Neolithic Hearth Unearthed in Wales

Archaeology News - March 16, 2017

MONMOUTHSHIRE, WALES—According to a report in the Monmouthshire Beacon, a Neolithic hearth has been unearthed at a construction site in southern Wales. Found on the shores of a post-glacial lake, the hearth contained animal bones and charcoal, which have been dated by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center to about 5,000 years ago. Timbers from a Neolithic boat were discovered on the shores of the same lake last year, along with structural timbers dating to the Neolithic period, and the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age. For more, go to “Letter from Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on the Sahara Desert

Archaeology News - March 16, 2017

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—The International Business Times reports that David Wright of Seoul National University thinks that Neolithic cattle herders may have contributed to the desertification of the Sahara as they spread west from the Nile River some 8,000 years ago. Cattle grazing and the loss of vegetation may have been enough to tip the balance from the green pastures of 6,000 years ago to the spread of scrub vegetation, changing atmospheric conditions, and less frequent monsoon rains. Wright wants to obtain cores from former lake beds in the Sahara to study the vegetation records. For more, go to “Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast.”

Categories: Blog

Fossils Suggests Leopards Roamed Neanderthal Landscape

Archaeology News - March 16, 2017

SAN DANIELE PO, ITALY—Live Science reports that a fossil recovered in northern Italy, from the banks of the Po River, has been identified as the right shinbone of a leopard. It had been previously thought that leopards only lived in Italy’s mountainous regions during the Ice Age. Based upon its size, paleontologist Davide Persico of the University of Parma thinks the bone came from a large female or a young male. The age of the bone is not known, but other fossils from the area, including the remains of straight-tusked elephants, steppe bison, wooly mammoths, giant deer, rhinos, and elk, have been dated to no older than 180,000 years ago. “Probably, they lived on the Po plain with Neanderthal man,” Persico said of the carnivorous cat. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Categories: Blog

400,000-Year-Old Cranium Discovered in Portugal

Archaeology News - March 15, 2017

MADRID, SPAIN—According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, a 400,000-year-old skull has been found at Gruta da Aroeira in Portugal, along with animal bones and Acheulean stone tools. The fossil was freed from a block of sediments at the Centro de Investigacion Sobre la Evolucion y Comportamiento Humanos over a two-year period. The partial skullcap, pieces of jaw and nasal floor, and two fragmentary teeth exhibit a mixture of traits, including some that are similar to those attributed to Neanderthals, and others to Homo erectus. Paleoanthropologist Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis has suggested that archaic members of the genus Homo were all one species exhibiting different, regional combinations of traits across the Old World. “What this fossil does for me is it reinforces what I’ve maintained for some time that this is all just normal variation,” he said. Genetic analysis of archaic human remains indicates that different groups may have interbred and produced viable offspring, an ability attributed to creatures in the same species. “My opinion would be that this fossil stresses the need to overcome the species question in order to understand the humans living in Eurasia about half a million years ago,” added João Zilhão of the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Categories: Blog

Medieval Kiln Unearthed in Southeastern England

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND—The Daily Gazette reports that an excavation conducted by the Colchester Archaeological Trust ahead of construction work has uncovered a rare medieval pottery kiln. The well-preserved, wood-fired kiln was spotted with a magnetometry survey. Philip Crummy, director of the trust, explained that during the medieval period, the excavation site was a busy industrial area. “It is really good because we will be able to tie down some of the pottery in the town to where it actually came from,” added Colchester Council archaeological advisor Jess Tipper. The kiln and its artifacts could be displayed in the Colchester Castle Museum. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

Categories: Blog

Colonial-Era Artifacts Found at Malaysia’s Fort Cornwallis

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

GEORGE TOWN, MALAYSIA—The Malaysian Digest reports that a team led by archaeologist Goh Hsiao Mei of the University Sains Malaysia has found coins, porcelain, ceramics, and glass dating to the colonial era in the moat at Fort Cornwallis, a star-shaped structure built by the British East India Company in the late eighteenth century. The fort was first built of wood, and then strengthened with bricks. The moat was added in 1804 and was lined with charcoal and bitumen. The fort was never attacked, however. An outbreak of malaria in the 1920s prompted the municipal council to fill in the water feature. For more on Malaysia, go to “Letter from Borneo: The Landscape of Memory.”

