Ancient Sunken City Found Off the Coast of Tunisia

Archaeology News - September 1, 2017

NABEUL, TUNISIA—Ruins of the ancient Roman city of Neapolis have been discovered off the northeast coast of Tunisia, according to an AFP report. Underwater archaeologists from the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and Italy’s University of Sassari have found streets, monuments, and some 100 tanks that were used to produce garum, a popular fermented fish sauce. “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world,” said team leader Mounir Fantar. The city is thought to have been submerged during a tsunami in A.D. 365. For more, go to “Romans on the Bay of Naples.”

Categories: Blog

Navy Scientists Weigh in on Sinking of Confederate Sub

Archaeology News - September 1, 2017

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—The Post and Courier reports that Navy scientists disagree with Duke University researchers, who claimed that the sailors aboard the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley were killed when their spar-mounted torpedo rammed Housatonic, a Union blockade ship. Paul Taylor, a spokesperson for the Naval History and Heritage Command, said Navy scientists have also tested the forces of the explosion, but concluded that the men were not seriously injured by them. And James Downs, former chief medical examiner for the state of Alabama, examined the men’s intact brains, and found no sign of trauma. Kellen Correia, president and executive director of Friends of the Hunley, said that the Duke University researchers lacked the data collected by scientists at Clemson University, where the submarine is being conserved, and other research institutions. Additional theories on what led to the deaths of the Hunley crew implicate a small hole in its forward conning tower; a lack of oxygen while waiting for the tide to change after the attack; a possible collision with USS Canandaigua, which came to rescue the survivors of the Housatonic explosion; and a breach in the ballast tank, perhaps as a result of the explosion. But Navy researchers point out that there are clues that support and contradict each of these theories as well. To read in-depth about H.L. Hunley, go to “History's Greatest Wrecks: USS Monitor and H.L. Hunley.”

Categories: Blog

Study Suggests Neanderthals Used Adhesives

Archaeology News - September 1, 2017

LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS—Paul Kozowyk of Leiden University and his colleagues suggest that Neanderthals pioneered the use of adhesives some 200,000 years ago, according to a report in Seeker. Neanderthals are known to have used tar to strengthen and waterproof the bindings between stone and bone tools and their handles. The team of researchers analyzed archaeological evidence for tar production at Neanderthal sites in Europe, and used the information to test three possible techniques developed by the early human relatives for producing tar by heating birch bark with embers and ash. Kozowyk said the different techniques varied in the amount of time and resources they required, and the amount of tar they produced as a result, and may have met different needs. It had been previously thought that adhesives were first produced by modern humans in Africa some 70,000 years ago. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Categories: Blog

Study Offers Insight Into Amazonia’s Earthworks

Archaeology News - August 31, 2017

HELSINKI, FINLAND—It had been previously thought that Amazonia was populated by small hunter-gatherer societies who left little trace in the dense forest. But Pirjo Kirstiina Virtanen of the University of Helsinki has been studying large earthworks in Brazil that were built by the ancestors of the Apurina and Manchineri peoples as early as 3,000 years ago, according to a report in The International Business Times. Virtanen’s consultation with the Apurina and Manchineri suggests the structures were related to the changing pathways of the sun and moon. Along these pathways, people could communicate with animals, departed spirits, and celestial bodies. “What is important here is that the indigenous perspective is key,” Virtanen said. Some of the geoglyphs were used continually, and some used at different stages of life, such as puberty. The forms of the earthworks could also have meaning, such as the strength of the shape a square, and its connection to the four cardinal directions. When the sites were abandoned, they were swallowed by the forest, or houses and farms were built in them and around them. “The ancestral people here didn’t use stones or other materials, they simply moved the land,” Virtanen explained. For more on archaeology in South America, go to “A Life Story.”

