gone Fishing

The discovery of 7,500-year-old fish traps in a Russian river valley has given new insight into prehistoric European settlement patterns.

The Mesolithic nomadic hunter-gatherers were believed to move with the seasons to follow food sources. Now excavation at a site in the Dubna river basin outside Moscow shows evidence of continuous year-round occupation.

The three-year investigation by an international team of archaeologists, led by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), found evidence that the inhabitants of Zamostje 2 adapted their diets according to the time of year but remained in the same place.

Project leader Ignacio Clemente said: ‘We think that fishing played a vital role in the economy of these societies, because it was a versatile product, easy to preserve, dry and smoke, as well as to store for later consumption.’

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Mysterious Elk-Shaped Structure Discovered in Russia

A huge geoglyph in the shape of an elk or deer discovered in Russia may predate Peru's famous Nazca Lines by thousands of years.  

The animal-shaped stone structure, located near Lake Zjuratkul in the Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan, has an elongated muzzle, four legs and two antlers. A historical Google Earth satellite image from 2007 shows what may be a tail, but this is less clear in more recent imagery.

Excluding the possible tail, the animal stretches for about 900 feet (275 meters) at its farthest points (northwest to southeast), the researchers estimate, equivalent to two American football fields. The figure faces north and would have been visible from a nearby ridge.

"The figure would initially have looked white and slightly shiny against the green grass background," write Stanislav Grigoriev, of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of History & Archaeology, and Nikolai Menshenin, of the State Centre for Monument Protection, in an article first detailing the discovery published last spring in the journal Antiquity. They note that it is now covered by a layer of soil.

Fieldwork carried out this past summer has shed more light on the glyph's composition and date, suggesting it may be the product of a "megalithic culture," researchers say. They note that hundreds of megalithic sites have been discovered in the Urals, with the most elaborate structures located on a freshwater island about 35 miles (60 km) northeast of the geoglyph. [See Photos of Russia's Nazca Lines]

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Czech archaeologists discover tomb of ancient Egyptian princess

Archaeologists from the Czech Institute of Egyptology have recently uncovered a tomb belong to an ancient Eygptian princess south of Cairo. The tomb of princess Sheretnebty, dated to 2500 B.C., was hidden in bedrock and surrounded by tombs of four high officials. Earlier today The Washington Post published a video in which Miroslav Bárta, director of the Czech mission, detailed some of the findings in the ongoing excavation.

Live Science reported that Bárta and his team have yet to determine whether or not the remains of the princess are still inside the tomb, but uncovered fragments of a false door bearing her name as well as an inscription on four limestone pillars that used to support the roof blocks reading: "King's daughter of his body, his beloved, revered in front of the Great God, Sheretnebty."

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Bounty Of Golden Artifacts Unearthed From 2,400-year-old Bulgarian Tomb

Bulgarian archeologists announced that they have unearthed a bounty of golden jewelry, sculptures, and other artifacts from a 2,400-year old tomb located in northern Bulgaria.

The artifacts were found in a wooden box that contained burnt bones and ritual items, which had been wrapped in a gold-weave cloth. The tomb belonged to the Getae, an ancient tribal people that were rivals with the ancient Greeks and part of a larger group of tribes called the Thracians. The Thracians inhabited an area west of the Black Sea for around 1,000 years, starting around the 5th century B.C.E.

Among the artifacts discovered were four bracelets with snake heads, a tiara with reliefs of lions and fantasy animals, a horse-head ornamental piece, a golden ring, 44 female figure depictions and 100 golden buttons.

“These are amazing findings from the apogee of the rule of the Getae,” lead researcher Diana Gergova, from the Sofia-based National Archaeology Institute, told The Guardian. “From what we see up to now, the tomb may be linked with the first known Getic ruler, Cothelas.”

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