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Archaeologists Survey Everglades Site

October 23, 2014

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA—National Park Service archaeologists are looking for prehistoric artifacts in an area of Everglades National Park that is slated for restoration and a new boardwalk. When the Anhinga Slough was dredged in 1968 after a record drought, park rangers collected hundreds of artifacts, but the site was never excavated. “It’s unique in the sense that it’s a submerged site. We don’t have very many of those in Florida and in this area at all. That’s why it’s special,” Penny Del Bene, chief of cultural resources, told Phys.org. So far scientists have recovered burnt wood, bone fragments, and shells for study.

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Survey Everglades Site

October 23, 2014

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA—National Park Service archaeologists are looking for prehistoric artifacts in an area of Everglades National Park that is slated for restoration and a new boardwalk. When the Anhinga Slough was dredged in 1968 after a record drought, park rangers collected hundreds of artifacts, but the site was never excavated. “It’s unique in the sense that it’s a submerged site. We don’t have very many of those in Florida and in this area at all. That’s why it’s special,” Penny Del Bene, chief of cultural resources, told Phys.org. So far scientists have recovered burnt wood, bone fragments, and shells for study.

Categories: Blog

45,000-Year-Old Genome of Modern Human Sequenced

October 23, 2014

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—The complete genome of a very ancient modern human has been sequenced by Svante Pääbo and his team at the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “It’s almost twice as old as the next oldest genome that has been sequenced,” Pääbo told NPR. The 45,000-year-old DNA was obtained from cells collected from the center of a femur discovered near the Irtysh River in western Siberia. The analysis shows that the man had long Neanderthal gene sequences, indicating that he’d had Neanderthal ancestors who lived between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. “They actually mixed with each other and did have children,” Pääbo said. For more on Pääbo's work, see "Neanderthal Genome Decoded."

Categories: Blog

45,000-Year-Old Genome of Modern Human Sequenced

October 23, 2014

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—The complete genome of a very ancient modern human has been sequenced by Svante Pääbo and his team at the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “It’s almost twice as old as the next oldest genome that has been sequenced,” Pääbo told NPR. The 45,000-year-old DNA was obtained from cells collected from the center of a femur discovered near the Irtysh River in western Siberia. The analysis shows that the man had long Neanderthal gene sequences, indicating that he’d had Neanderthal ancestors who lived between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. “They actually mixed with each other and did have children,” Pääbo said. For more on Pääbo's work, see "Neanderthal Genome Decoded."

Categories: Blog

World War II Battlefield Found Off the Coast of North Carolina

October 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have located the wreckage of the German U-boat 576 and the freighter Bluefields, which sank some 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina on July 15, 1942. All aboard Bluefields were rescued, but the crew of U-576 was lost, making the site a war grave. “We have discovered an important battle site that is part of the Battle of the Atlantic. These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories,” announced Joe Hoyt, a NOAA sanctuary scientist. Bluefields was part of a group of 19 merchant ships that was traveling to Key West, Florida, when attacked by the U-576. U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft, which provided the convoy’s air cover, bombed the submarine while another merchant ship attacked it with its deck gun. “Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic. But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores. As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history,” said David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. 

Categories: Blog

World War II Battlefield Found Off the Coast of North Carolina

October 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have located the wreckage of the German U-boat 576 and the freighter Bluefields, which sank some 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina on July 15, 1942. All aboard Bluefields were rescued, but the crew of U-576 was lost, making the site a war grave. “We have discovered an important battle site that is part of the Battle of the Atlantic. These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories,” announced Joe Hoyt, a NOAA sanctuary scientist. Bluefields was part of a group of 19 merchant ships that was traveling to Key West, Florida, when attacked by the U-576. U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft, which provided the convoy’s air cover, bombed the submarine while another merchant ship attacked it with its deck gun. “Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic. But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores. As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history,” said David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. 

