HERRIN, ILLINOIS—Researchers digging in the Herrin City Cemetery have located the remains of four men killed during a 1922 labor strike at an Illinois coal mine. Known as the Herrin Massacre, the fighting took place between union and non-union miners. “These men wound up about 80 feet farther away than we thought they would be,” said historian Scott Doody, who identified the victims of the massacre by the handles and plates on their coffins.
JANAKKALA, FINLAND—Metal detectorists discovered a twelfth-century grave in a field and alerted Finland’s National Board of Antiquities when they realized it contained a spear tip, an ax blade, and a broken sword. Further investigation revealed that the well-preserved Crusader-era burial actually contained two swords that may have belonged to a nobleman. “There were two swords, one on top of the other, the smaller of which was a Viking-era artifact. There is now speculation that it may have been in a fire. In other words, it may have been an heirloom that was in a cremation fire. So that’s a rare combination. [The second sword is] one of the longest swords in Finland, from the crusade or medieval era roughly,” said excavation leader Simo Vanhatalo.
LOS ANGELES—Robert Wayne from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Olaf Thalmann of the University of Turku in Finland used 18 ancient samples from dog and wolf fossils found mostly in Europe to reconstruct their mitochondrial genomes and build a family tree. They found that most living dogs are more closely related to ancient wolves than modern ones. “The [gray wolf] population that gave rise to modern dogs is most likely extinct,” said Thalmann. Based upon mutation rates and genetic differences, they think that dog domestication began between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago in Europe. But critics point out that Wayne and Thalmann were not able to obtain suitable DNA from ancient canids from the Middle East or from East Asia, and that mitochondrial DNA is only passed down from mothers. Others argue that dogs are too interbred to solve the puzzle. “Genomic archaeology has its limitations and the dogs are testing it. It may settle one day, but don’t count on it,” commented Stephen O’Brien of St. Petersburg State University in Russia.
IZMIR, TURKEY—Brick-vaulted corridors thought to have been traveled by servants working in the city’s Roman baths 2,000 years ago have been found at the site of Metropolis. The corridors run parallel to the northern, western, and southern walls of the baths and to the furnaces built near the bath’s pools. “It is very exciting that the structures survived to this day in such good condition,” said Serdar Aybek of Celal Bayar University. His team also uncovered the footprints of a man and a goat. “When we saw these footprints, we imagined the days when the bath was built or restored. We think the footprints belong to a goat that entered the area before the structure’s soil mixture dried, and a man ran after it,” he added.
KENNESAW, GEORGIA--Residues from chili peppers have been found in pottery vessels estimated to be 2,000 years old. The vessels, discovered at the site of Chiapa de Corzo in southern Mexico, had a range of uses, including preparing beverages and condiments. “The significance of our study is that it is the first of its kind to detect ancient chili pepper residues from early Mixe-Zoquean pottery in Mexico,” said Terry Powis of Kennesaw State University. Further investigation could show how peppers were used in cooking, medicine, and rituals.
HUE CITY, VIETNAM—Two bronze figurines and four ceramic jars have been stolen from the Hoa Khiem palace, part of the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, which was built in the 1860s. Guards found pliers used by the thieves to gain entrance near a side door. Police think that there must have been at least two perpetrators to carry away the heavy antiquities.
ALBANY, NEW YORK—New York’s Court of Appeals has unanimously agreed that a small, 3,000-year-old Assyrian gold tablet must be returned to Berlin’s Vorderasiatisches Museum. The tablet, excavated from northern Iraq by German archaeologists, went on display in 1934, but disappeared at an unknown time after the start of World War II. Holocaust survivor Riven Flamenbaum claimed to have traded cigarettes for the tablet with a Russian soldier. “The ‘spoils of war’ theory proffered by the estate—that the Russian government, when it invaded Germany, gained title to the museum’s property as a spoil of war, and then transferred that title to the decedent—is rejected,” read a memorandum from the court.
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA—A 5,000-pound-piece of the ironclad CSS Georgia has been removed from the Savannah River by U.S. Navy divers. Archaeologists will study the piece of the casemate before attempting to recover the rest of the warship, which was scuttled in 1864 by the Confederate Navy to keep it from the Union troops that were approaching Savannah. “Tuesday’s retrieval will play a major role in creating a research design to effectively remove the CSS Georgia before expanding the shipping channel along this stretch of the Savannah River,” said archaeologist Julie Morgan of the Army Corps of Engineers.
OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON—Guy Tasa, physical anthropologist for the state of Washington, is working to rebury the human remains occupying 120 cardboard boxes stored at the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation. “They represent the remains of somebody who’s come before us hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. And they deserve all of the respect and treatment we give anybody today,” he said. Many of the bones are recovered when homeowners start digging on their properties. A state fund now will reimburse landowners for the archaeological excavations.
