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Discovery of a well-stratified fish hook from a cave sequence on East Timor shows a fishing technology developed at least 5000 years before the Austronesian expansion through Island South East Asia and into the Pacific. The fish hook is fashioned from shell and has been radiocarbon dated to 9741 ± 60 b.p.
Eating shellfish in the wrong season makes you ill. But early people of the Andes seem to have courted these effects to gain out-of-body experiences. It may have been these effects, as well as its distinctive colouring and appearance, that made Spondylus such a very special commodity.
The origins of anatomically modern humans, modern behaviour and the Aurignacian form one of the most dynamic fields of European research. Conard & Bolus (2003) opened a new debate by proposing that the Aurignacian arose from the migration of modern humans. Reviewing the data from the Swabian Jura, the author shows that radiocarbon dating cannot of itself presently support models of the primacy of art, industries or the arrival of modern humans at a particular place.
Did Mesolithic people regard the woodland as a wilderness or park? Previous models have portrayed the hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic as in tune with nature and making use of clearings to attract game. Using equally valid analogies, the authors propose a more hostile landscape that was conceived and managed with clearings and paths to help allay its menacing character.
Living at high altitude carries risks, so settlement there can be thought marginal. Its success or failure ought to be dependent on the environment and the climate. But recent fieldwork in the French Alps shows that exploitation was not coincident with climatic conditions: Mesolithic people found the hunting good; in the climatic optimum of the Roman period the high altitudes were said to be uninhabitable and apparently were; while in the Little Ice Age of the fourteenth century and later, the high Alps were at their busiest. The author hypothesises that social control and perception, rather than climate, were the determinant factors.
The authors show how the Gandharan art of early first millennium Afghanistan used Greek and Roman motifs to give an international context to Buddhist sculpture and reduce tension at home and with the neighbours.
The author finds that cemeteries in early first millennium Japan reflect the associations of family with land. The burial parties of a core settlement could be seen to be referring to earlier burials in a dynastic or genealogical sequence, while a secondary settlement developed its burial ground in a disordered sequence. Thus Koji Mizoguchi shows that the differences between the haves and have-nots extended their having, or not having, a history.
Our knowledge of rural settlement in Jordan during the Islamic periods is strongly coloured by perceptions about the relationship between the ‘Desert’ and the ‘Sown’, between ‘nomad’ and ‘farmer’. This has affected interpretations regarding settlement pattern and economy. In addition, there have been methodological problems in collecting the data relevant to these interpretations. An alternative to this polarised model is suggested and used to interpret the settlement history of Khirbat Faris, more particularly its architecture.
The ‘desert castles’ are key structures of the early Islamic expansion. They resemble Roman forts – which may have provided models for those in Jordan. But the authors show that a well-researched example in Iraq is likely to have been a palace site before the area was Islamicised.
Using plasma chemistry, carbon was extracted from charcoal paint samples collected from megalithic monuments in north-west Iberia. Nine accelerator mass spectrometric radiocarbon dates on these paints establish their age to be within 1000 14C years of each other, centred at approximately 5000 BP. These radiocarbon ages for megalithic paintings fall within the proposed time period for north-west Iberian megalithic culture. Multiple layers of paint on some stones show that more than one painting episode occurred.
The Nasca lines are geoglyphs – arrays of stones forming geometric shapes constructed by ancient humans, the largest ones occupying areas of more than 1km2. The authors used optically stimulated luminescence dating of quartz buried when the stone lines were constructed to give new dates for contexts associated with geoglyphs on high mesetas near Palpa. They conclude that the stone lines at sites at San Ignacio and Sacramento were constructed between AD 400 and 650. This suggests that they were made in the later part of the Early Intermediate Period by people of the Nasca culture.
Aerial survey in a country with restricted overflying can be frustrating. Armenian and British archaeologists solved the problem by acquiring a two-person paramotor and photographing with a digital camera at 300m. Here are some of the first aerial pictures of the rich tapestry of Armenia’s archaeology.
Life beside the ancient Indus may not have been so peaceful and egalitarian as has sometimes been thought. Arguing from weapons, the author shows that Harappans only appear to be militarily under-endowed in comparison with Mesopotamians because their assemblages are derived from settlement finds rather than grand tombs.
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), the Smithsonian Institution’s new facility on the National Mall in Washington DC, challenges the very notion of what constitutes a museum. Probably the most theoretically informed museum in North America, this is no shrine to the past: it is a museum that claims both past and present to shape a decolonised future for Indigenous populations.
Thousands of artefacts are found every year by the public the world over, and many are sold or destroyed. How are we to ensure that these discoveries can take their place in archaeological research (Editorial, December 2004)? For some, legislation, state control and strong penalties are the best or only option. Here, the co-ordinator of the English Portable Antiquities Scheme makes the case for a voluntary code, led by co-operation, education and reward.