Categories: Blog

Aberdeen Archaeologists Plan Search for 16th-Century School

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen will look for traces of a sixteenth-century grammar school that was situated in front of King’s College, a site now occupied by King’s College Chapel, according to The Scotsman. “It acted as a preparatory school for pupils who wished to study at the university and pupils underwent a grueling timetable, with prayers, classes on the Latin authors, and language lessons,” said project leader Gordon Noble. The team members hope to find evidence of the building’s ground plan, artifacts from the school, and develop a better understanding of educational practices in the years before the Protestant Reformation, which is thought to have brought about a more egalitarian educational system. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Viking Treasure Trove.”

Categories: Blog

Murals Depict Wardrobe Choices During China's Liao Dynasty

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

DATONG CITY, CHINA—Live Science reports that a second circular tomb decorated with vivid murals has been excavated by a team from the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology. The entrance to the tomb, which is believed to date to the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 907–1125) and was discovered in 2007, had been sealed with bricks, but the archaeologists were able to enter it through a hole in the arch-shaped roof. Once inside, they found ceramics and an urn containing cremated human remains thought to belong to a husband and wife. The walls of the tomb had been decorated with murals depicting servants, cranes, and clothing hanging on stands. The clothing had been painted in shades of blue, beige, yellow, and pink. One of the garments features a diamond-grid pattern outlined in green and yellow with a small red flower in each diamond. Plates holding accessories such as a headdress, bracelets, hairpins, and combs were shown on a rectangular table in front of the clothing rack. For more on archaeology in China, go to “Zinc Zone.”

Categories: Blog

Large Structure Discovered in Japan's Ancient Capital

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

NARA PREFECTURE, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that holes for nine pillars of a large structure dating to the late-seventh century have been unearthed at the “square of zelkova trees,” in the ancient capital of Asuka. The imperial palace stood to the south of square, which was known as the place where the Empress Saimei entertained guests from remote provinces, and her son, Emperor Tenji, cemented his reign by removing the competing Soga clan from power. The holes for the newly discovered building measure nearly three feet deep and four feet in diameter, and suggest that the building measured 36 feet long by 20 feet wide. “The square was almost certainly a multipurpose space,” explained Kanekatsu Inokuma of Kyoto Tachibana University. “The building may have been the venue of the banquets or some sort of lodging.” Masashi Kinoshita of Tokyo Gakugei University thinks the building may have served as a warehouse for the palace. To read more about Japan, go to “Dogu Figurine.”

Categories: Blog

Woman Buried in Viking Grave in Demark Was Born in Norway

Archaeology News - March 13, 2017

RANDERS, DENMARK—According to a report in The Copenhagen Post, archaeologist Ernst Stidsing of East Jutland Museum says that a woman buried in a Viking grave in Randers, Denmark, was born in southern Norway. He arrived at this conclusion based on the style of her bronze and silver jewelry, and the results of strontium isotope analysis of her teeth. He added that the high-status woman may have traveled to Denmark to marry. To read about a young woman who traveled to Denmark more than 3,000 years ago, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Categories: Blog

Algiers Metro Station Dig Yields Trove of Artifacts

Archaeology News - March 13, 2017

ALGIERS, ALGERIA—The AFP reports that excavation for a metro station in the Algerian capital has uncovered artifacts spanning a period of 2,000 years, including coins, weapons, a fifth-century public building from the ancient Roman port town of Icosium paved with mosaics, and a seventh-century Byzantine necropolis. The excavation, begun in 2009, has also revealed the remains of the Ottoman-era Es Sayida mosque, which was demolished in 1831 by the French colonial government. Revisions to the plans for the Martyrs Square metro station, set to open later this year, will incorporate an archaeological museum. To read about discoveries made during construction of a subway in Turkey, go to “The Price of a Warship.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Roman Sarcophagus Identified at English Estate

