Human Remains Found Under Wall of Odessos

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

VARNA, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that the skeleton of a tall man was unearthed during rescue excavations near the St. Nikolay Church in Varna by archaeologists from the Varna Museum of Archaeology. Part of the skeleton, dated to the late fourth century or early fifth century A.D., is located beneath the fortress wall of the ancient city of Odessos. The man may have died in an accident during the construction of the ancient wall, and his remains laid in the deep pit, which was dug as a construction ditch for the foundation of the wall. “It is possible that someone used the pit, which had been dug up [for construction purposes], to bury the body,” said lead archaeologist Valeri Yotov. 

Categories: Blog

Human Remains Found Under Wall of Odessos

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

VARNA, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that the skeleton of a tall man was unearthed during rescue excavations near the St. Nikolay Church in Varna by archaeologists from the Varna Museum of Archaeology. Part of the skeleton, dated to the late fourth century or early fifth century A.D., is located beneath the fortress wall of the ancient city of Odessos. The man may have died in an accident during the construction of the ancient wall, and his remains laid in the deep pit, which was dug as a construction ditch for the foundation of the wall. “It is possible that someone used the pit, which had been dug up [for construction purposes], to bury the body,” said lead archaeologist Valeri Yotov. 

Categories: Blog

Why Did Teotihuacan Collapse?

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—Lina Manzanilla of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México thinks that Teotihuacan may have collapsed because of internal strife among its inhabitants. She says that volcanic eruptions in the first and fourth centuries forced people to move from the southern basin to the outskirts of Teotihuacan, where their skeletons, identified by activity markers, nutritional patterns, isotopes, and DNA analysis, have been found. According to Phys.org, Manzanilla says these immigrants were employed by businessmen and that their presence bolstered the economy. But eventually, tension with the government and rivalries between neighborhoods increased until an angry mob burned down the city’s administration and ritual buildings and destroyed the city’s sculptures. To read about a recent study comparing Teotihuacan and other ancient Mexican cities to modern urban centers, see "Big Data, Big Cities."

Categories: Blog

Why Did Teotihuacan Collapse?

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—Lina Manzanilla of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México thinks that Teotihuacan may have collapsed because of internal strife among its inhabitants. She says that volcanic eruptions in the first and fourth centuries forced people to move from the southern basin to the outskirts of Teotihuacan, where their skeletons, identified by activity markers, nutritional patterns, isotopes, and DNA analysis, have been found. According to Phys.org, Manzanilla says these immigrants were employed by businessmen and that their presence bolstered the economy. But eventually, tension with the government and rivalries between neighborhoods increased until an angry mob burned down the city’s administration and ritual buildings and destroyed the city’s sculptures. 

Categories: Blog

Celtic Site Uncovered at Bratislava Castle

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA—The fate of a Celtic archaeological site discovered during the construction of underground garages at Bratislava Castle, home of the Slovak National Museum, is still unclear after 12 hours of discussion yesterday. An expert commission recommended preserving and exhibiting the site in situ. One of its features is located under a replica of an eighteenth-century winter riding school that could be used for public events. “These negotiations were certainly not easy. There are different opinions of the laymen and also experts about the exhibition of excavations, the construction objects or the archaeological solutions of some parts of the reconstruction of Bratislava Castle,” Daniel Guspan, head of the Parliamentary Office, told The Slovak Spectator.  

Categories: Blog

Celtic Site Uncovered at Bratislava Castle

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA—The fate of a Celtic archaeological site discovered during the construction of underground garages at Bratislava Castle, home of the Slovak National Museum, is still unclear after 12 hours of discussion yesterday. An expert commission recommended preserving and exhibiting the site in situ. One of its features is located under a replica of an eighteenth-century winter riding school that could be used for public events. “These negotiations were certainly not easy. There are different opinions of the laymen and also experts about the exhibition of excavations, the construction objects or the archaeological solutions of some parts of the reconstruction of Bratislava Castle,” Daniel Guspan, head of the Parliamentary Office, told The Slovak Spectator.  

