Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Turkey’s immortal city gets new lease on life

Known as the immortal city, 7,000-year-old Misis in the southern province of Adana is coming to light with archaeological work that is revealing the ancient city’s rich history

Misis (Mopsouestia) might be outshone by Rome, but the ancient city on the banks of the Ceyhan River in southern Turkey is just as old as the old imperial capital, while arguably trumping Rome’s moniker of “the eternal city” with its own title, “the immortal city.” Some 7,000 years after its founding, archaeological work at the site is now revealing the traces of antiquity.

The city is located right next to the Ceyhan River, 27 kilometers east of the center of the southern province of Adana on the historic Silk Road. 

As part of a project titled “The Infinite City: Misis,” made by Yüreğir Municipality, excavations have been continuing in the area, headed by Professor Anna Lucia of the National Research Council at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient Mediterranean and Professor Giovanni Salmeri of Pisa University. 

Structures such as city walls, stadiums, caravanserais and theaters are being unearthed during the archaeological works in the ancient city, which was first settled seven millennia ago.

As well as the artifacts underground, unearthed mosaics, an ancient stone bridge, city walls, aqueducts, baths, ancient stone tombs and the Havraniye Caravanserai make the city unique and significant. 

Salmeri said excavation work on the area was being carried out by expert teams from Italy. 

The Pisa University professor said Misis was a very old city and that they had found remains from the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, early Hittite, Roman and Byzantine eras. “People and history are living together here. This place will become a culture and archaeological park in two or three years,” he added. 

Salmeri said the professional excavation teams were working to shed light on the history of the region with pieces unearthed in excavations. “We have found pieces from the Neolithic age. Our analyses show that they are from 7,000 years ago. The ancient city of Misis hosted various civilizations,” he said, adding that the second stage of this year’s works would end in the next few days. 

Mosaic Museum and project

The archaeological work is helping augment the collection of the nearby Misis Mosaic Museum. In the museum various periods can be viewed in chronological order, and floor mosaics belonging to a basilica located within the boundaries of the Misis Ancient City are exhibited in situ. 

The ancient city was discovered in 1956 and the mosaic area was revealed by Professor Dr. Theodor Bosset and Dr. Ludwig Budde from a German archaeology team who were carrying out excavations at that time on the Misis Mound.

The project, “The Infinite city: Misis,” includes the construction of a new housing project by The Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ). Agricultural activity will continue in the area, but not at the excavation site itself, and a set of incentives will be offered to local farmers by the Agriculture Ministry, permitting daily life to continue at Misis.
Hurriyet Daily News. 2014. “Turkey’s immortal city gets new lease on life”. Hurriyet Daily News. Posted: November 14, 2014. Available online:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Learning languages is a workout for brains, both young, old

Learning a new language changes your brain network both structurally and functionally, according to Penn State researchers. "Learning and practicing something, for instance a second language, strengthens the brain," said Ping Li, professor of psychology, linguistics and information sciences and technology. "Like physical exercise, the more you use specific areas of your brain, the more it grows and gets stronger."

Li and colleagues studied 39 native English speakers' brains over a six-week period as half of the participants learned Chinese vocabulary. Of the subjects learning the new vocabulary, those who were more successful in attaining the information showed a more connected brain network than both the less successful participants and those who did not learn the new vocabulary.

The researchers also found that the participants who were successful learners had a more connected network than the other participants even before learning took place. A better-integrated brain network is more flexible and efficient, making the task of learning a new language easier. Li and colleagues report their results in a recent article published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics.

The efficiency of brain networks was defined by the researchers in terms of the strength and direction of connections, or edges, between brain regions of interest, or nodes. The stronger the edges going from one node to the next, the faster the nodes can work together, and the more efficient the network.

Participants each underwent two fMRI scans -- one before the experiment began and one after -- in order for the researchers to track neural changes. At the end of the study period, the researchers found that the brains of the successful learners had undergone functional changes -- the brain network was better integrated.

Such changes, Li and colleagues suggested while reviewing a number of related studies, are consistent with anatomical changes that can occur in the brain as a result of learning a second language, no matter the age of the learner, as they reported in a recent issue of Cortex.

"A very interesting finding is that, contrary to previous studies, the brain is much more plastic than we thought," said Li, also co-chair of the interdisciplinary graduate degree program in neuroscience. "We can still see anatomical changes in the brain [in the elderly], which is very encouraging news for aging. And learning a new language can help lead to more graceful aging."

Meanwhile, Li and colleagues have begun working on interactive ways to teach language using virtual 3-D-like environments with situation-based learning to help the brain make some of those new connections more effectively. Such studies hold the promise that the process of learning a second language as an adult can in fact lead to both behavioral and physical changes that may approximate the patterns of learning a language as a child.
Science Daily. 2014. “Learning languages is a workout for brains, both young, old”. Science Daily. Posted: November 12, 2014. Available online:

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Alexander the Great-Era Tomb Found in Vergina

An unlooted tomb that appears to belong to a man who died during the Alexander the Great era has been unearthed in Vergina, northern Greece, where the tomb of Philip II was found.

Archaeologist Angeliki Kottaridi who is the head of the excavation suggests that the tomb in Aagae, as Vergina was called in ancient times, is unlooted because they found impressive burial offerings, with a gold-plated bronze vessel and a gold-plated bronze wreath among them.

On a Facebook post, Kottaridi uploaded two photographs of the tomb and that prove that it hasn’t been looted. She notes that it was a pleasant surprise, since the necropolis in Aegae had been plundered by Pyrros’ mercenary army in 276 B.C. and that it is very rare to find unlooted burial grounds.

Kottaridi suggests that the person buried in the tomb died during the reign of Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.) and that the burial offerings found are of great significance. The gold-plated vessel for example is a container that ancient Macedonians used to mix wine with water. She also says that she posted the pictures for people “to marvel at the exceptional level of Macedonian Metallurgy.” Various pieces of wood found around the vessel seem to belong to the daybed of the dead.

Kottaridi says that all the unearthed offerings will be restored and they will be exhibited at the inauguration of the new archaeological museum in Aegae.
Chrysopoulos, Philip. 2014. “New Alexander the Great-Era Tomb Found in Vergina”. Greek Reporter. Posted: November 12, 2014. Available online:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

1,000-Year-Old Tomb Reveals Murals, Stars & Poetry

A 1,000-year-old tomb with a ceiling decorated with stars and constellations has been discovered in northern China.

Found not far from a modern day railway station, the circular tomb has no human remains but instead has murals which show vivid scenes of life. "The tomb murals mainly depict the daily domestic life of the tomb occupant," and his travels with horses and camels, a team of researchers wrote in their report on the tomb recently published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

On the east wall, people who may have served as attendants to the tomb's occupant are shown holding fruit and drinks. There is also a reclining deer, a crane, bamboo trees, a crawling yellow turtle and a poem. The poem reads in part, "Time tells that bamboo can endure cold weather. Live as long as the spirits of the crane and turtle."

The tomb also contains images of what appear to be the occupant's pets. On the north wall, there is "a black and white cat with a red ribbon on its neck and a silk-strip ball in its mouth," the researchers wrote, with the same scene also showing "a black and white dog with a red ribbon on its neck and a curved tail." Male and female attendants are shown beside the cat and dog, with an empty bed lying between the animals.

The tomb's ceiling contains stars painted in a bright red color. The "completed constellations are formed by straight lines connecting the stars in relevant shapes and forms," the researchers wrote.

Archaeologists also found a small statue of the occupant. The statue is 3.1 feet (0.94 meters) tall, and shows a smiling man who is wearing a long black robe while sitting cross-legged on a platform. It could be that the statue was used as a substitute for the body in the burial, the researchers said, noting this practice wasn’t unusual among Buddhists at the time.

The tomb was found in Datong City and was excavated in 2011 by a team from the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology. The researchers reported their finds, in Chinese, in the journal Wenwu, and their article was recently translated into English and published in Chinese Cultural Relics. The excavation team was led by Junxi Liu.

Who was he?

The tomb was robbed in the past and the name of the tomb owner has not survived. Judging by his statue, and the decoration of his tomb, researchers said it's likely that the occupant was a Han Chinese man of some rank and wealth.

At the time he lived, about 1,000 years ago, the area where his tomb is located was controlled by the Liao Dynasty (sometimes called the Liao Empire). This dynasty was controlled by people called the Khitan, who held territory in modern- day Mongolia, northern China and parts of Russia.

Historical records indicate that the Khitan ruled a multicultural empire that incorporated Han Chinese into the government.

"The Khitan system of rule worked on a principle of dual administration, with its nomadic, pastoral, and mostly Khitan subjects in the north under the northern government and its agricultural, sedentary, and largely Chinese and Bohai subjects in the south under the southern government," writes Nicola Di Cosmo, a historian at the Institute for Advanced Study, in a chapter of the book "Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China's Liao Empire" (Asia Society, 2007).

Although we may never know the identity of the tomb occupant, or the position he held, this unknown man has left behind a colorful tomb full of life.

Chinese Cultural Relics is a new journal that translates Chinese-language articles, which were originally published in the journal Wenwu, into English. The mural tomb was included in its inaugural issue.
Jarus, Owen. 2014. “1,000-Year-Old Tomb Reveals Murals, Stars & Poetry”. Live Science. Posted: November 11, 2014. Available online:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Study ties conflict risk in sub-Saharan Africa to climate change, economics, geography

Researchers find elevated carcinogen markers for first time in car passengers

A massive new University of Colorado Boulder study indicates there is a statistical link between hotter temperatures generated by climate change and the risk of armed conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa.

