If you have the winter-time blahs and think you might feel a little cooped up this weekend you are invited to the first annual Digging the PastArchaeology Day from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm this Saturday January 22nd at the Campus Martius Museum in beautiful and historic Marietta Ohio. The museum is built on the site of Campus Martius, the original fortified settlement at Marietta constructed in 1787 by Rufus Putnam, Manasseh Cutler and the other settlers from New England. Marietta would go on to become the first permanent town in the old Northwest Territory. It is also home to some of the best preserved prehistoric earthworks in Ohio. So there is plenty to do at the museum and see in town to make the trip worthwhile. Digging the Past will include displays, lectures artifact identification and flint knapping. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for students. It’s free for OHS members (a good reason to join) and for children under 5. For further information call the Campus Martius Museum at 1-800-860-0145
A spectacular haul of ancient flint tools has been recovered from a beach in Norfolk, pushing back the date of the first known human occupation of Britain by up to 250,000 years.<>
From the Guardian UK While digging along the north-east coast of East Anglia near the village of Happisburgh, archaeologists discovered 78 pieces of razor-sharp flint shaped into primitive cutting and piercing tools. The stone tools were unearthed from sediments that are thought to have been laid down either 840,000 or 950,000 years ago, making them the oldest human artefacts ever found in Britain. The flints were probably left by hunter-gatherers of the human species Homo antecessor who eked out a living on the flood plains and marshes that bordered an ancient course of the river Thames that has long since dried up. The flints were then washed downriver and came to rest at the Happisburgh site.The early Britons would have lived alongside hyenas, primitive horses, red deer and southern mammoths in a climate similar to that of southern Britain today, though winters were typically a few degrees colder. "These tools from Happisburgh are absolutely mint-fresh. They are exceptionally sharp, which suggests they have not moved far from where they were dropped," said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. The population of Britain at the time most likely numbered in the hundreds or a few thousand at most. "These people probably used the rivers as routes into the landscape. A lot of Britain might have been heavily forested at the time, which would have posed a major problem for humans without strong axes to chop trees down," Stringer added. "They lived out in the open, but we don't know if they had basic clothing, were building primitive shelters, or even had the use of fire."
The discovery, reported in the journal Nature, overturns the long-held belief that early humans steered clear of chilly Britain – and the rest of northern Europe – in favour of the more hospitable climate of the Mediterranean. The only human species known to be living in Europe at the time is Homo antecessor, or "pioneer man", whose remains were discovered in the Atapuerca hills of Spain in 2008 and have been dated to between 1.1m and 1.2m years old. The early settlers would have walked into Britain across an ancient land bridge that once divided the North Sea from the Atlantic and connected the country to what is now mainland Europe. The first humans probably arrived during a warm interglacial period, but may have retreated as temperatures plummeted in subsequent ice ages.Until now, the earliest evidence of humans in Britain came from Pakefield, near Lowestoft in Suffolk, where a set of stone tools dated to 700,000 years ago were uncovered in 2005. More sophisticated stone, antler and bone tools were found in the 1990s in Boxgrove, Sussex, which are believed to be half a million years old. "The flint tools from Happisburgh are relatively crude compared with those from Boxgrove, but they are still effective," said Stringer. Early stone tools were fashioned by using a pebble to knock large flakes off a chunk of flint. Later humans used wood and antler hammers to remove much smaller flakes and so make more refined cutting and sawing edges. The great migration from Africa saw early humans reach Europe around 1.8m years ago. Within 500,000 years, humans had become established in the Mediterranean region. Remains have been found at several archaeological sites in Spain, southern France and Italy.
