Monday, December 3, 2018

Catching Up: "Rare" Norman Graves Discovered in Palermo, Sicily

From Fox News

Rare 'Viking' Discovery Made in Italy

By Chris Ciaccia
July 24, 2018

Archaeologists have found a burial site with 10 skeletons near Palermo, the capital of the Italian island Sicily.

The interesting bit? The skeletons are probably the descendants of Vikings.

"Some of the dead buried in the cemetery were undoubtedly members of the elites or the clergy, as the form of some of the graves indicates," said Sławomir Moździoch, the head of the excavation and an archaeologist at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw in a statement.

After looking at the 10 buried bodies, which were found near the medieval church of San Michele del Golfo, Moździoch and his team found that three of the bodies were female and two were children. The remaining bodies were difficult to identify and although no goods or equipment was found in the graves, the researchers noted that the cemetery associated with the hospital at San Michele del Golfo was mentioned in a document from the 12th century.

Scientists have discovered that the graves belong to Normans, descendants of Vikings.

"According to the local anthropologist, the tallness and massive build of skeletons of people buried here indicate this origin," Moździoch said.

Normans in Italy are not a surprise, as the group, which arose in the northern part of France, would eventually go on to have military conquests all over Europe, including in the southern part of Italy in the late 10th and early 11 centuries.

"In the second half of the 11th century, the island was recaptured from the Arabs by a Norman nobleman, Roger de Hauteville," Moździoch added in the statement.

LiveScience describes the discovery of the graves as "a rare finding."

Catching Up: Ancient Site in Texas Adds to Debate About When Humans First Arrived Here

From The Star-Telegram

Who Were the First Americans?  Ancient Tools Dug Up in Texas Add to the Debate

By Matthew Martinez
July 13, 2018; Updated July 13, 2018 12:10 p.m.

new archaeological find suggests that humans inhabited America, specifically parts of what is known today as Texas, as far back as 21,700 years ago.

group of scientists led by Thomas Williams of Texas State University recently unearthed more than 150,000 human-modified stones at the Gault Archaeological Site in Central Texas, about 40 miles north of Austin.

The group doesn’t claim to have nailed the answer to the question, “Who were the first Americans?” but they might have discovered another runner in that race. The find illustrates “the presence of a previously unknown projectile point technology in North America from before [16,000 years ago],” say their findings, published in the July 11 edition of the journal “Science Advances."

Williams' team of archaeologists excavated the Texas bedrock and uncovered ancient rocks shaped into bifaces — used as hand axes — blades, projectile points, engraving tools and scrapers dating to between 16,700 and 21,700 years. They refer to the tools as the Gault Assemblage.

Not much about the physical traits of those who used tools can be inferred from the material in the find, but its significance lies in how old the items are. The team used optically stimulated luminescence to age the materials, which means they were able to find how long it had been since the sediment the items were found in had been exposed to sunlight, according to Science News.

After a haul of flint spearheads near Clovis, New Mexico, was uncovered in the 1930s, popular scientific belief held that the first occupants of the Americas — referred to as the Clovis culture— arrived about 13,000 years ago, according to National Geographic. But the Gault find is one of several more recent — and deeper — digs that are putting that theory to bed.

Material attributed to the Clovis people was previously unearthed at the Gault site — finds dating to the Clovis period have also been found in Colorado and Utah, according to PBS. But what Thomas and his crew found is older, and was found — perhaps predictably — deeper in the ground.

If these Americans indeed occupied parts of Texas in the time range identified by the Gault Assemblage, they probably arrived in the Americas during the peak of the last Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago, according to the BBC. At that time, North America would have been covered with permafrost and dotted with tall glaciers, which would have made for suboptimal travel conditions during their journey across the land bridge from Asia known as Beringia.

Archaeological evidence of human habitation of the Americas before Clovis include finds at Bluefish Caves, Yukon, Canada; Topper, South Carolina; Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Pennsylvania; the Buttermilk Creek Complex in Texas; Cactus Hill, Virginia; Saltville, Virginia; Connley Caves, Oregon; several finds in Alaska; and several more in Brazil, Chile and Colombia.

Catching Up: Drought In Ireland Reveals New Stonehenge-Like Site

From The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang:

Video shows newly discovered Stonehenge-like site, revealed by extreme drought 

By Matthew Cappucci
July 13, 2018

Anthony Murphy and Ken Williams were flying a drone over the Boyne Valley in Ireland on Tuesday afternoon when they spotted something interesting. Their video depicts what appears to be the footprint of nearly 50 large wood formations. Oriented much like Stonehenge, the discovery is in line with other large monuments in the area known to have been constructed around 5,000 years ago.
(Please go to actual article to view the video clip)
Murphy said he has flown his drone on numerous occasions over the same parcel of land, but this was the first time he saw the site, which looks like a giant crop circle.
“The weather is absolutely critical to the discovery of this monument,” Murphy said, according to the Irish Times. “I have flown a drone over the Boyne Valley regularly and have never seen this.”
The newly discovered ancient site is close to the 5,000-year-old Newgrange neolithic passage tomb.

Murphy said he and Williams notified the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It has yet to decide what to do next about the curious find, the Irish Times reports:
The National Monuments Service will now be doing some further technical work to help determine the nature of the site, but from the drone images visible on social media, it is a very significant find which fits within the knowledge of large prehistoric ritual enclosures and associated ritual landscapes as at Bru na Boinne.
According to Met Eireann, Ireland’s meteorological service, northeast Ireland has been in drought for around a month, following a very wet spring. No rain has fallen so far in July in Dunsany, the observing site 10 miles south-southwest of Newgrange where the discovery was made.

