Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interesting Artifact from Irikaitz (Basque Country, Spain)



Irikaitz archaeological site: only for the tenacious

The recent discovery of a pendant at the Irikaitz archaeological site in Zestoa (in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa) has given rise to intense debate: it may be as old as 25,000 years, which would make it the oldest found to date at open-air excavations throughout the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. This stone is nine centimetres long and has a hole for hanging it from the neck although it would seem that, apart from being adornment, it was used to sharpen tools. The discovery has had great repercussion, but it is not by any means the only one uncovered here by the team led by Álvaro Arrizabalaga: “Almost every year some archaeological artefact of great value is discovered; at times, even 8 or 10. It is a highly fruitful location”.

Irikaitz lies behind the bath spa in Zestoa, on the other side of the river Urola, 14 metres from the river bank. The archaeologist from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) has been carrying out excavations here summer after summer, together with students and researchers from this and other universities and in cooperation with Aranzadi Science Society. Since 1998 they have uncovered 32 square metres; nothing compared to the eight hectares (at least) that this “gigantic” open-air site covers. This is archaeology, demanding a lot of patience, but the results are worth it: “You feel as if you have found something that has been waiting to fall into your hands for 200,000 years”.

It is like a lottery

The tasks pertaining to an archaeological site are complex and lengthy in any case, but particularly so at Irikaiz. To start with, because it is in the open air. In the case of caves, it is known that they served as refuges for our ancestors and, once their location is identified, it is highly possible that archaeological treasures are found there. Open air archaeological sites, on the other hand, are discovered when some civil engineering infrastructure has to be built, and it is difficult to predict what will be found. Moreover, in Zestoa there are remains from the Lower Paleolithic, when there are hardly any references from this period in the Basque Country. According to Mr Arrizabalaga, when they started, “it was like a lottery. We did not know what to expect – either about its chronology or about the kinds of remains likely to be uncovered”.
Precisely because of this lack of references, they were fascinated when they came across “totally exotic” raw material: volcanic stones. “In the first dig, we thought at first that someone may have brought the rocks there when they were building the Urola railway, to use them as ballast. It was all so surprising and incredible”, said the archaeologist. But no; this phenomenon had another logical explanation: “It is a geological rarity. In the Urola River valley there is a layer of volcanic stones; the river cut through these, took them to the surface and brought them to this place. This is why humans from prehistory came here – there was no other place in the Basque Country with stones like these”.

A margin of 350,000 years

The fact that the remains are so old or the features of the materials thereof so unusual make dating in Irikaitz very difficult, as most of the methods commonly used to this end are of little use here. A clear example of this is that any kind of dating with bone remains has had to be totally discarded; unlike in other sites; here there are hardly any such remains, the earth here being so acidic that it has consumed almost everything in this respect, leaving only stone tools and plant fossils.

There are, thus, few means for dating certain remains. There were two periods of human occupation in Irikaitz, the most recent being 25,000 years ago, the pendant discovered this summer being from that time. But, it is the older occupation that gives headaches in trying to date it. Yes, it dates from the early Stone Age (Lower Palaeolithic), but when exactly? There hardly exist archaeological sites similar to this one, to act as a reference. As this archaeologist explained, “there is no other case of the Lower Palaeolithic under these conditions along the strip of land bordered by the Bay of Biscay, and only a few like it in the whole of the Iberian Peninsula”. It is impossible to narrow the dating to less than an interval of 350,000 years: “We know it cannot date from later than 150,000 years ago (when that period ended), and neither can it be prior to 500,000 years ago, because the sea covered the area during that period”.
Therefore, of the 18-20 dating methods currently available, there are no more than two applicable to Irikaitz. Both involve luminescence, and with which Arrizabalaga’s team are attempting to get results. The first method acts to specify when the sun illuminated a piece of quartz for the last time; without the wished-for results, however. The second is based on thermo-luminescence, a method with which they are working currently: this is applied to certain types of stones which have undergone heating from fires, and the measurement is based on the amount of radiation accumulated.
Since 1998, more than 500 people have carried out field work at this prehistoric archaeological site of Irikaitz; without counting those who have contributed from the laboratory. This has included a considerable group of researchers who have worked tenaciously in the search for any result, no matter how small. Many of these research workers belong to the UPV/EHU, like Mr Arrizabalaga. And, although the fruit of their work is harvested little by little, they feel they are rewarded. “If you Google Irikaitz, some 7,000 entries appear. We started digging in 1998 and, by 2001, the site was mentioned as a reference not written by us, in relation to the history of this geographical area”.

