Monday, January 31, 2011
Rowthorn has developed a model that shows that the genetic components that predispose a person toward religion are currently “hitchhiking” on the back of the religious cultural practice of high fertility rates. Even if some of the people who are born to religious parents defect from religion and become secular, the religious genes they carry (which encompass other personality traits, such as obedience and conservativism) will still spread throughout society, according to the model’s numerical simulations.
“Provided the fertility of religious people remains on average higher than that of secular people, the genes that predispose people towards religion will spread,” Rowthorn told PhysOrg.com. “The bigger the fertility differential between religious and secular people, the faster this genetic transformation will occur. This does not mean that everyone will become religious. Genes are not destiny. Many people who are genetically predisposed towards religion may in fact lead secular lives because of the cultural influences they have been exposed to.”
The model’s assumptions are based on data from previous research. Studies have shown that, even controlling for income and education, people who are more religious have more children, on average, than people who are secular (defined here as having a religious indifference). According to the World Values Survey for 82 countries, adults attending religious services more than once per week averaged 2.5 children, those attending once per month averaged 2.01 children, and those never attending averaged 1.67 children. The more orthodox the religious sect, the higher the fertility rate, with sects such as the Amish, the Hutterites, and Haredi having up to four times as many children as the secular average. Studies have found that the high fertility rates stem from cultural and social influences by religious organizations rather than biological factors.
But while fertility is determined by culture, an individual’s predisposition toward religion is likely to be influenced by genetics, in addition to their upbringing. In the model, Rowthorn uses a “religiosity gene” to represent the various genetic factors that combine to genetically predispose a person toward religion, whether remaining religious from youth or converting to religion from a secular upbringing. On the flip side, the nonreligiosity allele of this “gene” makes a person more likely to remain or become secular. If both parents have the religiosity allele, their children are also more likely to have the religiosity allele than if one or both parents did not have it. However, children born to religious parents may have the nonreligiosity allele, while children born to secular parents may have the religiosity allele. Having the religiosity allele does not make a person religious, but it makes a person more likely to have characteristics that make them religiously inclined; the converse is also true.
All individuals, whether they have religious or secular upbringings, have a chance of defecting. Rowthorn explained that the rates of defection from religious to secular and from secular to religious preferences depend on time and place.
“Amongst Christian Churches in Europe and North America, defection rates are higher than conversion rates,” he said. “In some cases, such as the Amish, these losses are greatly outweighed by their very high fertility. However, for mainstream Churches, such as the Catholics or Anglicans, the birth rate is not high enough on its own to offset defections and they rely on immigration to maintain their numbers. In certain other parts of the world, such as East Asia, mainstream Christian Churches are growing through conversion.”
Rowthorn’s model shows that, even when the religious defection rate is high, the overall high fertility rate of religious people will cause the religiosity allele to eventually predominate the global society. The model shows that the wide gap in fertility rates could have a significant genetic effect in just a few generations. The model predicts that the religious fraction of the population will eventually stabilize at less than 100%, and there will remain a possibly large percentage of secular individuals. But nearly all of the secular population will still carry the religious allele, since high defection rates will spread the religious allele to secular society when defectors have children with a secular partner. Overall, nearly all of the population will have a genetic predisposition toward religion, although some or many of these individuals will lead secular lives, Rowthorn concluded.
“The rate at which religious people abandon their faith affects the eventual share of the population who are religious,” Rowthorn said. “However, it does not alter the conclusion of the article that the religiosity allele will eventually take over. If the defection rate is high, there will be lots of children who are brought up as religious and carry the religiosity allele, but who give up their faith. Such people will carry the religiosity allele into the secular population with them. Many of their descendents will also carry this allele and be secular. In this case, the high fertility group is constantly sending migrants into the low-fertility secular population. Such migrations will simultaneously boost the size of the secular population and transform its genetic composition.”
Rowthorn acknowledges that he can only speculate on how a genetic predisposition toward religion may manifest itself in a secular context. Previous research has suggested that a genetic predisposition toward religion is tied to a variety of characteristics such as conservatism, obedience to authority, and the inclination to follow rituals. In this instance of evolution, it’s possible that these characteristics may become widespread not for their own fitness but by hitching a ride with a high-fitness cultural practice.
PhysOrg. 2011. "Model predicts 'religiosity gene' will dominate society". PhysOrg. Posted: January 28, 2011. Available online: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-01-religiosity-gene-dominate-society.html
More information: Robert Rowthorn. “Religion, fertility and genes: a dual inheritance model.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2010.2504
Sunday, January 30, 2011
The research, led Sergey Gavrilets, associate director for scientific activities at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and a professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, is published in the first issue of the new journal Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History, the first academic journal dedicated to research from the emerging science of theoretical history and mathematics.
This image shows a hexagonal array of initially autonomous local communities or villages, which is part of a polity. Polities grow, decrease in size, or disappear as a result of conquest with the winner absorbing all of part of the loser. (Credit: Gavrilets S, Anderson D, Turchin P.)
The numerical model focuses on both size and complexity of emerging "polities" or states as well as their longevity and settlement patterns as a result of warfare. A number of factors were measured, but unexpectedly, the largest effect on the results was due to just two factors -- the scaling of a state's power to the probability of winning a conflict and a leader's average time in power. According to the model, the stability of large, complex polities is strongly promoted if the outcomes of conflicts are mostly determined by the polities' wealth or power, if there exist well-defined and accepted means of succession, and if control mechanisms within polities are internally specialized. The results also showed that polities experience what the authors call "chiefly cycles" or rapid cycles of growth and collapse due to warfare.
The wealthiest of polities does not necessarily win a conflict, however. There are many other factors besides wealth that can affect the outcome of a conflict, the authors write. The model also suggests that the rapid collapse of a polity can occur even without environmental disturbances, such as drought or overpopulation.
By using a mathematical model, the researchers were able to capture the dynamical processes that cause chiefdoms, states and empires to emerge, persist and collapse at the scale of decades to centuries.
"In the last several decades, mathematical models have been traditionally important in the physical, life and economic sciences, but now they are also becoming important for explaining historical data," said Gavrilets. "Our model provides theoretical support for the view that cultural, demographic and ecological conditions can predict the emergence and dynamics of complex societies."
Co-authors are David G. Anderson, professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Peter Turchin, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and mathematics at the University of Connecticut.
The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) brings together researchers from around the world to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to investigate solutions to basic and applied problems in the life sciences. NIMBioS is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Science Daily. 2011. "Mathematical Model Explains How Complex Societies Emerge, Collapse". Science Daily. Posted: January 19, 2011. Available online: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119151816.htm
Gavrilets, Sergey, Anderson, David G and Turchin, Peter. Cycling in the Complexity of Early Societies. Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History, Vol 1, Issue 1
Saturday, January 29, 2011
oddlers who learn a second language from infancy have an edge over their unilingual peers, according to a new study from Concordia University and York University in Canada and the Université de Provence in France. As reported in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, the research team tested the understanding of English and French words among 24-month-olds to see if bilingual toddlers had acquired comparable vocabulary in each language.
"By 24 months, we found bilingual children had already acquired a vocabulary in each of their two languages and gained some experience in switching between English or French," says senior researcher Diane Poulin-Dubois, a psychology professor at Concordia University and associate director of the Centre for Research in Human Development. "We found the cognitive benefits of bilingualism come much earlier than reported in previous studies."
As part of the investigation, 63 toddlers were divided into groups of unilingual and bilingual infants. To assess levels of bilingualism, parents completed a language exposure interview and vocabulary checklists, while children completed five basic language and cognitive tests.
"Bilingual children outperformed their unilingual counterparts on tasks where they were distracted," says Dr. Poulin-Dubois. "The small bilingual advantage that we observed in our 24-month-old bilinguals is probably due to a combination of infants' experience listening to and using their two languages."
These new findings have practical implications for educators and parents, says Dr. Poulin-Dubois. "Exposing toddlers to a second language early in their development provides a bilingual advantage that enhances attention control."
EurekAlert. 2011. "A second language gives toddlers an ed". EurekAlert. Posted: January 19, 2011. Available online: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-01/cu-asl011911.php
Friday, January 28, 2011
This is especially true in the African American population, which is particularly susceptible to hypertension. Social and cultural barriers have been found to contribute to African American patients being far more likely than white patients to suffer from uncontrolled high blood pressure and resulting complications.
A new study suggests that a storytelling approach—in which recognizable members of a community provide positive messages aimed at controlling hypertension through diet and medication adherence—may offer a unique opportunity to communicate positive disease management choices in a culturally appropriate context.
