Viking Toolbox Uncovered in Denmark

Archaeology News - November 9, 2016

ZEALAND, DENMARK—Science Nordic reports that a 1,000-year-old toolbox containing 14 iron tools was discovered at Borgring, a Viking ring fortress, by metal detectorists. “The toolbox is the first direct indication of life that we’ve found around the fortress,” said archaeologist Nanna Holm. The tools are thought to have been kept in a wooden box near the east gate of the fortress, which was damaged by fire. “It looks like the fire was brought under control before it spread, and afterwards they laid two layers of clay inside the gate,” Holm explained. “In each layer we find a fireplace, and we found the toolbox in the youngest layer.” The evidence also suggests that the gate eventually collapsed, burying the toolbox. Such valuable iron was usually melted down and reused, making the tools, including spoon drills, a drawplate for making thin wire, a piece of chain, and a clink nail, a rare discovery. For more, go to “The First Vikings.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Egyptian Causeway Discovered in Aswan

Archaeology News - November 9, 2016

ASWAN, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a causeway leading to the three-room tomb of Sarenput I has been found at the Qubbet El-Hawa necropolis by a team of archaeologists from the University of Birmingham and the Egypt Exploration Society. Sarenput I was the provincial governor of Aswan’s Elephantine Island during the Middle Kingdom, in addition to holding other posts in service to King Senusert I of the 12th Dynasty. The causeway, which measures more than 400 feet long, is decorated with engravings. One of the images depicts a group of men pulling a bull and presenting it as an offering to the deceased governor. A pit in the causeway has yielded containers that may have been used as canopic jars. According to Hani Abul Azm, head of the central administration of Upper Egypt, their contents will be studied. To read in-depth about recent excavations in Egypt, go to "The Cult of Amun."

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Clues to Religious Conversion of Enslaved People Unearthed

Archaeology News - November 9, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND—A team led by Mark P. Leone of the University of Maryland says that a set of circular-shaped objects unearthed at the site of a former Maryland plantation may have held religious significance to African Americans, according to a report in The New York Times. One of the objects, which were found in a house, may reflect a cosmogram, or a circle with an X inside of it that was a traditional religious symbols from the BaKongo belief system of West Central Africa. Christian preachers are thought to have repurposed the cosmogram as Ezekiel’s blazing chariot wheel, described in the Old Testament as a wheel inside a wheel, in their efforts to convert enslaved people who originated from West Central Africa. The team members say that this is the first time that these circle images have been found together. “Christianity had not erased traditional African spirit practices,” Leone said. “It had merged with them to form a potent blend that still thrives today.” To read in-depth about archaeology at another Maryland plantation, go to "Letter From Maryland: Belvoir's Legacy."

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1,000-Year-Old Rock Art Found in India

Archaeology News - November 8, 2016

ANDHRA PRADESH, INDIA—The Hindu reports that a rock art site thought to date to the tenth century A.D. has been found near the southeastern coast of India by a team led by Sivakumar Challa of Yogi Vemana University. The researchers had been investigating a megalithic site in the area when they found the artwork. The drawings had been made with white pigment, and depict a woman warrior wearing head gear and shoes, and holding a lance with both hands. She is carrying two daggers, on each side of her waist. A horse stands near her. Other images include circle and floral designs, a parrot, and an elephant. To read more about archaeology in southern India, go to "India's Village of the Dead." 

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Vikings May Have Risked Raids for “Wealth and Status”

Archaeology News - November 8, 2016

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—The Telegraph reports that research by Mark Collard of the University of Aberdeen and Simon Fraser University, Ben Raffield of Simon Fraser University, and Neil Price of Uppsala University supports the idea that young Viking men may have been driven to raid other lands in the pursuit of wives, rather than as part of a battle against the spread of Christianity. They say that social inequality and the rise of polygamy in the Iron Age world meant that there were few women available as potential partners for young, poor men. They explain that by raiding, young men would have been able to accumulate wealth and power quickly, and thus improve their chances of gaining wives. The researchers cite recent research that suggests that Yanomamo tribes in South America practice intervillage raiding in pursuit of wives for polygamous marriages. They also say that the graves of members of Viking raiding parties belonged to young men rather than seasoned veterans. For more, go to “The Vikings in Ireland.”

