|Listen to original
recordings of interview with Colin Renfrew
Renfrew (born 1937) retired from the Disney Chair of Archaeology at Cambridge
University in 2004. After joining the Department of Archaeology at Sheffield
University as a lecturer in 1965, he became successively Professor of Archaeology
at Southampton and then, in 1981, Cambridge, where he was also Master of
Jesus College from 1986 to 1997. He was appointed a member of the House
of Lords (Upper House) in the British Parliament in 1991, to serve as a
"working peer" on the Conservative side, taking the title Baron Renfrew
of Kaimsthorn. He is the co-author of the widely used textbook "Archaeology.
Theories, Methods and Practice" (with Paul Bahn).
interview was conducted in London on 15 October 2008 by Professor Anthony
Harding, at the time President of the European Association of Archaeologists.
These are the unedited original recordings of the interview, published
with permission of the European Association of Archaeologists, Professor
Anthony Harding and Professor Colin Renfrew. The transcription of the interview
was published in revised form as follows: Anthony Harding (2008), A Conversation
With Colin Renfrew (Professor Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn). European
Journal of Archaeology 11(2/3): 143-170. Listen to the interview
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by Archaeology @ Linnaeus University, Sweden
Human brain detected
- in an Iron Age skull
being deposited in the water-logged pit, the Heslington brain began to
change chemically, developing into a durable material and shrinking to
a quarter of its size. The chemical details of the new material are still
under investigation by scientists from the Departments of Archaeology,
Biology and Chemistry at York, Archaeological Sciences at the University
of Bradford, the Biocentre and the Department of Laboratory Medicine at
Manchester University, and the UCL Institute of Neurology in London, lead
by Sonia O'Connor, University of Bradford. The York Archaeological Trust
handled the excavation in Heslington. This appears to have been a permanent
settlement with ditches that divided the area into fields and walled parkways
through which cattle could be driven.
the University of York was planning to expand its Heslington East campus,
it discovered a human brain. The construction work in 2008 lead to the
excavation of a muddy pit containing a skull. Surprisingly, the skull enclosed
a yellowish, crinkly, shrunken soft tissue. The skull was accompanied by
a jaw and two neck vertebrae, bearing evidence of hanging and then decapitation.
Cut marks on the inside of the neck indicate that the head was severed
while there was still flesh on the bones. The head once belonged to a man
probably between 26 and 45 years old. Carbon dating suggests the remains
date from between 673-482BC.
Archaeology News Network 25 March 2011: http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2011/03/2500-year-old-preserved-human-brain.html
"Hey, dig here!"
we don't have to, but sometimes this may be an effective and simple means
to avoid shouting to illegal collectors and looters: "Hey, dig here!"
being deposited in the water-logged pit, the Heslington brain began to
is the apt title of a blog post by Chris Webster. In the pages of Random
Acts of Science, he warns us that smart cell phones not only offer
incredible possibilities, but also perils. "Who hasn't taken a picture
of a landscape, feature, or artifact that they wanted to show their family
and friends? Those of us that do archaeology on a daily basis get excited
by what we find and want to share it with others," he says. However, sharing
photos taken by smart phones on the internet, e.g. via Flickr, not only
shows the image, but also geo data, since these useful small machines have
GPS chips inside. "The default setting for the camera on these phones is
to geolocate and tag the photos. Stored in the meta-data is latitude/longitude
and elevation information. It's not difficult to find this information
on a photo saved from the internet. The best way to prevent the location
information from getting out is to turn off the location services on your
phone," Webster warns us. He then goes on describing step by step how to
find this device on your phone and to turn it off.
Network monitoring endangered sites
Heritage Fund is a California-based nonprofit organization that focuses
on historical preservation. It has launched a new internet platform to
rescue endangered cultural heritage sites, called Global Heritage Network
(GHN). The platform is set up as a threat-monitoring system for sites in
developing countries, where financial resources and expertise are limited.