Categories: Blog

Bones From Underwater Cave in Mexico Dated

Archaeology News - August 31, 2017

HEIDELBERG, GERMANY—Nature News reports that human remains recovered from Mexico’s Chan Hol Cave are at least 11,300 years old, and could be more than 13,000 years old. A nearly complete skull and other human bones were discovered by divers in the underwater cave in 2012, but by the time scientists visited the cave a few weeks later, only fragments of bone remained on the cave floor, including a piece of pelvic bone covered by a stalagmite. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of the University of Heidelberg dated the calcite surrounding the recovered piece of pelvic bone by analyzing its levels of uranium and thorium isotopes. Calcite two centimeters away from the bone was determined to be 11,300 years old. The rate at which the calcite formed suggests the skeleton had been on the cave floor for more than 13,000 years. The condition of the bone fragments has made it impossible to recover DNA samples from them, but Stinnesbeck is hopeful that the few teeth not removed by the thieves will produce usable genetic material. To read about the discovery of another ancient skeleton in a cave in Mexico, go to “Naia—the 13,000-Year-Old Native American.”

Categories: Blog

Roundhouse Excavated in Scotland’s Highlands

Archaeology News - August 30, 2017

ASSYNT, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that a stone roundhouse known as Clachtoll Broch may have been abandoned after a fire some 2,000 years ago. “The fire could have been caused by an attack or caused by accidental burning of the building,” said Graeme Cavers of AOC Archaeology. Among the artifacts recovered are stone lamps, pottery, and a knocking stone filled with burned grain. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

Categories: Blog

Lost Medieval Village Discovered With Aerial Laser Scanner

Archaeology News - August 30, 2017

WROCLAW, POLAND—According to a report in The International Business Times, archaeologist Maria Legut-Pintal of Wroclaw University of Science and Technology has discovered the village of Goschwitz in southwest Poland. The small village consisted of about 20 farmhouses, constructed of timber framing on stone foundations, arranged around a central square. Scholars have been searching for the village, thought to have been founded some 700 years ago by the Duke of Löwenberg, who was also known as Bolko I the Strict, for more than 70 years. Using airborne laser-scanning technology, Legut-Pintal found the village, which was occupied for only 50 years. She has two ideas regarding the failure of Goschwitz: The village may have been destroyed during the Hussite Wars, or poor soil may have made survival impossible. “We will be able to answer this question only after excavation studies, when we establish the exact time of village abandonment,” she explained. For more on archaeology in Poland, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow.”

Categories: Blog

Skull Study Offers View of Violence in Medieval London

Archaeology News - August 30, 2017

OXFORD, ENGLAND—Kathryn Krakowka of the University of Oxford examined hundreds of skulls recovered from six London cemeteries dating between A.D. 1050 and 1550. According to a report in New Scientist, she found that violence in medieval London may have been tied to sex and social status. Nearly seven percent of the skulls bore evidence of violent trauma, or about double the rate of trauma found in cemeteries in other parts of England. And, the rate of signs of violence was even higher in the skulls of young men aged 26 to 35, and higher in those who had been buried in free parish cemeteries rather than monastic cemeteries, usually associated with the paying upper classes. Krakowka speculates that the upper classes may have turned to officials in the developing legal system of the time to address disputes, or even resorted to formal duels while wearing armor. Historic coroners’ rolls record that most homicides occurred on Sunday nights, when Krakowka says men would have been visiting taverns, and on Monday mornings. “This, in combination with my results, possibly suggests that those of lower status resolved conflict through informal fights that may or may not have been fueled by drunkenness,” she said. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

Categories: Blog

Rome’s Lead Levels Analyzed Through Soil Samples

Archaeology News - August 30, 2017

ROME, ITALY—According to a report in Phys.org, a team of scientists, led by Hugo Delile of France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, analyzed and dated sediment cores from more than 170 sites in the harbors at Ostia and Portus in order to find the amount of lead in the Roman water system over time. Water carried into Rome via the aqueducts was at first distributed through terracotta or wooden pipes. But levels of lead in the sediments spiked between 200 B.C. and A.D. 250, indicating that lead pipes were likely in use during this period, which begins about 150 years earlier than had been previously thought. The study also suggests the lead levels dropped during the Imperial period, perhaps because the extensive plumbing system was not maintained during civil wars. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

