Earliest Structures at Nea Paphos Unearthed

Archaeology News - April 14, 2017

WARSAW, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team led by Henryk Meyza of the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences has found fragments of 2,400-year-old walls and floors at the site of Nea Paphos in Cyprus. These features are thought to date to the founding of the city, which was located at a convenient harbor. “The relics of the first houses erected within a residential area are not impressive in terms of craftsmanship,” Meyza said. “The floors were made of clay. Only in later houses they were replaced with stone slabs or meticulously made mosaics.” The researchers were careful to look for the city’s earliest dwellings in places where they would not disturb the well-preserved remains of later buildings. To read about another discovery at Nea Paphos, go to “Artifact: Late Roman Amulet.”

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Greco-Roman Artifacts Discovered in Alexandria

Archaeology News - April 14, 2017

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, Mahmoud Afifi of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced that a collection of artifacts dating to the Hellenistic and Byzantine eras has been unearthed in the Babour El-Maya area of Alexandria. The artifacts include pots, coins, ovens, bones, and lamps. Excavators also found ruined buildings with black granite floors and plaster-covered limestone walls. The area had been slated for the construction of a residential building. To read more about Egypt, go to “Recovering Hidden Texts.”

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Tools Found in Eastern Canada Older Than Previously Thought

Archaeology News - April 14, 2017

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA—Stone tools discovered near a fire pit on the shores of an ancient lake in eastern Canada have been dated to 12,700 years ago, or 700 years older than had been previously thought. According to a report in CBC News, some of the tools, used for working animal hides, making bone tools, and decorating, originated in Maine, indicating that the people using the tools traveled over a wide area, or obtained goods through trade networks. “There’s an awful lot of use of these tools,” added Brent Suttie of the Department of Tourism, Heritage, and Culture. He explained that the tools had been reshaped multiple times until they were no longer functional. The campsite will remain undeveloped, and the artifacts, housed in the provincial archaeological collections facility, will be “returned to First Nations at the time they request them,” Suttie said. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

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Artifacts From Turkik Woman’s Grave Analyzed

Archaeology News - April 13, 2017

KHOVD CITY, MONGOLIA—Researchers from the Khovd Museum and The Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia have been analyzing and conserving the remains of a Turkik woman and her grave goods excavated last year in the Altai Mountains. The Siberian Times reports that it had been thought that the woman died of a head injury in the sixth century A.D., but experts now say she lived in the tenth century. They are awaiting the results of radiocarbon dating and DNA testing. The woman was buried with more than 50 items, including a pair of leather boots decorated with red- and black-striped embroidery, a mirror and comb, an embroidered bag containing a sewing kit, a horse that had been sacrificed, a saddle, and four changes of clothing. A tar-like substance called shilajit, applied to the body, may have helped to preserve it. The woman’s body and the horse’s remains were also covered with felt. “As the grave was buried in a cool environment, fabric and the felt did not undergo a biological reaction,” said Galbadrakh Enkhbat, director of the Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia. “They appeared as if they had been used only yesterday.”

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Sandstorm Uncovered Possible Archaeological Site in Iran

Archaeology News - April 13, 2017

TEHRAN, IRAN—According to the Tehran Times, recent sandstorms have uncovered a structure in a possible archaeological site near the historic city of Fahraj in Iran’s Kerman Province. Mohammad Vafaei, director of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Organization said that archaeologists will determine the site’s age, and whether it is a necropolis or a settlement. Law enforcement officers will protect the site while the investigation continues. For more on archaeology in Iran, go to “The Price of Plunder.”

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Some Viking Swords May Have Been Decorative

Archaeology News - April 13, 2017

KONGENS LYNGBY, DENMARK—Three Viking Age swords from the National Museum of Denmark have been examined with neutron scans, according to a report in Live Science. “This is the first study which allowed us to virtually ‘slice’ Viking swords, showing how different materials have been combined together,” said materials scientist Anna Fedrigo of the Technical University of Denmark. All three swords date to the ninth or tenth century A.D., and came from the Central Jutland area of Denmark. And, all three swords were crafted with the pattern-welding technique, which folds, twists, and forges together thin strips of different kinds of iron and steel. But Fedrigo said that these kinds of swords may not have been designed for combat, since an iron core edged with harder steel would have made a better weapon. The high temperatures of the pattern-welding technique could also have left the weapons vulnerable to rust. She suggests that swords may have become symbols of power and status to elite Vikings, while more affordable axes, spears, and lances may have been used by seafaring raiders. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

