WWII Bombers Discovered Off Papua New Guinea

Archaeology News - May 24, 2017

NEWARK, DELAWARE—The wreckage of two World War II–era B-25 bombers has been located in waters off Papua New Guinea, according to a report from Philly.com. The discoveries were part of ongoing surveys by the nonprofit organization Project Recover, which includes researchers from the University of Delaware and the University of California, San Diego. The location of the first plane, in Madang Harbor, was previously known. Five of its six crewmembers survived the crash and were taken prisoner by the Japanese. Based on military and historic records, the team narrowed down the location of the second plane to a several square mile area and used an underwater robot equipped with sonar to scan the ocean floor. The tail was located first, and additional debris was found several hundred yards away. “The aircraft was moving at a pretty fast clip when it hit the water,” said Mark Moline of the University of Delaware. All six of its crewmembers were declared missing in action after it was shot down by the Japanese more than 70 years ago. For more, go to “Archaeology of World War II.”

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Site in Malta Conserved

Archaeology News - May 24, 2017

VALLETTA, MALTA—The underground Neolithic necropolis known as the Hypogeum has reopened to the public after a months-long conservation project. The Times of Malta reports that the site, which consists of three levels of rock-cut chambers and dates to between 4000 and 25000 B.C., was the subject of a large-scale effort to stabilize its climatic conditions. Created around the same time as Malta's aboveground megalithic temples, the Hypogeum once held the remains of some 7,000 individuals. Its intricately carved walls closely resemble those of the contemporary megalithic temples, and are still decorated with the remnants of ochre paintings, the preservation of which was one of the conservators' chief concerns. To read about another massive site dating to the same period, go to “Neolithic Europe’s Remote Heart.” 

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Sacred Burial Ground in England Dates Back 4,000 Years

Archaeology News - May 24, 2017

SHROPSHIRE, ENGLAND—A sacred burial site recently unearthed in Shrewsbury is more than 4,000 years old, according to a report from BBC News. The site, where researchers from Baskerville Archaeological Services have found evidence of use in every era since the Neolithic, may be the oldest-known continuously used sacred ground in England. Radiocarbon dating of a wooden post uncovered in the dig indicated that it was put in the ground around 2033 B.C. Also discovered were garment pins, as well as a calf, a pig, and a dog that died while giving birth. The church that currently stands at the site was purchased by the Greek Orthodox Church from the Church of England in 1994. “The dates have shocked us all,” said lead archaeologist Janey Green. “It appears the current Medieval church is built over the site of an ancient pagan burial ground that's been in use from the late Neolithic period through the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and through to today.” For more, go to “Letter from England: The Scientist’s Garden.”

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Unusual Burial Found in Russia’s Far East

Archaeology News - May 24, 2017

UST-IVANOVKA, RUSSIA—According to the Siberian Times, archaeologists have unearthed an unusual medieval-era burial in the Primorski Region of Russia’s Far East. Dating from the seventh to ninth centuries, the remains belonged to a man in his twenties who was buried in a manner that seemed to the team to resemble a dance pose, with his feet crossed and knees wide open. No similar examples of such an orientation are known from burials found nearby, and physical anthropologists speculate it could be the result of the man's feet having been bound prior to burial. His arms also appear to have been tied up in some way. Archaeologists recovered arrow tips that were laid on top of the body, perhaps as part of a burial ritual, although one tip might have actually penetrated the bone, and could have been the cause of the man's death. To read about the excavation of a medieval site in Siberia, go to “Fortress of Solitude.” 

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Huge Collection of Alaskan Artifacts Preserved

Archaeology News - May 23, 2017

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—More than 50,000 artifacts recovered from a site on the southwestern coast of Alaska will be sent back to the area after having been preserved by archaeologists at the University of Aberdeen, according to a report from BBC News. The artifacts, most made of wood and other organic materials, were in danger of degrading due to melting permafrost and coastal erosion at the site, known as Nunalleq. The materials date back hundreds of years and include extraordinarily well-preserved wooden masks used by the local Yup’ik people in dance rituals. The team, led by archaeologist Rick Knecht, spent seven years unearthing and preserving the artifacts. Once they are returned to Alaska, they will be displayed at a new culture and archaeology center. According to Knecht, the collection is among the largest ever to have been recovered from a single site in Alaska—and perhaps the Arctic as a whole. To read in-depth about the excavation at Nunalleq, go to “Cultural Revival.”