Categories: Blog

Bone Study Suggests Gladiators Drank Ash Tonic

October 21, 2014

VIENNA, AUSTRIA—Analysis of the bones of gladiators excavated from the ancient city of Ephesus show that these warriors, who lived in the second or third century B.C., ate a mostly vegetarian diet of beans and grains, as did many other people living in the city. The amount of strontium in the gladiators’ bones, however, suggests that they had access to minerals and calcium that the rest of the population did not. Contemporary reports refer to gladiators as “hordearii,” or “barley eaters,” and mention a tonic made of ashes that scholars now think probably did exist. “Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing,” study leader Fabian Kanz of the Medical University of Vienna told Science Daily. “Things were similar then to what we do today—we take magnesium and calcium (in the form of effervescent tablets, for example) following physical exertion.”

Categories: Blog

Rock Art Panels May Be Linked to Hallucinogenic Plants

October 20, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO—Archaeologist Lawrence Loendorf of Sacred Sites Research was documenting rock art sites in southern New Mexico when he realized that hallucinogenic plants were growing beneath panels painted with series of triangles in red, yellow, and black. One of the plants, known as coyote tobacco, contains up to three times the amount of nicotine as conventional tobacco. It can bring on a trance-like state if smoked continuously for six to eight hours. The other plant, datura, is a potentially deadly psychedelic drug. He’s also found 1,000-year-old pottery at the 24 sites. “Every one of the sites where we find the tobacco, we also find El Paso ceramics, or we find other kinds of pots…that date generally in that same range,” Loendorf told Western Digs. The painted triangle motifs are recognized as a symbol of water and water-carrying vessels, so Loendorf speculates that shamans may have brought the plants to the sites for use in ceremonies and ended up seeding the plants accidentally. “I think that probably the ultimate reason for going through this trance is to intervene with spirits to make it rain,” he explained. The rock art will be dated with plasma oxidation technology. For more on rock art in New Mexico, see "Searching for the Comanche Empire."

Categories: Blog

Rock Art Panels May Be Linked to Hallucinogenic Plants

October 20, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO—Archaeologist Lawrence Loendorf of Sacred Sites Research was documenting rock art sites in southern New Mexico when he realized that hallucinogenic plants were growing beneath panels painted with series of triangles in red, yellow, and black. One of the plants, known as coyote tobacco, contains up to three times the amount of nicotine as conventional tobacco. It can bring on a trance-like state if smoked continuously for six to eight hours. The other plant, datura, is a potentially deadly psychedelic drug. He’s also found 1,000-year-old pottery at the 24 sites. “Every one of the sites where we find the tobacco, we also find El Paso ceramics, or we find other kinds of pots…that date generally in that same range,” Loendorf told Western Digs. The painted triangle motifs are recognized as a symbol of water and water-carrying vessels, so Loendorf speculates that shamans may have brought the plants to the sites for use in ceremonies and ended up seeding the plants accidentally. “I think that probably the ultimate reason for going through this trance is to intervene with spirits to make it rain,” he explained. The rock art will be dated with plasma oxidation technology. For more on rock art in New Mexico, see "Searching for the Comanche Empire."

Categories: Blog

Mastodon May Have Been Butchered at Ohio Site

October 20, 2014

BELLVILLE, OHIO—Volunteers are assisting Nigel Brush of Ashland University with the excavation of a mastodon skeleton discovered by a farmer in his soybean field. Among the pieces of tusk, leg, rib, and ankle bone the diggers have uncovered bits of flint and lines of charcoal that could show the animal had been butchered and cooked by Ice Age hunters. Further analysis will look for traces of blood on the flint flakes and cut marks on the bones. “It has the potential to be special,” Brush told The Columbus Dispatch. For more on Ice Age people of the Americas, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "America, in the Beginning."

Categories: Blog

Mastodon May Have Been Butchered at Ohio Site

October 20, 2014

BELLVILLE, OHIO—Volunteers are assisting Nigel Brush of Ashland University with the excavation of a mastodon skeleton discovered by a farmer in his soybean field. Among the pieces of tusk, leg, rib, and ankle bone the diggers have uncovered bits of flint and lines of charcoal that could show the animal had been butchered and cooked by Ice Age hunters. Further analysis will look for traces of blood on the flint flakes and cut marks on the bones. “It has the potential to be special,” Brush told The Columbus Dispatch. For more on Ice Age people of the Americas, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "America, in the Beginning."

