London underground. No, not that one.

New Statesman:

How many of these once perfectly functioning and possibly still serviceable diggers are petrified underneath central London, like those Romans preserved cowering in the corners of houses in Pompeii? Estimates vary. One property developer I asked reckoned at least 1,000; another put the figure at more like 500.


London is thus becoming a machine cemetery, with upwards of £5 million worth of excavators now lying in state beneath the houses of the 1%. Like tools invented by M.C. Escher, these sacrificial JCB*s have excavated the very holes they are then ritually entombed within, turning the city into a Celtic barrow for an age of heroic machinery.

I suppose this is all very well and good until somebody blunders into a plague pit.

*A “JCB” is what a Briton calls an excavator made by Lord Joseph Cyril Bamburg, CBE.

Medieval Wool Tunic

Researchers at the University of Oslo are going to re-create an iron age diamond twill wool tunic, starting with the correct breed of sheep. The reproductions will be displayed at the University’s Museum of Cultural History and the Norsk Fjellmuseum in Lom.

There have been plenty of reconstructions of linen tunics. This particular wool tunic is the oldest complete article of clothing found in Norway, part of the Lendbreen series of finds revealed by retreating glaciers.

Pleistocene Art in Indonesia!

A team of archeologists working in the Maros karst caves of Sulawesi, Indonesia have found paintings that appear to be at least 40,000 years old. These paintings strongly resemble well known European cave art of the same time period, showing that there were common art forms in use on opposite sides of the world forty thousand years ago, implying human art is much older.

Here, using uranium-series dating of coralloid speleothems directly associated with 12 human hand stencils and two figurative animal depictions from seven cave sites in the Maros karsts of Sulawesi, we show that rock art traditions on this Indonesian island are at least compatible in age with the oldest European art. The earliest dated image from Maros, with a minimum age of 39.9 thousand years, is now the oldest known hand stencil in the world. In addition, a painting of a babirusa (‘pig-deer’) made at least 35.4 thousand years ago is among the earliest dated figurative depictions worldwide, if not the earliest one. Among the implications, it can now be demonstrated that humans were producing rock art by aproximately 40 thousand years ago at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world.

The paper is paywalled here, at Nature Magazine’s website. The précis is quoted above.

“Coralloid speleothems” are a particular type of stalactite, formed of layers of diatom colonies, detrital minerals and clay. Because the diatoms were water-dwelling living creatures, the Uranium series dating technique is applicable to the speleothems. By determining the age of diatom colonies that have formed on top of the paint, minimum age of the cave art can be approximated.

Oldest Known Pants

As a proud member of the Men Without Tights, I am pleased to report that our fellowship extends further back in time than previously documented.

Trousers are believed to have evolved concurrently with horseback riding by men. For reasons that will be obvious, at least to men.

The pants, which date from 3,000 to 3,300 years ago, are tattered, but are surprisingly stylish, combining attractive form with function. Made out of wool, the trousers feature straight-fitting legs and a wide crotch.

Discovery article, surprisingly good once you scroll past the unrelated photos

The invention of trousers and its likely affiliation with horseback riding and mobility: A case study of late 2nd millennium BC finds from Turfan in eastern Central Asia (Quaternary International, paywalled)

Dyes of late Bronze Age textile clothes and accessories from the Yanghai archaeological site, Turfan, China: Determination of the fibers, color analysis and dating (also Quaternary, also paywalled)

Speculative Movies of Real Disasters

Steven Ward is a Research Geophysicist at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, UC Santa Cruz. He specializes in the quantification and simulation of natural hazards and he shares his research on youtube and his blog.

Some of the results of his modeling don’t match up cleanly with what geologists expect (for example tsunami height and reach for the Chicxulub strike) and Dr. Ward shows admirable openness about this as well as quite a bit of ingenuity in modifying the models to fit known geology.

This movie shows a physics-based computer simulation of the 1883 Krakatoa eruption; Ward suggests that a collapsing pyroclastic flow and lateral blast blew the Sunda Strait dry, which would account for the historical tsunami’s known behavior.

remains of a better woodhenge

It it’s not Scottish, it’s crrrrrrrrap!

“Our excavations revealed a fascinating glimpse into the cultural lives of people some 10,000 years ago – and now this latest discovery further enriches our understanding of their relationship with time and the heavens.”

There’s a paper at the Internet Archaeology online peer-reviewed professional journal (pay site, obviously).