Archaeology News - March 11, 2017

OXFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND—The New York Times reports that a large fragment of a 1,700-year-old Roman sarcophagus was discovered by a visitor to the gardens at Blenheim Palace, a World Heritage site dating to the eighteenth century. There are no records of how the sarcophagus, which is carved with images of Dionysus and wine flowing from crushed grapes, arrived on the estate. But it is known that it was used to collect water from a natural spring in the nineteenth century, and then in the early twentieth century, it was incorporated into a rock garden. A conservation team led by Nicholas Barnfield of Cliveden Conservation cut the bolts that held the marble fragment to a lead cistern and took it to their workshop, where they carefully cleaned the surface with water and wooden picks over a six-month period. “There are no inscriptions to indicate who it was for, but it was obviously someone of very high status,” Barnfield said. The sarcophagus is now on display inside Blenheim Palace. To read about another discovery in the area, go to “Alfred the Great’s Forgotten Ally.”

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Race to Exhume Historic Remains in Philadelphia

Archaeology News - March 11, 2017

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that archaeologists and anthropologists have come from all over the East Coast to volunteer their time and skills to exhume as many as 300 burials discovered on a residential construction site within Philadelphia’s Old City. The graves had been part of the First Baptist Church burial ground, which was founded in 1707. When the cemetery closed in 1859, the graves were supposed to have been moved. The Philadelphia Historical Commission and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission say they do not have the jurisdiction to intervene in the project, but the developer has given the archaeologists time to salvage the burials. “These are our ancestors,” said Anna Dhody, head of the city’s Mütter Institute and a leader of the excavation. “This is our history. We can learn so much from these bones—about the yellow fever epidemic in 1793, the cholera epidemic of 1849.” The developer has also agreed to pay to have the remains reinterred at Mount Moriah cemetery, where they were supposed to have been transferred in the mid-nineteenth century. For more, go to “Letter from Philadelphia: Empire of Glass.”

Categories: Blog

10th-Century Tree-Lined Street Discovered in Japan

Archaeology News - March 11, 2017

TOTTORI, JAPAN—According to a report in The Asahi Shimbun, the roots of 18 willow trees were unearthed along a 200-foot-long stretch of ancient road at the Aoyayokogi ruins, located on the island of Honshu. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the trees lived in the late tenth century, which corresponds with a wood strip marked “Tengyo junen,” or the tenth year of Tengyo (A.D. 947), that was also recovered. The trees may have been supported by 40 wooden stakes found at the site. “Boulevard willow trees are believed to have been planted in [the] ‘miyako’ (ancient capital),” said Toshihide Omi of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. “What a surprise to find them even in rural areas as well.” For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Categories: Blog

New Kingdom Statues Unearthed in Cairo

Archaeology News - March 10, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that two statues were discovered by an Egyptian-German excavation team at the site of the Ramses II temple in the Al-Matariya area of Cairo. Mahmoud Afifi, of Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities, said the first statue is a limestone bust of King Seti II that measures about two and one-half feet tall. The second statue, which was found in pieces, was carved from quartzite and may have stood more than 25 feet tall. “Although there are no engravings that could identify such a statue, its existence at the entrance of King Ramses II’s temple suggests that it could belong to him,” Afifi said. Most of the temple’s colossal statues and obelisks are thought to have been taken to Alexandria and Europe in antiquity, while the blocks from the temple’s walls were reused during the Islamic period to construct buildings of Historic Cairo. For more, go to “Egypt’s Immigrant Elite.”

Categories: Blog

Genetic Study Links Aboriginal People to Regions of Australia

Archaeology News - March 10, 2017

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—According to a BBC News report, the first phase of the Aboriginal Heritage Project is a genetic study conducted by a team led by Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide. The study analyzed mitochondrial DNA obtained from 111 hair samples collected from Aboriginal people in the early twentieth century by anthropologists Norman Tindale of the University of Adelaide and Joseph Birdsell of Harvard University. Its results suggest that after a founding population from New Guinea arrived some 50,000 years ago, the first Australians traveled east and west around the coast and met in South Australia. “The amazing bit is that they don’t seem to move again once they’ve done that,” Cooper said, explaining that Aboriginal Australians appear to have stayed for a long period in distinct geographical regions, except for small movements into the interior of the desert. Cooper also noted that such an enduring connection to the land is unknown anywhere else in the world. The hair samples, and cultural, linguistic, and genealogical information collected by Tindale and Birdsell are held at the South Australian Museum. For more on archaeology of Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

