glacial exposure & more from an armchair archaeology enthusiast

English: First reconstruction of Neanderthal m...
English: First reconstruction of Neanderthal man Español: Primera reconstrucción del Hombre de Neandertal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Archaeology and Glacial Exposure

Update 4:59 p.m. Central Daylight Savings Time:  The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that 1000’s of Russians had to evacuate northern Russia and parts of Siberia due to extreme cold.  123 people have died.  See video about halfway down the page:


Originally a paper for a course in information retrieval, I wanted to share what I learned.  Following are my notes and questions about some archaeology finds.  Notably, archaeologists seem to be willing to adapt theories when their research doesn’t pan out as expected.  I have much appreciation for their courage and honesty.

Position statement


In a neighborhood carved out of the forest and with parents who appreciated the outdoors, this researcher was free to roam the woods, swim in a nearby stream, and make meals from a harvest of the trees – pecans, pears, cherries or plums.   Nights found this researcher listening to the grownups’ conversation on the porch and watching as the earth tumbled past the stars.

Observing the planet and its processes prompts lots of questions. How did the people survive this part of the country when it might be 75 degrees in one minute, a north wind pick up, and the temperature drop by 40 degrees overnight? Or, when a sudden snowfall like that in the 1960’s covered the temperate rain forest with more than a foot of snow, what did the first people think? How did they stay warm? How did they cope? Scientists study the past in hopes to better inform the future so, when it was time for college, this researcher chose science.

Full disclosure

In the interest of full disclosure, it is important to divulge that in the early 1990’s the professors at one major university invited their students to an open meeting for a science related honor society. This researcher was in attendance. At the meeting, the students present were informed of a major breakdown in academic science. The professors revealed that students desiring research funding would have to skew their findings to agree with a particular stand or face being denied at peer review, refused publication, and subsequently any hope of grants or stipends. This researcher chose to leave the field at that time, but is pondering a return. What follows in the next section comes from science lessons remembered rather than any recent publications due to this breakdown. [See Taylor (2011) in References for recent evidence.] As the reader engages with the material below, it becomes evident that the archaeologists speak for themselves and paint a picture that is the beginning of a return to a more authentic scientific method.

The big picture

Earth is a closed system. That means that no one is trucking water to or away from the planet. The amount of water, carbon and other essential elements present at its formation remains constant. [There is some discussion about Helium, but with the falsification of data by the UN, this researcher chooses not to mention that, yet.]

The state of water changes from solid, to liquid, to gas or vapor. This also means that water today is the product of recycling what the first man and every other living thing drank or absorbed and urinated or excreted. The water cycle is not the only recycling system as carbon and rock cycles also have recycling mechanisms. These mechanisms have been at work on the planet and its occupants since the beginning of time, image here:

The carbon cycle recycles organic materials, breaking down an organism into its molecular parts in a process called decomposition.  Every living thing is, in part, composed of carbon along with several other elements.  Along the way, the rock cycle may impose heat and pressure in which case pockets of what we call petroleum form out of putrefying remains.  What may be a tree today can be shaped by the carbon and rock cycles into a diamond in the future. , see Question 5.

The rock cycle is the longest running cycle, except during active volcanic or earthquake activity when it seems to speed up. This cycle has to do with the formation of rock structures and the recycling of minerals and non-organic materials, image:

All three cycles work together and impact each other in recycling all of the elements of matter.


In a manner of thinking, these cycles actually are issues man tends to ignore or believe that he can control. In thinking about reactions to Hurricane Sandy, this researcher remembers that Watson (2008) states that sand movement along beaches is a “natural process”. Beaches are not the only location for such processes. After Missouri River flooding in the summer of 2011 dumped four feet of sand on farmland, the farmers’ reaction was that the damage could never be corrected, Schulte (2012). An underlying issue is land ownership. Apparently, humans think that if they own a piece of land it will remain in perpetuity. What about when a plate subducts and the land that once was is no more? Or, when a glacier covers the spot? Our ancestors and the artifacts they left behind indicate that nature has occasionally caught man off guard. Does our possession of land limit our adaptability? Are we, as a civilization, prepared for the next drama brought on by the planet’s natural processes?

The position

Archaeology is a fascinating branch of science combining elements of several other sciences: geology, paleontology, biology, mechanical engineering, and more.

This bibliography cannot answer all the questions brought up. It contains information on twelve archaeological finds from various reputable sources that this researcher thinks most intriguing because of the discoveries and because the trend in archaeology is that new finds change thinking and no one seems to fear admitting that.

