NORTH PEMBROKESHIRE, WALES—This summer, excavations at Nevern Castle uncovered evidence that the original earth and timber castle, which was built by Robert FitzMartin after the Anglo-Norman conquest of Pembrokeshire, was smaller in area than previously thought. It did, however, enclose enough space to protect the 18 houses mentioned in early twelfth-century documents. The castle was probably captured by the Welsh and held for several decades until later in the twelfth century, when it was recaptured by the Anglo-Normans and rebuilt in stone. Archaeologists found traces of a clay-floored cottage, pottery, and glass bottles dating to the eighteenth century, along with a fine bone nit comb.
TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—It has been thought that the varied diet of modern humans may have contributed to an evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals, who were thought to have survived on eating large, herbivorous mammals. But an international team of scientists has been working together at a cave in the Caucasus Mountains, where they have found evidence that suggests Neanderthals ate fish. To rule out the possibility that the large salmon in the cave had been eaten by the cave bears and cave lions that were also found there, the bones of the large predators were analyzed. The results show that the cave bears were vegetarian, and that the cave lions ate land-dwelling herbivores. “This study provides indirect support to the idea that Middle Palaeolithic Hominins, probably Neanderthals, were able to consume fish when it was available, and that therefore, the prey choice of Neanderthals and modern humans was not fundamentally different,” explained Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tübingen.
OPPLAND, NORWAY—Melting glacier ice in Norway’s high mountains has revealed the remains of a horse dating to the Iron Age. “It shows that they were using horses for transport in the high alpine zone, in areas where we were quite surprised to find them” said Lars Pilø, head of snow archaeology at Oppland Council. He thinks the horse may have been used by hunters to carry reindeer carcasses off the mountains. “When it gets hot in the summer, the reindeer will get pestered by horseflies, and when they get horseflies they move up to the ice, which made the ice excellent hunting grounds,” he added. Archaeologists have also found horse shoes and manure in the ice.
LONDONDERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND--Three sets of human remains dating to the seventeenth century have been uncovered within the walls of historic Londonderry. Archaeologists want to know who these people were and how they died. Could they have been victims of the siege of the Jacobite army in 1689? “The Siege of Derry certainly comes to mind but we don’t know if these remains are related as of yet,” said archaeologist Emily Murray. “Sieges are usually associated with mass burials,” added Eamon Ó Chiardha of the University of Ulster.
KYAUKSE TOWNSHIP, MYANMAR—Two pagodas built by King Anawrahta during the Bagan period are in dire need of repair, according to architect Tampawaddy U Win Maung. The Sawyel Shwegugyi Pagoda, which sits in a forest, maintains its original walls, but one fifth of the concrete floral designs on its roof have collapsed. The Magyitaw Shwegugyi Pagoda sits on the Panlaung River. Its banks have eroded and half of the temple could fall into the water. “When repairing pagodas, people mostly consider it from a religious perspective. When the concrete is damaged, they never try to repair it—they just peel it off and put new concrete on. This perspective focuses on renewal, while the cultural perspective is focused on preserving old things as they are,” explained U Win Maung.
YORK, ENGLAND—A church dating to the Victorian era and possibly back to the medieval period has been uncovered in King’s Square, York, which is being refurbished. “Over the next couple of weeks the archaeologists will clean and record the remains of the church and remove any burials that might be affected by the resurfacing works,” said archaeologist John Oxley for the City of York Council.
JAKARTA, INDONESIA—Indonesian officials are investigating the security systems in the country’s museums after a recent break-in at the National Museum in Jakarta. Four golden artifacts dating to the eighth and ninth centuries, including three plaques and a small box, were stolen. The police questioned museum employees, security officers, archaeologists, alarm and CCTV technicians, and learned that the closed circuit television cameras had not been working for nearly a year, and that the alarm system had been down for two months. “Before the burglary occurred, the government had already planned to improve the security system as part of the National Museum program. However, the burglary took place before the project had a chance to be implemented,” said Wiendu Nuryanti, Deputy Minister for Culture.