Researchers at UMass Medical School, working with colleagues at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have identified one promising approach. They identified "exceptionally eloquent and persuasive" patients with hypertension from focus groups where blood pressure control and the benefits of intervention were discussed; these volunteers were then videotaped, and edited DVDs, distilled from 80 hours of taping, were created.
The study, "Stories to Improve Blood Pressure: Findings from a Culturally Sensitive Randomized Trial," appears in the Jan. 18 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers randomly assigned 299 African American patients with hypertension to receive either usual care or to view three videos that presented stories of real patients with hypertension. Among patients who had uncontrolled hypertension, those assigned to view the stories had better blood pressure control than those assigned to usual care—the first such study that based a health intervention for hypertensive African Americans on positive, culturally sensitive storytelling.
"Overall," the authors wrote, "Among the 300 patients randomized, we found a difference in blood pressure favoring the intervention group, and the significance of this difference was driven by the positive effect among those with uncontrolled blood pressure. Patients with uncontrolled hypertension who were randomized to the intervention group experienced a 10 mmHg advantage in systolic blood pressure reduction relative to control Meaningful advantages were also found for diastolic pressure among the uncontrolled substrata. Blood pressures for both groups subsequently increased over time, but the relative advantage for the intervention group was maintained until the end of follow up."
What accounts for the result? Although there is no direct evidence about the mechanism by which the intervention worked, the researchers believe that the DVDs provided a "parasocial" interaction, one that rendered the viewer of the messages more susceptible to behavior change. "In prior hypertension work, we…translated patient stories into re-enactments using trained actors using high production quality in studio. To maximize [the] para-social interaction [in this study], we enhanced the realism of the current intervention by purposefully avoiding the studio, taping patients in the actual hypertension clinic."
EurekAlert. 2011. "Storytelling may help control blood pressure in African-Americans". EurekAlert. Posted: January 18, 2011. Available online: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-01/uomm-smh011811.php
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Japanese researchers plan to collect mammoth tissue this summer from a carcass that was frozen in the Siberian permafrost and is now in a Russian research laboratory, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The hope is to recover an undamaged nucleus of a mammoth cell from this tissue and insert it into an elephant egg cell from which the nucleus has been removed. This will create an embryo with mammoth genes, according to the news report.
This embryo will be inserted to the elephant's womb in hopes that she'll give birth to a mammoth.
"Preparations to realize this goal have been made," Akira Iritani, a team leader from Kyoto University, told the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Previous attempts to recover nuclei from frozen tissue failed because the cold temperatures damaged the DNA.
The new technique is based on work by Teruhiko Wakayama of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology, who in 2008 cloned a mouse from the cells of another mouse that were frozen for 16 years.
Iritani says his team has devised a method to extract the nuclei of mammoth cells without damaging them. "Now that the technical problems have been overcome, all we need is a good sample of soft tissue from a frozen mammoth," he told London's Daily Telegraph.
Mammoth for display
If the team is successful in creating an embryo, they will discuss how to breed the mammoth — and whether or not to display it to the public — before transplanting to a surrogate elephant, Iritani told the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Even if the embryo is successfully created and implanted, the chances of bringing a cloned mammoth to term (or any cloned animal, for that matter) are slim. When South Korean researchers tried cloning dogs, for example, nearly 1,100 embryos were transplanted to surrogate dogs, but only two live births resulted, and only one of those puppies survived past the 22-day mark.
Nevertheless, Iritani was confident of success. "After the mammoth is born, we'll examine its ecology and genes to study why the species became extinct and other factors," he said.
Woolly mammoths went extinct at the end of the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. Scientists have long debated whether climate change or human hunters were the cause of their demise.
Last December, researchers said another factor could be the fact that the creatures delayed weaning their young due to the long dark winter north of the Arctic Circle.
Roach, John. 2011. "Mammoth resurrection on the way?". MSNBC. Posted: January 18, 2011. Available online: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/01/18/5870423-mammoth-resurrection-on-the-way
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
The findings are based on patterns of variation in two out of six genes sampled among friends and strangers. But the claim is a hard sell for some geneticists, who say that the researchers have not analysed enough genes to rule out alternative explanations.
The team, led by James Fowler, a social scientist at the University of California, San Diego, looked at the available data on six genes from roughly 5,000 individuals enrolled in unrelated studies, and recorded the variation at one specific point, or single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), in each gene, and compared this between friends and non-friends.
After controlling for genetic likeness due to sex, age, race or common ancestry, friends still tended to have the same SNP at one position in a gene encoding the dopamine D2 receptor, DRD2. Friends also showed more variation at one position in a cytochrome gene, CYP2A6, than non-friends.
An 'opposites attract' phenomenon may account for the variation in CYP2A6 among friends, say the authors. This result indicates that genetic patterns aren't always the result of friends who connect through similar activities, such as running marathons or playing musical instruments.
The ultimate function of DRD2 or CYP2A6 is not clear. But the authors point out that previous studies have associated both genes, albeit controversially, with traits that influence social behaviour: DRD2 with alcoholism and CYP2A6 with 'openness'2,3.
"When people choose friends with similar genotypes, an individual's fitness — or survival until reproduction — not only reflects their own genes but also the genes of the friends they've chosen," says Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an author on the study. In other words, there might be an evolutionary benefit to having friends with compatible genes, even if you don't have any offspring with them. For example, if people who are naturally less susceptible to bacterial infection hang around together, their collective health as a group multiplies because the bacteria have no vulnerable hosts.
"Assuming they're right, what's interesting about this study is that they find an association at the level of SNPs," says David Sloan Wilson, an expert on the evolution of social groups at Binghamton University in New York. He says that scientists have long known that people gravitate towards like-minded people, but he would have expected genotypic similarities to be far less apparent, because behaviour tends to be influenced by several genes. And there is little reason to suspect that friends with similar characteristics, such as altruism, would be able to detect variations in the underlying genes for that trait.
Too good to be true?
But not everyone is convinced.
"If this was a study looking for shared genes in patients with diabetes, it would not be up to the standards of the field," says David Altshuler, a geneticist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge. "We set these standards after 10 years of seeing so many irreproducible results in gene-association studies."
Because most genes have modest effects on behaviour or health, many scientists assume that thousands of SNPs — rather than six — need to be analysed before a correlation to any trait can be confidently made. Geneticists are often hard-pressed to find one SNP in a million that reproducibly correlates with a disease, says Altshuler. "It's like the team bought six lottery tickets and won the megabucks twice — this is not how things work."
Stanley Nelson, a human geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles, agrees, adding: "It certainly is a provocative study — I would have loved to have seen it done with information from the rest of the genome."
Fowler defends his decision to focus on six genes, rather than thousands. Genome-wide information wasn't available and, he says, the "transmission disequilibrium" statistical tests that the group ran to control for similarity owing to ancestry are among the strongest in the field of human-genetics studies.
Maxmen, Amy. 2011. "Friends connect on a genetic level". Nature. Posted: January 17, 2011. Available online: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110117/full/news.2011.23.html
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
“A training climb,” scoffs Julio Choque Alaña, 32, who guides foreigners up the mountains of Bolivia, which boasts peaks higher than the Alps and the Rockies.
But such bravado fades when talk shifts to what climbers are discovering on Huayna Potosí’s glacier: crumpled fuselage, decades-old pieces of wings and propellers, and, in November, the frozen body of Rafael Benjamín Pabón, a 27-year-old pilot whose Douglas DC-6 crashed into the mountain’s north face in 1990.
“When I found the pilot, he was still strapped into his seat, crunched over like he was sleeping, some black hair falling from his skull,” said Eulalio González, 49, the climber who carried Mr. Pabón’s mummified body down the mountain. “There are more ice mummies in the peaks above us,” he said. “Melting glaciers will bring them to us.”
The discovery of Mr. Pabón’s partially preserved remains was one of a growing number of finds pulled from the world’s glaciers and snow fields in recent years as warmer temperatures cause the ice and snow to melt, exposing their long-held secrets. The bodies that have emerged were mummified naturally, with extreme cold and dry air performing the work that resins and oils did for ancient Egyptians and other cultures.
Up and down the spine of the Andes, long plagued by airplane crashes and climbing mishaps, the discoveries are helping to solve decades-old mysteries.
In one such find, in the late ’90s, climbers on Mount Tupungato in Argentina discovered parts the wreckage of the Star Dust, a fabled British aircraft rumored to have disappeared in 1947 with a cargo of gold.
The climbers found no treasure at the crash site of the Avro Lancastrian plane flown by British South American Airways. But they did discover a preserved torso and a hand with pointed, manicured fingernails, an eerie fashion relic of 1940s London that served as testament to the fate of the plane’s passengers and crew.
Scientists say the retreat of the ice is an unexpected boon for those yearning to peer back in time.
