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Updated: 14 hours 29 min ago

Two Islamic-Era Settlements Unearthed in Qatar

April 11, 2014

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. 

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Archaeologists Return to Oklahoma’s Spiro Mounds

April 11, 2014

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

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Lake Minnetonka Canoe is Much Older Than Previously Thought

April 11, 2014

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.

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Replica of Tutankhamun’s Tomb Nearly Finished

April 11, 2014

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. 

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English Coin May Have Been Lost After Battle of Bannockburn

April 10, 2014

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. 

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Durham Cathedral’s Great Kitchen Excavated

April 10, 2014

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.  

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Iron Age Mint Discovered in England

April 10, 2014

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.  

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New Thoughts on Neanderthal Childhood

April 10, 2014

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

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Historic Boats Discovered in Irish Lake

April 10, 2014

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.

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Egyptian Burial Unearthed in Northern Israel

April 9, 2014

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.

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Peering Inside an Ancient Mummy

April 9, 2014

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. 

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Tools Are Earliest Evidence of Humans in Scotland

April 9, 2014

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

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Trade Network Supplied Chaco Canyon With Turquoise

April 9, 2014

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

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World War I Training Trenches Uncovered in England

April 8, 2014

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.

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Teeth Reflect Changes in the Late Woodland Period

April 8, 2014

TORONTO, ONTARIO—Archaeologist Bradly T. Lepper has written about the research of Susan Pfeiffer of the University of Toronto in his column for the Columbus Dispatch. Pfeiffer and her team worked with First Nations descendant communities to study DNA and isotopes from the teeth of 53 “archaeologically discovered ancestors,” who lived between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. The results indicate that the people ate mostly maize and fish, but the consumption of fish declined as their villages grew larger. The researchers also found genetic mutations that may connect some of the ancient villagers to modern tribes. “The Middle and Late Woodland periods were times of population movement, mixing, and diversification in the lower Great Lakes,” Pfeiffers’ team concluded. 

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Farming and Technology Eased Stress on Human Bones

April 8, 2014

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—An analysis of the lower leg bones of Central European farmers who lived between 7,300 and 1,150 years ago by Alison Macintosh of Cambridge University suggests that men carried out less physically demanding tasks over time. Their work load was probably lightened by the specialization of labor, the production of metal goods, and the development of trade networks. Macintosh found that the changes in women’s bones were not as consistent, however, indicating that they may have been performing a wide variety of tasks that did not require traveling long distances or carrying heavy loads. In fact, women’s skeletons from two of the earliest cemeteries in the study showed signs of tooth wear from processing activities. “As more and more people began doing a wider variety of crafts and behaviors, fewer people needed to be highly mobile, and with technological innovation, physically strenuous tasks were likely made easier. The overall result is a reduction in mobility of the population as a whole, accompanied by a reduction in the strength of the lower limb bones,” Macintosh told the University of Cambridge news service.

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Infrared Sensors Detect Desert Ruins in New Mexico

April 7, 2014


JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA—A small, remote-controlled drone carrying a heat-sensing camera has helped archaeologists to get a sense of the Blue J community—an eleventh-century, ancient Puebloan settlement of nearly 60 households situated around open plazas in New Mexico’s desert. The settlement is just south of Chaco Canyon, but archaeologists had not found a monumental great house, nor a great kiva, that are typical of Chaco architecture. The heat-sensing camera, however, detected the sun-warmed masonry of a large, circular structure that may be a ceremonial kiva hidden beneath the earth. “The drone work was able to show us that at least some of the sites are much larger below the surface than can be seen on the surface,” archaeologist John Kantner of the University of North Florida told Western Digs. He had thought that the people who lived at Blue J may have resisted the influence of Chaco Canyon. “If it is indeed a great kiva, I’ll have to change my interpretation of how villages like Blue J interacted with Chaco Canyon,” he added.

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Pompeii Will Receive High-Tech Tools

April 7, 2014

ROME, ITALY—The Italian aerospace and defense company Finmeccanica will donate ground sensors and satellites to the project “Pompeii: Give it a Future.” The technology will be used for three years to assess the instability of the site and set up an early warning system for possible collapses. The company will also supply security guards with radio equipment and smartphone apps to improve their communication and pinpoint their position on the site. “We are offering our technology for the service of the country and its heritage,” Finmeccanica’s chief executive Alessandro Pansa told Phys.org

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CT Scans Show Plaques Beneath Mummy’s Wrappings

April 7, 2014

HAMILTON, ONTARIO—Live Science reports that a team of researchers led by Andrew Wade of McMaster University has examined the CT scans of a 1,700-year-old Egyptian mummy. The images revealed that the woman’s intestines, stomach, liver, and heart had been removed through her perineum by embalmers, who then packed the hole with linen and resin. “We don’t really know what’s happening to the hearts that are removed,” Wade said. The embalmers also put two thin plaques on the woman’s skin above her sternum and abdomen. Spices and lichen were probably placed on her abdomen as well, since they had been placed on her head, which was unwrapped in the nineteenth century. The woman’s brain had been left intact.

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Heart Disease is an Ancient Ailment

April 7, 2014

DURHAM, ENGLAND—Three men and two women who were buried 3,000 years ago at Amara West, located in present-day Sudan, had atherosclerosis, or a thickening of the artery walls. The tiny calcified plaques were found among their skeletons by bioarchaeologist Michaela Binder and palaeopathologist Charlotte Roberts of Durham University, who think that smoke from fires for cooking, firing pottery, and metalwork may have been a factor in the development of this condition. The individuals were all between ages 35 and 50 at death, had poor dental health, and were of high and low social status. “The main relevance of these findings is that it shows us that the factors leading to these diseases are not products of modern life but that there are other factors in the environment which may have been around for many thousands of years,” Binder told The Journal. 

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