I presented a few days ago in Koblenz at the DEGUWA conference on “Moving across rivers and lakes in prehistory”.My presentation reviewed evidence of the use of boats from across the world (largely targeting the prehistoric period in Europe/Middle East/Northern Africa, up to the Bronze Age, and the pre-Columbian period in the Americas. What was the socio-economic significance of using boats in antiquity? Boats were often a divine or royal device, connected therefore with strong social and economic power. Seafaring was significant to ancient societies. In this presentation I focus on people removed from the seas, where boats remained a very special device for long, very likely longer than in seafaring societies. Boats were a catalyst for movement and an economic driver since they allowed the movement of people, ideas, and commodities. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Wednesday, March 29, 2017 4:59:54 PM Categories: archaeology events

CFP EAA 2017: Applications using Hand-Held Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometers 

Session: #23 Theme & Session Format Theme: The ‘Third Science Revolution’ in Archaeology Session format: Session, made up of a combination of papers, max. 15 minutes each Title & Content Title: Applications using Hand-Held Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometers Content: The production and use of hand-held X-ray fluorescence spectrometers has exploded over the last decade in its use on archaeological materials around the world due to its non-destructive nature, portability, and relatively modest cost for such analyses. While initially there were issues concerning its accuracy, due to the need for standards of the same material as the artifacts being tested, there are now numerous publications and research in progress on the use of pXRF on obsidian, ceramics, metals, and other artifacts, as well as soils, paintings and human remains to address a variety of important archaeological research topics. The portability of the instrument has allowed analyses to be conducted within... Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Monday, February 27, 2017 3:46:12 PM Categories: archaeology events

EAA Annual Meeting - Session: Present identities from the past 

Prof. Dragos Gheorghiu and I are organising a session at the forthcoming EAA meeting in Maastricht. The session is entitled: “Present identities from the past: providing a meaning to modern communities” and will accept submissions until the 15th of March. We invite interested scholars and postgraduate students to submit papers or participate in the discussion. I am happy to answer any query you may have. Session: #233 Theme & Session Format Theme: Twenty-five Years after Maastricht: Archaeology and Europe's future Session format: Session, made up of a combination of papers, max. 15 minutes each Title & Content Title: Present identities from the past: providing a meaning to modern communities Content: The fundamental relevancy of archaeology has been increasingly questioned in recent years, because the discipline has traditionally been an intellectual investigation into the mysteries of the past, often without a purpose, even one just perceived or imagined. The present time... Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Friday, February 24, 2017 12:28:14 AM Categories: archaeology events

Bruniquel Cave 

In 2016, a series of structures composed of whole and broken stalagmites has been found in a French cave, Bruniquel Cave. The structures, referred to as “speleofacts”, have been dated to 176.5 thousand years (±2.1 thousand years), using Uranium-thorium dating of the regrown stalagmites. At that age, only the Neanderthals inhabited Europe, and therefore they must have been responsible for them. They are located at 336 m from the entrance, in a naturally dark spot of the cave that required some confidence in inhabiting caves and using lamps to move around. The six structures are composed of one to four layers of aligned stalagmites, proving that they are the result of deliberate planning and construction work. Traces of fire are found mostly on the structures, and not on the floor. Two structures are annular, one large and one small, there are then four smaller structures near or reinforcing the large structure. The largest annular structure is 6.7 × 4.5 m, and the smaller one is 2.2 ×... Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Tuesday, February 21, 2017 12:55:05 AM Categories: archaeology

Medieval cities built for a globalized world 

European cities draw fascination and interest from across the world because of their histories and art. They are substantially different in layout from modern cities, for example American cities, not least because they appear more compact with a high-density population surrounding their centres. The birth of the existing European cities can be traced back to the Middle Ages, often adapting pre-existing layouts. American researchers have now tried to answer a simple question: what do the core layout of European cities tell us about the socioeconomic structure of the populations that built them? Or in other words, were the medieval cities a space for all population and acted as interconnected international hubs? Were they built with social hierarchy in mind (e.g. a castle/palace for the leaders, an inner wall section for the wealthier and rural outskirts for the poor)? Social hierarchy was defining society in all its aspects, with courts, guilds, municipal organizations and the church... Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Monday, November 28, 2016 6:47:03 PM Categories: archaeology