In an accompanying article in Nature, Andrew Roberts and Rainer Grün at the Australian National University in Canberra, write: "Until the Happisburgh site was found and described, it was thought that these early humans were reluctant to live in the less hospitable climate of northern Europe, which frequently fell into the grip of severe ice ages." Researchers led by the Natural History Museum and British Museum in London began excavating sites near Happisburgh in 2001 as part of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project and soon discovered tools from the stone age beneath ice-age deposits. So far, though, they have found no remains of the ancient people who made them. "This would be the 'holy grail' of our work," said Stringer. "The humans who made the Happisburgh tools may well have been related to the people of similar antiquity from Atapuerca in Spain, assigned to the species Homo antecessor, or 'pioneer man'."
The latest haul of stone tools was buried in sediments that record a period of history when the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field was reversed. At the time, a compass needle would have pointed south instead of north. The last time this happened was 780,000 years ago, so the tools are at least that old. Analysis of ancient vegetation and pollen in the sediments has revealed that the climate was warm but cooling towards an ice age, which points to two possible times in history, around 840,000 years ago, or 950,000 years ago. Both dates are consistent with the fossilized remains of animals recovered from the same site.
"Britain was getting cooler and going into an ice age, but these early humans were hanging in there. They may have been the remnants of an ancient population that either died out or migrated back across the land bridge to a warmer climate," said Stringer.
"Secrets of the Valley: prehistory of the Kanawha" is a new video produced by the Paradise Film Institute at West Virginia State University and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is based on the archaeological research conducted for the Marmet Lock Replacement Project in Belle, West Virginia, by the US Army Corps of Engineers. This research constituted the most extensive professional excavation in the history of the Kanawha Valley and the video, which premiered on October 14, 2010, is a short (28 minutes), but effective summary of the prehistory of the valley and how archaeologists have learned what we know about it. It is a terrific resource for learning about the archaeology of the region.
The video was created by the award-winning team that produced “Red Salt and Reynolds” and “Ghosts of Green Bottom,” both of which deal with the historical archaeology of the Kanawha Valley. “Secrets of the Valley” is the final installment in the historic trilogy.
The DVD is available for $12 plus $3.00 shipping from the West Virginia Archeological Society (P.O. Box 300, Hurricane, WV 25526). It also is available for purchase at the Grave Creek Mound museum.
The two previous films are available to watch on the Archaeology Channel website: http://www.archaeologychannel.org/
The Ohio Historical Society museum collections consist of approximately 1,600,000 objects divided into three broad categories: archaeology, natural history, and history. The collections support the Society's mission to preserve and encourage the study of all aspects of history related to Ohio and its cultural and natural environments. These artifacts also support exhibit and educational services programs that interpret Ohio's unique heritage to the statewide, national and international visitors.
Now you can support the ongoing mission of the Ohio Historical Society by “adopting” one of your own favorite artifacts. Delight a friend or loved one by adopting an artifact in his or her honor or show your pride in Ohio’s history by adopting one for yourself.
What do you get when you Adopt an Artifact?
When you adopt an artifact at the Ohio Historical Society we will send you (or the recipient of your choice) an electronic adoption packet which contains: a personalized certificate of adoption, a fact sheet with a photograph and information about the significance of your artifact, and free admission to the museum on “Adopt an Artifact” day!
School groups can also “adopt” an artifact and continue learning about its wonder back in the classroom.
All “adoptions” will be for the period of one year from the time of adoption.
What artifacts are available to adopt?
The staff of OHS want to share our excitement of launching the Adopt an Artifact program with Conway the Mastodon, one of the largest artifacts on display at the Ohio Historical Center. More objects will be added throughout the year.
What is the cost to Adopt an Artifact?
Levels of adoption begin at $35. Physical adoption packets can be requested for an additional processing fee.
(COLUMBUS, OHIO)-How do you move a 10,000-plus-year-old mastodon skeleton?
“There’s just one way,” said Bob Glotzhober, senior curator of natural history at the Ohio Historical Society. “Very carefully.”
During the first week of January 2011, the Conway Mastodon, an iconic exhibit at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus, will be disassembled and turned to a new position, then reassembled. The move is in preparation for renovation of the center’s entrance scheduled to begin in February.