“It looks like the warming trend seen in many regions is continuing,” said Gerald Holdsworth, a glaciologist at the Arctic Institute of North America in Calgary, Alberta. “There are still some large snowbanks left in promising places, and many glaciers of all different shapes, orientations and sizes, so the finds could go on for a long time yet.”
Some discoveries are personal, allowing families closure after years of mourning loved ones who appeared to have vanished. Others have added alluring clues into the history of human migration, diet, health and ethnic origins, said María Victoria Monsalve, a pathologist at the University of British Columbia who studies ice mummies.
She said some of the most valuable discoveries in recent years include three Inca child mummies found on the summit of Mount Llullaillaco in northern Argentina and a 550-year-old iceman discovered by sheep hunters in northern British Columbia.
Younger mummies can also add to the historical record. In 2004, three well-preserved soldiers were found in a scene of high-altitude fighting from World War I in the Italian Alps. And in 2006, a military lab in Hawaii pieced together the story of a World War II airman found on Darwin Glacier in California. Identified as Leo M. Mustonen, he was buried in his hometown, Brainerd, Minn.
Even Mr. Holdsworth, who as a glaciologist is generally more interested in the ice itself, has been closely monitoring the Malaspina Glacier in southeastern Alaska, in part because he says he believes that it holds a plane that crashed near the Yukon border in 1951.
For the family of Rafael Pabón, the pilot found high in the Andes in November, the discovery was a relief of sorts. For two decades, his mother, Yolanda Galindo de Pabón, 69, had been tortured by thoughts of what had happened to him. She said she nurtured a theory that he might be wandering Bolivia’s provinces as a result of an accident. She wondered whether his plane could have been hijacked and flown across the border into Brazil.
The discovery of his body — still clad in the same white shirt and gray pants he wore when he lifted off with a cargo of beef carcasses from Bolivia’s eastern lowlands on Oct. 19, 1990 — at least put an end to the doubts.
“It took me a very long time to acknowledge he might be dead,” Ms. Pabón said. “Now we have a body. I can visit my son at his burial site and grieve like any mother has a right to do.”
The frozen corpse of Mr. Pabón’s co-pilot was discovered on Huayna Potosí in 1997. The cargo plane’s only other crew member, a mechanic named Walter Flores, has not been found.
Climbers here say they expect to find more remains as the country’s glaciers, like Chacaltaya — once said to be the site of the world’s highest ski resort — retreat. They speak with a certain reverence of glaciers guarding plane wrecks stretching back decades, including a Hercules military cargo plane from the 1970s and smaller planes that crashed into mountains after encountering storms and poor visibility.
In at least one case, the mystery is unfolding in chapters, as layers of ice slowly reveal an old tragedy.
In 2006, a climbing team on Mount Illimani, Bolivia’s second-highest peak, rediscovered the wreckage of a Boeing 727 operated by Eastern Air Lines that crashed into the mountain shortly after takeoff on Jan. 1, 1985, killing all 29 people aboard.
No bodies were found at the time of the crash or during the 2006 ascent. But Roberto Gómez, 28, a climber who retrieved part of the Boeing’s fuselage, said it was only a matter of time before they surface as the glacier on Illimani melts. He has already found photographs, children’s clothing and, strangely, what seemed to be crocodile hides from the cargo hold at the crash site.
“The bodies and the black box are still somewhere in the ice,” he said.
On another ascent, he found what he believes are the remains of a dead Austrian climber: a preserved foot still clad in a Salewa hiking boot.
Aware of the fate which has often met those who dare challenge Bolivia’s peaks, some climbing guides here respectfully refer to the mountains as “achachila,” a word from the indigenous Aymara language that roughly translates as “earth spirit” or “uncle.” Before each ascent, they make offerings of coca leaves to the peaks they depend on for their livelihood.
“The uncles guard many secrets,” said Mr. González, who found the body of Mr. Pabón, “just like the graveyards in their shadow.”
Romero, Simon. 2011. "Melting in Andes Reveals Remains and Wreckage". New York Times. Posted: January 15, 2011. Available online: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/world/americas/16bolivia.html?_r=1
Monday, January 24, 2011
Le Festival International du Film Ethnographique du Québec - 8e édition- La bande annonce
Dedicated to the promotion of ethnographic films, the FIFEQ screens films created by new filmmakers from both Canada and abroad as well as from renowned figures in the discipline of visual anthropology and the social documentary genre. The festival is both a celebration of the discipline of visual anthropology, as well as a reflection on the debates and ethical issues surrounding the utility and relevance of employing visual media when studying cultures and societies.
This is all been made possible due to the efforts of anthropology students from Concordia University, Universite de Montreal and McGill University. The FIFEQ creates a forum for professors, professionals, students and others passionate about films and anthropology to watch contemporary ethnographic films on the big screen and in turn to exchange ideas, pose questions and learn more about film media within the domain of the social sciences.
The schedule is available online.
2011. "The International Ethnographic Film Festival of Quebec". International Ethnographic Film Festival of Quebec (FIFEQ). Posted: N/D. Available online: http://www.fifeq.ca/spip.php?page=rubrique&lang=en&id_rubrique=3
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Marine archeology has begun to gradually emerge from the shadows in the Algerian Federation of Rescue, First Aid and Underwater Activities (FASSAS). The latter is now moving towards the science associated with underwater diving.
"We now focus on the scientific niches, such as marine biology, marine archeology and caving," revealed its president, Abdelkader Chekroun, proud to raise the ambitions and plans of the federation he heads.
Scientific diving, or rather underwater dive science, aims to collect information, samples or information for research or teaching.
"We plan to explore the seabed and uncover fossilized objects (wrecks). Algeria, which is an ancient country holds significant archaeological riches," says the head of the federation. Moreover, "the ancient Phoenician shipwrecks have been discovered previously in Algeria," he says. In developing marine archeology, the Algerian Federation of Underwater Sports will provide valuable background information related to ancient history Algeria.
"We can contribute to the writing of ancient history of Algeria, which is overlooked by historians, and this, by providing physical evidence, such as wrecks, ship furnishings, amphorae, etc.." said Mr. Chekroun, who believes that ships that have sunk in ancient times, "can let us know, for example, the nature of the trade Algeria then practiced with the rest of the world."
"Our divers, exploring the seabed, have occassionally found pieces of Roman art, coins, marble ... which can give an idea about the trade, "he added.
The science-oriented activities, in the Algerian Federation of water sports and underwater activities, are becoming increasingly important and will be soon be supported by other equally important fields such as photo, video and film in submarines. FASSAS also plans to organize in the near future an international festival of underwater images in Algeria. The Federation is also working to expand its sphere of activity to the southern regions of the country, with the creation local leagues which organize their activities in rivers, dams, etc.).
Internationally, the president of FASSAS works to create the conditions needed to boost the North African Confederation of Underwater Activities. The year 2011 would also be conducive to revive the project Creation of a Mediterranean Confederation.
The Original Article
L’archéologie marine commence peu à peu à sortir de l’ombre au sein de la Fédération algérienne de sauvetage, de secourisme et des activités subaquatiques (Fassas). Cette dernière s’oriente maintenant vers le volet scientifique lié à cette activité marine et sous-marine. «Nous nous intéressons maintenant aux créneaux scientifiques, comme la biologie marine, la spéléologie et l’archéologie marine», a révélé son président, Abdelkader Chekroun, tout fier d’évoquer les ambitions et projets de la Fédération qu’il dirige. La plongée scientifique, ou plus exactement la plongée subaquatique à vocation scientifique, a pour objectif de recueillir des données, échantillons ou informations à des fins de recherche ou d’enseignement. «Nous projetons d’explorer les fonds marins et mettre au jour les objets fossilisés (épaves). L’Algérie qui est un pays antique recèle d’importantes richesses archéologiques», dira le responsable de la fédération. D’ailleurs, «des épaves antiques phéniciennes ont été découvertes auparavant en Algérie», ajoutera-t-il.En développant l’archéologie marine, la Fédération algérienne des sports subaquatiques veut apporter de précieux éléments d’informations liées à l’histoire ancienne de l’Algérie. «Nous pourrons contribuer à l’écriture de l’histoire antique de l’Algérie, qui est méconnue par les historiens, et ce, en fournissant des preuves matérielles, comme les épaves, le mobilier des navires, les amphores, etc.», a soutenu M. Chekroun, qui estime que les navires qui ont sombré dans les temps anciens «peuvent nous faire connaître, par exemple, la nature du commerce que l’Algérie pratiquait alors avec le reste du monde». Cela est en effet possible grâce à l’étude de l’iconographie des épaves. «Nos plongeurs, en explorant les fonds marins, ont trouvé parfois des pièces d’art de l’époque romaine, des pièces de monnaie, de marbre... qui peuvent donner une idée sur le commerce d’alors», a-t-il ajouté. Les activités à vocation scientifiques, au sein de la Fédération algérienne des sports aquatiques et subaquatiques, prennent de plus en plus d’ampleur et vont être soutenues prochainement par d’autres disciplines non moins importantes, comme la photo, la vidéo et le cinéma sous-marins. La Fassas projette d’ailleurs d’organiser dans un proche avenir un festival international de l’image sous-marine en Algérie.La fédération travaille aussi à l’élargissement de sa sphère d’activité aux régions du sud du pays, avec la création de ligues locales qui organiseront leurs activités dans les cours d’eau, barrages, etc.). Au plan international, le président de la Fassas œuvre à réunir les conditions nécessaires pour dynamiser la Confédération maghrébine des activités subaquatiques. L’année 2011 serait également propice pour relancer le projet de création d’une confédération méditerranéenne.
