Archaeology Magazine Archive

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From the Trenches Volume 59 Number 2, March/April 2006

Fashions come and go, but vanity is forever. Two 2,300-year-old bog bodies found in Ireland show a real commitment to style. The first was a young man with bad teeth, a thin beard, and possibly a Napoleonic complex. Estimated to be 5'2"-tall, he used a pine-resin hair gel imported from France to coif his hair into a "Mohican-style" 'do and add inches to his height. The other, unusually tall at 6'6", had a meat- and vegetable-rich diet and perfectly manicured fingernails, speaking to a wealthy life without manual labor. Somebody didn't appreciate their taste: both were murdered.

A lack of footwear on the part of Pleistocene hunters in Australia has scientists thrilled. Nearly 460 footprints of adults, teenagers, and children were found in a dry lakebed southwest of Sydney. Dated to between 19,000 and 23,000 years ago, the tracks were made when the group crossed what were then moist clay flats. Some had been hunting emu and kangaroo: the animals' prints and spear holes were also preserved in the hardened clay. The size of the tracks and the length of the strides indicate the people were tall and fast. (You try chasing an emu down sometime.)

Scientists from the Berkeley Geochronology Center aren't tiptoeing around their take on the alleged 40,000-year-old footprints in Mexico ("Fantastic Footprints," News Insider, September/October 2005). Their new dating of the controversial formations in hardened volcanic ash shows that unless hominids made it to the New World more than a million years ago, they're not footprints. Multiple tests dated the formations to between 1.07 and 1.77 million years ago. One team member pointed out the ashes would have been very hot on the ground: "Why would anybody be walking on them?"

Take your atlatl to Alabama, says the Pennsylvania Game Commission to hunters. Fans of the ancient spear-thrower are disappointed they won't be able to hunt deer in the Keystone State the way humans did for thousands of years. Animal-welfare groups are concerned incompetent wielders will wound but not kill deer. Serious atlatlists can still stalk their prey in Alabama, where few hunters choose to forgo their guns for the ancient weapon.

Update: On January 24, the Pennsylvania Game Commission decided--against an internal staff evaluation to the contrary--to give preliminary approval for deer hunting with atlatl, asking staff to prepare regulatory language to that effect.

* For more news, see "World Roundup."

© 2006 by the Archaeological Institute of America