CU-Boulder Professor John O'Loughlin led a research team that assessed more than 78,000 armed conflicts between 1980 and 2012 in the Sahel region of Africa - a semi-arid belt just south of the Saharan Desert that spans about 3,000 miles and more than a dozen countries from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans.

The team was looking for links between armed conflicts and temperature and rainfall anomalies, as well as assessing other causes of violence in the Sahel. "We found a clear signal that higher temperatures in the Sahel over time does increase the risk of conflict," O'Loughlin said.

While there are growing academic and public policy debates on the effect global climate change may be having on armed conflict in Africa, the link between climate and conflict in the Sahel does not hold true for the entire continent, said O'Loughlin, a professor of distinction in CU-Boulder's geography department. Even in the Sahel, political, economic and geographic factors were more of an influence on conflict than climate.

A paper on the subject appears this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study was co-authored by CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Andrew Linke and University of Alaska Anchorage Assistant Professor Frank Witmer, a former CU-Boulder graduate student who received his doctorate under O'Loughlin. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the study.

The study also showed areas in the Sahel that were wetter or dryer than long-term averages were neither more nor less likely to experience violent conflict, he said. "This is an important finding because global climate change often results in environmental changes outside the realm of temperature increases," O'Loughlin said.

"Increasing frequency or greater severity of warmer temperatures could be problematic for the security of populations in regions where the link is statistically significant," said Linke. "But it's important to remember that our study shows that a number of other social forces have strong influences on political violence and conflict."

The new research follows a 2012 PNAS study led by O'Loughlin that indicated the risk of human conflict in East Africa from 1990 to 2009 increased somewhat with hotter temperatures and dropped a bit with higher precipitation. That study, which charted about 26,000 instances of conflict, also showed socioeconomic, political and geographic factors played a larger role in armed conflicts than climate change.

For the new study the research team divided the African continent into thousands of geographic grid cells, each about 6,214 square miles (10,000 square kilometers), examining them individually for both conflict and climate data, said O'Loughlin, also a faculty research associate at CU-Boulder's Institute of Behavioral Sciences.

O'Loughlin said the link between climate and violent conflict is strongest for "communal incidents" - violence between groups of civilians, rather than large-scale civil wars where rebel groups battle government armies.

The exhaustive database of violent events in the Sahel from 1980 to 2012 was assembled in part by CU-Boulder undergraduates, who combed online information sources like LexisNexis, a corporation that pioneered the electronic accessibility of legal and newspaper documents. The work by the students -- who put thousands of hours into the project -- was funded by the NSF's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and has generated several undergraduate honors theses, O'Loughlin said.

The CU-Boulder students coded each conflict event with very specific data, including geographic location coordinates, dates, people and descriptive classifications. The event information was then aggregated into months and into the grid cells that served as the units of analysis for quantitative modeling.

Each conflict grid also was coded by socioeconomic and political characteristics like distance to an international border, capital city, local population size, well-being as measured by infant mortality, the extent of political rights, presidential election activity, road network density, vegetation condition and ethnic community inclusion into the national government. The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, provided climate data for the study.

Data also came from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED), directed by Clionadh Raleigh of Trinity College in Dublin. That database covers individual conflicts from 1997 to 2009 in Africa and parts of Asia and Haiti. There are more than 60,000 violent incidents in the database to date. Raleigh started the data collection while earning her doctorate at CU in 2007 under O'Loughlin.

As a next step, O'Loughlin has undertaken a new NSF-funded study with CU-Boulder anthropology Professor Terrence McCabe and political science Professor Jaroslav Tir to look at the mechanisms of conflict in Kenya. Researchers are interviewing Kenyans about their experiences regarding both violence and climate change, including the severity and frequency of drought. The study will include data on human migrations as well as the welfare of pastoralists and farmers as a result of climate change, he said.
EurekAlert. 2014. “Study ties conflict risk in sub-Saharan Africa to climate change, economics, geography”. EurekAlert. Posted: November 10, 2014. Available online:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Of gods and men: Societies living in harsh environments are more likely to believe in moralizing gods

Just as physical adaptations help populations prosper in inhospitable habitats, belief in moralizing, high gods might be similarly advantageous for human cultures in poorer environments. A new study from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) suggests that societies with less access to food and water are more likely to believe in these types of deities.

"When life is tough or when it's uncertain, people believe in big gods," says Russell Gray, a professor at the University of Auckland and a founding director of the Max Planck Institute for History and the Sciences in Jena, Germany. "Prosocial behavior maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments."

Gray and his coauthors found a strong correlation between belief in high gods who enforce a moral code and other societal characteristics. Political complexity--namely a social hierarchy beyond the local community-- and the practice of animal husbandry were both strongly associated with a belief in moralizing gods.

The emergence of religion has long been explained as a result of either culture or environmental factors but not both. The new findings imply that complex practices and characteristics thought to be exclusive to humans arise from a medley of ecological, historical, and cultural variables.

"When researchers discuss the forces that shaped human history, there is considerable disagreement as to whether our behavior is primarily determined by culture or by the environment," says primary author Carlos Botero, a researcher at the Initiative for Biological Complexity at North Carolina State University. "We wanted to throw away all preconceived notions regarding these processes and look at all the potential drivers together to see how different aspects of the human experience may have contributed to the behavioral patterns we see today."

The paper, which is now available online, will be published in an upcoming issue of theProceedings of the National Academies of Science. To study variables associated with the environment, history, and culture, the research team included experts in biology, ecology, linguistics, anthropology, and even religious studies. The senior author, Gray, studies the intersection of psychology and linguistics, while Botero, an evolutionary ecologist, has examined coordinated behaviors in birds.

This study began with a NESCent working group that explored the evolution of human cultures. On a whim, Botero plotted ethnographic data of societies that believe in moralizing, high gods and found that their global distribution is quite similar to a map of cooperative breeding in birds. The parallels between the two suggested that ecological factors must play a part. Furthermore, recent research has supported a connection between a belief in moralizing gods and group cooperation. However, prior to this study, evidence supporting a relationship between such beliefs and the environment was elusive.

"A lot of evolutionists have been busy trying to bang religion on the head. I think the challenge is to explain it," Gray says.

"Although some aspects of religion appear maladaptive, the near universal prevalence of religion suggests that there's got to be some adaptive value and by looking at how these things vary ecologically, we get some insight."

Botero, Gray, and their coauthors used historical, social, and ecological data for 583 societies to illustrate the multifaceted relationship between belief in moralizing, high gods and external variables. Whereas previous research relied on rough estimates of ecological conditions, this study used high-resolution global datasets for variables like plant growth, precipitation, and temperature. The team also mined the Ethnographic Atlas-- an electronic database of more than a thousand societies from the 20th century-- for geographic coordinates and sociological data including the presence of religious beliefs, agriculture, and animal husbandry.

"The goal became not just to look at the ecological variables, but to look at the whole thing. Once we accounted for as many other factors as we could, we wanted to see if we could still detect an environmental effect," Botero says. "The overall picture is that these beliefs are ultimately shaped by a combination of historical, ecological, and social factors."

Botero believes that this study is just the tip of the iceberg in examining human behavior from a cross-disciplinary standpoint. The team plans to further this study by exploring the processes that have influenced the evolution of other human behaviors including taboos, circumcision, and the modification of natural habitats.

"We are at an unprecedented time in history," Botero says. "Now we're able to harness both data and a combination of multidisciplinary expertise to explore these kinds of questions in an empirical way."
Science Daily. 2014. “Of gods and men: Societies living in harsh environments are more likely to believe in moralizing gods”. Science Daily. Posted: November 10, 2014. Available online:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

English Heritage Archaeological Monographs

Some reading for you over the holidays. Courtesy of Archaeology Data Service. Happy reading!
Archaeology Data Service. 2014. “English Heritage Archaeological Monographs“Archaeology Data Service. Posted: 2014. Available online:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Archaeologists discover remains of Ice Age infants in Alaska

The remains of two Ice Age infants, buried more than 11,000 years ago at a site in Alaska, represent the youngest human remains ever found in northern North America, according to a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The site and its artifacts provide new insights into funeral practices and other rarely preserved aspects of life among people who inhabited the area thousands of years ago, according to Ben Potter, a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the paper's lead author.

Potter led the archaeological team that made the discovery in fall of 2013 at an excavation of the Upward Sun River site, near the Tanana River in central Alaska. The researchers worked closely with local and regional Native tribal organizations as they conducted their research. The National Science Foundation funded the work.

Potter and his colleagues note that the human remains and associated burial offerings, as well as inferences about the time of year the children died and were buried, could lead to new thinking about how early societies were structured, the stresses they faced as they tried to survive, how they treated the youngest members of their society, and how they viewed death and the importance of rituals associated with it.

Potter made the new find on the site of a 2010 excavation, where the cremated remains of another 3-year-old child were found. The bones of the two infants were found in a pit directly below a residential hearth where the 2010 remains were found.

"Taken collectively, these burials and cremation reflect complex behaviors related to death among the early inhabitants of North America," Potter said.

