New Technology Finds Additional Tattoos on the Iceman

Archaeology News - January 23, 2015

BOLZANO, ITALY—New tattoos have been found on the ribcage of Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old frozen mummy discovered by hikers in the Alps in 1991. Marco Samadelli, Marcello Melis, Matteo Miccoli, Eduard Vigl, and Albert R. Zink slightly thawed Ötzi’s body before they photographed it with a modified 36 MP digital SLR camera outfitted with filters to capture images in ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths. The images were processed using special software designed to detect color differences in the non-visible spectral range, and they found a group of unrecorded tattoos on the mummy’s lower right rib cage that are invisible to the naked eye. The four parallel lines are “the first tattoo … detected on the Iceman’s frontal part of the torso,” Samadelli told Red Orbit. It had been suggested in previous research that Ötzi’s tattoos may have been medicinal or therapeutic in nature, since most of the marks are said to correspond to classic Chinese acupuncture points. Ötzi is thought to have died at about 45 years of age after he was shot in the back with a stone-tipped arrow and bludgeoned. Research has also revealed that his last meal consisted of grains and ibex meat, and that he suffered from gum disease, gallbladder stones, Lyme disease, parasites, and atherosclerosis. To read more about tattoos in the ancient world, go to "Ancient Tattoos." 

Categories: Blog

New Technology Finds Additional Tattoos on the Iceman

Archaeology News - January 23, 2015

BOLZANO, ITALY—New tattoos have been found on the ribcage of Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old frozen mummy discovered by hikers in the Alps in 1991. Marco Samadelli, Marcello Melis, Matteo Miccoli, Eduard Vigl, and Albert R. Zink slightly thawed Ötzi’s body before they photographed it with a modified 36 MP digital SLR camera outfitted with filters to capture images in ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths. The images were processed using special software designed to detect color differences in the non-visible spectral range, and they found a group of unrecorded tattoos on the mummy’s lower right rib cage that are invisible to the naked eye. The four parallel lines are “the first tattoo … detected on the Iceman’s frontal part of the torso,” Samadelli told Red Orbit. It had been suggested in previous research that Ötzi’s tattoos may have been medicinal or therapeutic in nature, since most of the marks are said to correspond to classic Chinese acupuncture points. Ötzi is thought to have died at about 45 years of age after he was shot in the back with a stone-tipped arrow and bludgeoned. Research has also revealed that his last meal consisted of grains and ibex meat, and that he suffered from gum disease, gallbladder stones, Lyme disease, parasites, and atherosclerosis. 

Categories: Blog

Derry’s Earliest Dated Building Unearthed

Archaeology News - January 22, 2015

LONDONDERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND—An excavation carried out under a license from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has uncovered part of a building that is thought to have burned down in 1608, when the town of Derry was sacked by Cahir O’Doherty, whose lands had been confiscated for colonization during the reign of King James I. The timber walls and slate roof of the building collapsed into its stone cellar. Intact glass bottles were found, along with medieval pottery, musket balls, a small cannon ball, and clay pipes. “The building’s alignment is east-west and has been dated to the early 1600s. The east-west alignment is radically different to our present day Walled City street pattern. This clearly shows the building reflects the earlier street pattern based on the ecclesiastical settlement that pre-existed the plantation town of Londonderry,” Environment Minster Mark Durkan said in U TV. Derry’s city walls, which were constructed between 1613 and 1619, are intact. To read about the threat to one of the most important medieval settlements in the British Isles, go to "Saving Northern Ireland's Noble Bog."

Categories: Blog

Derry’s Earliest Dated Building Unearthed

Archaeology News - January 22, 2015

LONDONDERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND—An excavation carried out under a license from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has uncovered part of a building that is thought to have burned down in 1608, when the town of Derry was sacked by Cahir O’Doherty, whose lands had been confiscated for colonization during the reign of King James I. The timber walls and slate roof of the building collapsed into its stone cellar. Intact glass bottles were found, along with medieval pottery, musket balls, a small cannon ball, and clay pipes. “The building’s alignment is east-west and has been dated to the early 1600s. The east-west alignment is radically different to our present day Walled City street pattern. This clearly shows the building reflects the earlier street pattern based on the ecclesiastical settlement that pre-existed the plantation town of Londonderry,” Environment Minster Mark Durkan said in U TV. Derry’s city walls, which were constructed between 1613 and 1619, are intact.  