GHN's database shows a collection of about 500 heritage sites in the developing
world. Each site is identified by a colour, which determines the threats
scale. Destroyed sites are marked with black spots, "rescue needed" sites
are signed in red, while at-risk and stable sites are indicated with orange
and green marks respectively. "Destruction of our global heritage is a
'silent crisis' happening far away in developing countries," Jeff Morgan,
executive director of Global Heritage Fund, told Discovery News, revealing
a somewhat colonial attitude. However, the database not only contains sites
such as Nineveh in northern Iraq and the minaret of Jam in Afghanistan,
it also records sites from developed countries such as the Roman imperial
spa at Allianoi in Turkey, threatened by a dam (s. TEA No. 34, 2010).
are reported from the field from professional site monitors and international
experts, as well as local communities, volunteers and travelers, and these
reports are combined with satellite data. Photographs and video footage
to document negative impacts or successful preservation efforts are uploaded
continuously to GHN groups. GHN hopes that the international community
and national governments will use the tools at their disposal to reverse
destruction and work together "to save our vanishing heritage" and its
economic value. A previous GHF report, called Saving Our Vanishing Heritage,
estimated that the 500 sites listed in the GHN database have the potential
to generate over $100 billion in visitor revenues annually by 2025, and
millions of dollars in new jobs, business and investment opportunities.
Teeth nibble on
theories of human origins
including anthropologists and archaeologists from Israel and the US has
concluded, on the basis of X-rays and CT scans, that the features are neither
a direct match to Neanderthals nor to Early Modern Humans. However, since
Gopher sees the teeth to have a "stronger affinity" to Homo sapiens
he hypothesizes that the teeth may be linked to modern human's ancestors,
indicating that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel and
that early modern humans now can be dated back farther. This would change
the whole picture of evolution, challenging the out of Africa hypothesis.
Gopher stressed that further research is needed to solidify the claim.
ancient teeth found in Qesem cave east of Tel Aviv aroused the interest
of academics as much as the public. A report in the American Journal of
Physical Anthropology spurred reports and interviews in print and online.
The teeth are older than most of the hominin specimens previously found
in southwest Asia, according to Avi Gopher, University of Tel Aviv. Using
advanced imaging technology, comparative analysis and an analysis of the
strata where the fossils were found they were dated to 300,000 to 400,000
an interview with "Newser", Paul Mellars (University of Cambridge) acknowledges
that the find is important, because remains from that critical time period
are scarce, but he suggested that it is premature to say the remains are
human. According to him the remains are more likely related to Neanderthals
than to modern humans. Anthropologist Rolf M. Quam (State University of
New York at Binghamton), part of the research team, discussed two possibilities,
according to "Bloomberg Net": the teeth may belong to an ancient, direct
ancestor of early humans that developed independently of others in Africa
and Europe. Here, the Levant is perceived as a crossroads for human population
movements, connecting Africa, Europe, and Asia. Alternately, the finding
may reflect a local evolution of Neanderthals in the Near East, showing
they were there earlier than previously believed, or that more than one
species - one earlier in time, and one later - occupied that area, Quam
excavations, conducted since 2004, will continue, and Gopher hopes for
skulls and other bones to clarify the question.
Bloomberg Net, 28 December 2010: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2010-12-28/
Newser, 29 December 2010: http://www.newser.com/story/108431/team-earliest-human-remains-discovered-in-israel.html
Hershkovitz, Patricia Smith, Rachel Sarig, Rolf Quam, Laura Rodríguez,
Rebeca García, Juan Luis Arsuaga, Ran Barkai and Avi Gopher, Middle Pleistocene
dental remains from Qesem Cave (Israel). American Journal of Physical Anthropology,
Volume 144, Issue 4, April 2011, 575–592 (DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21446)
More on human
origins: our lost uncles from Denisova?
data on the human bones from the Denisova cave (see TEA issue 34, 2010)
in the Altai Mountains of Siberia was recently published in "Nature". Information
from nuclear DNA (not mitochondrial) from a finger bone supports the surprising
idea that a previously unidentified hominid lived among us until at least
30,000 years ago. The Denisova research team identified that the Denisovans
(as they have decided to name them) and Neanderthals come from a common
lineage. Data coming from a search of modern genes for descendant remnants
suggests that a small percentage of the modern genes of present-day Melanesians
show some commonalities to the Denisovans, leading scholars to believe
that the Denisovans may have been widespread over Asia. The finger bone
was from a child and dated to approximately 30-45,000 years ago. The bone's
mtDNA profile did not match either Early Modern Humans or Neanderthals.
a tooth found at Denisova in 2000 from a young adult was analyzed, and
its mtDNA also reflects the Denisovan pattern. The tooth is a large molar,
and it is outside the normal size range for most members of the Homo family,
and closest to Australopithecus in size. It is most definitely not
a Neanderthal tooth. Scholars believe the young adult was part of the same
hominid population as the child.
the dating of these finds is problematic. Radiocarbon dates from the layer
where they were found suggest that there are at least two and perhaps more
occupations in the same layer, one older than 50,000 (the upper limit of
C14 dating) and one between 23,000-30,000 years ago. The phalanx and molar
both appear to be from the earlier occupation.