Pushing Back the First Americans, a Thousand or Two Years at a Time

From the

Franklin dig evidence reveals mastodon was butchered by ancient humans
12,000-year-old butchering marks, tools show ancient Cool Springs cuisine
1:51 AM, Dec. 27, 2011

FRANKLIN — A Cool Springs archaeological dig keeps yielding details about Paleolithic man and the big game he hunted.

State archaeologists say discoveries unearthed in 2010 at a long-studied archaeological site known as Coats-Hines in Cool Springs reveal it to be one of only a few sites that show early man in this area hunted and ate “megafauna,” a term describing very large animals.

Scientists confirm finding three and possibly four mastodons — large elephant-like creatures with tusks — at the site, with one mastodon, known as Mastodon B, having “unequivocal association” with human activity in the form of butchering marks.

“(O)nly a handful of sites have been identified in the Eastern United States which provide incontrovertible evidence of humans hunting megafauna,” archaeologists Aaron Deter-Wolf, Jesse W. Tune and John B. Broster, who oversaw the excavations, reported in the Tennessee Archaeology journal.
Earlier this year, the Coats-Hines site became one of 11 places added to the National Register of Historic Places by the state Historical Commission. Excavations began at the site in 1977.

An archaeological excavation turned up the bones, artifacts and animal remains that archaeologists now say prove human activity occurred here before 12,000 B.C. The site is in the backyard of a private home and is one of the two oldest human settlements documented in Tennessee.

Archaeologists and Middle Tennessee State University students turned up human artifacts, pollen samples and more than 1,500 animal bones that can be traced to a variety of species.

Excavations at the property in 1994 revealed the only known example in the Southeastern U.S. of mastodon remains directly associated with human-made stone tools in an undisturbed context, said Deter-Wolf, state prehistoric archaeologist.

Shamans in Action

I happened across this very interesting photograph taken today in Lima Peru, of shamans conducting a "good luck" ceremony over two posters - one is the Prime Minister of Spain; the other is the new Fearless Leader of North Korea.  Is he out of diapers???

I wonder why they did this???

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 FIDE Women's World Team Chess Championship

India fininished OUT OF THE MEDALS?  WHAT? 

My first reaction is - what kind of fix was in?  My second reaction is - it's not polite to put in writing.  If you want to accept these final standings, here they are, for what they're worth:

1CHINA98 11627½0131,502550
9TURKEY92 7411022,001036
10RSA9 90100,0091

Board pairings and results:

Round 9 on 2011/12/27 at 10:00
1WGMPham Le Thao Nguyen2341½ : ½IMMuzychuk Mariya2460
2WIMNguyen Thi Mai Hung2244½ : ½IMGaponenko (Yanovska) Inna2435
3WGMNguyen Thi Thanh An2300½ : ½GMZhukova Natalia2427
4WIMHoang Thi Nhu Y2218½ : ½IMVasilevich Tatjana2412
1GMKosintseva Tatiana2526½ : ½GMDanielian Elina2497
2GMKosteniuk Alexandra2439½ : ½IMMkrtchian Lilit2469
3IMGunina Valentina2514½ : ½IMGalojan Lilit2383
4WGMPogonina Natalija2451½ : ½WGMAginian Nelly2263
9.37GREECE4 - 03RSA
1IMDembo Yelena24681 : 0WIMVan Der Merwe Cecile H2057
2WGMMakropoulou Marina22011 : 0WIMSolomons Anzel1926
3WIMFakhiridou Ekaterini21801 : 0WIMFrick Denise1916
4 Iordanidou Zoi21691 : 0WFMVan Niekerk Lauren1607
1GMDzagnidze Nana25161 : 0WIMYildiz Betul Cemre2297
2IMKhotenashvili Bela24970 : 1WIMOzturk Kubra2239
3IMKhurtsidze Nino24401 : 0WCMCemhan Kardelen1881
4IMMelia Salome23921 : 0 Kaplan Ebru1849
9.59CHINA2½ - 1½1INDIA
1GMHou Yifan2578½ : ½GMKoneru Humpy2600
2WGMJu Wenjun2543½ : ½GMHarika Dronavalli2512
3GMZhao Xue25411 : 0IMTania Sachdev2428
4WGMTan Zhongyi2448½ : ½WGMPadmini Rout2392