In the paper, Potter and his colleagues describe unearthing the remains of the two children in a burial pit under a residential structure about 15 inches below the level of the 2010 find. The radiocarbon dates of the newly discovered remains are identical to those of the previous find--about 11,500 years ago--indicating a short period of time between the burial and cremation, perhaps a single season.

Also found within the burials were unprecedented grave offerings. They included shaped stone points and associated antler foreshafts decorated with abstract incised lines, representing some of the oldest examples of hafted compound weapons in North America.

"The presence of hafted points may reflect the importance of hunting implements in the burial ceremony and with the population as whole," the paper notes.

The researchers also examined dental and skeletal remains to determine the probable age and sex of the infants at the time of the death: One survived birth by a few weeks, while the other died in utero. The presence of three deaths within a single highly mobile foraging group may indicate resource stress, such as food shortages, among these early Americans.

Such finds are valuable to science because, except in special circumstances like those described in the paper, there is little direct evidence about social organization and mortuary practices of such early human cultures, which had no written languages.

The artifacts--including the projectile points, plant and animal remains--may also help to build a more complete picture of early human societies and how they were structured and survived climate changes at the end of the last great Ice Age. The presence of two burial events--the buried infants and cremated child--within the same dwelling could also indicate relatively longer-term residential occupation of the site than previously expected.

The remains of salmon-like fish and ground squirrels in the burial pit indicate that the site was likely occupied by hunter-gatherers between June and August.

"The deaths occurred during the summer, a time period when regional resource abundance and diversity was high and nutritional stress should be low, suggesting higher levels of mortality than may be expected give our current understanding" of survival strategies of the period, the authors write.
EurekAlert. 2014. “Archaeologists discover remains of Ice Age infants in Alaska”. EurekAlert. Posted: November 10, 2014. Available online:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New Zealand's moa were exterminated by an extremely low-density human population

A new study suggests that the flightless birds named moa were completely extinct by the time New Zealand's human population had grown to two and half thousand people at most.

The new findings, which appear in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, incorporate results of research by international teams involved in two major projects led by Professor Richard Holdaway (Palaecol Research Ltd and University of Canterbury) and Mr Chris Jacomb (University of Otago), respectively.

The researchers calculate that the Polynesians whose activities caused moa extinction in little more than a century had amongst the lowest human population densities on record. They found that during the peak period of moa hunting, there were fewer than 1500 Polynesian settlers in New Zealand, or about 1 person per 100 square kilometres, one of the lowest population densities recorded for any pre-industrial society.

They found that the human population could have reached about 2500 by the time moa went extinct. For several decades before then moa would have been rare luxuries.

Estimates of the human population during the moa hunting period are more sensitive to how long it took to exterminate the birds through hunting and habitat destruction than to the size of the founding population.

To better define the critical period of moa hunting, the research was aimed at "book-ending" the moa hunter period with new estimates for when people started eating moa, and when there were no more moa to eat.

Starting with the latest estimate for a founding population of about 400 people (including 170-230 women), and applying population growth rates in the range achieved by past and present populations, the researchers modelled the human population size through the moa hunter period and beyond. When moa and seals were still available, the better diet enjoyed by the settlers likely fuelled higher population growth, and the analyses took this into account.

The first "book-end" - first evidence for moa hunting - was set by statistical analyses of 93 new high-precision radiocarbon dates on genetically identified moa eggshell pieces. These had been excavated from first settlement era archaeological sites in the eastern South Island, and showed that moa were still breeding nearby.

Chris Jacomb explains: "The analyses showed that the sites were all first occupied - and the people began eating moa - after the major Kaharoa eruption of Mt Tarawera of about 1314 CE."

Ash from this eruption is an important time marker because no uncontested archaeological evidence for settlement has ever been found beneath it, Mr Jacomb says.

The other "book-end" was derived from statistical analyses of 270 high-precision radiocarbon dates on moa from non-archaeological sites. Analysis of 210 of the ages showed that moa were exterminated first in the more accessible eastern lowlands of the South Island, at the end of the 14th century, just 70-80 years after the first evidence for moa consumption.

Analysis of all 270 dates, on all South Island moa species from throughout the South Island, showed that moa survived for only about another 20 years after that.

Their total extinction most probably occurred within a decade either side of 1425 CE, barely a century after the earliest well-dated site, at Wairau Bar near Blenheim, was settled by people from tropical East Polynesia. The last known birds lived in the mountains of north-west Nelson. Professor Holdaway adds that "the results provide further support for the rapid extinction model for moa that Chris Jacomb and I published 14 years ago in [the US journal] Science."

The researchers note that it is often suggested that people could not have caused the extinction of megafauna such as the mammoths and giant sloths of North America and the giant marsupials of Australia, because the human populations when the extinctions happened were too small.

Prof Holdaway and Mr Jacomb say that the extinction of the New Zealand terrestrial megafauna of moa, giant eagle, and giant geese, accomplished by the direct and indirect activities of a very low-density human population, shows that population size can no longer be used as an argument against human involvement in extinctions elsewhere.
EurekAlert. 2014. “New Zealand's moa were exterminated by an extremely low-density human population”. EurekAlert. Posted: November 7, 2014. Available online:

Monday, December 22, 2014

2,000-year-old youth organization

In Roman Egypt, 14-year-old boys were enrolled in a youth organization in order to learn to be good citizens.

So says social historian and historian of ideas Ville Vuolanto, University of Oslo, who has joined forces with Dr April Pudsey of the University of Newcastle to dive deep into a mass of material of around 7,500 ancient documents written on papyrus. The texts comprise literary texts, personal letters and administrative documents. Never before has childhood been researched so systematically in this type of material.

The research is part of the University of Oslo project 'Tiny Voices from the Past: New Perspectives on Childhood in Early Europe'. The documents originate from Oxyrhynchos in Egypt, which in the first five hundred years CE was a large town of more than 25,000 inhabitants. Oxyrhynchos had Egypt's most important weaving industry, and was also the Roman administrative centre for the area. Researchers possess a great deal of documentation precisely from this area because archaeologists digging one hundred years ago discovered thousands of papyri in what had once been the town's rubbish dumps.

Free-born citizens only

Only boys born to free-born citizens were entitled to be members of the town's youth organization, which was called a 'gymnasium'. These boys were the children of local Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Their families would necessarily have been quite prosperous, and have had an income that placed them in the '12 drachma tax class'. It is uncertain how large a proportion of the population would have qualified, probably somewhere between 10 and 25 per cent, Vuolanto explains.

Girls were not enrolled as members of the 'gymnasium', but are often mentioned in the administrative documents as being the boys' siblings. This may have had to do with family status or tax class. Both girls and women could own property, but in principle they had to have a male guardian.

Some boys were apprenticed

For boys from well-off families of the free-born citizen class, the transition to adult life started with enrolment in the 'gymnasium'. Other boys started working before reaching their teens, and might serve an apprenticeship of two to four years. The researchers have found about 20 apprenticeship contracts in Oxyrhynchos, most of them relating to the weaving industry. Males were not reckoned to be fully adults until they married in their early twenties.

Most girls remained and worked at home, and learned what they needed to know there. They generally married in their late teens -- a little earlier than boys.

"We have found only one contract where the apprentice was a girl," Vuolanto remarks. "But her situation was a little unusual -- she was not only an orphan but also had her deceased father's debts to pay."

Different for slave children

Slave children could also become apprentices, and their contracts were of the same type as for the boys of free-born citizens. Slaves lived either with their owners or in the same house as their master, while free-born children generally lived with their parents. But life was different for slave children nonetheless. Vuolanto says they have found documents to show that children as young as two were sold and separated from their parents.

In one letter, a man encourages his brother to sell the youngest slave children, and some wine -- whereas his nephews should be spoiled. He writes "…I am sending you some melon seeds and two bundles of old clothes, which you can share with your children."

Little is known about young children

Little is known about the lives of children until they turn up in official documents, which is usually not before they are in their early teens. It seems that children began doing light work between the ages of seven and nine. Typically, they might have been set to work as goatherds or to collect wood or dry animal dung for fuel.

There were probably a good number of children who did not live with their biological parents, because the mortality rate was high. "It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. By examining papyri, pottery fragments with writing on, toys and other objects, we are trying to form a picture of how children lived in Roman Egypt," explains Vuolanto.
Science Daily. 2014. “2,000-year-old youth organization”. Science Daily. Posted: November 5, 2014. Available online:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Links between grammar, rhythm explored by researchers

A child's ability to distinguish musical rhythm is related to his or her capacity for understanding grammar, according to a recent study from a researcher at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

Reyna Gordon, Ph.D., a research fellow in the Department of Otolaryngology and at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, is the lead author of the study that was published online recently in the journalDevelopmental Science. She notes that the study is the first of its kind to show an association between musical rhythm and grammar.

Though Gordon emphasizes that more research will be necessary to determine how to apply the knowledge, she looks forward to the possibilities of using musical education to improve grammar skills. For example, rhythm could be taken into account when measuring grammar in children with language disorders.

"This may help us predict who would be the best candidate for particular types of therapy or who's responding the best," she said. "Is it the child with the weakest rhythm that needs the most help or is it the child that starts out with better rhythm that will then benefit the most?"