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18th-Century Scottish Woman's Face Reconstructed

Archaeology News - May 23, 2017

 

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that a facial reconstruction has been made of an eighteenth-century woman whose remains were discovered on the grounds of Lady Yester’s Church. The graveyard was directly opposite of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and it appears that her body was autopsied at the hospital, which at the time was developing a reputation for advanced medical research. But it also seems that many of her teeth were removed after her autopsy by hospital staff, who likely sold them on the black market. “As the move towards grave-robbing in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries tell us, such readily available bodies for research were in great demand,” says Edinburgh city archaeologist John Lawson. “This led medics and hospital staff to meddle with Edinburgh’s criminal underworld.” To read in-depth about the dubious origins of early modern medical science in Great Britain, go to “Haunt of the Resurrection Men.”

Categories: Blog

4,000-Year-Old Burials Uncovered in England

Archaeology News - May 23, 2017

STRATFORD, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Stratford Observer, five burials were found at a possible henge site in England’s West Midlands during construction work. “The henge survived as a shallow, segmented circular ditch with an internal diameter of around [30 feet],” said Nigel Page, a project officer with Archaeology Warwickshire. “The five people had been buried within a segment of it.” Three of the burials faced west, or out from the henge. The two outer burials faced east, or into the henge. Page added that the ditch was probably surrounded by a bank to close off its interior. Further study of the rare, 4,000-year-old skeletons may reveal their ages and sexes, and possibly even a family connection between them. To read about another discovery in the area, go to “Secret Spaces.”

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Medieval Brewery Unearthed in East England

Archaeology News - May 23, 2017

LINCOLN, ENGLAND—Lincolnshire Live reports that a possible medieval brewery has been discovered amid the rubble of several 800-year-old buildings in the path of a new highway. Church records indicate that the land was worked by the monks of Kirkstead Abbey, who farmed and raised sheep during the twelfth century. A team from Network Archaeology uncovered two rectangular structures with sloping sides and stepped-out limestones that may have supported a wooden floor. They think the buildings may have been malt kilns, since the bottom of the structures, and a gap in the stones that could have acted as a flue, had been blackened by smoke. For more, go to “Legends of Glastonbury Abbey.”

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Embalming Materials Recovered in Luxor

Archaeology News - May 23, 2017

LUXOR, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a cache of 3,900-year-old embalming materials has been recovered in the courtyard under the tomb of Ipi, a 12th-Dynasty vizier of Thebes, by a team of researchers led by Spain’s University of Alcalá. The deposit, which had been covered with sand in Deir El-Bahari, included inscribed pots and bowls, bandages, oils, scrapers, a shroud, wide sheets of linen, small pieces of cloth for wrapping fingers and toes, and a mummification board bearing the ankh symbol. All of the materials are thought to have been used during Ipi’s mummification. “The identification of these materials is of great importance for understanding the mummification techniques used in the early Middle Kingdom and the assessment of the kinds of items, tools, and substances involved in the process of embalming,” said Antonio Morales, head of the Spanish mission. The team has also identified what appears to be the vizier’s mummified heart. The jars were discovered in the early 1920s by American Egyptologist Herbert Winlock and left in situ. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “The Great Parallelogram.”

