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Hunting Was a Social Activity at Spain’s La Draga

February 3, 2015

BARCELONA, SPAIN—A study of hunting implements unearthed at La Draga, which included the three wooden bows discovered in 2012, suggests that hunting was a social activity for the early farmers who lived there. La Draga is an early Neolithic site located on the shores of Lake Bayoles in Catalonia, Spain. A portion of the site is now underwater, and it has yielded well-preserved artifacts made of organic materials, including the 7,000-year-old yew bows. “Comparing the scarce remains of wild animals and the abundant hunting gear found at the site, we conclude that nutrition was not the main aim of developing hunting objects. Neolithic archery could have had a significant community and social role, as well as providing social prestige to physical activity and individuals involved in it,” said researcher Xavier Terradas of the Milá I Fontanals Institution. The people of La Draga may have also awarded prestige according to the type of animal that was killed and how it was distributed. “As a collective resource, larger preys may have played at important role, even in those cases when they constituted a punctual or sporadic resource,” added Raquel Piqué of the University of Barcelona. For more, see "How Bow & Arrow Technology Changed the World."

Categories: Blog

Early North American Potters Cooked Fish

February 3, 2015

YORK, ENGLAND—Karine Taché of Queen’s College, City University of New York, undertook the analysis of residues on pottery vessels from 33 sites in northeastern North America while she was a research fellow at the University of York. Her measurements of bulk carbon and nitrogen isotopes and compound-specific isotopes, and identification of lipids in the 3,000-year-old pots showed traces of aquatic foods in most of them. “These early pottery sites are now thought to have been important seasonal meeting points for hunter-gatherer groups, drawing communities together and, especially in periods of high abundance, promoting the cooperative harvesting of aquatic resources and new social contexts for the cooking and consumption of fish,” she said. The pots were probably also used for storing fish oil. Oliver Craig of the University of York adds that similar results have been obtained elsewhere in the world, such as Japan, Northern Europe, and Alaska. “Our study points to a close association between aquatic resources and the innovation of pottery by hunter-gatherer societies,” he explained. To read about the earliest ceramics, see "First Pots."

Categories: Blog

Early North American Potters Cooked Fish

February 3, 2015

YORK, ENGLAND—Karine Taché of Queen’s College, City University of New York, undertook the analysis of residues on pottery vessels from 33 sites in northeastern North America while she was a research fellow at the University of York. Her measurements of bulk carbon and nitrogen isotopes and compound-specific isotopes, and identification of lipids in the 3,000-year-old pots showed traces of aquatic foods in most of them. “These early pottery sites are now thought to have been important seasonal meeting points for hunter-gatherer groups, drawing communities together and, especially in periods of high abundance, promoting the cooperative harvesting of aquatic resources and new social contexts for the cooking and consumption of fish,” she said. The pots were probably also used for storing fish oil. Oliver Craig of the University of York adds that similar results have been obtained elsewhere in the world, such as Japan, Northern Europe, and Alaska. “Our study points to a close association between aquatic resources and the innovation of pottery by hunter-gatherer societies,” he explained. To read about the earliest ceramics, see "First Pots."

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Mound Excavated in Ohio

February 2, 2015

CHILLICOTHE, OHIO—The Chillicothe Gazette reports that the remains of a mound dated to between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200 on the future site of a shopping mall is being excavated by archaeologists and volunteers from Ohio Valley Archaeology Inc., Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, the Ohio History Center, and the Cincinnati Museum Center. The site has been covered with a tent and a small shelter for the three-week excavation, which is being conducted in freezing temperatures. “It was known by many but, for some reason, wasn’t reported. Many mounds go unreported. …I was contacted by a number of people who said the developer was starting to dig, and we came to an agreement on excavation,” said archaeologist Jarrod Burks. A magnetic survey of the site revealed the footprint of a building. So far, the team has uncovered pottery fragments and burned human and animal bone. They may also find places in the structure where cremations occurred. “When the fire gets that hot, it burns the soil too. It’s pretty easy to see that in the ground,” Burks said. 

