ALSACE, FRANCE—In a necropolis containing 38 tombs that were used over a period of more than 4,000 years, archaeologist Philippe Lefranc uncovered the 1,650-year-old remains of a woman whose head had been flattened and deformed during childhood. “The deformation of the skull with the help of bandages (narrow strips of cloth) and small boards is a practice coming from central Asia. It was popularized by the Huns and adopted by many German people,” he said. Such deformed skulls are usually seen in burials containing grave goods associated with the wealthy. This woman had been buried with gold pins, chatelaines, pearls, a comb made of a stag antler, and an imported bronze mirror.
PAMUKKALE, TURKEY—Two marble statues, one depicting the three-headed watchdog Cerberus, and the other a snake rolled onto itself, have been discovered by a team led by Francesco D’Andria of the University of Salento. These guardians of the underworld were found in the thermal springs at the site of the Plutonium, or Pluto’s Gate, in the Phrygian city of Hierapolis. The Plutonium and the city’s warm waters were popular pilgrimage sites until the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Then, sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries A.D., the two statues were damaged, probably by Christian pilgrims to the tomb of Saint Philip, which was discovered in the ancient city last year. “These details show the growing conflict between the new and old cults, and the resulting marginalization of the traditional pagan religion,” explained Alister Filippini of the University of Palermo and the University of Cologne.
LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—An Anglo-Saxon sarcophagus discovered within an old church wall beneath Lincoln Castle has been opened. Inside, researchers discovered the remains of a person who had been wrapped in a finely-woven textile. “The first step was to take a 3-D scan of the coffin itself. Then we carefully opened it up to see what was inside. The body appeared to be wearing leather boots or shoes,” said Mary Powell of the Lincoln Castle Revealed project. Lincoln Castle was built more than 900 years ago by William the Conqueror.
HAIFA, ISRAEL—Thousands of animal bones, including bones of birds, tortoises, gazelles, wild boars, the common hare, and stone martens, have been discovered alongside human remains in a cave where Natufian hunter-gatherers buried their dead between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago. Dani Nadel of Haifa University and members of an international team of researchers think that the animal bones, which bear signs of butchery, are evidence of communal meals held at the graves. “The untypical and meticulous gathering of the leftover bones indicates that it had some significance after the meal was over, possibly of stashing it with the deceased,” said Reuven Yeshurun, also of the University of Haifa.