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New Dates for Mongolia’s Nomadic Horse Culture

Archaeology News - April 13, 2017

MUNICH, GERMANY—According to a report in The International Business Times, William Taylor of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and colleagues have pushed back the date for the development of skilled horseback riding in Mongolia by several hundred years. The researchers radiocarbon dated the bones of domesticated horses that had been individually buried at monuments constructed by the Deer Stone-Khirigsuur Complex in eastern Eurasia. The monuments include carved standing “deer stones,” and stone burial mounds known as khirigsuurs, where the heads, hooves, and upper neck bones of hundreds or even thousands of horses have been found near human remains. The team then produced a high-precision chronology model for the horse burials. The dates suggest that a horse-centered culture developed across the Mongol Steppe around 1200 B.C., at a time when a wetter climate may have offered better pastures for raising horses. “This really suggests a change in people’s relationship to horses,” Taylor explained. For more, go to “In Search of History's Greatest Rulers: Genghis Khan, Founder of the Mongol Empire.”

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Herders May Have Arrived in the High Alps 7,000 Years Ago

Archaeology News - April 12, 2017

BERN, SWITZERLAND—Swiss Info reports that shepherds may have been grazing their herds in pastures some 9,000 feet above sea level as early as 5000 B.C. Scientists from the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research at Bern University say that artifacts revealed by retreating ice indicates that the herders took their grazing animals from the dry slopes of the Lower Valais and hiked for two days to better pastures at the Bernese Oberland, located below the Schnidejoch Pass. The herders may have carried food in the wooden containers recently revealed by the melting ice. The scientists also analyzed sediment cores taken from nearby Lake Iffig, and found pollen dating back 7,000 years from plants that grow well in ground covered with dung. Spores from a fungus that grows on cattle dung were also detected. When ice returned to the Schnidejoch Pass some 1,000 years later, the pastures were no longer used. For more, go to “Switzerland Everlasting.”

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Traces of Roman City Uncovered in Southern England

Archaeology News - April 12, 2017

HERTFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND—The St. Albans Review reports that construction work in southern England has uncovered traces of the Roman town of Verulamium. One area of the excavation uncovered a corner of the ancient city wall. “However, there is no evidence of a corner tower—this is significant as it suggests that the wall was built for show as well as for defense purposes,” said Simon West, archaeologist for St. Albans city and the District Council’s museum service. Another area of excavation revealed the interior of a Roman town house with an opus signinum floor, a cement-like surface made of pieces of broken tiles and mortar flattened with a rammer. For more on Roman England, go to “A Villa under the Garden.”

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Ancient Silk Road Riches Discovered in Inner Mongolia

Archaeology News - April 12, 2017

HOHHOT, CHINA—Live Science reports that the excavation of six tombs in a 1,500-year-old, looted cemetery in Inner Mongolia has yielded a coffin containing a body covered in silk, and a silver bowl decorated with images of the Greek gods Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena. Chen Yongzhi of the Inner Mongolia Museum, Song Guodong of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and Ma Yan of Inner Mongolia University think five of the tombs might have belonged to an aristocratic family, perhaps of the Gaoche people, who were ruled by the Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 386 to 534). The sixth tomb dates to the Liao Dynasty, and is about 1,000 years old. The yellow silk has not yet been removed from the body, which was also adorned with a gold headband, necklace, belt, rings, and leather boots. The artifacts are thought to have been obtained through trade along ancient Silk Road routes. The body’s coffin was painted with an image of a blue-roofed house with red pillars. The tomb’s occupant was shown at the center of the house, surrounded by attendants wearing hoods. For more, go to “Letter from China: Tomb Raider ChroniclesTomb Raider Chronicles.”

