Category: Ann - Part 26

Roman Power-mortar contained volcanic Stratlingite

Trajan's ForumMost likely it was not (just) supreme architectural skills and good fortune that made the Trajan Forum last for almost 20 centuries, but volcanic ashes in the mortar used by the ancient Roman builders. X-ray analysis of a wall sample from the Trajan’s Market ruins in Rome showed that the mortars used by ancient Romans contained stratlingite, a mineral known to strengthen modern cements.

The cement used by Apollodorus of Damuscus’ builders to construct the huge ancient roman complex contained sandy ash of a volcano that erupted 456,000 years ago.

To find the ash they turned to the material erupted from the Alban Hills volcano some 456,000 years ago. The area features three pozzolanic (cement-like) deposits, known as Pozzolane Rosse, Pozzolane Nere and Pozzolanelle. “Of these, the type that makes a harsh, grating, rasping noise when rubbed vigorously in the hand is best,” the ancient Roman writer and architect Vitruvius wrote in his De Architectura, a 10-volume treatise on architecture.

Find more information on this at the website.

An easy way to copy geolocation data off Google Maps

Retrieving latitude and longitude values so they can be copied.Google Maps do not display latitude and longitude values, but there is an easy & quick trick to get these numbers. This technique will provide the latitude and longitude coordinates of the center of the map displayed by Google Maps.

Looking up an address in Google Maps will center the map on that address if it was found. If you wish to navigate your Google Map later, refocus the center of your map on the exact point you want the geolocation information for, by double clicking that area of the map.

When the location you want is in the center of the map, copy and paste this code into the location bar of your browser and press enter:


A little dialog box will pop up displaying the coordinates which can be copied and pasted for use elsewhere. This code can be bookmarked and then used in the future by selecting the bookmark.

Creating a bookmark for easy access in Firefox*:

Drag this link: Retrieve Lat & Long up to your Bookmarks Toolbar.
(To enable your ‘Bookmarks Toolbar’ go to View >Toolbars and check ‘Bookmarks Toolbar’.)

If you want to quickly get lat & long data, just go to the desired location on Google Maps, make sure your map is centered and then press your freshly created bookmark named ‘Retrieve Lat & Long’ in your Bookmarks Toolbar.

* creating the bookmark for easy access in Internet Explorer: Nothing in Internet Explorer is easy.All the ‘cool kids’ use FireFox, and rest assured that you’ll have way more fun using FF. Some examples of other neat stuff to use it with: greasemonkey scripts making your Flickr life more easy.

Bert & Ernie explore an Egyptian Pyramid

I’ve always been a fan of Bert and Ernie, but – wrongfully – assumed I’m a bit to old to enjoy them now.But apparently we still share the same interest: Bert and Ernie visit Egypt and explore an ancient pyramid.Which pyramid isn’t mentioned – I’m sure it’s one they did not discover yet – but it surely holds some interesting artefacts, replicas, of course.The best?Two Egyptian statues, very much alike to Bert and Ernie, with talking and dancing skills.Enjoy!

‘Rubber Ducky, you’re the one. You make bath time lots of fun Rubber Ducky, I’m awfully fond of you. Rubber Ducky, joys of joys When I squeak you, you make noise Rubber Ducky, you’re my very best friend, it’s true!’

via Antigo Egipto

Rome’s MMDCCLXIIth Birthday Celebrations at the Circus Maximus

The whole world agrees to the fact that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day‘, yet there’s little consensus on how long it exactly took our ancient romans to construct their home town, let alone when they exactly got their shovels out.A date is easy,all historic sources do agree on April 21st, but which year? 753BCis an often used year, and a recent discovery of fortification walls on the north slope of the Palatinus – Palatine Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome – dated to the middle of the 8th century BC confirms this.Anyway, enough with the boring facts. Let’s bring in the cake as this week we’re celebrating Rome’s MMDCCLXIIth* Birthday!

(* More or less, as explained above.Oh, you want that translated? Rome’s 2762th Birthday that is.)

modern chariot races at the circus maximusOf course, a celebration wouldn’t be a celebration if it were not for …chariot races! And what better location than the Circus Maximus? Already under the Etruscan Kings that ruled in the 7th century BC this location was utilized for public games and entertainment, and who doesn’t remember the famous scene from Ben Hur?

Luckily reports that – as opposed to ancient times – the chariot race took place without any fatal accidents: “Though the highly trained horses and charioteers of todays race managed to navigate the turn without any crashes, spectators were still pleased as the terrain is rough at that end of the Circus Maximus and thus it gave the racing teams an opportunity to exhibit their superior skills. At the finish, a helmet-head (no doubt aided by the aerodynamic design of his headgear) nosed ahead of the leading brush-head chariot, taking the prize!

