TRALLEIS, TURKEY—A large-scale restoration project has begun at Tralleis in western Turkey, according to Hurriet Daily. Archaeologists aim to restore parts of the city, which was once an important center in the trade routes crossing the ancient Mediterranean, after millennia of earthquakes have damaged the site. In antiquity, Tralleis was inhabited from at least the fourth century B.C. through the Roman period, and survived until the 13th century. “The city has features showing the activities and social life of many eras,” says Culture and Tourism Director Nuri Aktakka, who is supporting the scientific research at the site in an effort to bring tourists to this little-known ancient city.
SRINAGAR, INDIA—A rare ninth-century A.D. sculpture of the Hindu god Shiva has been discovered in southern Kashmir, reports the Kashmir Dispatch. The sculpture was accidentally unearthed during sand extraction from a river bed, and was then reported to Kashmiri heritage officials. Wearing a crown with three peaks, the sculpture depicts the god with a third eye in his forehead.
EAST LOTHIAN, SCOTLAND—Analysis of a 900-year-old skeleton of a young man buried at the site of the modern Scottish Seabird Centre shows he was stabbed multiple times in the back, left shoulder, and ribs. The BBC reports that after analyzing the murder victim's injuries, archaeologists say he was likely killed with a lozenge-shaped dagger almost three inches long, a type which was commonly carried by soldiers of the time. The accuracy of the wounds suggests the murder was not spur of the moment, but was planned and carried out with some professionalism. Wear on the shoulder of the man suggests he may have been an archer.
ABEL BETH MACCAH, ISRAEL—After months of conservation, a seemingly nondescript ball of silver found in simple jar at the site of the ancient biblical city of Abel Beth Maccah in northern Israel has turned out to be five ancient silver hoop earrings, as well as other pieces of silver that may have been used as a kind of money, Live Science reports. The archaeologists, who found the jar leaning against a wall in a very large ancient building, are unclear as to why the vessel and its valuable contents were left behind, but will return next season to investigate the city’s puzzling history.
HADDENHAM, ENGLAND—Archaeologists excavating the parking lot of a village pub have discovered nine burials that are believed to date to the early Saxon era, around the sixth century A.D. Though early Saxons were pagan, the burials are oriented east to west, which was a Christian practice. Among the grave goods unearthed were a spear, knife, and a shield found with a male burial. “Projects such as these prove how even the smallest developments can yield a wealth of archaeological information and details not only of how people lived but also of their treatment toward the dead more than 1,400 years ago," archaeologist Jonathan House told the Cambs Times.
VARANASI, INDIA—The Archaeological Survey of India is beginning new excavations at Sarnath, a sacred site where Buddha is thought to have delivered his first sermon. Previous excavations there unearthed artifacts and remains dating back to the third century B.C, when the emperor Ahoska the Great erected a large pillar at the site. But the early history of Sarnath is still murky. Archaeologist Ajay Srivastava told the Times of India that the team hopes to use new scientific methods to understand the chronology of Sarnath. "We hope to unearth useful finds to throw light on the past of this important Buddhist site," said Srivastava.
FLORENCE, ITALY—During a construction project to expand Florence’s famed Uffizi Museum, the Telegraph reports that workers have uncovered sixty skeletons dating to the fifth or sixth century A.D. under one of the museum’s libraries. The bones are now being examined to determine the cause of death, which researchers believe may have been plague or infectious disease. The deceased appear to have been buried somewhat carelessly and hastily, perhaps to halt the spread of disease, and do not show signs of traumatic injury. Although Florentia was a wealthy provincial capital during the Roman Empire, little is known about the city’s early medieval period.
VANCOUVER, CANADA—Archaeologists at Simon Fraser University have studied more than half a million fish bones from 171 sites in the Pacific Northwest, and found that herring was much more important in prehistory than today. The Pacific herring population is dwindling, and the researchers say understanding the ecological and cultural aspects of prehistoric fisheries can help in designing a more sustainable management system for today's erratic herring catch. “By compiling the largest dataset of archaeological fish bones in the Pacific Northwest Coast, we demonstrate the value of using such data to establish an ecological baseline for modern fisheries,” archaeologist Iain McKechnie said in a Simon Fraser University statement.
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA—Discovered in a dry lake bed in southeastern Australia in 1970, the 43,000-year-old skeleton known as Mungo Man is the oldest known Australian. Since being found, his remains have been kept at Australian National University, and they are no longer being studied. Now Aboriginal groups are negotiating with officials for the return of the remains to Lake Mungo National Park, where they would be reunited with the 20,000-year-old skeleton dubbed Mungo Lady who was uncovered not far from Mungo Man. “This discovery changed Australian history, but Mungo Man has spent too long in his cardboard box. He needs to go home,” archaeologist Jim Bowler told The Australian.
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that salvage excavations in advance of work on a natural gas pipeline have revealed a small rural settlement that reached its greatest extent in the third century B.C., when the region was ruled by the Hellenistic Seleucid Dynasty. Like many other rural villages in Israel, the site was abandoned sometime in the first century B.C., when Herod the Great began his reign. "The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the beginning of Herod the Great's rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea," Jerusalem regional archaeologist Yuval Baruch explained in an IAA statement. "And it may be related to Herod's massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects."