Gordon studied 25 typically developing 6-year-olds, first testing them with a standardized test of music aptitude. A computer program prompted the children to judge if two melodies -- either identical or slightly different -- were the same or different. Next, the children played a computer game that the research team developed called a beat-based assessment. The children watched a cartoon character play two rhythms, then had to determine whether a third rhythm was played by "Sammy Same" or "Doggy Different."

To measure the children's grammar skills, they were shown a variety of photographs and asked questions about them. They were measured on the grammatical accuracy of their answers, such as competence in using the past tense. Though the grammatical and musical tests were quite different, Gordon found that children who did well on one kind tended to do well on the other, regardless of IQ, music experience and socioeconomic status.

To explain the findings, Gordon suggested first considering the similarities between speech and music -- for example, they each contain rhythm.

In grammar, children's minds must sort the sounds they hear into words, phrases and sentences and the rhythm of speech helps them to do so. In music, rhythmic sequences give structure to musical phrases and help listeners figure out how to move to the beat. Perhaps children who are better at detecting variations in music timing are also better at detecting variations in speech and therefore have an advantage in learning language, she suggested.

Gordon is passionate about music education, which has declined nationally over the last few decades. She hopes her research may help reverse the trend.

"I've been thinking a lot about this idea ... Is music necessary?" Gordon said. "Those of us in the field of music cognition, we know -- it does have a unique role in brain development."

Ron Eavey, M.D., chair of the Department of Otolaryngology, commented about the importance of music research -- especially in Nashville.

"We live in Music City," said Eavey, director of the Bill Wilkerson Center and Guy M. Maness Professor of Otolaryngology. "Why is music appealing? We need to delve beyond peripheral organs into fundamental neuroscience."
Science Daily. 2014. “Links between grammar, rhythm explored by researchers”. Science Daily. Posted: November 5, 2014. Available online:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

'Stockholm Syndrome' could have ancient roots: Traditional stories highlight how ancient women survived

Through the ages, women have suffered greatly because of wars. Consequently, to protect themselves and their offspring, our female ancestors may have evolved survival strategies specific to problems posed by warfare, says Michelle Scalise Sugiyama of the University of Oregon in the US. Her findings, based on the comprehensive analysis of traditional stories from across the world, are published today in Springer's journal Human Nature. The work is of interest because research to date has focused on the problems warfare poses for men, and how these problems shaped human male cognition.

Scalise Sugiyama studied a sample of forager and forager-horticulturalist societies by looking at archaeological and ethnographic research on lethal raiding. This helped her to compile a list of five 'fitness costs' -- ways in which warfare impedes women's chances of surviving and reproducing. These occur when a woman is killed, a woman is captured, her offspring is killed, a mate is killed or captured, or an adult male kinsman is killed or captured.

The study then reviewed traditional stories about lethal raids that had been handed down for generations by word of mouth. Scalise Sugiyama analyzed a cross-cultural sample of war stories from 45 societies and found that the five fitness costs often feature within these story lines. The war stories included tales from various North American Indian tribes, the Eskimo of the Arctic, Aborigine groups of Australia, the San of Southern Africa and certain South American tribal societies.

Based on the fitness costs documented in these stories, Scalise Sugiyama believes that ancestral women may have developed certain strategies to increase their odds of survival and their ability to manage their reproduction in the face of warfare. These include manipulating male behavior, determining whether the enemy's intent was to kill or capture them, and using defensive and evasive tactics to sidestep being murdered or to escape captivity. Assessing the risk of resistance versus compliance also requires having several sets of knowledge. This includes information about an enemy's warfare practices and how they treat their captives.

The so-called Stockholm Syndrome, in which hostages bond with their captors, could have ancestral roots, hypothesizes Scalise Sugiyama. It often occurs under conditions of physical confinement or physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, which are characteristic of captivity in ancestral forager and forager-horticulturalist groups. This response could have developed as a way to help captives identify and ultimately integrate with enemy groups. This then motivates acceptance of the situation and reduces attempts to resist the captor -- which may ultimately increase a woman's chances of survival.

"Lethal raiding has recurrently imposed fitness costs on women. Female cognitive design bears reexamination in terms of the motivational and decision-making mechanisms that may have evolved in response to them," says Scalise Sugiyama.
Science Daily. 2014. “'Stockholm Syndrome' could have ancient roots: Traditional stories highlight how ancient women survived”. Science Daily. Posted: November 4, 2014. Available online:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Children from lost civilisation 'helped build' geoglyph some 6,000 years ago

Remarkable new details about giant moose released as archaeologists confirm stone structure is world's oldest.

Children were involved in the construction of a geoglyph in the Urals which was only discovered thanks to images taken from space. It predates Peru's famous Nazca Lines by thousands of years, archaeologists have announced. But they are no nearer answering why ancient man made it, nor can they yet fathom which group built the geoglyph; archeological traces found so far in the area do not show a culture with sufficient refinement.

Was it to impress the gods or did it have some other purpose?

Experts have been examining the giant moose-shaped stone structure since it was discovered in 2011 and have now confirmed it is the world's oldest.

Located near Lake Zyuratkul in the Ural Mountains, it stretches for about 275 metres and depicts an animal with four legs, antlers and a long muzzle.

Two years ago researchers said they estimated the site could date back as far as 6,000BC based on the style of the stone-working, called lithic chipping.

Now new details about the geoglyph have been released as archaeologists revealed it was most likely created between 3,000 and 4,000BC.

Perhaps the most interesting development is that tools found at the site indicate it was worked on assiduously by children as well as adults in a large-scale community accomplishment. Of 155 tools found beside the geoglyph, the majority were used for digging or breaking stones.

Stanislav Grigoryev, a senior researcher from the Chelyabinsk History and Archaeology Institute, said: 'Judging by the different sizes of the tools - from 17cm-long and weighing about three kilograms to some being just two centimetres - we can assume they were used by both adults and children. We can also assume it means that everyone participated in creating the moose. 

'But it was not a kind of slave labour of children. They were involved to share common values, to join something important to all the people.'

The moose was discovered by chance in 2011 by local researcher Alexander Shestakov after he spotted it trawling through satellite images from Google Earth.

He alerted archaeologists, who sent out a hydroplane and paraglider to survey the area, before the first expedition to the site was undertaken. The geoglyph was found 200km west of Chelyabink, in the Zyuratkul National Park, situated on terrace at an altitude of 860 metres.

Initial fieldwork found simple techniques were used to create the moose, with turf and earth 10-metres-wide dug out to make its shape before being filled with stones. 'The figure would initially have looked white and slightly shiny against the green grass background,' he said. 

Different methods were deloyed to make the various parts of the geoglyph; for instance, a mix of clay and crushed stone was used to make the hooves. When part of the hind leg was excavated, archaeologists found the largest stones were on the edges, with the smaller ones inside. While there are similarities to the world famous Nazca Lines, in Peru, and to geoglyphs in England - such as the White Horse in Oxfordshire or the Dorset Giant - the experts believe there are no links.

Discovered in 1927, the Nazca Lines feature hundreds of lines, shapes and designs of animals, the earliest of which were created around 500BC. Instead, archaeologists say the Russian moose was drawn in a style similar to petroglyphs found in Finland. Excavations of nearby land could provide further clues as to its origins and to the people who made it. Radiocarbon dating has been carried out, narrowing down the period in which the geoglyph was created to between 3,000BC and 4,000BC, some 5,000 or 6,000 years ago.

But further testing is needed - for example optically-stimulated luminescence dating as well as pollen analysis - is planned.

Mr Grigoryev said: 'It may help if we find ceramics on the site. Ceramics could help us with the date and with understanding who these people were that created the geoglyph. It's not quite clear who the builders were. It is obvious that its creation has a big social importance. Geoglyphs are the symbols of unity'.

Yet archeologists still cannot fathom the identity of their sophisticated social group who worked in the massive operation of constructing structure visible from space.

'Facts say that on this territory in the Neolithic and Eneolithic Ages lived hunters and fishermen. We conducted archaeological works on the site of a settlement nearby, on the lake shore, on the assumption that the builders of the geoglyph might live there. People have lived here since the Neolithic era but there was no sign of large social structures, nor that they did anything other than hunting and fishing', Stanislav Grigoryev said.

'It puzzles me a lot, I keep thinking about the people that built the geoglyph, and their purpose'.

The research team found traces of two ancient fireplaces at the site of the moose, both used only once, possibly in a significant ritual. Despite many unanswered questions, Mr Grigoryev warned against future large scale excavation and said officials should consider preserving the sanctity of the site. At the moment it is the world's most ancient geoglyph, dating back to about 4,000BC.

'The geoglyphs in Nazca are younger as are those in the UK, though there might be some of comparable age in Britain. But at the moment Zyuratkul's is the most ancient, and is the world's largest figure image, but which we mean geometrical or zoomorphic figures, because there are very long lines in Nasca, and here we speak about the figure. So it's not the largest geoglyph, but the largest figure image.

'It could become a tourist attraction and with a museum, but we need to think how it might be implemented'.

An intriguing question is whether more geoglyphs will become visible as researchers analyse Google Earth in detail.

Some 50 geoglyphs with various shapes and sizes, including a massive swastika, were recently discovered across northern Kazakhstan. There is no doubting the excitement people feel from seeing the moose. Russian journalist Yevgeny Bezborodov, originally from Siberia, said: 'It's rare when you film something truly exclusive - and this is what we got in the South Urals'. 