I’ll race you all to Rome, maybe we’ll still get there in time to catch some of the other festivities planned? 😉

Shooting Stonehenge – Do’s and Don’ts

Do certainly take along a large amount of recording equipment.

Especially when you’re a large troop – or a very enthusiast couple – visiting Stonehenge, nothing is stopping you from taking along as many different recording devices as the total amount of arms can carry. Where as device Xmight be perfectly fitted for occasion Y, you could prefer device Z for situation N. An example:

  • The Sony HDVcamera (carried by Jon) – Excellent tool if you stumble over pagans & druids with interesting stories.
  • Canon ‘Rebel’ 300D (weapon of choice for Ann) – Nothing wrong with using ancient tools! When equipped with a wide angle lens, allowing you great reach, this silver veteran will give you a great chance in the battle for most interesting Stonehenge footage. (Just in case you want a more realistic look on things, take a decent 50mm prime along! ;))
  • Nikon D70 with 18-200mm lens mounted (commander Meral) – Rumoured to be the “ultimate lens” with magical VRpowers. Great for capturing sunrise from the obliged long distance.
  • Sony DCR-HC37E (obeyed to Alasdair) – …
  • iPhone (in Scott‘s back pocket) – Well, err…if you’re lucky this might be able to find out your geolocation or even point you in the right direction when lost. But there’s a reason it says ‘iPhone’ and not ‘iCamera’ or ‘iCapture’. 😉
  • Nikon D40 (operated by Rebecca) – …

When doing this, don’t forget to settle up front if you’re allowed to touch each other’s stuff! 😉 Things we did not take along – either because we don’t own them, the bus was too small or forgot about it – but that you could consider: a satellite radio dish to record alien communications, sonar equipment to check for bats & underground gnomes and a tripod.

Don’t miss out on the sunset and/or sunrise

Sunrise at Stonehenge (Time Lapse)We assume you won’t spend a whole day at Stonehenge, but plan your trip in such a way that you either arrive there at dawn or leave around dusk.

The stones won’t be accessible at that time – except when you book a special tour or attend the solstices – so do take along a food, drinks and a zoom lens – but the view is definitely worth the extra time spend! If you go at dawn like we did, taking these extras along is advised:

  • a tripod
  • hot drinks
  • breakfast
  • zoom lens
  • gloves
  • an extra pair of socks

You can either try to shoot through the fence (a lens with small diameter is needed) or go up the nearby dust road to shoot from a far.This time lapse photograph is taken from that road, using the wooden fence as tripod, with a 50mm prime.

Do take at least one great photograph, regardless of the weather

We were pretty lucky that our field trip to Stonehenge took place on one of those few days that Britain is sunny, but as they say, you can’t control the weather, what you can do, is take a great shot, no matter if the sun is shining full force, or it’s raining cats and dogs.

Sunny Weather

  1. Don’t shoot directly into the sun (except at sunset or sunrise).Why not? If you shoot directly into the sun, the sky in your photograph will be washed out – all white – or your stones to dark. You will also miss out on the lovely textures that are so typical for the megalithes, showing years of decay and humans with sharp objects.
  2. Do shoot with the sun on your left or right, or at least not straight behind or straight ahead of you, this is the best way to capture the stone’s textures.(They are lit from aside.)
  3. Underexpose 1 stop, if your camera allows it. This will ensure you have a pretty blue sky.
  4. Use global light metering (thus the sky and the stones) instead of point metering (if your camera allows it).

Rainy, Greyish & Stormy Weather

  1. Take along an umbrella and a person to hold that inexpendable tool.Of course, if you have a rain cover for your camera, that will do too.
  2. Make sure to expose that way that the “grumpiness” of the sky is visible, most of the time, this means underexposing one stop.
  3. Focus on the bluestones, which got their name for turning blue when moist.
  4. Try low ISOvalues, small aperture, long exposure and a tripod, so the rain is clearly visible in your shot. (This works fine with fog too.)

If done well, these ‘dark’ shots often are more appealing to the eye then their sunny counterparts, adding to the mystery that is Stonehenge. Plenty of examples of this can be found on Flickr.

Don’t forget to show off your best photographs

Not everybody is as lucky as to go to Stonehenge, or when we do, we most likely only experience one type of weather.If you have a Flickr account, please do consider sharing your photographs with the world – and especially that part of the world interested in Stonehenge – by tagging them with ‘Stonehenge’ and submitting them to the following Flickr groups:

  • Heritage Key – Our very own Flickr pool, gathering the best that is ancient.Who knows, your picture might be chosen to be showcased on the Stonehenge page – of course with attribution! – and you might even make it into Heritage Key Select.
  • Stonehenge – Need Isay more?
  • Stone Circles – Because although it might be the most famous, Stonehenge is definitely not the only stone circle out there.