Categories: Blog

Leluh Island’s Temporary Royal Tombs Are 700 Years Old

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—The royal tombs in the ancient city of Leluh, located just off the mainland of Kosrae, a Micronesian island, may be older than had been previously thought. The city was home to high chiefs and others from about 1250 until the mid-nineteenth century, when whalers, traders, and missionaries started to arrive on the island. Leluh features canals and walled compounds built of basalt, and temporary, pyramid-shaped tombs, or saru, built from living coral. Historical sources indicate that when Kosraean high chiefs died, their bodies were rubbed with coconut oil and then wrapped in mats and cords to be buried in the saru for up to three months. The bones were later exhumed, cleaned, and reburied in a hole on the nearby reef. “Today, the ancient tombs of the royal burial complexes are one of the few parts of the ancient Leluh site that remain intact. Much of the historical site is overgrown by the tropical forest and has succumbed to hundreds of years of tropical weather and tidal inundation, and some parts of the site have been dismantled and reused in modern construction,” Zoe Richards of the Western Australian Museum told Live Science. Uranium-thorium dating of the coral in the tombs shows that they could have been built as early as the fourteenth century, or about 300 years earlier than previously thought. “To extract and translocate the amount of coral used to build the saru, as well as the structures and walls throughout Leluh, would have required a highly structured social order that could organize and demand significant labor and logistical support from the population,” she added. To read in-depth about archaeological work on WWII-era sites in the Pacific, see "Defuzing the Past."

Categories: Blog

Leluh Island’s Temporary Royal Tombs Are 700 Years Old

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—The royal tombs in the ancient city of Leluh, located just off the mainland of Kosrae, a Micronesian island, may be older than had been previously thought. The city was home to high chiefs and others from about 1250 until the mid-nineteenth century, when whalers, traders, and missionaries started to arrive on the island. Leluh features canals and walled compounds built of basalt, and temporary, pyramid-shaped tombs, or saru, built from living coral. Historical sources indicate that when Kosraean high chiefs died, their bodies were rubbed with coconut oil and then wrapped in mats and cords to be buried in the saru for up to three months. The bones were later exhumed, cleaned, and reburied in a hole on the nearby reef. “Today, the ancient tombs of the royal burial complexes are one of the few parts of the ancient Leluh site that remain intact. Much of the historical site is overgrown by the tropical forest and has succumbed to hundreds of years of tropical weather and tidal inundation, and some parts of the site have been dismantled and reused in modern construction,” Zoe Richards of the Western Australian Museum told Live Science. Uranium-thorium dating of the coral in the tombs shows that they could have been built as early as the fourteenth century, or about 300 years earlier than previously thought. “To extract and translocate the amount of coral used to build the saru, as well as the structures and walls throughout Leluh, would have required a highly structured social order that could organize and demand significant labor and logistical support from the population,” she added. To read in-depth about archaeological work on WWII-era sites in the Pacific, see "Defuzing the Past."

Categories: Blog

Genetic Study Suggests Maya Domesticated Papaya Plants

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS—A genetic study of the sex chromosomes of the papaya plant suggests that the hermaphrodite version of the plant, which produces the fruit desired by growers, was first cultivated some 4,000 years ago by the Maya. Today, growing hermaphrodite papaya plants in costly and inefficient because farmers cannot tell which seeds are hermaphrodites until the plant has flowered. Ray Ming of the University of Illinois, interested in understanding the plant’s reproduction in order to produce a “true-breeding” hermaphrodite papaya, tracked down the mutation that caused male plants to alter to the hermaphrodite form. He and his team found less than half of one percent difference between the male and hermaphrodite sequences, indicating that the change happened relatively recently. “Our analyses date the divergence (of male and hermaphrodite papaya) to around 4,000 years (ago), well after the domestication of crop plants in Mesoamerica more than 6,200 years ago, and coinciding with the rise of Maya civilization about 4,000 years ago,” the team wrote in the journal Genome Research. And since wild hermaphrodite papayas have not been found in Central America, “This strongly suggests that the (hermaphrodite papaya) resulted from papaya domestication by the Maya or other indigenous groups.” To read about the Mesoamerican calendar, see "The Maya Sense of Time." 

Categories: Blog

Genetic Study Suggests Maya Domesticated Papaya Plants

Archaeology News - March 18, 2015

CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS—A genetic study of the sex chromosomes of the papaya plant suggests that the hermaphrodite version of the plant, which produces the fruit desired by growers, was first cultivated some 4,000 years ago by the Maya. Today, growing hermaphrodite papaya plants in costly and inefficient because farmers cannot tell which seeds are hermaphrodites until the plant has flowered. Ray Ming of the University of Illinois, interested in understanding the plant’s reproduction in order to produce a “true-breeding” hermaphrodite papaya, tracked down the mutation that caused male plants to alter to the hermaphrodite form. He and his team found less than half of one percent difference between the male and hermaphrodite sequences, indicating that the change happened relatively recently. “Our analyses date the divergence (of male and hermaphrodite papaya) to around 4,000 years (ago), well after the domestication of crop plants in Mesoamerica more than 6,200 years ago, and coinciding with the rise of Maya civilization about 4,000 years ago,” the team wrote in the journal Genome Research. And since wild hermaphrodite papayas have not been found in Central America, “This strongly suggests that the (hermaphrodite papaya) resulted from papaya domestication by the Maya or other indigenous groups.” To read about the Mesoamerican calendar, see "The Maya Sense of Time." 