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Revolutionary War–Era Musket Ball Tests Positive for Blood

Archaeology News - May 20, 2017

MANALAPAN, NEW JERSEY—NJ.com reports that a lead musket ball recovered from Monmouth Battlefield Park has tested positive for human blood protein. Members of the Battlefield Restoration and Archaeological Volunteer Organization collect musket balls in an effort to learn more about the positions of the Continental Army and British troops during the battle, fought in June 1778. This musket ball in particular is thought to have been used as canister shot—one of many balls stuffed in a tin canister and fired from a cannon. Dan Sivilich, president of the group, sent the ball for testing because it bears an impression resembling coarsely woven fabric, suggesting had hit a person. He later learned the impression was probably made by a corn stalk after the ball was plowed under the surface of the soil. “It’s very exciting in the fact that we’ve identified a projectile that hit a human target, which tells us definitively that we found the battlefield,” Sivilich said. For more on the archaeology of the American Revolution, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

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Massive Viking Camp Recreated

Archaeology News - May 20, 2017

TORKSEY, ENGLAND—According to a report in Lincolnshsire Live, a 135-acre Viking camp located along the River Trent in Lincolnshire has been investigated by archaeologists from the University of Sheffield and the University of York. Artisans, traders, women, and children are believed to have lived alongside the invading Viking Great Army, described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, during the winter of A.D. 872-73. As they prepared to continue their battles against Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the Vikings are thought to have spent the winter processing their plunder and trading in goods and possibly slaves. Evidence for metalworking includes pieces of chopped up silver and hack-gold ready to be melted down into ingots. More than 100 Arabic silver coins, and 300 gaming pieces used to pass the time, were also recovered, along with iron tools, spindle whorls, needles, and fishing weights. There’s also evidence the Vikings spent time repairing their longships. The new research was compiled and used to recreate the camp through a virtual reality experience now traveling throughout England. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Categories: Blog

50,000-Year-Old Site Discovered in Australia

Archaeology News - May 20, 2017

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—The Guardian reports that a remote cave on the coast of Barrow Island, located off the coast of northwestern Australia, has yielded evidence of human occupation, including charcoal, marine and land animal remains, and other artifacts dating back to more than 50,000 years ago. Researchers from the University of Western Australia, the University of Queensland, the University of Adelaide, the University of Waikato, and Oxford University say the cave served as a hunting shelter between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago, and then became a dwelling for groups of families after about 10,000 years ago. The cave was then abandoned around 7,000 years ago, when the island is thought to have been separated from mainland Australia by rising sea levels. For more on archaeology in Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

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2,300-Year-Old Engraved Block Recovered in Egypt

Archaeology News - May 19, 2017

ABYDOS, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a stone engraved with the cartouche of the 30th-Dynasty king Nectanebo II (r. ca. 360-342 B.C.) was recovered from an illegal excavation by the Tourism and Antiquities Police during a house inspection in the Beni Mansour area of Abydos. According to Hani Abul Azm, head of the Central Administration of Antiquities of Upper Egypt, subterranean water at the site has made it difficult to determine whether the block was part of the king’s royal shrine, or part of a temple that he had built. Further excavations are planned. To read about another discovery in Egypt, go to “World’s Oldest Dress.”

Categories: Blog

17th-Century English Earthwork Investigated

Archaeology News - May 19, 2017

NEWARK, ENGLAND—The Newark Advertiser reports that an English Civil Wars–era military earthwork, one of a network of 12 seventeenth-century earthworks placed around the strategic city of Newark in the East Midlands, is being excavated. The earthwork is thought to have been a cannon battery used by the Scots who joined a force of Parliamentarian troops during their third attack on the city in 1645. The Parlimentarian forces were eventually defeated by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Royalists in a battle known as the Relief of Newark. This earthwork “is quite a distance from central Newark, so it is possible the battery was built to protect the Great North Road and cut off all hope of rescue for the beleaguered Royalists,” said archaeologist Rachel Askew of the University of Central Lancashire. Askew and her team are also looking for evidence that the redoubt had been built long before the English Civil Wars by Henry VIII, who had an interest in protecting the Great North Road during the rebellion against his religious reforms. “We have also found pottery from that period on site and if we could prove the Henry VIII link that would be an amazing discovery of national significance,” Askew said. To read about another recent discovery relating to the English Civil Wars, go to “After the Battle.”