Zoom In – A Closer Look at Science at the British Museum

Zoom In - Exhibition at the Great CourtAs part of National Science and Engineering Week, the British Museum organised a family event, allowing young and old to meet scientists and conservationists to discover how science unlocks secrets behind some of the Museums most iconic objects. Those attending on Saturday the 7th of March were allowed to handle raw materials and to see the latest behind-the-scenes technology in action.

‘Zoom In: a closer look at science’ took place in the Great Court of the British Museum, and although it was no ‘CSI Mummy’ or live version of ‘Bones’ – one should not let it’s expectations be guided by American TVseries – ‘Zoom In’ was an exhibition that succeeded in keeping the attention of both young and old.And if you took the effort to read, examine and – most important – ask questions, there was a lot to learn.

The Rosetta Stone was not made out of basalt

Zoom In - Polarising MicroscopePerhaps because of its black colour, the Rosetta Stone was always thought to have been made from basalt, a fine-grained, black volcanic rock. Recent analysis has shown this to be incorrect:

“The inlaid lettering was retouched on several occasions, most recently in 1980. Removal of this and also a protective layer of carnauba wax, which over many years, had absorbed finger grease and dirt has revealed a dark grey rock with a pink vein running across the top left hand corner.”

“The type of stone used was investigated by making a thin section from a small fragment removed from the back of the stone. The section was examined using a polarising microscope. This allows the individual minerals that make up the stone to be identified. By comparing the section with basalt from the Fayum we can see that the Rosette Stone is not basalt. However, it is very similar to ‘black granite’ (granodiorite) from Aswan.”

It was surprising how beautyful and colourful these ‘ordinary black rocks’ such as granodiorite and basalt can be when you ‘zoom in’ and take a closer look using a polarising microscope.

Polychromy and Egyptian Bronze: New evidence for artificial colourisation

A recent analytical study has produced new evidence of polychrome finishes on Egyptian Bronze statues.Eleven statuettes were examined using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray fluorescence analysis, Raman spectroscopy and X-ray defraction analysis.Computer generated images have been used to reconstruct the statues’ original appearance.

The conclusion from this work is that polychromy on Egyptian Bronzes is far more widespread than was suspected. This find has implications for cleaning the statues and conversation of these objects, as well as for our perception of their original colour values.

‘Zoom In’ to discover what is ancient

Zoom In - Scanning Electron Microsope ImageTake a closer look at the image on the left. Without the annotation and an extreme magnification, would you be able to tell which side is made out of ‘Greek Strip Wire’ and which side is the 19th century restoration?Most likely not!

Advanced technologies such as using a scanning electron microscope – or in short ‘SEM’ – allow the British Museum’s scientist to discover details hidden from the human eye. A SEMis a type of electron microscope that images the sample surface by scanning it with a high-energy beam of electrons in a raster scan pattern. The electrons interact with the atoms that make up the sample producing signals that contain information about the sample’s surface topography, composition and other properties such as electrical conductivity.

In this image it clearly shows the differences in the quality and textures between the ancient Greek and the 19th century wire used to restore the necklace.

Don’t let the museum bugs bite the artefacts

Zoom In - Museum Trap (insect monitor)Many insects are found in buildings and it is important to distinguish between those which are not pests and those that cause damage to objects or the building structure. Most damage is caused by immature insects, either nymphs (silverfish, booklice and woodlice) or larvae (beetles and moths). But what does the British Museum do to protect it’s treasures from these insects, after they’ve spotted them in their ‘museum insect traps’?

  • Good Housekeeping – The most effective method to prevent and control insects in the galleries, stores and throughout the museum.Inspecting materials coming into the building, only eating in designated areas and regular cleaning all help to keep the insect populations under control.
  • Low Temperature – Objects and other material for packaging and display can be frozen at very low temperatures to kill an infestation of bugs.
  • High Temperature – Objects can be heated under controlled humidity to kill all stages of insect life from egg to adult.
  • Low Oxygen – Removing the oxygen from an enclosed environment will kill insects, but only if it is done carefully.The oxygen level must reach very low levels and stay there for some time to be effective.Some objects which are too sensitive to be frozen or heated can be treated this way.