Categories: Blog

Major Early Roman Fort Discovered in Italy

Archaeology News - March 17, 2015

TRIESTE, ITALY—Phys.org reports that images created using information collected by Lidar technology revealed a Roman fort near Trieste, Italy, that has been dated to 178 B.C. The fort, called San Rocco, is said to be several decades older than any other Roman fort ever found. Two smaller forts have been discovered on either side of it. The fort may have been constructed during the second Istrian War, and could provide clues to the early days of the Roman army. The excavation of artifacts such as hobnails for military boots indicate the site was occupied until the mid-first century B.C. To read about a similar discovery in Germany, see "Caesar's Gallic Outpost." 

Categories: Blog

Major Early Roman Fort Discovered in Italy

Archaeology News - March 17, 2015

TRIESTE, ITALY—Phys.org reports that images created using information collected by Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) technology revealed a Roman fort near Trieste, Italy, that has been dated to 178 B.C. The fort, called San Rocco, is said to be several decades older than any other Roman fort ever found. Two smaller forts have been discovered on either side of it. The fort may have been constructed during the second Istrian War, and could provide clues to the early days of the Roman army. 

Categories: Blog

Engraved Ring Suggests Viking, Islamic Contact

Archaeology News - March 17, 2015

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—The recent examination of a ring excavated from a ninth-century grave in the Viking trading center of Birka, Sweden, more than 100 years ago suggests that Vikings had contact with Islamic civilization. The silver ring is adorned with a violet-colored piece of glass (long thought to have been an amethyst) engraved with an inscription that reads “To Allah” or “For Allah” in Arabic. A scanning electron microscope revealed little sign of wear on the ring, indicating that it had few owners before it was buried in the grave of a Viking woman. Ancient texts mention contact between Scandinavians and members of Islamic civilization, but such archaeological evidence is rare. “Being the only ring with an Arabic inscription found at a Scandinavian archaeological site, it is a unique object among Swedish Viking Age material,” the scientists, led by biophysicist Sebastian Wärmländer of Stockholm University, wrote in the journal Scanning, reported by Science News. To read more in-depth about the archaeology of Vikings, see "The Vikings in Ireland."

Categories: Blog

Engraved Ring Suggests Viking, Islamic Contact

Archaeology News - March 17, 2015

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—The recent examination of a ring excavated from a ninth-century grave in the Viking trading center of Birka, Sweden, more than 100 years ago suggests that Vikings had contact with Islamic civilization. The silver ring is adorned with a violet-colored piece of glass (long thought to have been an amethyst) engraved with an inscription that reads “To Allah” or “For Allah” in Arabic. A scanning electron microscope revealed little sign of wear on the ring, indicating that it had few owners before it was buried in the grave of a Viking woman. Ancient texts mention contact between Scandinavians and members of Islamic civilization, but such archaeological evidence is rare. “Being the only ring with an Arabic inscription found at a Scandinavian archaeological site, it is a unique object among Swedish Viking Age material,” the scientists, led by biophysicist Sebastian Wärmländer of Stockholm University, wrote in the journal Scanning, reported by Science News. To read more in-depth about the archaeology of Vikings, see "The Vikings in Ireland."

Categories: Blog

Malaria Test Developed for Ancient Human Remains

Archaeology News - March 17, 2015

NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT—Scientists from Yale University have established a diagnostic, human skeletal profile for malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Graduate student Jamie Inwood and her colleagues developed a technique to identify the polymer hemozoin, which is produced by the parasite that causes malaria, using archaeological bone samples from a site dating to A.D. 550 in Teverina, Italy. “Researchers from the University of Arizona had found burial practices that were throwbacks to pagan rituals. It was suspected there must have been an epidemic in the community that caused fever or fits,” Inwood said in a press release. The black, crystalline hemozoin clumps can be seen in bone marrow with x-ray defraction. Inwood is now collecting data on malaria from archaeological sites in West Africa. “The data set we build with this will be revolutionary for establishing the epidemiological curve for malaria in ancient societies. By understanding how this parasite reacted to societal shifts in the past, we can aid in predicting its future behavior. We can understand the way it has evolved,” she said. To read about a recent study of ancient heart disease, see "Heart Attack of the Mummies."

