QUINCY, WASHINGTON—When the water level of the reservoir behind the Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River had been drawn down 26 feet earlier this week, human bones were exposed along the shoreline. Grant County Coroner Craig Morrison told The Spokesman Review that he thought the bones were “hundreds, if not thousands,” of years old because of the wear pattern on the teeth. The skeletal are being guarded at the site until someone from the Washington’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation can pick them up.
BRECON BEACONS, WALES—While walking in the Brecon Beacons, geologist Alan Bowring spotted prehistoric rock art on a 4-foot, 9-inch long stone lying on the ground. The stone, decorated with 12 cup marks joined by connecting lines, may have stood upright during the Bronze Age as a way marker for farming communities. “We might have been able to predict a discovery of this kind considering the large amount of prehistoric ritual sites in the Brecon Beacons but this is the first evidence of prehistoric rock art to be ever recorded [in the Beacons],” commented George Nash of Bristol University to BBC News.
PARIS, FRANCE—Zooarchaeologist Hervé Monchot of the Université-Paris Sorbonne identified 145 lizard bones, most likely from the spiny-tailed lizard Uromastyx aegyptia, in a bone dump at the mosque complex at al-Yamâma in the Saudi Arabian desert. This is the first archaeological evidence of this protein source in the Arabian diet, even though the consumption of lizards is mentioned in the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad and in an eleventh-century travel log. “It is necessary to distinguish the Bedouin, who ate and [still] eat lizard when traveling in the desert because it is a source of easy-to-find protein, and urban populations who do not eat lizard,” Monchot told Live Science.
LUXOR, EGYPT—Reuters reports that an alabaster statue of Princess Iset has been unearthed in Luxor at the temple of her father, Amenhotep III, who ruled Egypt during the 18th Dynasty. Iset’s figure was found between the feet of her father’s colossal, seated statue, and although her name and royal title are inscribed near her feet, her face has eroded. A statue depicting Amenhotep with all of his children is on display at the Egyptian Museum.
COUNTY ANTRIM, IRELAND—Excavations at Carrickfergus Castle by a team from Queen’s University have revealed a Victorian-era tunnel into the Great Hall of the 800-year-old fortification. Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan has granted the team another month to investigate the areas that had been disturbed by the Victorian diggers, including what could be medieval walls. “From the Victorian works through to medieval pottery from Carrickfergus, Britain and even France, these finds will help bring this site to life,” he told The News Letter. The restoration and renovation work will open the castle’s dungeons and the ammunition room to visitors.
HOUSTON, TEXAS—Grant Adamson of Rice University has translated a papyrus discovered 100 years ago outside a temple in the Egyptian town of Tebtunis. Infrared images of the papyrus have made parts of the text, written mostly in Greek, more legible. It is a letter written 1,800 years ago by an Egyptian soldier named Aurelius Polion, who was serving in a Roman legion in Europe. He is desperate to hear from his family, and wants to make the long journey home to see his mother, sister, and brother. “I think that some aspects of military service belong to a common experience across ancient and modern civilizations—part of our human experience in general really. Things like worry and homesickness,” Adamson told Live Science.
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND—A study of the isotope ratios in the skeletons of Lapita people who lived on Vanuatu’s Efate Island some 3,000 years ago suggests that they relied on reef fish, marine turtles, fruit bats, and “free-range pigs and chickens,” for their food rather than on cultivated crops. Rebecca Kinaston of the University of Otago told Z News that as they moved eastward across the Pacific, the Lapita foraged for wild food to supplement whatever horticultural food they produced.
CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS—Thomas Emerson, State archaeologist and director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the University of Illinois, told the University of Illinois News Bureau that the population of 20,000 people living at Cahokia around A.D. 1100 probably included a number of immigrants. “Such early centers around the world grow by immigration, not by birthrate,” he explained. Items thought to have traveled to the urban center through trade may have been carried by new residents. And, an analysis of strontium isotope ratios in the teeth of people buried at Cahokia by bioarchaeologist Kristin Hedman and graduate student Philip Slater indicates that as many as one-third of the residents spent their childhoods somewhere else. “Cahokia, because it was multiethnic and perhaps even multilingual, must have been a virtual ‘melting pot’ that fostered new ways of living, new political and social patterns and perhaps even new religious beliefs,” Emerson added.
HARYANA, INDIA—Salvage excavations in the village of Bohar Majra in northern India have uncovered a rectangular structure identified as a mint dating to King Mihira Bhoja, who ruled between 836 and 885 A.D. According to B.R. Mani of the Archaeological Survey of India, the mint was in use until the eleventh century. “The site has yielded hundreds of terracotta coin molds and crucibles from the last phase of the site,” he told The Hindu.
LUXOR, EGYPT—The tomb of Maayi, a government official from Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, has been accidently discovered by a joint Spanish-Egyptian team digging on Luxor’s west bank. A hole in the wall of tomb number TT109 led them to Maayi’s tomb. “The tomb is very well decorated, which reflects the luxurious life of its owner,” Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online. The excavation will continue once the debris blocking the entrance to the tomb is removed.