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Mound Excavated in Ohio

February 2, 2015

CHILLICOTHE, OHIO—The Chillicothe Gazette reports that the remains of a mound dated to between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200 on the future site of a shopping mall is being excavated by archaeologists and volunteers from Ohio Valley Archaeology Inc., Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, the Ohio History Center, and the Cincinnati Museum Center. The site has been covered with a tent and a small shelter for the three-week excavation, which is being conducted in freezing temperatures. “It was known by many but, for some reason, wasn’t reported. Many mounds go unreported. …I was contacted by a number of people who said the developer was starting to dig, and we came to an agreement on excavation,” said archaeologist Jarrod Burks. A magnetic survey of the site revealed the footprint of a building. So far, the team has uncovered pottery fragments and burned human and animal bone. They may also find places in the structure where cremations occurred. “When the fire gets that hot, it burns the soil too. It’s pretty easy to see that in the ground,” Burks said. 

Categories: Blog

Pottery, Shells, and Bones Found in Papua Caves

February 2, 2015

JAYAPURA, INDONESIA—Pottery, fresh-water mollusk shells, marine mollusk shells, and animal bones have been discovered in Rukhabulu Awabu, Ifeli-feli, and Ceruk Reugable caves near Lake Sentani. Hari Suroto of the Jayapura Archaeology Office told Antara News the evidence suggests that Neolithic people living in the caves had contact with coastal areas, where they would have obtained the marine mollusks. The pottery was also likely to have been imported. “The black color found outside the potteries indicated that they were also used to cook,” he added. To read more about archaeology in the region, see "Letter From Borneo: The Landscape of Memory." 

Categories: Blog

Pottery, Shells, and Bones Found in Papua Caves

February 2, 2015

JAYAPURA, INDONESIA—Pottery, fresh-water mollusk shells, marine mollusk shells, and animal bones have been discovered in Rukhabulu Awabu, Ifeli-feli, and Ceruk Reugable caves near Lake Sentani. Hari Suroto of the Jayapura Archaeology Office told Antara News the evidence suggests that Neolithic people living in the caves had contact with coastal areas, where they would have obtained the marine mollusks. The pottery was also likely to have been imported. “The black color found outside the potteries indicated that they were also used to cook,” he added. To read more about archaeology in the region, see "Letter From Borneo: The Landscape of Memory." 

Categories: Blog

Antarctic Preservation Project Completed

February 2, 2015

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND—Three buildings and thousands of artifacts left by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton some 100 years ago have been preserved by an international team of specialists managed by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust. Heritage carpenters repaired and weatherproofed Scott’s huts at Cape Evans and Hut Point, and Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. “Everything takes about three times as long and is more difficult, but also it’s how to preserve objects in such extreme temperatures,” artifact Lizzie Meeks told One News. Food supplies, clothing, equipment, and personal items left behind by the Scott and Shackleton expeditions have been conserved in laboratories that were built for the project, which took more than ten years to complete and cost $8 million. To read more about the conservation effort, see "Photographs from Shackleton’s Antarctica Expedition Developed."

Categories: Blog

Antarctic Preservation Project Completed

February 2, 2015

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND—Three buildings and thousands of artifacts left by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton some 100 years ago have been preserved by an international team of specialists managed by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust. Heritage carpenters repaired and weatherproofed Scott’s huts at Cape Evans and Hut Point, and Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. “Everything takes about three times as long and is more difficult, but also it’s how to preserve objects in such extreme temperatures,” artifact Lizzie Meeks told One News. Food supplies, clothing, equipment, and personal items left behind by the Scott and Shackleton expeditions have been conserved in laboratories that were built for the project, which took more than ten years to complete and cost $8 million. 

Categories: Blog

Skeletons From Poland’s 2,000-Year-Old Cemetery Will Be Analyzed

February 2, 2015

POZNAŃ, POLAND—Scientists will analyze the more than 120 skeletons recovered from the largest Roman-period necropolis in Poland to determine the diet, kinship, and origin of the people who had been buried there over a period of more than 300 years. Two stone tombs from the cemetery in Kujawy are thought to have been high-status burials. One of them contained the bodies of an adult and a young teenager. The second contained the remains of a young teenager. “The presence of juveniles in princely tombs is quite unusual, as is burying more than one person in a princely tomb,” Adriana Romańska head of the excavation for Adam Mickiewicz University, told Science & Scholarship in Poland. Flat skeletal graves, crematory urn graves, pits where cremated corpses had been interred, and an area of group burials were found. Some of the skeletons show signs of wear and tear from horseback riding and wielding a sword or spear. Cremation sites were also uncovered at the necropolis. To read about an elite Etruscan necropolis, see "Tomb of the Silver Hands."

