Thursday, April 17, 2008

Maya Textiles From Copan Show Impressive Craftworking

Textiles are obviously rare in archaeological contexts, especially in the tropics. Nonetheless, textile fragments from Copan are some of the few leaving any evidence of Classic Maya fabrics, and apparently the work was extraordinary.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The History of Crystal Skulls

Interesting article from Archaeology Magazine on the history of supposedly Mesoamerican crystal skulls (soon to be even more famous due to the Indiana Jones movie) and how they swirl around one antiquities dealer in the second half of the 19th century.

Update: The British Museum and Smithsonian skulls also have tool marks like those used about a century ago.

Investigation of Titanic Wreckage Reveals Shoddy Materials May Have Speed Sinking

The NYTimes reports that a combination of historical and forensic/archaeological investigation suggests that the Titanic sank much faster, dooming hundreds of people, because lower-grade iron rivets were used in the bow of the ship. Disputed by descendants of those involved in the construction, this line of research was only possible due to examination of rivets and plates found at the wreck site, and was then put in context by examining the manufacturing company's records and board meeting minutes.

Like others I know, I went through a "Titanic" phase in my youth. I remember being tremendously excited when the first evidence of the wreck was found over twenty years ago. So I am particularly intrigued by this development.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stonehenge Altered in Roman Era?

The results are way too preliminary from ongoing excavations at Stonehenge, but there does seem to be some evidence that someone in Roman times modified the monument. Quoting Current Archaeology:

However the most surprising discoveries so far have been Roman. In a small pit
containing a small bluestone in the corner of the trench, itself cut into the
main socket of one of the uprights, they found a Roman coin. Even more alarming,
was the excavation of the large pit in the centre of the excavation, where right
near the bottom they found a very small piece of what was indubitably Roman
pottery. Was there a major reordering of the site in the Roman period? As
Geoffrey Wainwright said, their small trench looked like an urban excavation,
there were so many intercutting pits.

This could be some form of turbation or other taphonomic process. But it is certainly interesting.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Maya hieroglyphic decipherment on NOVA, April 8

The show appears to be a history of the decipherment. But regardless of that, there are a few neat aspects on the website, such as a translation of Piedras Negras Stela 3, with audio for the entire text. This is of course similar to the audio elements of the dictionaries at FAMSI, which are well worth checking out.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Aztec Measurements Deduced

Using a mix of history, mathematics, and survey, two researchers have uncovered smaller units of measure employed in Aztec surveys, that are not part of a vigesimal (20-base) scaling but are instead unique prime numbers.

SAA Session on the Meteor Hypothesis and New Evidence for Humans in North America Before Clovis

Coprolites from Oregon date to 14,000 BP, have human DNA in them, and were found alongside artifacts. This is getting a lot of press. Archaeology Magazine sent an editor to talk to the researchers.

On a related note, I attended part of the session at the Society for American Archaeology meetings, on the asteroid hypothesis, that eastern North America was devastated in 12,900 BP by an impact that also created the Younger Dryas. It was jampacked with people, standing room only with many being turned away, the likes of which I've never seen at a conference before. Many of those people were younger undergraduate or graduate students. There is obvious interest I couldn't stay that long, I had people to see and the packed room was tiring (a good 15 degrees warmer than the hallway outside, due to body heat). But from what I saw, it once again seemed like the same fight, and many of the same fighters, from the pre-Clovis debate and related battles over Meadocroft, Monte Verde, and Cactus Hill (one of the papers was on Cactus Hill). I don't do paleo, so I can't comment further.