RUSSELL ISLAND, CANADA—Two 1,000-year-old clam gardens have been found along the beach on Russell Island in the Canadian Arctic. Clam gardens are areas where clams grow naturally, but are protected from predators with rock walls that also keep out seaweed. People who tended clam beds would have tilled the sand to provide the clams with more oxygen. “From some groups of elders we’ve talked to, they say these clam gardens basically acted as food banks. If they couldn’t get enough food to get through the winter, they could come here and grab shellfish,” said Nathan Cardinal of the Gulf Island National Park Reserve.
HUTCHINSON, KANSAS—The mangled Saturn V engines recovered from the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean by Jeff Bezos’ F-1 Recovery Project are being cleaned and conserved at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. These engines powered Apollo missions to the moon some 40 years ago. All of the engine pieces that were brought to the surface are being scanned and studied in order to build virtual 3-D CAD models and perhaps determine when these particular engines were used. Once the engines are stabilized, they will be displayed at museums across the country.
UNTERUHLDINGEN, GERMANY—The Pfahlbaumuseum, an outdoor museum on Lake Constance that features reconstructions of Neolithic and Bronze Age stilt houses, will return 8,000 Neolithic pottery fragments that were illegally excavated from Thessaly during World War II. The Greek government seeks the return of all antiquities that were illegally removed from the country during the German occupation. The two countries are also working on an agreement for the protection of cultural goods and the prevention of artifact trafficking.
LUXOR, EGYPT—A Chinese tourist made headlines when he posted an apology on the Internet, along with a photograph of some graffiti left behind by a 15-year-old Chinese boy in a 3,500-year-old temple. Since the culprit had scrawled his name on the wall, he and his parents were soon tracked down by other Internet users. “We want to apologize to the Egyptian people and to people who have paid attention to this case across China,” the boy’s mother told the press. An attempt to clean the etching has been made, but it cannot be totally removed.
YORK, ENGLAND—Rugged terrain caused by volcanic eruptions and tectonic plate shifts may have forced the development of bipedalism in South Africa, rather than climate change and a resulting loss of trees, according to new research conducted by a team led by Isabelle Winder of the University of York. The scientists suspect that the rocky outcrops and gorges would have offered shelter from predators and made hunting easier. “It is to your advantage if you can balance on just two or three limbs and use the others to steady yourself,” she added. Grasping rocks while climbing may have also contributed to the evolution of hands and the cognitive abilities needed for eventual tool making.
BEIJING, CHINA—Twenty tombs dating to the Han Dynasty have been found along the Yangtze River, near the Three Gorges Dam. Reports indicate that 430 artifacts, ranging from ceramics to objects made of iron and bronze, were recovered from the tombs by archaeologists from the Chongqing Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.
CORNWALL, ENGLAND—Archaeologists and volunteers from the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth tested a full-sized replica of a Bronze-Age boat hewn from solid oak. The seven-ton, flat-bottomed vessel proved to be stable and quick for its size. “I could turn her quite easily with the rudder paddle. One thing we’ve learned already is that because she sits very high in the water, it is likely she can probably carry a much greater load than we first thought,” said lead archaeologist Robert Van de Noort. Further experiments are planned for the boat, named Morgawr, after a mythical sea serpent of Falmouth Bay.
ORLANDO, FLORIDA—The remains of a physically abused child have been uncovered in a 2,000-year-old cemetery in Egypt’s Western Desert. Bioarchaeologist Sandra Wheeler of the University of Central Florida found a pattern of fractures in different stages of healing, which are indicative of repeated abuse. In particular, two complete fractures on the same spots of the child’s upper arms suggest that someone had grabbed to two- or three-year-old and shaken him or her violently. More than 150 children were buried in a separate section of the Kellis 2 cemetery, which reflects Christian mortuary practices of the time, but this skeleton is the only one to show signs of repeated, non-accidental trauma.
