Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Celebrate Florida Archaeology Month with a Dash through the Past

Did you know that Florida Archaeology Month is right around the corner? Every March, an array of programs and events are scheduled to put Floridians and visitors in touch with the rich history and heritage of the Panhandle State, which stretches back over 12,000 years.

This year, the 
Florida Public Archaeology Network and the University of West Florida Historic Trust are hosting Dash Through the Past, a high-speed scavenger hunt set for March 7th from 10 am to 12 pm at 207 East Main Street in downtown Pensacola. Participants will race through a two-mile course in the heart of the city's historic district, using maps to search for hidden treasures and competing for prizes. For more information, view the event details, or email the event organizers at  

Dash Through the Past is just one of several events planned for the month of March. This year's theme, Innovators of the Archaic, invites participants to discover prehistoric Floridian culture and its connections to the present day. You can find a full list of programs on the Florida Archaeology Month website

With this state's rich cultural history, it's a wonder there's just one month dedicated to Florida archaeology. Thousands of years ago, some of the first civilizations to live in Florida hunted mammoth with stone-tipped spears. Rising sea levels, changing environments, and increasing populations were just a few of the challenges they overcame by testing and adapting to new ways of life. 

Curious about Florida's unique past? Enjoy these free articles from Public Archaeology

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

What's Mayan is Yours: Ancient Water Temple with Rain God Offerings Discovered in Belize

Archaeologists recently discovered the remnants of an ancient Mayan water temple at Cara Blanca, tucked away in the center of one of Belize's lush forests. The structure is situated alongside a deep pool of water where Mayans from across the region gathered to sacrifice bowls, pots, and jars to the water god, and to pray for rain. 

"It was a special place with a sacred function," explained Lisa Lucero, the archaeologist who led the discovery, in a recent National Geographic article

The water temple serves as a timeline of the drought that's thought to have contributed to the Maya's demise after A.D. 800. The Mesoamerican civilization, known for their art, architecture, and fully developed pre-Columbian writing system, thrived due to plentiful rainfall for centuries. During this time, sacrifices to the water temple were irregular and seldom. But after an unexpected and dramatic shift in the climate, repeated droughts wreaked havoc on the Mayas and their water-dependent society, making the temple quite a busy place. 

Archaeologists also suspect that this lack of rain ignited a "drought cult" of people who understandably became obsessed with pleasing Chaak, the ancient Maya rain god. But despite their daily sacrifices and prayers, Chaak and his friends in the underworld continued to withhold rain, unraveling the Maya’s intricate agriculture system.

"I do agree this was likely a shrine where ritual practices took place that point to times getting tough for people," Holley Moyes of University of California, Merced told National Geographic. "When you start getting down to actual drought, we are starting to see sacrifices picking up across the Maya world."

Want to learn more about the Maya and their relationship to water and agriculture? Check out these fascinating, free articles from the Journal of Field Archaeology:  

Thursday, 22 January 2015

First article published in new OA journal: Is IS6110 really a good marker for TB in ancient remains?

The insertion sequence IS6110 is frequently used as a marker for the presence of ancient DNA from bacteria of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex in human archaeological remains. The specificity of polymerase chain reactions directed at IS6110 has, however, been questioned, because identical or similar elements have been identified in ‘mycobacteria other than tuberculosis’.

These are
Mycobacterium species, common in the environment, that may occasionally cause opportunistic disease, but which are not normally associated with clinical cases of tuberculosis.

In the first article published in STAR: Science and Technology of Archaeological Research, Muller et al report the presence of two sequence types similar but not identical to IS6110 in bone samples from nine skeletons dated mainly to the Roman period, one from Scotland and the others from the remainder of Britain. The source of these sequences cannot be established but they most likely derived from environmental bacteria that colonised the skeletons after death. Our data support the notion that IS6110 may not be unique to the members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and is therefore not suitable as a specific marker for the identification of tuberculosis in human remains.

Monday, 22 December 2014

SPMA announces new Community Engagement award

The Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology is pleased to announce a new Community Engagement award. 

A core aim of the SPMA is the promotion of late medieval to modern archaeology and this grant is designed to support individuals, groups and societies in developing new public-facing initiatives, whether one-off events, programmes of activities, digital archaeology or other creative outputs.

  • Applicants need not be members of the Society
  • Applicants can apply on behalf of any group, institution and organization
  • Applicants can be amateur or professional archaeologists
  • Post-medieval archaeology (late medieval to the present day) must be a core aspect of the proposal
  • Community engagement must be a core aspect of the proposal

Priority will be given to the development of new initiatives rather than the funding of established activities.

Applications could concern, but are not limited to:
  • Seed funding for community based initiatives
  • The development of digital post-medieval archaeology
  • The development of educational resources
  • Payments for talks, lectures or workshops
  • A one-off event such as a walk or open day
  • Development of creative outputs in a variety of media

Applicants are encouraged to define the types of audiences which they are targeting and to describe expected outcomes and outputs including the development of skills and expertise. A timetable and itemized budget should be included. Please provide adequate detail to demonstrate justification of proposals and costs. 

We welcome proposals which seek to develop innovative forms of engagement and proposals which demonstrate the potential to engage non-traditional audiences. Please note that the Societies existing lecture bursary has now been discontinued and subsumed within this new grant.
Funding for up to £500 can be applied for

Please email the Prize Coordinator, Hilary Orange, for an application form.
Deadline for applications: 1st March 2015
Decision will be made within 2 months of the closing date. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

12 days of Archaeology! A Christmas Sing Song

We are feeling very Christmassy at CUDI, so what better way to spread festive cheer than to have a little festive sing along, so all together now…

On the first day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Fortune's portrait collection of Chinese trees

On the second day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Two neolithic ditch enclosures in Bohemia

On the third day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Three ancient Jewish reliefs

On the fourth day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Four middle Holocene pillar sites in West Turkana, Kenya

On the fifth day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Five notes on Jerusalem in the first and second Temple Periods

On the sixth day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Six apostle spoons from Finland

On the seventh day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Seven years of preserving damaged stone 

On the eighth day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Eight seventeenth-century decorative paintings

On the ninth day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Nine engraved sites in the Hong Kong

On the tenth day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Ten Commandments for effective anthropological exhibits

On the eleventh day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Eleven post-medieval corpses

On the twelfth day of Christmas CUDI gave to me,
Twelve dirt-walled structures in Mesa Verde National Park