With tools to work with primitive, it may be that geoglyphs were early forms of statues to be worshipped. This could certainly be true of the Long Man of Wilmington, in England, which is thought to date as far back as 2,000BC and is the tallest in Europe. Some experts say the figure is a representation of an Anglo Saxon war god and the site is considered sacred by Pagans.


A handful of archaeologists believe geoglyphs could have been drawn to represent the important stars, planetary events like sun solstices, or constellations. However a 1968 study by the National Geographic Society found that while some of the Nazca lines did point to the positions of the Sun and Moon, it was no more than could be expected by mere chance.


There is a theory that geoglyphs were simply ways of civilisations to mark their own territories in clear and visible ways. More often than they are giant structures in areas that can be seen from a distance or from a high vantage point, leading some experts to say they were used to mark ownership of the land.


The discovery of fireplaces at the Russian moose and other geoglyphs adds to speculation they were used for rituals. There is a theory that the Nazca used to dance along the lines of their geoglyphs when they prayed for rain, with many of the same images featuring on pottery from the time.


A common yet bizarre theory put forward about strange markings on the ground is that they were used by aliens. Many speculate that the straight lines of Nazca, for instance, were created as runways for spaceships, but why extra-terrestrials would attempt to land on geoglyphs in the shape of monkeys, spiders, or giant Russian moose is another question. 
Liesowska, Anna. 2014. “Children from lost civilisation 'helped build' geoglyph some 6,000 years ago”. Siberian Times. Posted: November 3, 2014. Available online:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Anthropologist's new book examines newspaper cartoons' importance to politics and culture

A University of Texas at Arlington cultural anthropologist breaks ground in media and South Asian studies with a new book focused on newspaper cartoons, the cartoonists and the public reception of cartoons in India.

"Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History in the Modern World" was recently published by Cambridge University Press.

In the book, Ritu Gairola Khanduri, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the UT Arlington College of Liberal Arts, reveals how cartoons serve as teaching moments about identity politics and democracy.

"We just have to look around to observe the frequency with which cartoons are debated in our world," Khanduri said, noting that unlike in North America, newspaper readership in Asia is growing and newspapers continue to be an important medium for political communication.

"Most leading national and regional newspapers in India have staff cartoonists. The sheer number of languages, 22 officially, produces a unique and vibrant visual expression of political humor in the world's largest democracy."

Khanduri's research included amassing a range of archival and ethnographic materials that date back to the 1870s. Her archival research took her to collections in The British Library (London), the Library of Congress and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (New Delhi), among several other places. She traveled widely in India, engaging in-depth with India's leading cartoonists, many who began their careers in the late colonial years. The result is a profusely illustrated 370-page account that received glowing advance reviews.

"Cartoonists Kutty, Bireshwar, Samuel, R. K. Laxman, Suresh Sawant and Mita Roy, among others, generously shared their stories about the rich history of their art in India," Khanduri said. "I have incorporated cartoonists as interlocutors, artists and political analysts."

"Kutty told me that the life span of cartoons is as short as that of a firefly, but its sting can linger on for a long time. This perspective offers a way to think about the enduring significance of ephemeral cultural forms, of which the daily newspaper cartoon is the finest example."

Khanduri said "cartoon talk" - what readers, cartoonists, and critics say about cartoons, pointed her to debates about democracy, free speech and the status of cartoons as a form of humor, news and art.

Beth Wright, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said Khanduri's interdisciplinary research in anthropology, history and visual culture enables "us to gain valuable insights about such important subjects as nationalism and India's transition from a colonial to a post-colonial entity."

She added: "Dr. Khanduri's work will advance scholarship in many disciplines."

Khanduri hopes her book will help people who consider cartoons esoteric to understand why they matter and mobilize political passions.

"Newspaper cartoons are a public turf where lines of empathy and politics are drawn. The world witnessed this generative force of cartoons during the Danish cartoon controversy in 2003 when I had just returned from fieldwork in Britain and India," Khanduri said. "Cultural anthropology prepared me to put my ear to ground and listen. This equipped me to combine textual analysis with people's experience of seeing cartoons and why they matter."

"Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History in the Modern World" is available at the UT Arlington bookstore, 400 S. Pecan St. Copies can also be ordered online through Cambridge University Press. UTA bookstore and CUP customers can receive a 20 percent discount at checkout when they enter the code: CCI2014.
EurekAlert. 2014. “Anthropologist's new book examines newspaper cartoons' importance to politics and culture”. EurekAlert. Posted: November 3, 2014. Available online:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Archaeologists uncover remains of pre-Columbian village in central Colombia

Archaeologists have discovered a pre-Columbian town in central Colombia, recovering tons of archaeological evidence of which some dates as far back as 900BC, sponsor EPM said Friday.

The site was initially found when EPM, a public-private energy company, did soil research while planning the construction of an energy network in the municipality of Soacha, just southwest of the capitalBogota.

According to EPM, the archaeological site is the biggest ever found in Colombia, measuring some 4.9 hectares, and allows scientists to understand how now-extinct indigenous tribes lived.

“The relevance of this finding lies in the information contained in the settlement patterns, the architectural and agricultural development of the societies that lived on the central high plans of Colombia and, in general, about demographic aspects in pre-Hispanic times,” archaeologist John Alexander Gonzalez told EPM, that paid for the $7.5 million operation.

The findings have already challenged existing theories on pre-Columbian life as the village shows that tribes living around what is now Bogota kept settlements in tact for hundreds of years in an era called the “Herrera period.” Until now, historians assumed the natives had a more nomadic lifestyle.

According to the involved archaeologists, the remains found at the site dated from 900BC until approximate 1500AD when most indigenous groups died amid a violent Spanish colonization of territory belonging to the ancient Muisca people.

The archaeologists found numerous pieces that are in a good enough condition to be displayed in local museums. Some 90% of the approximately 20 metric tons of archaeological material will be used for scientific research.
Alsema, Adriaan. 2014. “Archaeologists uncover remains of pre-Columbian village in central Colombia”. Colombia Reports. Posted: November 1, 2014. Available online:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tribal Headhunters on Coney Island? Author Revisits Disturbing American Tale

New book examines troubled history of Filipino tribe brought to America in 1905.

Transplanted from the Philippines to New York's famousConey Island amusement park in 1905, a band of Igorrote (Igorot) headhunters went on to tour the United States, performing mock tribal ceremonies and consuming dog meat for millions of curious and horrified Americans.

But, once a national sensation, the Igorrotes—and the doctor arrested for exploiting them—have been largely forgotten, writes journalist Claire Prentice in her new book, The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century.

National Geographic recently discussed with Prentice how she pieced together the group's turn-of-the-century odyssey and how some of the forces that brought the Igorrotes to America and obscured the truth about them may still be in play today.

How did you discover the story of the Igorrotes?

I had been living in New York and working as a journalist. I had a fascination with 1900s Coney Island and took trips there often. One day, I saw these pictures of the Igorrotes tattooed, in G-strings and, well, not very much else. The energy of the photos drew me in and captivated me.

I researched through big institutions like the National Archives [and] the National Library of the Philippines, and smaller places like the Bontoc Municipal Library in the Philippines's Mountain Province. I found declassified [U.S.] government files, vital records, and newspaper articles that hadn't been read for a hundred years. So I read about the terrible things these people suffered at the hands of a man they had trusted, someone who they thought was a protector in a strange land, and who had treated them abominably.

So let's talk about the man who brought them here. Who was Dr. Truman Hunt?

Truman Hunt went to the Philippines at the outbreak of the 1898 Spanish-American War. He was trained as a medical doctor, and he stayed on in the country after the war ended. He was later made lieutenant governor of Bontoc, where the Igorrotes lived, and got to know them well.

In 1904, the American government spent $1.5 million taking 1,300 Filipinos from a dozen different tribes to the St. Louis Exposition as part of a scheme intended to drum up widespread popular support for America's policies in the Philippines by demonstrating that the people of the islands were far from ready for self-government. Truman Hunt was made the manager of the Igorrote Village, which drew the largest crowds of all in the Philippine [part of the fair].

The enormous popularity of the Igorrotes gave Hunt the idea to return to Bontoc and gather another Igorrote group. He offered $15 a month to each Igorrote who volunteered to go to America with him and put on a show of their culture and customs. He planned to begin their tour at Coney Island and then move on to other amusement parks across the country.

You write that Truman Hunt was the mouthpiece for Igorrotes and the press just reprinted a lot of his tales. How difficult was it to find out what really happened?

To begin with, as a journalist, I didn't entirely swallow the news stories, though Hunt knew how to spin a story. By the time I got the key bits of the story and read the government files about his wrongdoings, it was clear just how distorted the picture was and how spun it really was.

Some of the "factual" stuff was entirely made up. In the newspapers, Truman talks about one particular incident: a huge fight between the Igorrotes and the white residents of Coney Island that ends up with the two groups fighting and grabbing pitchforks. He presents this whole scene of a savage battle, and it was entirely made up. In another one, he set up the theft of a dog—he had someone bring in a dog, unleash it, and told the Igorrotes to chase it. But the newspapers printed it as the Igorrotes were savage and wanted to steal this dog.

This was a time when human zoos were something of a trend. Ethnic peoples were exhibited in similar spectacles from Paris to Tokyo. What was special about the Igorrotes?

