Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Göbekli Tepe temple rewrites history

Standing on the hill at dawn, overseeing a team of 40 Kurdish diggers, the German-born archeologist waves a hand over his discovery here, a revolution in the story of human origins. Schmidt has uncovered a vast and beautiful temple complex, a structure so ancient that it may be the very first thing human beings ever built. The site isn't just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago — a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture — the first embers of civilization. In fact, Schmidt thinks the temple itself, built after the end of the last Ice Age by hunter-gatherers, became that ember—the spark that launched mankind toward farming, urban life, and all that followed.

History in the Remaking by Patrick Symmes in Newsweek

Monday, 15 February 2010

Cloning Neanderthals

Heather Pringle has three posts about cloning Neanderthals:
Heather Pringle writes:
First of all, I should point out that this is not a pie-in-the-sky question. Zorich interviewed an impressive A-list of researchers–including geneticists who are sequencing the Neanderthal genome and leading paleoanthropologists who study ancient hominins–and some clearly believe that a cloned Neanderthal awaits us somewhere down the line.

So it’s not too early to begin thinking and debating about the ethics of cloning one of our hominin kin. While some researchers champion the idea out of pure scientific curiosity and the desire to learn more about an extinct hominin, I think it’s a terrible idea. I simply don’t trust my fellow Homo sapiens sapiens to treat another hominin with kindness and respect. Our track record with other primates, for example, is appalling–using chimpanzees for circus shows and laboratory experimentation, hunting gorillas for meat, and killing orangutan mothers in order to sell their babies as pets.
I can just imagine cloned Neanderthals being used as hosts for replacement organs, or for medical experiments, or other unpleasant scenarios.
What's your opinion?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Palaeography petition

The Chair of Palaeography at King's College in the University of London is the only one of its kind in the UK, and is of fundamental intellectual significance to a broad and interdisciplinary scholarly community as well as to the wider community beyond universities. Many other classical, medieval and early modern disciplines depend on the accurate deciphering of manuscripts and documents and their proper understanding, while the study of writing offers a gateway to the comprehension of our own history, writ large. We therefore urge the Executive of KCL to reconsider their proposal to cut this prestigious Chair.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Archaeology on the radio

In Pursuit of Treasure
Sunday 7 Feb, 13:30 on BBC Radio 4

Archaeologist and broadcaster Mike Pitts delves into the sometimes murky world of the metal detector, from harmless amateur history buffs to criminal nighthawkers, and discovers how metal detecting is changing our national heritage. He hears stories of in-fighting within the metal detecting community, bust-ups between landowners and detectorists and battles inside the archaeological establishment. And Mike hears from the man who found a multi-million pound Saxon hoard.

The Voices Who Dug Up The Past
Episode 1
Monday 8 Feb, 11:00 on BBC Radio 4

Broadcaster and archaeologist Mike Pitts delves into the question of why different archaeologists can dig the same sites yet reach completely different conclusions. Mike visits Britain's biggest Iron Age hill fort, Maiden Castle, and, through archive, diary excerpts and interviews, relives two seminal digs that took place there in the 1930s and 1980s. Is it a monument tied up in Roman warfare and invasion, or a structure symbolising power and exclusion from the outside world? Featuring interviews with Niall Sharples, Beatrice de Cardi, Ian Armit and Chris Sparey-Green.

The Voices Who Dug Up The Past
Episode 2
Monday 15 Feb, 11:00 on BBC Radio 4

Mike visits Sutton Hoo, with Lady Clark and Martin Carver among others.