Thursday, 21 January 2010

Woolworths alignments

A researcher at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London has applied the techniques used by the kind of people who find mysterious alignments in the landscape to another mysterious and lost civilisation: the mysterious late-twentieth century Woolworths tribe.
"We know so little about the ancient Woolworths stores," he explains, "but we do still know their locations. I thought that if we analysed the sites we could learn more about what life was like in 2008 and how these people went about buying cheap kitchen accessories and discount CDs."
It's good that someone is highlighting the pseudo-science involved in finding mysterious alignments. Actually there are some very simple principles involved in this pseudo-science:
  1. Ignore any sites that don't fit the data
  2. Ignore any differences in age or culture of the sites involved (because obviously all churches were built on ancient pagan sites)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Temple of Bast found

The BBC reports on the finding of a temple of Bast in Egypt:
The temple is the first trace of the royal quarters of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be revealed in Alexandria.

The find confirms the Greek dynasty of Egyptians continued the worship of ancient animal deities.

The Greek-speaking Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt for almost almost 300 years, after the foundation of the city by Alexander the Great in 305BC until Queen Cleopatra was ousted by the Romans.

The temple is 60m (200ft) high and 15m (50ft) wide.

Archaeologists found statues of Bastet, worshipped by the Greek-speaking Egyptians as the moon goddess.
(via William Gibson on Twitter)

Monday, 18 January 2010

Newton, Stukeley and the apple

The New Scientist reports that the real story of Newton and the apple has been discovered, and was recorded by none other than William Stukeley, archaeologist, vicar, Freemason, and Druid enthusiast.
Squirreled away in the archives of London's Royal Society was a manuscript containing the truth about the apple.The manuscript, from 1752, is a biography of Newton entitled Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life written by William Stukeley, an archaeologist and one of Newton's first biographers. Newton told the apple story to Stukeley, who relayed it as such:

"After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank thea, under the shade of some apple trees...he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasion'd by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself..."

The Royal Society has made the manuscript available today for the first time in a fully interactive digital form on their website.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Temple of Artemis destroyed

A shopping centre and car park have been built over the remains of a temple of Artemis in Porto Rafti, Greece.
The destruction of the Temple of Aphrodite started only recently. Since I live in the area, I found out about the rescue excavation and visited it three years ago. I noticed the good quality Hellenistic pottery and the strong foundations of the temple. No archaeologist was around, and so I conversed with the two Albanian workers, who explained to me the significance of the project. They also told me that part of the temple was noticed only after the building company started the erection of the modern shopping centre. At the time, I have not taken any photographs, as I know from personal experience that it takes the good part of a decade to uncover a building of that size. I was wrong! When I visited again last month the whole area has been covered under piles of dirt. I searched in vain for traces of ancient materials.

(via Tom Goskar)

Monday, 11 January 2010

Be kind to Neanderthals

The New Scientist blog asks, Why is 'Neanderthal' still a byword for dumb brute?
The notion that Neanderthals went extinct because they were too dim-witted to compete with humans - an idea now dismissed by most palaeoanthropologists - is finally beginning to lose its currency among the general public. It's about time.

Scientists working in south-western Spain uncovered perforated mollusc shells, some coloured with pigments, in archaeological sites linked to Neanderthals.

Jewellery and cosmetics, the researchers contend, point to a mind capable of symbolic representation and even complex language, once thought only to reside in Homo sapiens.
So, Neanderthals had make-up and art and language (and we also know that they buried their dead); in other words, they were pretty much like us.

San people performed world's oldest ritual

Apollon: World’s oldest ritual discovered. Worshipped the python 70,000 years ago
A startling archaeological discovery this summer changes our understanding of human history. While, up until now, scholars have largely held that man’s first rituals were carried out over 40, 000 years ago in Europe, it now appears that they were wrong about both the time and place.

Associate Professor Sheila Coulson, from the University of Oslo, can now show that modern humans, Homo sapiens, have performed advanced rituals in Africa for 70,000 years. She has, in other words, discovered mankind’s oldest known ritual.
The San (a branch of the Bushmen) are persecuted in their homelands. Hopefully this news might draw attention to their plight, and how you can help.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

ancient lentils

No, not the ones that Neil from the Young Ones left at the back of the kitchen cupboard: these are really ancient lentils. A 4000-year-old lentil seed found in Turkey on an archaeological dig has germinated, and it is hoped that it will produce a viable plant and more seeds, so that a strain of the plant that has never been cross-bred can be studied.
Ancient seed sprouts plant from the past — Megalithic Portal
A 4,000-year-old lentil seed found during an archeological excavation has germinated, exciting scientists as the event might lead to invaluable data for comparisons between the organic and genetically engineered plants of today. ‘It would be the first seed from very old times whose genes were never modified,’ say the scientists.

Project leader and Dumlupınar University archeology faculty Professor Nejat Bilgen said they found the seeds during an excavation undertaken last year in Kütahya province.

Bilgen said a layer from the container in which they found the seeds was determined to be from the middle bronze age. His team found many seeds, but most had been burnt. They had failed to make the others turn green before the recent success.

“A seed dug from underground and dating back approximately 4,000 years sprouted. The plant that came out of this seed is under examination and will be presented to the scientific community [so they can] make various analyses over it,” Bilgen said.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Future archaeology

Internet Archaeologists Discover Ancient "Friendster" Civilisation - The Onion (video)
Internet archaeologists stumbled upon the perfectly preserved ruins of an ancient civilisation called "Friendster".

As the person who posted this to the BritArch mailing list pointed out, you can see this happening in the not-too-distant future.

One day, there will also be lunar archaeology, as the perfectly-preserved remains of previous lunar expeditions can be examined by future visitors.

This also reminded me of the classic article about ley-line congestion from 2002.