Categories: Blog

Painted Red Numbers Found on Colosseum’s Walls

Archaeology News - January 22, 2015

ROME, ITALY—Wanted in Rome reports that the restorers who have been carefully removing dirt and smog residue from the surface of the Colosseum have found traces of painted red numbers on its arches. Similar to today’s stadium seating systems, the numbers are thought to have directed visitors to their seats, assigned according to social class. Rossella Rea, director of the monument, says that the paint is an “exceptional discovery,”  since it had been thought that the painted numbers would not have survived. To read about the surprising uses of the Colosseum in the middle ages, go to "Colosseum Condos."

Categories: Blog

Painted Red Numbers Found on Colosseum’s Walls

Archaeology News - January 22, 2015

ROME, ITALY—Wanted in Rome reports that the restorers who have been carefully removing dirt and smog residue from the surface of the Colosseum have found traces of painted red numbers on its arches. Similar to today’s stadium seating systems, the numbers are thought to have directed visitors to their seats, assigned according to social class. Rossella Rea, director of the monument, says that the paint is an “exceptional discovery,”  since it had been thought that the painted numbers would not have survived. To read about the surprising uses of the Colosseum in the middle ages, go to "Colosseum Condos."

Categories: Blog

Police Raids Recover More Than 5,000 Artifacts

Archaeology News - January 22, 2015

ROME, ITALY—A Switzerland-based art dealer and his wife have been accused of being part of an antiquities trafficking network involving tomb raiders in southern Italy; dealers; and buyers from Germany, Britain, the United States, Japan, and Australia. The looted works are thought to have been sent to Switzerland where they were restored and sold with counterfeit provenance papers. Italian police have seized more than 5,000 artifacts, including vases, jewelry, frescoes, and bronze statues dating from the eighth century B.C. to the third century A.D. The items are estimated to have been worth $64 million on the black market. “This is by a long shot the biggest recovery in history in terms of the quantity and quality of the archaeological treasures,” Carabineri General Mariano Mossa said at a news conference reported in The Columbian. Documents associated with the case could lead Italian authorities to artifacts now housed in top museums around the world. To read the dramatic story of an earlier effort to fight the illegal looting of Italy's ancient tombs, go to "Raiding the Tomb Raiders."

Categories: Blog

Police Raids Recover More Than 5,000 Artifacts

Archaeology News - January 22, 2015

ROME, ITALY—A Switzerland-based art dealer and his wife have been accused of being part of an antiquities trafficking network involving tomb raiders in southern Italy; dealers; and buyers from Germany, Britain, the United States, Japan, and Australia. The looted works are thought to have been sent to Switzerland where they were restored and sold with counterfeit provenance papers. Italian police have seized more than 5,000 artifacts, including vases, jewelry, frescoes, and bronze statues dating from the eighth century B.C. to the third century A.D. The items are estimated to have been worth $64 million on the black market. “This is by a long shot the biggest recovery in history in terms of the quantity and quality of the archaeological treasures,” Carabineri General Mariano Mossa said at a news conference reported in The Columbian. Documents associated with the case could lead Italian authorities to artifacts now housed in top museums around the world. To read the dramatic story of an earlier effort to fight the illegal looting of Italy's ancient tombs, go to "Raiding the Tomb Raiders."

Categories: Blog

Arizona’s Jordan Cave Vandalized

Archaeology News - January 22, 2015

SEDONA, ARIZONA—Jordan Cave, which was used as a dwelling by Native Americans some 800 years ago, has been vandalized, according to the U.S. Forest Department. Rocks from the dwelling were tossed over a nearby embankment. “Even just moving rocks around on the surface within the site, even if they don’t leave the site, still destroys that information,” U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Travis Bone told AZ Central. The department has released a photograph of three persons of interest in the case. The site is considered by many to be a sacred space. To read about how ancient farmers in Arizona brought water to the desert, go to "Early Irrigators."

Categories: Blog

Arizona’s Jordan Cave Vandalized

Archaeology News - January 22, 2015

SEDONA, ARIZONA—Jordan Cave, which was used as a dwelling by Native Americans some 800 years ago, has been vandalized, according to the U.S. Forest Department. Rocks from the dwelling were tossed over a nearby embankment. “Even just moving rocks around on the surface within the site, even if they don’t leave the site, still destroys that information,” U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Travis Bone told AZ Central. The department has released a photograph of three persons of interest in the case. The site is considered by many to be a sacred space. To read about how ancient farmers in Arizona brought water to the desert, go to "Early Irrigators."

