Archaeology of the invisible: how proteins and carbon isotopes help to reconstruct the human past

Dr. Helen Fewlass is an archaeological scientist in the Ancient Genomics Lab at the Francis Crick Institute in London, UK. As an EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization) Postdoctoral Fellow at the Crick, she studies proteins in ancient bones and fossils to tell how old they are and to investigate the process of human evolution. She is now collaborating with the researchers of the Faculty of Archaeology of the University of Warsaw in many scientific projects which involve radiocarbon dates and their interpretation. Archeowieści reached out to her for a little interview about her job and the connection of her field of expertise with the archaeological world. Continue reading “Archaeology of the invisible: how proteins and carbon isotopes help to reconstruct the human past”

The Impact of Metal Object Recording Strategies at Mycenae in 1939

Metal objects from Mycenae are some of the most famous in the archaeological world. Homer memorably described Agamemnon’s Mycenae as “rich in gold”, proven accurate in 1876 when Henrich Schliemann uncovered tombs filled with astonishing gold artefacts, amongst many other valuable treasures.

Trudging through field notes kept in an obscure archaeological notebook for the 1939 archaeological excavations at Mycenae led to an unexpected discovery: a cache of metal artefacts from a rubbish pit near the monumental Treasury of Atreus tomb, the so-called “Atreus bothros”. Yet the objects are unpublished and almost all are missing from the official finds catalogue! What happened to them? The mystery could only be solved by travelling back to 1939…

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Of three vessels which caused a lot of confusion

Deposit of Lusatian culture vessels in Ciasna Cave
Photo: M. Bogacki, drawing: G. Czajka, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence

I opened the first box with fragments of pottery vessels. I took out, one by one, the artefacts kept in paper bags bearing still visible, but already faint labels written by professor Chmielewski nearly a quarter of a century earlier. I looked at the fragments and then had an idea!

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Bioarchaeology of the Near East: volume 16 is now available online

The most recent volume of Bioarchaeology of the Near East contains three regular papers. Grigoria Ioannou and Kirsi O. Lorenz present a systematic review of the history and current state of research on bioarchaeology in Cyprus. Yossi Nagar and colleagues discuss the discovery of a disarticulated male skeleton found in a cave in the Judean desert and dated to the Early Chalcolithic. Finally, Stephen Haines and colleagues present two cases of concha bullosa, a relatively rare non-metric trait occurring in the nasal conchae and identified in two females from 20th-century Cyprus.

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A child who turned out to be 7000 years younger

©Photo: Miron Bogacki, drawing: Grzegorz Czajka, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence

“It was a paper envelope with bones inside” – remembers one professor when we ask him about child bones from Bramka Rockshelter. “It was somewhere among documents in professor Chmielewski’s office”. The office was closed after his death. I hold the documentation in hands, but the envelope is missing. This is how the story began.

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Bramka Rockshelter – what the last European hunters did in a cave

The microlithic triangle unearthed in Bramka Rock Shelter functioned as an element of hunting weapons. Its length does not exceed 10 millimetres
© M. Kot, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence

I turn a tiny flint fragment in my hands. I can see that one of its sides was very accurately shaped with small percussions in order to make a triangular tool. It is slightly more than a centimetre long. I need to use a magnifying glass to see its details. Who made it? When? Was it made by the last European hunters? Why did they leave it in a cave?

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Polish computer application in archaeology

From April 2nd to April 6th, 2023, the 50th International Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology was held in Amsterdam. Polish archaeology was represented by a strong interdisciplinary group, which prepared two sessions and presented 10 presentations and 2 posters.

Photogrammetric model of a barrow during excavation with markings showing the location of various monuments
by J. Stępnik

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Of a potter and his kiln

Garncarskie Rockshelter, Sąspowska Valley
©M. Bogacki, na licencji CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

You thought only cavemen lived in caves? What about a 19th-century potter?

Today, the people who take a walk in the Sąspowska Valley in the heart of Ojców National Park find it difficult to believe that just 100-200 years ago there were more than ten farms scattered on both sides of the Sąspówka stream that wound on the bottom of the valley. One of the households was situated near the outlet of Jamki Gully, directly below vertical rocks that are more than 20 m high. This household is marked on a map of Western Galicia, drawn in 1801-1804 by the Austrian colonel Anton Mayer von Heldensfeld after the annexation of this territory by Austria-Hungary. There were three or four small structures on the right bank of the stream.

The rock is slightly concave in this place and it forms a relatively spacious shelter. On one side there is a slit in the rock that resembles a vertical chimney, which is not insignificant for our story.

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Discovery of Buddha statue from the 2nd century AD in Berenike on the Red Sea

The joint Polish-American archaeological mission working in the city of Berenike on the Red Sea (Egypt) has succeeded in uncovering a statue of the worshiped Buddha from the Roman era, during excavations in the city’s archaeological temple.

Buddha statue from Berenike
Source: Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Egypt

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Protection for Tungul: new, unique wall paintings discovered in Old Dongola, Sudan

Old Dongola (Tungul in Old Nubian) was the capital of Makuria, one of the most prominent medieval African states. Research in this city, initiated by Prof. Kazimierz Michałowski, has been providing groundbreaking results practically every year. Such was the case of the last excavation season of the Starting Grant project “UMMA – Urban Metamorphosis of the community of a Medieval African capital city” financed by the European Research Council and carried out by a team led by Dr. hab. Artur Obłuski from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw.

Archaeologists Dr. Lorenzo de Lellis and Dr. Maciej Wyżgoł unexpectedly stumbled upon an enigmatic complex of rooms made of sun-dried brick, the interiors of which were covered with figural scenes unique for Christian art. 

Scene with King David, fot. Adrian Chlebowski, PCMA

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