ROME, ITALY—At an emergency meeting yesterday, Italian officials agreed to release two million euros in funding from the European Union for maintenance at the World Heritage site of Pompeii, where heavy rainfall triggered the collapse of several ancient walls. Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini told BBC News that he was “unblocking many measures which will get the machine working.” Johannes Hahn, Regional Policy Commissioner for the EU, called every collapse “a huge defeat.”
CHILLICOTHE, OHIO—Anthropologists from the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Cambridge analyzed 112 human skulls from Borneo that were known to have been collected by headhunters and published their findings in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. They found that 60 percent of the skulls showed signs of violence. But some of the bones only showed signs of cut marks, which would have made it difficult to know if the cut marks had been made during an act of violence or as part of a mortuary custom such as dismemberment and cleaning of the bones. Bradley Lepper, curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society, applied this information to skulls uncovered in Ohio in his column for The Columbus Dispatch. He thinks that the separate human skulls sometimes found in Hopewell mounds burials are the remains of honored ancestors.
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Palaeoclimatologist Yama Dixit of the University of Cambridge and her team tested sediment samples taken from an ancient, closed-basin lake on the edge of the Indus Valley. The age of the layers was determined with radiocarbon dating of organic matter, while the preserved shells of lake snails provided information about oxygen isotopes and water levels. According to a report in Nature News, what they found indicates that the monsoon cycle stopped for some 200 years around 2000 B.C. This long-term drought may have contributed to the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization. “What drove this climate change 4,100 years ago? We don’t see major changes in the North Atlantic or in the solar activity at that time,” asked Anil Gupta, director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in Dehradun, India.
MAINZ, GERMANY—Traces of a 1,200-year-old church have been discovered incorporated into the 1,000-year-old “Old Cathedral” in Mainz. The older walls, which date to the time of Charlemagne, stretch from the basement to the roof. “This is the only surviving Carolingian cathedral in Germany,” Rhineland-Palatinate state curator Joachim Glatz told The Local. Two burials dating to the time of the earlier church have also been found. The building was severely damaged during World War II.
DUBLIN, IRELAND—Underwater archaeologist Connie Kelleher, now of the Ireland National Monuments Service, has been collecting information about the seventeenth-century pirates that were based in Munster, Ireland. She has examined two sets of stairs carved out of cliff rock, one near “Dutchman’s Cove” that also had niches for candles or lanterns, and one near “Gokane Point” that led to a subterranean cavern with a waterway. Pirates and smugglers would have been able to reach the sea in the dark with these staircases. Kelleher also wants to look for the pirate fleet destroyed by the Dutch in Crookhaven Harbor in 1614. “Certainly part of the lower hulls and its cargoes could be there—things that were in the hold of the [salvaged] ships. Similarly, if a ship exploded, then the material could be scattered, and we could be dealing with a wider archaeological site,” she told Live Science.
ASWAN, EGYPT—Four rock-cut tombs dating to the New Kingdom period have been discovered on Elephantine Island in the Nile River. One of the tombs belonged to an official named User, who is depicted in wall paintings with his family and deities, and with five priests while wearing a leopard fur before an offering table. Nasr Salama, head of Aswan monuments, told Ahram Online that the other tombs belonged to Ba-Nefer, a supervisor of the gods’ priests of Elephantine; Amenhotep, who held the stamps of Upper Egypt and ruled Elephantine; and Elephantine ruler User Wadjat. The tombs are being restored.
ROME, ITALY—Heavy rains in Pompeii have triggered the collapse of a tomb wall in the necropolis of Porta Nocera and part of an arch supporting the Temple of Venus. According to a Reuters report in The Guardian, Italy’s Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini, called an emergency meeting of officials for a report on the reasons for the collapses and to verify that routine maintenance had occurred at the ancient site.
KNOCKNAREA, IRELAND—Human skeletal remains dating to the Neolithic period have been recovered from a tiny cave on Knocknarea. Of the 13 bone fragments, three belonged to a child, and ten to an adult. “Significantly, too, it seems the adult had been placed there about 300 years before the child, who died about 5,200 years ago,” Marion Dowd of the Institute of Technology Sligo told the Irish Mirror. She suggests that the bodies had been placed in the cave, and their bones collected and moved to another location after decomposition had taken place. These few small bones had been missed.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK—The New York Times reports that federal investigators plan to seize on behalf of Italian officials a 1,700-pound lid to an ancient Roman sarcophagus. Discovered in a Queens warehouse, the marble lid, which depicts a reclining woman, was probably looted in the 1970s or early 1980s. Photographs of the statue were found among pictures of looted antiquities in a Swiss gallery belonging to Gianfranco Becchina, who was convicted in 2011 of trafficking in illegal Roman artifacts. “We’re still investigating, and can’t confirm who currently owns or has an interest in the property,” explained assistant United States attorney Karin Orenstein.
LUGANO, SWITZERLAND—At an international conference on Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, it was announced that archaeologist Yonatan Adler had discovered nine small manuscript scrolls within three phylacteries excavated from caves 4 and 5 at the site in the 1950s. Specialists from the Israel Antiquities Authority used multispectral imaging to examine the 2,000-year-old scrolls. “It’s not every day that you get the chance to discovery new manuscripts. It’s very exciting,” Adler told ANSAmed.