They were hardly in clothes. Their bodies had tattoos all over them. They had hunted heads in their home—and the dogs. Dogs were brought from the New York pound, chopped up, and put in a pot, and then people watched the Igorrotes eat the stew. This behavior scandalized Americans but also captured their imagination. But the zoo quickly came to be seen as shameful, and something Americans didn't want to remember, that people were exhibited in this manner, so it was forgotten. There were other examples where people were coerced, cultures were distorted, but in this case, the U.S. government had given permission to exploit these people.They were directly involved.

How did the presence of America in the Philippines in the 1900s factor into the Igorrotes' situation?

The U.S. backed the exhibition as a way to support their political goal of maintaining control over Philippine territory, by demonstrating that the Philippine people were far from ready for self-government. Coverage of the Igorrotes was in the newspapers, daily. People were talking about it. It was very controversial and very topical, and people were reading about and had an interest in it. The fact that they were from the Philippines was definitely another layer of attraction.

But I don't think Truman Hunt was trying to champion that cause. He was doing this out of his own interests. He was very charming, very opportunistic.

In your epigraph, Hunt is quoted in a newspaper saying, "I was healer of their bodies, father confessor of all their woes and troubles, and the final arbiter in all disputed questions," yet he basically put the Igorrotes in the zoos. Do you think he cared for these people?

That's something I thought long and hard about. Before he brought them to America, he did volunteer to work in a cholera hospital in Luzon. He genuinely did risk his life for his Filipino patients. The Truman Hunt at the end of the book wouldn't have done that. I think he became very, very badly corrupted. They were objectified so much, gawked at daily, that I think he came to regard them distantly and as a commodity.

The question of authenticity comes up a lot in the book—the authenticity of the record as well as the authenticity of the display of the Igorrotes themselves.

I don't think the display can really be considered authentic. The traditional ceremonies performed before head hunts and the other tribal dances—those were generally rare in real Igorrote life. Same with the eating of dogs. These things were ceremonial and so definitely didn't occur every day. But Truman wasn't bothered by authenticity. They were there to add a sense of drama to the show.

It seems abominable to us now that people were looking at these human zoos. But back then people went to ‘attractions’ like the Igorrote Village in the same way that they go to the movies today. They took their families. At the time it was mainstream entertainment.

You write that these zoos fulfilled a need for sensation and an ethnological obsession. Those needs don't seem unique to the 1900s. I kept thinking about reality television.

We have certainly a variation on that today, [with] wealthy Western tourists traveling to see authentic shows of ethnic peoples in Africa and Asia. It's a commodity. And absolutely, some of the TV shows today—you know, Beauty and the Beast types—are just awful. It's obviously deep within human beings to want to look at people different from themselves. That's just a fact.

There is a shred of justice administered at the end of the book. Truman Hunt is arrested. How did that happen?

The U.S. government's Bureau of Insular Affairs, which [was] part of the War Department, received a tip that Hunt was not taking adequate care of the Igorrotes. There were other rumors that he had stolen their wages and that two men in the group had died on the road and that he had failed to have their bodies buried. The government sent an agent to investigate the claims, and Hunt went on the run, taking a group of Igorrotes with him. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was hired to help track him down. Eventually, he was accused of embezzling around $10,000 in wages from the Igorrotes and of using physical force to steal hundreds of dollars more that they had earned selling handmade souvenirs.

Finally, after a manhunt across the U.S. and Canada, the government arrested him in October 1906. He was sentenced to 18 months in the workhouse after an incredible trial in Memphis.

After Truman Hunt's arrest, what happened to the Igorrotes?

In late July 1906, a couple of months after their contracts with Hunt expired, the government stepped in and sent home all of the Filipinos—except five who stayed on as witnesses in Hunt's trial. The court cases dragged on. Five Filipino witnesses were kept in America until March 1907. On March 20, they too returned to the Philippines.

It has been difficult to discover a great deal about their lives after they returned to the Philippines because a huge volume of the Philippines's vital records were destroyed during WWII. I have pieced together what I have been able to find and have included this in the Afterword. I hope that this book will lead to further discoveries about their later lives.
Qiu, Linda. 2014. “Tribal Headhunters on Coney Island? Author Revisits Disturbing American Tale”. National Geographic News. Posted: October 27, 2014. Available online:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why We Gossip: It’s Really All About Ourselves

New research from the Netherlands finds stories we hear about others help us determine how we’re doing.

Did you hear what happened at yesterday’s meeting? Can you believe it?

If you find those sort of quietly whispered questions about your co-workers irresistible, you’re hardly alone. But why are we drawn togossip?

A new study suggests it’s because the rumors, innuendo, and hearsay are ultimately all about us—where we rate in the unofficial local hierarchy, and how we might improve our standing.

“Gossip recipients tend to use positive and negative group information to improve, promote, and protect the self,” writes a research team led by Elena Martinescu of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. “Individuals need evaluative information about others to evaluate themselves.”

Writing in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the researchers describe two experiments testing the personal value gossip recipients derive. The first featured 178 university undergraduates who had all previously worked on at least one course assignment with a group of four or more students.

Participants “were asked to recall and write a short description of an incident in which a group members shared with them either positive or negative information about another group member’s confidence,” the researchers write. (Eighty-five received a positive report, 93 a negative one.)

They then reported their level of agreement with a series of statements. Some of these measured the self-improvement value of the gossip (“The information received made me think I can learn a lot from X”); others measured its self-promotion value (“The information I received made me feel that I am doing well compared to X”). Still others measured whether the gossip raised personal concerns (“The information I received made me feel that I must protect my image in the group”).

In the second experiment,122 undergraduates were assigned the role of “sales agent” at a major company. They received gossip from a colleague that a third person either did very well or very badly at a performance evaluation, and were then debriefed about the emotions that information evoked. They also responded to the aforementioned set of statements presented to participants in the first experiment.

In each experiment, participants found both negative and positive gossip to be of personal value, albeit for different reasons. “Positive gossip has self-improvement value,” they write. “Competence-related positive gossip about others contains lessons about how to improve one’s own competence.”

On the flip side, “negative gossip has self-promotion value, because it provides individuals with social comparison information that justifies self-promoting judgments, which results in feelings of pride.”

“Contrary to lay perceptions,” the researchers assert, “most negative gossip is not intended to hurt the target, but to please the gossiper and receiver.”

In addition, the results “showed that negative gossip elicited self-protection concerns,” the researchers write. “Negative gossip makes people concerned that their reputations may be at risk, as they may personally become targets of negative gossip in the future, which generates fear.”

Fear is hardly a pleasant sensation, of course, but it can be a motivating one. As Martinescu and her colleagues put it: “Gossip conveniently provides individuals with indirect social-comparison information about relevant others.”

In other words, if you don’t want to be viewed as a goof-off like Charley, you’d better get your act together.

It’s worth noting that this study did not look at who-is-sleeping-with-who gossip, which presumably has a somewhat different function—although news that an illicit couple has gotten caught could certainly serve as a cautionary tale.

But it does show that beyond providing “emotional catharsis and social control,” confidentially treaded information about the competence, or lack thereof, of a co-worker can be “an essential resource for self-evaluation.”

Pass the word.
Jacobs, Tom. 2014. “Why We Gossip: It’s Really All About Ourselves”. Pacific Standard Magazine. Posted: October 24, 2014. Available online:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ancient City Ruled by Genghis Khan's Heirs Revealed

Remains of a 750-year-old city, founded by the descendents of Genghis Khan, have been unearthed along the Volga River in Russia.

Among the discoveries are two Christian temples one of which has stone carvings and fine ceramics.

The city’s name was Ukek and it was founded just a few decades after Genghis Khan died in 1227. After the great conqueror’s death his empire split apart and his grandson Batu Khan, who lived from 1205 to 1255, founded the Golden Horde (also called the Kipchak Khanate).The Golden Horde kingdom stretched from Eastern Europe to Central Asia and controlled many of the Silk Road trade routes that connected China to Medieval Europe.

This city of Ukek was built close to the khan's summer residence along the Volga River, something which helped it become prosperous. The name "Golden Horde" comes from the golden tent from which the khan was said to rule.

Christian quarter

Archaeologists with the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore have discovered the Christian quarter of Ukek, shedding light on the Christian people who lived under the Khan's rule. Ukek was a multicultural city, where a variety of religious beliefs were practiced including Islam, Christianity and Shamanism.

While Christians did not rule the Golden Horde, the discoveries archaeologists made show that not all the Christians were treated as slaves, and people of wealth frequented the Christian quarter of the city.

"Some items belonging to local elite were found in the Christian district," Dmitriy Kubankin, an archaeologist with the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore, told Live Science in an email."Among other things, there is a Chinese glass hair pin, with a head shaped as a split pomegranate, and a fragment of a bone plate with a carved dragon image."

Stone temples

Among the discoveries are the basements of two Christian temples. In eastern Christianity churches are sometimes called temples.

One of the temples was built around 1280 and was destroyed in the early 14th century. "It was roofed with tiles and decorated with murals and stone carving[s], both, from the outside and inside," Kubankinsaid.

"The best-preserved bas relief (a type of stone carving) features a lion being clawed by a griffin," said Kubankin, noting that another carving depicts a cross.

Within the basement of the temple, archaeologists found the remains of goods that may have been stored by local merchants, including fine plates and bottles that were imported from the Byzantine Empire, Egypt or Iran. "Any church cellar was considered a safe place to store goods in it, therefore, merchants from the nearest neighborhood used to keep (objects) of sale there," Kubankin said.

