19-20 JUILLET 2014 NEWS: Ciur-Izbuc Cave - Fort Missoula - Lake George - Texas - Zeugma - Lufton -
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FALL TERM : OCTOBER 2014
ROUMANIE – Ciur-Izbuc Cave - 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. Analyses of 51 footprints that remain — cave explorers and tourists have destroyed the rest — indicate that six or seven individuals, including at least one child, entered the cave after a flood had coated its floor with sandy mud, the researchers reportJuly 7 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Published ages for other H. sapiens footprints in Europe and elsewhere go back no more than 33,000 years. At a 2011 conference, scientists said that H. sapiens tracks at Tanzania’s Engare Sero site were 120,000 years old. Those findings have not been published yet, suggesting to Webb a problem with dating or footprint authenticity. Nearly 1-million-year-old footprints of modern human ancestors were recently documented at a British site.
USA – Fort Missoula - In the summer of 1888, four companies with the U.S. Army left their post in the Dakota Territory and headed west to Missoula. The arrival of the 25th Infantry at Fort Missoula – itself established in 1877 during the Indian Wars – placed the soldiers far away from the South. It was an added bonus to military life given one basic fact: The unit’s 220 members were African-American. More than 125 years later, a team of archaeologists and students from the University of Montana hunkered down in a mosquito-infested field near the decommissioned fort. Under the drum of summer heat, they scratched away soil revealing military trash from the late 19th century. But one person’s trash has become an archaeological gold mine, and excitement at the dig is palpable. The items discovered thus far could help researchers better understand the life of black soldiers in the American West in the 1880s and ’90s. A handful of artifacts uncovered during a test in 2013 have already shown promise, including a hair tonic bottle and a helmet spike matching the regalia worn by the 25th Infantry. Work carried out this summer also has revealed surprises about life at the fort. Rotting shoes may help determine foot size and wear. A broken mustache cup suggests an atmosphere of sophistication and gentility. Toy fragments found at the site also suggest that some of the men had wives and children at the fort. Fragments of old champagne bottles have turned up as well, along with stemware and elegant dinnerware, including fragments of decorative purple transfer-print vessels. Swartz also noted the number of bones peeking from the soil. They are large, most likely bovine, though some members of the crew have compared them with bison. The bones are abundant, indicating a stable diet of fresh meat.
USA – Lake George -Starbuck and his team of two dozen students and volunteers began excavations two weeks ago in a section of Lake George Battlefield Park, located on rising ground overlooking the southern end of the 32-mile lake. New York state has owned the park since the late 1890s, a fact that Starbuck credits with protecting the site from commercial development and intrusion by treasure hunters.The village of Lake George has yielded troves of artifacts over the decades. Starting with the French and Indian War (1755-63) and continuing through the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, tens of thousands of American, British, French and Indians encamped here during various military campaigns aimed at controlling the waterways connecting the upper Hudson River and Canada. Battles were fought and forts were destroyed or abandoned; the material traces of all that activity are still being uncovered. Many of the discoveries have been made at the battlefield park, one of the most significant 18th-century military sites in the region. It was the site of the Battle of Lake George, fought on Sept. 8, 1755, between British Colonial troops and their Mohawk allies and a force of French and Indians. After an ambush that killed scores of New England militiamen, the Colonials — their backs to the lake and only a single British officer among their leaders — successfully fought off the ensuing enemy attack. Two years later, the same site was home to a large encampment of British and Colonial troops during the French siege of nearby Fort William Henry. After the British surrendered the fort to the French, they began the 15-mile retreat to Fort Edward from the encampment, only to be attacked by the Indians allied to France. About 200 are believed to have been killed in what became known as the massacre of Fort William Henry, though historians believe most of the atrocities occurred just outside the encampment. Starbuck said he hopes to uncover evidence of the 1755 battle and the so-called entrenched camp that played a role in the siege and massacre that inspired James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans."
