DUN, SCOTLAND—Teenaged students have assisted with the excavation of what could be a fourteenth-century castle in eastern Scotland, according to a report in the Brechin Advertiser. The volunteers were helping The National Trust for Scotland repair a mausoleum at the historic eighteenth-century estate known as the House of Dun when they uncovered the foundations of a medieval chapel and the nearby castle. The mausoleum is thought to have originally part of the fourteenth-century chapel. Researchers believe the castle was built in the defensive form of a tower house that was surrounded by a curtain wall and other buildings. Damaged during the Civil War of 1644, the castle was eventually replaced with the Georgian house that now stands on the property. “This discovery of the site of the Castle of Dun is one more piece in the jigsaw that is the House of Dun estate,” said archaeologist Daniel Rhodes. To read about excavations at another castle in Britain, go to "Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North."
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—Live Science reports that a team of researchers, including an imaging specialist, a forensic Egyptologist, and a sculptor, reconstructed the face of an Egyptian mummy whose head was discovered in the collections of the University of Melbourne. The wrappings and style of embalming suggest that the person lived at least 2,000 years ago. A computed tomography (CT) scan of the embalmed head revealed that the mummy’s skull was intact, and that the individual suffered from two tooth abscesses. The scans also allowed the scientists to measure the skull. Its size suggests it belonged to a woman who was probably not more than 25 years old when she died. “We noticed that the top of her skull is very thin. It is extremely porous,” added biological anthropologist Varsha Pilbrow of the University of Melbourne. This condition may have been brought on by malaria or a flatworm infection. The researchers think the mummy’s head came to the university in the early twentieth century among the collections of archaeologist Frederic Wood Jones. To read about a recently discovered tomb containing a mummy, go to "Tomb of the Chantress."
HAIFA, ISRAEL—The Jerusalem Post reports that archaeologists led by researchers from the University of Haifa and the German Archaeological Institute have recovered a large number of 7,000-year-old olive pits in northern Israel. The early famers in the Tel Beit She’an Valley also grew wheat, barley, buckwheat, lentils, and peas, and they raised goats, sheep, cattle, and pigs. But the olive trees may have required an artificial irrigation system. “The existence of an ancient agricultural system that relies on artificial irrigation will require a significant change in how we perceive their agricultural sophistication,” said project leader Daniel Rosenberg. To read more about the period, go to "The Neolithic Toolkit."
MANDALAY, MYANMAR—Volunteers, including travel and tour groups, Buddhist monks, and firefighters are being trained by UNESCO experts and members of Bagan’s Department of Archaeology, National Museum, and Library to assess the damage sustained by Bagan’s pagodas and temples in last week’s earthquake. According to a report in The Irrawaddy, volunteers will also be asked to help collect and clean up the debris. “Since these pagodas are valuable to our country’s history and culture, we need to be extremely careful when collecting debris. If we rush, we won’t have another chance to conserve these precious broken pieces,” explained Aung Aung Kyaw, director of the department. Under current estimates, nearly 400 structures were damaged. The area is under tight security to protect the structures from further damage and looters. To read about another threatened temple in Southwest Asia, go to "The Battle Over Preah Vihear."
JALILABAD, AZERBAIJAN—A jar containing a collection of 273 copper coins has been discovered in southern Azerbaijan. Azernews reports that the coins were cleaned and studied by a team from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, including chemist Rauf Guliyev and archaeologist Ali Rajabli. Inscriptions on the twelfth-century coins indicate that they were minted during the rule of Arslan Shah, a Seljuk sultan of the Eldiguzids dynasty. To read about an Islamic coins discovered in a Viking shield, go to "Viking Trading or Raiding?"
GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND—Gloucestershire Live reports that archaeologists digging ahead of a development project in southwest England have found Roman bricks dating to the third and fourth centuries. The bricks are thought to have been used to construct buildings in the ancient city of Glevum, and then reused to reinforce the banks of the River Twyver when those buildings were demolished. “It was clear from this dig that flooding has always been an issue Gloucester has had to deal with,” says city archaeologist Andrew Armstrong. Evidence uncovered during the investigation also suggests that during the medieval period, the area along the riverbank was a meadow or marshland that was still prone to flooding. The team has been looking for evidence of White Friars, a medieval monastery, but they now think this area would have been too boggy and therefore unsuitable. To read about another recent Roman discovery in England, go to "A Villa under the Garden."