Thursday Jan. 6, through Saturday, Jan. 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors will have the rare opportunity to see all the action as a team from the Ohio Historical Society and Ohio State University meticulously moves the 10-foot-tall mastodon skeleton and other ice-age animal bones on display. The last time the mastodon was moved was in 1993 for the opening of the center’s natural history exhibit The Nature of Ohio.
In 1887, Newton S. Conway unearthed what became the largest and most complete mastodon skeleton discovered up to that time from a swamp on his farm on the Clark-Champaign County line. The Conway Mastodon was an immediate sensation and made the rounds of several county fairs. The skeleton was eventually donated to Ohio State University and was on display in Orton Hall for 25 years. In 1970, when the Ohio Historical Center opened, the university loaned the Conway Mastodon to the Ohio Historical Society. It been greeting visitors to the society’s natural history exhibit area ever since.
About 70 percent of the skeleton is complete. The mastodon’s enormous tusks, weighing more than a hundred pounds each, were deemed too heavy and were replaced with lightweight, fiberglass replicas. The real tusks now lie at its feet.
Mastodons were distant relatives of modern elephants and lived during Ohio’s last ice age about 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. They were covered in heavy, shaggy, brown fur and lived on a vegetarian diet. Because mastodon bones have been found all across the state, it is thought that mastodons were once relatively common and that their meat provided a good foodstuff for prehistoric hunters.
Learn about this impressive creature who lived in the Pleistocene Epoch and what Ohio was like during the ice age. You’ll find out answers to questions like why did mastodons go extinct? Or what’s the difference between a mastodon and a woolly mammoth?
Visitors will be able to touch mastodon bones used in our educational programs. Other Pleistocene-era bones will be on display, such as stag moose, the Farrington Mastodon and giant beaver skulls. In addition, they explore The Nature of Ohio exhibit can with its five themes of Ohio’s natural history: plants, animals, geology, geography and climate.
“No bones about it, visitors to the museum will see what it takes to move a skeleton this large and this old,” Glotzhober said. “Plus they’ll learn a lot about mastodons and other animals that lived in Ohio during the ice age.”
The mastodon exhibit is so popular it has its own Facebook page. Conway the Mastodon will be posting his musings as well as information about mastodons and the ice age in general plus other happenings at the museum.
Those who are unable to visit the Ohio Historical Center to watch the disassembly and reassembly of the mastodon skeleton in person can follow the move online in real-time at www.ohiohistory.org/conway.
The Ohio Historical Center, located at I-71 and 17th Avenue in Columbus, is open Thursdays 10 a.m.–7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Admission is $8/adults, $7/seniors, $4/youth (6-12) and free for children age 5 and under and Ohio Historical Society members. For more information, call 800.686.6124 or visit us at www.ohiohistory.org.
Located near Evansville, Ind., the Mann Hopewell Site (above) boasts around 20 mounds built by the Hopewell Tradition, a way of life that flourished in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. nearly 2,000 years ago. The following was part of an NPR broadcast on January 3, 2011. The complete broadcast can be downloaded at NPR.org
Micah Schweitzer for NPR
It's 1988. Workers building a road in Mt. Vernon, Ind. damage an ancient burial mound, causing a treasure trove of silver and copper to pour from the ground. A bulldozer operator decides to grab some of the treasure. He ends up in prison for looting. It sounds like the plot of an Indiana Jones film, only it's not a movie. The treasure belonged to a mysterious and advanced culture that flourished in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. nearly 2,000 years ago. Because it predates the written record, this prehistoric culture doesn't have a Native American name but in the 1800s, archaeologists dubbed it the Hopewell Tradition. Clay figurines (right) discovered on the Mann Hopewell Site show faces with slanted eyes, which were not a Hopewell feature. Some believe the figurines show a connection between Indiana and Central or South America.
An exhibit of artifacts from the Hopewell site, curated by the Indiana State Museum and on display at the Angel Mounds State Historic Site in Evansville, Ind. through Jan. 14, is raising some fresh questions about these ancient Americans.