Zoom In - A Closer Look at Science (Great Court Exhibition)Further information and tools on display were amongst others a XRF analyser used to determine the composition of the materials ancient objects are made from – although one could also use it to test just how real that diamond on your finger is -, various different materials in ‘raw’, polished and corrosion state and the different kinds of products that were used in ancient, some even still today, Egypt for dying fabrics, gluing things together or to add a protective cover to a work of art.

Despite the fact that I expected something a bit bigger and was secretly longing to see a mummy CAT-scan taking place, Imust say this family event was definitely worth visiting.I might not have gotten the chance to analyse King Tutankhamun’s DNA but ‘Zoom In: a closer look at science’ did give me a fairly good idea of all the different fields of knowledge that are used today to study ancient history.It might not all be as exciting as archaeology ‘Indiana Jones style’, but each little bit of data discovered by these scientist helps us shape a better image of how the ancient cultures must have worked, lived and created.

Lightweight Film Camera for general use (or… new toys!!!!)

We’re about to leave for a field trip annex teambuilding annex day-away-from-the-computer-screens to Stonehengethe one with the large rocks mounted somewhere between 2600 and 1600BC, should there be any doubt – and as we are already dragging along quite a few DSLR’s, some laptops, a bag with cookies and walking shoes, but do want to shoot video, we had to find a “light weight” solution that for a not too large amount of money will get us good image quality and not too much backache when dragged carried around without any inconvenience in it’s brand new LowePro bag.The solution we chose for:

Digital Camera

A Sony HDV camera, the HVR-A1E which uses DigitalMaster film for HDto store the footage. With it’s 760 grams this digital camera recorder is one that’s easy to handle & hold steady, without having to grow extra arm muscles.

Lighting your Subject (a bit extra)

If you want your object to stand out of the background, or it’s just plain dark, an external extra light attached to your camera is pretty handy.We went with a Paglight C6 kit. It’s battery is probably the most heavy item in our whole setup – besides the tripod – but gives your whole appearance a nice futuristic battle-gear look and is definitely worth to take along, especially if you can get someone else to carry it.*waves at Scott*

(As we have only one mount available on the camera for now, it’s either light or sound fixed to the camera, and we like sound so…. *waves at Scott again*)

Sound & Recording without being limited by cables

With the Sony HVR-A1E comes a microphone with wind screen and the XLRadaptor to mount it to the camera. In some cases though, you want to be more mobile, catch a further away sound, go for the ambient sounds or even interview someone (shot from far).An excellent solution for this is the wireless Sennheiser W112-p G2 set which contains a compact receiver, bodypack transmiter, clip-on microphone, the needed cables and a flashmount adaptor.You’re free now!

(Or at least within the limits of the signal. Transmission range depends to a large extent on location and can vary from about 10 m to about 150 m. There should be a free line of sight between transmitting and receiving antennas.)

Extra Battery /Batteries

Keeping one or a few extra batteries at hand is never a unneeded luxury.All those who have already missed that “perfect shot” or that one “OMG!!!” occasion because they ran out of power, will definitely agree with me.So, the battery delivered with the Sony digicam was quickly replaced by one that lasts 6 hours instead of just 1, and the 1h battery makes a great “spare one”.

If you own a car, a car charger is certainly something you want to look into.(And when travelling to a foreign country, make sure you either take enough adaptors for the power cords, or, take one and a four-way-adaptor with you.)


We haz camera tools!At your discretion.We went with a mid-range Velbon, which is heavy enough to hold the camera with all attachments and the 6 hour battery steady, but is still light enough to carry arround attached to the LowePro backpack.

Whatever tripod you purchase, make sure it allows for a “shoe” to be quickly attached and detached from it, as there is nothing so annoying as having to screw your camera on the tripod each and every time you want to get help from some artificial legs!!! The little shoe – often included, and if not, not that expensive and will save you from lots of frustration and the thread wire of your camera wearing down.

**It seems most of the batteries have charged by the time we’ve unpacked and assembled everything and gave each and every piece of equipment it’s very own place in the LowePro backpack – Ordung musst sein! – and the time it took me to write this.So err…I’m sure you will all understand, we have some toys to go play with? 😉 **

Prehistoric fish pioneers sex

Sex involving ‘penetration’ is part of life for at least 380 000 000 years.That’s way longer than what we suspected. Internal fertilization was common with prehistoric fishes that lived at old tropical coral reefs during the Devonian, writes Nature, in a article that casts a new light on the history of sex with vertebrate animals, and thus also us humans.

The new discovery is that these ancient placoderms had developed this advanced form of mating well before the sharks. The prove that the fished did have internal fertilisation, was provided by the male fish fosiles.Those had an extra piece of bone at the height of the pelvis.