Algeria Press Service. 2011. "L'archéologie marine a le vent en poupe". La Tribune. Posted: January 15, 2011. Available online: http://www.latribune-online.com/culture/45808.html
Saturday, January 22, 2011
The town of Hondarribia lies on the coast of the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, Spain.
The research was undertaken by the archaeobiology research team from the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) under the direction of Doctor Leonor Pena-Chocarro.
This research has enabled the recording of numerous fleshy fruits such as plums of various types, cherries, peaches, sloes, grapes, apples, figs, quince and medlar and, in a token manner, olives, reports Archeology News.
The overall collection of nuts is interesting, significant being the presence of hazel nuts, acorns, walnuts, pine kernels and, sporadically, beechnuts. As regards cereals, wheat, barley and oats have been identified. Also of particular important are the various seeds of the bottle (or calabash) gourd, a species of water pumpkin, very rarely recorded in archaeological contexts.
While the overall results can be considered relevant for knowledge about nutrition in the Middle Ages, the most striking part refers to the remains of quince and medlar found, being species hitherto unknown in the archaeobotanical register of the Iberian Peninsula.
This area has produced one of the best databases of archaeological seeds within the Spanish State, or indeed in Europe, thanks to the fact that, in many of its excavations, layers of terrain that had been flooded have conserved organic matter due to saturation of water.
Zee News. 2011. "Remains of oldest fruit trees found in Iberian Peninsula". Zee News. Posted: January 17, 201l. Available online: http://www.zeenews.com/news681045.html
Friday, January 21, 2011
Found in its namesake river, the C.S.S. Peedee was blown to pieces by Confederate troops in 1865 to keep Union troops from capturing the boat.
“We knew the ship was there when we found a tree growing in the middle of the river. There had to be a structure underneath the tree in order for it to grow,” state underwater archaeologist Christopher Amer said.
The project originally started in 2009 in hopes of discovering the Mars Bluff Navy Yard, the missing shipyard where the Peedee was constructed. Two cannons and the iron propellers — as well as remains of bricks and iron — have been found, along with other artifacts.
The shipyard remains undiscovered.
“We are still searching,” Amer said. “We have found parts to a dock, and this should help us find the location of the shipyard.”
Also, the third cannon, the largest and heaviest at 15,000 pounds, remains lost. Jon Leader, a archaeologist and head of the State Archaeologist Office, said it is unlikely to be far from where the team is searching. The contents of the surroundings are key in finding the missing parts.
“The context also helps us understand the boat better. The environment it was in definitely had an impact on the boat’s design,” said Helena Ferguson, a graduate student from USC’s Department of Anthropology.
Simply finding the C.S.S. Peedee and recovering the materials is just the beginning, Leader said.
“Most non-archaeologists are drawn to the Indiana Jones concept of field work but miss the reality of the logistics and analysis that actually makes everything work,” Leader said.
For every week in the field, archaeologists normally have two to three weeks in the lab. Many discoveries start in the field and are actually discovered or confirmed later.
“The preservation and analysis is the reality of archaeology,” Leader said. “That benefits the public and profession and is the rest of the story.”
As for the ship, it will stay in its namesake river.
“What’s left are pieces,” Amer said. “We have no plans to raise the structure.”
However, with technology and the use of special equipment, the researchers hope to paint a picture of what parts of the ship remain in the Pee Dee River. Archaeologists will study the boat and environment in the weeks to come.
Hardinge, Hunter and Legette, Derek. 2011. "USC archaeologists find Civil War boat". Daily Gamecock. Posted: January 18, 2011. Available online: http://www.dailygamecock.com/news/item/223-usc-archaeologists-find-civil-war-boat
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The site was found in a coffee plantation belonging to Thamrin, 62, a resident of Segayun Village in Gumay Ulu District, Lahat Regency.
“There is a grave stone carved with batik-like motifs 50 centimeters high and 15 centimeters wide,” Thamrin told Antara on Monday.
A small statue was also found around 30 meters away from the grave.
A researcher from Palembang Archeology Center, Kristantina Indriastuti, said it was a residential area from the prehistoric era, as indicated by the statue that predates the spread of Islam in Indonesia.
“The grave with the gravestone may have belonged to a king,” she said.
Jakarta Post. 2011. "Megalithic site found in South Sumatra". Jakarta Post. Posted: January 18, 2011. Available online: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/01/18/megalithic-site-found-south-sumatra.html
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
In a lecture on new archeological finds in Syria during the past ten years, Jamous pointed out that recent studies revealed that humans settled in al-Dedariya Cave north of Aleppo, central Syria, where human skeletons dating back to 100,000 years ago.
Over the past ten years, the Department of Archaeology and Museums documented over 10,000 archaeological sites across Syria, 600 of which date back to prehistory.
Jamous noted that recent discoveries prove that the first villages with circular houses were established during the 10th millennium BC in the middle Euphrates area and Jadet al-Magharra site in Aleppo countryside.
In Damascus Countryside, three sites were discovered: Tal Aswad, a-Ramad and Ghrefi. They contain several buildings indicating urban development dating back to the 7th millennium BC.
In 2010, the Department announced the discovery of a village called "al-Jerf al-Ahmar" on the banks of the Euphrates, which showed an example of a pictography predating hieroglyphs. The village contained circular houses without pillars that are still standing after 11,000 years.
In al-Balaas site in the desert of Hama, excavations uncovered the symbols of an eagle and an inverted pyramid, indicating the beginning of the use of abstract symbolism during the 10th millennium BC.
Jamous pointed out to the diverse artistic aesthetics found in ancient Syrian cultures as shown by a floor mosaic and basalt tablets bearing various carved symbols found in al-Abar site in the Euphrates basin.
In the Haloula area, a red painting depicting dancing women dating back to the 7th millennium BC was uncovered. Recently discovered burial chambers in Palmyra contain 2000 year-old murals depicting women in ritualistic scenes.
Other excavations uncovered statues bearing the names of their owners on their shoulders.
Jamous said that there are more than 60 archaeological excavations working in various sites to uncover the history of Homo erectus (an extinct prehistoric hominid).
He went on to note that the Department will establish several new museums, including a mosaic museum on the highway between Hama and Aleppo, adding that Syria won the International Carlo Scarpa Prize for archaeological parks for the Dora site in Deir Ezzor.
Jamous concluded by saying that the Department is working on including several of Syria's archaeological sites on the World Heritage List such as Amrit city, Simeon Stylites Monastery and Suleiman Keep, in addition to eight archaeological villages in Aleppo and Idleb.
Sabbagh, H. 2011. "Archaeologists: Human Settlement in Syria Dates Back to One Million Years". Global Arab Network. Posted: January 17, 2011. Available online:http://www.english.globalarabnetwork.com/201101178685/Travel/archaeologists-human-settlement-in-syria-dates-back-to-one-million-years.html
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute of Zhengzhou in Henan Province announced that two large city ruins covering an area of 1.68 million square meters from Xia and Shang dynasties (21st-11th century BC) were found on the site of WangJing Tower (望京楼) in Xinzheng, Henan Province. Experts initially speculated that Xia city ruins probably are one member state's capital city and Shang city ruins probably a military town.
The site of Wangjing Tower was located at Xincun town, 35 km from Zhengzhou. It was found in 1960s and local residents unearthed a series of bronze wares and jade wares. Among the unearthed cultural relics during the Xia and Shang dynasties, Bronze Ax is the biggest one at present in China. In 2006, the site of Wangjing Tower was listed as the cultural relics protection unit of Henan as it provides more than 200 heritage specimens to study the ancient city's construction.