Categories: Blog

CT Scans of Pharaohs Lead to Arthritis Rediagnosis

October 20, 2014

CAIRO, EGYPT—The mummies of 13 Egyptian pharaohs and queens who lived between 1492 and 1153 B.C. were x-rayed in the 1980s. The images indicated that Amenhotep III and three other pharaohs suffered from ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a disabling form of arthritis characterized by the erosion of the sacroiliac joints or fused facet joints. New CT scans of those mummies have given researchers led by radiologist Sahar N. Saleem and Egyptologist Zahi Hawass a better look at their ancient bones, according to a report in Science. The team found that all four pharaohs, whose average age at the time of death was 63, probably had diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, a form of arthritis that can be asymptomatic. In particular, Amenhotep III was 50 years old when he died, and his skeleton showed no signs of spinal deformity. He may have experienced mild back stiffness when he got up in the morning. To read about the role of animal mummies in ancient Egypt, see ARCHAEOLOGY’s "Messengers to the Gods."  

Categories: Blog

CT Scans of Pharaohs Lead to Arthritis Rediagnosis

October 20, 2014

CAIRO, EGYPT—The mummies of 13 Egyptian pharaohs and queens who lived between 1492 and 1153 B.C. were x-rayed in the 1980s. The images indicated that Amenhotep III and three other pharaohs suffered from ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a disabling form of arthritis characterized by the erosion of the sacroiliac joints or fused facet joints. New CT scans of those mummies have given researchers led by radiologist Sahar N. Saleem and Egyptologist Zahi Hawass a better look at their ancient bones, according to a report in Science. The team found that all four pharaohs, whose average age at the time of death was 63, probably had diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, a form of arthritis that can be asymptomatic. In particular, Amenhotep III was 50 years old when he died, and his skeleton showed no signs of spinal deformity. He may have experienced mild back stiffness when he got up in the morning. To read about the role of animal mummies in ancient Egypt, see ARCHAEOLOGY’s "Messengers to the Gods."  

Categories: Blog

Possible Witch Bottle Found in England

October 20, 2014

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND—An intact green bottle has been unearthed at the site of the Old Magnus Buildings, constructed in during the Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian periods for use as a free school. “Finding this very fragile bottle in one piece supports the idea that it was carefully placed in the ground. Perhaps it was buried during the Georgian part of the Old Magnus Building, but we can’t be certain,” archaeologist Will Munford of Pre-construct Archaeological Services of Lincoln told BBC News. The bottle may have been filled with fingernail clippings, hair, and urine, or pins as a protection from witches. “It’s a fascinating object and part of the history of Newark If it is a witching bottle, it tells us a great deal about how people once viewed the world,” project manager Bryony Robins added. The building is being remodeled as part of England’s new National Civil War Centre. For more on the archaeology of witchcraft in England, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Witches of Cornwall."

Categories: Blog

Possible Witch Bottle Found in England

October 20, 2014

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND—An intact green bottle has been unearthed at the site of the Old Magnus Buildings, constructed in during the Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian periods for use as a free school. “Finding this very fragile bottle in one piece supports the idea that it was carefully placed in the ground. Perhaps it was buried during the Georgian part of the Old Magnus Building, but we can’t be certain,” archaeologist Will Munford of Pre-construct Archaeological Services of Lincoln told BBC News. The bottle may have been filled with fingernail clippings, hair, and urine, or pins as a protection from witches. “It’s a fascinating object and part of the history of Newark If it is a witching bottle, it tells us a great deal about how people once viewed the world,” project manager Bryony Robins added. The building is being remodeled as part of England’s new National Civil War Centre. For more on the archaeology of witchcraft in England, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Witches of Cornwall."

