Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Medieval Graffiti Recorded in England’s Churches

NORFOLK, ENGLAND—A volunteer project to record medieval graffiti in Norfolk is spreading across England. More than 28,000 images, perhaps doodled by churchgoers, have been recorded in Norfolk, and only one-third of Norwich Cathedral has been searched so far. “[Medieval graffiti] was believed to be rare—turns out it’s not,” Matt Champion, a medieval archaeologist who started the program in 2010, told BBC News. Images of compass designs, windmills, sundials, circles, and ships have been documented. “Are they thanksgiving for a voyage safely undertaken, or a prayer for safe passage on a journey yet to come? Some of these ship images appear to show deliberate damage, begging the question whether they are prayers for long overdue ships,” he explained.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Suspected Roman ritual pit found in Ewell dig

A suspected ritual pit from Roman times, containing a cow's skull, horse bones and possibly puppy bones, has been uncovered during an archaeological dig. 

The archaeological dig in Church Meadow, Ewell  [Credit: Jeremy Harte] 

The exciting discovery was made during a three-week dig in Church Meadow at the site of an important Roman road, Stane Street, in Ewell. 

Nearby at the Roman ritual site of Hatch Furlong, archaeologists have previously excavated deep shafts containing the remains of cats and dogs.

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Ötzi's non-human DNA: Opportunistic pathogen discovered in Iceman tissue biopsy

A team of scientists from EURAC in Bolzano/Bozen together with colleagues from the University of Vienna successfully analysed the non-human DNA in the sample.
Credit: Frank Maixner (EURAC)

Ötzi's human genome was decoded from a hip bone sample taken from the 5,300 year old mummy. However the tiny sample weighing no more than 0.1 g provides so much more information. A team of scientists from EURAC in Bolzano/Bozen together with colleagues from the University of Vienna successfully analysed the non-human DNA in the sample. They found evidence for the presence of Treponema denticola, an opportunistic pathogen involved in the development of periodontal disease. Thus, by just looking at the DNA, the researchers could support a CT-based diagnosis made last year which indicated that the Iceman suffered from periodontitis. The results of the current study have recently been published in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.

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Extensive remains of vast Mycenaean citadel revealed

A team of archaeologists is excavating the remains of a vast ancient Mycenaean citadel, known as Glas or Kastro (castle). Under the leadership of Associate Professor Christofilis Maggidis of Dickinson College and the auspices of the Athens Archaeological Society, teams of specialists have been systematically surveying the imposing, island-like, flat-topped bedrock outcrop that rises 20-40 meters above a surrounding plain with a summit area stretching 49.5 acres at the northeastern edge of the Kopais basin in southeastern Greece. The area is estimated to measure ten times the size of the ancient citadel of Mycenaean Tiryns and seven times that of Mycenae. 

Aerial view of Glas showing the massive cyclopean walls enclosing and defining  the site of the ancient remains [Credit: C. Maggidis] 

“I first excavated at Glas in 1990 as a graduate student with my mentor, the late Spyros Iakovidis,” said Maggidis. “The unparalleled size of the citadel, its connection with the gigantic drainage project of Kopais, and the discovery of such important but few remains in the citadel indicating that the rest of the citadel was left vacant puzzled me since then.”

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Burgenland's 'Stonehenge' discovery

Reconstruction of circular ditches at Heldenberg, Lower Austria. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    The mysterious millennia-old sites are currently being surveyed by experts who believe they once served both as a giant calendar and a place for rituals. 
    It appears that circa 5,000 BC there was a large circular area in a field on the southern outskirts of Rechnitz, surrounded by wooden poles. It was only after aerial photographs were taken of the district that remnants of an ancient trench system became visible. 

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    Have archaeologists discovered an 8,000-year-old HUMAN BRAIN? Skull unearthed in Norway 'harbours fragments of grey matter'

    Archaeologists have found what they think is an 8,000 year old human skull in a dig in Norway. Shown here is the skull embedded in soil, but the team did not dare to scrape all the loose sand from it in fear of destroying the surface of it. It is thought to have belonged to a child of under ten years of age

    The investigation took place due to a planned building of a big conference centre called the Oslofjord Convention Center.