AUSTIN, TEXAS—Researchers led by John Kappelman of the University of Texas at Austin suggest that Lucy, an Australopithecus afarensis female, died 3.2 million years ago from a fall from a tree. The Guardian reports that Kappelman and his team, which includes orthopedic surgeon Stephen Pearce, used high-resolution x-ray scans to examine cracks in the Lucy fossils, which represent about 40 percent of her body. They say some of the damage resembles compressive fractures sustained in a fall—injuries to the right ankle, left knee and pelvis, first rib, and right humerus. “I think the injuries were so severe that she probably died very rapidly after the fall,” Kappelman said. But other scientists disagree, including Donald Johanson of Arizona State University. He and a student discovered Lucy’s remains in Ethiopia in 1974. Johanson says the cracks in Lucy’s bones are seen in all types of fossils. “We don’t know how long the fossilization process takes, but the enormous set of forces placed on the bones during the build-up of sediments covering the bones is a significant factor in promoting damage and breakage,” he explained. To read more about A. afarensis, go to "Proof in the Prints."
YINCHUAN, CHINA—China.org.cn reports that rare flooding in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of northwest China has damaged some of the thousands of prehistoric carvings on the cliffs of Helan Mountain. The images are thought to have been created by nomads who lived in the area between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago. Some of the images were damaged by mud and silt, and about a dozen images that had been carved on individual rocks were carried away by the flood waters. Other pictures were lost when layers of mountain rock peeled off or cracked in the heavy rains. Hu Zhiping, deputy director of the Helan Mountain Cliff Painting Administration, said that the extent of the damage is still being assessed. To read more about archaelogy in China, go to "Tomb from a Lost Tribe."
AKSARAY, TURKEY—Archaeologist Aliye Öztan announced in the Daily Sabah that a 4,200-year-old toy was discovered at the Acemhöyük site in central Turkey. Öztan described the toy as a bag-shaped rattle fashioned from terracotta and pebbles. He added that it probably had a handle at one time. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to "In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone."
DUMFRIESSHIRE, SCOTLAND—Archaeologist Andrew Nicholson thinks flat-topped Burnswark Hill may have been the site of the first battle of the Roman invasion of Scotland around A.D. 140, according to a report in BBC News. Traces of a native hill fort have been found on the top of the hill, and two Roman camps that could have housed more than 6,000 soldiers have been found on its northern and southern slopes. It had been suggested that the Romans trained their troops at the abandoned fort, or that the Romans laid siege to the fort while it was being used by local tribespeople. But the current excavation, led by Andrew Nicholson, has uncovered “massive amounts” of lead shot that had been slung at the fort. And documentary evidence indicates that Roman general Lollius Urbicus had been sent to Scotland from the Middle East, where he had conquered one Jewish hill fort after another. “This literally is a site where people suffered an attrition to the very end and I would suspect that probably nobody survived this and the Roman army moved on into the rest of Scotland,” John Reid of the Trimontium Trust explained. For more, go to "Lead Sling Bullets May Have 'Whistled' During Battle."
DALLAS, TEXAS—Discovery News reports that scholars have completed a preliminary reading of the text inscribed on a sandstone stele unearthed at an Etruscan sanctuary in Italy’s Mugello Valley. The 2,500-year-old stele measures about four feet tall by two feet wide, and was found in the foundation of a temple at the site of Poggio Colla. The text, made up of more than 120 characters, has been damaged. “Cleaning at a restoration center in Florence has allowed better visibility of the inscribed signs, making it possible to identify a larger sequence of letters and words,” said researcher Adriano Maggiani. Among the words is the name of the goddess Uni, consort of the Etruscan supreme deity, Tinia. The team members of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project think the sanctuary where the stele was found may have been dedicated to Uni. They have also recovered weaving tools, pottery, and gold jewelry that point to the worship of a fertility goddess. For more on the Etruscans, go to "The Tomb of the Silver Hands."
KRASNOYARSK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that archaeologists from Krasnoyarsk Geoarkheologia discovered two pieces of jewelry that were worn inserted in the lower lip some 370 miles north of the Arctic Circle. “We found these labrets at the Neolithic site Bolshaya II, which is located on the bank of the Novaya River, a tributary of the Katanga River,” said Danil Lysenko. The labrets and several arrowheads, all of which are thought to date to the third or fourth millennium B.C., had been exposed by the wind and were lying on the surface of the ground. Labrets were made of shell, bone, or stone and are thought to have been worn by both men and women during this period. For more, go to "Letter from Siberia: Fortress of Solitude."