USA – Texas - The recovered remains of a ship belonging to the famed French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle, which sank off the Texas coast more than three centuries ago, were launched on their final journey Thursday. The keel and other large structural pieces of La Belle, which have been preserved in a gigantic freeze-dryer at Texas A&M since 2012, were gingerly loaded onto a flatbed truck for the 85-mile trip to the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, the last stop in a voyage that began in 1685 with La Salle’s ill-fated expedition to find the mouth of the Mississippi River. “It’s part of Texas and Texas history,” said Peter Fix, assistant director of the university’s Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation. “This is how we learn who we are and where we came from.” The 54-1/2-foot-long supply ship was built in 1684 and sank two years later during a storm in the Gulf of Mexico’s Matagorda Bay, the first in a series of events that dashed France’s hopes of colonizing a piece of the New World now known as Texas. Texas Historical Commission archaeologists found the shipwreck in 1995 in 12 feet of murky water, built a dam around the site and pumped it dry. Researchers dug through up to 6 feet of mud to retrieve the nearly intact hull and some 700,000 items, including three cases of rifles, plus other guns, swords, a cannon and ammunition, and beads and mirrors intended for trade and tool chests containing hammers and saws. “There are pretty cool things that came out of this wreck,” Fix said. “But the key issue is we get to learn and hopefully inspire more discovery.” Archaeologists also found a skeleton, believed to be the remains of a crew member or settler among the 40 or so people aboard. The mud that covered the hull prevented its destruction by salt water and wood-eating mollusks, worms or bacteria, said Donny Hamilton, director of the Conservation Research Laboratory.In the summer of 2012, the ship pieces were taken to the Texas A&M lab where the water-logged European oak wood was stored at 60 degrees below zero in the world’s largest archaeological freeze dryer to safely remove more than 300 years of moisture and keep the wood solid. It’s among nearly 400 pieces of wood marked at the wreck site. Breakage during recovery pushed that total to more than 600. “We have to piece them back together,” Fix said. “It’s a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of what was 23,000 pounds of waterlogged wood in the remaining shape of a ship.” The challenge Thursday was to brace the delicate pieces with wood frames and foam, rest them on an aluminum platform and limit any abrasion and flexing during the two-hour-long ride to Austin at speeds up to 60 mph. The actual reconstruction is to begin this fall and will be completed next May.
TURQUIE – Zeugma - A campaign to retrieve missing pieces of the Gypsy Girl mosaic from the ancient city of Zeugma, currently on display at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University in the U.S., has been initiated by the website change.org. So far the website has collected over 8,000 signatures with the aim of receiving 10,000. Pieces of the mosaics were smuggled in the 1960s during illegal excavations at the ancient city, which is located in the southeastern province of Gaziantep’s Nizip district, and bought by the university from a Manhattan art gallery in 1965 for $35,000. Gaziantep Provincial Culture Director Ergun Özuslu said that preparations for return of 15 smuggled pieces had been continuing through a campaign by the website change.org. “A campaign has been initiated for the return of the mosaics to Turkey by the website change.org and 10,000 signatures are needed [to achieve our goal]. After the campaign reaches its goal, the Culture and Tourism Ministry will officially apply for the return of the mosaics back to Gaziantep,” Özuslu said. Özuslu added that a report by Professor Kutalmış Görkay and Dr. Stephanie Hooper had confirmed that the pieces originated from the ancient site of Zeugma. The mosaics are currently now on display on the walls of the Eva Marie Saint Art Theater at the Wolfe Center for the Arts.
ROYAUME UNI – Lufton - Ancient pottery has already been discovered in the first day of an archaeological dig which launched in Yeovil on Monday.The area focuses on land south to where a late Roman villa – dating from between AD250 to 400 – was excavated by Leonard Hayward in the 1950s and 1960s. And a study indicated the presence of an Iron Age settlement which pre-dates the villa. The project was launched five years ago and it is the third year a dig has taken place. Mr Gerrard hoped he could learn more about the Romans in the town where he grew up and the history of the deserted medieval settlement at Lufton. He said: “We are looking for medieval settlements from the tenth to 15th century AD. Everyone is very keen to get to work and we’ve already discovered medieval pottery and we are hopefully it is going to be a productive excavation.” Last year, the project unearthed cremated remains which were thought to be human. During the three-week dig, the team discovered Roman and Iron Age pottery, including a rare pot possibly used in cheese-making during the Iron Age. Stone tools dating back to Neolithic times were also discovered.