Remains of more than 1,000 discovered in excavation of medieval cemetery at University of Cambridge

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This photo shows some of the skeletons unearthed during the excavation of a medieval cemetery at St. John’s College, University of Cambridge in England. (St. John’s College, University of Cambridge/Press Association)

Archaeologists undertaking excavations at the University of Cambridge in England say they’ve discovered one of the largest medieval hospital cemeteries in the U.K., containing the remains of around 1,300 people, including approximately 400 complete skeletons.

The Press Association reported that the existence and location of the cemetery have been known to scientists since at least the mid-20th century. However, the size of the burial ground and number of remains there was not clear.

The cemetery was unearthed in 2012 during the refurbishment of the Old Divinity School at the university’s St. John’s College, but its contents are only just being made public.

Scientists say the bodies mostly date from between the 13th and 15th centuries. They would have been taken from the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist, which stood across from the graveyard until 1511. The college, which takes its name from the hospital, was founded that same year by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII.

The bodies were buried without coffins or even burial shrouds, suggesting that most of the dead were poor. Most of the bodies were male, hinting at the hospital and cemetery’s stated purpose, which was to treat “poor scholars and other wretched persons.”

The Press Association reported that the bodies did not exhibit many serious illnesses and conditions that would have required medical attention. A report by The Archaeological Journal on the find said “this could reflect that the main role of the hospital was spiritual and physical care of the poor and infirm rather than medical treatment of the sick and injured”.

The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209, making it the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world, after the University of Oxford.

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2M-year-old find may be ancient ‘playground’

2M-year-old find may be ancient 'playground'

Have archaeologists found an ancient playground? (stock photo) (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Edmund D. Fountain, Pool)

An investigation into what appears to be a nearly 2 million-year-old site in China’s Hebei province suggests the spot served an important purpose: fun. The South China Morning Post compares the dig site to a “playground” for ancient hominids, noting that it was home to some 700 stone objects and 20,000 fragments; some may well have been kids’ toys, believes lead researcher Wei Qi.

He speculates that the objects, most less than two inches long, were made by children and their mothers. “You can almost feel the maker’s love and passion,” says Wei of one piece he describes as “beautifully shaped.” The other bits of evidence supporting his playground theory: The remains of animals or large tools in the area are scarce, suggesting it’s not where hominids lived and a limited number of adults toiled there.

The site is part of the Nihewan basin, which has been the source of a vast trove of ancient discoveries since 1921, Ancient Origins reports.

What’s also relatively new is the dating of the site, carried out by studying its magnetic properties. Results suggesting it dates to between 1.77 million and 1.95 million years ago could make it older than the Dmanisi site in Georgia, whichUNESCO calls the “most ancient” in Eurasia.

But outside researchers have their doubts about the playground theory: “It is difficult to rule out the possibility that (the objects) were just stone fragments created by natural forces,” says one.

If the discoveries really were made by hominids more than 1.8 million years ago—when the first hominid is though to have left Africa—it could change the story of human origins, the Week notes.

(A recently discovered jawbone is also challenging such conceptions.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: 2M-Year-Old Stones May Have Belonged to Children

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Oldest Roman fort protected soldiers from ‘infamous pirates’

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Lidar (the laser equivalent of radar) revealed the oldest known Roman military camp called San Rocco (C). Also shown are the Roman military camps Grociana piccola (A) and Montedoro (B). Scale bars: 100 m. (Image courtesy of Civil Protection of Friuli Venezia Giulia.)

Using airborne laser scanners, researchers have discovered ancient fortifications in Italy that make up the oldest known Roman military camp, where soldiers may have fought pirates more than 2,000 years ago.

This camp may help reveal clues about how the Romans developed their army, and the structures might have served as the foundations of the modern Italian city of Trieste, the researchers said in the new study.

The Roman army was among the most successful militaries on Earth, and helped to create an empire that spread across three continents. A key factor behind the strength of the Roman army was the art of building orderly military camps.

The origin of the Roman military camp remains unclear, the researchers said. Until now, the oldest confirmed Roman military camps had been located in Numantia and Pedrosillo in Spain, which date to about 154 B.C. and 155 B.C., respectively.

