BOESLUNDE, DENMARK—Earlier this year, two men, Hans Henrick Hansen and his nephew Christian Albertsen, found four wrist-sized rings in a plowed field where six similar rings have been recovered in the past. Dubbed “oath rings,” after the practice of taking oaths by a gold or silver ring soaked with sacrificial blood in the Icelandic sagas, the early Bronze Age rings feature hemispherical tips that are decorated and hollow. The four newly-found rings show signs of heavy wear, and so were probably not new when they were deposited. The rings are thought to have been worn by men.
ROME, ITALY—Monumental walls, marble building fragments, coins, and thousands of pieces of pottery dating to the late Republican and Imperial periods were discovered by police in farmland to the southeast of Rome. The artifacts had been uncovered by looters, who also left behind metal detectors and two-way radios. The site is important because of its great size and its proximity to the temple of Juno at Lanuvio.
OXFORD, ENGLAND—Scientists from the University of Oxford have developed a new timeline for early Egypt based upon radiocarbon dates obtained from animal remains, shells, plant material, and charcoal. “We got a whole lot more dates, did the model, and got the computer to work out what this means for when things actually happened. Nobody had ever done that before,” explained archaeologist Michael Dee. The resulting dates suggest that the Egyptian state formed between 3800 B.C. and 3700 B.C., or 300 years earlier than had been thought. The previous timeline had been based upon changes in pottery styles.
WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—A Spitfire aircraft shot down in 1940 is being excavated from the Salisbury Plain by a team of archaeologists, injured soldiers, and veterans. Pilot Officer Paul Baillon of the 609 Squadron survived the crash, but was killed a month later when he was shot down while flying over the Solent. “This site has yielded traces relating to the sacrifices of airmen from the 1940s and it has been a real privilege to re-tell the story of Paul Baillon,” said Richard Osgood of England’s Defense Infrastructure Organization.
LEICESTER, ENGLAND—Microscopic eggs from roundworms, a parasite spread through the swallowing of food, water, or soil contaminated with infected fecal matter, have been discovered in soil taken from Richard III’s hastily dug grave. A higher concentration of eggs was found in soil taken from his skeleton’s pelvic area, where his intestines would have been, indicating that the king did indeed have a roundworm infection. “Despite Richard’s noble background, it appears that his lifestyle did not completely protect him from intestinal parasite infection, which would have been very common at the time,” said bioarchaeologist Jo Appleby of the University of Leicester. Roundworm eggs could also have come from human waste dumped at the site at a later date. No other species of intestinal parasites were found among the king’s remains, however.
GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN—Archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg have excavated a residential area of the Bronze Age city of Hala Sultan Tekke on the southern coast of Cyprus. The site, which could be as large as 120 acres, dates from 1600 to 1100 B.C., and seems to have been an important Bronze Age center. In addition to finding evidence of copper smelting and production of purple textiles, as well as numerous artifacts from other eastern Mediterranean cultures, the team discovered a bronze brooch from northern Italy or central Europe. “The finds underscore the mobility of Bronze Age people far beyond their immediate surroundings,” says project director Peter Fischer. “Their connections with Greece, Turkey, Egypt and the Levant may not come as a surprise, but those with Italy and central and northern Europe are very exciting. These finds lend strength to the hypothesis about major migration taking place around 1200 BC.”
LAFAYETTE, LOUSIANA—During the French and Indian Wars (1755-1764), the British expelled thousands of French-speaking colonists from the Canadian maritime provinces. Many of these people, known as Acadians, migrated to southwestern Louisiana, where they initially settled in camps and developed what we know today as Cajun culture. Now an archaeological effort, the New Acadia Project, is aiming to identify the sites of these early Cajun camps, as well as locate numerous Acadian burial sites lost to history. "It's really these people that were the founders of the Cajun culture that is so well known around the world today," says University of Louisiana at Lafayette historian Warren Perrin. "We need to find out what they ate, what they threw away as trash, what kind of shelter they had."