Categories: Blog

Nomadic Herders May Have Forged Silk Road Routes

Archaeology News - March 10, 2017

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—Science News reports that Michael Frachetti of Washington University and his team created a computer model of possible pathways traveled more than 4,000 years ago by nomadic herders between seasonal mountain pastures and lowland camps in Asia. Information for the model was collected using satellite analysis, geography, archaeology, and Geographic Information Systems. Frachetti suggests that some 2,000 years later, these routes had become Silk Road trade corridors through the mountains. Nomads may have shared their knowledge with lowland farmers, and they may have marked paths with standing stones or other landmarks. “Silk Road highland networks were formed by pastoralists interacting with other groups in a lengthy process that was not a construction project and involved no planning,” he explained. After 500 simulations of possible routes to the best areas of pastureland, Frachetti and his team shaped a cumulative route, which came within a mile or so of 192 of the 258 Silk Road archaeological sites discovered at high altitude. For more, go to “The Price of Tea in China.”

Categories: Blog

DNA From Neanderthal Dental Plaque Analyzed

Archaeology News - March 9, 2017

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—Nature reports that scientists from the University of Adelaide and the University of Liverpool analyzed DNA obtained from the dental plaque of five Neanderthals whose remains were recovered in northern Spain’s El Sidrón Cave, and compared the results to a study of the plaque obtained from four Neanderthals buried in Belgium’s Spy Cave. The results suggest that while the Neanderthals from Spy Cave enjoyed rhinoceros and sheep meat, the Neanderthals living in Spain ate a vegetarian diet. One of the individuals, who suffered from a dental abscess, also carried an intestinal parasite. His plaque contained traces of poplar, which contains the active ingredient in aspirin, and a natural antibiotic mold. Neither of these substances were detected in the other plaque samples, which suggests he may have been treated with medicinal plants. The genome sequence of one of the types of ancient mouth bacteria in the samples suggests it was transferred to Neanderthals from modern humans. “If you’re swapping spit between species, there’s kissing going on, or at least food sharing, which would suggest that these interactions were much friendlier and more intimate than anybody ever possibly imagined,” said Laura Weyrich of the University of Adelaide. To read in-depth about the study of ancient dental plaque, go to “Worlds Within Us.”

Categories: Blog

Decorated Stone Age Clothing Studied

Archaeology News - March 9, 2017

PESSAC, FRANCE—The International Business Times reports that Aurélie Zemour of Bordeaux Montaigne University and her colleagues examined traces of the 7,000-year-old clothing of a man whose burial was unearthed in southern France in the 1970s. Both ends of the skeletal remains had been damaged by disturbance in the modern and medieval eras. “But the materials worn by the dead here are obvious and ornaments are visible,” Zemour said. “The burial is exceptional.” The cloth of the man’s jacket or tunic did not survive, but the researchers were able to see that it had been embroidered with 158 Columbella rustica shells. The shells had been arranged in patterns, with the conical shells either pointed all up, pointed all down, or up and down in alternating pairs. Sixteen canine teeth from red deer had also been sewn to the garment at chest level. Chemical analysis of the teeth indicates they may have been painted red. For more, go to “World's Oldest Pants.”

Categories: Blog

Search for Maritime Silk Road’s Starting Point Continues

Archaeology News - March 9, 2017

HEBEI PROVINCE, CHINA—Xinhua reports that archaeologists with the State Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection Center and Huanghua City Museum will continue to look for evidence that the starting point of the ancient maritime Silk Road was located in what is now northern China’s port city of Huanghua. “The ongoing excavation is to determine the functions of the port ruins’ different zones,” explained Lei Jianhong of the Hebei Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics. Previous excavations near the ruins of the ancient town of Haifeng have uncovered traces of an ancient port, including a river, a layer of coal ash, roads, and trampled earth. Archaeologists have also recovered large amounts of different styles of porcelain from north and south China, suggesting that Haifeng had been a center for the porcelain trade as early as the Jin Dynasty (A.D. 1115–1234). For more, go to “Letter from China: Tomb Raider Chronicles.”

Categories: Blog

Pages

Subscribe to Archaeological Institute of America aggregator - Blog

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!