Neolithic Rock Art Found in Egypt

Archaeology News - March 25, 2017

BONN, GERMANY—According to a report in Live Science, an image dating to Egypt’s Neolithic period was found pecked into a rock on Qubbet el-Hawa, a hill along a shallow stretch of the Nile River, during an archaeological survey of the area. Egyptologist Ludwig Morenz of the University of Bonn said that the 6,000-year-old image depicts a hunter with a bow, an ostrich, and a dancer wearing an ostrich mask. He pointed out that scholars were unaware of mask use during Egypt’s Neolithic period, and thinks the mask might have served a ritual purpose. In later Egyptian history, after the pharaohs united the country around 3100 B.C., during which Qubbet el-Hawa eventually became a necropolis for the city of Elephantine, masks were reserved for the dead. “This archaeological area is about a millennium older than we knew before,” Morenz concluded. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “The Great Parallelogram.”

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Seventeenth-Century Ship Identified

Archaeology News - March 25, 2017

POOLE, ENGLAND—After ten years of research and excavation, a seventeenth-century ship known as the Swash Channel Wreck has been identified as The Fame, an armed Dutch merchant vessel, by a team of scientists from Bournemouth University. BBC News reports that The Fame’s crew may have planned to stop in Poole on its way from Amsterdam to the West Indies when it foundered and broke up during a storm in 1631. Tree-ring dating of the Swash Channel Wreck’s timbers suggests that the wood in the hull came from trees cut down between 1619 and 1639 in the Netherlands or Germany. Historic records indicate that all 45 people on board The Fame, and its master, John Jacobson Botemaker, were rescued, but the ship became a danger to other ships navigating the channel. Its contents and cannon are thought to have been salvaged, though it is also possible that it had been traveling without any cargo. “Everything fits, although you can never be sure,” explained marine archaeologist Dave Parham. To read about the discovery of a long-lost shipwreck in Canadian waters, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

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2,000-Year-Old Egyptian Shroud Rediscovered in Scotland

Archaeology News - March 25, 2017

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that a full-length mummy shroud has been found wrapped in brown paper in the collections of Scotland’s National Museums by Margaret Maitland, senior curator of ancient Mediterranean collections. It depicts the deceased as the god Osiris, and identifies him as the son of a Roman-era official named Montsuef, and his wife, Tanuat, both of whose deaths were recorded in 9 B.C. A curator’s note, placed in a Second World War service envelope, identified the contents of the parcel as an ancient Egyptian artifact from a tomb that was used for more than 1,000 years in what is now Luxor. Conservators humidified the shroud’s brittle linen fibers before beginning to unfold it, a process that took almost 24 hours. “Before we were able to unfold the textile, tantalizing glimpses of colorful painted details suggested that it might be a mummy shroud,” Maitland said, “but none of us could have imagined the remarkable figure that would greet us when we were finally able to unroll it.” For more, go to “Egypt’s Immigrant Elite.”

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New Thoughts on the Barbarian Invasion of Rome

Archaeology News - March 24, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, UNIVERSITY—The Washington Post reports that Susanne Hakenbeck of the University of Cambridge analyzed the bones and teeth of some 200 people, buried in five different cemeteries in the Roman frontier region of Pannonia, in order to find out where they had been born and what sort of lifestyle they had led. Her team then compared the results of those fifth-century A.D. populations to populations from central Germany, where farmers are known to have lived, and to nomadic populations in Siberia and Mongolia. In each of the Pannonia cemeteries in the study, some of the people had been farmers, who ate a diet based on grains and other plants, while others were nomads, who ate a distinctive diet of meat, milk, and millet. Some of the nomads settled down later in life, and other settled farmers became nomadic. Hakenbeck suggests the changes in the people’s lives indicate that elite Roman accounts of the invasion of the nomadic Huns were inaccurate. “It wasn’t necessarily just a story of conflict, but more a story of cross-border exchanges, cross-border adaptability,” she said. Farmers living on the edge of the empire may have even the adopted the Huns’ practice of binding and shaping infants’ heads. To read more about Pannonia, go to “Off the Grid: Carnuntum.”

