LUND, SWEDEN—According to a report in Science Alert, a team led by archaeologist Anne-Marie Leander Touati of Lund University has virtually reconstructed the home of Caecilius Iucundus, a wealthy banker who lived at the intersection of two of Pompeii’s main streets. Using handheld laser scanners and a drone, the team recorded the entire city block, including two additional estates, a tavern, a laundry, a bakery, and several gardens, one of which had a fountain that was working at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The reconstruction of Caecilius Iucundus’s home includes details collected at the site, and scholarly interpretations of what the building might have looked like 2,000 years ago. For more on Pompeii, go to “Family History.”
CINCINNATI, OHIO—Laboratory Equipment reports that an interdisciplinary team of University of Cincinnati researchers evaluated 1,000-year-old sediments and water collection techniques at the Ancestral Puebloan site of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. It had been thought that the soil in the region was polluted with chloride salts through the irrigation practices of the Ancestral Puebloans, making it impossible for them to continue to cultivate maize, their staple crop. This food shortage was thought to have contributed to the decline of Chaco Canyon in the thirteenth century. But the 1,000-year-old soil samples contained salt compounds and volcanic minerals that increased the soil’s fertility, according to anthropologist and geologist Kenneth Barnett Tankersley. The new study also indicates that the Puebloans farmed with mineral-enriched water captured from snowmelt off the mountains that surrounded the settlement, and from small canyons during the rainy season. Pottery stacked in thick-walled rooms in the Puebloan great houses suggests that water was also collected from ponds and puddles and stored for periods of drought. For more, go to “Early Parrots in the Southwest.”
THE CANTON OF BERN, SWITZERLAND—Discovery News reports that Swiss researchers have investigated an unusual burial discovered among more than 300 graves dating between the eighth and seventeenth centuries A.D. The man had been buried face down with a knife and a leather purse containing coins under his chest. The coins had corroded together, but X-ray computed tomography revealed a collection of 24 coins, almost entirely of low value. “The astonishing fact about these coins is that they belong to three different coin circulation areas, the Fribourg-Bern-Solothurn, Basel-Freiburg in Breisgau, and Luzern-Schwyz regions,” explained Christian Weiss of the Archaeological Services of Canton Bern. Weiss said there was also one worn silver coin from France of higher value. He thinks the man may have been a traveling merchant who moved through these areas. The latest coin indicates that the man was buried sometime after 1629. “It is likely they buried the man intentionally facing downward,” Weiss said. He added that there is no way to tell why they did so—perhaps as a way to humiliate him, prevent his return, or direct him toward hell. For more, go to “Switzerland Everlasting.”
IZMIR, TURKEY—Hürriyet Daily News reports that a 2,200-year-old inscription discovered near the temple of Dionysus in the ancient city of Teos is a detailed rental agreement. Mustafa Adak of Akdeniz University said that the agreement, written on a stela measuring five feet long, describes a group of gymnasium students who inherited land, buildings, slaves, and an altar, and then rented them at an auction. “A guarantor was needed for the agreement,” Adak said. “The names of the renter and his father were written in the agreement. Six witnesses were also necessary for this agreement to be valid, three of whom were the top administrators in the city.” Adak explained that the students, called Neos, wanted to retain use of the land for three days each year, and inspect it annually. About half of the document describes punishments for the renter in case the land was damaged or the rent was not paid. Adak also noted that two legal terms in the inscription are not well understood. “Ancient writers and legal documents should be examined in order to understand [what] these words mean,” he said. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “The World's First Temple.”
CINCINNATI, OHIO—The New York Times reports that Jack L. Davis and Sharon R. Stocker of the University of Cincinnati think that the artifacts uncovered last year in the 3,500-year-old grave of the “Griffin Warrior” were symbols of his power as a ruler of the town of Pylos, located on the southwestern coast of Greece. It had been suggested that the more than 2,000 artifacts associated with the burial, including four solid gold engraved rings, silver cups, beads of precious stones, a bronze mirror, ivory combs, weapons, pottery, and an ivory plaque engraved with a griffin, were plundered from the Minoans, who lived on the island of Crete. Davis and Stocker now say that the objects in the grave reflect the Minoan-style images engraved on the gold rings, and imply that elites living on mainland Greece understood Minoan culture and used it to establish power. “Whoever they are, they are the people introducing Minoan ways to the mainland and forging Mycenaean culture,” Davis said. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “A New View of the Birthplace of the Olympics.”
PERTH, AUSTRALIA—The Guardian reports that Peter Veth of the University of Western Australia, in conjunction with the Balanggarra people and the Balanggarra Indigenous rangers, conducted a survey of more than 250 remote rock art sites in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Balanggarra elder Ambrose Charlameri noted that some of more than 30,000 images recorded by the team had been damaged by vandals. “Most have not been recorded in any meaningful way before,” Veth said, “although some important sites, particularly towards the west of the study area, were recorded as early as the 1980s by the first generation of rock art recorders.” He will compare the ages of the rock art sites and associated campsites in an effort to learn more about patterns of migration and the formation of regional identity among Australia’s Indigenous people. For more, go to "The Rock Art of Malarrak."
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS—Science Magazine reports that an international team of scientists sequenced the genomes of four women who lived on the islands of Vanuatu and Tonga between 2,300 and 3,100 years ago to try to determine if they were descended from farmers who sailed directly to Oceania from East Asia, or if they came from people who mingled with hunter-gatherers in Melanesia, including Papua New Guinea, as they slowly traveled across the ocean. Three of those skeletons were directly associated with the farmers of the Lapita culture, known for their red pottery, obsidian tools, and shell ornaments. The ancient genomes were then compared with those of nearly 800 people from 83 populations living in East Asia and Oceania today. The new study suggests that the first arrivals in Oceania traveled directly from Taiwan and the Philippines. “The Lapita have no evidence for Papuan ancestry,” said Pontus Skoglund of Harvard Medical School. The analysis also suggests that Melanesian DNA was probably introduced to Polynesians after the Lapita period, between 500 and 2,500 years ago, by migrating Melanesian men. “The female ancestors of modern-day Oceanians are mainly Lapita, whereas their male ancestors include Papuans,” Skoglund explained. For more, go to "Polynesian Migration Examined With Vanuatu Skulls."
READING, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that the mound at Skipsea Castle in East Yorkshire is 2,500 years old. It had been thought that the mound, or motte, which measures 278 feet in diameter and 42 feet tall, was constructed by the Normans in the eleventh century to support a tower surrounded by defensive earthworks known as a bailey. Jim Leary of the University of Reading and his team removed soil samples from the base of the mound and tested charred seeds and pollen. Radiocarbon dates indicate that the mound was already 1,500 years old when the Normans built Skipsea Castle. “It’s the largest Iron Age mound in Britain and there it was hiding from us in plain sight,” Lear said. Further research could reveal what how Iron Age Britons used the huge mound. For more on archaeology in England, go to "Legends of Glastonbury Abbey."