Last month, only 1.18 centimeters came down, and during May, a mere 3.32 centimeters. In just the past two months, the region has been running about 70 percent below where it should be. Couple this with warmer-than-normal temperatures, and it’s easy to see why all grass and vegetation has largely browned and dried out.
One characteristic of the large structures is their tendency to change the composition of the surrounding soil. The wood inevitably decayed and fertilized the soil in the process. The nutrients from the wood are great for vegetation and even help the soil retain more water, which is why these areas are greener than their surroundings. The region got plenty of rain in the spring, and the super-fertile soil is hanging on to that moisture.
If the remarkable find hadn’t been caught when it was, we might not have known about it for many years to come. The stretch of hot and dry weather facing the region is about to come to an end as remnants of Hurricane Chris ride the jet stream toward Ireland and Britain. Weather Advisories — “status yellow” — have been issued for the resulting rainfall approaching in the days ahead.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the newly-discovered henge site was originally made of stone. It was actually made of wood.

Catching Up: Menstrual Pads Can't Fix Prejudice (or Male Fear of Blood from a Woman's Womb)

From The New York Times Opinion Page

Menstrual Pads Can't Fix Prejudice

Chris Bobel*
March 31, 2018

The period is finally having its moment.

In the last decade, the difficulties women and girls across the globe face during menstruation have inspired a raft of grass-roots campaigns. “Period poverty” activists seek to make menstrual products more affordable and available. International agencies like Plan InternationalWater AidU.N. Women and Unicef are supporting menstrual hygiene programs in dozens of countries. Access to safe, accessible bathrooms and materials to manage menstruation is now recognized as a human rights issue that involves many other areas of development, like clean water, education and gender equality.

These shifts are certainly heartening. For centuries, around the world, menstruation has been treated as a source of shame, rather than as a normal, healthy part of women’s lives. Initiatives to “make menstruation matter” are both welcome and overdue.

Why, then, after years studying these efforts, do I feel ambivalent? Because too many of them have opted to focus on providing women with new products, failing to substantively fight the core problem surrounding menstruation: cultural stigma.

Consider the humble piece of cloth. Many Westerners are horrified to learn that repurposed cloth is commonly used by women in poor countries to manage their periods. Yet cloth is absorbent, readily available, cheap and sustainable. Folded or cut to size, changed as necessary and properly washed and dried, it can be sanitary and effective.

Still, many programs are hustling to replace this traditional method with commercial products. In addition to the nongovernmental organizations that make products their priority, start-ups are seeding microbusinesses in which, say, Rwandan, Indian and Ugandan women make and sell pads. Such an approach falls under the category of a “technological fix”: a seemingly simple solution to what is, in reality, a complex problem.

Such interventions can be helpful, and in some circumstances even necessary, but they fail to address the root issues. No menstrual product is effective for a schoolgirl who lacks access to a clean, secure toilet, as is the case in many poor countries. Stigma about menstruation often undermines proper use, and a woman’s fear of inadvertently revealing she is menstruating remains a distraction and a burden.

These fears and stigmas are prevalent in the rich world, too. As the historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg has shown, in the United States at the turn of the century, menstruation became increasingly medicalized: Doctors, who were mostly men, and increasingly viewed as experts, coached mothers to socialize their daughters to keep tidy and discreet. Menarche, the first menstrual period, was effectively reduced from a sign of womanhood to a “hygienic crisis."

Even now, American girls are socialized to see menstruation, and more generally, their bodies, as problems to be solved through use of the “right” products. Today, we are exporting this view around the world.

Catching Up: Artifact Depicting Pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut Discovered in UK University in Storage!

By James Rogers, Fox News
March 26, 2018

A rare ancient artifact depicting the famous female pharaoh Hatshepsut has surfaced in the U.K., stunning experts. 

The front of the artifact
The front of the artifact (The Egypt Centre, Swansea University)

Consisting of two limestone fragments that have been glued together, the artifact had been in storage for 20 years before it was chosen for an object handling session by students of Swansea University in Wales. While the artwork was being analyzed by the students, Swansea University Egyptology lecturer Dr. Ken Griffin noticed something unusual.

Griffin recognized the artwork’s iconography as being similar to carvings within the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri in Luxor, Egypt. The front of the artifact depicts the head of a figure whose face is missing, with the remains of a fan. A uraeus, or cobra, is depicted on the figure’s forehead and hieroglyphics can also be seen above her head.

The decoration of the fan, the figure’s hair, the uraeus and her headband are all similar to images found at Deir el-Bahri. The hieroglyphs, which use a female pronoun, are also found in text at the temple.

The unusual artifact, which is held in Swansea University’s Egypt Centre, thrilled Griffin and his students.

Hatshepsut, who reigned from about 1478 B.C. to 1458 B.C., is one of only a handful of female pharaohs. “Early in her reign she was represented as a female wearing a long dress, but she gradually took on more masculine traits, including being depicted with a beard,” explained Swansea University, in its statement.

The University obtained the artwork in 1971 with other artifacts that once belonged to the pharmaceutical mogul Sir Henry Wellcome.

The head of a man with a short beard is depicted on the rear of the mysterious fragment. “Initially there was no explanation for this, but it is now clear that the upper fragment had been removed and recarved in more recent times in order to complete the face of the lower fragment,” explained Swansea University, in its statement. “The replacement of the fragment below the figure would also explain the unusual cut of the upper fragment."

The recent work on the fragment’s rear may have been done by an antiques dealer, auctioneer, or previous owner to increase the piece’s value or attractiveness, the University added.

Experts think that the artifact came from Deir el-Bahri but more research is needed to confirm this.

Catching Up: Museum Displays Parity of Women in Ancient Egypt

I have tons of older "saves" to post, let's see how far I get today!  First up:

Museum displays parity of women in ancient Egypt

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