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND—Researchers at the University of Liverpool have found that that the same brain activity used in speaking is used in the making of stone tools. The team reached the conclusion after using technology developed to test patients’ language function after brain damage to analyze the brain flood flow of 10 expert flint knappers while they made stone tools. The fact that stone tool making uses the same brain patterns as speaking suggests that these two abilities co-evolved. “Nobody has been able to measure brain activity in real time while making a stone tool,” says archaeologist Natalie Uomini. “This is a first for both archaeology and psychology.”
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL— Archaeologists say that new excavations in Israel’s Timna Valley are showing that ancient copper mines there were not controlled by Egyptians, but by a semi-nomadic people known as the Edomites, who according to the Bible warred with Israel during the time of Kings David and Solomon. In 1969, a temple erected to the Egyptian god Hathor and dating to the 13th century B.C. was discovered in the valley, leading archaeologists to assume that Egypt controlled the mines from the 14th to 12th centuries B.C. But now radiocarbon dating of date seeds and an olive pit unearthed at an ancient smelting camp known as Slaves’ Hill show that the mines were active in the 11th to 9th centuries B.C., when the Edomites ruled the area. “In Timna Valley, we unearthed a society with undoubtedly significant development, organization, and power,” says Tel Aviv University archaeologist Erez Ben-Yosef. “And yet because the people were living in tents, they would have been transparent to us as archaeologists if they had been engaged in an industry other than mining and smelting, which is very visible archaeologically.”
MARIANNA, FLORIDA—Erin Kimmerle and Christian Wells of the University of South Florida will begin to search for the unaccounted–for bodies of boys who died at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys between 1900 and 1952. The researchers been asked by the state government to find the locations of the missing burials, excavate and identify the remains, and determine if the boys had died of natural causes while in the care of the reform school. Potential grave sites have been identified with ground-penetrating radar, but they expect to find another, segregated burial area. “We are now giving these young men an opportunity to go home,” said state representative Alan Williams.
SPINNINGDALE, SCOTLAND—Fragments of sheepskin have been discovered within a 4,000-year-old burial cist in the Scottish Highlands. Archaeologists think that the sheepskin may have been wrapped around the remains of a middle-aged woman who had been buried in a crouched position. The fragments were found beneath the bones of her left arm and survived because the burial pit was near the water table. A food vessel dating to the early Bronze Age had been placed near her head. “There have been two other samples of Bronze Age wool found in the British Isles, but none of potential sheepskin are known. Findings of hide or fur are few and far between in Britain but are often associated with ‘rich burials’ of adult inhumations,” explained archaeologist Iraia Arabaolaza.
WIGTOWNSHIRE, SCOTLAND—A small Iron Age village of at least seven houses has been uncovered at a in-filled lake in southwest Scotland. The village had been built directly on the peat surrounding a small lake. One of the buildings, a timber roundhouse, had been constructed around a massive stone hearth complex. Its beams radiate out from the hearth. “There are some excellent examples of ‘lake villages’ in England but this is the first time archaeologists have found a ‘loch village’ in Scotland,” commented Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.
BERN, SWITZERLAND--Soil samples collected from forest islands in Bolivia’s western Amazon reveal that humans were living there as early as 10,400 years ago. Umberto Lombardo of the University of Bern and his team found freshwater snail shells in the older layers, and pottery, bone tools, and human bones in the outer layers. The mounds reflect a 6,000-year-period of human use. “We have discovered the oldest archaeological sites in western and southern Amazonia. These sites allow us to reconstruct 10,000 years of human-environment interactions in the Bolivian Amazon,” Lombardo said. He thinks that these early Amazon residents may have moved away as the climate became wetter. Some had thought that the unusual mounds were formed by termites or erosion.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have unearthed a 500-year-old box made of stone on the western side of the Templo Mayor. It was among eight offerings associated with a colossal sculpture of Tlaltecuhtli, the Mexica goddess of the earth. The box contained a vase in the form of Tlaloc, the god of rain; shells and snail shells; 28 flint knives; corals and bones of balloon fish; and a copal figure covered with lime. Twenty-seven of the knives were made from white flint. The 28th, made of brown flint, was at the center of the box. All of the knives were pointing towards the Templo Mayor, and all of them are thought to represent adorned warriors of the underworld. “This came to mean that flint knives—found in other offerings, which had just been seen as sacrificial knives up till now—could have personified warriors or deities, which could change the symbolism that we had of said oblations, many of which have been found since 1978 during the first season of excavations in the Great Temple Project,” said archaeologists Alejandra Aguirre and Angel Gonzalez.