    The excavation project involves two sites from the same interval of the Mesolithic era, about 6,000 BC, approximately 8,000 years ago.
    Little is known of this period of the Stone Age in eastern Norway, making the sites of particular interest.
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    Romanian cave holds oldest human footprints

    Human footprints found in Romania’s Ciur-Izbuc Cave represent the oldest such impressions in Europe, and perhaps the world, researchers say. 

    Human footprints such as this, found in a Romanian cave almost 50 years ago,  are much older than originally thought, dating to around 36,500 years ago [Credit: D. Webb] 

    About 400 footprints were first discovered in the cave in 1965. Scientists initially attributed the impressions to a man, woman and child who lived 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. But radiocarbon measurements of two cave bear bones excavated just below the footprints now indicate that Homo sapiens made these tracks around 36,500 years ago, say anthropologist David Webb of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania and his colleagues.

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    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    Golden Middle Ages

    This many-faceted exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities will change the gloomy image of the early Middle Ages once and for all. It is an exhibition for young and old, with new stories about the Netherlands during the Merovingian dynasty, AD 400–700. We now know that these were not dark days at all, but a golden age!

    Top Dutch archaeological finds and Merovingian glass

    Golden Middle Ages will show how life was in this part of the world some 1,500 years ago and what role the Netherlands played in the worldwide trade networks of early medieval Europe. One gallery will be dedicated entirely to the little-known beauty of Merovingian glass. Of course, the exhibition will also feature top archaeological finds from the period, such as the Rijnsburg buckle, gold neck-rings from Olst, the glass bell beaker of Bergeijk, and a new trove of medieval coins.

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    Iron Age house unearthed in Jersey

    An iron age settlement has been unearthed in Jersey after a two month excavation. The work on the site in St Clement has discovered objects dating back over 2,000 years. 

    After a two month excavation, a settlement site in St Clement has been discovered as well as  objects dating back more than 2,000 years [Credit: channelonline.tv] 

    Field Archaeologist, Robert Waterhouse, said the site had produced evidence of the first Iron Age house to be discovered on the island. 

    He said the site dates from the 2nd Century BC to the early 1st Century AD and was likely a private home.

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    Polish archaeologists discovered medieval bath in Albania

    Polish archaeologists discovered a fourteenth-century bath in northwestern Albania. This is the oldest object of this type studied so far in Albania - told PAP Prof. Piotr Dyczek of the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre of the University of Warsaw.
    The greatest discovery this year was Turkish bath - hammam, with central heating system. Buildings of this type became common in the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. "Our object seems to be a hundred years older - believes Prof. Dyczek. - We know very few early hammams. This makes our discovery even more interesting, because it allows to see how the old Roman idea of hypocaust, which is a system of heating the floors and walls of buildings with hot air, was adapted by the Turks".

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    Dating the second timber circle at Norwich

    In the late 1990s two remarkable Bronze Age timber circles were discovered on Holme Beach. One of these – Seahenge – was excavated in 1998 and 1999. Since the excavations the second circle has been monitored and evidence of damage by coastal processes has been recorded. 

    The second timber circle uncovered 15 years after the first, dubbed Seahenge, was found along the Norfolk coast. The Bronze Age timber circle has been tested by archaeologists and  dates to the summer of 2049 BC.[Credit: © NPS Archaeology] 

    In the last year tree ring dating (dendrochronology) has shown the timbers used to build the second circle were felled in the spring or summer of 2049 BC. This means that the timbers were felled at exactly the same time as those used to build Seahenge. The felling date places the construction of both circles early in the Bronze Age.

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    French archaeologists discover an exceptional Gallic chariot tomb at Warcq in France

    The excavation has currently revealed only the upper levels of this 15 m² funerary chamber. 
    © Denis Gliksman, Inrap.