Categories: Blog

Skeletons From Poland’s 2,000-Year-Old Cemetery Will Be Analyzed

February 2, 2015

POZNAŃ, POLAND—Scientists will analyze the more than 120 skeletons recovered from the largest Roman-period necropolis in Poland to determine the diet, kinship, and origin of the people who had been buried there over a period of more than 300 years. Two stone tombs from the cemetery in Kujawy are thought to have been high-status burials. One of them contained the bodies of an adult and a young teenager. The second contained the remains of a young teenager. “The presence of juveniles in princely tombs is quite unusual, as is burying more than one person in a princely tomb,” Adriana Romańska head of the excavation for Adam Mickiewicz University, told Science & Scholarship in Poland. Flat skeletal graves, crematory urn graves, pits where cremated corpses had been interred, and an area of group burials were found. Some of the skeletons show signs of wear and tear from horseback riding and wielding a sword or spear. Cremation sites were also uncovered at the necropolis. 

Categories: Blog

Medieval Chess-Piece Workshop Unearthed in England

February 2, 2015

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND—A workshop that produced chess pieces in the early medieval period has been discovered in the center of Northampton. Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology found crafted chess pieces and cut antlers near the foundations of a timber-framed building. “They turn up now and again as single finds, in a manor house or abbey, but the most important thing here is it’s the first time a workshop from the medieval period in England has been found,” senior project manager Andy Chapman told BBC News. A thirteenth-century malting oven and fragments of linen were also recovered from the site. For more on games in the archaeological record, see "Early Gaming Tokens Discovered in Turkey."

Categories: Blog

Libyan Heritage at Risk

January 30, 2015

ROME, ITALY—Savino di Lernia, director of The Archaeological Mission in the Sahara, Sapienza University, has described the state of archaeology in Libya today in an article in the journal Nature. Violence, vandalism, and trafficking in antiquities have damaged and destroyed archaeological sites and prehistoric rock art since the revolution of 2011. He argues that the study of Libyan heritage should focus on materials in museums and collections; that collections should be digitized and made widely available; and that the next generation of Libyan scientists should be trained in international labs. “Among the hopes sparked by the revolution was the idea of a more modern view of the archaeological and cultural heritage—as a gateway to a shared national identity, a major revenue source and a focus for forging relationships with the rest of the world. Those hopes have been dashed,” di Lernia stated. 

Categories: Blog

Libyan Heritage at Risk

January 30, 2015

ROME, ITALY—Savino di Lernia, director of The Archaeological Mission in the Sahara, Sapienza University, has described the state of archaeology in Libya today in an article in the journal Nature. Violence, vandalism, and trafficking in antiquities have damaged and destroyed archaeological sites and prehistoric rock art since the revolution of 2011. He argues that the study of Libyan heritage should focus on materials in museums and collections; that collections should be digitized and made widely available; and that the next generation of Libyan scientists should be trained in international labs. “Among the hopes sparked by the revolution was the idea of a more modern view of the archaeological and cultural heritage—as a gateway to a shared national identity, a major revenue source and a focus for forging relationships with the rest of the world. Those hopes have been dashed,” di Lernia stated. 

Categories: Blog

Historic Skull Fractures Marked Increased Risk of Early Death

January 30, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA—An international team of researchers examined 236 skulls of men whose skeletons had been exhumed from medieval cemeteries in Denmark during construction projects. They found that 21 of the men had healed skull fractures that they probably received through violence or work-related accidents. “The vast majority only had one blow,” to the head, George Milner of Pennsylvania State University told Live Science. Two of the skulls had two injuries apiece. The study showed that the men with healed skull fractures were 6.2 times more likely to die an early death than the men without skull fractures. “Their treatment then would have been pretty much go home, lie down and hope for the best,” Milner said. Were the fractures accompanied by traumatic brain injuries that led to early death, or did the men have lifestyle traits that reduced their longevity? “What we want to do is to be able to obtain figures or statistics that are comparable to those of today to give us a long-term perspective of pathological conditions of various sorts,” Milner explained. To read about medical care in early modern Europe, see "Haunt of the Resurrection Men."