DURHAM, ENGLAND—The remains of 1,700 soldiers who were captured by Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1650 at the Battle of Dunbar will be reinterred in a cemetery in Durham, near the mass grave where the bones were unearthed in 2013. According to a report in Culture 24, after the battle some 3,000 captive soldiers were marched from southeastern Scotland to Durham, where they were imprisoned and many died of starvation and disease. But why won’t the bones be sent to Scotland for reburial? “Our research is clear that not all of the individuals were from the United Kingdom, and several more may be from either Scotland or northern England. Home was perhaps not Scotland for all these men,” Chris Gerrard of the University of Durham explained. The excavation team also thinks that additional remains are probably located under Durham University structures on Palace Green, so reburial in Durham will keep the remains together. It also accords with British law, Gerrard noted. The university will retain several of the soldiers’ teeth for future study. For more, go to "English Civil War Mass Grave Identified."
LUXOR, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a burial chamber and sarcophagus were discovered on Luxor’s west bank by archaeologists of the Egyptian American South Asasif Conservation Project. They have been excavating the tomb of Karabasken, a government official in Thebes. The sarcophagus, carved from red granite, dates to the 25th Dynasty (728–657 B.C.), and was not painted nor engraved. Mahmoud Affifi of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities explained that it is a unique example of a Kushite sarcophagus in an elite tomb. Damage to the sarcophagus suggests that there had been attempts to break into it in antiquity. “The interior of the sarcophagus was flooded after the first attempt, but further cleaning work will show if any fragments of the wooden coffin or other burial equipment are still preserved inside,” said Elena Pischikova, director of the archaeological mission. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to "The Great Parallelogram."
HADERA, ISRAEL—Relatives who inherited a collection of ancient metal artifacts have turned them over to the Israel Antiquities Authority, according to a report in Live Science. The objects were gathered over a period of many years from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, near the power plant in northern Israel where the collector worked. Among the objects are a toggle pin and the head of a knife thought to be more than 3,500 years old. Other items, such as mortars and pestles and candlestick fragments, were probably manufactured in Syria and imported to Israel during the eleventh century. The collection also includes also a hand grenade thought to date to the Crusader, Ayyubid, or Mamluk periods. Archaeologists suggest that the artifacts may have been part of a metal merchant’s cargo lost in the early Islamic period. To read about another recent find from the waters off Israel, go to "Sun and Moon."
OTTAWA, ONTARIO—CBC News reports that a 145-year-old wheelhouse, or railway turntable, and three spur lines have been unearthed at a construction site in Canada’s capital city, near the path of a new light-rail line. The turntable’s limestone wall was discolored by a fire in 1883. “The stonework itself was pretty rushed. So it looks like they were in a hurry to get their spur line completed,” said Jeff Earl of Past Recovery Archaeological Services. A wooden pivot line in the center of the wheelhouse has also survived. The wheelhouse was operated by the Ottawa St. Lawrence Railways, whose trains transported logs from sawmills at Chaudière Falls to the St. Lawrence River, where they were placed on ships headed to Europe. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to "Franklin’s Last Voyage."
İZMIR, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a well-preserved brick vault has been unearthed in the ancient city of Metropolis. Serdar Aybek of Manisa Celal Bayar University said that the 1,900-year-old vault is located in a public bath. Excavations at the site, which began in 1990, have also uncovered a Hellenistic-era theater, Roman-era shops and streets, a gallery with columns, a hall with mosaics, and a temple dedicated to Krezimos, or Zeus. More than 10,000 artifacts, including ceramics, glassware, and sculptures have also been recovered. To read about another discovery in Turkey, go to "In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone."
BAGAN, MYANMAR—At least one person has died in a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that shook central Myanmar, home to the Bagan Archaeological Zone, the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the ninth through the thirteenth centuries. BBC News reports that at least 66 of the more than 2,000 surviving temples, stupas, and pagodas have been damaged. Earthquakes have destroyed most of the city’s original 10,000 structures. For more, go to "The Ancient Burmese City of Bagan."
NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA—A needle measuring two and three-quarters of an inch long has been unearthed in Denisova Cave, in a layer where Denisovan remains have been found. According to a report in The Siberian Times, the 50,000-year-old needle, complete with an eye for thread, was crafted from a large bird bone. “As of today it is the most ancient needle in the world,” said Mikhail Shunkov of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk. Additional, smaller needles have been found in younger layers of the cave. A Denisovan finger bone was first discovered in the cave, which is located in the Altai Mountains, in 2008. The cave is thought to have been occupied by Denisovans, Neanderthals, and modern humans at one time or another over a period of more than 250,000 years. For more on the Denisovans, go to "Our Tangled Ancestry."
LOWER SAXONY, GERMANY—Deutsche Welle reports that a construction project in the city of Osnabrück has unearthed copper artifacts, including three pieces of jewelry and an ax. The objects are thought to date to the end of the Neolithic period, between 4,500 and 4,000 years ago. Conservators will clean and restore the items, and researchers will try to determine if they could be some of the oldest metal artifacts in Europe. For more, go to "The Neolithic Toolkit."