This is an RSS aggregator that collects news stories, announcements, jobs, and new journal articles from around the world. Updated every hour.
University College London - UCL Qatar
Salary: £37,382 to £44,607. per annum paid locally in Qatari Riyals + generous package.
Quest for copper riches in Mes Aynak develops as battle between culture and commerce
The ruins of Mes Aynak straddle a copper deposit so rich that many of the rocks are brilliant green with oxidised ore from a seam of metal first exploited 5,000 years ago.
The remaining copper cannot be extracted without destroying not just the ruins but the entire hill they perch on, and efforts to develop the mine have often been cast as a battle between the heartless miners and valiant archaeologists, racing against time to save their heritage.
The Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (Arch), a US non-profit organisation, has led a publicity campaign to prevent the mine, as currently envisaged, from going ahead. It has been so successful that the World Bank office in Kabul faces an internal investigation for supporting the dig and the mine development.
But none of Arch's four directors have a background in cultural heritage, and several have connections to US mining companies interested in Afghan contracts. They are Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, his wife, his business associate in the lobbying firm Gryphon Partners, and a well-travelled restaurateur.
Khalilzad has been openlycritical of China's mining companies and a bidding system that he argues favours them in Afghanistan, the country where he was born and later returned as the first US ambassador after the fall of the Taliban. "The performance of Chinese companies is improving but they have a long way to go," he wrote in a 2011 opinion article for Foreign Policy entitled How many ways can we lose in Afghanistan, which criticised Chinese firms on issues including protection of cultural heritage. "It is certainly ironic that Chinese firms are at an advantage over western companies due to defence department procedures," he wrote, before ending on a slightly less gloomy note: "It is not inevitable that Afghanistan's valuable resources fall into the hands of the Chinese."
Afghan archeologists and experts working on mining have a more complex view of the mine's impact than Arch. Abdul Qadir Temori, head of the Afghan Institute of Archeology, who has committed his entire team of more than 30 graduate archaeologists to Mes Aynak, says the site is so complex and fascinating that experts could easily spend two decades picking over it.
In an ideal world that would be the case, he says. But Afghanistan is desperately poor and has suffered 30 years of violence, which means leaving artefacts in the ground offers little guarantee of preservation.Desperation and lawlessness have fuelled a ruthlessly efficient looting industry, and before the mining guards sealed off the site, looters stripped Mes Aynak of treasures that had been buried untouched for centuries, and destroyed beautiful buildings and crucial archeological evidence in the process. Just a few dozen miles away is Kharwar, another ancient site that may be even richer in remains, but has been described by the UN as "in danger of complete destruction". Without security or funds for excavation, only looters are picking through its treasures.
"Kharwar is possibly more beautiful than Mes Aynak, almost the same age," said SM Raheen, the minister of culture and information. "Unfortunately looting is going on there, but no one pays any attention … I don't know why everybody cares just about Mes Aynak."
The mine will ultimately destroy Mes Aynak, but it may also save it from leaving no record or legacy. The urgent need to salvage the site has brought an influx of funds for archaeologists, creating probably the biggest excavation project the country has seen and plans for a storage site for the treasures that are dug up, either in Kabul or near the mine.
The expensive, and extensive mine security has allowed work to go ahead in an area that would otherwise be largely controlled by the Taliban, more famous for blowing up the great Buddhas of Bamiyan than supporting cultural projects.
Archaeologists working on the ancient Afghan town, and the spectacular Buddhist temples around the settlements and smelters, are quietly confident they can rescue the majority of its treasures before it vanishes. Experts discuss stabilising foam, steel reinforcements and the merits of plucking stupas out whole or painstakingly dismantling them stone by stone, then rebuilding them in a permanent museum. "When thieves target a site, they destroy 10 pieces to steal two pieces," Raheen added when asked about the mine and its impact. "This project has been helpful, to save the site. Otherwise it would face the same fate as Kharwar."
Renegotiation of contract with Chinese company mean more time for dig at former Buddhist settlement
The forts and temples of the ancient Buddhist town at Mes Aynak in Afghanistan throng with the biggest crowds they have seen in more than 14 centuries. Nearby, rows of sheet metal housing built for Chinese miners are almost empty.