The Xia city ruins of Wangjing Tower were outside of the Shang city ruins with outer moat in between. The whole area is a little smaller than Erlitou ruins in Yanshi. Experts speculate that it probably was one member state called Ge or Zeng state’s capital city. According to the archeological research, the outside city wall, the city moat, the waters around together form a circle and the Xia and Shang city ruins are inside the circle.
The Shang city ruins of Wangjing Tower are well preserved and cover a square region with an area of 370,000 square meters. Archaeologists have discovered the city's gate at the southeast part of the city wall, which is the largest city gate, covering an area of 2,000 square meters. The city gate takes a "凹" shape and is 4.5 meters wide. The whole structure of the city gate and its ancillary facilities indicate the function of military defense. It is the prototype of Wengcheng, rectangular in shape with steep sides.
Deputy director general of Henan Cultural Relics Bureau Ma Xiaolin said Wednesday that the two large city ruins from Xia and Shang dynasties are another important discoveries in the region after the unearthing of Shang city ruins in Zhengzhou, Erlitou ruins in Yanshi among others in Henan Province. They are of great importance to the evolution of ancient cities and dynasties'origins in the ancient 'central plains' around present Henan Province.
Global Times. 2011. "Large city ruins from Xia and Shang dynasties found in Henan ". Global Times. Posted: January 13, 2011. Available online: http://life.globaltimes.cn/travel/2011-01/612443.html
Monday, January 17, 2011
Little is known about the people of what archaeologists call the Glenwood culture. They dwelled in earth lodges, lived on both sides of the Missouri River, and sometime around 1300 A.D. left — possibly being absorbed by the Pawnee or other tribes.
But two new grants from the Iowa Department of Transportation may help scholars and archaeologists learn more about the Glenwood culture people.
The Iowa Transportation Commission this week approved $5.1 million for 14 statewide projects under its Transportation Enhancement program.
More than $1 million is for projects relating to the Glenwood culture, allotted under the agency’s “historic and archaeological” category.
Of that amount, $602,478 will go toward planning and design of a Loess Hills Archaeology Interpretive Center.
“Our intent is that this will be a tourist attraction as well as a very fine educational facility,” said Wayne Phipps, president of the Loess Hills Archaeology Interpretive Center Committee. “This is going to be a big deal.”
Phipps envisions something similar to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville, Ill., possibly to include a lifesize model of a Glenwood village.
“We understand that’s very expensive,” he said.
Actual construction of the interpretive center building and its displays is expected to be funded by individuals, foundations and universities.
The interpretive center is planned on five to seven acres of land known as Foothills Park on the southeast corner of Levi Road and U.S. Highway 34, just south of town.
It’s part of a 917-acre preserve owned by the Department of Natural Resources, where the remains of 109 Glenwood culture sites, including earth lodges, are concentrated.
Some 400 Glenwood culture sites are catalogued in the Glenwood, Iowa, area alone, Phipps said. There also are some sites in Nebraska.
Part of the funds will go toward an archaeological survey of the Foothills area, to make sure the planned building would not be erected on burial sites, but the center would be built around anything else of archaeological significance.
The money, which comes from federal highway funds, is a great start for the interpretive center, Phipps said. It gives it legitimacy and means potential donors will take them seriously now, he added.
“That’s the kind of thing we can tell them … We are real,” he said.
A second grant, $398,986 to the University of Iowa, will go toward cataloging more than 83,000 artifacts unearthed when the U.S. 34 bypass south of Glenwood was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, said Craig Markley, a transportation planner with the Iowa Department of Transportation.
That grant also will help create educational materials about the Glenwood culture.
Another Transportation Department grant, totaling $750,000, will be split between the Great River Road Scenic Byway in eastern Iowa and the Loess Hills Scenic Byway Protection Project in western Iowa.
How much goes to each project remains to be determined.
In the Loess Hills, the state will be using new technology to plot where the best views are and to work with landowners to get easements for scenic overlooks.
“It tells you where your highest elevations are and where your greatest differentials are, so if you have a high ridge and have a sudden dropoff, you can have an outstanding view,” Markley said.
Other western Iowa funding approved by the Department of Transportation commission this week includes:
>> $345,600 for a heavy-duty biodiesel-powered bus for the Sioux City Transit System.
>> $255,640 for four light-duty buses for the Atlantic-based region of the Southwest Iowa Transit Agency, and $37,665 for a vehicle storage facility for that region.
Nelson, Andrew J. 2011. "Culture thrived on future Iowa soil". Omaha World Herald. Posted: January 14, 2011. Available online: http://www.omaha.com/article/20110114/NEWS01/701149905/1020439
Author's Contact Information: 402-444-1310, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Makinti Napanangka, thought to be in her 80s, took up painting in her 70s yet went on to become one of the most recognised names in indigenous art. Her canvases fetched up to $72,000.
"It's a significant loss to Australian art," Hetti Perkins, the senior curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at the Art Gallery of NSW, said yesterday, calling her a visionary.
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"I think she will assume that legendary status like Emily Kngwarreye. She certainly deserves it."
Napanangka, of the Pintupi people, was at the forefront of a wave of female artists who became involved in the western desert art movement around the mid-1990s.
In 2008 she won the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, of which Perkins was a judge.
Her distinct canvases - often themed around the journeys of two women - had a celebratory, dynamic quality that was "so energetic", Ms Perkins said. "It's almost like they're channelling women's ceremony."
Napanangka was tiny physically but a powerhouse of a personality.
"She would be the first one at the art centre every morning, with a herd of all her dogs behind her, impatient to get on with the job … She even painted when she had very serious eye problems."
Napanangka's birth has been put at about 1922 or 1930, around the Lake Macdonald region bordering Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and she is thought to have died in Alice Springs. She had long worked with the collective Papunya Tula Artists in the town.
The manager of Aboriginal Art Galleries, Venita Poblocki, said Napanangka was hugely important not only as an artist but from an anthropological and ethnographic perspective.
"She's a highly collectable artist."
2011. "Western desert artist leaves behind record of women's ceremony". Sydney Morning Herald. Posted: January 13, 2011. Available online: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/western-desert-artist-leaves-behind-record-of-womens-ceremony-20110112-19o7m.html
Saturday, January 15, 2011
The pidgin term for anthropologist is 'storimasta' (Wagner The Invention of Culture 1981:22)
Tweet courtesy of antropologija a Latvian anthropologist.
Check out their website: http://antropologubiedriba.wikidot.com/rsu-magistrantura (it's in Latvian though).
antroplogija. 2011. "pidgin". Twitter. Posted: January 16, 2011.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Regional dialects are one of the joys of spoken English. In the US, "y'all" marks someone as a southerner; "cab" a New Yorker. Depending on where you live, a long sandwich can be a "hero", a "sub" or a "hoagie". But now those peculiarities are also evolving in social media.
Jacob Eisenstein, a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his colleagues used a Twitter service called Garden Hose that collects tweets to analyse a week's worth of the messages posted by cellphone in the US last March. All the tweeters had turned on their phones' GPS system, so the messages were geotagged.
The researchers found that if you are cool in the San Francisco area, you will probably write "koo" on Twitter, but in southern California, you write "coo". You are "hella" tired in northern California, "deadass" tired in New York, and in Los Angeles you use an acronym for an obscenity. Other words can also give away location, including references to sports teams and rock bands.
Thousands of tweets
To eliminate commercial messages and spam, the researchers looked only at people who had written at least 20 messages that month, had fewer than 1000 followers and who followed fewer than 1000 others. They came up with 9500 users and 380,000 messages using 4.7 million words, with a total vocabulary of 5216 words, and then went looking for regionalisms in the tweets.
When they compared what the words told them with the locations tagged in the messages, the geographic touchstones "are correct to within 300 miles", Eisenstein said.
Giving yourself away
This, of course, raises privacy issues: if you are giving away your location by your messaging, you are providing useful commercial data someone can use or sell.
Susannah Fox, associate director of digital strategy for the Pew Internet & American Life Project, points out that only 4 per cent of internet users say they reveal their specific locations by using services like Foursquare or Gowalla, but this new research shows that people's general whereabouts may be found out by analysing what they talk about on Twitter – or even how they talk.
"The limitation of this study, of course, is that only 8 per cent of online adults say they use Twitter," says Fox.
The researchers reported their findings on Friday to a meeting of the Linguistic Society of America in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Shurkin, Joel. 2011. "Social networks create their own regional dialects ". New Scientist. Posted: January 10, 2011. Available online: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19936-social-networks-create-their-own-regional-dialects.html
From the article: Paper Reference
Thursday, January 13, 2011
The Anatolia news agency took photographs and video of the burial chambers which were closed to visitors.
Centered around the Lake Van in the eastern Turkey, the Urartian Kingdom ruled from the mid 9th century BC till its defeat by Media in the early 6th century BC. The most splendid monuments of the Urartian Kingdom take place in Van since the city was the capital of the kingdom.
