PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA—According to an agreement signed yesterday, the Duryodhana, a statue determined to have been looted from the Koh Ker temple complex in the 1970s, will return to Cambodia. The tenth-century Khmer statue had been consigned to Sotheby’s New York auction house in 2011, when the Cambodian government asked that it be returned as stolen property. “The agreement confirms that Sotheby’s and its client acted properly at all times,” said Andrew Gully, a spokesperson for Sotheby’s. Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, added that “The United States is not a market for antiquities stolen from other nations, and we will continue to track down and return any that are brought here illegally.”
KIELCE, POLAND—Archaeologists have found a water system dating to the seventeenth century at the twelfth-century Swiety Krzyz monastery on Holy Cross Mountain. In a central courtyard of the monastery, they found the upper part of a cistern that had been carved from the rock. It collected rainwater and groundwater for the use of the monks and their garden, and it would have provided enough water to sustain them during a drought. In the eighteenth or nineteenth century, a brick reservoir was added to the system. “We have uncovered the system for collecting and storing water, expanded over three centuries. Similar solutions have never been discovered anywhere else,” said archaeologist Czeslaw Hadamik.
GWYNEDD, WALES—The remains of three people were unearthed near the ruins of Harlech Castle, where a new visitor center is under construction. The castle, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built by Edward I in the thirteenth century. Iestyn Jones of Archaeology Wales said that the bodies had probably been buried when the site was used as a cemetery and might have been belonged to people who were killed sometime between 1461 to 1468, a period when the castle was constantly under seige during the War of the Roses. Pottery at the site dates to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
STRATFORD, ENGLAND—Archaeologists think they have found the foundations of Rokeby House, the seventeenth-century home of William Clowes, surgeon to King Charles I. Under the Rokeby House, they found the remains of a Tudor building, and beneath that, a medieval building. Two parallel ditches underneath the medieval building may have been part of a Roman road that ran through Stratford. “We’ve found a great sequence of archaeology on the site which illustrates the history of Stratford from the Roman period through to the present day,” said archaeologist Helen Hawkins. Apartments and a shopping area will be constructed on the site.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—Geochronologist Matt Cupper from the University of Melbourne removed sediments from the barrel of a bronze cannon discovered during an unusually low tide at northern Australia’s Dundee Beach in 2010. He then used optically stimulated luminescence to test the sediment and find out how long the gun had been buried. The results suggests that it may have been lying on the seabed for 250 years, making it possible that it was lost by sailors engaged in hunting sea cucumbers in the mid eighteenth century. At first, it had been thought that the swivel gun had been lost by sixteenth-century Portuguese explorers.
DENIZLI, TURKEY—A painting of a leopard has been found on the wall of a third-century shop in the ancient city of Tripolis. "We know that the walls of the important buildings in the Roman era were covered with frescoes,” said Bahadir Duman of Pamukkale University. The frescoes depict other animals and plants as well. The leopard will be studied by zoologists and may become a symbol of Denizli’s Buldan district.
CAIRO, EGYPT—Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of the Ministry of State for Antiquities Egyptian section, has announced the discovery of two first-century tombs in the Roman necropolis at al-Qantar, following an illegal excavation. The first tomb had been built of mud brick and belonged to a priest named Mina, who is depicted on wall paintings in front of the goddess Isis. The second tomb was built of limestone but its occupant has not yet been identified.
ANCASH, PERU—A fifteenth-century tomb from the Chimú culture, which had been conquered by the Inca, has been discovered at the Samanco archaeological complex. The multi-chambered tomb contained the remains of at least four elite musicians and weavers, in addition to the remains of two people who had been sacrificed for burial. Artifacts from the tomb include copper crescent knives; jewelry made of lapis lazuli, turquoise, quartz, and spondylus shells; wooden figurines; ceramic vessels filled with food and drink; llamas; musical instruments; and textiles. “This is one of the very few Chimú-Inca tombs ever excavated. It reveals interesting details about the coastal Andean world just prior to European contact,” said Matthew Helmer of the University of East Anglia.
NANCHANG, CHINA—Archaeologists have unearthed a 1,200-year-old kiln in the eastern province of Jiangxi, the center of China’s ceramics industry. Called a dragon kiln, it is the longest kiln ever found from the Tang Dynasty, with a fire box at one end of a sloping chamber. Tools and ceramic fragments were also found in the area.
BELFAST, IRELAND—Researchers from the University of Southampton and Queen’s University, Belfast, have conducted a survey of 25 prehistoric sites in the United Kingdom and northwestern France. They found that between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis preferred to live on islands in the flood plains of major rivers, where they would have had access to big herbivores that grazed on the rich grasses, water birds and plants with edible roots, and leafy vegetables. The island itself offered protection from other hungry predators, and raw materials such as wood and stone for fashioning tools would have been abundant. “What has amazed us is the degree to which they appear to have deliberately and consistently sought out the same type of ideal location for establishing their major camps,” said Tony Brown of the University of Southampton.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—The Annenberg Foundation has announced that it will return the 24 Native American masks and other artifacts it purchased at an auction in Paris earlier this week to the Hopi Nation in Arizona and the San Carlos Apache. French judges had blocked attempts by the tribes and the U.S. Embassy to stop the sale. “The Annenberg Foundation set an example today of how to do the right thing,” commented Sam Tenakhongva, a Hopi cultural leader.