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA—Students and faculty from Georgia Southern University have recovered more than 600 artifacts from Camp Lawton, a Civil War prison camp where more than 10,000 captured Union troops were held for just six weeks during 1864. Remnants of the camp’s stockade wall were discovered in 2010; since then, metal artifacts such as a bronze buckle used to fasten tourniquets during amputations, buttons, a hammerhead, spoons, and forks have been found. They are being cleaned by the students and examined with an x-ray machine at a local veterinarian’s office. “Their settings are for dog or cat or bird, so we had to play with it a little bit. And it turns out the best setting is for a bird,” said graduate student Matt Newberry.
PARIS, FRANCE—Chemical analysis with x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy of entire Phoenician ivory carvings has shown that they were once decorated with colorful pigments and some were even decorated with gold. Ina Reiche of the Laboratory of Molecular & Structural Archaeology in Paris and her colleagues at the Louvre detected traces of metals on the reliefs, which were carved in Syria in the eighth century B.C., but are now housed in the Baden State Museum in Karlsruhe, Germany. This suggests that copper-based Egyptian blue and iron-based hematite were applied to the artworks, since such metals are not normally found in ivory, nor in the soil where these sculptures had been buried. “Knowledge of an object’s original appearance can help us understand why it was so visually powerful to ancient viewers,” commented Benjamin W. Porter of the University of California, Berekley.
PRICE, UTAH—Timothy Riley of the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum examined coprolites from the Fremont people who lived in Utah and parts of Idaho, Nevada, and Colorado between 400 and 1350 A.D. He determined what they ate when they were at their healthiest by comparing what he found in their waste with the health of Fremont teeth and skeletons. “It looks like people who were eating a lot of maize were actually probably the least healthy. We see that a fair amount in hunter-gatherer versus agricultural populations. Hunter-gatherers tend to have seasonal nutrition stress but they don’t have long-term nutritional deficiencies the same way agriculturalists tend to,” he explained. To reinforce his message, Riley served some guests a dinner based upon the results of his investigation into Fremont meal planning—a salad of cattail and spring onion, dusky grouse with pinion nuts and Juniper berries, and venison steak with dried and roasted pumpkin seeds.
MES AYNAK, AFGHANISTAN—Possible setbacks in the plans to mine copper from the ancient Buddhist site of Mes Aynak could give archaeologists more time to rescue its Buddha statues, stupas, and other artifacts from destruction. Under the current agreement, permission for archaeologists to dig at the site will expire next month. “The cultural artifacts are the most important thing,” representatives from China Metallurgical Group reportedly told archaeologists earlier this year. But upcoming elections in Afghanistan and the scheduled withdrawal of NATO troops may impact the start of the mining operation. In addition, the Afghan government could seek to renegotiate their contract, which was negotiated six years ago. “When it comes to these types of big projects, there could be a need for some type of what we call correction measures to be taken. But as of now we have not launched any formal renegotiation with them,” said Wahidullah Shahrani, Afghanistan’s current minister of mines.
LEICESTER, ENGLAND—Researchers from the University of Leicester have revealed in the journal Antiquity that the remains of King Richard III had been buried in an untidy grave, “without any pomp or solemn funeral,” as the medieval historian Polydore Vergil had written. There were no signs of a coffin or a shroud, and the lozenge-shaped grave was too short for his body, which had been placed on one side of the hole. Additional evidence suggests that the defeated king’s hands may have been tied. Other medieval graves in the town had been carefully dug to the correct length and with vertical sides.
BURGOS, MEXICO—Nearly 5,000 paintings have been discovered in 11 different sites in northeastern Mexico, in an area thought to have been uninhabited during the pre-Hispanic era. More than 1,500 of the paintings were found in one cave alone. The images depict people, animals, and insects, as well as an atlatl and abstract objects, and are thought to have been created by at least three different groups of hunter-gatherers. “We have not found any ancient objects linked to the context, and because the paintings are on ravine walls and in the rainy season the sediments are washed away, all we have is gravel,” said Gustavo Ramirez of the National Institute of Anthropology and History. Scientists will attempt to date the paintings’ pigments.
TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—The remains of several Neanderthals have been found at the Kalamakia Middle Paleolithic Cave on the Mani Peninsula in southern Greece. “The site is currently very close to the sea. During glacial times the sea level was lower, so there likely would have been a coastal plain exposed in front of the site. This habitat would be ideal for the kinds of animals that humans hunted,” said Katerina Harvati of the University of Tübingen. Here the Neanderthals ate fallow deer, ibex, shellfish, and tortoise, whose shells were crafted into tools. Before this discovery, the only known Neanderthal fossil in Greece was a single tooth, even though it was known that Neanderthals inhabited other Mediterranean coastal areas.
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—By measuring the ratios of barium to calcium in the layers of enamel and dentin in baby teeth, Manish Arora of Harvard University’s School of Public Health says that it is possible to determine how long a child had been breast fed. Before birth, very little barium is deposited into the developing teeth. The barium level spikes and stays high after birth when breast milk becomes the source of nutrition. When solid food is introduced, the levels change again. To test the technique, Arora analyzed a 100,000-year-old Neanderthal baby tooth from Belgium. He estimates that the child was breast fed exclusively until seven months of age, when its diet was supplemented with solid food, and that weaning occurred at 14 months of age. Breast feeding is “a major determinate of child health and immune protection, so breast-feeding is important both from the point of view of studying our evolution as well as studying health in modern humans,” he explained.
EDMONTON, CANADA—Robert Losey of the University of Alberta studied prehistoric burials of dogs from around the world. He found that dog burials were more common in regions where the human population was dense, the dead were buried in cemeteries, and people ate a lot of aquatic foods, even though it had been thought the dogs were kept by humans primarily for hunting terrestrial game. In Eastern Siberia, where dog domestication is estimated to have occurred 33,000 ago, dogs were only buried for the past 10,000 years, and then only when a human was also being buried. “I think the hunter-gatherers here saw some of the dogs as being nearly the same as themselves, even at a spiritual level. At this time, dogs were the only animals living closely with humans,” Losey said. For example, one dog had been buried wearing a necklace made of four red deer tooth pendants, a human fashion at the time.
SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND—While at the University of Sheffield from 1965 to 1972, Professor Lord Colin Renfrew created a technique to match the chemical composition of obsidian tools with the chemical composition of particular volcanoes and their lava flows. Now, Ellery Frahm of the University of Sheffield has refined that process using additional magnetic analyses so that archaeologists can trace the origins of obsidian tools to a particular volcanic quarry. “This approach provides a deeper insight into our understanding of past human behavior and will hopefully enhance research into how different groups managed natural resources linked to their economies,” he explained.
NORWICH, ENGLAND—An international team of scientists has examined preserved nineteenth-century plant leaves and collected DNA from the fungus-like infection that wiped out Ireland’s potato crop in 1845. They found that this particular strain of Phytophthora infestans is genetically different from strains that cause infections in potato and tomato crops today. “Perhaps this strain became extinct when the first resistant potato varieties were bred at the beginning of the 20th century,” said Kentaro Yoshida of The Sainsbury Laboratory. The failure of Ireland’s potato crop led to the deaths of an estimated one million people between 1846 and 1851.
PARIS, FRANCE—Periods of wet weather in South Africa led to population growth and cultural advancement in modern humans during the Middle Stone Age, according to a comparison of the archaeological record and climate history read from a sediment core. The use of symbols, the development of complex language, the manufacture and use of stone tools, and the creation of jewelry all coincided with climate change, according to Martin Ziegler of the Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. “At the same time, large parts of sub-Saharan Africa experienced drier conditions, so that South Africa potentially acted as a refuge for early humans,” he added.