YORK, ENGLAND—Archaeologists from the University of York have found worked stone and lead and glass from windows that could be parts of a memorial chapel that Richard III began to build in 1483 to honor the estimated 28,000 soldiers who died in Battle of Towton in 1461. But Richard III was killed two years later during the Battle of Bosworth field and the chapel was never completed. It fell into decline and had disappeared by the late 1500s.
EASTPORT, NEWFOUNDLAND--Coastal erosion threatens 130 archaeological sites in Newfoundland and Labrador, including the largest known coastal Beothuk settlement. “I’ve made annual trips here since then and we’ve patched up some of the structures, but basically it’s been myself and one person, one volunteer pretty much, and we can’t keep pace with it,” said archaeologist Laurie McLean of the Burnside Heritage Foundation. Popular tourist sites are more likely to win grant money for preservation efforts.
WALAKPA, ALASKA—A sod house dating to 500 A.D. and a midden were discovered last summer by some ATV riders driving along Alaska’s Arctic Ocean coastline. The site, which was exposed during storms, is in danger of washing into the sea, so archaeologist Anne Jensen and her team have been working quickly to excavate it and protect it from the coming winter season. “Arctic archaeology is pretty labor intensive and expensive,” she explained. Jensen will spend this winter analyzing the finds. Iñupiat people are known to have lived in this area for 3,500 years.
ÖLAND, SWEDEN—The remains of five individuals have been unearthed in a small house within a fifth-century ring fort on the island of Öland. They had died violently, and are thought to have been left where they fell since the dead were usually cremated at this period in Scandinavian history. “It’s a day in the life of the Migration Period, and that’s completely unique. We have nothing to compare it to,” said Helena Victor of the Kalmar County Museum. The excavation team estimates that the remains of hundreds of people killed during a well-organized raid could be spread throughout the fort. Archaeologist Nicolo Dell’Unto of Lund University is constructing 3-D models of the site that may help researchers discern what happened.
BOULDER, COLORADO—Sites known as platform cave caches offer evidence that the Apache arrived in the southern mountains of Arizona and New Mexico more than 200 years earlier than previously thought, according to Jeni Seymour of the University of Colorado Museum. Platform cave caches are small platforms constructed to store goods, such as pottery, baskets, ceremonial items, and food, for later use within a remote rock shelter. Sometimes the cache was hidden with rocks, grasses, or other cave features. Later on, the caches were used to hide weapons and ammunition. Nineteenth-century accounts mention the practice of keeping goods in caves, but this is the first time that evidence of the custom has been found.
EDIRNE, TURKEY—Remains of the Yemişkapani Inn were uncovered in northwestern Turkey, near the Selimiye Mosque. Officials from the Edirne Municipality had planned to build office space, parks, pools, and entertainment areas at the site. Built in 1588, the inn later served as a fruit and vegetable market until it eventually collapsed in 1937.
NELSON, BRITISH COLUMBIA—Rock art depicting two First Nations hunters near Kootenay Lake has been damaged by what appear to be paintball pellets. Provincial archaeologist Al Mackie will wait to see if the rain will remove the paint, but if it is not water soluble, the problem of cleaning up the vandalism becomes much more difficult. “If it’s the kind of material that really adheres to rock, then to remove it becomes a pretty complicated process. You need a trained museum person who knows what kind of chemicals to apply,” he said. Defacing protected rock art in Canada is punishable by a fine and even jail time.
PHILIPPI, GREECE--The analysis of residues collected from ceramics at the site of Dikili Tash suggests that wine was made in Europe as early as 4200 B.C. In addition to the tartaric acid found in the vessels, the joint Greek-French excavation team found carbonized grape pips and their skins in a Neolithic house dating to 4500 B.C. The grape pips and skins indicate that the grapes had been pressed. “The historical meaning of our discovery is important for the Aegean and the European prehistory, as it gives evidence of early developments of the agricultural and diet practices, affecting social processes,” said Dimitra Malamidou, co-director of the project.
SHARKIYA, EGYPT—A life-sized statue of Ramses II has been found by a joint Egyptian-German team of archaeologists in the temple of the cat goddess Bastet at Tel-Basta. Carved from red granite, Ramses II is depicted standing between the goddess Hathor and the god Petah. The king’s cartouche and hieroglyphic text are engraved on the back of the statue. Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of the Ministry of State of Antiquities, thinks that there may have been a New Kingdom temple dedicated to Ramses II at Tel-Basta.
ISTANBUL, TURKEY—While restoring the eighteenth-century Nuruosmaniye Mosque, located near Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, workers from Foundations Istanbul Provincial discovered an Ottoman-era cistern. “We removed 420 trucks’ worth of slime from the cistern. Then the magnificent gallery, cistern, and water gauge became visible. …There is also a well under this cistern. After cleaning the mud, we saw that the system was still working,” said Director İbrahim Özekinci. When the cleaning and conservation are finished in another year, he plans to turn the cistern into a museum and open it to visitors.
CHICHESTER, ENGLAND—Miles Russell and Harry Manley of Bournemouth University have used 3-D laser scanning technology to examine the Bosham Head, which was discovered 200 years ago in a flower bed in the vicarage garden in Bosham. The monumental sculpture had remained unidentified because it is badly weathered. The new scans, however, revealed facial features and a distinctive hairstyle linked to Emperor Trajan. Russell thinks the statue may have been erected by Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, at Chichester Harbor, since it is known that he installed a similar statue in Ostia. “There would have been this immense statue of the Emperor facing you as you came in to the harbor, so it’s a real Welcome to Britain statue but reminding you that Britain is part of the Roman Empire,” he said.
