Ancient Jar Discovered in Turkey May Contain Human Remains

Archaeology News - January 31, 2017

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a team from the Milas Museum has unearthed an intact jar in southwestern Turkey’s Muğla province. Found at a construction site, the jar is thought to date to the Hellenistic period. It stands about 15 inches tall and may contain burned human remains. The jar has been taken to the Milas Archaeology Museum for further study. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

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England Returns Egyptian Ushabti Figurine

Archaeology News - January 31, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—Ahram Online reports that a wooden ushabti figurine stolen from a storehouse in Aswan in 2013 has been recovered in London. The figurine, which stands about six and one-half inches tall, was discovered by Spanish archaeologists in 2009 at the Qubet Al Hawa necropolis, and was placed in a storehouse with other artifacts. Shaaban Abdel Gawad, head of the antiquities repatriation department at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, said that the theft occurred after the Spanish archaeological mission left the site. A curator at the British Museum spotted the ushabti and reported it to the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, leading to its return. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

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High-Tech Scans Detect Ancient Maya Highways

Archaeology News - January 31, 2017

MIRADOR BASIN, GUATEMALA—Seeker reports that the Light Detection and Ranging tool, or lidar, has been used by researchers with the Mirador Basin Project to scan more than 430 square miles of jungle in Guatemala’s northern Petén region. The data collected with the technology was used to produce a detailed map of a 150-mile-long network of 17 Maya roads, first discovered in 1967. “The creation of these causeways allowed the unification of what appears to be the first state-level society in the Western Hemisphere,” said team leader Richard D. Hansen of the University of Utah. Trade goods, tribute, rulers, and armies could have traveled from city to city along the system of highways. The lidar scans also detected a system of corrals which may have been used to raise livestock for food on an industrial scale. The food could also have been distributed using the road system. The new research could help scientists understand why the Maya civilization in the Mirador Basin declined after A.D. 150. To read more about the Maya, go to “Tomb of the Vulture Lord.”

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2,000-Year-Old Glass Workshop Found in Poland

Archaeology News - January 31, 2017

ZYWIEC, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that the remains of a 2,000-year-old glass and metal workshop have been found on Mount Grojec in south-central Poland. Archaeologist Tomasz Gralak of the University of Wroclaw and his team uncovered furnaces, defective glass beads, and pieces of melted waste glass at the site, which was located in a settlement dating back more than 2,500 years. “It was here that half-processed material in the form of lumps of raw glass or metal bars was delivered and finished items were made,” he explained. Gralak and his team will analyze the glass to see if they can determine where it originated. The researchers think it may have been imported from as far away as the Mediterranean. The team also found a large cistern near the workshop, crucibles for melting metal, and stone grinders. “They were probably influenced by Celtic tribes, which had the knowledge of glass processing. But it was a local population, limited to the mountain areas,” he said. It had been thought that glass was not produced in Poland until the medieval period. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

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Four 19th-Century Shipwrecks Found Near Australia

Archaeology News - January 28, 2017

BUNDABERG, AUSTRALIA—The Australian Associated Press reports that four nineteenth-century shipwrecks have been found at Kenn Reef, located off the coast of Queensland, by a team of archaeologists from the Australian National Maritime Museum. Eight ships are known to have been wrecked in the area during the nineteenth century while traveling to and from trading ports in India and Indonesia. Anchors, fasteners, and at least six cannons have been found at the site. The next step is to try to identify the wrecks. “This will take months of careful examination of the archaeological discoveries against historical records, including ship’s logs and accounts of shipwrecks in newspapers from the period,” explained museum maritime archaeologist James Hunter. For more on underwater archaeology, go to “Discovering Terror.”

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2,000-Year-Old Doll Discovered in Japan

Archaeology News - January 28, 2017

OSAKA, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that a small doll from the Yayoi Pottery Culture (300 B.C.–A.D. 300) was discovered in a burial at the Kori ruins in the southern city of Ibaraki. The neighboring Kori and Heka ruins are thought to have been part of a large village, and they share more than 140 tombs, according to the Osaka Center for Culture Heritage. The clay figurine, which stands about two inches tall, consists of a round head placed on a cylindrical torso with a flat base. It has holes for its eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. This is the first time that this type of figurine has been found in Osaka prefecture, and it is one of only a few to have been found intact. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

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Wildfire Revealed Thousands of Native American Artifacts

