Prehistoric Caves May Contain Oldest Paintings of Volcanic Eruptions (Hyperallergic)

by Claire Voon on January 25, 2016 original article here.

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L: General view of the Megaloceros panel showing the spray signs (photo credit D. Genty); R: Detail of the Megaloceros panel (photos V. Feruglio-D. Baffier) (all images © 2016 Nomade et al, used under CC BY 4.0)

Since its discovery in 1994, the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave in southern France has been a rich site for researchers to study prehistoric art, featuring early paintings of both animals and humans on its walls. Now the ancient site — which in 2014 received UNESCO World Heritage Site status — may also present the oldest depiction of a volcanic eruption discovered yet, according to a study recently published by a team of French scientists in the journal PLoS One.

“Our work provides the first evidence of an intense volcanic activity between 40 and 30 ka in the Bas-Vivarais region,” researchers write in the study, “and it is very likely that humans living in the Ardèche river area witnessed one or several eruptions.”

Likely finger-painted with red and white pigments, the paintings resemble little fountains — “spray-shape signs,” as the team describes them. They appear on the walls of various galleries in the cave; one appears to emerge from the head of a Megaloceros, which was later drawn in charcoal and partially covers the abstract pattern. The researchers, comparing the age of the symbols with dates of local volcanic activity, believe the cave dwellers were responding to an eruption that occurred approximately 36,000 years ago. The closest volcano would have stood in the Bas-Vivarais region, a little over 20 miles northwest of the cave.

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Çatalhöyük mural painting in Turkey, considered the oldest depiction of a volcanic eruption, dated from the 8th/7th millennium BCE

“There’s no way anybody could prove that it is a volcano that they depicted, but for us it’s the hypothesis which is the most probable,” Sebastien Nomade, who led the study, told Nature.

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Petroglyphs depicting the Porak volcano eruption in the Syunik region of Armenia

If the scientists’ claims are true, the paintings would predate the nearly 9,000-year-old Çatalhöyük mural in Turkey, previously identified in the early 1960s by archaeologist James Mellaart as the earliest representation of such an eruption. Another known depiction is found in southern Armenia, where a group of six petrogylphs dating to the 5th millennium BCE show eruptions of the Porak volcano. The Chauvet image would also predate Pliny the Younger’s famous description of the 79 CE Vesuvias eruption.

“I think they make a pretty good case that it’s potentially a depiction of the kind of volcano that one sees on the landscape,” as Michael Petraglia, a University of Oxford archaeologist (unaffiliated with the study) told Nature. “Maybe there’s more of this out there than we have realized.”

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See These Amazing Images of Easter Island Statues With Bodies–Who Knew? (artnet news)

by Sarah Cascone, Friday, May 1, 2015 original article here.

A fully excavated Easter Island head.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

A fully excavated Easter Island head. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Easter Island’s monumental stone heads are well-known, but there’s more to the story: all along, the sculptures have secretly had torsos, buried beneath the earth.

Excavations on the Easter Island head.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Excavations on the Easter Island head. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Archaeologists have documented 887 of the massive statues, known as moai, but there may up as many as 1,000 of them on the island (see Rather Weighty Easter Island Sculpture Travels 200 Miles To Be Star of Manchester Museum Exhibition). Most were carved from volcanic rock between 1100 and 1680.

While the island is a popular tourist destination, the statue’s sheer size certainly discourages the type of theft experienced at other historic archaeological sites (see US Tourists Steal Pompeii Artifact and Egypt’s “Indiana Jones” Zahi Hawass Questioned Over Pyramid Theft).

More Easter Island excavations.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

More Easter Island excavations. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

The Easter Island bodies were news to us, but apparently this is not a recent discovery. Photographs of the statues undergoing excavation began circulating in May of 2012, and Live Science asserts that archaeologists have actually known about the bodies since archaeological research on the island, located 2,000 miles west of Chile, began over a century ago, in 1914.

An excavated statue on Easter Island.  Photo: Greg Downing.

An excavated statue on Easter Island. Photo: Greg Downing.

