Losing Ground: Preserving New York’s Historic Battlefields

This February, a new documentary focusing on the War of 1812 airs on WCNY.  Entitled Losing Ground, the documentary will focus on the ongoing struggle archaeologists and historians face in New York State to preserve sites associated with the War of 1812.

From WCNY:

Walking past any patch of land along the shore of Lake Ontario, many would not immediately recognize the rocky coast as bearing witness to some of our nation’s most notorious conflicts. The depth of the Great Lakes and their wind-swept shores hold the memories of a war; waged between a young American republic, growing Canadian territories and a bruised British empire.

Many historians distinguish the War of 1812 as America’s second battle for independence. Trade embargos, sailor impressment and Indian land expansion were among the larger grievances that pitted the newly minted United States against a British Empire still wrapped up in the Napoleonic Wars. And although it is considered a minor engagement, the War of 1812 remains an important turning point in our nation’s history. It was the first war America would wage under its freshly printed constitution. The conflict ignited a fierce spark of patriotism and pride that would help usher the country into a new age of prosperity.

200 years later, celebrations across New York and Canada commemorate the veterans and battlefields of the War of 1812. But with each passing year, there is less and less physical evidence of this significant part of New York history. As the population grows and unchecked development expands, preservationists worry that the lands that played a vital role in U.S. history are disappearing at an alarming rate. Once they are gone, so too are the opportunities of enrichment for generations of future Americans.

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Discovering Ardi

Click here to visit the Discovering Ardi website!

Tonight (Sunday October 11), the Discovery Channel will present a world premiere special, DISCOVERING ARDI, at 9 PM (ET/PT) documenting the sustained, intensive investigation leading up to this landmark publication of the Ardipithecus ramidus fossils in the journal Science.

Immediately following DISCOVERING ARDI, a one-hour special produced in collaboration with CBS News will air at 11 PM (ET/PT). Entitled UNDERSTANDING ARDI, the special is moderated by former CBS and CNN anchor Paula Zahn and includes research team members Dr. Tim White, Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Dr. Giday WoldeGabriel, Dr. Owen Lovejoy, and science journalist Ann Gibbons.

The scientific investigation began in the Ethiopian desert 17 years ago, and now opens a new chapter on human evolution, revealing the first evolutionary steps our ancestors took after we diverged from a common ancestor we once shared with living chimpanzees. “Ardi’s” centerpiece skeleton, the other hominids she lived with, and the rocks, soils, plants and animals that made up her world were analyzed in laboratories around the world, and the scientists have now published their findings in the prestigious journal Science.

“Ardi” is now the oldest skeleton from our (hominid) branch of the primate family tree. These Ethiopian discoveries reveal an early grade of human evolution in Africa that predated the famous Australopithecus nicknamed “Lucy.” Ardipithecus was a woodland creature with a small brain, long arms, and short legs. The pelvis and feet show a primitive form of two-legged walking on the ground, but Ardipithecus was also a capable tree climber, with long fingers and big toes that allowed their feet to grasp like an ape’s. The discoveries answer old questions about how hominids became bipedal.

The international research team weighed in on the scope of the project and its findings:

These are the results of a scientific mission to our deep African past,” said project co-director and geologist, Dr. Giday WoldeGabriel of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The novel anatomy that we describe in these papers fundamentally alters our understanding of human origins and early evolution,” said project anatomist and evolutionary biologist, Professor C. Owen Lovejoy, Kent State University.

Project co-director and paleontologist Professor Tim White of the Human Evolution Research Center at the University of California Berkeley adds, “Ardipithecus is not a chimp. It’s not a human. It’s what we used to be.

DISCOVERING ARDI begins its story with the 1974 discovery of Australopithecus afarensis in Hadar, northeastern Ethiopia. Nicknamed “Lucy,” this 3.2 million year old skeleton was, at the time, the oldest hominid skeleton ever found. As the Discovery Channel special documents, Lucy’s title would be overtaken twenty years later by the 1994 discovery of “Ardi” in Ethiopia’s Afar region in the Middle Awash study area. It would take an elite international team of experts the next fifteen years to delicately, meticulously and methodically piece together “Ardi” and her lost world in order to reveal her significance.

Tune in to DISCOVERING ARDI tonight, Sunday October 11 at 9 PM (ET/PT), immediately followed by UNDERSTANDING ARDI at 11 PM (ET/PT)

Ardi, your 4.4 million year old ancestor

The archaeological world was rocked this week when scientists announced the discovery of a 4.4 million year old fossil skeleton; the oldest prehuman remains ever discovered.  Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus represents an exciting piece of our evolutionary past by possessing both human and primate traits. “She’s not a chimp. She’s not a human. She shows us what we used to be,” said paleoanthropologist Tim White of the University of California-Berkeley. Before Ardi’s discovery, Lucy, a 3.8 million year old Australopithecus afarensis, was the oldest early human skeleton yet discovered. Experts believe this new discovery is very, very close to the ‘missing link’ common ancestor of humans and chimps, thought to have lived 5 to 7 million years ago.

The fossils were found in what is known as the Middle Awash, a site in Ethiopia’s Afar Rift, northeast of the capital city of Addis Ababa. The rift is a large triangular depression, where sediments have been accumulating for millions of years. Now parched desert, the landscape was once wet and heavily wooded, with fresh water springs and forests teeming with wildlife.