Hundreds of archaeologists are working at the site to excavate gilded statues of the Buddha, elaborate stupas that rise from ornately carved floors and delicate frescoes protected by centuries of mud and forgetfulness. The rich vein of copper that once funded Mes Aynak's creation is now likely to bring about its destruction: a Chinese state-owned mining company paid $3bn (£1.9bn) for the extraction rights, and the site will eventually become the world's biggest copper mine.
But while the fevered excavations are a thrilling sight for those racing to save the last traces of Mes Aynak, the lack of activity in the mining camp is alarming financial mandarins in Kabul, who are counting on mining revenue to make up for slowing streams of western aid.
This year was supposed to see production of the first copper from the site since Afghanistan embraced Islam, the first gush of ore eventually forecast to bring $300m to the government each year, and a $1bn annual boost to the still feeble Afghan economy.
Instead, the only excavation on the site is of archaeological treasures and even the most optimistic officials and analysts admit it will be two years before Mes Aynak copper is trucked off to a Pakistani port.
However, others think 2016 or 2017 are more realistic, after a series of setbacks. The Chinese camp was evacuated last summer after a Taliban rocket attack and shows no signs of being restaffed, the ministry of mines wants to renegotiate the multibillion-dollar contract for the site, and the archaeological dig that must be completed before mining starts is still in full swing.
"Don't worry, you will have at least until 2014," one of the few Chinese miners who stayed on told archaeologists earlier this year. Others from China Metallurgical Group (MCC), the company with a majority stake in the mine, had a similar message. "The cultural artefacts are the most important thing," they told surprised workers on an impromptu tour of the dig site.
Nearby, mining equipment sits idle, and many of the watchtowers ringing the core of the mine are empty at midday, although there is an outer circle of guards from a special resources protection unit.
Such concern for another country's cultural heritage, unusual for a hard-nosed Chinese natural resources company, comes as Afghanistan braces itself for huge political and security upheaval in 2014. The last Nato troops will leave by the end of the year, and the country must hold a presidential election to replace Hamid Karzai, who has ruled for more than a decade but is barred by the constitution from standing again.
Any company looking at a decades-long project might prefer to wait for more clarity on who will rule the country, and how secure it will be, before starting work in earnest, although MCC did not respond to requests for comment on its plans for Mes Aynak.
The Afghan government may also be willing to swallow some delays as it looks to renegotiate a contract that has been shadowed by corruption allegations since it was signed off six years ago. The minister who agreed it resigned shortly after reports surfaced that he had pocketed a $30m bribe from MCC, which he strongly denied. .
"We have requested for the renegotiation [of the contract]," said the current minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, who has led a high-profile campaign to modernise the ministry and make its bidding process professional and transparent.
He declined to go into details on what changes he was seeking, saying only that the contract was several years old. "When it comes to these types of big projects, there could be a need for some type of what we call correction measures to be taken. But as of now we have not launched any formal renegotiation with them," he said, in an office lined with samples of the country's many valuable rocks, from lapis lazuli to iron ore.
The Chinese company was due to submit a new work schedule at the end of April, Shahrani said, and if work goes smoothly he believes production could start by 2015.
The cash is certainly needed, with World Bank forecasts for a $7bn hole in Afghanistan's annual budget after 2014, and the wider economy also suffering as US and Nato contracts dry up.
"When Aynak reaches full production the revenues to the government would be at least $300m … although it depends on fluctuations in the international copper market," Shahrani said. "In terms of its contribution to the national economy, the indirect contribution, it would be around $1bn."
But mining experts say that even if preparation work were to start in earnest this June, when the archaeologists' permission to dig ends, production is unlikely before 2016, given the preparation work usually needed for big mining projects.
"Big mines take on average between three to five years to build and construct," said a World Bank mining specialist, Michael Stanley, who declined to comment directly on Mes Aynak.
However, as long as the project is not called off, the wider Afghan economy will benefit from trucking, construction and any other work MCC contracts out, long before copper sales bring the government cash to balance its books.
"What everyone tends to forget is that the construction period for a mine, in terms of economic stimulus, is as important or more for the local economy than the production period," Stanley said.