DURHAM, ENGLAND--Geoarchaeologist Nicholas Felstead of Durham University has conducted a new analysis of human footprints discovered in northeastern Mexico in 1961. The tracks, uncovered during highway construction, had been preserved in travertine, a sedimentary rock that contains traces of uranium. Uranium decays into thorium at predictable rates, allowing scientists to measure the ratio of uranium to thorium and to determine the age of the specimen. Felstead dated the footprints to 10,500 years ago, making them the oldest human footprints in North America. Another track way of 11 prints found in a nearby quarry was dated to 7,250 years ago.
LONDON, ENGLAND—A professor of East Asian archaeology at University of London asserts that Greek art was the inspiration for the 8,000 terracotta warriors that guard the mausoleum of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. According to Lukas Nickel, recently translated ancient texts indicate early contact between China and Greece, telling of the first emperor copying 12 huge statues that appeared in western China more than 2,200 years ago. Because large statues were not present in China before this time, Nickel infers that the idea to construct the sculptures was influenced by the conquest of Alexander the Great.
LONDON, ENGLAND—On Monday, the Royal College of Surgeons in London launched an online database of skeletal specimens showing some of the most grotesque conditions suffered by long-dead Britons. Many of the 1,600 bones found in the database, known as Digitised Diseases, came from archaeological excavations at locations such as the site of Yorkshire's Battle of Twoton in 1461, London Hospital's previously known burial ground (excavated beginning in 2006), and a cemetery in Gloucester. The conditions represented in the collection include traumatic injuries, scoliosis, syphilis, rickets, and leprosy. "We believe this will be a unique resource both for archaeologists and medical historians to identify diseases in ancient specimens, but also for clinicians who can see extreme forms of chronic diseases which they would never see nowadays in their consulting rooms, left to progress unchecked before any medical treatment was available," said Digitised Diseases lead researcher and University of Bradford forensic archaeologist Andrew Wilson.
CYPRUS—Carbon-dating of material found at a site in southeastern Cyprus suggests that the settling of the island began some 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. The site, Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos, was apparently occupied by 8600 B.C., and archaeologists have uncovered several finds there, including two stone tools (one of which might have been used for grinding ochre) and small statuette of a female figure. "This tells us that Cyprus was very much a part of the Neolithic revolution that saw significant growth in agriculture and the domestication of animals," says University of Toronto archaeology research fellow Sally Stewart. "With farming came a surplus of wealth, in both food and time. People now had the time to specialize in other roles such as manufacturing, and they had the time to spend making figurative art."
ARUSHA REGION, TANZANIA—Paranthropus boisei is an early human ancestor first identified in 1959 when the anthropologist Mary Leakey found a skull with a large jawbone and cranium in northern Tanzania. Scientists today are saying that Paranthropus boisei had a gorilla-like upper body and was capable of adapting to both arboreal and terrestrial environments, based on research of a 1.34 million-year-old partial skeleton found in Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge more than two years ago. The arm bones, in particular, are prominent suggesting the roughly four-foot-tall biped that evolved 2.3 million years ago had a powerful upper body. "We are starting to understand the physiology of these individuals of this particular species and how it actually adapted to the kind of habitat it lived in," said University of Colorado Denver anthropologist Charles Musiba, who was part of the research team. "We knew about the kind of food it ate—it was omnivorous, leaning more toward plant material—but now we know more: how it walked around and now we know it was a tree climber."
MACON, GEORGIA—An investigation led by Eric Klingelhofer of Mercer University may have found new clues into the disappearance of the lost colony of Roanoke Island. Last year, researchers discovered that a patch on a sixteenth-century map of coastal Virginia and North Carolina covered a symbol that could represent a fort. Would some of the lost colonists have moved to this location in case of an emergency? “Our best idea is that parts of Raleigh’s exploration in North America were a state secret, and the map ‘cover-up’ was an effort to keep information from the public and from foreign agents,” Klingelhofer said. Where else could a small group of the more than 100 colonists have gone to find refuge? After using satellite images to orient historic maps, the team used magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar to look for metal objects, graves, and signs of collapsed wooden structures. “We have to go in and dig some holes, I guess,” added Clay Swindell of North Carolina’s Museum of the Albemarle.
RAMLA, ISRAEL—Highway construction in central Israel has uncovered the remains of a tenth or eleventh-century estate with a fountain in its garden. “It seems that a private building belonging to a wealthy family was located there and that the fountain was used for ornamentation,” said Hagit Torgë of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The stone and plaster fountain was decorated with mosaics, but it is unusual because its network of terra cotta pipes connected with stone jars has survived. The region was probably abandoned in the eleventh century, following an earthquake.
PIROT, SERBIA—Archaeologist Zoran Mitic has uncovered a two-horse chariot estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,000 years old. “Judging by the manner of burial, I guess that it was a member of [the] Thracian people, not ordinary, but someone who occupied an important place in the hierarchy, due to the fact that the chariot is decorated with beautiful bronze applications,” he said.
MINEOLA, NEW YORK—A 3,200-year-old inscribed gold tablet that was brought to the United States by Riven Flamenbaum, a survivor of the Holocaust, has returned to Germany’s Pergamon Museum. Flamenbaum said that at the end of World War II, he traded his cigarettes and food from the Red Cross to Russian soldiers for the Assyrian artifact, which was excavated from Iraq’s Ishtar Temple by German archaeologists a century ago. Flamenbaum’s descendants argued in Nassau County Court that the tablet was a spoil of war. They wanted to donate it to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., according to their attorney, Steven Schlessinger.