But the recently discovered Roman camp described in the new study was probably built in 178 B.C., thus predating the oldest Spanish camps by decades, the researchers said. They suggested that these newfound fortifications may have provided the foundation for the colony of Tergeste, the ancestor of the modern city of Trieste. [In Photos: Ancient Roman Fort Discovered]

“They are probably the most ancient examples of Roman camps in the entire Roman world,” lead study author Federico Bernardini, an archaeologist at the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste and the Fermi Center in Rome,told Live Science.

Looking with lidar

The scientists analyzed the Bay of Muggia, the innermost part of the Gulf of Trieste, located near Italy’s northeastern border with Slovenia. This is one of the most protected natural harbors of the northern Adriatic coast, making it a good place to build a settlement, the researchers said.

The team used a laser scanner mounted on a helicopter to scan the area with lidar (short for “light detection and ranging”) — the laser equivalent of radar.

“Lidar is like a new telescope, which allows you to see worlds that are not visible by the naked eye,” said study co-author Claudio Tuniz, a physicist at the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste and the Fermi Center in Rome.”It can reveal large ancient archaeological structures hidden under trees or other landscape features.”

“It can provide unexpected results, even in relatively urbanized territories investigated for a long time,” Tuniz told Live Science. “With lidar, we discovered in a few months more prehistoric archaeological structures than those discovered during one century of work with conventional archaeological methods.”

With the help of lidar, ground-penetrating radar and archaeological fieldwork, the scientists discovered the remains of a military camp at San Rocco.

“After seeing the image of the first Roman camp, [Bernardini] ran to the site, 30 minutes from our institute, to search for direct evidence,” Tuniz said. “Sure enough, after a brief stroll through the site, he found clear signatures of the Roman period, such as the characteristic hobnails used to make the military shoes of Roman soldiers and fragments of Roman amphorae, widely used to store oil, wine and other food products.”

This military camp was relatively large — greater than 32 acres — and was defended by imposing fortifications, such as wide ramparts up to about 80 feet wide, the researchers said in the new study. It was located on a hilltop in a strategic central position about 1.2 miles from the innermost present-day shore of the Bay of Muggia, they said.

Two minor forts flanked the main military camp. One rested on a large terrace on Montedoro ridge, overlooking access to the Rosandra River, while the other, at Mount Grociana, overlooked both the Bay of Muggia and routes leading from the Gulf of Trieste to what is now Slovenia and Croatia.

Infamous pirates

This is the first Roman military camp discovered in Italy, and the newly discovered fortifications were probably created during Roman wars against people known as the Histri, who controlled the nearby Istrian Peninsula, the researchers said.

“Their objective was also to protect the new neighboring city of Aquileia from the incursion of the Istrian peoples,” Tuniz said. “Its port was an important emporium for the trade of wine, olive oil and slaves. Aquileia would later become one of the capitals of the Roman Empire.”

The Roman historian Livy described the Histri as infamous pirates. [The 10 Most Notorious Pirates Ever]

“According to Livy, in the first phase of the conflict, two legions of Roman Republic were defeated by the Histri, and the camp was lost,” Bernardini said. “Livy reported that the Histri found a lot of wine inside the camp and got drunk, and this helped the Romans reconquer the camp very easily.”

Pottery fragments at San Rocco revealed that the site dates to between the end of the third century B.C. and the first decades of the second century B.C. “Investigation of the sites will be crucial to study early Roman military architecture and the origin of Roman military camps,” Bernardini said.

The age, size and location of the San Rocco site correspond to a military camp Livy wrote about that was built in 178 B.C., the researchers noted. This was “a crucial historic period at the borders of the Roman Republic,” Tuniz said.

Ancient records suggest that the Romans may have used the camp until the foundation of Tergeste, the scientists added.

“Many European cities originated from ancient Roman military forts, including Bonna, or Bonn; Vindobona, or Vienna; Eburacum, or York; and Argentorate, or Strasbourg,” Tuniz said.

The scientists plan to do full-scale archaeological excavations at these sites. They detailed their findings online March 16 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

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Historians ponder future of threatened Revolutionary War relic beneath Lake Champlain

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Published March 14, 2015Associated Press
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FILE – In this Aug. 18, 1991 file photo, a replica of the Revolutionary War gunboat, the Philadelphia, fires guns during its launch on Lake Champlain in Vermont. A similar gunboat, the Spitfire, has been on the bottom of the lake since it was sunk in 1776 during the Revolutionary War, while being used by Benedict Arnold to help hold off the British in the key naval Battle of Valcour Island. Historian Art Cohn is developing a management plan for the future of the Spitfire, fearing the possible threat of an invasive species that could destroy the wreck if it is not raised and preserved. (AP Photo/Craig Line, File) (The Associated Press)
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MONTPELIER, Vt. – When it was built late in 1776 the gunboat Spitfire wasn’t meant to be the pride of the American fleet. It was built to fight and fight it did, helping slow down the larger British fleet that sailed south out of Canada onto Lake Champlain as part of an effort to crush the colonial rebellion.

