Humans were living at extreme altitudes 1000 years earlier than thought

by Ann Gibbons

After 5 years of scouring the Andes mountains, two graduate students have found the oldest solid evidence that humans were living at extreme elevations by 12,800 years ago. These early settlers of the Americas, known as Paleoindians, camped in a rock shelter and manufactured stone tools in an open-air workshop almost 4500 meters above sea level, indicating that humans lived at least for part of the year at high elevations 1000 years earlier than previously thought…

(read more: Science/AAAS)

photograph by Kurt Rademaker

The Lurgan Canoe, an Early Bronze Age boat from Galway

(image) Over 4000 years old, the Lurgan canoe was discovered in 1901 by Patrick Coen as he worked in a Co. Galway bog that had once been a shallow lake. It is carved from a giant oak trunk and measures over 14 m (45ft) long by 1 m wide.  The boat is easily the largest artefact on display at the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street and its arrival there involved quite a journey. It took nearly a month to transport the canoe from Lurgan bog to Milltown railway station, from whence it was brought to Tuam. Here it rested for four days where ‘nearly all in the town paid it a visit of………. Read More

Read and find more great archaeology blogs at: Archaeology Blog Project

Open Access Archaeology Digest #581
Learn more about Archaeology, History, Anthropology, etc. Open Access (free to read) articles:

Notes on a Bronze Caldron found at Hattonknowe, Darnhall, in the County of Peebles.

A torc of twisted gold from Morayshire

A Landscape in Transition: A View from Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Going Underground at Cal: 2003 On-campus Excavations at the University of California, Berkeley

Learn more about Open Access and Archaeology at:

Eritha, A Mycenaean Uppity Woman

Around the year 1300 B.C.E., a priestess named Eritha argued a law suit against the governing council of the district of Pa-ki-ja-na (= Sphagianes, “the place of ritual slaughter”).  Eritha was high-priestess of the religious sanctuary at Sphagianes where she served the great Mycenaean-Greek goddess, Potnia (meaning “Our Lady” or “Mistress”).  Eritha the priestess claims that the land she holds is a ‘freehold’ on behalf of her divinity, but the damos [district council] says that she holds a plot of leased communal land.(image)Eritha v District of SphagianesThe legal issue is clear: if………. Read More

Read and find more great archaeology blogs at: Archaeology Blog Project


The focus of today shall be: the Mouse Tank Petroglyphs of the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA.

Mouse Tank falls within a region which was occupied by Puebloan farmers from about AD 1 to 1200, and contains many Puebloan-style petroglyphs, as attested to by the photographs shown above. At about 1200 Southwestern farming cultures experienced significant drought, which ultimately resulted in the abandonment of the site.

Interpreting Puebloan rock art, to date, remains problematic. However, a few lines of thought can be given to aid us in our understanding. Here I will be summarizing a few key points from the work of Dr. David S. Whitley, who is generally regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on rock art.

Whitley suggests that some aspects of the rock art are likely shamanistic in intend and origin -elements of shamanism have continued through to Puebloan religions today. “Furthermore, we know that one of the characteristics of these archaic shamanistic practices was the making of rock art.” It is also thought that much of the art references the neuropsychological model of motif forms, which derived from altered states of consciousness. Whitley notes that much of the petroglyphs at Mouse Tank display entoptic patterns which are “common percepts in the first stage of a trance.” This includes spirals, parallel lines, zigzags, and other more complicated geometric forms. In essence, Whitley concludes that the Mouse Tank petroglyphs reflect “an expression of what are presumably formal religious cults and rites such as those still practiced by Pueblo groups today.” The figurative images, such as displayed in the 5th photo, likely represent ritual participants, deities, and the like.

Photos taken by & courtesy of George Lamson. Recommended reading: essentially anything from David S. Whitley, in particular: Discovering North American Rock Art (University of Arizona Press 2006) & Introduction to Rock Art Research (Left Coast Press 2011).

Seeking the impact of the Roman conquest

One of the big changes in the pattern of major settlements across the Italian peninsula is apparent from the 4th to the 3rd centuries BC. The project has documented 84 fortified settlements of at least 2 ha in size, founded either in the 4th century BC or at a point between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC that were located in highly defensible locations on hilltops and which did not go on to become Roman towns. Only three such sites appear to have been founded during the course of the 3rd century BC, and the basis for the dating of two of them is questionable. What brought about this change? It is………. Read More

Read and find more great archaeology blogs at: Archaeology Blog Project

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
—  Gary Provost - 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing

Anthropomorphic tubular duct flutes.