“There are about 150 statues buried up to the shoulders on the slope of a volcano, and these are the most famous, most beautiful and most photographed of all the Easter Island statues,” Easter Island Statue Project director Jo Anne Van Tilburg told Live Science. “This suggested to people who had not seen photos of (other unearthed statues) that they are heads only.”

It was photographs of Tilburg’s 2010 excavations of two of the statues’ buried bodies that sparked online interest in the missing halves of these ancient sculptures. The images attracted so much interest when people started emailing them in 2012 that the Easter Island Statue Project’s website crashed under a rush of three million hits.

More Easter Island excavations.  Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

More Easter Island excavations. Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Tilburg’s work, which began in 2000, marked the first time the moai were excavated by a scientific team that thoroughly documented the process. “It’s always important to get beneath the surface of things,” she told Fox News.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Photo: courtesy the Easter Island Statue Project.

Ancient Cities Discovered in Mexican Jungle (artnet news)

Sarah Cascone, Tuesday, August 26, 2014 original article here.

The facade at Lagunita, a recently discovered ancient Mayan city. Photo: ZRC SAZU.

The facade at Lagunita, a recently discovered ancient Mayan city. Photo: ZRC SAZU.

Two ancient Mayan cities featuring ball courts, pyramid, plazas, and, in one case, a spectacular entrance shaped like the open jaws of a monster, have been discovered in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. An expedition lead by Ivan Sprajc of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts uncovered both cities in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, which was one of 29 culturally significant areas to receive United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site designation in June (“UNESCO Names Ancient Incan Road a World Heritage Site“).

“Aerial photographs helped us in locating the sites,” Sprajc told Discovery News. “In the jungle you can be as little as 600 feet from a large site and not even suspect it might be there; small mounds are all over the place, but they give you no idea about where an urban center might be.”

One of the cities, called Lagunita, had probably already been found by modern archaeologists including the American Eric Von Euw back in the 1970s. Because he failed to record its exact location, archaeologists had been unable to return to the site in the decades since. A comparison between the city’s monuments and drawings of the lost Von Euw discovery revealed similar reliefs and hieroglyphics.

The other site has been named Tamchen, which means “deep well” in Mayan, after its many underground cisterns, or chultuns used to capture rainwater.

The cities are not the only major discovery of Mayan archaeological sites that have been made recently. As previously reported by artnet News (“Mexican Construction Crew Discovers Ancient Mayan Ball Court“), workers digging the foundations for a basketball court in Meirda, Mexico, unearthed a layer of pink stone in March that was quickly identified as a ball court for the ancient Mayan ballgame.

Prehistoric cave prints show most early artists were women (NBC)

By Nidhi Subbaraman original article here.

The Panel of Hands in El Castillo Cave near the village of Puente Viesgo is seen in this handout photo released June 14, 2012.  Scientists using a new...

Alongside drawings of bison and horses, the first painters left clues to their identity on the stone walls of caves, blowing red-brown paint through rough tubes and stenciling outlines of their palms. New analysis of ancient handprints in France and Spain suggests that most of those early artists were women.

This is a surprise, since most archaeologists have assumed it was men who had been making the cave art. One interpretation is that early humans painted animals to influence the presence and fate of real animals that they’d find on their hunt, and it’s widely accepted that it was the men who found and killed dinner.

But a new study indicates that the majority of handprints found near cave art were made by women, based on their overall size and relative lengths of their fingers.

“The assumption that most people made was it had something to do with hunting magic,” Penn State archaeologist Dean Snow, who has been scrutinizing hand prints for a decade, told NBC News. The new work challenges the theory that it was mostly men, who hunted, that made those first creative marks.

Another reason we thought it was men all along? Male archeologists from modern society where gender roles are rigid and well-defined — they found the art. “[M]ale archaeologists were doing the work,” Snow said, and it’s possible that “had something to do with it.”

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Prints from the El Castillo caves showing what are likely male (L) and female (R) palm prints. (Dean Snow)

In National GeographicVirginia Hughes explains Snow’s finding, published this month in American Antiquity. The new paper includes details from 32 stencils found in 11 caves in Spain and France, where some of the hand prints date back almost 40,000 years. Of the 32 stencils, 24 were likely female.