BBC - Search results for Archaeology
… dates to the 13th Century. They have received permission from Denbighshire planners to push ahead with proposals. Archaeologists will excavate…
BBC - Search results for Archaeology
The findings were presented during the second meeting of Historic Archaeology, in Mexico's National History Museum. …
HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY VOL 46; NUMB 4 pp. 135-161
HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY VOL 46; NUMB 4 pp. 48-69
Harrod, R.P.; Thompson, J.L.; Martin, D.L.;
HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY VOL 46; NUMB 4 pp. 85-111
HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY VOL 46; NUMB 4 pp. 162-184
HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY VOL 46; NUMB 4 pp. 70-84
HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY VOL 46; NUMB 4 pp. 112-134
HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY VOL 46; NUMB 4 pp. 8-47
Wardell Armstrong Archaeology :: LOCATION is UK-wide :: CLOSING DATE: 31/05/2013
BBC - Search results for Archaeology
Abrupt climate change in Africa helped trigger technological and cultural advances in early modern humans, according to new research. Archaeologists…
A new method of sourcing the origins of artefacts in high definition is set to improve our understanding of the past.
University of Exeter - College of Humanities
Salary: £25,504 to £25,504
News items read by Laura Pettigrew include: Maya pyramid in Belize bulldozed; huge Byzantine mosaic in Israel; early Maori burials examined in New Zealand; summertime conception in ancient Egypt.
BBC - Search results for Archaeology
Archaeologist Ben Robinson flies over the Thames to uncover new discoveries about World War 1. A whole network of trenches has been discovered…
Hadley Freeman's answer to the question was chiffon-flimsy, so here's the lab-coat response
"Who invented clothes?" It's one of those brilliant questions that children ask, before they learn that the big things we wonder about rarely have simple answers. It's the kind of thing that archaeologists like me get put on the spot about when chatting to kids, and we love to have a crack at answering.
Saturday's "Ask a grown up" section featured just that question, from eight-year old Harriet, with an answer by Hadley Freeman, fashion expert and fantastic writer. Hadley's response was, as usual, entertainingly breezy, with some refreshing encouragement to Harriet to experiment in developing her own style; but, like a fine chiffon, it was a little flimsy in substance.
I'm proud to be involved with ScienceGrrl, which aims to show girls that science is for everyone by providing diverse role models, and TrowelBlazers, a new project that is all about bringing to the fore the achievements of pioneering women archaeologists, geologists and palaeontologists. So I was kind of disappointed that a girl asking a genuine question about archaeology ended up with the barest of facts, as well as being told, even if it was meant lightheartedly, that the grown-up answering her question would rather she pay attention to what she looks like.
Hadley knows today's fashion world inside out and might not care much about pre-silk times, but I'll bet that Harriet wanted to find out more than what the Flintstones wear.
It's this kind of response that can, in aggregate, have a negative impact on children: being mentally curious ends up as something deeply uncool and not relevant to modern life. I'm not advocating force-feeding facts Vulcan-style when talking to young people – far from it. They like to be challenged and humour is a great way to do this. But I do think we should take every chance we get to pass on the incredible stuff that we've found out about our world thanks to science – including archaeology – and keep on showing girls that using their brains by asking big questions is, actually, absolutely fabulous.
So for Harriet, if you're reading: there's a whole lot we know about the invention of clothing. Many TV reconstructions and book illustrations of stone age (Palaeolithic) people really don't do them justice. People were already making finely worked bone needles 20,000 years ago, probably for embroidery as much as sewing animal skins, like the thousands of ivory beads and fox teeth that covered the bodies of a girl and a boy buried at Sunghir, Russia, around 28,000 years ago. This was some serious bling, representing years of accumulated work.
And – caveman stereotypes aside – stone age clothes weren't just animal skins. We've known since the 1990s that people were weaving fabric back then, revealed by impressions in baked clay from the sites of Pavlov and Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic. We don't actually know for sure that these were used for clothes, but the materials weren't heavy duty, and the variety in weaving styles suggests a long tradition. And at Dzudzuana Cave in Georgia, 30,000 year old spun plant fibres were found which had been dyed: pink, black and turquoise blue!
