LINCOLN, NEBRASKA—A multidisciplinary team of researchers is dissecting a section of wall removed from a sod house in the Great Plains to learn about the lives of nineteenth-century homesteaders. Weighing in at nearly two tons, the wall was carried to The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where the “autopsy” is taking place. The wall itself comes apart easily, but the bricks, composed of dirt held together with the roots of prairie grasses, are very sturdy. “It’s a laboratory that we can kind of look to see over the course of a hundred years, what happened as people dealt with changing economic situations and as droughts came and affected them,” archaeologist LuAnn Wandsnider told NET Nebraska.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—Nine American survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack in Jerusalem were awarded damages in a U.S. court for more than $300 million from the Republic of Iran. When Iran refused to pay the damages, the plaintiffs claimed a collection of Achaemenid Tablets on loan to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. But a U.S. court has ruled in a second appeal that the tablets are classified as noncommercial property and are therefore not subject to seizure. The tablets are currently being digitized and cataloged as part of the university’s Persepolis Fortification Archive Project. “We will return them [to Iran] when we are done recording, analyzing, and publishing them,” Matthew Stolper, head of the project, told The Chicago Maroon.
ROME, ITALY—Excavations in the Lapis Niger, a black stone shrine in the Roman Forum, have uncovered ceramics, grains, and a wall made of a type of limestone known as tufa. “Examination of the recovered ceramic material has enabled us to chronologically date the wall structure to between the ninth century B.C. and the beginning of the eighth century B.C. So it precedes what is traditionally considered the foundation of Rome,” archaeologist Patrizia Fortuni of Rome’s cultural superintendency told The Telegraph.
BAGHDAD, IRAQ—Work continues on the exhibition halls and the main gate at The Iraq Museum, but it may soon open to all Iraqis. “We have coordinated with Baghdad security officials to secure the museum in a better manner than before, and we hope that we will succeed in opening the museum in the first half of 2014. We are determined to reopen to the public—to families and everybody. Not like last time, when it was open only for officials and for a limited time,” museum director Qais Hussein Rashid told The Christian Science Monitor. Archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani is cataloging the museum’s collections, and examining its archives. “People probably thought these archives don’t exist. These are treasures that no one knows about,” she said.
CHICHESTER, ENGLAND—A Bronze-Age dagger and jaw bone discovered in 1989 by a metal detectorist led to the excavation of a skeleton known as Racton Man. Staining on the bones suggests that the supposed man, who had been buried in a crouched position, was holding the dagger. Rivets were also found in the grave. Recently, scientists have begun to clean the bones and further investigate the remains. Osteological analysis, isoptopic analysis, and carbon dating are planned. “We’re calling him the Mystery Man because we’re waiting for all this analysis to try and find out more about him,” Amy Roberts, collections officer at The Novium, told Culture 24.
SOFIA, BULGARIA—The Sophia News Agency reports that a marble relief dating to the second or third century, two guns, 100 coins, and three necklaces made up of some 15,000 gold beads have been recovered from suspected artifact smugglers by Bulgaria’s Agency for National Security. The necklaces are estimated to be 5,000 years old. “Such things don’t have a price tag, because this is not a supermarket. Those golden artifacts are 1,500 years old than the Trojan War and 2,500 years older than all Thracian treasures that we know of,” said Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of Sofia’s National History Museum.
LAMPETER, WALES—The Wales Qatar Archaeological Project, led by archaeologist Andrew Peterson of the University of Wales Trinity St David, is using an unmanned aerial vehicle to survey Islamic-period sites in Qatar. Excavations have revealed a large settlement called Rubayaqa, made up of large courtyard homes, a mosque, and two cemeteries. “Finds from the site were as diverse as iron cannon balls to wooden chess pieces and large quantities of ceramics,” Peterson told BBC News. A second town, named Ruwayda, had a mosque complex, workshops, warehouses, and a tomb, and was dominated by a large fortress. “Other finds, such as ceramics, indicate long-distance trade with nations such as China, Oman, Iran, and India,” he added.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA—Researchers will return to Spiro Mounds to investigate a prehistoric building identified with remote sensing technology last fall. The building and other formations are part of a settlement that was inhabited between 800 and 1450 A.D. and is now in danger of eroding from a creek bank. “Almost all of what we know about Spiro comes from excavation of the Craig Mound in the 1930s—both by looters and by professional archaeologists. And we know next to nothing about what’s happening in other parts of the site and around it, and so we’re just sort of shifting focus away from mounds into the rest,” Scott Hammerstedt of the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey told The Tribune.
