Thought you should know that...
In this section we aim to include summaries of current affairs and news clippings, and even interim excavation reports - anything that might interest, provoke debate, or both. Do you have any interesting news concerning the archaeological community? Contact us today! All contributions are welcome.
- Researchers at the University of Liverpool have designed a computer model that demonstrates how "Lucy", the 3.6 million year old fossil hominid from east Africa, would have walked. Dr.Robin Crompton from the university's Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, was demonstrating the programme at the British Association Science Festival in Birmingham (England) at the start of September. The model took over three years to design and has shown that "Lucy's" dimensions would have made her fall over had she walked semi-erect like a chimpanzee. It now appears that our ancestors were walking bipedally over 2 million years earlier than originally thought.
(source: The Guardian, 11th September 1996)
- A Roman board game has been discovered in position at Stanway, Colchester, Essex (England) by the Colchester Archaeological Trust. It is thought to be a version of the Roman game "Soldiers" and was discovered accompanying a burial. The game appears to be intact with the first two moves apparently made, although there is a mystery in that one side has 11 glass counters and the other has only 10. The gaming board, 50cm by 35cm, was made of wood and had copper alloy corner pieces.
(source: The Guardian, 6th September 1996)
- The three thousand two hundred year old Dover Boat is being recreated by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust using authentic materials and techniques. Found in September 1992, the boat will be built using wood from the yew and the oak, as well as sphagnum moss and beeswax (to seal the holes of course!).
(source: The Guardian, 27th July 1996)
- Scottish and Newcastle breweries and archaeology make a great combination. What? You knew that already? Well, just to prove it, beer-making equipment found in a kitchen complex at Tel el Amarna, Egypt, in 1990, was analysed and found to contain traces of emmer and coriander. Of course, we all love a bit of experimental archaeology, so the results were used to make "Tutankhamun's Ale"! A limited edition of 1000 bottles went on sale at Harrod's in July, with bottles priced at £50; the proceeds will be donated to archaeological research.
(source: The Guardian, 1st July 1996)
- There is growing concern over the future management and funding of the Stonehenge visitor centre, currently widely considered to be something of a joke. Whilst the Highways Agency and the Department of Transport appear to be backing the cheapest, yet most environmentally sensitive rerouting for the A303, the road that runs through the site in Wiltshire, English Heritage is shortlisting four "heritage companies" to bid for the contract to run the world heritage site. The road route proposed is opposed by local land owners, the local authorities and both English Heritage and the National Trust (who between them own the stones and the surrounding 1500 acres). The route favoured by English Heritage and the National Trust (a two-mile tunnel on the route of the present road) is estimated at costing £200 million, whilst the Department of Transport only wants to pay out the £20 million for the more destructive southern route. Professor Tim Champion of Southampton University has questioned this costing as no proper archaeological assessment of the southern route had been completed. The route, known as the "grey route", had already been rejected two years ago by the DoT and again by a Highways Agency-organised conference last winter. It appears that Stonehenge's future lies with the nation's gambling public, as funds are sought from the National Lottery to both fund the tunnel scheme and to partly fund the redevelopment of the site by whichever firm wins the contract. The four firms bidding are Heritage Projects (which runs the Jorvik Viking Centre in York), the Imagination Group (who are designing the Millennium Festival Exhibition at Greenwich), the York Consortium and the Tussauds Group (who manage the Madame Tussaud's wax works and the Alton Towers theme park). For more information on this issue, have a look at the Council for British Archaeology's Save Stonehenge page. Also of interest might be the University of Southampton's Virtual field trip to Salisbury Plain and (if you've got the processor power) the English Heritage/Intel virtual Stonehenge.
(source: The Guardian, 22nd July, 16th and 21st August 1996)
- Birchbark scrolls, acquired by the British Library and dated to the first century AD may represent the earliest known writings about Buddha. Richard Salomon, of the University of Washington, Seattle (department info), who has been studying the fragments, which are believed to have been found in earthenware jars in Afghanistan, compared them to the Dead Sea Scrolls with respect to developing greater understanding of, and insight into, the teachings of Buddha, who lived about 2500 years ago.
(source: The Guardian, 27th June 1996)
- The earliest evidence of human habitation in North America may have been found in Calgary, western Canada. Jiri Chlachula, the archaeologist-geologist leading the work, has suggested a date of 20,000 years ago for the site (the location of which is being carefully guarded). This predates the previously accepted date for human occupation in Alberta by 8500 years. The Yukon had generally been attributed with the earliest human habitation in Canada, dated to about 17,000 years ago.
(source: The Guardian, 17th August 1996)
- A newly developed dendrochronogical sequence for the Aegean and the Near East looks set to clear up many floating Bronze Age dates in the area. It is the culmination of 23 years of work which began with the excavation of the "Midas Mound" in Turkey. Dr. Stuart Manning of Reading University (who has worked with colleagues from both Cornell University and Heidelberg) has claimed that it renders much of the last century's debate over dates in the area irrelevant as it is now possible to attribute absolute dates to many standing buildings and monuments.
(source: The Guardian, 27th June 1996)
For other recent news on archaeology, see: the CBA's magazine British Archaeology and The Society for American Archaeology newsletters.
Thanks to The Guardian for providing good coverage of archaeological events!