Archaeology News - January 28, 2017

SHOSHONE NATIONAL FOREST, WYOMING—According to a report in Western Digs, a Shoshone campsite thought to have been used off and on for perhaps as long as 2,500 years has been found along Caldwell Creek in the Absaroka Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Norton Point fire of 2011 revealed the high-altitude site as a “carpet” of stone artifacts and pieces of chipped stone near what is now a popular trailhead. Laura Scheiber of Indiana University and her team have recovered arrow points, bone tools, bifacial knives, and grooved mauls, most of which are thought to date to within a few hundred years before the Mountain Shoshone first made contact with Europeans. Upstream from the site, the research team also found a series of hearths, a Shoshone knife, a grinding rock, and fragments of pottery characteristic of pre-contact Shoshone culture. “The recovery of more than 1,000 ceramic sherds is especially exciting,” she said, since it triples the number of samples available for study and analysis. For more, go to “Letter from Montana: The Buffalo Chasers.”

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Possible Pilgrim’s Remains Found at Medieval Leprosy Hospital

Archaeology News - January 27, 2017

WINCHESTER, ENGLAND—The excavation of a medieval cemetery at St. Mary Magdalen leprosarium has revealed the bones of a possible Christian pilgrim, who was identified by the presence of a scallop shell in his grave, according to a report in the International Business Times. Scallop shells were a symbol of pilgrimage to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela, the endpoint of a route known as the Way of St. James that grew in popularity during the twelfth century. Simon Roffey of the University of Winchester noted that 86 percent of the more than 100 skeletons found at the hospital cemetery showed signs of leprosy on their bones. And, since there is also a form of leprosy that does not leave marks on the bones, it is possible that the rest of the people buried in the cemetery also suffered from the disease. “This contradicts previous evidence we have that leprosy was an ‘umbrella term’ for other conditions,” Roffey explained. It had been thought that leprosy spread through Europe with the Crusades, but archaeological evidence suggests that the Winchester hospital was founded before the Crusades began. Roffey and his team suggest that pilgrims may have contracted the disease in crowded churches and spread it to others through their travels. For more, go to “Diagnosis of Ancient Illness.”

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Update on 2,600-Year-Old Celtic Grave Discovered in Germany

Archaeology News - January 27, 2017

BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG, GERMANY—Scientists have continued to excavate a burial chamber removed in an 88-ton soil block from the Heuneburg hill fort in 2005, according to a report in Live Science. State archaeologist Dirk Krausse said the waterlogged grave contained the remains of an elite Celtic woman who died in 583 B.C.—a date determined through study of the tree rings of the planks of the chamber floor. Among the artifacts were a petrified sea urchin and an ammonite, suggesting that the woman was “a kind of priestess,” according to Krausse. Other items include gold, bronze, and amber jewelry, and poorly preserved textiles and furs. A computed tomography scan of a bronze sheet at the feet of a second woman in the tomb revealed traces of an iron horse bit. The bronze sheet may have been another piece of horse gear worn over the forehead. An ornament made of boars’ tusks and bronze pendants that would have jingled when worn on a horse’s chest was also recovered. The style of the jewelry resembles artifacts found in cultures to the south of the Alps, and suggests that there had been more trade between the two regions than had been previously thought. To read about another discovery in Germany, go to “World’s Oldest Pretzels.”

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Cambridge Cemetery Yield’s Friars’ Medieval Bones

Archaeology News - January 27, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that more than 25 skeletons have been uncovered in a section of the University of Cambridge including many of its science departments. The site had been home to an Augustinian friary that was founded in 1290. “They come in, they set up their friary and mark off an area as a cemetery and they start burying people in nice, neat rows,” said site director Craig Cessford of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit. After 100 to 150 years, the cemetery was full, and the friars reused the land multiple times in subsequent years, according to Cessford, until the friary was dissolved under Henry VIII in 1538. Later development on the site disturbed the bones, which are now being collected and processed for study by osteoarchaeologists. The excavation team expects to recover the remains of as many as 40 people from the cemetery before redevelopment of the site can begin. To read about a “magic shoe” that was discovered at the University of Cambridge, go to “Artifact.”