The new reading of the stencils “provokes a whole series of other questions,” Snow said.

“What was the role of women in producing these,” and, where else did they paint? “It may be that all we’re seeing is the fraction of the art that survived,” he said — paintings on exposed stone surfaces would almost undoubtedly have worn off over tens of thousands of years.

Over the last decade, Snow has been building evidence to show how the size of handprints and the relative lengths of fingers can tell us the sex of the artist who made them. He has also co-developed algorithms that can let computers scan and analyze prints quickly, and help identify the sex of the painters.

Other recent work on cave paintings has brought up the possibility that some early European cave art wasn’t made by homo sapiens, but by our hominid cousins, the Neanderthals. Recent dating of the El Castillo cave in Spain, where some of Snow’s prints came from, indicates that the very earliest cave paintings were made 40,000 years ago, when Neanderthals were still thriving in Europe.

New evidence and new research methods continue to alter and fill in our understanding of ancient societies. But one thing’s for sure: As long as humans have been making art, we’ve been printing signatures by its side.

 via National Geographic

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and technology. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Archaeologists Unearth Three Ancient Greek Mosaics in the Ongoing Excavation in Zeugma, Turkey (Laughing Squid)

by at 2:58 pm on November 18, 2014 original article here.

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Workers clear a mosaic depicting the nine Muses

The Zeugma excavation project conducted by Oxford Archaeology and supported by Packhard Humanities Institute and the Ministry of Culture of Turkey has recently unearthed three ancient Greek mosaics in the Turkish city of Zeugma. Zeugma had received some press and support in 2000 after flooding caused by construction began to bury and damage artifacts in the region.

The mosaics, created in the 2nd century BC, are constructed of boldly colored glass and are being covered for protection until excavation is complete. The head of the project, Professor Kutalmis Görkay, recently gave the Hurriyet Daily News more details about the plan for the future of the excavation.

“From now on, we will work on restoration and conservation. We plan to establish a temporary roof for long-term protection. We estimate that the ancient city has 2,000-3,000 houses. Twenty-five of them remain under water. Excavations will be finished in the Muzalar House next year.”

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The muse Thalia

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Ocean and Tithys

The Centro di Conservazione Archeologica created this video about the flooding and excavation projects at Zeugma.

photos via Greek Reporter

via Greek Reporter

 

Amal Alamuddin (Clooney), George Clooney, and the Elgin Marbles

This article has NOTHING to do with George Clooney, but let’s be honest, in the news recently we can’t see Amal Alamuddin’s name without being mentioned along side George Clooney and that’s a shame! Alamuddin has an extraordinary reputation on her own as a human rights lawyer and activist who specializes in international and criminal law. Now Ms. Clooney (she took her husband’s name) is on a crusade to rescue the Elgin marbles and have them returned to Greece.

In October of 2014, Ms. Clooney began the process of repatriating the Elgin marbles for the Greek government. If you are unfamiliar about the history of these ancient Greek marble sculptures from Greece, here is your history lesson. The Elgin marbles, also called the Parthenon marbles, once were part of the Parthenon and other buildings that make up the Acropolis in Athens. These classical Greek works of art were mostly made by Phidias and his assistants and are made up of sculptures, inscriptions, and other features of the original architecture of the buildings at this historic site. More specifically, the collection includes 247 feet of the once existing 524-foot frieze, 15 of 92 metopes, 17 figures from the pediments, and an assortment of additional pieces of architecture. This by no means is the only remaining collection of the sculptures that still exist from the Acropolis and Parthenon. Long before Lord Elgin took possession of his portion of the sculptures, many other sculptures were pillaged from this historic site prior to the Ottoman occupation of Greece in the 1800s and are held in other museum collections in the US like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Europe such as The Louvre. Athens also removed all the art from this historic location and relocated it to the museum build especially for it, the Acropolis Museum, in 2007.

These British possessed sculptures received their name from Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, better known as Lord Elgin. He “acquired” these works of art during his time as an ambassador to the Ottoman court of the Sultan in Istanbul between 1799-1803. Lord Elgin later sold them to the British Parliament in 1816 and after, they were gifted to the British Museum. They were put on display in the Elgin Room of the British Museum after its completion in 1832.

