Reindeer Herders Participate in Experimental Archaeology

Archaeology News - May 3, 2017

ALBERTA, CANADA—Radio Canada International reports that Robert Losey of the University of Alberta and colleague Tatiana Nomokonova are investigating possible uses for reindeer-bone artifacts recovered from Russia’s Ust’-Polui archaeological site. They think the objects may be pieces of a 2,000-year-old reindeer bridle or harness, and will ask the Nenets reindeer herders of the Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia to test them. The researchers used a 3-D laser scan to produce digital models of the artifacts, which they then printed in plastic. They then attempted to replicate those objects in actual reindeer antler for use in the field. Losey and Nomokonova will live with the Nenets for a period and hope to learn how Arctic people may have interacted with herds of reindeer in the past. “It’s really unknown though when reindeer keeping first began, when people first started taming and breeding reindeer,” Losey said. “So the question is really were people harnessing and working with reindeer 2,000 or 3,000 years ago in the Arctic or are these objects something else entirely?” For more on archaeology in Siberia, go to “Squeezing History from a Turnip.”

Categories: Blog

Restoration of Mausoleum of Augustus Underway

Archaeology News - May 3, 2017

ROME, ITALY—The Associated Press reports that the mausoleum of the Emperor Augustus, which has been closed to the public since the 1970s, will be restored with funding provided by the city of Rome, the culture ministry, and a private company. Located in the historic city center, the monument was constructed in 28 B.C. at a site along the Tiber River, and originally had a bronze sculpture of Augustus on its roof. The structure also holds the remains of the emperors Vespasian, Nero, and Tiberius. “I hope the mausoleum will be given back as soon as possible to the people,” said Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi. Workers have already cleaned out the garbage and cut back the trees and weeds that had grown over it. The restoration is scheduled to be completed in 2019. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

Categories: Blog

1,700-Year-Old Underground Temple Found at Roman Fortress

Archaeology News - May 3, 2017

DIYARBAKIR PROVINCE, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a 1,700-year-old underground temple of Mithras has been found near Zerzevan Castle, which was located on what was the eastern border of the Roman Empire. The strategic Roman border garrison town, surrounded by fortress walls, was situated on a high, rocky hill, overlooking a valley to protect an ancient trade route. Aytaç Coşkun of Dicle University thinks the mystery religion practiced at the Mithraeum may have been popular among the Roman soldiers at the castle until the fourth century, when Christianity arrived. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

Categories: Blog

Mycenaean Chamber Tomb Discovered on Greek Island

Archaeology News - May 3, 2017

SALAMINA, GREECE—Sewerage repairs on the Greek island of Salamis have led to the discovery of a Mycenaean chamber tomb, according to The Greek Reporter. Archaeologist Ada Kattoula of the Western Attica, Piraeus, and the Islands Antiquities Ephorate said another project in 2009 uncovered two other tombs in the area, which is part of a Mycenaean-era cemetery first investigated in 1964. “The excavation conditions are extremely difficult because there are many springs in the area and the specific tombs, being carved into the rock, are prone to flooding,” she explained. At least five people were buried in the chamber tomb, along with pottery vessels, at different times. The remains will be studied. For more, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

Categories: Blog

Can Fossil Fractures Be Linked to Hominin Behavior?

Archaeology News - May 2, 2017

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI—According to a report in Science News, Libby Cowgill and James Bain of the University of Missouri evaluated injuries found in Neanderthal fossils, and the possibility that comparing them to injuries experienced by modern humans could offer insights what Neanderthal lives were like. About 30 percent of known Neanderthal fractures affect the face and head, a far greater ratio than almost all modern causes of injury. In an earlier study, a team of researchers, including Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis, compared Neanderthal injuries, perhaps inflicted by large prey, to those suffered by rodeo riders. Trinkaus later suggested that these upper-body injuries could reflect clashes with other Neanderthals, or even Homo sapiens. Alternatively, many Neanderthals with lower-body injuries may have died before reaching rock-shelters, where fossils are usually found. In their follow-up, Cowgill and Bain compared the record of Neanderthal injuries to fracture data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, and found similar patterns in Neanderthal injuries and those caused by accidents involving golf, water tubing, and games involving Frisbee and boomerangs, rather than rodeo riding. Cowgill and Bain concluded that it may not be meaningful to compare injury patterns experienced by modern humans and extinct hominins. This is especially the case since Neanderthals' fractures may have occurred during the fossilization process, as Trinkaus explained. To read more about Neanderthals, go to “Early Man Cave.”

Categories: Blog

Renovations Uncover Empty Jars at Thailand’s Wat Daeng Temple

Archaeology News - May 2, 2017

AYUTTHAYA, THAILAND—Archaeologists renovating the chapel of Wat Daeng temple in the Tha Rua district of Ayutthaya found 32 jars buried beneath the chapel’s main Buddha statue, according to a report in The Bangkok Post. The empty jars, buried bottom up in rows, were spotted when a brick was removed from a wall in the statue’s base. Archaeologist Chaiyos Charoensantipong of the Third Fine Arts Office explained that the jars were probably added as a structural support for the 300-year-old statue, and will help researchers understand how the chapel was constructed. The heads of four of the six Buddha statues in the chapel were stolen in 2009. For more, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”

Categories: Blog

Vikings May Have Grown Their Own Grapes

Archaeology News - May 1, 2017

COPEHAGEN, DENMARK—It had been thought that grapes were not grown in Denmark before the medieval period, but The Local, Denmark, reports that strontium isotope analysis of two grape seeds recovered at the site of the Viking settlement at Tissø suggests they may have been grown on the main Danish island of Zealand. One of the pips has been dated to the Iron Age, the other to the late Viking period. “We do not know how [the grapes] were used—it may have been just to have a pretty bunch of grapes decorating a table, for example—but it is reasonable to believe that they made wine,” said archaeological botanist Peter Steen Henriksen of Denmark’s National Museum. The Vikings probably first encountered grapes and wine in their travels. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Categories: Blog

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