LONG LAKE, MINNESOTA—Radiocarbon tests have shown that a canoe recovered from the silt of Lake Minnetonka in 1934 is 1,000 years old. Housed in a small museum run by volunteers, the canoe attracted the attention of nautical archaeologists Ann Merriman and Chris Olson, who gathered information on dugout canoes in Minnesota. It had been thought that the canoe dated to the 1750s. It is in good condition, but has been split by a crack and lost a few small pieces. “It is [the main attraction] now. We hope it will draw visitors,” Russ Ferrin, head of the Pioneer Museum, told The Star Tribune.
LUXOR, EGYPT—A full-sized replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb, crafted with the help of new technology that recorded every inch of the original in its present state, will soon open at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. Built by Madrid’s Factum Foundation and Zurich’s Society of Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt, the replica gives visitors the ability to view the tomb without threatening its conservation. Brown spots on the original tomb’s wall paintings are thought to have been caused by the increased warmth and moisture brought into the tomb by breathing humans. New exhibits will also inform visitors about the challenges of preserving ancient tombs. “The aim is to create a relationship between the visitors and the long-term management of the archaeological sites,” Adam Lowe, founder of Factum, told Ahram Online. Replicas of the tombs of Queen Nefertari and Seti I are in the works.
STIRLING, SCOTLAND—A 700-year-old English coin was found at Cambuskenneth Abbey during a metal detector survey of the area by investigators from GUARD Archaeology, the Center for Battlefield Archaeology Glasgow University, and local volunteers. The silver coin, which would have been in circulation at the time of the Battle of Bannockburn, may have been a month’s wages for a defeated English soldier. “Cambuskenneth Abbey was where the Scots’ baggage train was held before the battle and where they returned to immediately afterwards. It was where the booty was taken from the battlefield, so it could potentially have been dropped booty,” battlefield archaeologist Warren Bailie of GUARD Archaeology told The Scotsman. The coin was one of 36 discovered during the survey.
DURHAM, ENGLAND—Excavation of the Great Kitchen at Durham Cathedral has uncovered “a vast amount of food waste,” according to Norman Emery, the cathedral archaeologist. The kitchen was used from the fourteenth century until World War II in the twentieth century. Food was prepared for the monks, pilgrims, and patients in the cathedral infirmary. North Sea cod, herring, sole, turbot, and salmon and trout from the River Wear, calves, and domestic and wild birds were served. “The kitchen would have been a very busy place, with people milling about,” Emery told The Journal.
LEICESTER, ENGLAND—An Iron Age mint where some of the 5,000 silver and gold coins of the Hallaton Treasure may have been produced by the Corieltauvi tribe has been unearthed. “We’ve got over 20 coin molds, which at an urban site like this is quite significant—a lot of them would have been damaged over time,” project manager Nick Daffern told The Leicester Mercury. The outer walls, floors, and a line of columns that enclosed a courtyard or garden of a Roman townhouse were also uncovered, along with roof or floor tiles bearing dog paw prints and sheep or goat prints. “It looks as if the function of it changed over time, from residential to industrial, before the masonry was taken during medieval times to construct new buildings,” Daffern explained.
YORK, ENGLAND—It had been assumed that Neanderthals experienced harsh and dangerous childhoods, but a new study of the elaborate burials of Neanderthal children by researchers from the University of York and the Center for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins indicates that they had strong emotional attachments within their social groups and played significant roles in society. Sick and injured children may have been cared for over long periods of time. “Interpretations of high activity levels and frequent periods of scarcity form part of the basis for this perceived harsh upbringing. However, such challenges in childhood may not be distinctive from the normal experience of early Palaeolithic human children, or contemporary hunter-gatherers in particularly cold environments. There is a critical distinction to be made between a harsh childhood and a childhood lived in a harsh environment,” team leader Penny Spikins told Red Orbit.