LUXOR, EGYPT—Egyptologists have uncovered missing quartzite blocks that once belonged to the Colossi of Memnon, two massive statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III that once stood at the entrance of his mortuary temple in Luxor. The blocks had been missing from the colossi since an earthquake in 27 B.C. devastated the temple. The missing pieces included fragments of the arm, belt, and skirt of one of the colossi, as well as parts of the royal crown and foundation stone for both statues. Aly El-Asfar, head of the Ministry of State for Antiquities' ancient Egyptian section, told Al-Ahram that the discovery will enable archaeologists to reconstruct the colossi.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—Archaeologists digging beneath an apartment building in Mexico City have discovered the remains of 12 dogs who were buried sometime between 1350 and 1520 A.D. Dogs were considered sacred animals by the Aztecs, who believed they accompanied human souls to the afterlife. While archaeologists have found isolated dog burials at Aztec sites before, this is the first time multiple dogs have been discovered buried together. "This is definitely a special finding because of the number of dogs and because we have found no connection to a building or with the deceased,” archaeologist Rocio Morales Sanchez told the Associated Press.
KILCHOAN, SCOTLAND—An archaeological team doing preservation work at the chapel of Mingary Castle on the west coast of Scotland has discovered markings scratched into the plaster walls. Made sometime between 1265 and 1295, the markings are thought to depict a local lighthouse, a ship, and perhaps the first letter of a name. "They've left messages on the wall and we're reading them," local historian Jon Haylett told BBC Radio Scotland. "It's pretty simple stuff, the sort of marks that would have been made by an illiterate man."
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—Landscapers working in the Scottish Highlands discovered a stone burial chest, or cist, capped with a small cairn. A rescue excavation conducted by archaeologists from Guard Archaeology revealed the partial remains of a Bronze Age woman suffering from dental disease. Osteoarchaeologist Maureen Kilpatrick told The Scotsman that “Dental disease in the form of periodontal disease and a cyst were present and are probably symptomatic of poor oral hygiene and are probably secondary to the moderate dental wear observed on most of the teeth.” Otherwise, the woman’s bones showed that she was strong and physically active. She had been buried with an undecorated pottery beaker containing seven fragments of flint.
OXFORD, ENGLAND—A team of scientists sequenced DNA samples from 1,490 modern people from 95 genetically distinct populations, and developed a statistical method to make inferences about which populations had interbred over the past 4,000 years. Evidence of “mixing events” was found in 80 of the populations, and some of those events coincide with historical records, such as the Hazara people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who had an influx of Mongol DNA around the time that the Mongol Empire expanded. Team member Simon Myers of the University of Oxford told Nature News that he would like to expand the model by using larger sample sizes and by adding ancient DNA samples. “That will give us a deeper understanding of human history,” he explained.
MONTREAL, QUEBEC—A fragment of a fifth-century B.C. Persian relief that had been stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2011 was recovered by police from a home in Edmonton. Security footage shows a suspect in the museum, but the authorities are not sure how he removed the Persian relief, in addition to a Roman first-century B.C. marble sculpture, from their displays and got them out of the building in broad daylight. The Edmonton man, who has been charged with possessing stolen property and possessing the proceeds of a crime, paid $1,400 for the relief while on a trip to Montreal. “I cannot give you details to how it was purchased because the investigation is still ongoing it might interfere with the next steps of the investigation,” Sgt. Joyce Kemp of the Quebec Provincial Police force told CBC News.
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—A 4,000-year-old skeleton with worn teeth was uncovered in a school playground. Archaeologists had been looking for traces of a medieval harbor in the village of Newhaven when they found the Bronze Age man, who had been about 50 years old when he died. He was buried in a crouching position with a pottery vessel. His teeth were probably worn from a diet of bread made from stone-ground grain. “We have removed the bones—the skull and bones from the upper body and arms, the pelvis and leg bones. Some of the middle is missing after being disturbed, possibly in the medieval period,” Edinburgh City Council’s archaeology officer, John Lawson, told The Edinburgh Evening News.
UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA—A new genetic study of bottle gourds, which originated in Africa and have been used as lightweight containers all over the world, indicates that pre-Columbian specimens in the Americas are more closely related to African varieties. It had been thought that migrating humans carried gourds from the Asian subspecies with them over the Bering land bridge into North America, but archaeological evidence for the use of bottle gourds has not been found in Siberia, Alaska, or the Pacific Northwest. Logan Kistler of Pennsylvania State University and his team conclude that the gourds could have floated to the West African coast by river, and then drifted to the New World on Atlantic currents, probably landing on the coast of Brazil, where they took root. “Now, it’s really quite clear that [the bottle gourd] reached the New World under its own steam,” team member Bruce Smith of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History told Science.
CAIRO, EGYPT—Egypt’s antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced that a joint Spanish-Egyptian team of archaeologists discovered a wooden sarcophagus dating to 1600 B.C. in Luxor, at the Dra Abul-Naga necropolis. Dubbed the “Feathers Sarcophagus,” the lid of the human-shaped coffin is painted with bird feathers and the titles of the deceased, whose well-preserved mummy is thought to have been a high-ranking official. The shaft of the tomb had been blocked with limestone, protecting its contents from looters in antiquity. José Galan, head of the Spanish team, told Ahram Online that the excavation remains in full swing.
BRISTOL, ENGLAND--A recent analysis of the chemicals in human bones and residues from cooking pots found at archaeological sites across Britain show that in 4600 B.C., early hunters ate venison, wild boar, and seafood. Researchers from the University of Bristol and of Cardiff University found that when domesticated farm animals were brought to the island some 6,000 years ago, however, Britons abandoned wild foods and seafood in preference of milk and animals that produce it for the next 4,000 years. “Whilst we like to think of ourselves as a nation of fish eaters, with fish and chips as our national dish, it seems that early British farmers preferred beef, mutton and milk,” Jacqui Mulville of Cardiff University told The Australian.