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The room containing the Elgin marbles at the British Museum. From Wikipedia Commons © Andrew Dunn, 3 December 2005.

Repatriation talk began approximately 40 year ago spearheaded by the late Melina Mercouri, then the Minster of Culture of Greece in the 1980s, but the British government argued that Athens did not have the space or the means to present or maintain the marbles. Many have taken up the fight for the return on the marbles since Mercouri such as Queen’s Counsel Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer, Clooney, and current Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Once Greece completed the Acropolis Museum however, it was apparent that this was merely an excuse for the British government to keep the Greek treasures. They claimed the possession of the marbles in the museum “allows different complementary stories to be told about them.” (Guardian, 2014)

There are others that don’t feel the marbles should be returned to Greece, specifically of course, the British government. They have made the case that the British Museum attracts a wider audience and therefore more people will be able to experience these sculptures. The are also quick to point out that the existence of the marbles in London for over 200 years is itself a part of history influencing architecture and design in Britain during that period. The New York Times put it best when it said “imperialism isn’t an endearing argument.”(New York Times, 2009)

For more info check out these additional sources:

“What are the ‘Elgin Marbles’?.” British Museum – What are the ‘Elgin Marbles’?. The British Museum, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/articles/w/what_are_the_elgin_marbles.aspx&gt;.

Smith, Helena. “Parthenon marbles meet Hollywood as Amal Alamuddin Clooney advises Greece | Art and design.” The Guardian. Guardian News, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/13/parthenon-marbles-hollywood-amal-alamuddin-george-clooney-greece&gt;.

Michael, Kimmelman. “Abroad – Athens Museum Opening Reprises Debate on Elgin Marbles – NYTimes.com.” The New York Times – Art & Design. The New York Times, 23 June 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/arts/design/24abroad.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&gt;.

http://www.marblesreunited.org.uk/

http://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en

http://www.parthenoninternational.org/

Calvin College openURL resolver

Lasers Reveal Underground ‘Super Henge’ (Popular Science)

Rafi Letzter p

Stonehenge

Copyright BBC News

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A new, detailed map of the Stonehenge area, including the newly-discovered “super-henge” © LBI ArchPro, Wolfgang Neubauer

Near the prehistoric Stonehenge monument, archeologists have found the buried traces of a “super henge” more than 4,900 feet in circumference. That’s about as big around as the Astrodome and Cowboys Stadium combined — and 14 times larger than the iconic stone circle. Scientists used various instruments to scan to a depth of up to 3 meters including a magnetometer, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and a 3D laser scanner.

The super henge is comprised of dozens of newly discovered features, including an array of up to more than 50 ten-foot pillars, some of which may still be deep underground. The surveyors also uncovered 17 ritual monuments, including “massive prehistoric pits” that may have been dug along astronomic lines, and a “long barrow” — a huge wooden building believed to have been used as a mortuary for excarnation (stripping flesh from bones).

Archeologists believe the Stonehenge complex was built and modified over a period of 11,000 years. Questions about the function of its various structures remain but new information is being uncovered as we read this which will change the history of Stonehenge as we have come to know it.

Because most of the clues about the ancient construction lie deep underground, the archeologists developed new techniques for finding the traces of pits and pillars. They beamed radar and lasers into the ground, and wheeled scanners over a vast area to study subtle changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.

Not everything discovered at the site is millennia old. The surveyors were able to pinpoint practice trenches dug during the First World War to prepare troops for battle, as well as traces of a military airbase — one of the U.K.’s first — built at the site a few years later.

 Ground penetration A tractor pushes an antenna array designed to study buried remains of monuments. © LBI ArchPro, Wolfgang Neubauer

Ground penetration – A tractor pushes an antenna array designed to study buried remains of monuments. © LBI ArchPro, Wolfgang Neubauer

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3D Reconstruction A 3D rendering of a “long barrow” burial site based on traces of the wooden posts detected during the survey.© LBI ArchPro, Joachim Brandtner