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Roman Decoration Found in Denmark

Archaeology News - January 21, 2015

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—Science Nordic reports that a tiny bronze sculpture discovered by a metal detectorist on the Danish island of Falster has been identified as an image of Silenus, the companion and tutor of the wine god Dionysus, by experts at the National Museum of Denmark. The finely detailed figure depicts an elderly, bearded, balding man with thick lips and a plump nose that was originally a fitting from the headrest of a Roman dining couch, or a lectus tricliniaris. Such a bust of Silenus would have been paired with a figure of a mule’s head, since Silenus was often shown inebriated and carried by others or hanging over the back of a mule. The fitting may have come to Denmark on a Roman lectus tricliniaris, but it probably arrived as a loose object through trade, as a war trophy, or a gift.

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Roman Decoration Found in Demark

Archaeology News - January 21, 2015

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—Science Nordic reports that a tiny bronze sculpture discovered by a metal detectorist on the Danish island of Falster has been identified as an image of Silenus, the companion and tutor of the wine god Dionysus, by experts at the National Museum of Denmark. The finely detailed figure depicts an elderly, bearded, balding man with thick lips and a plump nose that was originally a fitting from the headrest of a Roman dining couch, or a lectus tricliniaris. Such a bust of Silenus would have been paired with a figure of a mule’s head, since Silenus was often shown inebriated and carried by others or hanging over the back of a mule. The fitting may have come to Denmark on a Roman lectus tricliniaris, but it probably arrived as a loose object through trade, as a war trophy, or a gift.

Categories: Blog

Pre-Columbian Bones in Peru Show Signs of Surgery

Archaeology News - January 21, 2015

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA—Peru This Week reports that two skeletons from the pre-Columbian site of Kuelap show signs of bone surgery. The skeletons, both of moderately healthy males that date between 800 and 1535 A.D., had holes drilled in the bones of their legs. According to J. Maria Toyne of the University of Florida, the holes may have been intended to drain fluid and relieve pressure caused by injury or infection, although it is unclear if the patients died during the surgery, or if they may have been recently deceased and their bodies used for training purposes. Toyne adds that the people of the Chachapoya region had developed advanced medical practices during this period. To read more about ancient surgical advances, go to "Artful Surgery." 

Categories: Blog

Pre-Columbian Bones in Peru Show Signs of Surgery

Archaeology News - January 21, 2015

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA—Peru This Week reports that two skeletons from the pre-Columbian site of Kuelap show signs of bone surgery. The skeletons, both of moderately healthy males that date between 800 and 1535 A.D., had holes drilled in the bones of their legs. According to J. Maria Toyne of the University of Florida, the holes may have been intended to drain fluid and relieve pressure caused by injury or infection, although it is unclear if the patients died during the surgery, or if they may have been recently deceased and their bodies used for training purposes. Toyne adds that the people of the Chachapoya region had developed advanced medical practices during this period. To read more about ancient surgical advances, go to "Artful Surgery." 

Categories: Blog

River Clean-Up Could Retrieve Civil War Weapons

Archaeology News - January 21, 2015

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA—A planned environmental clean-up of the Congaree River in South Carolina could recover Confederate munitions that Union troops, under the command of General William T. Sherman, captured in 1865. Sherman’s army burned a third of the city and captured 1.2 million ball cartridges; 100,000 percussion caps; 6,000 unfinished arms; 4,000 bayonet scabbards; and 3,100 sabers. The soldiers reportedly dumped what they couldn’t carry in the river. Since then, fishermen and swimmers have recovered some of the weapons. “I’m sure there will be some interesting items. I don’t anticipate huge volumes,” state underwater archaeologist James Spirek told The State. The artifacts are expected to be found under some 40,000 tons of coal tar discharged into the river from a power plant 60 years ago. To read about the excavations of a Civil War prison, see "Life on the Inside."