Categories: Blog

Historic Skull Fractures Marked Increased Risk of Early Death

January 30, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA—An international team of researchers examined 236 skulls of men whose skeletons had been exhumed from medieval cemeteries in Denmark during construction projects. They found that 21 of the men had healed skull fractures that they probably received through violence or work-related accidents. “The vast majority only had one blow,” to the head, George Milner of Pennsylvania State University told Live Science. Two of the skulls had two injuries apiece. The study showed that the men with healed skull fractures were 6.2 times more likely to die an early death than the men without skull fractures. “Their treatment then would have been pretty much go home, lie down and hope for the best,” Milner said. Were the fractures accompanied by traumatic brain injuries that led to early death, or did the men have lifestyle traits that reduced their longevity? “What we want to do is to be able to obtain figures or statistics that are comparable to those of today to give us a long-term perspective of pathological conditions of various sorts,” Milner explained. To read about medical care in early modern Europe, see "Haunt of the Resurrection Men."

Categories: Blog

Drought Contributed to Decline of Mesoamerican City

January 30, 2015

LIVERMORE, CALIFORNIA—An analysis of pollen, stable isotopes, and elemental concentrations in lake sediments by Lawrence Livermore researcher Susan Zimmerman and her colleagues suggests that the drastic decline in population at the site of Cantona, a large, fortified city located in highland Mexico, was due at least in part to climate change. The cores taken from Aljojuca, a nearby crater lake, dated back at least 6,200 years, but the team focused on the last 3,800 years for the study. They found that the region experienced a long-term drying trend between A.D. 500 and 1150, about the time that the site was finally abandoned. “We found that Cantona’s population grew in the initial phases of the drought, but by A.D. 1050 long-term environmental stress (the drought) contributed to the city’s abandonment. Our research highlights the interplay of environmental and political factors in past human responses to climate change,” Zimmerman said. To read about archaeological sites that are being put at risk because of modern climate change, see "Sites in Peril."

Categories: Blog

Drought Contributed to Decline of Mesoamerican City

January 30, 2015

LIVERMORE, CALIFORNIA—An analysis of pollen, stable isotopes, and elemental concentrations in lake sediments by Lawrence Livermore researcher Susan Zimmerman and her colleagues suggests that the drastic decline in population at the site of Cantona, a large, fortified city located in highland Mexico, was due at least in part to climate change. The cores taken from Aljojuca, a nearby crater lake, dated back at least 6,200 years, but the team focused on the last 3,800 years for the study. They found that the region experienced a long-term drying trend between A.D. 500 and 1150, about the time that the site was finally abandoned. “We found that Cantona’s population grew in the initial phases of the drought, but by A.D. 1050 long-term environmental stress (the drought) contributed to the city’s abandonment. Our research highlights the interplay of environmental and political factors in past human responses to climate change,” Zimmerman said. To read about archaeological sites that are being put at risk because of modern climate change, see "Sites in Peril."

Categories: Blog

2,200-Year-Old Moat Discovered in Spain

January 29, 2015

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Students led by Jaume Noguera of the University of Barcelona and Jordi López of the Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology were attempting to reconstruct the route traveled by Carthaginian troops through northeastern Spain when they discovered a 2,200-year-old moat with electrical resistivity tomography. The moat may have been built to defend the town of Vilar del Valls, which is thought to have been destroyed during the Second Punic War, when Roman troops defeated Carthaginian troops left in Iberia by Hannibal to protect his supply route to Italy. Carthaginian coins and lead projectiles also point to the presence of the Carthaginians in the region. The project will continue to survey the area to find the rest of the ancient town of Vilar del Valls. To read more about warfare in this period, see "Abandoned Anchors From Punic Wars."

Categories: Blog

2,200-Year-Old Moat Discovered in Spain

January 29, 2015

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Students led by Jaume Noguera of the University of Barcelona and Jordi López of the Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology were attempting to reconstruct the route traveled by Carthaginian troops through northeastern Spain when they discovered a 2,200-year-old moat with electrical resistivity tomography. The moat may have been built to defend the town of Vilar del Valls, which is thought to have been destroyed during the Second Punic War, when Roman troops defeated Carthaginian troops left in Iberia by Hannibal to protect his supply route to Italy. Carthaginian coins and lead projectiles also point to the presence of the Carthaginians in the region. The project will continue to survey the area to find the rest of the ancient town of Vilar del Valls. To read more about warfare in this period, see "Abandoned Anchors From Punic Wars."

Categories: Blog

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