CONNACHT, IRELAND—A survey of Lough Corrib in the west of Ireland has found 12 boats from the early Bronze Age, Iron Age, and medieval period, including the Annaghkeen boat, which was carved from a large log 4,500 years ago. It resembles the Lurgan log boat discovered nearby in 1902, and the Carrowneden boat found in County Mayo in 1996. “The fact that all three boats were located within 30 miles of each other would suggest that they were made by one builder, or that there was a vogue for early Bronze Age boats of this type,” archaeologist Karl Brady of Ireland’s underwater archaeology unit told The Irish Times. Three Viking-style battle axes, bronze spearheads, and a wooden spear were also recovered. The boats are protected by law and will remain in the lake due to the high cost of raising and preserving them.
TEL SHADUD, ISRAEL—An Egyptian-style burial has been discovered in Israel’s Jezreel Valley, which was under Egyptian control during the Late Bronze Age. The 3,300-year-old cylindrical clay coffin contains the remains of an adult who may have been a Canaanite employed by the Egyptian government, a wealthy person who imitated Egyptian customs, or an Egyptian who had been buried in Canaan. “An ordinary person could not afford the purchase of such a coffin. It is obvious the deceased was a member of the local elite,” excavation directors Edwin van den Brink, Dan Kirzner, and Ron Be’eri of the Israel Antiquities Authority told Haaretz. A gold signet ring with a gold-encased scarab seal bearing the name of Seti I was found near the coffin, along with food storage vessels, tableware, cultic vessels, animal bones, a bronze dagger, a bronze bowl, and the burials of two men and two women.
LONDON, ENGLAND—CT scans of the well-preserved mummy of Tamut, a woman who sang in a temple in Luxor in 900 B.C., reveal that she had short hair and clogged arteries. “There are a number of amulets lying on the front of the body. We knew that there were objects but we couldn’t see them with any clarity. Now we can see them and even work out what they are made from,” John Taylor, curator of Egyptian archaeology at the British Museum, told The Telegraph. Tamut was at least 30 years old when she died, and her organs had been removed, preserved, and placed back in her body cavity, along with beeswax figurines. “The way we investigate mummies is not by unwrapping but by looking underneath the bandages in a non-disruptive way,” added museum director Neil MacGregor.
SOUTH LANARKSHIRE, SCOTLAND—Flint tools discovered at Howburn, Scotland, have been dated to 14,000 years ago, making them the earliest evidence of humans in Scotland. The tools resemble artifacts from northern Germany and southern Denmark. The first settlers are thought to have followed wild game at the earliest part of the late-glacial period, when Scotland was accessible. “These tools represent a real connection with archaeological finds in north-west Germany, southern Denmark and north-west Holland, a connection not seen elsewhere in Britain at this time,” Alan Saville, senior curator at the National Museums of Scotland, told The Courier.
WINNIPEG, CANADA—A new database of copper-to-hydrogen isotope ratios for turquoise resource areas in the western United States has shown that the more than 200,000 turquoise artifacts from Chaco Canyon originated in Colorado, Nevada, and southeastern California. It had been thought that the communities of ancestral Puebloans living in Chaco Canyon obtained all of their turquoise from a mining site in New Mexico. “People usually think of the Chaco Canyon as this big center [for turquoise]. But we show that people were bringing the turquoise back and forth between the western and eastern sites,” Sharon Hull of the University of Manitoba told Live Science.
NORFOLK, ENGLAND—Aerial photographs taken of Bircham Newton in 1946 show that what looked like drainage ditches from the ground were actually trenches dug by soldiers training for World War I battlefields. The complex system includes supply lines, small trenches for fighting, and a circular feature with two entrances that may have been a command center. Landowner Nigel Day, who runs a camp site, found the trenches and contacted Norfolk County Council’s archaeology department. “I want to have them dug out by professional archaeologists and then restore them to their original World War I condition,” he told BBC News.