Bison discovered in cave art 

Cave art is perhaps the apex of humanity. Nothing in the animal world or in the early prehistoric world of hominins and hominids compares to it. It is one manifestation of humanity that is truly ours, of our own species, shared with nobody else. We can be told that lithics is monkey’s business, and we might wonder at the species that separate us from the animal world, but when it comes to cave art, we are in safe human ground. Cave art represents the world as people perceived it. But most importantly, it recorded this perspective without any of the symbolism found in other forms of art. Even a simple Venus figurine, or more complex figures such as the Lion-Man from Hohle Fels, is intrinsically symbolic and open to interpretation. Venus of Hohle Fels, Germany. Credit: University of Tübingen. The subject of cave art is more recognisable, and cave art has been even compared to comics and animation (by Marc Azéma) for its detailed representation of animals, including bisons and... Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Friday, October 21, 2016 9:04:31 PM Categories: archaeology

Monkeys make stone tools 

Capuchin monkeys produce unintentional stone flakes. Credit: Nature video A recent paper published by Nature has revealed that capuchin monkeys in Brazil can produce unintentionally lithic tools (flakes) similar to those attributed to early hominins. Some of the earliest stone tools have been dated about 3.4 million years ago and since then stone tools have been a staple for prehistorians. This is not the first time that monkeys and other animals have been spotted using tools, or even producing tools to achieve a simple and immediate objective. Using a stone to crack a nut, or a stick to reach some food are known behaviours. These monkeys however have been filmed smashing stones together and licking the result, probably a way to access some required minerals and salts, in a behaviour well known for elephants. Elephants digging minerals. Credit: Richard Ruggiero/USFWS What surprises of the monkey’s behaviour is that the end result, which they appear to discard as... Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Friday, October 21, 2016 7:58:00 PM Categories: archaeology

Modern humans vs. the other hominins 

The discovery of possible human teeth in Flores, in the same cave where Homo floriensis lived, has opened up a debate on the colonization of our planet by anatomically modern humans. In many ways, humans are not dissimilar by other natural species, and except for the use of complex languages, the ability to create tools, and human creativity (the ability to think and imagine the abstract or what is not yet material, the human mind), it is hard to separate humans from animals from a scientific point. Increasingly, intelligence and consciousness are recognized in animals, last perhaps the dolphins, who have some form of language (The study of acoustic signals and the supposed spoken language of the dolphins) and even larger brains than humans. So it is becoming difficult to define humans, and all characteristics that are unique can be reduced to abilities in abstract and symbolic thinking. Studying hominins, the ancestors of modern humans, can offer some clues about traits that are... Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Sunday, October 2, 2016 3:11:00 AM Categories: thoughts

Recent presentations 

You can see online or download two of my recent (2016) presentations:

Island Obsidian Distribution and Socioeconomic Patterns in Prehistoric Sicily and the South-Central Mediterranean (2016) (SAA 2016)


Rivers in Prehistory: Human-Environment Interactions in the Making (WARP30)

The second presentations in particular will be of general interest as it is part of my recent work on rivers, and the first work after my book Rivers in Prehistory.

Posted by Andrea Vianello Saturday, October 1, 2016 8:32:38 PM Categories: archaeology

Website updated 

I have updated the underlying website, and please let me know of anything broken. Some older pages will have broken links, but that is the nature of the Internet. I started writing this website in 1998, so in nearly 20 years I have acquired some first hand knowledge of the Web even if I am not an IT specialist. Just a geek at heart. I remember my first efforts to write HTML code compatible with version 3.2, then 4, and all the troubles in making it compatible with different browsers. Then XHTML came as an attempt to merge HTML and XML into a standard, but it failed to be adopted. Currently, HTML5 is hardly a fixed standard, and support is very varied among browsers. Adobe Flash was the first attempt to make the Web interactive and multimedia, but I never liked it, and it is leaving us, not a moment too soon. Content Management Systems (CMS) have made programs to produce web pages obsolete, and made possible to publish online to the masses. So what changed this round? I changed web... Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Andrea Vianello Thursday, September 29, 2016 8:06:33 PM Categories: thoughts