Built on a rocky peak, the castle, one of the most significant samples of the Urartian architecture, was brought to daylight during excavations headed by lecturer Altan Cilingiroglu of the Ege University. The castle draws hundreds of Turkish and foreign visitors each year.
Argishti I was the sixth known king of the ancient kingdom, reigning from 786 BC to 764 BC. As the son and the successor of Menua, he continued the series of conquests initiated by his predecessors. Victorious against Assyria, he conquered the northern part of Syria and made Urartu the most powerful state in the post-Hittite Near East.
His burial chamber in the west wing of the Van Castle is composed of five separate sections. There are Urartian inscriptions on the walls.
Today's Zaman. 2011. "Urartian king's burial chamber opened for first time". Today's Zaman. Posted: January 3, 2011. Available online: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-231432-urartian-kings-burial-chamber-opened-for-first-time.html
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Six archaeological tombs and antique finds dating back to the Byzantine and Roman eras were unearthed by Sweida's excavation mission at the site of Imtan in South of Syria.
Head of the mission Hussein Zen-Eddein said the tombs and finds uncovered belong to a family cemetery, adding that they contain clay lanterns and bronze bracelets and earrings.
Former excavation works at the site uncovered a basalt pillar on which Nabatean words dedicated to a Nabatean god were engraved. In addition, two other phrases (one in Latin and the other in Greek) were engraved on a basalt stone, referring to God Jupiter.
Milhelm, R. 2011. "Archaeologists: Byzantine and Roman Tombs Unearthed in South of Syria". Global Arab Network. Posted: January 2, 2011. Available online: http://www.english.globalarabnetwork.com/201101028499/Travel/archaeologists-byzantine-and-roman-tombs-unearthed-in-south-of-syria.html
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The site was discovered during a construction project in the Khajeh Askar region near the historical city of Bam, head of the archeology team Nader Alidadi-Soleimani told Mehr News Agency.
“Parts of the ancient ruins were unfortunately damaged during excavations,” he added.
“The artifacts found at the site show that it was one of the earliest residential areas in Iran, whose inhabitants had connections with other communities of the time such as the Jiroft civilization,” Alidadi-Soleimani explained.
Remains of the Jiroft civilization were discovered near Halil Roud River in Kerman Province in 2002. Excavations yielded a ziggurat built from more than four million mud bricks dating back to about 2200 BCE.
The prolific site has yielded lots of interesting relics and artifacts and is dubbed the 'archeologists' lost heaven.'
The newly found site offered a number of earthenware shards and intact pieces of pottery, which suggest that potter's wheel was not used at the site.
Two cemeteries were identified at the site with skeletal remains belonging to a male and a female. One of the bodies was lying face up and the other was buried in a fetal position.
The team also found some artifacts buried along with the bodies including a seashell containing chromatic material once used as a cosmetic product.
Kerman Province houses many ancient sites including the world-famous city of Bam and its citadel which was the world's largest mad brick structure before the disastrous earthquake of 2003 which destroyed the entire monument.
Press TV. 2011. "Southern Iran yields 5,000-year-old site". Press TV. Posted: January 5, 2011. Available online: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/158821.html
Monday, January 10, 2011
In over a century of systematic archaeological research on the southern Greek island, scientists had not found evidence that Crete was inhabited before the Neolithic period (7,000-3,000 B.C.).
Recent findings of an excavation at Plakias- Preveli near the city of Rethymnon, which started in 2008 by a research team led by Thomas Strasser of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and Eleni Panagopoulou of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Tourism, show that Crete was inhabited as early as the Palaeolithic period.
Noting that even 130,000 years ago Crete was an island, archaeologists present the tools found as evidence that the ancestors of modern man sailed earlier than we thought so far.
Scientists believe that the handaxes and cleavers found at Plakias-Preveli were made by Homo heidelbergensis and Homo erectus, who boated across many miles of open sea to reach the island.
"This discovery not only adds tens of thousands of years to the history of sea faring in the Mediterranean, but it also changes our understanding of how early hominins left Africa. We must now appreciate that pre-Homo sapiens had cognitive abilities superior to what scholars previously imagined" said the statement released.
The survey in Plakias-Preveli has been listed in the Top 10 Discoveries of 2010 of Archaeology Magazine of the Archaeological Institute of America.
Xuequan, Mu.2011. "Archaeologist discover earliest evidence of seafaring in Crete". Xinhua News. Posted: January 6, 2011. Available online: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/sci/2011-01/06/c_13678079.htm
Sunday, January 9, 2011
The bone fragments were found Nov. 21, 2009, amid the remains of a cardboard box in the basement of 234 Fandall St. by a real-estate agent showing the house to potential buyers.
The bones are likely those of American Indian inhabitants of the area and could be more than 700 years old, archeologists say in a soon-to-be-released study.
The report, from the state Division of Archeology, indicates that they came from one of two mounds on the property. Initial plans are for the Chitimacha tribe in Charenton, St. Mary Parish, to receive the bones. They will likely be returned to the Gibson mound, said state anthropologist Chip McGimsey, although discussions with the Chitimacha and local Indian groups are still pending.
While the bones were not carbon-dated or other “invasive procedures,” McGimsey estimates they date back to between 800 and 1300 A.D. Pottery shards recovered along with the bones aided scientists in establishing the timeline.
Scientists have not determined the tribe of origin.
What is known, according to the report, is that the remains are of at least four people — three adults and a child.
Rob Mann, the state anthropologist whose region includes Terrebonne Parish, said the Gibson mounds are “already considered a significant site.”
The Archaeological Conservancy, a private, nonprofit organization, bought the Fandall Street house and land, site of one mound. Negotiations are under way for the adjacent property, site of the second mound. “We preserve these sites for research and educational purposes,” said Jessica Crawford, the conservancy’s regional director,
“There could be future limited testing and mapping of the mounds and maybe coring of some parts,” she said. “It is one of the few remaining mound sites in the area so that would make it unique.”
Crawford, who was traveling when contacted, was not certain of the purchase price of the house.
The house was previously owned by Mark Morgan of Schriever.
According to the report, the bones were likely removed from the mound beneath the house over many years, likely by different people.
Officials discounted the possibility that the basement — perhaps a fallout shelter built by a prior owner decades ago — was the scene of a modern-day crime. Terrebonne Parish Coroner’s Office investigators had previously determined the bones were very old, but they couldn’t be more specific.
Those determinations came from researchers at the FACES Laboratory at Louisiana State University.
Their inventory shows 661 bones or bone fragments were recovered, 504 of which were animal and 157 were human. The human bones, according to the report, included ribs, legs, arms and skull fragments. Researchers said they couldn’t determine gender with any certainty.
Representatives of local Indian groups said they are waiting to hear from the Division of Archeology, but several acknowledged that turning the bones over to the Chitimacha for reburial is a good thing.
“They should go to the proper people which is probably the Chitimacha,” said Lora Ann Chaisson, 45, a United Houma Nation Tribal Council member living in Pointe-aux-Chenes. “And they need to bury them in the proper ways.”
Chaisson said she and other Indian people were dismayed upon learning the bones had been disinterred from their mounds and found in a basement.
She expressed hope that property owners will take care when discovering evidence of Indian burials on their lands, so that the dead are not disturbed.
“People need to be aware and respect it,” she said. “Contact the proper authorities. If you find it mark it and document and leave it. That is my personal preference.”
DeSantis, John. 2011. "Gibson bones predate Columbus". Daily Comet. Posted: January 8, 2011. Available online: http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20110108/ARTICLES/110109561/
Saturday, January 8, 2011
While some rock art fades in hundreds of years, the "Bradshaw art" remains colourful after at least 40,000 years.
Jack Pettigrew of the University of Queensland in Australia has shown that the paintings have been colonised by colourful bacteria and fungi.
These "biofilms" may explain previous difficulties in dating such rock art.
Professor Pettigrew and his colleagues studied 80 of these Bradshaw rock artworks - named for the 19th-Century naturalist who first identified them - in 16 locations within Western Australia's Kimberley region.
They concentrated on two of the oldest known styles of Bradshaw art - Tassel and Sash - and found that a vast majority of them showed signs of life, but no paint.
The team dubbed the phenomenon "Living pigments".
"'Living pigments' is a metaphorical device to refer to the fact that the pigments of the original paint have been replaced by pigmented micro-organisms," Professor Pettigrew told BBC News.
"These organisms are alive and could have replenished themselves over endless millennia to explain the freshness of the paintings' appearance."
Among the most frequent inhabitants of the boundaries of the artwork was a black fungus, thought to be of the group of fungi known as Chaetothyriales.