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Ancient Relatives of Bed Bugs Found in Oregon

Archaeology News - April 12, 2017

EUGENE, OREGON—According to a report by ABC News, traces of cimicid insects, the ancient relatives of today’s bedbugs, have been found in Oregon’s Paisley Five Mile Point Cave, where humans lived intermittently over a period of 11,000 years, up to 13,500 years ago. The species of bugs found in the cave, estimated to be 5,100 to 11,000 years old, were bat parasites, but researchers think they may have bitten humans when they had the chance. Why didn’t these cimicids adapt to human hosts? Martin E. Adams of Paleoinsect Research thinks the human occupants of the cave may have moved too often for the bugs to come to rely on a diet of human blood while bats were also living in the cave. And, the occasional bed bug that did dine on a human host may not have survived the trip outside. Until this discovery, the oldest known example of a bed bug species was 3,550 years old, and had been found in Egypt. To read more about Oregon's Paisley Caves, go to “America, In the Beginning: Paisley Caves.”

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Bitumen Fillings Discovered in Two Stone Age Teeth

Archaeology News - April 11, 2017

BOLOGNA, ITALY—According to a report in New Scientist, a pair of 13,000-year-old, worn central incisors, found at the Riparo Fredian site in northern Italy, bear evidence of therapeutic dental practices. Archaeologist Stephano Benazzi of the University of Bologna said that each human tooth has a large hole on its surface that extends into the pulp chamber. Tiny marks on the insides of the holes, viewed with microscopic techniques, suggest that the teeth had areas of decay that were drilled out with stone tools. Traces of bitumen, plant fibers, and hairs were also found in the holes. Benazzi and his colleagues think the bitumen, a natural antiseptic, was added to reduce pain to the patient and keep food debris out of the pulp chamber. Benazzi adds that at about this time, people from the Near East arrived in Europe with new foods that could have led to more cavities. “This change in diet and cavities could have led to dentistry,” he said. For more, go to “Paleo-Dentistry.”

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14,000-Year-Old Mammoth Tusk Found in Alaska

Archaeology News - April 11, 2017

GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK—Live Science reports that a large, 14,000-year-old mammoth tusk has been uncovered at Alaska’s Holzman archaeological site. “The radiocarbon dates on this mammoth place it as one of the last surviving mammoths on the mainland,” said Kathryn Krasinski of Adelphi University. Krasinski and her team want to know if the tusk, which measures 55 inches long, was obtained by hunters, or if it was picked up by scavengers and brought to the site long after the animal died. If the mammoth was killed by hunters, this could indicate that the first Americans contributed to the extinction of the woolly mammoth some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. For more, go to “Leftover Mammoth.”

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Were Macaws Farmed in the Prehistoric Southwest?

Archaeology News - April 11, 2017

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA—Nature reports that archaeologist Randee Fladeboe of the University of Florida analyzed remains of 17 scarlet and military macaws unearthed at three prehistoric pueblos in New Mexico. It had been thought that most of the parrot bones and feathers uncovered across the American Southwest came from tropical birds imported from rainforests in Central and South America. But new research suggests that the birds were farmed in the Southwest for their feathers. At Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, archaeologists have found what may be a 1,000-year-old aviary, complete with a 10-inch-thick layer of droppings. And Fadeboe found small bumps on the upper surfaces of the wing bones of 15 of the birds in the study. Pulling out flight feathers, which are rooted in the bone, could have caused bleeding and infection that, over time, would have left multiple marks. She also noted that one macaw had recovered from two broken wings and had signs of malnutrition and illness, as well as marks on its beak from attacks from other macaws. Its survival would have required special care and feeding by human keepers. “People were doing their utmost to keep them alive,” Fladeboe said. For more, go to “Early Parrots in the Southwest.”

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Engineers Aid Archaeologists in Study of Clovis Points

Archaeology News - April 8, 2017

KENT, OHIO—The International Business Times reports that researchers from Kent State University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Tulsa, Rogers State University, and Texas A&M University employed computer models and made test specimens in order to evaluate Clovis weapons technologies. They tested re-created points with and without “fluting,” a flint knapping technique thought to have been developed by Clovis hunters, where a thin groove is chipped from the base and both sides of a stone point. The process can make a point more brittle, and as many as 20 percent of the points may break, but the researchers found that fluting can also make the point better able to absorb the shock of hitting a hard object, such as the rib of a large game animal. The team members argue that fluting points was worth the time and effort because Clovis hunters would have been able to retrieve and reuse their engineered points while exploring new territory. To read more about Clovis points, go to “Destination: The Americas.”