After the first Christian temple was destroyed in the early 14th century, a second temple was built in 1330 and remained in use until about 1350. "Most probably, it was stone-walled and had a tile roof. A part of its foundation with the apse has been unearthed," Kubankin said.

The fall of Ukek

The city of Ukek did not last for long. During the 14th century, the Golden Horde began to decline, and in 1395 Ukek was attacked by a ruler named Tamerlane, a man out to build an empire of his own. He destroyed Ukek and took over much of the territory formerly ruled by the Golden Horde, dealing them a blow from which they would never recover.

Today modern-day buildings cover much of Ukek. "This hampers any research and prevents complete unearthing of the entire [site], because it extends over several private land plots," Kubankin said.

“Nevertheless, digging just in one site may lead to significant discoveries.  Archaeological expeditions from the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore [have made] yearly excavations since 2005," said Kubankin, adding thatthese discoveries will soon be featured in a museum exhibition.

Kubankin presented the team's finds recently at the European Association of Archaeologists' annual meeting in Istanbul. The study is supported by the Saratov Regional Ministry of Culture, Russian Humanitarian Research Foundation grant (project 12-31-01246) and by the RIMKER Company.

See the pictures at:
Jarus, Owen. 2014. “Ancient City Ruled by Genghis Khan's Heirs Revealed”. Live Science. Posted: October 24, 2014. Available online:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Genomic data support early contact between Easter Island and Americas

People may have been making their way from Easter Island to the Americas well before the Dutch commander Jakob Roggeveen arrived with his ships in 1722, according to new genomic evidence showing that the Rapanui people living on that most isolated of islands had significant contact with Native American populations hundreds of years earlier. The findings reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 23 lend the first genetic support for such an early trans-Pacific route between Polynesia and the Americas, an impressive trek of more than 4,000 kilometers (nearly 2,500 miles).

The findings are a reminder that "early human populations extensively explored the planet," says Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas from the Natural History Museum of Denmark's Centre for GeoGenetics. "Textbook versions of human colonization events -- the peopling of the Americas, for example -- need to be re-evaluated utilizing genomic data."

On that note, a second article that will appear in the same issue of Current Biology by Malaspinas along with Eske Willerslev and their colleagues examined two human skulls representing the indigenous "Botocudos" of Brazil to find that their genomic ancestry is Polynesian, with no detectable Native American component at all.

Archaeological evidence had suggested that 30 to 100 Polynesian men, women, and children first landed on Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, around AD 1200, arriving in two or more double-hulled canoes. After settling on the isolated island, the Rapanui famously built giant stone platforms and over 900 statues, some weighing as much as 82 tons.

While it may have taken weeks for Polynesians to reach even the closest nearby islands, there are hints of contact with the larger world. For example, there is evidence for the presence of crops native to the Americas in Polynesia, including the Andean sweet potato, long before the first reported European contact.

Genome-wide analysis of 27 native Rapanui now confirms significant contact between the island people and Native Americans sometime between approximately AD 1300 and AD 1500, 19 to 23 generations ago. The Rapanui population began mixing with Europeans only much later, in about 1850. The ancestry of the Rapanui today is 76% Polynesian, 8% Native American, and 16% European.

The new evidence about the Rapanui suggests one of two scenarios: either Native Americans sailed to Rapa Nui or Polynesians sailed to the Americas and back. The researchers say that it seems more likely that the Rapanui successfully made the trip back and forth, given simulations presented in previous studies showing that "all sailing voyages heading intentionally east from Rapa Nui would always reach the Americas, with a trip lasting from two weeks to approximately two months." On the other hand, the trip from the Americas to Rapa Nui is much more challenging, which would have made it likely to fail or miss the island completely. From the Americas, Rapa Nui is indeed a small target, which might also explain why it took Europeans so long to find it.
Science Daily. 2014. “Genomic data support early contact between Easter Island and Americas”. Science Daily. Posted: October 23, 2014. Available online:

Friday, December 12, 2014

A new tune: There is intonation in sign language too

Like the intonation of individual spoken languages, sign languages also have their own unique "sound," and, as with spoken languages, the intonation of one community's language is different from that of another community, according to a new study at the University of Haifa. "Our discovery that sign languages also have unique intonation patterns once again demonstrates that sign languages share many central properties with spoken languages. It turns out that intonation is an essential component of any human language, including languages without sound," explained Prof. Wendy Sandler, who led the study.

We can all recognize French, Italian, or Chinese without understanding them at all, due to the unique intonation patterns -- the rise and fall of the voice -- in each language. Even babies can differentiate between the familiar melodies and rhythms of the language spoken in their own environment and foreign languages, long before they know any words.

In our own language, intonation helps us to identify different kinds of sentences and parts of sentences, such as questions, conditionals, imperatives, sentence topics, etc. We can do this because each comes with its own characteristic intonational pattern. In the silent languages used by deaf people, these 'melodies' exist as well, transmitted not by the vocal cords, but by a systematic set of facial expressions and head positions.

Prof. Sandler, the Director of the Sign Language Research Lab at the University of Haifa, has been studying the similarities between spoken and sign languages for many years. The purpose of the present study, performed with doctoral students Svetlana Dachkovsky of the University of Haifa and Christina Healy of Gallaudet University, was to determine whether the facial intonation of sign language is the same for all sign languages or whether, like spoken languages, intonation takes on different characteristic patterns in each language.

For this purpose, deaf signers of Israeli Sign Language and of American Sign Language -- sign languages that are unrelated both historically and culturally from each other -- were asked to sign a list of sentences that included "yes/no" questions, conditional sentences, imperatives, relative clauses, and sentence topics.

The researchers found that a set of fixed facial expressions and head movements typically accompany different kinds of sentences in each language. Some of these are the same in the two languages, but some are noticeably and systematically different. For example, "yes/no" questions in both languages are accompanied by raised eyebrows, widened eyes, and a forward head position. But the topic of the sentence, the part of the sentence that identifies what the sentence is about (often the same as the subject of the sentence), is marked quite differently in each language. American signers raise their eyebrows and keep their heads tilted back throughout the topic, while Israeli signers typically squint their eyes and move their heads forward and downward as they sign the topic. "This finding is parallel to spoken languages. In most languages, the intonation in yes/no question sentences is very similar -- the voice is raised at the end of a question -- but in other types of sentences the intonation differs from one language to another," Prof. Sandler said.

According to Prof. Sandler, the current study provides additional evidence that certain properties are universally shared across languages regardless of the physical channel through which they are conveyed. "The ability to communicate through language is unique to human beings, and the existence of fully functional, complex languages in a different physical modality makes sign languages a natural laboratory for investigating the nature of human language and cognition in our species," concluded Prof. Sandler.
Science Daily. 2014. “A new tune: There is intonation in sign language too”. Science Daily. Posted: October 23, 2014. Available online:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Debunking the paleo diet

Here is the TEDx presentation by Christina Warinner as mentioned in the previous article.


___________________ References:

Warinner, Christina. 2014. "Debunking the paleo diet: Christina Warinner at TEDxOU". TEDx Okalahoma. Posted: February 12, 2013.;Featured-Talks

What language tells us about the roots of the stone age diet

As a restaurant offering ‘paleo’ food opens in London, can linguistics shed any light on what our ancestors ate?

Next month, the UK’s first paleolithic restaurant will open in London. The paleo, stone-age or caveman diet has been around in various forms for decades. But it harks back to a much earlier time, when our eating habits were supposedly in line with our evolution, before agriculture came along and made us civilised but unhealthy.

One of the best TEDx talks I’ve watched is an efficient debunking of the stone-age diet by Christina Warriner. In short: the meat-heavy regimen is not at all how cavemen ate, and many so-called stone-age foods – like root vegetables – are in fact the product of intensive cultivation (wild carrots, for example, are generally tiny and full of toxins).

Things we know about our ancestors generally come from two sources: their own accounts, and the things they have left behind. In other words, history, and archaeology. When there’s no written record of a culture – and the earliest examples of writing are around 5,000 years old – we have to rely on artefacts and biological remains. Authors of stone-age diet plans have relied on out of date and, well, half-digested archaeological evidence of what life was like thousands of years ago. Accuracy isn’t their priority – selling books is.

Strangely enough, though, there’s another line of inquiry available. Since the mid-20th century, scholars have argued that language can provide clues about stone-age lifestyles, even in the complete absence of writing. How could that be possible?

It’s all thanks to a painstaking technique called the comparative method. This is as archaeological as linguistics gets: it involves delicately scraping away the surface layers of spoken language to find patterns of relatedness beneath. For example: the word for “father” is pere in French, but far in Danish. Now, we know these two languages have common roots, and in that context two forms of a word as basic as father will almost certainly related – or “cognate”. We also know there are many other words that start with a “p” in French but “f” in Danish, like pied andfod, poisson and fisk. At some point in the past, then, a change must have crept through Danish and French to make them less alike in this small way. Did a “p” become an “f”, or vice versa? Because we also know that the former is a very frequent kind of sound change, we can deduce that the common ancestor of both French and Danish used a “p” at the beginning of these words.