Categories: Blog

Roman-Era Necklace Discovered in Bulgaria

Archaeology News - August 30, 2017

PETRICH, BULGARIA—The Sofia Globe reports that a well-preserved gold necklace has been discovered in an ancient shop at the site of Heraclea Sintica. The city was founded in the fourth century B.C., on the site of a Thracian settlement, and was destroyed by an earthquake in the fourth century A.D. The necklace is thought to have been imported from Rome in the fourth century A.D., and perhaps lost in the panic of the earthquake. No other gold objects were found in the shop. “If we were going to find a jewelry shop,” said Lyudmil Vagalinski of Bulgaria’s National Archaeological Museum, “we would find some other jewelry and there would have to be some other tools, but in this context, we find that it is a building from the end of the fourth century.” A lack of human remains at the site suggests the owner of the necklace survived the incident. For more, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

Categories: Blog

Large Building Foundations Found at Ancient Greek Port

Archaeology News - August 29, 2017

SALAMIS, GREECE—The second phase of an underwater survey of the Classical-era coastline of the island of Salamis has revealed traces of what may have been a public building near its ancient port, according to a report in Tornos News. Aggeliki Simosi of the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate and the Institute of Underwater Archaeological Research and Yiannos Lolos of Ioannina University say the stone plinths indicate the large, solid structure was about 40 feet long. A spiral column pillar, pottery, and marble fragments of columns and statues were also found. In the late nineteenth century, an inscribed marble pedestal for a statue was recovered from the site. Scholars think the structure may have served as a temple or gallery through the late Roman period. The second-century A.D. geographer Pausanias mentioned a similar structure in his writings. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “Antikythera Man.”

Categories: Blog

Cata Sands Site Yields Neolithic House, Whale Skeletons

Archaeology News - August 29, 2017

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Scotsman, a well-preserved Neolithic house and the skeletons of 12 nineteenth-century whales in two large pits have been uncovered on the Orkney island of Sanday. An account dating to 1875 describes the practice of driving whales ashore at Cata Sands, where they were butchered for their blubber. The Neolithic house, complete with a hearth, internal partitions, and stone walls, rests on a base of rounded beach stones and a deep layer of sand and is thought to date to between 3400 and 3100 B.C. Pottery fragments, knives, a grinding stone, pieces of flint, and animal bones were also found. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “A Dangerous Island.

Categories: Blog

Farmers’ Softer Foods May Have Changed Skull Shape

Archaeology News - August 29, 2017

DAVIS, CALIFORNIA—The consumption of soft foods like cheese and other dairy products contributed to changes in the shape of the human skull, according to a report in The Telegraph. David Katz of the University of Calgary, Alberta, suggests that hunter-gatherers ate crunchy foods and gnawed meat off bones, which put stress on areas of the skull during chewing. Farmers, however, ate dairy products and grain mush, which reduced these chewing stresses. Katz and his team mapped points on more than 1,000 skulls of hunter-gatherers and farmers, and found that the temporalis muscle became smaller and changed position in the farmers’ skulls, while the upper jaws became shorter and the lower jaw became smaller. “Agriculture changed not only human culture and lifeways, but human biology as well,” he said. For more on early farmers, go to “The Neolithic Toolkit.”

Categories: Blog

Shops Found Near Ancient City Center of Aspendos

Archaeology News - August 28, 2017

ANKARA, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that shops and warehouses have been discovered near the center of the ancient city of Aspendos, located on the southwestern coast of Turkey. Archaeologist Veli Köse of Haceteppe University said valuable materials may have been sold and stored at the site, which he thinks also housed offices. The excavation has also recovered Hellenistic and Roman coins, a glass amphora, perfume bottles, bronze belt buckles, bone hair pins, jewelry, and nails. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

Categories: Blog

Ming Dynasty Playwright’s Tomb Identified in China

Archaeology News - August 28, 2017

NANCHANG, CHINA—The tomb of sixteenth-century playwright Tang Xianzu has been identified in a cluster of Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368‒1644) tombs in east China’s Jiangxi Province, according to a Xinhua report. Tang is remembered for four plays known as the Four Dreams, and his masterpiece, a romance called Peony Pavilion. The tomb is thought to hold the remains of Tang and his third wife, Fu. His second wife is also thought to have been buried in the cemetery. Several epitaphs found in the cemetery may have been written by Tang. “The epitaphs can help us learn more about the calligraphy, art, and literature in Tang’s time,” said Xu Changqing of the Jiangxi Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute. In addition, the discovery has yielded information about Tang’s life, his family relationships, and his ancestry. A monument to the playwright is planned for the site. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Tomb Couture.”