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Bronze Age House Discovered in Slovakia

Archaeology News - April 8, 2017

DETVA, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that traces of a 3,000-year-old dwelling and vessels for food preparation have been found in central Slovakia. The building, which measured 28 feet long by 16 feet wide, is the first from the Bronze Age to be identified in the area. Archaeologists think the Bronze Age residents may have produced food for the fortified settlement of Kalamárka, located about three miles away. To read more about the Bronze Age, go to “Wolf Rites of Winter.”

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Roman Road & Settlements Found in Northern England

Archaeology News - April 7, 2017

NORTH YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND—According to Live Science, Historic England announced that efforts to improve the A1, a road that stretches from London to Edinburgh, have uncovered evidence of wealthy Roman settlements and sections of Dere Street, an ancient Roman roadway that followed the same route as the A1. At Scotch Corner, a well-known junction where the paths to eastern and western Scotland diverge, an excavation team from Northern Archaeological Associates discovered a settlement dating to A.D. 60. It had been thought that York and Carlisle, which date to A.D. 70, were the oldest Roman settlements in northern England. A figure of a toga-clad actor carved from amber, and more than 1,400 fragments of clay molds for making gold, silver, and copper coins, were unearthed at Scotch Corner. In addition to being the most northerly example of coin production in Europe, the molds suggest that the site was an industrial and administrative center for several decades, until it was eclipsed by the rise of Cataractonium, a leatherworking center, to the south. There, archaeologists recovered a silver snake-shaped ring, keys of various sizes, pens, a pewter ink pot, and a lead plumb bob—a tool used for building straight roads. For more on life in Roman England, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

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Technique Directly Dates Rock Art in Southern Africa

Archaeology News - April 7, 2017

QUÉBEC, CANADA—According to a report in The International Business Times, San rock art in southern Africa has been directly dated with a technique known as accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating. This method uses a much smaller sample than traditional radiocarbon dating, and thus causes less damage to the artwork. Adelphine Bonneau of Laval University explained that the study tested rock art at 14 sites located in southeastern Botswana, western Lesotho, and South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. The team members were careful to avoid paintings made with charcoal, which could have been much older than the image itself, and to remove radiocarbon contaminants from the samples. The oldest of the paintings in the study came from Botswana and was dated to between 5,723 and 4,420 years ago. “These dates are only the beginning of these investigations, but they open up the possibility of initiating a dialogue between the art of the San and their archaeological remains,” Bonneau said. “Since the rock art reflected their spiritual world, we may get new insights on their society and the cultural and spiritual connections they shared with other tribes.” To read more about rock art, go to “The First Artists.”

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Metro Construction Uncovers Possible Oldest Aqueduct in Rome

Archaeology News - April 7, 2017

ROME, ITALY—The Local, Italy, reports that a 100-foot-long section of 2,300-year-old aqueduct was discovered in Rome’s historic city center during the excavation of a ventilation shaft for the new C metro line. Archaeologist Simona Morretta said that its large stone blocks, found more than 55 feet underground—a depth that archaeologists are not normally able to access safely—may have been part of the Aqua Appia, which dates to 312 B.C and is Rome's oldest known aqueduct. By the first century B.C., however, the structure may have been used as a sewer. Excavators also recovered the remains of a wide range of animals, including wild boars, swans, pheasants, and saltwater fish. Archaeologists are dismantling the structure, but it will be rebuilt at another location. To read more on Rome's aqueducts, go to “How Much Water Reached Rome?

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Did Hunger Drive Cannibalism?

Archaeology News - April 7, 2017

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that James Cole of the University of Brighton assessed the nutritional value of the human body and found that an adult male weighing about 145 pounds would have provided about 144,000 calories, with 32,000 of those calories from skeletal muscle. That number is low when compared with the caloric values of other animals whose butchered remains are found at Paleolithic archaeological sites, such as 3,600,000 calories in the skeletal muscle of a mammoth, or 200,100 calories from a horse’s muscles. Cole thinks it would have been easier to obtain food from the saiga antelope, whose muscles contained around the same number of calories as those of humans, or small animals such as birds and hares, than from a hard-to-catch hominin. “Maybe there is more of a social driver here, not ritual specifically, but social,” he said. For more, go to “Colonial Cannibalism.”

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