BOULDER, COLORADO—Shards of volcanic glass and large amounts of sulfur in polar ice cores from the Arctic and Antarctic suggest that the cause of the Little Ice Age could be attributed to the powerful eruption of a volcano. (The sulfur in the atmosphere would have reflected solar energy back into space, cooling the planet.) Scientists now think that Indonesia’s Samalas Volcano, located on Lombok Island, could be the culprit for the cold summers, rains, floods, and poor harvests of the medieval period, beginning between 1275 and 1300 A.D. Historic records indicate that Samalas erupted before the end of the thirteenth century, and an examination of the volcano’s caldera confirmed that a large explosion had occurred. “An equatorial eruption is more consistent with the apparent climate impacts,” added Gifford Miller of the University of Colorado, Boulder. And, the chemical composition of the glass from the ice cores is a much closer match to Samalas glass than obsidian from other contenders.
LUXOR, EGYPT—The replica of King Tutankhamun’s tomb funded by Madrid’s Factum Foundation, the Society of Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt in Zurich, and the University of Basel, will be re-erected on Luxor’s west bank, near the museum known as the Carter Rest-House. Replica tombs allow visitors to see ancient tombs that are closed for their preservation and protection. Every inch of Tut’s original tomb was recorded with 3-D scanners, and then craftsmen worked for three years to complete the reconstruction. The replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb will be moved to the new Grand Egyptian Museum when it is completed.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA—The Musqueam First Nation has purchased two acres of land that had been slated for a new condo development until the discovery of human remains halted construction last year. The village and burial site are estimated to be 3,000 years old and will be protected as a park. “We want to make sure that we protect that entire area. That’s just a small portion of what is traditionally known as our traditional village site,” explained Musqueam Councillor Wade Grant.
LONDON, ENGLAND—Some 20 Roman skulls and near-intact pieces of pottery thought to date to the third and fourth centuries A.D. have been found near London’s Liverpool Street Station, beneath a large cemetery where deceased mental health patients from Bedlam Asylum had been buried for hundreds of years. The skulls were found in the bed of the Walbrook River, which was paved over in the fifteenth century. “Forensic studies show that when the body disintegrates near a watercourse, the skull travels furthest, either because it floats or it can roll along the base of the river,” said osteologist Don Walker from the Museum of London Archaeology. The skulls and their teeth will be studied to learn more about these Romans.
ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT—Customs officials in Egypt were reportedly surprised to learn that artifacts were being smuggled into their country. They intercepted packages shipped from the United States that contained clay figurines made by Peru’s Chancay culture between 1000 and 1475 A.D., and terracotta heads crafted by Ecuador’s Valdivia culture in 2000 B.C. The artifacts were probably headed to a private collection. Peruvian Ambassador Alberto Gálvez de Rivero thanked Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim and praised the “collaboration between two partner nations working together to return illegally removed pieces to their legitimate owners.”
LONDON, ENGLAND—Archaeologist Stephen Shennan of University College London and his colleagues used 8,000 radiocarbon dates from sites across Europe to calculate rises and falls in population before, during, and after the introduction of agriculture. They found that two major population booms were followed by declines by as much as 30 to 60 percent. The first boom was some 7,500 years ago, when Europe’s earliest farming culture began, and the second was 6,000 years ago, perhaps due to the rise in keeping livestock for their dairy products. But farming also shrinks the size of forests and available supplies of wood and other products. “Diminishing natural resources due to agricultural practices may partly have caused population busts,” added Sean Downey of the University of Maryland.
SATU QALA, IRAQ—A tell near the Zab River in northern Iraq has yielded traces of an ancient city complete with palaces decorated in glazed bricks. A cuneiform inscription held by a resident from the modern village that rests on the tell revealed that it was known in antiquity as Idu. Under the control of the Assyrian Empire some 3,000 years ago, Idu gained its independence for some 140 years before it was reconquered by the Assyrians and used as an administrative center. “For wide-scale excavations to continue, at least some of these houses will have to be removed. Unfortunately, until a settlement is reached between the villagers and the Kurdistan regional government, further work is currently not possible,” said Cinzia Pappi of Germany’s Universität Leipzig.
TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—Melting snow in Norway’s mountains has revealed a bow and arrows that were probably used to hunt reindeer. The 3,800-year-old bow had been made from elm that grows at lower altitudes. The arrows, the oldest of which was 5,400 years old, were made of different types of wood and tipped in slate. The weapons are similar to those found in other cold climates. Neolithic hunters probably followed the deer into the mountains during the summer months, when the deer would move to cooler pastures. “It’s actually a little bit unnerving that they’re so old and that they’re coming out right now. It tells us that there’s something changing,” said Martin Callanan of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. government officials have handed over a silver griffin-shaped artifact to Mohammad-Ali Najafi, Iran’s Cultural Heritage Chief. The Persian ceremonial drinking vessel, which dates to the 7th century B.C., was confiscated by customs officials in 2003 from an art dealer, but strained relations between the two countries prevented its return. “We are taking this as America’s souvenir to the Iranian people,” Najafi said.