    PARIS.- A combined team composed of archaeologists from the Ardennes departmental archaeology unit and from Inrap is currently excavating a Gallic aristocratic tomb at Warcq (Ardennes). Curated by the State (Drac Champagne-Ardenne), this site is located on the route of the A304 motorway being constructed by the Dreal between Charleville-Mézières and Rocroi. 

    Starting on 3 June for a three week period, archaeologists and an anthropologist have been working to uncover this chariot tomb. This type of aristocratic tomb emerges in the 7th century B.C. – during the first Iron Age – and ends with the end of the Gallic period. The oldest chariots have four wheels (like that found at Vix), while those from the second Iron Age have only two. The deceased person – who could be male or female – was generally inhumed on the chariot, which was an object of prestige and a symbol of social status. Champagne-Ardenne is famous for such tombs (particularly at Bourcq and Semide in the Ardennes), which are generally dated to the start of the second Iron Age (5th-4th century B.C.). 

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    Dutch archaeologists find 1,300 year old silver bowl

    On an excavation site in Oegstgeest, in the western Netherlands, Leiden University archaeologists discovered a very rare silver bowl from the first half of the seventh century. The bowl is decorated with gold-plated representations of animals and plants and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The discovery suggests the existence of an elite with a wide international network in Oegstgeest. 

    The gold ornamental plate in the bowl [Credit: Restaura, Haelen] 

    Rare and exceptional 

    Researchers are assuming that the bowl, which is 21 centimetres wide and 11 centimetres high, was buried as part of a ritual sacrifice. Such gilded discoveries are extremely rare. This one is exceptional because such bowls were usually made of bronze. In addition, they were not, as a rule, lavishly decorated with gold leaf. This means that we are dealing with an artefact that is unique, not only for the Netherlands, but for all of Western Europe. (Until the discovery of this bowl there were no indications of the presence of a local or regional elite on the Oegstgeest settlement. It may be that in this period some members of the elite lived on ‘simple’ farms.) 

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    Major Viking site discovery described as ‘mind-blowing’

    A tiny County Louth village has been confirmed as home to one of the most important Viking sites in the world.

    Carbon testing on trenches at a ‘virgin’ site in Annagassan have revealed that the small rural community once housed a Viking winter base, one of only two in Ireland.
    The other went on to become Dublin but the Annagassan site, 50 miles north of the capital, was believed to be the stuff of mythology and folklore until now.
    Geophysical tests funded by Dundalk’s County Museum have allowed scientists to make the big breakthrough.
    They have now confirmed that the Linn Duchaill site, beside the river Glyde and south of Dundalk Bay, was where the Vikings brought their long ships or longphorts to be repaired.
    It was also the base for inland raids as far as Longford and north to Armagh.
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    On an excavation site in Oegstgeest (South Holland), Leiden University archaeologists discovered a silver bowl dating to the first half of the seventh century. The bowl is decorated with gold-plated representations of animals and plants and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The discovery suggests the existence of an Oegstgeest elite with a wide international network.

    Researchers believe that the bowl, which is 21 centimetres wide and 11 centimetres high, was buried as part of a ritual sacrifice. Such gilded discoveries are extremely rare. This one is exceptional because such bowls were usually made of bronze and were not, as a rule, lavishly decorated with gold leaf, making this is a unique artefact for the whole of Western Europe. Until the discovery of this bowl there were no indications of the presence of a local or regional elite on the Oegstgeest settlement.

    Composite symbols

    The bowl, which may have been used as a drinking vessel or washbasin, is composed of a number of elements dating from different periods. The oldest element, the bowl itself, probably dates from the Late Roman Empire and the figures seem to indicate that the bowl originated in the Eastern Mediterranean or the Middle East. The other decorations date from the first half of the seventh century and show signs of German cultural influences, while the bowl’s suspension rings are characteristic of England and Scandinavia. Together, these elements symbolise the international position of the Netherlands fifteen hundred years ago.