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Village Discovered in a Lake in Northern Poland

October 17, 2014

TORUŃ, POLAND—A team of archaeologists led by Andrzej Pydyn of Nicolaus Copernicus University has discovered a Neolithic settlement in the waters of Lake Gil Wielki. “In shallow water in the reservoir we found a large amount of animal bones, remains of tools made of antler and numerous fragments of pottery, used at various times by ancient communities. Among them, the fragments that caught our attention relate to the tradition of late Neolithic, probably associated with the so-called Corded Ware culture,” he told Science & Scholarship in Poland. The team mapped the site with side-scan sonar and are waiting for the results of tests to date the village. To read about the suprisingly sophisticated technology of this era, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Neolithic Toolkit."

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Village Discovered in a Lake in Northern Poland

October 17, 2014

TORUŃ, POLAND—A team of archaeologists led by Andrzej Pydyn of Nicolaus Copernicus University has discovered a Neolithic settlement in the waters of Lake Gil Wielki. “In shallow water in the reservoir we found a large amount of animal bones, remains of tools made of antler and numerous fragments of pottery, used at various times by ancient communities. Among them, the fragments that caught our attention relate to the tradition of late Neolithic, probably associated with the so-called Corded Ware culture,” he told Science & Scholarship in Poland. The team mapped the site with side-scan sonar and are waiting for the results of tests to date the village. To read about the suprisingly sophisticated technology of this era, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Neolithic Toolkit."

Categories: Blog

Early 20th C. Sphinx Recovered in California

October 17, 2014

GUADALUPE, CALIFORNIA—The body of a giant sphinx from the set of the 1923 silent movie “The Ten Commandments” has been carefully removed from the sand in Guadalupe, California. The 15-foot-tall plaster sphinx is one of 21 that lined the path featured in the three-hour film, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. “[The 1923 film] was one of the largest movie sets ever made, because they didn’t have special effects. So anything that they wanted to look large, they had to build large,” Doug Jenzen, executive director of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, explained to Live Science. The hollow sphinxes eventually collapsed under the wind and rain and were covered by the shifting sand dunes. “The site is basically being destroyed through erosion. It’s become more critical to try to salvage some materials before they disappear,” said historical archaeologist M. Colleen Hamilton of Applied EarthWorks.

Categories: Blog

Early 20th C. Sphinx Recovered in California

October 17, 2014

GUADALUPE, CALIFORNIA—The body of a giant sphinx from the set of the 1923 silent movie “The Ten Commandments” has been carefully removed from the sand in Guadalupe, California. The 15-foot-tall plaster sphinx is one of 21 that lined the path featured in the three-hour film, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. “[The 1923 film] was one of the largest movie sets ever made, because they didn’t have special effects. So anything that they wanted to look large, they had to build large,” Doug Jenzen, executive director of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, explained to Live Science. The hollow sphinxes eventually collapsed under the wind and rain and were covered by the shifting sand dunes. “The site is basically being destroyed through erosion. It’s become more critical to try to salvage some materials before they disappear,” said historical archaeologist M. Colleen Hamilton of Applied EarthWorks.

Categories: Blog

Egyptian Mummy Receives New Diagnosis

October 17, 2014

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA—A team of radiologists from St. Mary’s Medical Center examined the 2,100-year-old mummy of a child from the “Tombs & Treasures of Ancient Egypt” exhibit at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. Based upon X-rays taken more than 40 years ago, it had been thought that the child was between the ages of four and nine at the time of death, and that she had succumbed to tuberculosis, which can wear away bone. That diagnosis relied upon what appeared to be missing vertebrae in the lower spine. (Braided hair under her gilded mask suggest the child was a girl.) Views of the girl’s teeth from the new scans indicate that she was no more than three and one-half years old at the time of death, and the missing vertebrae were found lodged in her chest. They were probably displaced during the mummification process. The doctors think that the girl died of appendicitis—a “small, bright spot” in her central abdomen is thought to be a calcified deposit that blocked the organ and caused it to rupture. “Thanks to medical science, technology, and brilliant engineering we are unlocking secrets today that can inform history more than 2,000 years old,” Lew Crampton, CEO of the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, told The Sun-Sentinel.

Categories: Blog

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