Individual Performance Medals:

Board 1
No.TitleFEDNameIRtgTeam 9Points% SuccessRpGames
WGMARMAginian Nelly (Reserved Player)2263ARMENIA 0.0 2230
WCMTURCemhan Kardelen1881TURKEY 0.0 2170
1GMINDKoneru Humpy2600INDIA1.01.0 5.578.626777
2GMCHNHou Yifan2578CHINA 4.575.0026646
3GMGEODzagnidze Nana2516GEORGIA 4.564.2926017

Board 2
No.TitleFEDNameIRtgTeam123456789Points% SuccessRpGames
WGMARMAginian Nelly (Reserved Player)2263ARMENIA 0.0 2230
WCMTURCemhan Kardelen1881TURKEY 0.0 2170
GMARMDanielian Elina2497ARMENIA 0.0 2457
IMGREDembo Yelena2468GREECE 0.0 2375
GMGEODzagnidze Nana2516GEORGIA 0.0 2601
1WGMCHNJu Wenjun2543CHINA 4.575.0025436
WIMRSAFrick Denise1916RSA 0.0 1542
2GMINDHarika Dronavalli2512INDIA0.5 4.066.6725196
3WGMVIEHoang Thi Bao Tram2341VIETNAM0. 5.062.5024568

Board 3
No.TitleFEDNameIRtgTeam 9Points% SuccessRpGames
WGMARMAginian Nelly (Reserved Player)2263ARMENIA 0.0 2230
1GMCHNZhao Xue2541CHINA 5.083.3324926
GMARMDanielian Elina2497ARMENIA 0.0 2457
IMGREDembo Yelena2468GREECE 0.0 2375
GMGEODzagnidze Nana2516GEORGIA 0.0 2601
2GMUKRZhukova Natalia2427UKRAINE 1.0 1.0 4.080.0025425
3WIMVIENguyen Thi Mai Hung2244VIETNAM 0.50.5 0.0 1.01.0 3.060.0023385

Board 4
No.TitleFEDNameIRtgTeam123456789Points% SuccessRpGames
1WGMCHNTan Zhongyi2448CHINA 4.575.0024796
WCMTURCemhan Kardelen1881TURKEY 0.0 2170
GMARMDanielian Elina2497ARMENIA 0.0 2457
IMGREDembo Yelena2468GREECE 0.0 2375
GMGEODzagnidze Nana2516GEORGIA 0.0 2601
WIMGREFakhiridou Ekaterini2180GREECE 0.0 2101
WIMRSAFrick Denise1916RSA 0.0 1542
IMARMGalojan Lilit2383ARMENIA 0.0 2268
IMUKRGaponenko (Yanovska) Inna2435UKRAINE 0.0 2342
2WIMGREPavlidou Ekaterini2176GREECE 1.0 3.570.0023135
GMINDHarika Dronavalli2512INDIA 0.0 2519
WGMVIEHoang Thi Bao Tram2341VIETNAM 0.0 2456
3IMUKRVasilevich Tatjana2412UKRAINE 0.5 4.066.6722886

Now I have to finish cleaning the upstairs bathroom.  I think I'll scrub the toilet again.
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