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Nazi Weather Station Investigated in the Arctic

Archaeology News - November 8, 2016

ARKHANGELSK, RUSSIA—Live Science reports that a team led by Evgeny Ermolov of the Russian Arctic National Park investigated a World War II–era weather station, complete with a bunkhouse, emergency supply depot, and an emergency aircraft landing strip built by the German military on an island in the Barents Sea. The island is usually trapped by snow and ice for much of the year, but this August, the land was clear and the team was able to investigate the site. The last of the German meteorology team members who worked at the station were evacuated by U-boat in 1944, but others had to be airlifted off the island earlier that year after getting ill from eating improperly cooked polar bear meat. “It was quite disastrous—the expedition leader went crazy, and when they were flown out he had to be strapped down to the floor of the aircraft, so he wouldn’t run riot,” commented polar historian William Barr. Ermolov and his team recovered more than 600 artifacts, including army and naval uniforms, fragments of weapons and ammunition, fuel barrels, tents, batteries, crates, smoke bombs, signal flares, books, documents, manuals, and meteorology textbooks. After the war, the Soviet military used the base into the 1950s. To read about another discovery in the Arctic, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

Categories: Blog

Recovered Bones May Have Been Earhart’s

Archaeology News - November 5, 2016

NIKUMARORO, REPUBLIC OF KIRIBATI—CNN reports that human remains discovered on the island of Nikumaroro in 1940 may have belonged to aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in 1937. The skeleton, which British authorities had identified as male, was eventually lost, but researchers with the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) obtained the original files of the examination, which include measurements of the bones. Forensic anthropologists determined that the measurements are consistent with a woman of Earhart’s height and ethnic origin. Recently, while reviewing those measurements, Richard Jantz of the University of Tennessee noticed that the skeleton in question had unusually long forearms. He joined forces with Jeff Glickman, a forensic imaging specialist, to analyze photographs of Earhart. They concluded that her forearms are nearly identical to those of the recovered skeleton. The TIGHAR team suggests that Earhart’s navigator, Frederick J. Noonan, died shortly after the plane crashed, and that his body was washed away by the island’s tides, since Earhart reported him injured in her initial distress calls, and only one set of human remains was recovered. “We believe she survived heroically, and alone, for a period of time, in terrible circumstances,” said Ric Gillespie, TIGHAR executive director. For more, go to “Last Flight of a Tuskegee Airman.”

Categories: Blog

Megalithic Carving Spotted at Ireland’s Hellfire Club

Archaeology News - November 4, 2016

DUBLIN, IRELAND—BBC News reports that archaeologists working at the site of the Hellfire Club, an eighteenth-century hunting lodge built with stones taken from nearby passage tombs, spotted a carving that may be 5,000 years old on a damaged stone that had long been part of a fire ring. The image is nearly invisible, but the changing fall sunlight hit the stone at an angle and revealed a long curving line cutting over two concentric circles. “This is a motif that appears in megalithic art at some of the most famous passage tombs in the country,” said archaeologist Neil Jackman of Abarta Heritage. The stone is being analyzed at Ireland’s National Museum, and could help researchers learn more about the destroyed passage tomb. To read about other discoveries in Ireland, go to “Treasures of Rathfarnham Castle.”

Categories: Blog

Legendary Medieval Well Uncovered in England

Archaeology News - November 4, 2016

RAINHILL, ENGLAND—Discovery News reports that archaeologist Jamie Quartermaine of Historic England Heritage uncovered St. Anne’s Well on private land in northwest England that had been buried by years of farming. “The fabric of the well is consistent with a medieval date,” Quartermaine said. The structure, built of sandstone blocks and surrounded by a small, three-roomed structure to accommodate pilgrims, was associated with a nearby priory. Legend has it that the waters had healing powers, especially for eye and skin diseases, but there were also tales of a curse uttered by a sixteenth-century prior on the neighboring landowner. Pilgrims continued to travel to the well into the nineteenth century. They entered the shallow basin, descended two steps, and then submerged themselves in a four-foot-deep pool fed by the well below its floor. A stone conduit, now gone, carried away the overflow. Wooden edging will be placed around the well to protect it from farm machinery. To read about another discovery in northwest England, go to “Artifact: Silver Viking Coin.”

Categories: Blog

Another Australian Cave Offers Early Occupation Evidence

Archaeology News - November 4, 2016

PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA—ABC News reports that a cave in Western Australia has yielded campfires, stone tools, animal bones, and emu eggshells dating back 25,000 years. Previous excavations at Yellabidde Cave indicated that its earliest inhabitants lived there 10,000 years ago. Carly Monks of the University of Western Australia, who has been working with Amangu traditional owners and elders, explained that the dates suggest people were living in the cave just before the last Ice Age. “So potentially there’s a lot more archaeology in the area that can tell us about this early period of site use,” she explained. Caves are thought to have been used by the first Australians to shelter from the heat during the warmest months of the year. For more on early cave use, go to “New Dates for the Oldest Cave Paintings.”

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