CUMBRIA, ENGLAND—Six buildings dating to the second and third centuries A.D. and a Roman road have been found in Roman Maryport, near Hadrian’s Wall. One of the buildings is thought to have been a shop, since there is no stone wall on the side of the building facing the road. It may have had a timber booth or double doors for admitting customers. Artifacts in the building include stones for sharpening blades and tools, glass beads, food pots, amphorae fragments, glass vessels, and a spindle whorl. A stairwell suggests that people may have worked on the ground floor and lived over the shop. “We haven’t yet been able to determine what was sold here,” said archaeologist Stephen Rowland.
MUĞLA PROVINCE, TURKEY—Recent excavations in Iasos, located on Turkey’s Aegean coast, have revealed that the city was buried in ash 3,600 years ago after the volcanic eruption of Mt. Thera on Santorini. The team of archaeologists from Italy’s Studi Delle Tuscia University and Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry also uncovered a 4,000-year-old sewer system and tunnels to the city’s theater. The site is being prepared to welcome tourists.
NEMEA, GREECE—Budget cuts threaten Nemea, one of four cities where the Greeks held games in antiquity. At the site’s stadium and track, which is located next to the 2,300-year-old Temple of Zeus, games have been held every four years since 1996. “The idea is that anyone can feel like an ancient Greek athlete for ten minutes,” said Stephen G. Miller, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. He lives near the site, where he began digging in the 1970s. But seven members of the site’s ten-member staff have not had their contracts renewed, and the site will close if the staff members lose their court challenge next month. “It’s sad for me that it’s come to this. There should be people crawling all over this place,” Miller added.
SVESTARI, BULGARIA—A 2,500-year-old chariot and two horses that appear to have been buried in an upright position have been found in a Thracian tomb. Diana Gergova of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences thinks that the pit was dug with a sloping side so that the horses, wearing elaborate harnesses, would have been able to pull the chariot into place before they were killed. A dog had also been chained to the chariot. The vehicle may have been owned by the occupant of a nearby grave, which also contained armor, spears, swords, medication, and an inkwell. The discovery of the intact tomb was a surprise, since many of the tombs in the area have been plundered.
MONMOUTH, WALES—A pair of 100-foot-long channels in the clay could have been used to drag boats into a prehistoric lake, according to archaeologist Stephen Clarke of the Monmouth Archaeological Society. The channels are shaped like the bottom of a canoe, and are accompanied by a third smaller groove that could have been made by a boat’s support arm. No actual boat timbers have been found, but Clarke thinks the area could have supported a settlement and a boat-building industry during the Bronze Age. “I have seen 14-ton machinery sliding in the clay so it would have been easy to push a boat,” he said.
BURLEY, IDAHO—Boy Scouts are assisting archaeologists with the restoration of a section of the Oregon Trail that was damaged by looters earlier this year. Officials from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management suspect that metal detectors were used to take items such as coffee pots, suspender straps, belt buckles, or nails lost by the pioneers. The artifacts are protected under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act. Violators could face prison time and fines.
BEIRUT, LEBANON—A shortage of trained personnel and the lack of a director at the culture ministry’s directorate of antiquities have been blamed for the loss of ancient sites to construction projects across Lebanon. Archaeological projects that do take place are often funded by developers. But an activist group known as the Association to Protect Lebanese Heritage has filed a complaint with the Beirut governor’s office to stop the destruction of what is left of a 2,000-year-old hippodrome at a site slated for the construction of luxury homes. A Roman theater where 1,400 gladiators are said to have fought in a single day is located nearby. “We are committed to protecting the hippodrome and the theater. This is a declaration of war,” said group member Raja Noujaim.
SZIGETVAR, HUNGARY—Suleiman the Magnificent died in 1566 while his Ottoman troops besieged the fortress of Szigetvar. Tradition holds that the sultan’s heart and internal organs were buried nearby, before his body was returned to Istanbul. Historic records indicate that a town grew up around the tomb built for the sultan’s heart. It featured a mosque, a dervish cloister, a military barracks, a tavern, a madrasa, and an inn for pilgrims to the heart’s final resting place. Hungarian researchers now think that they have found this town, known as Turbek. Artifacts such as Chinese porcelain and Persian ceramics and glass suggest that its residents were wealthy. “We are closer and closer to the tomb,” said Norbert Pap of the University of Pecs.
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA—John Mark Tillman has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to nine years in prison for the theft of some 1,600 cultural artifacts from museums, galleries, and archives. “We felt it was important to distinguish this case from simply a theft of let’s say electronics, which you can replace easily and readily,” said Crown Attorney Mark Heerema. Tilllman has also agreed to forfeit his home, bank account, and the artifacts that had been seized by police.
FROSTERLEY, ENGLAND--A section of an Anglo-Saxon cross has been uncovered at the site of a thirteenth-century church in northern England. The eighth-century stone cross was carved from limestone, which is not native to the area. Paul Frodsham, head of the excavation project, thinks the cross may have come from a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon monastery in north Yorkshire. “What we have is the left point arm of the cross and by comparison to other crosses elsewhere we know it is Anglo Saxon,” he said. Excavators and volunteers also found a thirteenth-century font in the chapel that was carved from local marble.
POCATELLO, IDAHO—An analysis of teeth from 41 individuals whose remains were found on Easter Island suggests that the Rapa Nui ate a diet of plants such as yams, sweet potatoes, and bananas, and terrestrial animals, including Polynesian rats and chickens. And, radiocarbon dates for the teeth show that this diet was consistent over time. Rats are known to have traveled with migrating humans across Polynesia, and they multiply rapidly. People may have even carried rats with them on their voyages as a food source. The lack of seafood in the islanders’ diet was surprising, however. “Traditionally, from Polynesian cultures you have a heavy predominance of using marine products, especially in the early phase of colonization,” said Amy Commendador of Idaho State University. She adds that the topography of Easter Island and its southerly latitude would have made fishing difficult. The few people who did eat fish may have been elites in Rapa Nui society.
