Category: Archaeology

A Caltech scientist has apologized for damaging a sacred site. Is it enough?

Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

A Caltech professor who outraged Native American tribes by drilling holes in an ancient petroglyph site while doing research without a permit near Bishop, Calif., has issued a public apology, saying he was “horrified” by what he had done.

“While the area’s geology is of significant interest, it is also of cultural and historical importance,” the scientist, Joseph Kirschvink, wrote in a statement. “I am horrified that I inadvertently collected samples from a sacred area that I too cherish and respect. I sincerely and deeply apologize for the disturbance we caused.”

But even as Kirschvink and officials at Caltech seek to make amends for damage caused at a protected archaeological site, a growing number of Indigenous groups and academics say more needs to be done to protect cultural resources from unfettered scientific inquiry.

Palaeontologists hope Biden will restore protections on fossil-rich US lands

Read the full story in Nature.

Trump’s shrinking of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante reserves may be reversed — ensuring archaeological and fossil treasures are preserved for study.

New evidence shows deforestation didn’t cause Cahokia’s collapse

Read the full story from St. Louis Public Radio.

What caused residents to abandon the ancient settlement that made the area near Cahokia, Illinois, home to the biggest city in the Western world? At its peak approximately 1,000 years ago, the settlement was bigger than London. But by A.D. 1400, it was virtually deserted.

Cahokia’s collapse has long been a subject of speculation. For several decades, one of the most persistent theories has blamed self-inflicted ecological disaster. First suggested by researchers at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in 1993, the theory held that the Mississippians who inhabited the city cut down forests in the nearby uplands, leading to erosion and flooding.

But the evidence underlying the theory was negligible, said geoarchaeologist Caitlin Rankin. The researchers knew that the people living in the area used wood, and that “there was increasing use of upland trees, happening more towards the end of Cahokia’s occupation,” she explained on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

The US’ lost, ancient megacity

Read the full story at BBC Travel.

In the ancient Mississippian settlement of Cahokia, vast social events – not trade or the economy – were the founding principle.

Why was the ancient city of Cahokia abandoned? New clues rule out one theory.

Read the full story in National Geographic.

Once found near present-day St. Louis in Illinois, Cahokia suddenly declined 600 years ago, and no one knows why.

Archaeologists Uncover Disturbing Amount of Plastic Waste at Iron Age Site

Read the full story at Gizmodo.

One by one, the archaeologists stumbled upon pieces of junk. Using techniques typically reserved for documenting stone tools and bones, the team recorded such items as plastic spoons, eye glasses, bottle caps, straws, mobile phone batteries, paint can lids, candy wrappers, and plastic wrap. By the time the experiment was over, the archaeologists had uncovered nearly 3,000 items, the vast majority of them made of plastic.

Climate change is rotting away Greenland’s cultural heritage

Read the full story at Massive Science.

Archaeologists are moving as fast as they can, but the past is slipping away.

Reading history in the soil

Read the full post at Behind the Scenes.

Illinois State Archaeological Survey postdoctoral researcher Rebecca Barzilai maps and collects soil samples from the floor of a religious shrine in Greater Cahokia, an ancient Native American settlement on the Mississippi River in and around present-day St. Louis.

Lead pollution from Native Americans attributed to crushing galena for glitter paint

Read the full story at

Native American use of galena at Kincaid Mounds, a settlement occupied during the Mississippian period (1150 to 1450 CE), resulted in more than 1.5 metric tons of lead pollution deposited in a small lake near the Ohio River. New data from IUPUI researchers found the lead did not originate from this Southern Illinois settlement, but instead was brought to the site from other Midwest sources.

‘Ultimate gift to future generations’: plan to laser map all land on Earth

Read the full story in The Guardian.

A project to produce detailed maps of all the land on Earth through laser scanning has been revealed by researchers who say action is needed now to preserve a record of the world’s cultural, environmental and geological treasures.

Prof Chris Fisher, an archaeologist from Colorado State University, said he founded the Earth Archive as a response to the climate crisis.

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