But what about the really old stuff (because 30,000 years ago isn't really old in human evolution)? As Harriet asks, who were the first fashionistas? People are still debating what, if anything, our close relatives the Neanderthals were wearing.
Neanderthals lived in Europe for much longer than our own species, and for some of that time, it really was an ice-blasted world. Research into how mammals – including humans – keep their body temperature at healthy levels suggests that even during the warmer parts of the last ice age, they would have needed decent body coverings. Skins thrown over their shoulders – Palaeo-pashminas? – wouldn't have cut it.
Another study looked at what modern day hunter-gatherers wear according to the local climate, and built a model predicting what Neanderthals would have needed to wear to stay warm. Even after correcting for Neanderthals being able to cope better with the cold, the results suggested they would have needed to cover at least 80% of their body during cold periods, especially hands and feet.
Quite astonishingly, there is physical evidence that Neanderthals more than 100,000 years ago were tanning animal skins – a stone tool from the site of Neumark-Nord in Germany has preserved scraps of organic material stuck to it that were soaked in tannin, the substance in oak bark used to make leather. It was probably part of the tool handle that got wet while the hides were being worked.
Although they lacked fine needles of the sort found much later, Neanderthals didn't need these to sew their leather, as their abilities to make stone and wood tools were easily enough to produce a sharp piercing object for threading thong.
Further back in time things get more fuzzy, but also really interesting. We have to get down and dirty – with lice. Body lice are adapted to living in clothes, and so must have evolved once humans started to wear them. DNA evidence suggests this happened at least 170,000 years ago and so people must have been wearing clothes even earlier than the oldest archeological evidence.
And here's the intriguing thing: when we get back this far, hundreds of thousands of years ago, we're talking about multiple kinds of humans. Even 40,000 years ago, there were still three "species" we know of: early members of our lineage, the Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans, a species represented by fragmentary remains of three individuals from one cave in Siberia. Given that very recent (and ongoing) genetic analysis is showing breeding between all three groups, very likely at different times and places, it's quite possible that the lice we have now hopped from one group to another, even if they weren't all wearing clothes all the time.
And I haven't even mentioned jewellery yet, the earliest examples of which keep getting pushed back in time: they currently stand at about 75,000 years ago, and maybe as much as 100,000 years ago. At one site in South Africa, we even have the first evidence of style as we know it, with a shift in the way shell beads were strung together over time. Beads aren't clothing in the strict sense, but they are a kind of fashion, so although we can't be sure exactly who wore the first clothes or when, it's clear that the history of human adornment does go back, in Hadley's words, "a very, very, very long time ago".
Becky Wragg Sykes (@LeMoustier) is a postdoctoral researcher working on Neanderthal archaeology. She blogs at www.therocksremain.org and is part of the TrowelBlazers team (@trowelblazers), along with Victoria Herridge (@ToriHerridge), Brenna Hassett (@brennawalks http://passiminpassing.blogspot.co.uk/) and Suzanne Pilaar Birch (@suzie_birch http://research.brown.edu/myresearch/Suzanne_Pilaar_Birch)
Reconstruction based on skull of the king exhumed from under a car park will then go on a nationwide tour
A facial reconstruction of King Richard III is going on display in Leicester's Guildhall, on the first stop of a nationwide tour.
The model was commissioned by the Richard III Society and made by Professor Caroline Wilkinson and the forensic art team at the University of Dundee after archaeologists discovered the body of King Richard III under a car park in February.
It was made using a 3D printing technique called stereolithography, and details such as the style and colour of his hair were taken from near-contemporary portraits.
Archeologists plan to exhume a 600-year-old lead-lined stone coffin found nearby. University of Leicester Archaeological Services has applied to the Ministry of Justice for an exhumation licence and to Leicester city council to extend their dig to discover more about the Church of the Grey Friars, where King Richard III was buried.
In February, teams revealed that remains found under the city car park were "beyond reasonable doubt" those of the last Plantagenet king. Archaeologists want to examine the second discovery found near the site and said the stone coffin might contain the remains of a medieval knight, Sir William Moton. He is believed to have been buried at Grey Friars Church in 1362, more than a century before Richard III.