Categories: Blog

Monumental Chamber Tombs Discovered in Greece

Archaeology News - August 28, 2017

NEMEA, GREECE—Tornos News reports that two chamber tombs have been discovered at the Mycenaean cemetery at Aedonia by a team led by Konstantine Kissas of the Corinth Antiquities Ephory and Kim Shelton of the University of California, Berkeley. One of the tombs, which had been looted in the 1970s, has been dated to between 1350 and 1200 B.C. The other tomb is thought to be a few hundred years older. Burials were found in three pits and on the floor of the second chamber. One of the pits measured more than 12 feet long, and had been covered with large stone slabs. It contained the remains of three people. A second pit contained two more burials, copper arrows, and five knives, two of which had handles decorated with fine gold leaves. Fragments of two piers, and monumental vases decorated with flowers, were found in the third pit. The burials on the floor were accompanied by simple vases and stone buttons. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

Categories: Blog

Gate Discovered at Medieval Castle in Slovakia

Archaeology News - August 25, 2017

VINNÉ, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that Viniansky Castle’s main gate has been found. The ruined castle, located in eastern Slovakia, sat on a hill overlooking the trade route to Poland. “When we started our research six years ago, we had no gateway, now we have two of them,” said researcher Jaroslav Gorás. The newly discovered gate is thought to date to the thirteenth century, and is located in the oldest part of the small castle. But the second gate is located just 100 feet away, puzzling archaeologists. “It was a big investment, moreover, every extra opening in a castle wall was harder to keep from enemies,” said Peter Bednár of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. To read in-depth about excavations at the site of another castle, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.

Categories: Blog

Gate Discovered at Medieval Castle in Slovakia

Archaeology News - August 25, 2017

VINNÉ, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that Viniansky Castle’s main gate has been found. The ruined castle, located in eastern Slovakia, sat on a hill overlooking the trade route to Poland. “When we started our research six years ago, we had no gateway, now we have two of them,” said researcher Jaroslav Gorás. The newly discovered gate is thought to date to the thirteenth century, and is located in the oldest part of the small castle. But the second gate is located just 100 feet away, puzzling archaeologists. “It was a big investment, moreover, every extra opening in a castle wall was harder to keep from enemies,” said Peter Bednár of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. To read in-depth about excavations at the site of another castle, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.

Categories: Blog

Possible Copper-Age Wine Found in Italy

Archaeology News - August 25, 2017

TAMPA, FLORIDA—The International Business Times reports that traces of wine have been found in an unglazed, 5,000-year-old jar at Monte Kronio, an archaeological site located on the western coast of Sicily, by a team led by Davide Tanasi of the University of South Florida. The residue contained tartaric acid, which is a byproduct of wine fermentation, and a sodium salt connected to tartaric acid. It had been previously thought that winemaking began in Italy some 3,000 years ago, based upon the discovery of grape seeds. The researchers are now trying to determine whether the wine found in the current excavation was red or white. For more, go to “A Prehistoric Cocktail Party.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Copper-Age Wine Found in Italy

Archaeology News - August 25, 2017

TAMPA, FLORIDA—The International Business Times reports that traces of wine have been found in an unglazed, 5,000-year-old jar at Monte Kronio, an archaeological site located on the western coast of Sicily, by a team led by Davide Tanasi of the University of South Florida. The residue contained tartaric acid, which is a byproduct of wine fermentation, and a sodium salt connected to tartaric acid. It had been previously thought that winemaking began in Italy some 3,000 years ago, based upon the discovery of grape seeds. The researchers are now trying to determine whether the wine found in the current excavation was red or white. For more, go to “A Prehistoric Cocktail Party.”

Categories: Blog

Pages

Subscribe to Archaeological Institute of America aggregator - Blog

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!