Successive generations of these fungi grow by cannibalising their predecessors. That means that if the initial paint layer - from tens of thousands of years ago - had spores of the fungus within it, the current fungal inhabitants may be direct descendants.
The team also noted that the original paint may have had nutrients in it that "kick-started" a mutual relationship between the black fungi and red bacteria that often appear together. The fungi can provide water to the bacteria, while the bacteria provide carbohydrates to the fungi.
The exact species involved in these colourations have yet to be identified, and Professor Pettigrew said that the harsh conditions in the Kimberley region may hamper future research.
However, even the suggestion of these "living pigments" may explain why attempts to date some rock art has shown inconsistent results: although the paintings may be ancient, the life that fills their outlines is quite recent.
"Dating individual Bradshaw art is crucial to any further understanding of its meaning and development," Professor Pettigrew said.
"That possibility is presently far away, but the biofilm offers a possible avenue using DNA sequence evolution. We have begun work on that but this will be a long project."
Didier Bouakaze-Khan, a rock art expert from University College London, said that "there's a general consensus that what we're looking at might not purely be pigment as it was applied when the depictions were made", but that studies like this one would help archaeologists worldwide to take into account what effects life itself may be having on the art.
"It's very interesting and very exciting what they're showing - that there's some microorganisms going into the pigments and not destroying them, which is usually what's associated with the effect," he told BBC News.
Speaking about African rock artists, he said that "they had an intimate knowledge of ingredients theye were using and knew how long they would last, the rate of decay and how dark they would go and so on - not necessarily them controlling it, but they were definitely aware."
As such, Dr Bouakaze-Khan said it would be interesting to investigate whether the Bradshaw artists knew about the long-term effects of the specific pigments they used in their works.
BBC News. 2010. "Ancient rock art's colours come from microbes". BBC News. Posted: December 27, 2010. Available online: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12039203
Friday, January 7, 2011
Sumerian appeared first, almost 5,000 years ago around the year 3,100 B.C. This writing was scratched into soft clay tablets with a pointed reed that had been cut into a wedge shape. Archaeologists call this first writing "cuneiform," from the Latin "cuneus," meaning wedge.
Sumerian and Akkadian were the languages of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, which flourished during the Bronze Age in a region often called the Cradle of Civilization, because it gave birth to the world's first complex urban cultures. Here not only written languages, but important advances in science, mathematics, art and politics were developed. Rubio talked to LiveScience about what these ancient people's leftover love poetry and sales receipts reveal about a lost world.
LiveScience: What's so exciting about Assyriology, and what drew you to it?
Rubio: New archives and new texts come out all the time; archaeological sites in Syria and even in Iraq – in spite of the current situation – regularly yield new materials. This is an incredibly exciting field in which perspectives and assumptions need to be constantly modified and nuanced in the light of new evidence. I felt that I needed to work in a field in which I could not only say new things but also see new things.
LiveScience: What does it mean to call Sumerian and Akkadian dead languages?
Rubio: Sumerian and Akkadian are dead languages in the most literal sense: They died out for good and no one knew them, was able to read them, or taught them, for almost two millennia. Akkadian began to be understood again in the mid-19th century and Sumerian really only in the 20th century. Differently from languages such as Latin, Greek and Hebrew, there is no uninterrupted tradition in terms of studying Sumerian and Akkadian. Their very deadness poses an incredible intellectual challenge for modern scholars, and challenges are inherently attractive.
LiveScience: What is it like to study a dead language?
Rubio: In many regards, we are resuscitating a dead civilization through the understanding of its dead languages. When one studies an economic document from ancient Mesopotamia, there are names of individuals entering a contract or making a purchase, normally in front of a number of named witnesses: These are all people who lived three or four thousand years ago, people whose names were forgotten and buried in the sand until modern scholars brought them back to a modicum of life in their articles and books.
When an assyriologist holds a tablet inscribed with cuneiform characters, be it in Sumerian or in Akkadian, there is a chance that she or he may be the first person to read that text again after millennia of oblivion. Even if one is not the epigrapher who first looks at the tablets found at an archaeological site, even as a scholar reading texts at a museum, there is an overwhelming feeling of discovery and recovery, the excitement of bringing a civilization back to life by understanding it, text by text, tablet by tablet.
LiveScience: Do you ever have conversations in Sumerian or Akkadian with other researchers?
Rubio: We don't even try. Since these are dead languages, which were not spoken or written for millennia, it makes little sense to try to generate new texts or sentences. Even the act of utterance could be complicated. In the case of Sumerian, there would be limited agreement about how to actually pronounce many words. In the case of Akkadian, there is a very interesting project by a young colleague at [the University of] Cambridge, Martin Worthington, who is asking assyriologists to record themselves reading passages from the "Babylonian Gilgamesh" and other works. ["Babylonian Gilgamesh" is the world's oldest epic poem.]
LiveScience: What kinds of documents are left from this time?
Rubio: Alongside literary compositions, myths, royal inscriptions and royal annals, we have tens of thousands of economic documents, legal texts of all sorts, thousands upon thousands of letters from all periods, and other records that open multiple windows onto the daily lives of ancient Mesopotamians.
Moreover, we have texts that cover all aspects of human intellectual life beyond economy, politics, and literature, such as scientific and scholarly texts of all genres (medical, mathematical, astronomical and astrological texts). We can delve into the subtle and not so subtle differences between official cult (as attested in many rituals) and popular religion and religiosity, for which we get glimpses in magical texts, incantations, divination texts, and so forth. Mesopotamians were particularly concerned with divination, as we have a number of fascinating omen series that go from celestial omens to liver omens –they would observe the liver of a slaughtered sheep in accordance to preexisting clay liver models and search for irregularities they interpreted as signs.
An assyriologist can go from reading a love poem or a tale of the deeds of a mythical king or a deity, to medical texts on epilepsy or omens about sexual behavior. The amount of information one can extract from these many texts and genres of texts is so impressive that many assyriologists have become more and more specialized in recent decades.
LiveScience: Do you think ancient Mesopotamians were very different from people today?
Rubio: No, not at all. The idiom used to convey one's experience may be conditioned by one's culture and context. But we all have similar fears and desires. Reading Mesopotamian letters, for instance, often opens a window into the daily life of people whose aspirations, likes and dislikes are not different from ours. It is true that some authors have talked about a dramatic difference in perception or in the nature of awareness between ancient cultures and civilizations and ours; but I strongly believe that such assumptions are mostly ethnocentric nonsense.
LiveScience: How similar are Akkadian and Sumerian to languages still in use today?
Rubio: Akkadian is a Semitic language, so it is very similar in grammar and structure to Arabic and Hebrew.
Sumerian is quite different. In terms of structure, Sumerian is much closer to American Indian languages, for instance, than it is to Akkadian. Modern languages that structurally resemble Sumerian – though they are not related at all and have no cognates in common – include Japanese, Turkish, Finnish and Hungarian.
LiveScience: How did the development of the first written language represent a major turning point for human civilization?
Rubio: Writing constitutes a very useful and transformational technology. It is important to note that one needs not to be literate for writing to be important. In ancient Mesopotamia, only a small group of people were sufficiently literate as to read a tablet or an inscription. Of all the Mesopotamian kings of all the Mesopotamian cities during three millennia, probably only one of them can be said with sufficient certainty to have been literate: Assurbanipal. [He is also called the last "great" king of Assyria.]
Still, writing, with its multiple functions and the prestige attached to it, most certainly influenced everyone. The presence of writing can modify the nature of economic transactions and legal decisions, because it creates a system of recordkeeping that has certainly practical and even cognitive ramifications.
Writing also becomes a main tool in the state apparatus, both as a means of control through records, and even bureaucracy, and as a vehicle for political propaganda. One might not have been able to read an inscription of King Hammurabi or a proclamation by Chairman Mao, but its presence and display in a public place plays an important role in the way the state influences people's opinions, shapes their will, and manufactures social consent. Even for the illiterate, an official or royal inscription is more than a conversation piece: It may often be a conversation stopper.
LiveScience: Scientists think that Sumerian was the first written language in the world, but is it likely that spoken languages were around much earlier than this?
Rubio: There were most certainly languages spoken before Sumerian, but they had no writing system. Languages without writing systems disappear when their speakers die.
Some experts in human evolution place the development of the capacity for some form of language (or language-like) communication at about 500,000 years ago. The earliest Mesopotamian written texts are about 5,000 years old. So there was a lot of talking before anyone thought of writing anything down.