The Treasure In The Fields Just a few miles away from where the road workers first discovered their treasure lie fields of cornstalk stubble and gently rolling hills. But they're more than just hills. "What you're seeing here is a complex of earthen structures that were very purposefully and very specifically built along this cultural landscape," says Michele Greenan, an archaeologist and curator at the Indiana State Museum. "There's a number of mounds here — probably 20, maybe even more mounds, earthen architectural features that were built for different purposes," like ceremonies or burial, she says. The fields are called the Mann Hopewell Site, after the farmer who owned their sprawling 500 acres. Two of site's earthen structures are among the biggest mounds built anywhere by the Hopewell, which was not a tribe so much as a way of life that flourished in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. between about A.D. 100 and 500. 'It's Like Vegas ... For Archaeologists' Amateur archaeologist Charlie Lacer began walking the Mann fields in the 1950s, collecting what he found along the way. "You could find stuff that you could not find [on] any other site around here," Lacer says. "I mean, there [were] just tons of materials there. You couldn't pick up everything you saw — you had to be kind of selective, particularly if you were carrying this stuff in your pockets." Lacer managed to stuff a lot into his pockets — 40,000 artifacts that he donated to the Indiana State Museum two years ago. Four hundred of those pieces are now on display in nearby Evansville for the first time ever. The exhibition is titled Cherished Possessions: The Mann Hopewell Legacy of Indiana. It was nearly called Indiana's Egypt, but the attempt at archaeology a la Indiana Jones lost out to historical precision. Still, it's almost-name does give a sense of the Mann Hopewell Site's importance.
The discovery of incisor teeth (above) from grizzly bears, which are not native to Indiana, shows that Hopewell residents of the Mann Hopewell Site had contact with the North American West, where grizzly bears are more common.
"It's like Vegas ... for archaeologists," says Mike Linderman, who manages state historic sites in western Indiana. Linderman says the Mann Hopewell Site is bigger than its more famous Hopewell counterparts in Ohio, and it's filled with even more exotic materials, like obsidian glass that has been traced to the Yellowstone Valley in Wyoming, and grizzly bear incisor teeth. "Grizzly bears obviously are not from Indiana, never have been," Linderman says. "There's a theory out there now that instead of being trade items, these items [were] actually being collected by the people from Mann Site on rite-of-passage trips they [were] taking out to the West. You know, it's something big if you've killed a grizzly bear and you can bring its teeth back to Indiana." Jaguars and panthers aren't from Indiana, either, but they show up at the Mann Hopewell Site as beautifully detailed carvings. Put them together with clay figurines that have slanted eyes — not a Hopewell feature — and Linderman says we could be looking at a connection between Indiana and Central or South America.
Digging Deep For Clues And that just scratches the surface, so to speak. In 2006, researcher Staffan Peterson did the archaeological version of an MRI scan on 100 acres at the site. Whenever his equipment detected an archaeological feature, a dot showed up on a map. "Every day, we'd download our data and our jaws would drop," Peterson says. "It was kind of like buckshot, there were so many. And we were able to map out upwards of 8,000 archaeological features." Two of the most notable features are what Peterson calls "wood henges" — like Stonehenge, but made of wooden posts — which he believes may be one of a kind in the U.S. But there may be an even more remarkable discovery — one that could rewrite history books. Linderman says scientists are starting tests on what looks like evidence of lead smelting, a practice that, until now, was only seen in North America after the arrival of the French, 1,000 years after the Hopewell Tradition. Lead smelting is just one of the many questions archaeologists will be targeting in upcoming digs that they hope will clear up at least a few of the Mann Hopewell Site's — and American prehistory's — mysteries. "It's a sleeping giant," says museum curator Greenan, "and it's going to take its place as one of the most important archaeological sites in North America."
Ohio Archaeology: an illustrated chronicle of Ohio's ancient American Indian cultures -- winner of the Society for American Archaeology's Public Audience Book Award! Click on the image for more information.