The 54-foot Spitfire sank a day after the critical Oct. 11 Battle of Valcour Island, settling into deep water where it went unseen for more than 200 years.
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Now the historian who led the search that found the Spitfire nearly two decades ago is developing a management plan for the future of the boat that today sits on the lake bottom, its mast upright and its bow cannon pointing straight ahead, just as it was when it was abandoned by its crew.

“This is not a sexy boat,” said Art Cohn, the emeritus director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum who is now writing a management plan for the Spitfire that he will submit to the U.S. Navy. “It was relatively small, flat-bottomed and quickly built, but that’s not its value.”

“The principal value, in my opinion, is it connects us to 1776 and the formative years of this country,” he said.

For years, the bottom — Cohn won’t say exactly where the Spitfire rests or how far down — has been thought of as the safest place for the Spitfire, thanks to the protection of the cold, deep water above it. Now the fear is of a looming threat from the invasive species quagga mussels, which could destroy the wreck. They haven’t arrived yet in Lake Champlain, but experts fear it’s only a matter of time.

Cohn’s plan will include recommendations for the future of the Spitfire, including possibly leaving it where it is or raising it, preserving it and then displaying it in a museum. He hasn’t chosen a course yet, but his worry over the mussels is clear.

“Our concern over the length of this study has really been elevated based on what we’re learning about the implications of the mussel invasion. That information is sobering and a concern,” Cohn said. “As we move toward final recommendations our goal is to try to develop a strategy so that this shipwreck survives for future generations.”

The 50-man Spitfire was part of a small fleet that was assembled in the late summer of 1776 by Benedict Arnold before he turned traitor. The fleet was built at Skenesborough — now Whitehall, New York — to counter the larger British fleet being built on the Richelieu River in Quebec.

The British commanders intended to sail down the lake as part of a broader campaign to split New England from the rest of the fledgling United States of America and end the rebellion. Arnold anchored his fleet on the western side of Valcour Island, just south of Plattsburgh, New York, forcing the larger British force to attack him in the narrow confines between the island and the shore.

By all accounts the battle was a British victory. In the dark of night after a day of heavy fighting, Arnold famously slipped his remaining fleet through the British lines and retreated south. It was during that retreat that the Spitfire, leaking badly, was abandoned and sank, not to be seen again until 1997.

Even though the British won the day, the battle delayed their advance down the lake until 1777, giving the Americans much-needed time to prepare for the assault, ultimately leading to the American victory at Saratoga. That battle led to French recognition of the new country, key to the eventual defeat of the British.

Paul Taylor, a spokesman for the Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command, said the organization was looking forward to receiving Cohn’s management proposal.

The usual preference is to leave vessels, especially in cold, fresh water, on the bottom where they will be preserved. Taylor said he was unaware of the mussel threat, but the Navy agrees with the need to protect its historic resources.

“We take preserving the history of our Navy very seriously,” Taylor said. “The history of the Navy is the history of the nation.”

Neanderthals wore eagle talons as jewelry 130,000 years ago

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The eight eagle talons from Krapina arranged with an eagle phalanx that was also found at the site. (Luka Mjeda, Zagreb)

Long before they shared the landscape with modern humans, Neanderthals in Europe developed a sharp sense of style, wearing eagle claws as jewelry, new evidence suggests.

Researchers identified eight talons from white-tailed eagles — including four that had distinct notches and cut marks — from a 130,000-year-old Neanderthal cave in Croatia. They suspect the claws were once strung together as part of a necklace or bracelet.

“It really is absolutely stunning,” study author David Frayer, an anthropology professor at the University of Kansas, told Live Science. “It fits in with this general picture that’s emerging that Neanderthals were much more modern in their behavior.” [Top 10 Mysteries of the First Humans]

The talons were first excavated more than 100 years ago at a famous sandstone rock-shelter site called Krapina in Croatia. There, archaeologists found more than 900 Neanderthal bones dating back to a relatively warm, interglacial period about 120,000 to 130,000 years ago. They also found Mousterian stone tools (a telltale sign of Neanderthal occupation), a hearth and the bones of rhinos and cave bears, but no signs of modern human occupation. Homo sapiens didn’t spread into Europe until about 40,000 years ago.