With a highly technical understanding of sound change, and collections of thousands upon thousands of cognates, whole words, and then large vocabularies of unrecorded languages have been revealed. Much of the early history of academic linguistics was spent reconstructing European “proto-languages”, our best guesses at earlier forms of familiar linguistic groups. There was proto-Germanic, proto-Romance, proto-Slavic and, eventually, a huge lexicon of proto-Indo-European (PIE) a hypothetical language that represents the common ancestor of everything from Welsh to Romanian, Greek to Sanskrit.

This, of course, takes us back quite a long time. Just how long is a matter of fierce debate. In all probability it gets us just a bit beyond the earliest writing, about 6000 years ago. Not quite palaeolithic then, but late neolithic – still stone age, and before, or at the very dawn of agriculture. What did society look like then? How did people live, eat and hunt? Well, let’s look at some of the vocabulary we’ve been able to reconstruct (thanks to the database over at University of Texas, Austin, for these examples)

  • bol- (root) 
  • bhabha (bean)
  • kerem- (onion)
  • abel- (apple)
  • rktho-s (bear)
  • ghan-s- (goose)
  • anut- (duck)
  • kuon- (dog)
  • ulp- (fox)
  • bhren-to-s (deer)
  • ghaiso- (arrow)
  • aik- (spear)
  • deru- (to work, toil)
  • gelebh- (to flay, skin)
  • bhes- (to rub)
  • ten- (to stretch)
  • plek- (to plait)
  • kista (basket)
  • médhu (mead)

My list is highly selective. But this does sort of sound like a subsistence culture in northern Europe. The PIE diet might include some deer stew, with onions and beans. But significantly, there’s no olive oil, fig trees or citrus fruits.

Which leads me to my favourite map in all of linguistics. It’s based on the idea that, because we have been able to reconstruct words for apple, salmon, oak, beaver, squirrel, hedgehog but not grapes or chestnuts, we can work out where the Indo-European “homeland” might have been.

Sadly, there is a big problem with this approach. The PIE lexicon is far from complete. What is more, names can be applied differently by different cultures. Words related to salmon have also been used to indicate trout, a fish with a different range. And meanings are slippery. What if we took the existence of a word “mead” to mean that PIE speakers knew about fermentation and alcohol? Our word beer, after all, comes from the medieval Latin biber – a drink of any kind. Not only that, but at 6,000 years’ distance, the linguistic ground is far from firm. The datasets get smaller and smaller the further back you go, making it harder to say that similarities between words aren’t down merely to chance. Linguistic palaeontology promises more than it delivers.

Still, it’s nice if language adds some colour to the blurry picture we have of our distant forebears. And you could probably do worse than follow a PIE-diet: no short-crust pastry, but oak-smoked hedgehog in abundance.
Shariatmadari, David. 2014. “What language tells us about the roots of the stone age diet”. The Guardian. Posted: October 22, 2014. Available online:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense

We should embrace the fact that there’s no single recipe for English. Making fun of people for replacing “ask” with “aks,” or for frequently using double negatives just makes you look like the unsophisticated one.

There are some things you just don’t say in polite society. You don’t make overtly racist comments. You don’t insult the poor. You do your best not to offend others’ political sensibilities. But there is one type of comment that does not seem to be marked as inappropriate, though it certainly is potentially hurtful as it reflects an underlying negative attitude toward others—and a false assumption about language.

Here’s how it often goes:  “I can’t stand it when people say aks instead of ask—it sounds so stupid!” “It drives me crazy when people use double negatives, like I didn’t see no one, or Didn’t nobody get hurt. That just doesn’t make any sense!”

There is no scientific basis for such negative comments. Both the alternation between [sk] and [ks] (an instance of what linguists call metathesis) and the presence of multiple negative elements within a sentence with the reading of a single negation (or negative concord) are natural phenomena that are found across human languages. Negative concord is part of the grammar of Russian and Italian, among many other languages, for example, and was also part of the grammar of Old English and Middle English. We don’t hear people getting upset about the fact that the Italian Non ho visto nessuno (literally “not (I) have seen no one”) contains two negative elements—it is simply accepted as part of the grammar of this language, as it should be. Yet people get upset about negative concord in English. Why?

It’s because we associate these linguistic features with speakers who occupy a low position on the socio-economic scale. We think of negative concord as something used by certain black speakers, certain speakers of Appalachian English, and working-class people more generally. These groups have low prestige in American society and, by association, the variety of English they speak has low prestige—to some, it even sounds stupid, or illogical. But there is nothing illogical with negative concord as a strategy for expressing sentential negation; if it rubs us the wrong way, it’s because of who uses it in English. In fact, those who don’t look down on these groups, don’t look down on the way they speak, either. Young people who love hip-hop music and admire its performers borrow negative concord into their own variety of English to sound cool and gain street cred; whether a variety sounds stupid or cool is a reflection of how we feel about the people who use it.

To be sure, many would argue that [aks] or negative concord raise eyebrows not because of a negative attitude, but simply because they are not part of the grammar of English. English is not Italian—or Russian—after all. In this line of thinking, we object to these linguistic features because they represent a violation of the rules of English grammar. There is a major flaw in this reasoning, however: it presumes that there is a single grammar of English. There isn’t.

Think of grammar as a recipe that allows us to form the sentences of the language we speak—a mental recipe that tells us how to form, pronounce, and interpret the sentences of our language. There is no single recipe for English; rather, there are a number of recipes. They have a lot in common, but are also slightly different from one another. They give rise to different varieties of English. Such varieties align with many factors, including age, ethnic or social identity, and geographical location—there is no doubt that English speakers in London, Sydney, and Los Angeles have slightly different recipes and thus speak different varieties of English.

In every country, one of these varieties emerges as the variety of prestige—the one that people need to use in job interviews, in formal occasions, on television, and more generally to climb the socio-economic ladder. Schools teach the recipe (or grammar) of this prestige variety; in doing so, they empower children, by giving them access to economic opportunities. But this doesn’t mean that the other varieties are stupid, illogical, or nonsensical, or that they are a distortion of the prestige variety, or “bad grammar.” They are simply different; they reflect mental grammars that differ minimally from one another, within limits imposed by general properties of human language. When we say that they are cool or illogical, we are expressing a judgment on the people who speak them—and if the judgment is negative, it amounts to a negative judgment on the people who speak that variety.

How should we think of different varieties of the same language? Following an analogy in Mark Baker’s book The Atoms of Language: The Mind’s Hidden Rules of Grammar, I suggest that we think about varieties of the same language the way we think about varieties of bread. Different kinds of bread are the overt reflection of recipes that differ minimally from one another. There is no bread that is stupid, illogical, or a distortion of another, but there might be types of bread that we feel are more appropriate—or even required by convention—for certain situations, and types of bread found in certain places and not in others, or associated with certain ethnic groups or social classes.

Similarly, no variety of English is a distortion of another; there are some that are appropriate—or even required by convention—for certain situations, and some that are found in certain places and not in others, or associated with certain ethnic groups or social classes. But just as we wouldn’t say that biscuits, baguette, pita, or challah are illogical or stupid, or distortions from “proper bread,” similarly we shouldn’t think that African-American English or Appalachian English or the English of Boston’s North End are illogical or stupid, or distortions from “proper English.” The recipes are simply different, and we should consider ourselves fortunate and appreciate the varieties that they yield. No one wants to live in a homogeneous white bread world.
Zanuttini, Raffaella. 2014. “Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense”. Pacific Standard Magazine. Posted: October 22, 2014. Available online:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Witch bottle found during Newark Civil War Centre dig

A suspected witch bottle has been unearthed by archaeologists during a dig at the site of the new Civil War Centre in Nottinghamshire.

The green bottle, which is about 15cm (5.9in) tall, was probably used in the 1700s to ward off evil spells cast by witches, researchers believe.

The witch bottles were usually filled with fingernails, hair and even urine.

The relic was found during a project to restore the Old Magnus Building for use as a museum and visitor centre.

'Malign forces'

Archaeologist Will Munford, from Pre-construct Archaeological Services of Lincoln, said :"Finding this very fragile bottle in one piece supports the idea that it was carefully placed in the ground.

"Perhaps it was buried during the construction of the Georgian part of the Old Magnus Building, but we can't be certain.

"It is the first time we have encountered a suspected witch bottle, but we did find a probable witching shoe - which had a similar purpose - in Worlaby, Lincolnshire.

"We often forget that people were very superstitious - it was part of their everyday lives.

"They thought that secreting such personal objects would offer protection from malign forces."

Witch bottle

A witch bottle was found in the foundations of a house in Navenby in Lincolnshire in 2005

  • They often contained pins, fingernails or urine and were used to ward off evil spirits
  • The bottles were usually made of stoneware or glass but sometimes old inkwells or candlesticks were used
  • The most famous witch trials in Britain took place at North Berwick, in Scotland, in 1591 and Pendle, Lancashire, in 1612

As many as 300 people were executed for witchcraft in eastern England between 1644-46, even though the laws against witchcraft were repealed in 1736.

Old Magnus Building project manager Bryony Robins from Newark and Sherwood District Council said the bottle would be displayed at the National Civil War Centre when it opened in 2015.

"It's a fascinating object and part of the history of Newark. If it is a witching bottle, it tells us a great deal about how people once viewed the world," she said.
BBC News. 2014. “Witch bottle found during Newark Civil War Centre dig”. BBC News. Posted: October 20, 2014. Available online: