1,000-Year-Old Tomb Unearthed in Denmark

Archaeology News - 11 hours 19 min ago

AARS, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that a large tomb has been found in north Jutland by Bjarne Henning Nielsen of the Vesthimmerlands Museum. Nielsen speculates the tomb may have been constructed for the early eleventh-century Viking chief Ulv Galiciefarer, who was known for his raids on Galicia and was sometimes referred to in historic documents as an “earl of Denmark.” Nielsen says the burial site is surrounded by dark soil that may have been left by a building placed over the tomb—a practice reserved for the nobility. Nielsen also recovered a sword from the grave that dates to the early years of the second millennium. The region where the tomb was found is thought to have belonged to Valdemar the Great, king of Denmark from 1157 to 1182, whose great-grandfather is known to have been Ulv Galiciefarer. “It is private property he inherited from his father’s side,” Nielsen said, “and Galiciefarer is part of the lineage.” To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Categories: Blog

New Dates Obtained for Bones from Canada’s Bluefish Caves

Archaeology News - 11 hours 59 min ago

MONTREAL, CANADA—New radiocarbon dates have been obtained for animal-bone fragments discovered in northern Yukon’s Bluefish Caves in the 1970s, according to a report in CBC News. If confirmed, the results could push back the human presence in the area known as Beringia by 10,000 years. Ariane Burke and Lauriane Bourgeon of the University of Montreal examined some 36,000 bone fragments from the caves, and found 15 with cut marks and 20 others with possible cut marks. They sent the bones to Thomas Higham of Oxford University for radiocarbon dating. The oldest of the marked bones, a horse’s mandible that appears to have had its tongue removed with a stone tool, has been dated to at least 23,000 years ago. The researchers say these new dates support genetic research indicating a group of early migrants was isolated in Beringia, perhaps by glaciers, between 15,000 and 24,000 years ago. Tools and charcoal have not been found in the Bluefish Caves, however. “Is it the final chapter?” asked Yukon government archaeologist Greg Hare. “I don’t think so. But it’s good, solid work, and I’m excited they’ve been able to revisit it and come up with those dates.” To read in-depth about the peopling of the Americas, go to “America, in the Beginning.”

Categories: Blog

Low Water Levels Reveal Buddha Carving in Eastern China

Archaeology News - 12 hours 48 min ago

NANCHANG, CHINA—Xinhua News reports that archaeologists have examined a 12-foot-tall Buddha statue that has been submerged in Hongmen Reservoir in eastern China for more than 50 years. The statue, carved into a cliff face, emerged when renovations to the hydropower gate lowered the water level of the reservoir by more than 30 feet. According to Xu Changqing, head of the Jiangxi Provincial Research Institute of Archaeology, the style of the statue suggests that it was carved during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The research team also examined the flooded remains of the town of Xiaoshi, which had been a trade center and a hub for water transportation. Local history suggests that the statue had been placed at the dangerous intersection of two rivers noted for the rapid flow of water. “According to folk tale[s], the ancient people built the statue to pray for safety,” said Guan Zhiyong, head of the Hongmen Township government. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

Personalized Necklace Recovered at Nazi Extermination Camp

Archaeology News - January 17, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Live Science reports that excavations at the Sobibór Nazi extermination camp in eastern Poland have uncovered a silver medallion thought to have belonged to a German Jewish girl named Karoline Cohn. The pendant, along with other pieces of jewelry, was uncovered near the site of a barracks for female prisoners. It is inscribed with the birthdate July 3, 1929, the words “Mazal Tov” in Hebrew, and “Frankfurt A.M.,” referring to the city and the Main River. Researchers used a deportation database maintained by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, to link the information on the pendant to Karoline Cohn. Cohn was born on July 3, 1929, and was deported from Frankfurt on November 11, 1941, to the Minsk ghetto, where some records indicate she died. If she did not carry the pendant to Sobibór herself from the Minsk ghetto, it may have been transported by a family member. Archaeologist Yoram Haimi of the Israel Antiquities Authority is investigating a possible family tie between Cohn and diarist Anne Frank, who was also born in 1929 and owned a nearly identical necklace. “It’s exactly the same, but only with a different birthdate,” Haimi said. Additional examples of the pendant may surface as the investigation continues. For more, go to “Gas Chamber Found at Sobibór Death Camp.”

Categories: Blog

Fortified Gate Unearthed at Desert Copper Mine

Archaeology News - January 14, 2017

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—A fortified gatehouse has been found in the Timna Valley, at a copper-smelting site thought to date to the tenth century B.C., according to a report by Live Science. Discovered in the 1930s, the site is known as Slaves’ Hill because the walls that surrounded it were thought to have been intended to imprison workers. But Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University and his team have found evidence of a high-quality diet enjoyed by the residents of the Iron Age settlement. Ben-Yosef suggests the gate represents the entrance of a highly organized defense system to protect people and goods from possible attack. “Copper was a rare product and very challenging to produce,” Ben-Yosef explained. Piles of donkey dung were found in both rooms of the gatehouse. Donkeys may have worked in the copper mines, and their dung may have been used as fuel for the copper-smelting furnaces. Analysis of the dung indicates that the donkeys had been fed a diet of hay and the skins, pulp, and stems of grapes that were probably imported from the Mediterranean. “The food suggests special treatment and care,” Ben-Yosef added. To read about another recent archaeological discovery in Israel, go to “Mask Metamorphosis.”

Categories: Blog

Possible 16th-Century Graves Found in Florida

Archaeology News - January 14, 2017

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA—According to a report from CBS News, city archaeologist Carl Halbirt has found four sets of human remains under Charlotte Street in downtown St. Augustine. He thinks the remains could belong to settlers who arrived in Florida in the sixteenth century with Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, and were buried at the church, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, which stood at the site. “I think this is probably just as significant as the Castillo de San Marcos because it represents the earliest colonial history of the downtown area,” he explained, referring to a fort built in St. Augustine in the late 17th century. Halbirt plans to excavate further to determine whether any other remains are in the area before the beginning of construction of a new water line. For more, go to “Letter from Florida: People of the White Earth.”

Categories: Blog

Traces of a Civil War Trench Uncovered in Virginia

Archaeology News - January 14, 2017

FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA—A report by The Free Lance-Star states that archaeologists working ahead of the construction of a park near the Rappahannock River uncovered traces of a Civil War–era trench. All that remains of the trench is a brown stain containing pieces of oyster shells, porcelain, and other artifacts. “It could have been a rear line of fortifications behind the main line of defenses,” commented field director Joe Blondino. Eric Mink, cultural resources manager for the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, said that no maps of trenches in the area are known to have been made, but they were photographed from the opposite bank of the river. The excavation of the site has also unearthed the remains of a house where two mayors of Fredericksburg lived, its outbuildings, and a possible slave quarters; a vial of mercury tincture; buttons from Civil War uniforms, including some marked with the logo of the 14th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry; and human bone fragments thought to be the remains of Union soldiers. Historical records indicate that the mayors’ house served as a hospital during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862. For more on archaeology relating to the Civil War, go to “Letter from Virginia: Free Before Emancipation.”

Categories: Blog

Bronze Toy Offers Clues to Roman Racing Technology

Archaeology News - January 13, 2017

MADISON, WISCONSIN—According to a report in Seeker, Bela Sandor, professor emeritus of engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, examined a highly detailed toy chariot discovered in the Tiber River in the 1890s. The hand-sized toy is thought to have been made for a wealthy racing enthusiast some 2,000 years ago. Sandor was able to use the dimensions of the model to estimate the size and weight of a full-sized racing chariot. He and Judith Swaddling of the British Museum also noted that the wheels of the bronze model, which is missing one of its two galloping horses and its charioteer, do not match. Sandor explained that racing chariot wheels, which measured about two feet in diameter, were usually made of wood, animal hide glue, and rawhide strips to hold them together at the joints. A thin strip of iron, visible on the outside of the toy’s right wheel, may have been added to strengthen and stabilize it for the repeated left turns in an oval-shaped arena. “Without any iron on the wheels, the right wheel was failing often and predominantly, while both wheels having iron tires tended to be safe but were seldom a winning combination,” Sandor said. To read about a recently discovered mosaic depicting a horse race, go to “And They’re Off!

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on the Origins of Human Speech

Archaeology News - January 13, 2017

GRENOBLE, FRANCE—The Associated Press reports that an international team of researchers led by Louis-Jean Boe of Grenoble Alpes University analyzed 1,335 vocalizations made by male and female baboons in order to investigate the possible origins of human speech. It had been suggested that a low, modern human-like larynx was necessary for the production of vowel sounds. If so, the spoken language of modern humans could only have originated sometime during the last 100,000 to 70,000 years. But the new research indicates that baboon tongues have the same muscles as human tongues, and could be used to form vowel sounds in a way similar to that of modern humans. Furthermore, the analysis of baboon vocalizations indicates that they make five distinct vowel-like sounds to communicate, even though they have the high larynx typical of non-human primates. The findings suggest spoken language may have evolved from skills possessed by the last common ancestor of baboons and modern humans, who lived some 25 million years ago. For more, go to “The Monkey Effect.”

Categories: Blog

3,000-Year-Old Crocodile Bones Unearthed at Ruins of Haojing

Archaeology News - January 13, 2017

XI’AN, CHINA—Crienglish.com reports that 12 crocodile lamellae, or thin bone plates, were discovered at Haojing, part of the capital of the Western Zhou Dynasty from 1066 to 770 B.C. Pottery, stone and bronze tools, tombs, pottery kilns, and wells have also been found at the site. “The discovery provides important materials for the study of the ecological distribution of crocodiles in the Western Zhou Dynasty,” said Yue Lianjian of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, since the animals usually live in marshy, tropical areas. The researchers also suggest that the presence of crocodile bones at the site could be related to the production of tuogu, a type of drum made with crocodile skin that has also been found at Haojing. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

Cistern Yields 13,000 Victorian Food Containers

Archaeology News - January 12, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that thousands of bottles, jars, and pots from the Victorian era were found in a cistern at the construction site of a new train station in the Soho area of London. The vessels came from a Crosse & Blackwell food factory that operated on the site from 1830 until 1921. Archaeologist Nigel Jeffries of the Museum of London Archaeology explained that the cistern had been used to power the steam engines that ran the factory until the 1870s, when the building was redesigned. After that, the cistern was used for storage. The vessels included bottles for mushroom catsup; preserved ginger; piccalilli, a relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices; and jams and marmalade. Jeffries explained that the find has helped the investigators learn more about “the tastes and palates of the Victorians.” For more, go to “A Tale of Two Railroads.”

Categories: Blog

Anglo-Saxon Village Site Unearthed in Cambridge

Archaeology News - January 12, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Cambridge News reports that an Anglo-Saxon settlement was discovered during the construction of a new housing development. Brooches, glass and amber beads, rings, and hairpins dating to the sixth century A.D. were uncovered, in addition to tools, weaponry, and the remains of buildings. The excavation team from Oxford Archaeology East also recovered pottery vessels and a glass drinking vessel with claw-shaped decorations. Such “claw beakers” are usually found in areas to the southeast, and in northern France, the Netherlands, and Germany, where they are thought to have been made. “Evidence of the time period ... is almost nonexistent, so this gives us a highly important window into understanding how people lived in that era, their trade activities and behaviors,” said Duncan Hawkins of CgMs Archaeology. The team also found artifacts dating back to the Roman era. To read in-depth about evidence of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, go to “Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Categories: Blog

New Kingdom Tombs Unearthed Near Aswan

Archaeology News - January 12, 2017

ASWAN, EGYPT—Mahmoud Afifi of Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced in Ahram Online that more than 12 tombs in Gebel el-Silsila have been discovered by an Egyptian-Swedish team led by Maria Nilsson of Lund University and John Ward. Each of the 3,400-year-old tombs excavated so far contained multiple burials and may have belonged to families who lived during the reigns of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II. In general, the condition of the skeletal remains suggests that the people performed hard physical labor but were healthy. An adult crocodile had been placed in the courtyard at the entrance to one of the tombs. Another tomb contained the remains of sheep, goats, and Nile perch. Three infant burials were also found: one of the infants had been wrapped in textiles and placed in a wooden coffin, and two infants were found on their sides in overhangs in the site’s sandstone bluffs. Sandstone sarcophagi, painted cartonnage, painted pottery coffins, ceramic vessels and plates, jewelry, amulets, and scarabs were also recovered. Most of the tombs had been looted in antiquity. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

Detailed Frescos Discovered in Central China

Archaeology News - January 11, 2017

HUNAN, CHINA—Xinhua News Agency reports that a multi-colored fresco depicting two maids has been discovered in a 1,400-year-old tomb in southern China. The tomb measures more than 45 feet long and six feet wide, and is thought to have been built during the Southern and Northern Dynasties, from A.D. 420 to 589. In the image, the young women are wearing long skirts and coats with open collars and exposed shoulders. “This is the oldest fresco tomb discovered in Hunan,” said Luo Shengqiang of the Chenzhou City cultural relic department. To read about another archaeological discovery in China, go to “Tomb from a Lost Tribe.”

Categories: Blog

Soil Analysis May Push Back Origins of Silk Production

Archaeology News - January 11, 2017

HENAN PROVINCE, CHINA—Live Science reports that a team including archaeologist Decai Gong of the University of Science and Technology of China at Hefei discovered silk proteins in soil samples collected from two of three tombs at Jiahu, a 9,000-year-old archaeological site in central China. Silkworm breeding and silk weaving are thought to have begun in this region, which has a warm and humid climate suitable for growing mulberry trees, whose leaves are eaten by silkworms. One of the samples of silk proteins has been dated to 8,500 years ago, making it “the earliest evidence of silk in ancient China,” according to Gong. He and his team think the people buried in the tombs may have been wearing silk garments. “Jiahu’s residents possessed basic weaving and sewing skills,” Gong said, based on the discovery of bone needles and weaving tools at the site. “There is a possibility that the silk was made into fabric.” For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

Well-Preserved Bacteria Found in Byzantine-Era Skeleton

Archaeology News - January 11, 2017

MADISON, WISCONSIN—An international team of researchers has identified a case of maternal sepsis in a skeleton unearthed near the site of Troy, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Henrike Kiesewetter of Tüebingen University found two calcified nodules below the ribs of a woman who died some 800 years ago at about 30 years of age. Kiesewetter sent the nodules to microbiologist Caitlin Pepperell of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who ruled out tuberculosis, and urinary or kidney stones, as possible diagnoses. She found well-preserved bacteria microfossils in the nodules, however, and sent them on to Hendrik Poinar of McMaster University for genetic analysis. Poinar identified Staphylococcus saprophyticus and Gardnerella vaginalis, which may have caused a fatal infection of the placenta, amniotic fluid, and membranes around the woman’s fetus. Pepperell explained that the high levels of calcium flowing through the pregnant woman’s body calcified the bacteria and formed the nodules. She added that this strain of Staphylococcus saprophyticus is usually associated with livestock, and may have been contracted through living in close quarters with animals. “I thought about what a short difficult life it must have been,” Pepperell said. For more, go to “Vikings, Worms, and Emphysema.”

Categories: Blog

Plain of Jars Captured in Virtual Reality

Archaeology News - January 10, 2017

 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—Archaeologists have produced a virtual-reality re-creation of the Plain of Jars site in Laos, according to a report by Live Science. The re-creation is based on video captured by drones and geophysical data and records from archaeological excavations of a portion of the site, which includes hundreds of carved stone jars measuring up to 11 feet tall and weighing many tons. They range across a landscape that is riddled with unexploded bombs dating to the Vietnam War, and researchers hope the 3-D video simulation of the site, based at Monash University in Australia, will aid in study of areas that are otherwise inaccessible. The virtual-reality project will create a step-by-step record of a five-year archaeological investigation of the Plain of Jars that began in February 2016 and has uncovered the remains of dozens of people buried near the largest jars, establishing that they were linked to an ancient burial practice. “Long after we leave the field,” said Monash University archaeologist Louise Shewan, “we can continue researching, and we can actually be there with all our team members and go through the excavation again, and pick up on things that we've missed.” The virtual-reality version of the dig will also be valuable for teaching students, as it allows one to view the excavation unfolding in fast motion, with the trench deepening in 4-inch increments. To read in-depth about the Plain of Jars, go to “Letter from Laos: A Singular Landscape.”

Categories: Blog

Tomb Unearthed in Northern Iraq

Archaeology News - January 10, 2017

ROWANDUZ, IRAQ—A 2,400-year-old tomb containing the remains of at least six people has been excavated in northern Iraq. Boston University archaeologist Michael Danti told Live Science that the tomb probably dates to end of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, around 330 B.C. The bones were scattered, suggesting the tomb was likely robbed sometime in antiquity, although the team did find bronze earrings and a bronze bracelet depicting two serpents, a popular motif during the Achaemenid period. Despite those finds, Danti believes pottery from the tomb suggests it belonged to people of modest means. Sometime during the Islamic period the site was reused, and at least five skeletons were buried above the original six occupants of the tomb. To read more about archaeology in northern Iraq, go to “Erbil Reveled.” 

Categories: Blog

Evidence of 15th-Century Throwaway Society Found in Germany

Archaeology News - January 10, 2017

WITTENBERG, GERMANY—Pieces of disposable ceramic cups dating to the fifteenth century have been found in an excavation of the courtyard of Wittenberg Palace in eastern Germany, according to a report in Deutsche Welle. Archaeologists believe that the sherds are evidence of outdoor parties at which guests ate wild venison and drank copiously. "We found entire layers of cups and animal bones," said archaeologist Holger Rode. “The parties took place in the summer here in the courtyard. The cups were simply thrown away. That's equivalent to paper cups today." These disposable cups were used only by those of extreme wealth, Rode adds. In addition to the scraps of cups, the excavation has unearthed parts of a curtain wall, remains of an earlier castle, and the original tiles from the later castle’s oven. To read about another discovery in Wittenberg, go to “Artifact: Tally Stick.”

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Artifacts Discovered in Scotland

Archaeology News - January 10, 2017

KINCAPLE, SCOTLAND—The Courier reports that Neolithic pottery and stone tools were unearthed during installation of a pipeline connecting St. Andrews University to a satellite campus. According to archaeologist Alastair Rees of ARCHAS Ltd, the company monitoring the work, the tools were made from flint that was likely quarried far to the south, in England. “The artifacts provide more evidence of long distance trade, contacts, and especially ideas across the country,” said Rees. Preliminary analysis of the tools shows they were likely used for skinning hides or stripping bark from trees. In one large pit, the engineers also found 30 sherds of grooved pottery of a type thought to be associated with ritual offerings. To read in depth about the Neolithic people of Scotland, go to “Neolithic Europe’s Remote Heart.” 

 

Categories: Blog

Pages

Subscribe to Archaeological Institute of America aggregator - Blog

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!