Basic Terms

• Archaeology: arche- means ancient, ology means study of : the study of ancient artifacts

• Artifacts: manmade objects

• Biology: bio means life and ology means study of, therefore the study of life

• Geology: the study of earth

• Magma: molten rock layer below the crust of the earth

• Mechanical engineering: defined by (2012) that branch of engineering that deals with machines |and/or tools

• Neanderthal:  A debate broke out this summer about when Neanderthals lived, see ,  so a link to a comparative image is provided rather than a time period:

• Paleontology: defined by (2012) as “the science of the forms of life existing in former geologic periods, as represented by their fossils from”

• Subduction: when one tectonic plate overrides another; the lower plate subducts

• Tectonic plate: geologists theorize that the crust of earth is divided into solid plates that ride above a more fluid magma layer

Annotated Bibliographies

1.  Plane Wreckage – breaking news

According to an A.P. or Associated Press (2012, November 26) report, a lost Air India plane from 1966 has been found in a French glacier. Huffington Post.  How did the glacier conceal the wreckage so well so quickly that it has only been found now, 46 years later?  Is this an indication that glacialation occurs much faster than previously thought?  *This is the most important question I have as there is now some talk about ground freezing leading to rapid glaciation.  So far this is just a rumor.

2.  Ancestors of Neanderthals made spearheads

Bower, B. (2012, November 15). Oldest examples of hunting weapon uncovered in South Africa. ScienceNews.

According to Bower (2012), researchers found spear tips that may date to 500,000 years ago. Bower (2012) says Shea explains that if this is the case it means it was made by a “common ancestor of people and Neandertals” [sic] which changes the thinking about Neanderthal intellect. Another article follows, by Smith (2012), on what this researcher thinks may be the same find, but with additional conclusions.

3.  Erik the Red’s villages

Brown, D. M. (2000, February 28). The fate of Greenland’s Vikings. Archaeology.

Brown (2000) notes the villages are known as “The Farm under the Sand” or “Greenland’s Pompeii”. It is not clear if the names refer to one or both of the locations. Brown (2000) recounts the story of the Vikings, led by Erik the Red, setting up farms in the late 900’s A.D. that flourished for centuries, eventually growing to about 5,000 members. At the time the article was written, scientists were digging through glacier sand and permafrost to unearth the settlement that once supported sheep and cattle. Besides the buildings, archaeologists found evidence of a loom in bits, iron weapons, and other valuable items which made them think the occupants left in a hurry, according to Brown (2002). Other odd finds Brown (2000) describes are the flies which died out suddenly in 1350 and that some rooms inside the house were used as a latrine. Brown (2000) theorizes as he recounts other evidence of rapid cooling: changes to house and barn structures as the owners closed in large areas to make smaller, presumably easier to heat rooms, laid insulation on the floor, and then brought their animals into their homes, theoretically as a heating strategy. Brown (2000) repeatedly states that there were no trees in the area; one wall of a barn is made from whalebone. This researcher wonders did the villagers burn anything to heat their homes?  If not, why did they build there if it wasn’t warm?  How did permafrost support sheep and cattle?


Bruns, C. (2011, November 10). Ancient art destroyed in Keewenaw Peninsula. Examiner.

This article does not refer to a new find, but to vandalism of an old find. In this article, Bruns (2011) relates 4000 years ago the beach of Lake Superior was higher due to glacier melt. While he does not state that this gave access to the lava extrusion where the art work is carved, this researcher supposes that is why he includes it. And wonders how vandals got access.  Did he say glacier melt?  4000 years ago?

This art is also challenging archaeologists’ concepts of who was where when. The art is a “glyph” depicting what appears to be a “Carthaginian war goddess” also known by Middle Eastern cultures as “Ishtar” or “Astarte” (Bruns 2011). Modern Carthage is a suburb of Tunis, Tunisia. How’d the glyph get there? Who carved it? The possible answers to these questions are thought to be behind the vandalism.

3.  A forest or two

Bryner, J. (2012, September 21). Fossilized forest may sprout again as Arctic warms. Live Science.

Willow, pine, and spruce trees, an ecosystem similar to the one in southern Alaska, grew on Bylot Island 2.5 million years ago according to Bryner’s (2012) interview with Alexandre Guertin-Pasquier a researcher from the University of Montreal. Bryner (2012) quotes Guertin-Pasquier as stating that “mummy” trees have been found on Ellesmere Island after glacier melt. Bryner (2012) tells his readers that he asks Guertin-Pasquier if the forest will return in time for his grandchildren to see it and Guertin-Pasquier answers in the affirmative, weather permitting.

4.  The unexpected

Cook, G. (2012, March 18). A controversial new archaeological theory says the continent’s earliest humans may have come from Europe, not Asia. Boston Globe.

Cook (2012) reveals an emerging human migration theory in a new book by Stanford and Bradley. Cook (2012) explains that for decades scientists believed that the Clovis people were the first arrivals in North America but that find after find disputes that theory and that humans may have arrived on this continent as long ago as 15,000 to 17,000 years ago and from an entirely different direction and people group. Cook (2012) also reveals that the archaeologists are ready to go back to the drawing board.