The eagle talons were all found in the same archaeological layer, Frayer said, and they had been studied a few times before. But no one noticed the cut marks until last year, when Davorka Radov?i?, curator of the Croatian Natural History Museum, was reassessing some of the Krapina objects in the collection.

The researchers don’t know exactly how the talons would have been assembled into jewelry. But Frayer said some facets on the claws look quite polished — perhaps made smooth from being wrapped in some kind of fiber, or from rubbing against the surface of the other talons. There were also nicks in three of the talons that wouldn’t have been created during an eagle’s life, Frayer said.

Now extinct, Neanderthals were the closest known relatives of modern humans. They lived in Eurasia from about 200,000 to 30,000 years ago. Recent research has uncovered evidence that Neanderthals may have engaged in some familiar behaviors, such as burying their dead, adorning themselves with feathers and even making art.

But scientists debate the extent to which Neanderthals were capable of abstract thinking. Deliberately making or wearing jewelry would suggest some degree of symbolic thought, as well as planning, Frayer explained. And the age of the talons suggests that if the Neanderthals were indeed wearing jewelry, they didn’t pick up on the trend from modern humans.

“Eagle talons are not easy to find,” Frayer said. “My guess is that they were catching the birds live — which also isn’t easy.”

The findings were published March 11 in the journal PLOS ONE.

 

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Archaeologists have found the world’s ‘oldest pretzel’

 

Archaeologists have found the world's 'oldest pretzel'
By Arden DierPublished March 12, 2015Newser
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Archaeologists digging in Germany’s state of Bavaria probably weren’t expecting to find a snack. But that’s exactly what turned up last summer at a site in Regensburg on the Danube River, a location that had previously given up the remains of some gallows and a 1,200-year-old wooden house.

Out of the dirt came … a roughly 250-year-old pretzel. “This is definitely the oldest pretzel ever found,” Silvia Codreanau-Windauer of the Bavarian Bureau for the Conservation of Historic Monuments said in announcing the “archaeological sensation.” Remnants of a bread roll and croissant were also found nearby “suggesting that someone missed out on quite the historical breakfast buffet in the 18th century,” the Local quips.
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In reality, the meal probably wouldn’t have been so tasty back then: Researchers say the food is so well-preserved because it was originally burnt, and they speculate that a baker threw out the creations in frustration.

Carbon dating placed the items in the 1700 to 1800 time period. “This discovery is really extraordinary, because it depicts a snippet of everyday life,” Regensburg’s mayor says.

The Bavarian state’s pretzel last year secured a place on the EU’s “protected origins” list, which NBC News explains means only pretzels made there can be labeled “Bayerische Brezn” (Bavarian Pretzel).

The International Business Times notes this is far from the oldest food item ever found: In the late ’90s, burnt pieces of 5,500-year-old bread were found in England.

(A “tantalizing” find was recently made at an Oregon dig.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Archaeologists Uncover World’s Oldest … Pretzel

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‘Bedlam’ graveyard excavation may reveal thousands of skeletons

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Skeletons found in the Bedlam burial ground on the future site of a Crossrail ticket hall are seen next to Liverpool Street Station in London. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)

Archaeologists could pull thousands of skeletons out of the ground in London over the next few weeks as they dig up the 450-year-old Bedlam graveyard to make room for a new train line.

London’s Liverpool Street station is under construction so that it will be able accommodate a new east-west train line, dubbed Crossrail. The tracks will be laid deep underground, about 130 feet below the city’s current street surface.

And to get down there, excavators have to slice though a rich archaeological layer cake that includes a Roman road, a medieval marsh and the abundant graves of the Bedlam cemetery. [See Photos of the Bedlam Graveyard Excavation]

“Construction for Crossrail is providing rare and exciting opportunities for archaeologists to excavate and study areas of London that would ordinarily be inaccessible,” Nick Elsden, project manager with the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), said in a statement. “There are up to 19.6 feet of archaeology on site, in what is one of the oldest areas of the city, so we stand to learn a great deal.”

MOLA experts have been working with Crossrail for more than a decade to prepare for the massive excavation, which will involve 60 archaeologists working in shifts six days a week for at least a month.

