Archive for August, 2010

Topic: Food for the ages? 


A row of standing stones on Dartmoor


Missed my post yesterday but this article comes straight from a place(Dartmoor) that is close to my heart-and it seems to prehistoric man’s stomach. 

Nine megaliths in a remote part of Dartmoor, England, share features in common with Stonehenge, and may shed light on the meaning behind these prehistoric stone monuments, according to a report in the latest issue of British Archaeology. 

The Dartmoor megaliths, which were recently carbon-dated to around 3500 B.C., could predate Stonehenge, but both sites feature large standing stones that are aligned to mark the rising of the midsummer sun and the setting of the midwinter sun. Yet another Dartmoor stone monument, called Drizzlecombe, shares the same orientation. 

The ancient Brits were not necessarily sun worshippers, however. 

Archaeologist Mike Pitts, editor of the journal, told Discovery News that “huge quantities of barbecued juvenile pig bones” were found near Stonehenge, indicating that the animals were born in the spring and killed not far from the site “for pork feasting” in midwinter. 

“The general feeling is that the sun was symbolizing or marking the occasion, rather than being the ritual focus itself, so it probably was not sun worship,” added Pitts, who is author of the book “Hengeworld” and is one of the leading experts on British megaliths. 

This feasting was not just a meaningless pork party, and might have been more akin to a post-funeral wake today. 

Pitts believes the “solstice alignment phenomenon perhaps has something to do with death.” 

As he explains the setting sun and shorter days of winter would have represented the passage into the darkness of the underworld, and the reverse as the days start to lengthen again. 

“At Stonehenge,” he continued, “the dark navy-colored bluestones may themselves represent ancestors or spirits from the underworld, while the big orangey-pink (before weathering) sarsens could reflect summer and light.” 

The Dartmoor megaliths, described in a separate study in the current issue of the journal Antiquity, are now lying flat, since the stones in a row fell, or were individually pushed, over. The toppling was fortuitous for historians, however, since peat above and the below the stones permitted the carbon dating, which is extremely rare for such monuments. 

Tom Greeves, who discovered the Dartmoor stones at a site called Cut Hill and is co-author of the Antiquity paper, said it is “remarkable that a previously unrecorded stone row with very large stones has been noted for the first time on one of Dartmoor’s highest and remotest hills.” 

He added that to reach their location “requires a walk of about two hours from whatever direction.” 

A ditched barrow (a mound of earth or stones) exists very close to the Cut Hill stones, providing further evidence that burials and possible death-related rituals might have taken place there. 

At least 81 stone monuments have now been discovered nearby, with Cut Hill’s being among the largest at over 705 feet in length. Both Greeves and Pitts said it’s possible some of the monuments served different functions, such as marking land use zones. The barrows, shared alignment, and other finds, however, indicate several standing stone monuments held ritualistic meaning. 

Pitts likened their construction to the building of cathedrals and pyramids, and to the carving of the giant heads on Easter Island. 

All, he said, are involved in the “defining of ritual spaces, giving ceremony and power distinctive physical presences, engaging large numbers by employing them in the construction processes, ceremonializing places beyond the mere moment of the rituals.” 

Pitts hopes that in the near future, archaeologists will carefully place the Cut Hill stones back into their upright positions, to further reveal what the monument looked like when it was first erected. 

Original article: 

By Jennifer Viegas
April 2010

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Abundant food and leisure time: Site tells story of what Hilton Head Island was like 4,000 years ago | islandpacket.com.

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Topic Ancient wine on Malta

Excavation site on Malta

An archaeological site being excavated at Mġarr ix-Xini has further enforced the notion that viticulture and wine production have been an important part of the Maltese economy since the Classical period.

The excavation site, at Tal-Loġġa, is in a field next to where two troughs dug into the rock were found and is believed to have been used for grape pressing.

The field is being excavated in a bid to shed more light on the troughs’ use. Some 15 sets of troughs have been found in Mġarr ix-Xini valley to date.

Indications so far are that a Punic or Roman quarry existed prior to the field in place today. Evidence of rock cutting for stone blocks has been found.

However, by the Classical period, the field was in place, meaning it was likely that grapes were harvested from it and pressed to make wine in the troughs found nearby.

Local Councils Parliamentary Secretary Chris Said visited the site yesterday and pointed out that the excavations were an integral part of the Regional Park project being undertaken by the Sannat and Xewkija councils, with the assistance of his Secretariat, which aims to make the Mġarr ix-Xini valley easily accessible to the public once again.

Existing but abandoned passageways in the area will be uncovered so people can walk down and enjoy the geological formations, flora and fauna that the valley boasts.

Dr Said added that the government was financing, to the tune of €237,000, 15 special projects through his secretariat’s Special Projects in Small Localities scheme this year.

Original Article:


August 2010

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Topic: Shipwreaks containing wine

Rome: A team of marine archaeologists using sonar scanners have discovered four ancient shipwrecks off the tiny Italian island of Zannone, with intact cargos of wine and oil.

The remains of the trading vessels, dating from the first century BC to the 5th-7th century AD, are up to 165 metres underwater, a depth that preserved them from being disturbed by fishermen over the centuries.

“The deeper you go, the more likely you are to find complete wrecks,” said Annalisa Zarattini, an official from the archaeological services section of the Italian culture ministry.

The timber structures of the vessels have been eaten away by tiny marine organisms, leaving their outlines and the cargos still lying in the position they were stowed on board.

“The ships sank, they came to rest at the bottom of the sea, the wood disappeared and you find the whole ship, with the entire cargo. Nothing has been taken away,” she said.