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    Colosseum was bustling bazaar in Dark Ages

    Its gory past as an arena for gladiatorial battles and gruesome public executions is well known, but archaeologists have discovered that the Colosseum later fulfilled a very different role - as a bustling medieval bazaar full of houses, stables and workshops. 

    Archaeologists have found the foundations of homes, terracotta sewage pipes  and shards of crockery [Credit Gabrielli / Toiati] 

    As the glory of Rome faded and the empire crumbled in the face of barbarian invasions in the fifth century, the giant arena was colonised by ordinary Romans, who constructed dwellings and shops within its massive stone walls. 

    Archaeologists have dug beneath some of the 80 arched entrances that lead into the Colosseum and have found the foundations of homes, terracotta sewage pipes and shards of crockery, dating from the ninth century AD.

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    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    4,000-Year-Old Burial with Chariots Discovered in South Caucasus

    Here, the roof of a 4,000-year-old burial chamber buried in a Kurgan (mound) in the country of Georgia.
    Credit: Photo courtesy Zurab Makharadze

    An ancient burial containing chariots, gold artifacts and possible human sacrifices has been discovered by archaeologists in the country of Georgia, in the south Caucasus.

    The burial site, which would've been intended for a chief, dates back over 4,000 years to a time archaeologists call the Early Bronze Age, said Zurab Makharadze, head of the Centre of Archaeology at the Georgian National Museum.

    Archaeologists discoveredthe timber burial chamber within a 39-foot-high (12 meters) mound called a kurgan. When the archaeologists reached the chamber they found an assortment of treasures, including two chariots, each with four wooden wheels.

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    More on Polish meteorite venerated by Neolithic man

    Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology (IAE) PAS in Szczecin discovered a meteorite fragment inside the remains of a hut dating back more than 9,000 years in Bolków by the lake Świdwie in Western Pomerania. 

    The meteorite fragment was found inside the remains of a hut dating back more than  9,000 years in Bolków by the lake Świdwie in Western Pomerania [Credit: T. Galińs] 

    It is a natural pyrite meteorite fragment with cylindrical shape and porous, corrugated side surface. It has a height of 8 cm, width of 5.3 cm at the base and 3.5 cm at the top. 

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    Découverte d’une tombe à char gauloise exceptionnelle à Warcq (Ardennes)

    Une équipe mixte, composée d’archéologues de la cellule départementale d’archéologie des Ardennes et de l’Inrap, mène actuellement la fouille d’une tombe aristocratique gauloise à Warcq (Ardennes). Sur prescription de l’État (Drac Champagne-Ardenne), ce chantier est réalisé sur le tracé de l’autoroute A304, aménagé par la Dreal, entre Charleville-Mézières et Rocroi.

    Depuis le 3 juin et pour une durée de trois semaines, archéologues et anthropologue dégagent cette « tombe à char ». Ce type de tombe aristocratique émerge dès le VIIe siècle avant notre ère – au cours du premier âge du Fer – et s’achève avec la fin de la période gauloise, au début de notre ère. Les chars les plus anciens sont équipés de 4 roues (comme celui de Vix) ; et de 2 roues au second âge du Fer. Le défunt, homme ou femme, est généralement inhumé sur le char, objet de prestige et symbole social. La Champagne-Ardenne est célèbre pour de telles découvertes (notamment Bourcq et Semide dans les Ardennes…) généralement datées du début du second âge du Fer (Ve-IVe siècles avant notre ère).

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    Thursday, June 26, 2014

    Oldest ever schistosomiasis egg found may be first proof of early human technology exacerbating disease burden

    Chalcolithic burial at Zeidan.
    Credit: Gil Stein, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
    The discovery of a schistosomiasis parasite egg in a 6200-year-old grave at a prehistoric town by the Euphrates river in Syria may be the first evidence that agricultural irrigation systems in the Middle East contributed to disease burden, according to new Correspondence published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

    Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by several species of flatworm parasites that live in the blood vessels of the bladder and intestines. Infection can result in anemia, kidney failure, and bladder cancer. This research shows it may have been spread by the introduction of crop irrigation in ancient Mesopotamia, the region along the Tigris-Euphrates river system that covers parts of modern-day Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey.