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Alabaster Statue of Queen Tiye Discovered in Luxor

Archaeology News - March 24, 2017

LUXOR, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a well-preserved alabaster statue thought to represent Queen Tiye, wife of King Amenhotep III and grandmother of King Tutankhamun, was discovered by Egyptian and European archaeologists at the Amenhotep III funerary temple in Kom El-Hittan. The archaeologists, working under the umbrella of the German Archaeological Institute, were lifting the lower part of a statue of King Amenhotep III when the Queen Tiye statue appeared by its left leg. Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany described the statue as “unique and distinguished,” adding that it is the first alabaster statue of the queen to be unearthed. “All previous statues of her unearthed in the temple were carved of quartzite,” he said. To read about another discovery in Egypt, go to “World’s Oldest Dress.”

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40-Ton Capstone Unearthed in Southern India

Archaeology News - March 23, 2017

HYDERABAD, INDIA—According to report in the Deccan Chronicle, a 40-ton capstone has been unearthed at a megalithic burial site near the village of Neremetta. Such stones are thought to have been used to protect burials from predators. “We can safely say that this is the largest capstone found in South India and one of the largest in the country,” said D. Ramulu Naik, assistant director of the Telangana Archaeology and Museums Department. The stone measures 22 feet long, 13 feet wide, and two feet thick, and is thought to have been placed about 2,700 years ago. Naik also explained that the grave may have been dug near the capstone, and then filled with small stones. The giant stone could then have been rolled over the smaller stones or wooden logs. Or, it is possible that the grave was dug below the capstone. Arm bones and pottery were also found below a nearby menhir, or upright stone. For more on archaeology in India, go to “Letter from India: Living Heritage at RiskLiving Heritage at Risk.”

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Rare Calusa Artifacts Found in Waterlogged Florida Midden

Archaeology News - March 23, 2017

PINELAND, FLORIDA—News-Press reports that University of Florida archaeologists Karen Walker and William Marquardt have excavated a 1,000-year-old midden on southwestern Florida’s Pine Island, where there was a large Calusa town some 1,000 years ago. The midden was formed at a time when the water table was low. “Then it rose pretty quickly,” Marquardt said. “We think it rose quickly enough that it sealed in this deposit, so it created an anaerobic situation and preserved the material.” The team had to pump out the groundwater to retrieve pieces of rope, nets with shell weights, twine, pieces of worked wood, and seeds. The researchers, who were assisted by volunteers, also recovered the tiny shells of truncatella snails that lived along the high-tide line. “Finding these guys here tells us where the shoreline was a thousand years ago,” Marquardt explained. To read more about archaeology in Florida, go to “Letter from Florida: People of the White EarthPeople of the White Earth.”

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Possible Mesolithic Cannibalism Detected in Spain

Archaeology News - March 23, 2017

VALENCIA, SPAIN—Ars Technica reports that evidence of cannibalism has been found in a cave near Spain’s southeastern coast. Anthropologist Juan V. Morales-Pérez of the University of Valencia and his colleagues found some thirty human bones in the cave, including pieces of three skulls, buried in the cave with the bones of ibex, deer, boar, fox, and rabbit. All of the 10,000-year-old bones had butchery marks, and had been burned, and some of them had human gnaw marks. The researchers think the “anthropophagic practices” may reflect the occasional scarcity of other food products, since the human bones appear to have been lightly cooked, butchered, and thrown in a pile with other animal bones. But it is possible that the perceived cannibalism had been part of a ritual, perhaps to honor the dead, and that the remains were given a ceremonial burial. All of the bones could have been washed to the back of the cave over a period of thousands of years. For more, go to “Colonial Cannibalism.”

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Radar Survey Reveals Roman Temple in Central Italy

Archaeology News - March 22, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The Times of London reports that a team from the University of Cambridge discovered a huge Roman temple while conducting a radar survey of Falerii Novi, an archaeological site located about 30 miles north of Rome. The temple, colonnaded on three sides, measured nearly 400 feet long and 200 feet wide. During the final centuries of the Roman republic, some 2,500 people lived in the walled town, which featured a theater, a basilica, eight temples in total, and a large defensive gate. Archaeologist Martin Millett said the survey also revealed the history of the growth and development of the town during the last years of the Roman republic. For more, go to “A Brief Glimpse into Early Rome.”