The new discovery of embryos in placoderm fishes belonging to the arthrodire group was a complete surprise to me,” Dr Long said. We werent expecting them, as these fish had showed no visible signs of sexual dimorphism where males and females have differing external body forms. Then we started looking closely at the rear paired fins on the fish Incisoscutum and found new structures not previously seen by other scientists. These features turned out to be same the structures they used for copulation.

The pelvic fins in fishes eventually evolved into the legs of modern land animals. They share a similar bone pattern in advanced fossil fishes to that of all animals (femur, tibia, fibula). In ancient placoderms the structure is much more primitive. The new find shows that the pelvic fins in these placoderms bore a long extra lobe, probably used for transferring sperm from the males to the females.

Further clues came from re-examination of other placoderm fishes from the Mount Howitt site in central Victoria. One fish, Austrophyllolepis, showed peculiar, long structures attached to the pelvic fin, which the research team couldnt explain previously. The evidence for the embryos then made sense.

These fish had pelvic fins built on the same pattern as those in modern sharks. All modern sharks have internal fertilisation, with males inserting parts of the pelvic fin called claspers inside the females for reproducing.

The Museum Victoria has a video illustration this process, bet you’ll click it? 😉

Urn Field, Cemetery from the Iron Age discovered at Wijnegem

Urn from the Iron Age found at WijnegemIn the past few months, archaeologist have excavated an exceptionally well preserved urn field at Wijnegem in the province of Antwerp, Belgium.An urn field is a cemetery, where in cremation remains were placed in an urn into the soil. About 24 graves from the early Iron Age (ca.2800 years old) were examined. Circular ditches point to graves belonging to persons with a higher social status. That the graves are this well preserved, we partly thank to the fact that the site has been used as agricultural area since the early Middle Ages, and the preservation under 150 years old European Beeches.

At the end of 2007, the Heritage department of the Province Antwerp on request of POM-Antwerp created multiple test slots in between the beeches on the parcel. This because of the development of “Den Hoek 3” as an area for light industry use. Because the preliminary examination pointed to a well preserved urn field, POM-Antwerp hired 4 archaeologist to examine the area. Next to the urn field – which spans an area of 1 hectare – the whole site contains traces of a settlement from the late Iron Age /Early Roman period.

 Provincie Antwerpen)The urns are relatively well preserved and were removed from the pits they were buried in 2800 years ago almost undamaged. A few of them were hit by ploughs during the early Middle Ages. The graves that are surrounded by a circle pit, are suspected to belong to person of high social status.For these persons often a tomb existing of a circle ditch, or less frequent, an elips shaped long bed, with sometimes a few poles and probably also a mound was constructed. Graves located under a mound were often not digged in, which lead to them being destroyed together with the hills by ploughing.Yet, the archaeologist found 2 urns in a circle ditch.The other circle pits had no central grave left. Some of the graves contained burial gifts, a small jar.In 2 cases, a skeleton was added separately to the pit. Besides that no skeleton remains were found.As the parts that were recovered seem to be deliberately placed, those are explained as part of the funeral ritual.

In total 24 graves, of which 12 contain urns, have been discovered.What’s inside the urns is not known, as they weren’t opened yet. They will be send to a laboratory where a physical antropologist shall examine the skeleton remains and age, gender and possible causes of death or illnesses will be determined. It’s very well possible that more burial gifts will be found inside the urns, amongst those metal objects. Based on the shape of the urns and their decorations, the burial field is dated during the early Iron Age.During the next few months, this dating will be refined by the use of 14C-dating on the charcoal samples.

 Provincie Antwerpen)It’s most likely that 7 centuries later (100 BC) an agricultural settlement was founded in the area.In the years 1950 to 1960 many traces were lost without being documented because of the removal of large amounts of sand. This is when a few wells from the late Iron Age / early Roman period surfaced. At the excavation site, archaeologist registered already as much as 4 maps of houses and a well. Remarkable is that this concerns very long houses, up to 28 meters in length. There are 3 wells matching these houses, probably only two of these large houses existed simultaneously in this spot.

After this, the parcels were used as fields for agriculture.Proof for this are ploughing traces and the construction of small canals. This agricultural development during the Middle Ages caused a added amount of manure from stables, causing the coating to become more thick.150 years ago beeches were planted, safeguarding the burial site and settlement free from further disturbing.

This archaeological examination is being completed and the findings will get a place in the Provincial Archaeological Museum. “The new street names on the site will be a lasting memory to this urn field”, decided the local officials.

Via archeonet. (Dutch)
Photographs & source: Province Antwerp (Dutch)