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    Archaeo-astronomy steps out from shadows of the past

    This week, a developing field of research that merges astronomical techniques with the study of ancient human-made features and the surrounding landscapes will be highlighted at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) 2014 in Portsmouth. From the 'Crystal Pathway' that links stone circles on Cornwall's Bodmin Moor to star-aligned megaliths in central Portugal, archaeo-astronomers are finding evidence that Neolithic and Bronze Age people were acute observers of the Sun, as well as the Moon and stars, and that they embedded astronomical references within their local landscapes. 

    The Pipers Outliers to the main circles. When standing between the stones, one to the right and the other to the left, one looks North & South. When lining both up one faces East & West [Credit: B. Sheen] 

    "There's more to archaeo-astronomy than Stonehenge," says Dr Daniel Brown of Nottingham Trent University, who will present updates on his work on the 4000-year-old astronomically aligned standing stone at Gardom's Edge in the UK's Peak District. 

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    The logboats in the lake

    A diver from the National Monuments Service’s Underwater Archaeology Unit records a 12m-long Bronze Age logboat at the bottom of Lough Corrib.

    For up to 4,500 years, a series of sunken dug-out canoes have been lying, forgotten, on the bottom of Lough Corrib in Co. Galway. Now these vessels are beginning to surrender their secrets once more, in an investigation by Ireland’s Underwater Archaeology Unit, spearheaded by Karl Brady.
    Precisely what happened that 11th century day on the waters of Lough Corrib is lost in the mists of time, but one thing is certain: it was an ignominious end to what should have been an ostentatious journey. Earlier, a Medieval Irish dignitary had set out across the vast lake – which covers 176km² of what is now Co. Galway – in a finely crafted logboat. Propelled by four rowers, the 6m-long vessel would have skimmed swiftly over the waters.
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    During ongoing excavations of prehistoric settlements at Syltholm east of Rødbyhavn in Denmark, archaeologists have been investigating an area of land located on the periphery of a settlement. In the Mesolithic and Neolithic, the area was overgrown with reeds, but excavation has identified numerous tools and bones that prehistoric people had deliberately placed into this liminal zone.

    Careful deposition in a Danish marshland

    Interestingly, archaeologists have been able to recognise patterns in the way these artefacts are sorted by type and function and then deposited according to certain rules rather than just being randomly cast into the shallow water. The current understanding of this area is now more subtle than ever before as it is possible to separate different activities through time.
    The main concentration lies around the first centuries of the Neolithic period (ca. 4000-3500 BC in this region) when technologies for the new way of life came to Denmark from Central Europe via Germany.

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    Archaeologists search for new portal into bygone era

    Iron Age combat sessions and an expert view on life in Leicestershire over 2000 years ago will be on offer at one of the county's most striking historic features, Burrough Hill, on Sunday 29 June. 

    Archaeologists working on the stone wall in the SW corner of the hillfort 
    [Credit: John Thomas/ University of Leicester] 

    University of Leicester archaeologists have been uncovering the past and this summer will be undertaking the final season of excavations at Leicestershire's finest Iron Age hillfort. 

    The nationally important hillfort, marked by dramatic earthworks, located near Melton Mowbray has been the setting for a five year research project which has helped redefine understanding of the hillforts use with the help and support of English Heritage and landowners the Ernest Cook Trust.

