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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

Ancient Surgery Techniques Tested by Scientists in Siberia

January 29, 2015

NOVOSIBIRSK, SIBERIA—Neurosurgeon Aleksei Krivoshapkin and scientists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science examined the holes in the skulls of ancient human remains discovered in the Altai Mountains, and concluded that brain surgery was performed 2,300 years ago with just one tool. “Honestly, I am amazed. We suspect now that in the time of Hippocrates, Altai people could do a very fine diagnosis and carry out skillful trepanations and fantastic brain surgery,” Krivoshapkin told The Siberian Times. The analysis showed that one of the patients, a man between 40 and 45 years old, had suffered a head trauma and developed a blood clot that probably resulted in headaches, nausea, and movement problems. Healing in the bone showed that the hematoma had been removed and that the man lived for years after the surgery. The second skull belonged to a man who may have suffered from a congenital skull deformity that the surgeon fixed. In both cases, the holes in the skulls were small and placed to minimize damage to the patient. “It is clearly seen that the ancient surgeons were very exact and confident in their moves, with no traces of unintentional chips, which are quite natural when cutting bone,” Krivoshapkin said. Archaeologists suspect that the surgeons used bronze knives for the surgery, which have been found in graves from this era. Krivoshapkin used a replica knife to recreate with some difficulty the ancient surgical techniques on a modern skull. “I think it is important to remember that here in the fifth century B.C. Altai was a big center for bone cutting production. People here were very skillful in making different objects from animal bone.”  To read about trepanation in prehistoric Europe, see "Bodies of the Bogs."

Categories: Blog

Ancient Surgery Techniques Tested by Scientists in Siberia

January 29, 2015

NOVOSIBIRSK, SIBERIA—Neurosurgeon Aleksei Krivoshapkin and scientists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science examined the holes in the skulls of ancient human remains discovered in the Altai Mountains, and concluded that brain surgery was performed 2,300 years ago with just one tool. “Honestly, I am amazed. We suspect now that in the time of Hippocrates, Altai people could do a very fine diagnosis and carry out skillful trepanations and fantastic brain surgery,” Krivoshapkin told The Siberian Times. The analysis showed that one of the patients, a man between 40 and 45 years old, had suffered a head trauma and developed a blood clot that probably resulted in headaches, nausea, and movement problems. Healing in the bone showed that the hematoma had been removed and that the man lived for years after the surgery. The second skull belonged to a man who may have suffered from a congenital skull deformity that the surgeon fixed. In both cases, the holes in the skulls were small and placed to minimize damage to the patient. “It is clearly seen that the ancient surgeons were very exact and confident in their moves, with no traces of unintentional chips, which are quite natural when cutting bone,” Krivoshapkin said. Archaeologists suspect that the surgeons used bronze knives for the surgery, which have been found in graves from this era. Krivoshapkin used a replica knife to recreate with some difficulty the ancient surgical techniques on a modern skull. “I think it is important to remember that here in the fifth century B.C. Altai was a big center for bone cutting production. People here were very skillful in making different objects from animal bone.”  To read about trepanation in prehistoric Europe, see "Bodies of the Bogs."

Categories: Blog

Task Forces Searches for Charleston’s 18th-C. Sea Wall

January 29, 2015

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—Bermuda stone and bricks that may be part of a sea wall dating to 1769 have been seen in test pits in Charleston’s White Point Garden. The first signs of the half-mile-long wall consisted of a dozen Bermuda stones in the first hole. “We don’t see that Bermuda stone elsewhere in the city, even along the waterfront,” archaeologist Martha Zierden, who is part of the Walled City Task Force, told The Post and Courier. The second hole revealed a stone wall that may date to the nineteenth century. The third hole exposed a section of brick wall standing five feet tall, but it does not have imported Bermuda stones at its base, as described in Journal B of the Commissioners of Fortifications, a record of work in the city from 1755 to 1770. The journal states that the wall was built by slaves to protect the city’s southern defenses and reclaim beachfront property. The wall was later expanded, but there are no records to indicate that the original wall was ever dismantled. To read in-depth about historical archaeology in the American South, see "Letter From Virginia: American Refugees."

Categories: Blog

Task Forces Searches for Charleston’s 18th-C. Sea Wall

January 29, 2015

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—Bermuda stone and bricks that may be part of a sea wall dating to 1769 have been seen in test pits in Charleston’s White Point Garden. The first signs of the half-mile-long wall consisted of a dozen Bermuda stones in the first hole. “We don’t see that Bermuda stone elsewhere in the city, even along the waterfront,” archaeologist Martha Zierden, who is part of the Walled City Task Force, told The Post and Courier. The second hole revealed a stone wall that may date to the nineteenth century. The third hole exposed a section of brick wall standing five feet tall, but it does not have imported Bermuda stones at its base, as described in Journal B of the Commissioners of Fortifications, a record of work in the city from 1755 to 1770. The journal states that the wall was built by slaves to protect the city’s southern defenses and reclaim beachfront property. The wall was later expanded, but there are no records to indicate that the original wall was ever dismantled. To read in-depth about historical archaeology in the American South, see "Letter From Virginia: American Refugees."

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