ORANGE COUNTY, VIRGINIA—Metal detectorists have been recruited to help archaeologists investigate the 2,700 acres of land at Montpelier, the eighteenth-century home of James Madison. They are looking for artifacts in areas that were once fields, mills, and slave quarters. After an archaeology lesson, the hobbyists are paired with a staff member who records the finds. “What we’re finding is that metal detectorists absolutely love this. It opens a whole new window into their hobby and what we’d eventually like to do is have more archaeologists and detectorists working together,” said Matt Reeves, director of archaeology at Montpelier.
TEHRAN, IRAN—A team of Iranian and Italian archaeologists excavating a Parthian-Era (247 B.C.-A.D. 224) site in southwestern Iran has uncovered a temple made of large, rectangular stones laid without mortar. “A member of the team says that it was an altar or a small platform for worship,” said Vito Messina of the University of Turin. They also discovered an ancient family tomb that was used for 100 years. “It is a small rectangular room with a stone structure,” added archaeologist Jafar Mehrkian.
MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA—Construction workers have discovered a tomb thought to have been built by the Aburraes Indians in Medellin’s La Colinita de Guayabal neighborhood. So far, archaeologists from Colombia’s culture ministry, who will work with archaeologists from the University of Paris as the project continues, have uncovered weaving wheels, gold nose rings, ceramics, and coal from the burial. The Aburraes Indians were nearly wiped out by the diseases and hard labor brought by the Spanish in the sixteenth century.
LEICESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND—Fragments of a child’s skeleton and two small, jet bracelets have been found within a 1,600-year-old Roman coffin that was unearthed last month in central England. One of the bracelets is in good condition, but the other had been resting in a part of the coffin that had cracked and is in need of conservation. “They were both found in positions in the coffin that could indicate they were on an arm but there’s a possibility they could also have been worn as necklaces or even braided through hair,” said Stuart Palmer of Archaeology Warwickshire.
CAIRO, EGYPT—Scientists have been studying the mummy of King Tut since it was first unwrapped in 1925. That examination resulted in severe damage to the remains. Since then, the mummy has been x-rayed twice, it has undergone CT scanning, and its DNA has been analyzed. Yet, Tutankhamun’s internal organs, stored in canopic jars, have never been evaluated. “As neither his body nor historical texts provide a definitive explanation for his demise, a lot of conjectures based on slim evidence have come forth,” said Salima Ikram of The American University in Cairo. She and Frank Rühli of the University of Zurich have reviewed all of the medical claims made about King Tut’s health and his possible cause of death. “The most important finding of this latest publication is that Tutankhamun’s medical case remains unsolved despite almost 80 years of research,” he said.
CAIRO, EGYPT—Ninety of 110 ancient Egyptian artifacts advertised by a Jerusalem auction house have been seized and returned to Egypt, according to an announcement made by Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim. The artifacts included pottery, stelae, and figurines.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA—Members of the Rising Star Expedition have recovered a hominid mandible from a difficult to reach, narrow cave where it appears that the remains of more than one individual came to rest. Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand identified the possible fossil site by using Google Earth to look for rock outcroppings that would have made attractive shelters to early humans. He then contacted local cavers and let them know what to look for on their adventures. The two local cavers who then found the bones are now assisting the excavation team.
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS—The World Court has ruled that the Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage Site constructed by the Khmer Empire in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, sits on Cambodian soil, but added that Cambodia and Thailand must negotiate their borders in that region, which have been disputed since 1904. Cambodian and Thai troops had clashed over the ownership of the temple as recently as 2011.
YORK, ENGLAND—A cow jawbone unearthed in northern China shows that cattle domestication may have begun there around 10,000 years ago, roughly the same time cows were first domesticated in the Near East. An international and multi-disciplinary team led by University of York biologist Michi Hofreiter found wear patterns on the jawbone's teeth that suggest human management of the animal, and a DNA study of the remains shows they belonged to a cow that was not related to domesticated cattle in the Near East or South Asia. Hofreiter calls the jawbone "unique and suggests that, similar to other species such as pigs and dogs, cattle domestication was probably also a complex process rather than a sudden event."
LIMA, PERU—First discovered 19 years ago, the massive, 5,000-year-old city of Caral is still being explored by archaeologists. Recent finds at what might be the earliest city in the New World have included a small public building on the outskirts of the site that was connected with the core area by a road. Archaeologist Ruth Shady, who heads the Caral Archaeological Area, says she and her team are at work on 11 other settlements that belong to the Caral period, which lasted more than 1,000 years.
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Archaeologists working ahead of a planned development known as Great Kneighton outside Cambridge have unearthed evidence for settlements dating to the Middle Bronze Age, as well as burials from the Roman period. One grave contained eleven pottery vessels from Gaul, which were likely used for a funeral feast before the burial. "Crop mark analysis and a previous survey at Great Kneighton had suggested that archaeology would be present," said Oxford Archaeology East's Richard Mortime. "But the site threw up far more extensive and unusual remains than expected."