5.  Smell

Donovan, T. (2010, September 16). Climate change: Melting glaciers expose ancient artifacts in Northern Europe faster than archaeologists can collect them. Huffington Post Video.

In Donovan’s (2010) interview of Lars Piloe, Piloe points out that one find they had not expected was the smell of ancient reindeer droppings. Of course, there is also a 3,400 year old shoe, a chaser stick, and a whole arrow with an intact feather. The feather is remarkable because they usually decompose rapidly. Piloe is seen giving a tour of an ice cave built to display the items as they would look if still in the glacier.  So, how does the ice cave keep from melting if global warming melted the glacier?

6.  A Hindu shrine

Khanna, A. (2009, August 26). Kedarnath shrine was under glacier for 400 years. Yahoo Groups: Ancient History.

Khanna (2009) shares what scientists from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology learned upon their examination of the approximately 3,000 year old Kedarnath shrine. Khanna explains that Chaujar believes the presence of scratch marks inside and outside of the temple indicates that it was inundated by moving glacial ice. Along with the scratch marks, the scientists found wall engravings determined to be from 650 A.D. and 850 A.D. Glaciation of the site dates to about 1350 A.D, according to Khanna’s calculations. That is the same time the flies in Greenland died. This scientist wonders if there was a global event at that time and how the shrine stayed in one place with the pressure from the glacier.

7.  More Viking villages

Pringle, H. (2012, October 19). Evidence of Viking outpost found in Canada. National Geographic: Daily News.

Pringle (2012) reveals that this is the second site on Baffin Island Sutherland believes to have been occupied by the Norse. According to Pringle (2012) whetstones, rocks used for sharpening knives and blades, bear traces of copper, brass and “other European metallurgy”. Pringle (2012) points out that copper was used by the Vikings, but not the “Arctic’s native inhabitants” unless they were trading. Other evidence includes “Viking yarn” and the skins of “Old World rats” (Pringle 2012). Maybe this is where the Greenlanders went; Pringle (2012) says Sutherland believes the Vikings and natives were trading in a more sophisticated society present than previously thought.

A language

8.  Smith, K. (2012, November 7). Early humans tooled up. Nature.

In her article, Smith (2012) describes a South African find of microliths or tiny blades about the length of a little finger, made from about 59,000 years ago all the way to 70,000 years ago. Smith (2012) shares that Marean of Arizona State University believes that the early people who made the blades required a language in order to communicate the complicated process used to produce them and that these small points would be used as spearheads, giving early humans a distance advantage over Neanderthals. Smith’s article contains the various arguments for and against the proposed theories and quotes Stringer as attempting to “be fair to the Neanderthals”.

9.  Ötzi

South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. (2011). Ötzi – the Iceman.

Ötzi is remarkable because he was intact. According to the Museum writers (2011), Ötzi’s mummified remains were found in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps he was nicknamed for. Museum writers (2011) report several trips were made to excavate the surrounding area. Since then scientists have determined, by studying his clothing – non-waterproof shoes and a sleeveless coat among other things – that Ötzi lived during what the writers (2011) call the “Copper Age” about 5,000 years ago and was equipped to travel for long periods. According to the Museum’s writers (2011), Ötzi’s bow was found where he left it, leaning upright against a rock. A link on the website indicates that even the researchers wanted to know how Ötzi and his accoutrement survived intact. The link goes to their theory that since the direction the ravine runs is opposite of the movement of the covering glacier, the rock walls of the ravine must have protected Ötzi’s resting spot. See the spot on the back of the head? This researcher wondered why the original scientists didn’t point this out as an injury. As the investigation continued, the Museum writers report, they discovered Ötzi had been in a fight and had several other wounds besides this one.

10.  Neanderthals were sailors

Yirka, B. (2012, March 1). Evidence suggests Neanderthals took to boats before modern humans. PhysOrg: Archaeology & Fossils. 

Yirka (2012) shares the gist of Ferentinos’ (2012) finding that stone implements proven to belong to Neanderthals on Crete is a clear indication that the they had to have had boats as Crete is more than twenty-four miles from Greece. The Neanderthals seem to have gotten around quite well. I wonder if all the archaeologists studying them know about each other and have video conferences.


Things are not always what they seem. The span of mankind’s existence amounts to less than one percent of the time the earth has been here. Understanding our limitations and accepting that change is inevitable is our best hope for life on earth.

For more information on these and other archaeological topics some online news media have links for Archaeology under their Science tab, otherwise is an archeological news aggregator with outgoing links to various other resources.


Articles below were suggested by Zymanta and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of this blogger.  Civil comments and discourse accepted, spam rejected.

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