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    Oldest human faeces show Neanderthals ate vegetables

    The team collected the ancient faecal matter at the El Salt archaeological site in Spain

    Analysis of the oldest reported trace of human faeces has added weight to the view that Neanderthals ate vegetables.
    Found at a dig in Spain, the ancient excrement showed chemical traces of both meat and plant digestion.
    An earlier view of these early humans as purely meat-eating has already been partially discredited by plant remains found in their caves and teeth.
    The new paper, in the journal PLOS One, claims to offer the best support to date for an omnivorous diet.
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    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    Vindolanda dig unearths rare Roman gold coin

    The coin, bearing the image of Emperor Nero, dates from AD 64-65

    A rare gold coin bearing the image of Roman emperor Nero has been unearthed in Northumberland.

    It is the first gold coin to be found at the Roman fort site of Vindolanda where archaeologists have been digging for more than 40 years.
    Dr Andrew Birley, director of excavations, described it as a "special" find.
    It is likely to be put on display at Vindolanda's museum once it has been fully researched and documented.
    The coin was found by dig volunteer Marcel Albert, from Nantes in France.
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    Demolitions reveal ancient Roman theater in Aegean town

    The stage walls and entrance of a Roman-era amphitheater in İzmir’s Kadifekale neighborhood, once covered by expropriated shanty houses, have been unearthed due to the efforts of the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality.

    The municipality has issued an order of expropriation on a 12,900-squaremeter area to unearth the ruins of the amphitheater. So far, 137 title deeds covering an area of 11,115 square meters have been purchased and 175 buildings have been demolished. The judicial process for the expropriation of the last 15 buildings in the area is ongoing, municipal officials noted.

    Archeologists will start working in the area once the demolition is over.

    HDN The most comprehensive information about the ancient theater in Kadifekale can be obtained in the studies of Austrian architects and archaeologists Otto Berg and Otto Walter, who conducted studies in the region in 1917 and 1918, from their plans and drawings. 

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    Major dig planned at Battle of Hastings sites

    One of the world’s top battlefield archaeologists is to lead an ambitious project which aims to finally unearth remains from the Battle of Hastings. 

    Battle of Hastings re-enactment, Battle Abbey [Credit: Steve Hunnisett] 

    Although the current site at Battle Abbey has been accepted as the correct location for the bloody clash for centuries, no archaeological evidence associated with the battle has ever been found on the site. 

    Now English Heritage has asked Dr Glenn Foard, of Huddersfield University, to develop a project proposal with the hope of carrying out a major dig on the site. 

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    'Prehistoric Sistine Chapel' gets world heritage status

    There are more than 1,000 drawings inside the Decorated Cave of Pont d'Arc

    A cave in southern France dubbed the "prehistoric Sistine Chapel" has been added to Unesco's World Heritage list.
    The 1,000 drawings carved in the walls of the Decorated Cave of Pont d'Arc, or Grotte Chauvet, are 36,000 years old and include mammoths and hand prints.
    Cave experts only discovered it in 1994 as the entrance had been concealed by a rockfall 23,000 years earlier.
    It was one of several cultural and natural wonders granted the status by a committee of delegates in Doha, Qatar.
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    Tuesday, June 17, 2014


    Dozens of cremation graves dating to around 400 AD; the start of the Great Migration period, are being studied at Łężany, northeastern Poland, by a team from the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw.
    “A large number of graves with their unique contents shed a new light on the cultural image of the region during the Roman and Migration period” - explained Agnieszka Jaremek of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw.

    Cremated remains

    The burial ground was discovered accidentally in Autumn 2012 during forestry work with the initial excavations starting last year.
    The necropolis consisted of single graves with exclusively cremated human remains, the ashes were interred directly in the ground in either shallow scoops or in earthenware burial urns.

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    Human and Chimp Genes May Have Split 13 Million Years Ago

    The ancestors of humans and chimpanzees may have begun genetically diverging from one another 13 million years ago, more than twice as long ago as had been widely thought, shedding new light on the process of human evolution, researchers say.

    Scientists also discovered that male chimps pass on far moregenetic mutations to their offspring than male humans do, revealing previously unknown evolutionary differences between the species.

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