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Homo erectus leaving Africa a million years ago ought to have passed through the area that is now Turkey, and the authors report a first certain sighting of human activity of this date in a lignite quarry near Konya. The remains of rhino, hippo and horse were found with 135 modified quartz implements in layers dated by palaeomagnetic reversal to between 0.78 and 0.99 million years ago.
Stonehenge continues to surprise us. In this new study of the twentieth-century excavations, together with the precise radiocarbon dating that is now possible, the authors propose that the site started life in the early third millennium cal BC as a cremation cemetery within a circle of upright bluestones. Britain's most famous monument may therefore have been founded as the burial place of a leading family, possibly from Wales.
The Greater Cursus – 3km long and just north of Stonehenge – had been dated by a red deer antler found in its ditch in the 1940s to 2890-2460 BC. New excavations by the authors found another antler in a much tighter context, and dating a millennium earlier. It appears that the colossal cursus had already marked out the landscape before Stonehenge was erected. At that time or soon after, its lines were re-emphasised, perhaps with a row of posts in pits. So grows the subtlety of the discourse of monuments in this world heritage site.
Is a cemetery that has been robbed and pillaged for generations worthy of systematic research? It certainly is, given the application of a well conceived and executed project design. The authors show that the precise investigation of tomb architecture and identification of residual pottery can allow the detailed mapping of funerary practice over large areas of space and periods of time. Here they develop a narrative of increasing population and funerary investment through the Bronze Age in central north Cyprus. And having recorded 1286 pillaged tombs they call attention to the value of what still remains and the dangers that such monuments still face. The fact that a cemetery has been damaged is no reason to sacrifice it to the bulldozer.
The authors have provided some of Antiquity's most stunning frontispieces since we introduced them in 2006. We asked them to show how aerial archaeology has developed in Jordan over some 90 years, tell us about the techniques and approaches used and its potential here and in other desert and mountainous lands.
Early farming in northern China featured the cultivation of two species of millet, broomcorn and foxtail. Although previously seen as focused on the Yellow River, the authors show that the earliest agriculture is actually found in the foothills of the neighbouring mountain chains, where drier and better drained locations suited millet cultivation, particularly broomcorn. In this they echo new thoughts on the locale of early agriculture in south-west Asia, on the hilly flanks of the Fertile Crescent rather than in the valleys of the Nile or the Euphrates.
We are very pleased to present a summary account of the People's Republic of China's project on the Origins of Chinese Civilization. It has focused on Late Neolithic and early Bronze Age sites of the Central Plains – the cultural heartland of the first three dynasties of Xia, Shang and Zhou. Particularly notable is the emphasis of methodology which was driven almost entirely by the archaeological sciences.
The author notes that livestock herding in the Kalahari Desert would require water during the dry season. By mapping and dating artificially dug or enlarged waterholes, he shows when and where such herding would have been possible. Dating is by radiocarbon, artefact scatters and cartography. Comparison with climatic, documentary and oral evidence shows that the use of the artificial wells correlates with what is known so far about the movement of peoples over the last two millennia. This inspires confidence in the connection between the wells and herding and in the survey methods.
The authors offer a new chronological framework for prehistoric Southeast Asia, based mainly on the Bayesian modelling of 75 radiocarbon dates from well-stratified excavations at Ban Non Wat. The results are revolutionary. Neolithic practice now begins in the second millennium and hierarchical state-forming activity is dated to a ‘starburst’ around 1000 BC. The authors reflect on the social implications of the new model – and on the criteria for an ever stronger chronology.
In medieval Korea certain burials were sealed in concrete resulting in the exceptional preservation of organic materials, including, in this case, written documents. As well as studying changes in rank and ideology, archaeologists who investigate tombs are often moved to wonder about the character of the deceased, the thoughts of the mourners and their hopes and fears on the passing of a person dear to them. In this extraordinary burial from Korea, we hear these voices directly.
Highly mobile people must have sheltered in structures of some kind; but these are notoriously difficult to find. The author uses nineteenth-century photographs of an occupied Apache settlement to show how such shelters may have been made, comparing them with their archaeological remains in the present day. This suggests a ‘signature’ for the temporary shelters used by mobile groups in any period.
As noted by Geoffrey Chamberlain, the two baby girls found in Tutankhamen's tomb were probably his stillborn heirs. More controversially he suggested that they were twins, although one appeared to be larger than the other. Here new research on estimating the age of a fetus is shown to support the twin hypothesis, while recent work on Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome explains why they could be such different sizes.
This deconstruction of how Apulian red-figure pottery came to be termed Tarentine has implications for archaeological methodology far beyond the Mediterranean. The author shows how the assumptions of great authorities, themselves rooted in a colonial world, led to a highly resistant model of core and periphery for pottery production that may have no basis in fact. It is a fine example of the process that has left us with so many unsuitable and immovable names for material from Samian to Gothic.
You didn't need to be an archaeologist in 2008 to know that things were happening at Stonehenge. For years controversial plans to improve the Stonehenge environs (costed at £600m) had dominated media and much academic debate, but in November 2007 the British government announced that it couldn't afford them (Pitts 2008a). The plans were dropped (much cheaper changes are now being implemented to make Stonehenge look nice for the 2012 Olympics: English Heritage 2008). There are new broadcasts and press stories featuring the stones every year, but 2008 was different. As road protests diminished, real archaeologists took the stage.
In reply to Machin's criticism of Kohn and Mithen's (1999) 'Sexy Handaxe Theory' in a recent Antiquity debate (Machin 2008: 761-6), Mithen (2008: 766-9) states that sexual selection is still relevant to the symmetry of Acheulean handaxes because this provides the only theory that can account for the various features typical of such artefacts. This conclusion may be misconceived, however, due to the conflation of the various factors relating to symmetry, attractiveness, and health. Crucially, recent studies have not found a genetic link based on sexual selection for physical traits based on symmetry. For example, Koehler et al. (2002) established that there was no difference in preference for the symmetry of male faces by females nearing conception compared to those females taking contraceptives. Similarly, Rhodes et al. (2001) found that, although there might be a link between facial symmetry and perceived health, there was no correlation between facial symmetry and actual health.
2007 was an eventful year for the ethics of burial in Britain: the Science Museum returned the remains of Tasmanian Aborigines to their cultural home (Henderson 2007), the legal system governing the excavation of human remains was reinterpreted (Small 2008), The Guardian reported on the desire of neo-pagans to take ownership of human remains (Randerson 2007) and there was a debate in the museum literature on just this topic (see Restall Orr & Bienkowski 2006 and Smith & Mays 2007). In light of these changes and debates it may be unsurprising to learn that many British archaeologists feel that it is 'getting more difficult to work with human remains'.
Treasures in themselves are fetishes. Only the admirer can make 'treasure' of a find in isolation; but to wonder about it as treasure opens apt questions about why the thing was valued, by whom and under what conditions. It was worrying, then, when the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University's art collection, took in an exhibition of striking ancient finds returning to the Georgian National Museum from the USA (Smithsonian Institution and New York University). For the usual focus on the intrinsic qualities of fine art sits awkwardly with archaeological concern for context. The Fitzwilliam did tend to isolate the exhibits; but, here, that yielded an advantage as well as a difficulty.