YANGON, MYANMAR—According to a report in The Irrawaddy, experts from UNESCO and Myanmar’s National Museum and Library are conducting detailed assessments of the 449 out of more than 3,000 temples and pagodas in Bagan that were damaged by a powerful earthquake in August. The temples in the ancient capital were built between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. Among the damaged structures are the well-known Sulamani, Ananda, Htilominlo, Myazedi, Shwesandaw, Lawkananda, and Dhamma Yazaka, as well as the murals at Ananda Oakkyaung. “Detailed assessment takes time,” said U Aung Aung Kyaw, director of Bagan’s Archaeological Department. “It will assist technical experts in planning restoration works for individual damaged temples more effectively.” So far, the team has evaluated about 30 temples. UNESCO has pledged to support the restoration of the damaged temples. For more, go to “The World's First Temple.”
PATRAS, GREECE—The Associated Press reports that police in western Greece broke up an alleged antiquities smuggling ring after a 14-month investigation, arresting 26 people and recovering more than 2,000 artifacts and fake provenance documents. Most of the artifacts were ancient coins, but gold jewelry, bronze figurines, glassware, and stone and marble statues were also recovered. The oldest of the objects date to the sixth century B.C. The police department says that the artifacts were looted from archaeological sites across Greece and sold to auction houses and private buyers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The investigators also found metal detectors, guns, counterfeit license plates, and currency such as euros, U.S. dollars, and Kuwaiti dinars. The suspects reportedly kept extensive records that will help authorities track down artifacts that have already been sold. “For very many of the coins we have full documentation, starting from when they were discovered in the earth to the auction at which they were sold,” said police spokesperson Haralambos Sfetsos. To read more about Greece, go to “A New View of the Birthplace of the Olympics.”
UPPSALA, SWEDEN—The Local, Sweden, reports that a Viking-era rune stone has been found near the site of Hagby Church, where it had been part of a threshold leading to the church’s porch in the medieval period. The stone, which measures about six feet by four feet, was thought to have been lost when the church was torn down in the 1830s. One piece is missing from the otherwise well-preserved stone. Archaeologist Emelie Sunding of the Uppland Museum said the runestone resembles other signed stones carved by a runemaster named Fot in the mid-eleventh century. “This one isn’t signed, but we can tell from the style and the ornaments that this is Fot,” Sunding said. To read more, go to “A True Viking Saga.”
EDMONTON, CANADA—The Pincher Creek Echo reports that after a month of work, an intact roasting pit was removed from Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. Archaeologist Bob Dawe of the Royal Alberta Museum found the pit in 1990. “For some reason the people never came back to open this object,” he said. “They prepared this delicious meal, but they never came back and ate it.” The roasting pit was first blessed, and then encased in layers of plaster, burlap, and foil to prepare it for removal with a crane. The kitchen-table sized artifact will be carefully opened and excavated “with toothpicks and a small vacuum cleaner” in a laboratory at the Royal Alberta Museum, where it will eventually be displayed. To read in-depth about buffalo jumps, go to “Letter from Montana: The Buffalo Chasers.”
CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND—Cambridge News reports that a team led by Marcus Brittain of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit is excavating Manea Fen, the site of a nineteenth-century utopian experiment. The community, established in 1838 by businessman William Hodson, was built around a central square, had terraces of cottages, a public dining hall, a communal kitchen, a school, and a grand tower. The utopia project lasted three and one-half years, and was home to 150 people at its height. So far, the research team has uncovered garbage pits and wood and brick foundations of some of the buildings. “These indicate that the buildings were fairly sizeable, but relatively flimsy in construction and maybe not equipped for sustaining 1,000 years’ of community as was envisaged in their design,” Brittain said. To read about a cross-shaped pectoral discovered in the same area, go to “Artifact.”
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."
TRES ARROYOS, ARGENTINA—Archaeologists digging a prehistoric campsite in Argentina have discovered evidence that humans first began visiting the location some 14,000 years ago, reports Ars Technica. Long-term excavations at the site, known as Arroyo Seco 2, have unearthed dozens of flint and quartzite tools, as well as numerous butchered animal bones representing a number of now-extinct species. While horses were the most common animal to be found at the site, the researchers have also discovered the remains of ground sloths, camels, and giant armadillos. The earliest radiocarbon dates from the site support the theory that humans first reached the New World by 17,000 to 15,000 years ago. To read more in-depth about these early people, go to “America, in the Beginning.”
CAPE ESPENBERG, ALASKA—Western Digs reports that metal artifacts unearthed in an ancestral Inuit house dating to between A.D. 1100 and 1300 were made in Asia. The objects, which include a bronze belt buckle, an iron bead, and a copper fishhook, likely made their way to the New World via trade networks that were active long before European contact. Purdue University archaeologist H. Kory Cooper led a team that used X-ray fluorescence to analyze the buckle and bead, and found they were made of leaded alloy that was smelted in medieval Asia. “We believe these smelted alloys were made somewhere in Eurasia and traded to Siberia and then traded across the Bering Strait to ancestral Inuit people,” says Cooper. Though the objects cannot be radiocarbon dated, the buckle was attached to a leather strap that is between 500 and 800 years old. To read more about archaeology in Alaska, go to "Cultural Revival."
NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA—An 800-year-old skeleton discovered in Australia's Toorale National Park has a wound to the skull that is consistent with being struck by a wooden boomerang, reports Live Science. A team led by Michael Westaway of Griffith University studied the remains, which belonged to a man between the ages of 25 and 35, and found that he had two head injuries that were in the process of healing and one long cut that had no sign of having healed, suggesting the wound was mortal. According to ethnographic accounts, Aborigines once used boomerangs that were bigger and more lethal than the more familar returning boomerang. It's possible the man, who had no defensive wounds to his arms, was attacked at a distance by such a weapon. The team was also able to determine the man ate a meal of crayfish and possum just before he died. To read about Aboriginal archaeology, go to "The Rock Art of Malarrak."
ÇANAKKALE, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that workers repairing broken water pipes on private land in northwestern Turkey discovered three sarcophagi dating to the eighth century B.C. The burials are thought to be an extension of the ancient cemetery for the Greek trade center of Parium, which had two harbors and was located about a mile away from the burial site. Archaeologists have opened two of the sarcophagi and found gold beads, a ring, three pieces of gold, two brooches, and a mirror. To read more about archaeology in Turkey, go to "Zeugma After the Flood."
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Live Science reports that a team of Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists finished uncovering a large city gate dating to the eighth century B.C. at Tel Lachish National Park. Sa’ar Ganor, director of the excavation, explained that the gate into the ancient city had six chambers, three on each side of the main street. One of the rooms contained benches with armrests, jars, scoops for grain, and jar handles stamped with identifying symbols. The jars are thought to have been part of the preparations undertaken by the Kingdom of Judah for war with Assyria in the late eighth century B.C. The shrine in the gate had white-plastered walls, a bench, two four-horned altars, and ceramic lamps, bowls, and stands. The Israel Antiquities Authority said that the horns on the altar had been cut, perhaps due to religious reforms instituted by King Hezekiah to centralize religious activity in Jerusalem. Ganor said that a stone toilet seat found in the shrine may have been placed there as a way to desecrate it and prevent the room from being used for religious ceremonies. Soil samples, however, suggest the latrine was never actually used. To read more about archaeology in Israel, go to "Mask Metamorphosis."
LONDON, ENGLAND—Cosmos Magazine reports that scientists led by Jennifer Parker of University College London created 3-D digital models of a fossilized bee’s nest found in South Africa near the 2.8-million-year-old remains of the “Taung Child,” in order to learn more about the environment in which it lived. Discovered in a limestone quarry in 1924, the Taung Child represents a young individual of the Australopithecus africanus species. The study suggests that the nest was built by an extinct type of bee that lived in the ground and built solitary nests. Parker and her team noted that these bees preferred bare, dry soil with good sun exposure, located near a reliable pollen source, supporting the idea that the Taung Child lived in a dry savannah environment, rather than in a cave. “It is not impossible that bees can nest in the ground, but underneath an overhang for example or in a shallow cave,” commented entomologist Michael Batley of the Australian Museum in Sydney. “Finding nests in the ground doesn’t mean it has to be right out in the open, but it wouldn’t be deep inside a cave,” he said. To read more about paleoanthropology in South Africa, go to "A New Human Relative."
MONTALTO DI CASTRO, ITALY—ANSA.it reports that 17 additional tombs dating from the ninth to third centuries B.C. have been found in the Poggetto Mengarelli necropolis at the Etruscan site of Vulci. This part of the park has been looted recently. “The number of tombs present in this small area is impressive,” said Alfonsina Russo, Archaeology Superintendent for Rome. One man’s tomb contained silver rings and bronze ornaments and vases. A young girl in another tomb had been buried with gold earrings and two siren statues. A bronze mirror was also recovered. To read in-depth about Vulci, go to "The Tomb of the Silver Hands."