YORK, ENGLAND—Evidence of human activity 8,000 years ago has been found in the French Alps by an international team of archaeologists, who had to trek into remote areas of the Parc National des Eìcrins and climb to more than 300 high-altitude sites. They found Bronze Age structures, traces of Mesolithic hunting camps, and later stone animal enclosures suggesting that people moved their flocks to seasonal pastures. “The Bronze Age buildings we studied revealed the clear development of seasonal pastoralism that appears to have been sustained over many centuries with new enclosures added and evidence of tree clearing to create new grazing land,” said Kevin Walsh of the University of York.
RETHYMNO, CRETE—The University of Crete has been excavating the ancient site of Eleutherna, a fortified city which was occupied from 3000 B.C. through the thirteenth century A.D., since 1985. “It overlooks the sea, but is also invisible to enemies approaching by boat. It is only one-and-a-half hours’ walk from its port. It is on a hill that can be reached only through a narrow pass, providing excellent natural protection. No weapons during antiquity could shoot this far,” said chief archaeologist Nicholas Stampolidis, as he explained the long-lasting success of Eleutherna. In addition to natural defenses, the site also had fresh running water, plentiful woodlands, land for farming and grazing, and a quarry. Grave goods show that the people had extensive trade networks from other parts of the Aegean. A museum is being built at the site to hold its artifacts, but the natural surroundings will be preserved. “When I first came here as a young man, I told myself that I would dig up all of Eleutherna before I retired. The hill must have heard me and laughed at my plans. Now that I am older, I am better at hearing what the hill has to say,” Stampolidis added.
PERTHSHIRE, SCOTLAND—While repairing a field wall on a hillside, volunteers with the Scottish Wildlife Trust discovered a stone in the wall that was shaped like a shallow basin. It may be half of a 6,000-year-old quern stone, used by Neolithic people to grind grain into flour. Roundhouses, rock art, and burial mounds have also been found in the area, known as Balnaguard Glen. “We are more than happy to give it a home in the museum, after clearance with Scottish Treasure Trove,” said Mark Mall of the Perth Museum and Art Gallery.
NEGEV DESERT, ISRAEL—Geochronologist Naomi Porat of the Geological Survey of Israel used optical dating to measure the amount of radiation that had been absorbed from the environment by two animal traps thought to have been recently used by Bedouins to protect their flocks. One of the traps turned out to be 5,000 years old, the other 1,600 years old. “They look like a pile of stones, like a cairn, and you need a good eye and also some digging around to realize what it is,” she said. Sheep and goat herders would have attached a piece of meat to the end of a rope to bait the trap. When a carnivore pulled on the bait, the rope closed a slab door, trapping the animal. Predators such as foxes, wolves, hyenas, leopards, and caracals were probably caught this way in the Middle East for thousands of years.
PARIS, FRANCE--The mummy of an Egyptian puppy whose left ear was infested with 61 preserved brown dog ticks has been examined by archaeoentomologist Jean-Bernard Huchet of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. This particular puppy may have been killed by a tick-borne disease. “Although the presence of parasites, as well as ectoparasite-borne diseases in ancient times was already suspected from the writings of the major Greek and Latin scholars, these facts were not archaeologically proven until now,” he said. The dog mummy was one of hundreds of dogs that had been found in tombs at the late third-century A.D. Roman fortress at El Deir. Further study of the animals could provide clues about the spread of parasites and disease.
LAMBAYEQUE, PERU—The 600-year-old tomb of a Chimú noblewoman has been uncovered at the Saltur archaeological complex in northern Peru. She had been buried with the remains of fish and birds, and several intact pottery vessels. Estimated to have been around 30 years old at the time of her death, the woman had been buried with her knees bent. Other tombs at the site have been ravaged by looters.
GALILEE, ISRAEL—Archaeologists digging at Sussita, the ancient city of Antiochia Hippos, had been investigating the pipes that passed underneath the floor of the city’s public bathhouse when they discovered a modern bottlecap in its 2,000-year-old sewer system. Michael Aizenberg, head of the excavation team, says that the bottle cap indicates that the pipes are still functional and can carry rainwater even though the city had been destroyed by an earthquake. The team is still looking for a public toilet and the sewer’s upper opening. Other finds in the sewer system include bronze coins damaged from exposure to urine and ten bone dice. Aizenberg thinks that visitors to the public toilet probably enjoyed gambling.
FLINTSHIRE, WALES—Fragments of burned bone and pieces of pottery have been unearthed near Mold, at the heavily plowed archaeological site famous for the Bronze Age gold cape discovered there in 1833. The 3,700-year-old cape had been crafted from a single sheet of gold, and was found in fragments with a skeleton. The bone and pottery are older than the cape, however. “What we might have is earlier use of the land,” said Mark Lodwick of the National Museum of Wales.
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA—The damaged marble head from a statue of Aphrodite was discovered at the coastal site of Antiochia ad Cragum, where archaeologists have been uncovering the largest Roman mosaic ever found in Turkey. The 1,600-square-foot mosaic, which features geometric designs, covers the floor of a plaza outside a Roman bath. Scholars think the piece of sculpture may have been headed for a lime kiln near the site, where it could have been burned and reused in concrete. It had been thought that southern Turkey was not greatly influenced by Greek and Roman culture, but the presence of a statue of Aphrodite suggests otherwise. “We have niches where statues once were. We just didn’t have any statues. Finally we have the head of a statue. It suggests something of how mainstream these people were who were living here, how much they were a part of the overall Greek and Roman traditions,” said Michael Hoff of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.