CHENNAI, INDIA—Underwater archaeologists and students from Tamil University are conducting a survey of the coast of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. They want to know if Claudius Ptolemy’s second-century descriptions of 15 of southern India’s ancient ports are accurate, and if they correspond to the ports mentioned in ancient Tamil literature such as the Akananuru, which was written between 600 B.C. and A.D. 300. “We are presently surveying coastal towns, near where we believe ports might have existed. If they have existed, there would have been a heavy traffic of boats and ships. Also in towns, we are looking for pottery and other remains, which can indicate a lot,” said N. Athiyaman, head of the project.
MIGDAL, ISRAEL—A town occupied from the second or first century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. was discovered during a field survey of the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee. Ken Dark of the University of Reading says that the well-known “the Sea of Galilee boat,” a 2,000-year-old boat discovered in 1986 and housed in the Yigal Alon Museum, had come from the shores of this town. Other artifacts, such as weights and stone anchors, suggest an involvement with fishing. Limestone vessels often associated with Jewish purity practices during the Roman period were unearthed, in addition to an altar made of light-gray limestone that may have been used by polytheists. “This settlement may have contained masonry buildings, some with mosaic floors and architectural stonework,” Dark wrote in the journal Palestine Exploration Quarterly.
LEICESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND—A group of non-direct descendants of Richard III called The Plantagenet Alliance wants the king’s bones to be reinterred in York, rather in Leicester, where his remains were discovered last year. Archaeologists from the University of Leicester hold a Ministry of Justice license that permits them to choose a suitable reburial spot, and they have chosen Leicester Cathedral. The Plantagenet Alliance has secured a judicial review of that decision. “I can understand why Leicester want him, but I think they are doing it for the wrong reasons. They want the tourism. Obviously York has got this, that and the other, but for us it is not about that, it never was. It is about putting Richard in his rightful place,” said group spokesperson Vanessa Roe.
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA—Forensic anthropologist Ann Ross of North Carolina State University and her team have examined pre-Columbian skulls from different regions in Mexico, including Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula, and the remains of people from the Tarascan culture from the central state of Michoacán. They then compared their statistical analysis of the facial landmarks on the ancient skulls with those of people of Spanish origin, African Americans, and contemporary Mayans. “There has long been a school of thought that there was little physical variation prior to European contact. But we’ve found that there were clear differences between indigenous peoples before Europeans or Africans arrived in what is now Mexico,” Ross said. She hopes that the information can help identify the origins of those who die crossing the Mexican-American border, or are killed in acts of violence near the border.
OXFORD, ENGLAND—Radiocarbon dates have been obtained from marine shell beads unearthed at the Ksar Akil rock shelter in Lebanon. The beads, which were closely associated with the remains of a modern human young girl, are between 42,400 and 41,700 years old. Modern human fossils of a similar age have been found in Europe, but there have been few comparable discoveries in the Near East. It had been thought that early modern humans traveled out of Africa and through the Near East before arriving in Europe, but scholars think that these new dates indicate that people arrived in Europe and the Near East at roughly the same time, perhaps traveling along different routes. “It is possible that instead of the Near East being the single point of origin for modern humans heading for Europe, they may also have used other routes too. A maritime route across the Mediterranean has been proposed although evidence is scarce. A wealth of archaeological data now pinpoints the plains of Central Asia as a particularly important but relatively unknown region which requires further investigation,” said Katerina Douka of Oxford University.
YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND—A team of researchers led by Tom Coulthard of the University of Hull has used a state-of-the-art computer modeling system to reconstruct three river systems that crossed the Sahara Desert some 125,000 years ago. Green corridors along the rivers would have made it possible for early humans to migrate north. “In particular, our simulations have identified one river that appears to be the most likely route for human migration. The Irharhar River linked mountain areas experiencing monsoonal climates to temperate Mediterranean environments were food and resources would have been abundant. Moreover, the high number of Middle Stone Age archaeological sites that are concentrated around this region provide further evidence that this river was especially important,” Coulthard said.