Moskowitz, Clara. 2010. "Q&A: Dead Languages Reveal a Lost World". Live Science. Posted: December 28, 2010. Available online: http://www.livescience.com/history/dead-languages-sumerian-akkadian-assyriologist-q-a-101213.html
Thursday, January 6, 2011
The organisers told The News on Friday that the literati and cultural experts from 30 languages spoken in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — Pashto, Hindko, Seraiki, Khowar, Indus Kohistani, Gojri, Badeshi, Bateri, Chilisso, Dameli, Gawri, Gawarbati, Gawro, Kalasha, Kalkoti, Kamveri, Kataweri, Maddagalashti, Pahari, Palula, Pashai, Farsi, Sarakoli, Shina, Sheikhani, Torwali, Ormuri, Ushojo, Wakhi and Yidgha — will attend the moot, which is the fifth of its kind in the province. The first such conference was held in 2006.
Senator Farhat Abbas of the Pakistan People’s Party would inaugurate the moot while Awami National Party Senior Vice-President Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel will chair a session of the conference on ‘Save the Dying Voices and Cultures of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.’
The event is being organised by the Gandhara Hindko Board in collaboration with the Forum for Language Initiative (FLI) that works for the preservation and promotion of the disadvantaged and neglected languages.
There will nine sessions, five on the first and four on the second day. The first day of the conference will have academic sessions while the second day proceedings are to be attended by officials from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), National Language Authority, Pakistan Academy of Letters, Allama Iqbal Open University, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board, Culture Department, public representatives and members of the civil society organisations.
The organising committee members Mohammad Ziauddin, a Hindko language researcher, Zaman Saghar, an expert of Gawri language of Swat and Dir Upper, and Fakhruddin, a Khowar language writer, said Pakistani language activists from the United Kingdom and the United States would join the proceedings through an audio conference and respond to the questions raised by the participants of the programme in Peshawar.
Mahmood, Nisar. 2010. "Fifth KP Languages & Cultures Moot opens today". The News (Pakistan). Posted: December 25, 2010. Available online: http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=22106&Cat=7
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Points, frequently made by chipping types of flint, were fastened to the business end of spears, darts and arrows.
Also made of antlers, bones and copper in prehistoric times, points changed somewhat over the centuries, but some styles were used across much of North America, according to a guide produced by the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center.
Archaeologists have noted some regional variations in point styles but have not found much evidence of individual expression, the guide said. “Point makers in general were conformists and manufactured tips according to prevailing culturally accepted styles,” the guide explained.
2010. "Arrowhead Tips". Lacrosse Tribune. Posted: December 25, 2010. Available online: http://lacrossetribune.com/article_76e3508c-0f96-11e0-a0a4-001cc4c002e0.html
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The ruins are located in Tonglu county in Zhejiang province, Xinhua reported.
It is for the first time that a workshop for jade and stone processing has been found in China, experts with the Zhejiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology said.
Inside the ruins, piles of stone slices and many primitive tools were found. Twenty jade rings each with an external diameter of three to four centimetres were also found.
The find is of great significance for studies on ancient processes to produce stone and jade articles, as well as exchange and transactions in primitive society, the experts said.
2010. "6,000-year-old jade workshop found in China". Sify News. Posted: December 27, 2010. Available online: http://www.sify.com/news/6-000-year-old-jade-workshop-found-in-china-news-international-km1g4hhhcib.html
Monday, January 3, 2011
The noblewoman's tomb, dating from early Celtic times, measures four metres by five metres, and is exceptionally well-preserved. It contained gold and amber jewellery that makes possible for the first time the precise dating of an early Celtic grave.
Using heavy cranes, the excavation team lifted the entire burial chamber out of the ground as a single block of earth and placed it on a special truck so that it could be carried off for further analysis.
The dig leader and state archaeological chief Dirk Krausse labelled the find a “milestone of archaeology.”
Judging by the ornamentation in the chamber, the archaeologists believe the tomb was built for a woman from the nobility of the Heuneburg fort, though this couldn’t be said with certainty until further investigations could be made under laboratory conditions.
This will be done by the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in Stuttgart. Initial results are expected to be announced in June 2011.
The Heuneburg hill fort site is considered one of the most significant archaeological sites in central Europe and possibly the oldest settlement north of the Alps.
It has been the focus of intense interest because it reflects socio-political developments in early Celtic Europe when, after about 700 BC, wealth, population and political power began to be concentrated in small areas.
It was the area of a large settlement from about 700 BC and became one of the key centres of power and trade in southern Germany.
The Local.de. 2010. "Celtic tomb hailed as great archaeological find". The Local.de. Posted: December 28, 2010. Available online: http://www.thelocal.de/sci-tech/20101228-32083.html
Sunday, January 2, 2011
A year after completion of the first phase of restoration of the iconic tank that rests amidst Walkeshwar’s old residences and new multi-storeys, work on the second phase of restoring the 300-year-old tank will start in February 2011. Under the first phase, original stones on the northern and eastern ends were removed instead of being restored and replaced by concrete slabs at a cost of Rs 1.8 crore. The work was carried out by a local contractor and was heavily opposed by locals who felt the original glory of the place was being lost in the ‘modernisation’. The popular pilgrimage point has 26 temples in its vicinity.
The department has now been told not to remove any more old stones. “The old stones are the essence of the place and some of them even have beautiful carvings. How can these be removed without the slightest consideration for history? We will not allow this to happen in the second phase. They have to restore the stones using principles of conservation architecture and not replace them,” said Ahir.
Archeology department director Sanjay Patil said they have appointed conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah and renowned archaeologist Dr Arvind Jamkhedkar to assist them so that they do not repeated the mistakes of the first phase.
The rectangular pool, surrounded by steps on all four sides, has sweet water despite its proximity to the sea and is considered a holy place by many. The place was first developed in 1127 and later rebuilt along with the rectangular tank in 1715 with donations from the Walkeshwar Temple on the northern edge of the tank. The temple complex and the tank are owned by the Goud Saraswat Brahmin Trust.
Shukla, Stuti. 2010. "Dept told to leave old stones, restore and not replace". Indian Express. Posted: December 27, 2010. Available online: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/dept-told-to-leave-old-stones-restore-and-not-replace/729667/
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Mosaics found during an illegal excavation in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş have led to the unearthing of an ancient city called Germenicia, which remained underground for 1,500 years. The mosaics, found under a house in the Dulkadiroğulları neighborhood, are expected to shed light on the history of the city.
The Roman-era city of Germenicia was unearthed by chance during an illegal excavation in the basement of a house. Preliminary examinations showed that the mosaics were high-quality contemporaries of those unearthed in the ancient cities of Zeugma and Yamaçevler. The first steps have been taken to completely unearth Germenicia and its mosaics, with houses in the area expropriated by the Culture Ministry.
Speaking to Anatolia news agency, Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Seydi Küçükdağlı said the location of Germenicia was shown as Kahramanmaraş on ancient maps, but archaeologists had been unable to determine its exact location because no architectural remnants of the city had been found.
He said the accidentally found mosaics, first stumbled upon during the illegal excavation in 2007, were the reason for finding the 1,500-year-old city. “Although the city was very important and magnificent – it even printed its own money at the time – it remained underground as a result of invasions and fires,” he said.
Küçükdağlı said excavations were initiated under the coordination of the Kahramanmaraş Museum Directorate at the end of November. “After the first mosaic was found, we examined the region and registered 19 parcels of land that could be important. We have expropriated five parcels and excavations have started on three. The houses where the mosaics were found have been torn down and a protective cover installed at the site.”
Küçükdağlı said excavations would continue, and when completed the area would become an open-air museum to be visited by tourists.
He said seven archaeologists were participating in the excavation. “The mosaics have changed the future of the buried city. They are on the ground level of two-story magnificent villas built in the late-Roman period around 400 A.D. and will give us clues about the daily social life at the time.”
Küçükdağlı said the Culture Ministry also decided to carry out academic excavations in the region, adding that they sent invitations to 44 universities with archaeology departments and expected their response.
He said the fifth International Mosaics Corpus would be held in June in Kahramanmaraş and that the symposium would provide information about the history of the mosaics.
Ancient city of Germenicia
Archaeologists believe there are more remnants of the ancient city of Germenicia, which is named after the father of Roman Emperor Caligula, in the Namık Kemal neighborhood in the foothills of Ahir Mountain. They believe the city was buried by landslides and avalanches caused by a severe earthquake.
Research has shown the region likely featured as many as 100 villas with 15-20 rooms each. Excavation work on the newly unearthed mosaics so far has suggested they were likely floor decorations in one of those villas.
KAHRAMANMARAŞ. 2010. "Mosaics found in SE Turkey lead to unearthing of ancient Roman city". Hurriyet Daily News. Posted: December 27, 2010. Available online: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=1219122200169-2010-12-19