Their focus is the Bedlam graveyard, which was used intensively from 1569 to the 1730s and got its name because it was located near the original Bethlem Royal Hospital (notoriously known as Bedlam). The cemetery was an overflow graveyard outside the original city walls of London, and many of the remains buried there overlap with each other.

There are typically about three to six skeletons per 35 cubic feet, Elsden said in an email to Live Science, so it’s possible that 3,000 graves will be found in the excavation area. That’s still just a fraction of the estimated 20,000 total burials at the cemetery.

Archaeologists probably won’t be able to identify most of the skeletons they find. Some coffin plates have been found, but they are so heavily corroded that they are illegible, Elsden said. When the burial ground went out of use in the 18th century, the site was quickly built over to accommodate the expanding city; some gravestones were reused in later buildings and walls. Among the few gravestones that have been found is one that marked the final resting place of Mary Godfree, a woman who died of the plague in the 17th century.

Volunteers who pored over historic parish burial registers from across the city compiled the names of more than 5,000 people buried at the site, according to Crossrail officials. Among the more notable figures believed to have been buried at Bedlam are Lodowicke Muggleton, founder of the “Muggletonian” radical Protestant movement, and John Lambe, an astrologer who inserted himself into the English royal court and was stoned to death by an angry mob after he was accused of black magic and rape.

There’s likely much more to be found below the graveyard, too. During previous trail excavations as part of the Crossrail project, archaeologists found animal-bone ice skates that date to the medieval period, when the site was a marsh. Excavators found a number of  hipposandals (like ancient horseshoes) from the Roman era, when there was a road running through the area. Further east, in North Woolwich, archaeologists found 150 bits of 9,000-year-old stone tools while digging a tunnel for the new train line.

 

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Ancient Celtic Prince’s grave and chariot unearthed

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This aerial view shows the funerary complex where archaeologists discovered a Celtic prince’s tomb dating to the fifth century B.C. (Copyright Denis Gliksman/Inrap)

The 2,500-year-old lavish tomb and chariot of an ancient Celtic prince have been unearthed in France.

The ancient princely tomb, which was discovered in a large burial mound, was filled with stunning grave goods, including gorgeous pottery and a gold-tipped drinking vessel. The giant jug was decorated with images of the Greek god of wine and revelry, and was probably made by Greek or Etruscan artists.

The stunning new finds “are evidence of the exchanges that happened between  the Mediterranean and the Celts,” Dominique Garcia, president of France’s National institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP), told journalists at a field visit, according to France 24. [See Photos of the Ancient Celtic Prince’s Tomb]

Ancient trade routes

Though the heartland of the Greek  city-states was clustered in Greece in the fifth and sixth centuries B.C., the economic powerhouses later expanded their reach throughout the Mediterranean. At their peak, the Greek and Western Etruscan city-states had settlements dotting coastlines all the way to modern-day southern Spain to the south and to the Black Sea, near modern-day Russia, to the north.

One of the key trading centers for this region was Massilia, in what is now modern-day Marseille, France. Merchants from the East came to the region seeking slaves, metals and amber, according to an INRAP statement about the find.

Many of the Mediterranean merchants bestowed impressive goods from Greek and Etruscan cultures as diplomatic gifts, in hopes of opening new trade channels. As a result, the Celts who ruled centrally located inland regions in the central river valleys amassed great wealth. The most elite of these ancient rulers were buried in impressive burial mounds, some of which can be found in Hochdorf, Germany, and Bourges, France.

Long burial tradition

The current site — located in the little village of Lavau, France, just a few hours’ drive south of Paris — served as an ancient burial place for centuries. In 1300 B.C., the ancient inhabitants left burial mounds with bodies and the cremated remains of people, archaeologists have found. Another burial at the site, dating to about 800 B.C., holds the body of an ancient warrior bearing a sword, along with a woman bedecked in solid-bronze bracelets.

The current tomb was part of a set of four burial mounds that were grouped together, dating to about 500 B.C., though the tomb itself is likely younger than the rest of the burials. People continued to use the ancient cemetery during the Roman period, when some of the graves were emptied and replaced by newer graves.

The newly discovered funeral chamber was found in a giant mound about 130 feet wide — one of the largest found from that time period. Inside lies the body of an ancient prince in his chariot. In a corner of the tomb, someone had placed several basins; a bronze bucket; a fluted piece of pottery; and a large, sheathed knife.