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK—A 15-minute-long audio tape of a question-and-answer session conducted by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been discovered by graduate student Chris Crews in the archives of the New School. The session took place on February 6, 1964, after Dr. King delivered a speech as part of a series of lectures called “The American Race Crisis.” The material is new to scholars, who continue to search the school’s collections for a tape of the speech. “What this demonstrates is how he was engaged in the day-to-day struggles and conversations and thinking about policies that are still living with us today,” said Fredrick Harris of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University.
COUNTY DONEGAL, IRELAND—A monastic enclosure dating to the early seventh century has been uncovered at Drunholm, where tradition claims Christian St. Ernan, nephew of St. Columba, was buried ca. A.D. 640. The site is known for its historic church, which is still in use. Members of the church had hoped to extend their graveyard, but a survey quickly revealed the monastery. “I can’t overstate the national importance of this. It is very exciting,” said archaeologist Mick Drumm. The monks would have lived in circular-stone huts resembling bee hives. Evidence of iron working has also been uncovered, along with the butchered bones and animals and pottery from different periods.
GAYLORD, MICHIGAN—A 20-foot-long piece of timber recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan will undergo a CT scan at Otsego Memorial Hospital. Carol Griggs of Cornell University’s dendrochronology lab will then examine the images and try to date the wood from its rings. “This is a very important step. If that piece comes out of the CT scan and it’s some 330 years old… there’s only one ship it could belong to, and that’s the Griffin,” said Steve Libert, who has been looking for the seventeenth-century ship for the past 30 years. The Griffin was built by the French explorer Robert de La Salle and was lost with a crew of six and a load of furs in 1679. Michigan’s state archaeologist Dean Anderson thinks the timber in question could be part of a pound net, which used heavy stakes driven into the lake bed. “But the archaeological evidence I’ve seen thus far doesn’t indicate this is part of a wreck,” Anderson added.
SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND—A shipwreck off the coast of New Jersey has been identified as the Robert J. Walker, an iron-hulled steamer that had been traveling back to New York after mapping the coast of the Gulf of Mexico when it collided with a commercial vessel on June 21, 1860. The ship’s location and its unique rectangular portholes helped in the identification. “As both vessels were under full headway, there was no time for either to alter his course, and the shock was instantaneous and terrible,” read the report of the crash in The New York Times. The ship sank in 30 minutes; 22 crewmen were lost.
SALEKHARD, SIBERIA—A 2,000-year-old bronze ring, with a diameter so tiny that a human would be unable to wear it, has been unearthed at the ancient spiritual center of Ust-Polui. “We concluded that it was used in a ritual connected with a bear cult and was put on the bear claw,” said Alexander Korchagin, a student at Novosibirsk State University. The scientists think that after a bear was killed, its head and front paws may have been removed and decorated to honor its memory in the sanctuary.
WINNIPEG, CANADA—More than 150 campfire pits and 400,000 artifacts have been uncovered at The Forks, an archaeological site at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The various styles of pottery that have been found support the idea that The Forks was a stopping, trading, and meeting place, as does the oral history preserved by local First Nations elders. “They explained that 32 generations ago, or 500 to 700 years ago, a major peace meeting or treaty occurred between seven to 11 different First Nations at that site,” said archaeologist Mireille Lamontange. She has also found evidence of early forms of agriculture, including fragments of scapula hoe, squash knives, and residues of maize, beans, and tobacco.