About.com 27 December 2010: http://archaeology.about.com/b/2010/12/27/update-on-denisova-cave.htm
; D. Reich et al. 2010. Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from
Denisova Cave in Siberia. Nature 468:1053-1060.
Update on Areni
34 of TEA also reported on a shoe discovered in the cave of Areni-1 in
southwestern Armenia. Now there is more news from this cave. A packed clay
platform excavated inside the cave appears to represent the earliest wine
production installation yet discovered. It is dated to between 3700-4200
cal BC. The platform is slanted downwards towards the mouth of a large
jar inserted in the platform's edge. Other large jars of the same shape
and size, interpreted as storage jars, surround the platform. Desiccated
grapes, grape seeds, rachises and skins, preserved in the exceptionally
dry environment of Areni-1, were identified nearby. Excavators believe
that grapes were crushed on the top of the platform, and the grape juice
then allowed to flow down into the storage jars.
an article for the Journal of Archaeological Science, chemical evidence
for this hypothesis is presented using a new method to detect the anthocyanin
malvidin that gives grapes and pomegranates their red color. Using solid
phase extraction (SPE) and alkaline treatment of the samples, followed
by combined liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS),
this method was applied to authentic standards and four ancient potsherds
from Armenia and Syria. A positive result was observed for two of the samples
from the Areni-1 cave complex. However, this doesn't prove the fermentation
process, since maldivin is found in the unfermented fruits, so unfermented
liquids or crushed fruit of pomegranate or red grapes could have been stored
in the vessels. Nevertheless, the authors take this as additional evidence
supporting the hypothesis that wine was produced in the Near Eastern highlands
in the Late Chalcolithic Period.
About.com 24 January 2011: http://archaeology.about.com/b/2011/01/24/wine-production-at-areni-1.htm
Heritage and its
culture minister Sandro Bondi resigned earlier this year after a political
furor over the
ancient harbour discovered in the United Arabian Emirates in 2008
may be lost when UAE's first nuclear power plant will be constructed. The
yet undated stone walls of the harbour are located in Sag Barakah in Al
Gharbia and were detected by Mark Beech, the cultural landscapes manager
of the Historic Environment Department at Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture
and Heritage (Adach). Beech and other archaeologists working in the Emirates
presented the results of their surveys at a conference in March in Al Ain
organized by Adach's Historic Environment Department, and agreed on the
common enemy of development.
Hawass announces the recovery of four
artifacts [Credit: Rania Galal]
of Italy's priceless cultural monuments. His successor, Giancarlo Galan,
announced a major new restoration project for the ancient Roman city of
Pompeii, following international outrage over the collapse of a house and
a wall at the site after heavy rain in late 2010.
22 March, a UNESCO delegation embarked on a three-day tour of archaeological
sites subject to looting during and since Egypt's January revolution.
About 1,000 relics have been stolen from museums and archeological sites.
Christian Manhart, chief of the Museums and Cultural Objects Section within
UNESCO, was pleased that 12 missing objects of the Kairo Museum have been
retrieved and he promised to help Egypt to regain all its missing artefacts.
Manhart went on to say that the UNESCO visit was wrongly reflected in the
media. "We did not come to Egypt in an inspecting tour, as was written,
but to extend a helping hand to Egyptians to restitute their missing heritage."
