News Roundup- Atlantis! Hobbits! Destruction!

It’s been a very busy few weeks, and so it’s been a while since the last bit of news. This means that there’s a lot to talk about!

First off, a quick mention of the Seeing, Thinking, Doing session at TAG 2013 last week. As always at TAG there were some interesting talks, but the one I want to mention was by a team from Centre of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology at the University of California. They talked about 3D imaging techniques which they had used to create a complete 3D record of a Roman copper mine which was going to be destroyed by development. The aim here was to allow people to study the site after it no longer existed. What is interesting here, is that one day, it may have the potential to impact the heritage policies which I talked about last time.

Next up, Atlantis has been found! Well the ‘British Atlantis’. Well I say found, they’ve done a survey of it. Here we have another example of over hyping a piece of news with an archaeological cliché, this time it’s Atlantis rather than Pompeii. A team from Southampton University and Wessex Archaeology surveyed the once thriving Medieval port Dunwich, Suffolk. This town was once the size of 14th century London, but when in 1286 a huge storm washed much of the town into the sea and silted up the Dunwich River its decline began. This survey, using sonar type technology, has revealed quite a lot about the town, such as confirming the size of its urban centre as 1.8 km² and the presence of a central defensive earthwork. For more information head over to http://www.dunwich.org.uk/ to check out the report.

Interestingly I came across an old story this week about the discovery of the ‘Chinese Atlantis’. Founded about 1,300 years ago Shi Cheng, has only been submerged for 53 years, after a dam was built and the valley it is located in was flooded. Supposedly the city has been dubbed by archaeologists as a “time capsule” with parts of the city, protected from the wind, rain and sun, remaining as they were thousands of years ago. Now given that this site was still above ground a little over 50 years ago, that few if any of the extant structures would have been built when the town was founded and of course that the site isn’t even 2000 years old, this claim is a bit ridiculous. The most interesting thing about this story though was the amazing photography. Go check out the shiny things!

http://www.lovethesepics.com/2012/06/lost-underwater-lion-city-rediscovery-of-chinas-atlantis/

Amazing carving at Shi Cheng (Chinese National Geography)

A very interesting story covered in this weeks New Scientist is the dating of some Homo erectus bones found in Dmanisi, Georgia in 2011 to 1.85 million years ago. Given that the earliest Homo erectus bones in East Africa are dated to 1.87 million years ago, this raises the possibility that Homo erectus did not in fact evolve in Africa (PNAS Vol. 108 pg 10432). What makes this especially interesting is the existence of Homo floresiensis (often called the hobbits), a species found only on the island of Flores, which died out a mere 18,000 years ago. Now Homo floresiensis is an interesting case, since whilst it has some more recent features associated with hominins such as Homo erectus or Homo sapiens, they also have a number of archaic features found only in australopiths, which died out or evolved into the Homo genus and never left Africa (Journal of Human Evolution Vol. 57 pg 538). Given that this is the case these features have always been a puzzle. The Dmanisi bones raise the possibility that, perhaps, some australopiths did spread out across the world, and that Homo erectus in fact evolved in Europe and then migrated back in to Africa, and that Homo floresiensis evolved elsewhere from these migrating australopiths. Only time will tell if even earlier examples of Homo erectus, and perhaps australopiths are to be found outside Africa. This is certainly a story to keep your eye on.

Finally, we have some rather sad and shocking news that in Belize the Noh Mul temple, a 2,300 year old Mayan pyramid which is one of the largest in the country, has been illegally destroyed by a construction company to create gravel for use in roads. The owner of D-Mar Construction, the firm responsible, has denied any knowledge of the work, but the company is currently being investigated with the possibility of criminal charges being brought against them. Even more unfortunately this is not the first case of this happening, this type of problem is endemic in Belize. The destruction of this site is a major loss, and it saddens me to see personal greed having an impact on heritage at such a large scale.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22521669

That’s it for this week, check back soon for more news and reviews, and as always, if you see something interesting please let me know.

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