The most striking find was a stunning bronze cauldron, about 3.3 feet in diameter, that may have been made by the Greeks or the Etruscans.

The giant jug has four handles, with images of the Greek god Achelous, a Greek river deity. In this depiction, Achelous is shown with horns and bulls’ ears, as well as a beard and three moustaches. The stunningly worked cauldron also depicts eight lion heads, and the interior contains an image of the Greek god Dionysus, the god of winemaking, lying under a vine and looking at a woman.

“This appears to be a banquet scene, a recurrent theme in Greek iconography,” researchers from INRAP, which is overseeing the excavations at the site, said in a statement.

The cauldron, which was likely used by the ancient Celtic aristocrats in feasts, is also covered in gold at the top and the base.

 

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Excavation at Oregon site unearths ancient stone tool

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This undated photo provided by the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History shows a scraper chipped out of agate found at an ancient rock shelter in the high desert of eastern Oregon. (AP)

Archaeologists unearthed a stone tool at an ancient rock shelter in Oregon that could be older than any known site of human occupation in western North America.

The hand-held scraper was chipped from a piece of orange agate that is not normally found in eastern Oregon. The tool was found about eight niches below a layer of volcanic ash from an eruption of Mount St. Helen’s dated from about 15,000 years ago. The depth was about 12 feet below the surface.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced the find Thursday. An archaeologist from the agency, Scott Thomas, said that if the age of the site holds up to scrutiny, it would be the oldest west of the Rockies, predating the Clovis culture that is believed to be the first people to migrate from Asia to North America about 13,000 years ago.

University of Oregon archaeologist Patrick O’Grady supervises the dig at the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter. He called the find “tantalizing,” but hopes to find out if the volcanic ash covers the entire area.

Donald K. Grayson, professor of archaeology at the University of Washington, said the scientific community would be skeptical.

“No one is going to believe this until it is shown there was no break in that ash layer, that the artifact could not have worked its way down from higher up, and until it is published in a convincing way,” he said. “Until then, extreme skepticism is all they are going to get.”

Two pre-Clovis sites are generally accepted by scientists, Grayson said. One is Paisley Cave, 60 miles southwest of the Rimrock site and another is in Mount Verde, Chile. Both are dated about 1,000 years before the oldest Clovis sites.

The find has yet to be submitted to a scientific journal for publication, but it has been reported in newsletters and at conferences, Thomas said.

Thomas found the site several years ago, while taking a break from carrying supplies to a session of the University of Oregon Archaeological Field School nearby that O’Grady was overseeing.

Thomas said he noticed an outcropping of an ancient lava flow, with some very tall sage brush growing in front of it, indicating very deep sediment deposits. The soil was black in front of the rock, indicating someone regularly built cooking fires there for a long time. An ancient streambed ran by, which would have given people more reason to stay there. And on the surface, he found a stone point of the stemmed type, found at sites both older and younger than Clovis. Similar points have been found at Paisley Cave.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Search for ‘White City’ uncovers lost civilization

Heard of the long-lost “White City” or “City of the Monkey God”? A group of experts who entered a Honduran rainforest in search of it emerged last Wednesday saying they have found a lost city—one that’s totally untouched, National Geographic reports.

As writer Douglas Preston explains, “Archaeologists no longer believe in the existence of … Ciudad Blanca, as described in the legends” but suspect there are many such cities secreted away in this rainforest, “which taken together represent something far more important—a lost civilization.” This find points to that: an unnamed, “scarcely studied” civilization that apparently flourished a thousand years ago and disappeared.

Among the exposed remains are an earthen pyramid, mounds, large plazas, sculptures, and ceremonial seats. More may be buried, and a team member dates what was found to AD 1000 to 1400.

“The undisturbed context is unique,” archaeologist Christopher Fisher tells National Geographic, which explains the found objects, many poking through the earth, have not been excavated. The hunt for the White City—the first recorded mention of which may lie in a 1526 letter from Hernán Cortés to Spain’s Charles V—allegedly made headway in 1940 when explorer Theodore Morde emerged from the Mosquitia rainforest with a huge cache of apparent White City artifacts, but he killed himself before divulging the location.

Documentary filmmakers spotted the current Mosquitia location(which remains secret) in 2012 by scanning a Honduran valley with a plane-mounted lidar scanner, reported a previous New Yorker article also by Preston.

 

(Archaeologists recently made a grisly find under a Paris supermarket.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Long-Lost Civilization Found in Rainforest

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