Belize pyramid dating back at least 2,300 years is destroyed by firm to extract crushed rock for road-building project
A construction company has essentially destroyed one of Belize's largest Mayan pyramids with diggers and bulldozers to extract crushed rock for a road-building project, authorities have announced.
The head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Jaime Awe, said on Tuesday that the destruction at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was detected late last week. The ceremonial centre dates back at least 2,300 years and is the most important site in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico.
"It's a feeling of incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity … they were using this for road fill," Awe said. "It's like being punched in the stomach, it's just so horrendous."
Nohmul was in the middle of a privately owned sugar cane field, and lacked the even stone sides frequently seen in reconstructed or better-preserved pyramids. But Awe said the builders could not possibly have mistaken the pyramid mound, which is about 30 metres (100ft) tall, for a natural hill because the ruins were well known and the landscape there was naturally flat.
"These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It's just bloody laziness," Awe said.
Photos from the scene showed diggers clawing away at the pyramid's sloping sides, leaving an isolated core of limestone cobbles at the centre, with what appears to be a narrow Mayan chamber dangling above one clawed-out section.
"Just to realise that the ancient Maya acquired all this building material to erect these buildings, using nothing more than stone tools and quarried the stone, and carried this material on their heads, using tump lines," Awe said. "To think that today we have modern equipment, that you can go and excavate in a quarry anywhere, but that this company would completely disregard that and completely destroyed this building. Why can't these people just go and quarry somewhere that has no cultural significance? It's mind-boggling."
Belizean police said they were conducting an investigation and criminal charges were possible. The Nohmul complex sits on private land, but Belizean law says that any pre-Hispanic ruins are under government protection.
The Belize community action group Citizens Organised for Liberty Through Action called the destruction of the archaeological site "an obscene example of disrespect for the environment and history".
It is not the first time this has happened in Belize, a country dotted with hundreds of Mayan ruins, though few as large as Nohmul.
Norman Hammond, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Boston University who worked on Belizean research projects in the 1980s, wrote in an email that "bulldozing Maya mounds for road fill is an endemic problem in Belize (the whole of the San Estevan centre has gone, both of the major pyramids at Louisville, other structures at Nohmul, many smaller sites), but this sounds like the biggest yet".
Arlen Chase, chairman of the department of anthropology at the University of Central Florida, said: "Archaeologists are disturbed when such things occur, but there is only a very limited infrastructure in Belize that can be applied to cultural heritage management.
"Unfortunately, they [destruction of sites] are all too common, but not usually in the centre of a large Maya site."
Chase said there had probably still been much to learn from the site. "A great deal of archaeology was undertaken at Nohmul in the 70s and 80s, but this only sampled a small part of this large centre."
Belize isn't the only place where the handiwork of the prolific Maya builders is being destroyed. The ancient Mayas spread across south-eastern Mexico and through Guatemala, Honduras and Belize.
"I don't think I am exaggerating if I say that every day a Maya mound is being destroyed for construction in one of the countries where the Maya lived," wrote Francisco Estrada-Belli, a professor at Tulane University's anthropology department.
"Unfortunately, this destruction of our heritage is irreversible but many don't take it seriously," he added. "The only way to stop it is by showing that it is a major crime and people can and will go to jail for it."
Robert Rosenswig, an archaeologist at the State University of New York at Albany, described the difficult and heartbreaking work of trying to salvage information at the nearby site of San Estevan following similar destruction around 2005.
"Bulldozing damage at San Estevan is extensive and the site is littered with Classic period potsherds," he wrote in an academic paper describing the scene. "We spent a number of days at the beginning of the 2005 season trying to figure out the extent of the damage … after scratching our heads for many days, a bulldozer showed up and we realised that what appear to be mounds, when overgrown with chest-high vegetation, are actually recently bulldozed garbage piles."
However small the compensation, bulldozing pyramids is one very brutal way of revealing the inner cores of the structures, which were often built up in periodic stages of construction.
"The one advantage of this massive destruction, to the core site, is that the remains of early domestic activity are now visible on the surface," Rosenswig wrote.