The discoveries were made through cooperation between Italian authorities and the Aurora Trust, a US foundation that promotes exploration of the Mediterranean seabed.

The vessels, up to 18 metres long, had been carrying amphorae, or large jars, containing wine from Italy, and cargo from North Africa and Spain including olive oil, fruit and garum, a pungent fish sauce that was a favourite ingredient in Roman cooking.

Sinking puzzle

Another ship, as yet undated, appeared to have been carrying building bricks. It is unclear how the vessels sank and no human remains have been found.

The vessels are the second “fleet” of ships to be discovered in recent years near the Pontine islands, an archipelago off Italy’s west coast believed to have been a key junction for ships bringing supplies to the vast warehouses of Rome.

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Topic:  Politiko-Troullia

I found another article on this ancient site on Cyprus-hope you find it interesting.


ARCHAEOLOGISTS have uncovered what they call “an archaeological window” on the communities that provided the foundation for urbanised civilisation on Cyprus, the Antiquities Department said yesterday.

Renewed excavations at the Bronze Age community of Politiko-Troullia, in the copper-bearing foothills of the Troodos Mountains, found a series of households around a large communal courtyard. The site is 25 km southwest of Nicosia near the Ayios Irakleidios Monastery

The find produced evidence of intensive animal husbandry and crop processing, copper metallurgy and sophisticated ceramic technology during the Middle Bronze Age, just prior to the advent of cities on Late Bronze Age Cyprus.

The Politiko-Troullia settlement, dated at 2000-1500BC, was the predecessor of ancient Tamassos the seat of a centrally important kingdom during the subsequent Iron Age.

“The results from Politiko-Troullia open an archaeological window on the communities that provided the foundation for urbanised civilisation on Cyprus,” a statement from the Antiquities Department said.

It said the 2009 excavations at the west sector provided evidence of occupation at Politiko-Troullia “somewhat earlier” in the Middle Cypriot Period than the evidence from the east sector excavated in 2007, which dates to the latter portions of the Middle Cypriot Period.

“These results suggest the potential of a dispersed farming community comprised of earlier households with shared communal space and later discrete room blocks,” the Department said.

“The inhabitants of Politiko-Troullia appeared to have shifted from being mixed hunters and farmers to dedicated farmers and herders.”

Future excavations hope to reveal stratified evidence that may carry the record of settlement at this community earlier into the Bronze Age

The excavations were carried out by Dr. Steven Falconer and Dr. Patricia Fall of Arizona State University, and involved graduate and undergraduate students from Cyprus, Canada and the United States.

Original article:


July 2009

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Topic: Ancient Farming-Cyprus:



EXCAVATIONS at Politiko-Troullia on the foothills of the Troodos mountains in the Nicosia district have brought to light a series of households around a large communal courtyard with evidence of intensive animal husbandry and crop processing, copper metallurgy and sophisticated ceramic technology during the Middle Bronze Age 2000-1500 BC.

The site was the predecessor of ancient Tamassos, the seat of a centrally important kingdom during the subsequent Iron Age.

According to the Antiquities Department, the archaeological deposits at Politiko-Troullia reach depths of up to four metres below the modern surface, making the site one of the deepest stratified sites in Cyprus.

Archaeological survey of the local landscape shows that the hills around Politiko-Troullia have been terraced and managed intensively for centuries, perhaps beginning as early as the Bronze Age.

“The ancient villagers of Politiko-Troullia cultivated grapes and olives, and herded sheep, goats, cattle and pigs,” the department said. “They also hunted considerable numbers of deer and wild goat.  The results from Politiko-Troullia open an archaeological window on the farming and mining communities that provided the foundation for urbanised civilisation on Cyprus”.

The excavations were conducted under the direction of Dr. Steven Falconer and Dr. Patricia Fall of Arizona State University.

Original article:


July, 2010


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Topic: Stone Age Knives

Ancient flint flake used to cut meat

 Archaeologists digging in a cave in Israel have found what looks to be the world’s first cutlery: tiny stone knives dating back at least 200,000 years that would have been used to cut meat during a meal.

Made of flint, the ancient knives are about the size and shape of a quarter. But these puny bits of stone have two razor-sharp edges and two dull edges. That made them easy to hold between two fingers and safe to wield close to the mouth, says Tel-Aviv University’s Ran Barkai, leader of the  team that made the finding.

The miniature knives were the Stone Age equivalent of disposable tableware. They would’ve been used for a short time and then tossed aside, because they couldn’t hold an edge, says the University of Pennsylvania’s Harold Dibble, who has studied miniature stone tools from another archaeological site.

The idea that these utensils were used for eating “makes perfect sense,” he says.

Procuring this mini-cutlery was almost as easy as running out to the supermarket. An early human who needed a steak knife at dinner had only to grab a stone, often a discarded tool, and tap it just so. (Barkai calls it “recycling.”)

Barkai’s team found marks on the tiny utensils showing they had made delicate cuts through soft meat, rather than hacking through bone.
Barkai also reproduced the mini-knives himself from stones he found in the cave. His colleague Cristina Lemorini of the University of Roma-La Sapienza then tested Barkai’s replicas by cutting up a sheep carcass. The 21st-century versions easily sliced through muscles, skin and tendons.

Adding to the scientists’ suspicion that the knives were used while eating, a large concentration of them was found around a central fireplace containing burned animal bones. Previous research has shown that the cave’s early humans, known as hominids in scientific jargon, cooked their meat. They mostly ate deer but also dined on the odd horse or rhinoceros.

“These hominids were barbecuing … and then maybe eating the cooked meat while sitting around the fire,” Barkai says.

The finding will be published in the September issue of the journal Antiquity.

Original Article:


July 2010

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