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World War One–Era Bottles Unearthed in Israel

Archaeology News - March 22, 2017

RAMLA, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Telegraph, an excavation ahead of highway construction in central Israel uncovered hundreds of gin, wine, and beer bottles dating to the early twentieth century in a garbage pit. The pit was found near an old building converted into barracks for British troops under the command of Field Marshall Edmund Allenby, who was on a mission to capture Ottoman-controlled Jerusalem by Christmas of 1917. The beverages are thought to have been consumed in an officers’ club, since fragments of Italian porcelain plates were also recovered. “It’s an amazing discovery and it really gives you a sense of what these soldiers were doing and how they spent their spare time,” said excavation director Ron Toueg. The excavators also found toothbrushes, uniform buttons, shaving kits, and the silver tip from a short cane known as a “swagger stick,” a symbol of authority for Royal Flying Corps officers. To read in-depth about the recent excavation of a glass works, go to “Letter from Philadelphia: Empire of Glass.”

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17th-Century European-Style Burial Found in Taiwan

Archaeology News - March 22, 2017

KONSTANZ, GERMANY—According to a report in The International Business Times, six burials dating to the seventeenth century have been found by an international team of researchers in the church cemetery at the site of San Salvador de Isla Hermosa, located on the Taiwanese island of Heping Dao. A Spanish colony occupied the settlement from 1626 to 1642. The cemetery is thought to contain the remains of Europeans, local Taiwanese, and possible people brought to the island from Africa as slaves. One of the burials contained the remains of a man whose hands had been folded as if in prayer. “It’s the first time we have such an old European grave uncovered in Asia-Pacific as a whole,” said team leader María Cruz Berrocal of the University of Konstanz. Further analysis of the remains could tell the researchers where the cemetery’s occupants came from, what they ate, and details of their medical history. To read about archaeology on an island in the Indian Ocean, go to “Castaways.”

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Ancient Rock Art Damaged in Chad

Archaeology News - March 22, 2017

N’DJAMENA, CHAD—BBC News reports that ancient paintings in caves and rock shelters on the Ennedi Plateau have been defaced with graffiti. Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Chad’s minister of culture, said the 8,000-year-old paintings had been covered with names written in French and Arabic. Located in what is now the Sahara Desert, the artwork of the Ennedi Plateau was named to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites last year. Abdelkerim Adoum Bahar, head of the UNESCO in Chad, thinks the damage can be repaired. For more, go to “Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast.”

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Medieval Man’s Face Reconstructed

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The Independent reports that researchers from the University of Cambridge and Dundee University have reconstructed the face of a man who was buried face down in the cemetery of the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist in the thirteenth century. Known as “Context 958,” the man is thought to have lived at the hospital, which cared for indigent people of the town. According to John Robb of the University of Cambridge, analysis of the man’s robust skeleton suggests he led a life of hard work, and may have had a specialized trade, since he ate a diet relatively rich in meat or fish. But his burial at the hospital indicates that he fell on hard times and may not have been supported by a family network. Analysis of his teeth showed that the enamel had stopped growing twice in his youth, which indicates he experienced bouts of serious illness or extreme malnutrition. There was also evidence of a healed wound from a heavy blow to the back of his head. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

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Archaeologists Investigate Jamestown Church

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA—The Williamsburg Yorktown Daily reports that archaeologists from Preservation Virginia are investigating the remains of the three colonial churches at the site where a memorial church, built in 1906 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, now stands. The earlier churches date to 1617, the 1640s, and the 1680s. The team dug a pit in the chancel area and was recently working in the southeast corner, where high-status English colonists may have been buried. “We’ve gotten to an area where we can see in between the grave shafts in a couple of places,” said field supervisor Mary Anna Hartley. But earlier excavations may have moved two large gravestones that were placed flat on the church floor from the chancel to the cross-aisle in front of it. So any burials are probably unmarked. “That’s another thing we’re doing—figuring out what they found 100 years ago,” said archaeologist Danny Schmidt. “Archaeology of archaeology is a good way to put it.” For more, go to “Jamestown’s VIPs.”