The first glimpse of Ardi came in 1992 when a former UC Berkeley grad student discovered a tooth among desert pebbles. In 1994, two pieces of a bone from the palm of a hand were discovered by another student. It snowballed from there, leading to the discovery of 110 other skeletal fragments, as well as 150,000 specimens of fossil plants and animals. But the bones were in terrible condition, trampled and scattered so bad that what remained of the skull measured a mere two inches in height. So entire blocks of fossil-rich rock were moved to the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. It took years to remove the clay from the fragile fossils. Ardi’s fossilized remains were very fragile, sometimes disintegrating when they were touched.

Timeline

No doubt the coming months will be filled with much debate over the theories behind this new discovery.  In the meantime, bask in the glow of that which is sexy archaeology!

All of the exciting research can be found in the October 2nd edition of the journal Science.

Not a subscriber?  No worries.  Head over to the AAAS website where all 11 papers pertaining to this new discovery are available online for free.

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Here’s what you need to know about Ardi:

  • Full name Ardipithecus ramidus.
  • The remains were discovered in Ethiopia’s harsh Afar desert.
  • Volcanic layers around the fossil were used to date it from 4.4 million years ago.
  • Ardi’s upper canine teeth are more similar to stubby human teeth than sharp chimpanzee teeth.
  • Tooth enamel analysis revealed they ate fruit, nuts and leaves.
  • Ardi’s brain was positioned in a similar way to that of humans.
  • The pelvis and hip show the gluteal muscles were positioned so she could walk upright.

Special Announcement: Casting Call

Sexy Archaeology is looking for archaeologists (or practitioners in a similar field) who would be interested in taking part in an ongoing television documentary series currently being developed by a Los Angeles based production company. We’re looking for archaeologists over the age of 18 with varying levels of experience who have very interesting, active lives and outgoing personalities. To apply, please send a brief paragraph about yourself and 3-4 recent photos to sexyarchaeology@gmail.com.

Early modern humans use fire to engineer tools from stone

Evidence that early modern humans living on the coast of the far southern tip of Africa 72,000 years ago employed pyrotechnology – the controlled use of fire – to increase the quality and efficiency of their stone tool manufacturing process, is being reported in the Aug. 14 issue of the journal Science. An international team of researchers, including three from the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, deduce that “this technology required a novel association between fire, its heat, and a structural change in stone with consequent flaking benefits.” Further, their findings ignite the notion of complex cognition in these early engineers.  Link.

From: Physorg.com

Sexy News from the World of Archaeology for 06 August 2009

Hope you all enjoyed last night’s season finale of Time Team America! Don’t forget to head over to the Time Team America website and check out the site report. And remember you can watch any of the episodes again anytime on the PBS Digital Portal.

On to the news! Here’s what’s happening this week in the world of Sexy Archaeology!

How about we start with the least sexy thing of the week. That example would have to come from Oxford, Alabama…

City leaders there have approved the destruction of a 1,500-year-old Native American ceremonial mound and are using the dirt as fill for a new Sam’s Club. The site is significant to Native Americans. The Woodland and Mississippian cultures that inhabited the Southeast and Midwest before Europeans stole and murdered arrived constructed and used these mounds for various rituals, which may have included funerals. There are concerns that human remains may be present at the site, though none have been found yet. Despite protest from anyone with half a brain, Oxford officials are pressing ahead with the project. We’re encouraging everyone to take the time to write to Alabama Governor Bob Riley and tell him what a detriment this is to Native American history. Link.

Wow, Oxford, seriously? Have you lost your mind?

Speaking of loosing your mind (and your head)…

As mass burial of 51 headless Vikings has been uncovered by archaeologists working in southern England. The dead are thought to have been war captives, possibly Vikings, whose heads were hacked off with swords or axes, according to excavation leader David Score of Oxford Archaeology, an archaeological-services company. Many of the skeletons have deep cut marks to the skull and jaw as well as the neck and the bodies show few signs of other trauma, suggesting the men were alive when beheaded. Lucky them. Link.

Here something from for the diggers that think to much

A study in forthcoming journal Psychological Science, suggests that showing popular history movies in a classroom setting can be a double-edged sword when it comes to helping students learn and retain factual information in associated textbooks. Students who learn history by watching historically based blockbuster movies may be doomed to repeat the historical mistakes portrayed within them, suggests a new study from Washington University in St. Louis. Link.

Whatever, I’m not selling my Young Indiana Jones Chronicles DVDs. Apocalypto on the other hand…

Stone Pages Archeo News Podcast!Lastly, remember you can get all your news in one smashing podcast. Head over to Stone Pages where David Connolly and his team are working tirelessly to keep the world informed about all the exciting happenings in the world of archaeology. Its a must listen to whether your getting sexy at the gym or digging a massive trench in the hills of Hereford!

What are you waiting for, subscribe to Stone Pages Archeo News today!

That’s all for now!

Got a hot tip? Working on something sexy cool in the world of archaeology and want to tell the world? Contact sexyarchaeology@gmail.com and tell us what you’ve got! Until next time, stay sexy!

Don’t forget!

The deadline for the 2009 Sexiest Field Crew competition is fast approaching.  Entries are filling up our inbox quick and there are some seriously sexy field crews out there this year!  Think you’ve got what it takes?  Does your field crew reinvent sexy archaeology?  Then what are you waiting for?

Beat-this

One crew will take home the GRAND PRIZE… the prestigious SexyArchaeology.org Sexiest Field Crew 2009 trophy!  We’ll also send along five of our upcoming SexyArchaeology.org T-shirts to keep you and your crew clothed.

Click here for the fine print.