Punctured shells: 100,000 year old jewelry?

Beady perforated shells

There are only three of these shells — discovered in Israel and Algeria — so there’s no way of knowing for sure, but they do seem to confirm earlier evidence that human beings were decorating themselves way before archaeologists thought they were.

The archaeologists also pointed out that the Israeli and Algerian sites were so far from the seashore that the shells were most likely brought there intentionally for beadworking. A study of modern shells of similar snails, they noted, determined that the chances that the holes occurred naturally were extremely small.

In the journal report, the research team led by Marian Vanhaeren of University College London and Francesco d’Errico of the National Center for Scientific Research in Talence, France, concluded, “These beads support the hypothesis that a long-lasting and widespread beadworking tradition existed in Africa and the Levant well before the arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe.”

There’s another excellent article on the find here.

More tales of treasure

This time it’s an Anglo-Saxon pattern-welded sword rescued from the trash.

The seventh century “pattern-welded” Bamburgh Sword, which was forged for a king, narrowly avoided being dumped in a skip by workers who were clearing the house of the archeologist and broadcaster Brian Hope-Taylor after his death. It was rescued by some former students who had gone to the house after hearing that his books were being sold off.

Now granted, it’s not quite so coincidental a score — what with the late homeowner having been an archaeologist and all — but it’s still way fancy.

Below and above

If you happen to find yourself in London looking for an off-the-beaten-path tour, check out Southwark’s Below and Above tours.

Museum of London archaeologist Julian Bowsher walks around the streets of Bankside in the company of Ken Greig of Greig Stephenson Architects. The archaeologist describes what was found below and the architect describes the architecture above – a dialogue between past and present.

It sounds like a neat way to see the city.

Oldest paintings in Western Civ found

They’re 2700 year old Etruscan tomb frescoes found in Veio, outside of Rome. The vibrant frescoes depict birds in flight and roaring lions (no, there weren’t any lions in Italy at that point).

Giovanni Colonna, a professor at Rome’s Sapienza University, said although the frescoes were not as old as Egyptian art or some cave paintings, they had to be the oldest examples of the Western tradition of art that was then developed by the Greek and Roman civilisations.

Fragments of decorated pottery found in the tomb, and the clearly visible remnants of a wheel which once was part of a cart buried along with the bodies, indicate the burial site was that of a nobleman or prince.

In Etruscan art, the birds would have symbolised the passage between life and death and the lions represented the underworld.

The shady yin to this bright shining yang is that archaeologists only found the tomb because a looter led them to it to get leniency in his upcoming trial. Tomb raiders, known as tombaroli, have a long history in the area.

They also have unique tracking abilities. Archaeologists had already examined the field where the tomb was found and declared it officially uninteresting. A convenient declaration, I would think, for a tombarolo who after following mole tracks and/or the roots of fig trees can then help himself to the loot nobody official suspects exists.

Turkey strikes back

Recent reports of massive security failures in Turkish museums don’t tell the whole story. A museum with some Troy artifacts, for instance, has a security system sensitive to insects.

The Canakkale Archaeology Museum, known throughout the world for its collection from the ancient city of Troy, houses nearly 30,000 artifacts excavated from 200 sites in and around Canakkale.

The museum has been protected for 15 years by a closed-circuit camera system as well as an alarm system that is sensitive even to insects.

The first sentence seems a bit of an overstatement. According to Istanbul Portal, the Troy collection is a new, small addition to the far larger and more diverse main museum.

At the entrance to the Troy ruins is a small museum, which has recently been set up. The museum contains pottery, figurines, statues, glass objects and building stones found in the excavations at Troy and the surrounding region.

I think we might here have an instance of press (and PR) from other countries tailoring a story for US tastes. Need to make a museum in Turkey look cool? Ottoman wonders aren’t going to do the trick. Not even Hellenistic gold makes the name-recognition grade. Unless it’s from Troy. We know Troy. Brad Pitt was in that.