Categories: Blog

Malaria Test Developed for Ancient Human Remains

Archaeology News - March 17, 2015

NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT—Scientists from Yale University have established a diagnostic, human skeletal profile for malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Graduate student Jamie Inwood and her colleagues developed a technique to identify the polymer hemozoin, which is produced by the parasite that causes malaria, using archaeological bone samples from a site dating to A.D. 550 in Teverina, Italy. “Researchers from the University of Arizona had found burial practices that were throwbacks to pagan rituals. It was suspected there must have been an epidemic in the community that caused fever or fits,” Inwood said in a press release. The black, crystalline hemozoin clumps can be seen in bone marrow with x-ray defraction. Inwood is now collecting data on malaria from archaeological sites in West Africa. “The data set we build with this will be revolutionary for establishing the epidemiological curve for malaria in ancient societies. By understanding how this parasite reacted to societal shifts in the past, we can aid in predicting its future behavior. We can understand the way it has evolved,” she said. To read about a recent study of ancient heart disease, see "Heart Attack of the Mummies."

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on Stonehenge

Archaeology News - March 16, 2015

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—Controversial art critic Julian Spalding suggests that “We’ve been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way—from the earth.” He thinks that what we now see as the monument may have been the base for a giant, circular wooden platform on which ceremonies were performed. As a “great altar,” Stonehenge would have supported hundreds of worshipers looking toward the sky. “All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth. That would have been unimaginable insulting to the immortal beings, for it would have brought them down from heaven to bit the dust and tread in the dung,” Spalding told The Guardian. Archaeologists have reacted to this idea with some skepticism. “He could be right, but I know of no evidence to support it,” responded Sir Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of European archaeology at Oxford University.

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on Stonehenge

Archaeology News - March 16, 2015

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—Controversial art critic Julian Spalding suggests that “We’ve been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way—from the earth.” He thinks that what we now see as the monument may have been the base for a giant, circular wooden platform on which ceremonies were performed. As a “great altar,” Stonehenge would have supported hundreds of worshipers looking toward the sky. “All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth. That would have been unimaginable insulting to the immortal beings, for it would have brought them down from heaven to bit the dust and tread in the dung,” Spalding told The Guardian. Archaeologists have reacted to this idea with some skepticism. “He could be right, but I know of no evidence to support it,” responded Sir Barry Cunliffe, an emeritus professor of European archaeology at Oxford University.

Categories: Blog

Ancient Text Records Payment of Taxes

Archaeology News - March 16, 2015

MONTREAL, CANADA—A recently translated Greek-language receipt from ancient Egypt reveals that a person, whose name is unreadable, and his friends paid a land-transfer tax of 75 talents and an additional 15-talent charge at a public bank in the city of Diospolis Magna, also known as Luxor or Thebes. “It’s an incredibly large sum of money,” Brice Jones of Concordia University told Live Science. “These Egyptians were most likely very wealthy.” The tax was paid on a date that corresponds to July 22, 98 B.C., all in coins that in total probably weighed more than 220 pounds. The 15-talent penalty may have been charged for not paying part of the bill in silver, as required by law. Jones has translated this ostracon and other texts housed at the McGill University Library and Archives in Montreal.

Categories: Blog

Ancient Text Records Payment of Taxes

Archaeology News - March 16, 2015

MONTREAL, CANADA—A recently translated Greek-language receipt from ancient Egypt reveals that a person, whose name is unreadable, and his friends paid a land-transfer tax of 75 talents and an additional 15-talent charge at a public bank in the city of Diospolis Magna, also known as Luxor or Thebes. “It’s an incredibly large sum of money,” Brice Jones of Concordia University told Live Science. “These Egyptians were most likely very wealthy.” The tax was paid on a date that corresponds to July 22, 98 B.C., all in coins that in total probably weighed more than 220 pounds. The 15-talent penalty may have been charged for not paying part of the bill in silver, as required by law. Jones has translated this ostracon and other texts housed at the McGill University Library and Archives in Montreal.

Categories: Blog

Pages

Subscribe to Archaeological Institute of America aggregator - Blog

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!