Later, Zahi Hawass, antiquities minister, presented a statue of King Tutankhamun
to the media, which has been returned to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo along
with three other pharaonic artifacts. Hawass, re-appointed as antiquities
chief in the newly-formed cabinet, announced that a special police force
will be set up to protect sites and museums around the country.
a new television series describing the exploits of metal-detector enthusiasts
has come under fire from archaeologists. The British Museum has become
embroiled in the controversy after opening its archives and providing expert
help to the programme-makers of Britain's Secret Treasures, a series being
developed by ITV 1. Stimulated by "treasures" such as the Staffordshire
gold hoard - 1,500 items dating from the 7th or 8th century - more people
might buy the equipment, critiques said, and create "collateral damage"
to the sites they plunder. A 2009 survey found that more than a third of
sites attacked by illegal metal detecting between 1995 and 2008 were categorized
as "nationally important". These are, in theory, legally protected.
wants to conclude a new international agreement that will designate the
dealing of antique Iraqi artefacts a crime, to preserve the country's heritage
from thieves and smugglers. Moreover, according to Baha al-Mayyah, an adviser
at the Iraqi Tourism and Historic Monuments Ministry, Iraq plans to convene
an international conference in Baghdad to discuss the creation of a new
international organization, because it strives for a new convention on
prohibiting and preventing illicit trade that will include objects obtained
before 1970. Currently the UNESCO convention allows countries to keep what
they acquired before that date, "even if it was done illegally".
The National (UAE), 31 March 2011; AFP, 13 April 2011; Ahram Online, 21
March and 23 March 2011; Discovery News, 12 April 2011; The Independent,
3 April 2011; Radio Free Europe 23 April 2011
not so peaceful after all
daily business of investigating human bones sometimes can challenge public
views of prehistory. Eighty-five skulls from Orkney's Isbister Chambered
Cairn (also known as the "Tomb of the Eagles") were analyzed in a collaborative
project between the University of Bradford and Orkney Museum, funded by
the Arts and Humanities Research Council; 16 of them displayed signs of
serious wounds inflicted by weapons. This lead to newspaper headlines about
prehistoric violence. It is said the supposedly long-held belief that Neolithic
farmers were peaceful now is refuted. The skulls of male, female, and subadult
individuals showed injuries caused by one or more severe blows to the head
inflicted by a weapon. Some of these head wounds healed, other individuals
obviously died from their injuries. David Lawrence from Orkney Museum said,
some attacks were so severe that the whole skull has split in two horizontally.
Other wounds are very subtle and are most easily observed inside the skull,
where splinters have been bent inwards. Some were caused by a blunt force,
like a stone or a mace, others point to arrows or axes. According to Lawrence,
this was not ritual violence because of the great variety in the places
where people were hit and the instruments used: "I can't say if they were
fighting each other or different tribes." Well, who could?
study's conclusion thus is that Scotland's early settlers were not the
friendly farmers that historians for a long time thought them to be, and
newspapers say that this "is in line with recent results from studies and
finds in Europe", obviously referring to Neolithic sites such as Herxheim
and Talheim in Germany.
Mail Online 09 March 2011- http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2011/03/skull-that-proves-neolithic-farmers.html
Lewis R. Binford
Binford, one of the most influential American archaeologists of the last
half-century, died on 11 April at his home in Kirksville (USA). He was
name evokes an entire intellectual movement within archaeology, since he
was an early advocate of a more scientific approach to investigating ancient
cultures. Lewis Roberts Binford was born on 21 November, 1931. He graduated
from the University of North Carolina (Bachelors), and the University of
Michigan (Masters and PhD). He produced over 150 publications in the last
50 years, many of which became seminal papers in archaeological theory
and method. In 1962, as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago,
Binford published his article "Archaeology as Anthropology" in American
Antiquity, one of the (if not the) founding papers of processual archaeology.
His vision for a scientific approach to archaeology led him and his followers
to the use of scientific methods aimed at explaining cultural processes
and site formation processes.
his base, first at the University of New Mexico and then at Southern Methodist
University, he took to the field in Alaska, Australia and Africa, studying
living hunters and gatherers to better understand similar societies that
had existed in the past.
widow, Amber Johnson, said that she and a colleague planned to finish editing
one more book written by Binford, his 19th. You may want to express your
condolences at a website set up by Antiquity: http://antiquity.ac.uk/tributes/binford.html.
Also WAC has established a memorial book to honour the life and work of
Binford. WAC would like to encourage people who knew Binford, or whose
life and career was affected by his work, to contribute to this memorial
If you would like to send images for the associated photo gallery, please
email them to email@example.com.
The tributes in the WAC book will be collated and given to Binford's family
in a hard copy volume.
New York Times 22 April 2011: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/us/23binford.html?_r=1
Archaeological Congress: http://www.worldarchaeologicalcongress.org/component