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Copper Coins Unearthed in Israel Amid Byzantine Rubble

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a hoard of 1,400-year-old copper coins was uncovered last summer in the ruins of a two-story building in a Byzantine-era town. The coins bear the faces of Byzantine emperors Justinian I, Maurice, and Phocas, and were minted in Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia. Archaeologist Annette Landes-Naggar of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained that the building may have been a monastery, since the town was situated on a Christian pilgrimage route from the Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem. “The coins were found adjacent to the external wall of one of the monumental buildings found at the site, and it was found among the building stones that collapsed from the wall,” she said. The coins may have been placed in a niche in the wall for safekeeping. To read about another recent discovery in Israel, go to “Artifact: Bronze Age Jug.”

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Ancient Port of Salamis Found

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

SALAMIS, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, an ancient port, including harbor structures and fortifications, has been found by an international team of researchers on the island of Salamis. The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports said that the site is where Greek naval forces led by Themistocles gathered before the naval battle against King Xerxes and the Persians in 480 B.C. Monuments to the victory over the Persians are located adjacent to the site, which is also thought to have served as a commercial port. For more, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

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Treasure Discovered in Southwest China

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA—According to a report in Xinhua, a legendary treasure said have been lost some 300 years ago during a peasant uprising has been recovered from the Minjiang River, near its intersection with the Jinjiang River. Archaeologists from the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute drained a significant portion of the riverbed with pumps, and found the artifacts under 16 feet of earth. Seven silver ingots were previously found on the river bank in 2005 during a construction project. The legend states that the treasure was aboard a thousand boats traveling southward when the convoy, led by Zhang Xianzhong, was attacked and defeated by Ming Dynasty soldiers. Gold, silver, and bronze coins, jewelry, and iron weapons are among the more than 10,000 recovered artifacts. “The items are extremely valuable to science, history, and art,” commented archaeologist Li Boqian of Peking University. “They are of great significance for research into the political, economic, military, and social lives of the Ming Dynasty.” For more on archaeology in China, go to “Tomb from a Lost Tribe.”

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Replica of Ancient Ship Launched in Bay of Haifa

Archaeology News - March 18, 2017

HAIFA, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a replica of a 2,500-year-old ship has been christened the Ma’agan Michael II, for the kibbutz where a fifth-century B.C. shipwreck was found in 1985. The first Ma’agan Michael was constructed of Aleppo pine and oak, and is thought to have measured about 37 feet long and 13 feet wide. Ballast at the wreck site is thought to have come from the Greek island of Euboea and southern Cyprus. Archaeologists also recovered a carpenter’s toolbox from the site, and used traditional tools to build the replica ship. After the ceremony, the Ma’agan Michael II was sailed in the Bay of Haifa. Archaeologists are preparing to take the vessel on a three-day journey from Haifa down the Mediterranean coast to Herzliya, and test ways that ancient sailors might have sailed against the sea’s winds and currents. “We have no idea how they did it,” commented archaeologist Deborah Cvikel of Haifa University. For more, go to “Ship Underground.”

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2,000-Year-Old Siberia Site Yields Reindeer Antler Armor

Archaeology News - March 18, 2017

SALEKHARD, SIBERIA—According to a report in The Siberian Times, a team led by archaeologist Andrey Gusev of the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic has uncovered plates of armor made from reindeer antlers at the Ust-Polui site in northwestern Siberia. The armor dates to between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Gusev explained that the 30 plates differ from each other in size, ornamentation, and the placement of holes for attaching them to a leather base. Some of the plates may even have been used to create protective helmets. Gusev thinks the variations in the decorations on the plates suggest they belonged to different warriors, who left them as a gift or sacrifice to the gods. A tiny bronze ring found in a sanctuary at the site has been interpreted as an ornament for a bear claw, and may indicate the presence of a bear cult at the site some 2,000 years ago. For more, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

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Cairo’s Colossus Identified as Psammetich I

Archaeology News - March 18, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a colossal statue discovered in the remains of a temple dedicated to Ramses II probably represents Psammetich I, and not Ramses II, as was originally suggested. According to Khaled El-Enany, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, the back pillar on the torso piece of the 30-foot statue was carved with one of the five names of Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610 B.C., during the 26th Dynasty. “If it belongs to this king, then it is the largest statue of the Late Period that was ever discovered in Egypt,” he said. The two giant, quartzite fragments were found under the water table, near a congested residential area of Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood, and were moved with the help of Egypt’s Armed Forces to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir for restoration and exhibition. The excavation team also recovered a relief at the site that depicts Ramses II anointing a statue of the goddess Mut. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

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