Both from ancient Mexico, the first is either Maya or Veracruz, and the second is from Colima. The first dates to the Late Classic (AD 600-900), and the second is earlier at about 300 BC- AD 200.

Tubular duct flutes in the collection illustrate the variety of aerophones that typify the musical instrument repertoire of different societies during Late Classic times in Mesoamerica. They share the modeling of the human figure as their primary decorative program, but these range from the dramatic naturalism of near portraiture seen on this Veracruz or Maya flute [first image], to the schematized portrayal on the fluted instrument, and ending with the extreme minimalism of the figural rendering on the double-chambered flute from Colima [second image].

Each instrument holds its unique potential for creating a variety of tones and sounds of different timbres, depending on the force of wind entering the mouthpiece and sound chamber(s) as well as the positioning of the player’s fingers (when applicable). Although the casual musician can produce acceptable sounds from these instruments, practiced skill is required to achieve their full effect. (Walters)

Artefacts courtesy of & currently located at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA. Via their online collections2009.20.1352009.20.138.


Ancient Egyptian Woman with 70 Hair Extensions Discovered

By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | September 17, 2014

More than 3,300 years ago, in a newly built city in Egypt, a woman with an incredibly elaborate hairstyle of lengthy hair extensions was laid to rest.

She was not mummified, her body simply being wrapped in a mat. When archaeologists uncovered her remains they found she wore “a very complex coiffure with approximately 70 extensions fastened in different layers and heights on the head,” writes Jolanda Bos, an archaeologist working on the Amarna Project, in an article recently published in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology.

Researchers don’t know her name, age or occupation, but she is one of hundreds of people, including many others whose hairstyles are still intact, who were buried in a cemetery near an ancient city now called Amarna.

This city was constructed as a new capital of Egypt by Akhenaten (reign ca. 1353-1335 B.C.), a pharaoh who unleashed a religious revolution that saw the Aten, a deity shaped as a sun disk, assume supremacy in Egyptian religion. Akhenaten ordered that Amarna be constructed in the desert and that images of some of Egypt’s other gods be destroyed. Amarna was abandoned shortly after Akhenaten’s death, and today archaeologists supported by the Amarna Trust are investigating all aspects of the ancient city, including the hairstyles its people wore.

Bos is leading the hairstyle research, and the woman with 70 extensions leaves her puzzled.

"Whether or not the woman had her hair styled like this for her burial only is one of our main research questions," said Bos in an email to Live Science. "The hair was most likely styled after death, before a person was buried. It is also likely, however, that these hairstyles were used in everyday life as well and that the people in Amarna used hair extensions in their daily life."

Many of the other skulls Bos analyzed also had hair extensions. One skull had extensions made of gray and dark black hair suggesting multiple people donated their hair to create extensions.

Hairy discoveries

As Bos analyzed a selection of 100 recently excavated skulls (of which 28 still had hair) from the Armana cemetery, she noticed the people who lived in the ancient city had a wide variety of hair types. They range “from very curly black hair, to middle brown straight,” she noted in the journal article, something “that might reflect a degree of ethnic variation.” 

Those skulls with brown hair often had rings or coils around their ears, a style that was popular at Amarna, she found. Why people in this city liked it is unknown. “We still have no idea. This is of course one of the answers we are still trying to find from the record,” said Bos in the email.

People in the city also seemed to be fond of braids. “All braids found in the coiffures were simple and of three strands, mostly 1 cm [0.4 inches] wide, with strands of approximately 0.5 cm [0.2 inches] when tightly braided,” Bos writes in the journal article.

People at Amarna also liked to keep their hair short. “Braids were often not more than 20 cm [7.9 inches] long, leaving the hair at shoulder length approximately,” Bos added. “The longest hair that was found consisted of multilayered extensions to a length of approximately 30 cm [11.8 inches].”

Fat was used to help create all the hairstyles Bos found, something that would have helped keep the hair in one piece after death. More research is needed to determine whether the fat was from animals. A textile found on each of the skulls may have been used to cover part of the head.

Hide the gray?

In one case a woman has an orange-red color on her graying hair. It appears that that she dyed her hair, possibly with henna (a flowering plant).

"We are still not completely sure if and what kind of hair coloring was used on this hair, it only seems that way macroscopically," said Bos in the email. "At present we are analyzing the hairs in order to find out whether or not some kind of coloring was used. On other sites dyed hair was found from ancient Egypt."

This woman, among other ancient Egyptians, may have dyed her hair “for the same reason as why people dye their hair today, in order not to show the gray color,” Bos said.