Categories: Blog

River Clean-Up Could Retrieve Civil War Weapons

Archaeology News - January 21, 2015

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA—A planned environmental clean-up of the Congaree River in South Carolina could recover Confederate munitions that Union troops, under the command of General William T. Sherman, captured in 1865. Sherman’s army burned a third of the city and captured 1.2 million ball cartridges; 100,000 percussion caps; 6,000 unfinished arms; 4,000 bayonet scabbards; and 3,100 sabers. The soldiers reportedly dumped what they couldn’t carry in the river. Since then, fishermen and swimmers have recovered some of the weapons. “I’m sure there will be some interesting items. I don’t anticipate huge volumes,” state underwater archaeologist James Spirek told The State. The artifacts are expected to be found under some 40,000 tons of coal tar discharged into the river from a power plant 60 years ago. 

Categories: Blog

Bacteria’s Genome Reflects Human History

Archaeology News - January 20, 2015

PARIS, FRANCE—Nature News reports that a new genetic analysis of the Beijing lineage of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, suggests that it emerged some 6,600 years ago in northeastern China. This coincides with the archaeological evidence of the beginning of rice farming in China’s upper Yangtze River Valley. As in other parts of the world, it is thought the M. tuberculosis bacteria took hold in human populations when people settled down to farm. The research team, led by evolutionary geneticist Thierry Wirth at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, thinks that the bacteria probably spread along the Silk Road, which connected China to the Middle East, and eventually reached the Pacific Islands and Central Asia in the nineteenth century with waves of Chinese immigration. Numbers of the bacteria spiked during the Industrial Revolution and urbanization after World War I, when people lived in increasingly close quarters. The numbers of bacteria fell as antibiotics became widely available, but then rebounded with the rise of HIV/AIDS and the collapse of the Soviet health system. To read about the spread of tuberculosis to the New World, see "Across the Atlantic by Flipper."

Categories: Blog

Bacteria’s Genome Reflects Human History

Archaeology News - January 20, 2015

PARIS, FRANCE—Nature News reports that a new genetic analysis of the Beijing lineage of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, suggests that it emerged some 6,600 years ago in northeastern China. This coincides with the archaeological evidence of the beginning of rice farming in China’s upper Yangtze River Valley. As in other parts of the world, it is thought the M. tuberculosis bacteria took hold in human populations when people settled down to farm. The research team, led by evolutionary geneticist Thierry Wirth at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, thinks that the bacteria probably spread along the Silk Road, which connected China to the Middle East, and eventually reached the Pacific Islands and Central Asia in the nineteenth with waves of Chinese immigration. Numbers of the bacteria spiked during the Industrial Revolution and urbanization after World War I, when people lived in increasingly close quarters. The numbers of bacteria fell as antibiotics became widely available, but then rebounded with the rise of HIV/AIDS and the collapse of the Soviet health system. 

Categories: Blog

Evidence of Carnivore Consumption Found at Atapuerca

Archaeology News - January 20, 2015

TARRAGONA, SPAIN—Human tooth marks and cut marks have been found on the bones of small carnivores in El Mirador Cave at Atapuerca. The cave had been used to shelter flocks of sheep and cattle, but humans also sporadically consumed domestic dog, wild cat, fox, and badger, between 7,200 and 3,100 years ago. “In El Mirador Cave, the dogs were disarticulated, defleshed, and boiled. In this site this has been observed both in the Neolithic as in the Bronze Age levels. It occurs occasionally in various episodes, but has temporal continuity,” said Patricia Martin of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution. She notes that the wild animals may have been accidentally captured and consumed, and that the dogs may have been eaten at a time of food shortage, or even may have been butchered for their skins. To read more about discoveries at Atapuerca, see "First European."

Categories: Blog

Evidence of Carnivore Consumption Found at Atapuerca

Archaeology News - January 20, 2015

TARRAGONA, SPAIN—Human tooth marks and cut marks have been found on the bones of small carnivores in El Mirador Cave at Atapuerca. The cave had been used to shelter flocks of sheep and cattle, but humans also sporadically consumed domestic dog, wild cat, fox, and badger, between 7,200 and 3,100 years ago. “In El Mirador Cave, the dogs were disarticulated, defleshed, and boiled. In this site this has been observed both in the Neolithic as in the Bronze Age levels. It occurs occasionally in various episodes, but has temporal continuity,” said Patricia Martin of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution. She notes that the wild animals may have been accidentally captured and consumed, and that the dogs may have been eaten at a time of food shortage, or even may have been butchered for their skins. 

Categories: Blog

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