SIIRT, TURKEY—Archaeologists digging ahead of the Ilisu Dam in southeastern Turkey have unearthed bronze items, pots, pans, beads, pins, and silver artwork at the site of a Roman castle dating to the fourth century A.D. According to Haluk Sağlamtimur of Ege University, the castle is the last of the Roman Empire in the east. A set of game stones was also found during the rescue operation. “We think that it might be the father of chess or a war game in ancient times,” said Sağlamtimur.
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO—In response to the threat of gas and oil development to more than one million acres surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the Society for American Archaeology, New Mexico Archaeological Council, Chaco Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, and other concerned citizens petitioned the Bureau of Land Management to designate a Greater Chaco Landscape Area of Critical Environmental Concern. The Great North Road and several Chacoan Great House Communities are some of the significant archaeological sites that are at risk. Drilling and other procedures can trigger small earthquakes that could cause structure collapse. Development would also impact Chaco’s notable dark sky, and the emptiness and silence of the surrounding landscape.
XIANYANG, CHINA—Chinese media reports the discovery of the looted grave of popular historical figure Shangguan Wan’er, a politician and poet who served Empress Wu Zetian, the first female ruler of China. Archaeologists identified the tomb, uncovered near an airport in Shaanxi province, from a damaged epitaph. “The roof had completely collapsed, the four walls were damaged, and all the tiles on the floor had been lifted up,” said archaeologist Geng Qinggang. Shangguan Wan’er was killed in 710 A.D. during a palace coup.
WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—Ditches marking the edges of The Avenue, thought to have been a ceremonial road linking Stonehenge to the Avon River about 1.5 miles away, have been found underneath the A344, the modern highway to the northeast of the monument. “It is very exciting to find a piece of physical evidence that officially makes the connection which we were hoping for,” said Heather Sebire of English Heritage. The A344 has been closed and removed and grass will grow in its place. In addition, dry weather has revealed parch marks in the soil that could show where stones 17, 18, and 19 stood on the southwest side of the outer sarsen circle. “There is still debate among archaeologists as to whether Stonehenge was a full or incomplete circle. The discovery of these holes for missing stones has strengthened the case for it being a full circle—albeit uneven and less perfectly formed in the southwest quadrant,” said senior properties historian Susan Greaney.
LOWER SAXONY, GERMANY—Several fragments of Roman chain mail have been unearthed at the Roman-Germanic site known as the Battle at the Harzhorn, discovered in 2008. The thousands of small iron links, dating to the early third century A.D., were found on the edge of the battlefield. They may represent a suit of chain mail that was removed from a wounded soldier and left behind, or perhaps was placed there by Germanic soldiers after the battle to mark the spot. It had been thought that the Roman military left Germania after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D. Researchers from Freie Universität Berlin think that Roman legionaries planned to travel through the Harzhorn pass when they found it blocked by Germanic forces. “This is the first time an almost complete part of personal armor was found,” said archaeologist Michael Meyer.
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND—Scientists at the University of Sheffield have developed a new way to determine the source of obsidian artifacts using a hand-held device that can be carried to archaeological excavations. Results are available in ten seconds, rather than the months or years it had taken in the past to match the ancient glass to its source volcano in the lab. “We’re shifting chemical analysis from the realm of ‘white lab coats’ to ‘muddy boots.’ The more that archaeologists and specialists in various field can work together on-site the better,” explained archaeologist Ellery Frahm.
CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND—Hundreds of police in England and Northern Ireland conducted raids leading to the arrest of 17 men and two women, who have been connected to six thefts of Chinese antiquities from auction houses and museums, including The Fitzwilliam in Cambridge. Many of the stolen artifacts have not been recovered. “The series of burglaries last year had profound effect on museums and similar institutions and we are committed to bringing all those who were involved in the conspiracy to justice,” said Chief Constable Mick Creedon. Eight people have already been convicted and jailed for these crimes.