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Roman Town Houses Found in English City Park

Archaeology News - January 27, 2017

CHICHESTER, ENGLAND—The Chichester Observer reports that the foundations of three Roman buildings were discovered in a city park with ground-penetrating radar. The two large houses and a third masonry building with a rounded end are about 1,600 years old. “The only reason they have survived is because they are under a park that has never been built on,” said archaeologist James Kenny of the Chichester District Council. He thinks the houses, which have walls surrounding complete rooms set around courtyards or atriums, were owned by wealthy Romans living in southern England. The third building may have been a cellar or a bath house. A community excavation is scheduled for later this year. For more on the archaeology of Roman England, go to “What’s in a Name?

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Early Twentieth-Century Mosque Lamps Recovered

Archaeology News - January 26, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that six historic lamps stolen from the El-Refai Mosque last month have been recovered by Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities Police. The authorities suspect that the lamps were taken during a film shoot at the mosque. The lamps date to 1910, and are part of a set of 15 that hang from the ceilings of the mausoleums of King Fouad, the last king of Egypt, and Princess Ferial, his half-sister. Each of the glass lamps bears a verse of the Koran in raised script. Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities credits the swift recovery of the artifacts to the quick reporting of the theft. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

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17th-Century Shopping List Discovered at English Country House

Archaeology News - January 26, 2017

KENT, ENGLAND—Kent Live reports that a seventeenth-century shopping list was found under the floorboards at Knole, one of the largest historic country houses in England. The shopping list was written in 1633 by Robert Draper, who asked his friend Mr. Bilby to bring a fire shovel, pewter spoons, a frying pan, and “greenfish,” which refers to cod before it has been salted or cured, to Copt Hall. Draper also asked for the prices of these items. Scholars think that the quality of the handwriting suggests Draper was a high-ranking servant. But how did the letter get from Copt Hall to Knole House? In 1637, the daughter of the Earl of Middlesex, who owned Copt Hall, married the Earl of Dorset, who owned Knole House, and the contents of Copt Hall were eventually moved to Knole. “It’s extremely rare to uncover letters dating back to the seventeenth century, let alone those that give us an insight into the management of the households of the wealthy, and the movement of items from one place to another,” said Nathalie Cohen, regional archaeologist for England’s National Trust. To read in-depth about Knole House, go to “The Many Lives of an English Manor House.”

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Operation Pandora Recovers Thousands of Artifacts

Archaeology News - January 25, 2017

THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS—NBC News reports that an international operation led by Cypriot and Spanish police has resulted in the recovery of more than 3,500 stolen cultural objects—almost half of which were archaeological artifacts—and the arrest of 75 people suspected of activity in criminal networks. Dubbed “Operation Pandora,” the coordinated effort focused on “cultural spoliation,” or the act of taking goods by force, and the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, particularly from countries at war. The police and other authorities from a total of 18 countries, in cooperation with UNESCO, Interpol, and Europol, initiated more than 90 investigations, and conducted thousands of inspections and searches of people, vehicles, and ships during October and November of 2016. More than 400 coins, an Ottoman tombstone, and a post-Byzantine icon depicting Saint George are among the recovered items. For more, go to “Sunken Byzantine Basilica.”

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“Dark Age” Jewelry Workshop Found in Kuwait

Archaeology News - January 25, 2017

MOESGARD, DENMARK—According to a report in The Copenhagen Post, archaeologists from the Moesgaard Museum have found a 3,500-year-old jewelry workshop from the Dilmun culture on the tiny island of Failaka, which is located off the coast of Kuwait. The Dilmun culture, centered in Failaka, Bahrain, and possibly Qatar, was known as a Bronze Age trade hub for the major cities of Mesopotamia. But the trade network is thought to have collapsed around 1700 B.C., when its temples and cities were abandoned. “We have found the remains of a jewelry workshop in buildings from the period between 1700 and 1600 B.C.,” explained senior scientist Flemming Højland. “We found bits and pieces of semi-precious stones that do not exist naturally on the island of Failaka, but were imported—probably from India and Pakistan.” The jewelry suggests that the people living on Failaka resumed trade with people living to the east after the collapse of the established trade routes. To read in-depth about Failaka, go to “Archaeology Island.”

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Flat Stone Found in the Mouth of a Roman-Period Skeleton

Archaeology News - January 25, 2017

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that researchers from Historic England recently examined bones removed from a Roman-period cemetery in a soil block in 1991 and determined they were the remains of a man who had been buried face down with a flat stone in his mouth. Marks on the bones around the mouth suggest that he suffered from an infection, perhaps from the removal of his tongue. “The fact that he’s buried face down in the grave is consistent with somebody whose behavior marked them out as odd or threatening within a community,” said skeletal biologist Simon Mays. The man may have suffered from mental health issues and severed his own tongue, or it may have been cut out as a form of punishment, but no records of such a punishment have been found in Roman Britain. Other burials in Roman Britain have contained stones or objects in place of missing body parts, however. “It could be an attempt to complete an incomplete body,” Mays said. “Or it could be an attempt to replace part of a body with something obviously inanimate, like a stone or a pot, to prevent the corpse from being complete.” For more on archaeology of Roman Britain, go to “A Villa under the Garden.”

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Precise Chronology Helps Scientists Study Maya Collapse

Archaeology News - January 25, 2017

TUCSON, ARIZONA—The International Business Times reports that Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project scientists, led by Takeshi Inomata of the University of Arizona, are studying possible processes behind the two collapses of Maya civilization at Guatemala’s Maya site of Ceibal, which was occupied for about 2,000 years, between approximately 1000 B.C. and A.D. 950. The researchers obtained more than 150 radiocarbon dates from charcoal samples, and conducted a detailed study of ceramics from the site, in order to assemble a precise chronology of events. Population sizes over time were determined through carefully controlled excavations. The researchers found similar patterns preceding the collapse of Maya civilization during the Preclassic period, sometime between A.D. 150 and 300, and during the Classic Period, around A.D. 800 to 950, including violent warfare, social unrest, and political crises in multiple cities in the Maya lowlands. They also found that smaller waves of collapse were followed by major collapse and the abandonment of Maya population centers. For more, go to “Letter from Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

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Bones Offer Clues to Health of Ancient Egypt’s Children

Archaeology News - January 24, 2017

WARSAW, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team of scientists from the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw examined the bones of 29 children whose remains were recovered from shallow graves in the sand at the Saqqara necropolis. Most of them were three to five years of age, and had probably been weaned from breast milk. “Some of the children buried at Saqqara could have died from diseases and infections, to which they were more susceptible because of lower resistance after changing diet,” said bioarchaeologist Iwona Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin of the University of Manchester. Analysis of the bones revealed the children suffered from deficiencies of iron and B vitamins; parasitic diseases, including malaria; tooth decay, due to a diet rich in carbohydrates; inhibited growth from a diet low in nutrients; and sinusitis, brought on by dust and desert sand. But most of the children’s remains did not show any signs of disease. Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin explained that it takes time to develop lesions on bones. “It could mean that due to a weak immune system [the child] succumbed to disease very quickly,” she said. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

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Revolutionary War Artifacts Recovered in Virginia

Archaeology News - January 24, 2017

GLOUCESTER POINT, VIRGINIA—The Daily Press reports that artifacts dating to the Revolutionary War were found in a cellar at the site of Gloucester Point, an affluent colonial-era town located in southeastern Virginia, across the York River from Yorktown. Among the recovered artifacts is a brass plate engraved with the name “Lt. Dickson, 80th Regt. of Foot,” referring to an officer of the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers, who eventually surrendered Gloucester Town to American and French forces in 1781 during the Siege of Yorktown. Other artifacts include French infantry buttons, an English half-penny dated 1773, a silver piece of eight, two matching shoe buckles, and pieces of brass hardware. “We think they were all deposited during some sort of post-Revolution cleanup,” said archaeologist Anna Rhodes of DATA Investigations. The site has also yielded more than 600 features, including defensive ditches from the time of the Revolution and the Civil War. For more on the archaeology of the American Revolution, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

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Ancient Goddess Sculpture Discovered Off Turkish Coast

Archaeology News - January 24, 2017

IZMIR, TURKEY—Hürriyet Daily News reports that a 2,700-year-old terracotta statue has been discovered at a shipwreck site under more than 140 feet of water off the coast of southwestern Turkey. The statue, discovered by a team of archaeologists from Dokuz Eylul University, is of the lower half of a woman’s body, and is thought to represent a Cypriot goddess. The statue and other cargo items, including ceramic plates and amphoras, had been covered with sand. “When we cleaned its surroundings, we saw the toes of the sculpture,” said team leader Harun Özdaş. “Then we uncovered the lower part of the body. The goddess sculpture had a dress on it. We know that such sculptures were made of two pieces. This is why we believe that the upper part of the sculpture is in the same place.” The team will return to the site, with the permission of Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry and the support of the Development Ministry, to look for the rest of the goddess later this year. To read about another discovery in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

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