Categories: Blog

First Farmers May Have Practiced “Unconscious Selection”

Archaeology News - May 19, 2017

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND—ZME Science reports that scientists from the University of Sheffield examined the possible origins of agriculture by analyzing the sizes of the seeds of a range of crops thought to have been domesticated thousands of years ago. According to Colin Osborne and his team, the size of the seeds would not be directly affected if hunter-gatherers selected vegetable plants for their food value—leaves, stems, roots, or fruit. Changes in these seed sizes could have been the result of natural selection acting on cultivated crops, or genetic links between seed size and other plant characteristics such as the overall size of the plant, or the size of the crop yield. The researchers found that the seeds of seven vegetables did get bigger due to domestication, even in the case of crops such as sweet potato, which is propagated with tubers. Osborne noted that the sizes of grains, lentils, and beans, where the seed is eaten, were significantly larger than the seeds of vegetable crops. He also suggests that early changes to crops raised by the first farmers were unintended, and may have been the result of sowing wild plants in cultivated soil and then caring for them. For more on the archaeology of agriculture, go to “Mapping Maya Cornfields.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on Hopewell Metal Beads

Archaeology News - May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nature reports that tube-shaped beads found in a 2,000-year-old Native American grave in Illinois were made from shards of the Anoka meteorite, which landed in central Minnesota, more than 400 miles away. The 22 beads, found in 1945, were made by people of the Hopewell culture, and were found along with more than 1,000 shell and pearl beads. An earlier study had ruled out the Anoka meteor as the source of the material for the iron-nickel beads. But Timothy McCoy and his colleagues at the National Museum of Natural History compared the beads to a second chunk of the meteor and found that both the beads and the new piece of space rock contain micrometer-sized granules of iron enriched with nickel. Further tests indicated that the beads and the meteor were a near-perfect match. McCoy added that bands of a brittle mineral that extend through the Anoka meteorite would have made it possible to break off a lump of it. He also experimented with producing beads with a piece of the metal, a wood fire, and a stone hammer—and noted that making the beads must have been a very slow process. “You wonder how many failed experiments there were,” he commented. To read about another discovery associated with the Hopewell culture, go to “Baby Bobcat.”

Categories: Blog

Graves Exhumed at 19th-Century Georgia Cemetery

Archaeology News - May 18, 2017

ATHENS, GEORGIA—The Athens Banner-Herald reports that a portion of a cemetery was unearthed at the campus of the University of Georgia in 2015 by archaeologist Laurie Reitsema and her students and colleagues. About one third of the 105 graves that were excavated contained enough material to attempt mitochondrial DNA analysis. The tests revealed that most of the people buried in the cemetery were of African descent, and were probably enslaved, since the cemetery closed about ten years before the start of the Civil War. One burial is known to date to after the Civil War, however, since it included two nickels minted sometime between 1867 and 1883. Two of the children buried in the cemetery suffered from syphilis, which can be passed from mother to child. A low rate of arthritis was also observed, when compared to the remains of enslaved people whose remains were uncovered at a nineteenth-century plantation in Charleston. Reitsema suggests this could indicate the difference between the work performed by those living on plantations and those living in towns. For more on the archaeology slavery, go to “Letter from Virginia: Free Before Emancipation.”

Categories: Blog

New Dates Obtained for Al Badiyah Mosque

Archaeology News - May 18, 2017

FUJAIRAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—According to a report in Gulf News, the Al Badiyah Mosque may be more than 150 years younger than had been previously believed. Geochemist Julie Retrum of the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi and archaeologist Michele Ziolkowski sent samples of the farush blocks used to construct the mosque to the University of Minnesota, where trace amounts of uranium preserved in the coral were tested with a technique known as uranium-thorium radiometric dating. The scientists also tested blocks from two coastal watchtowers. The test results suggest the mosque was built in the sixteenth century. Earlier excavations at the site recovered charcoal fragments dated to between 1450 and 1655, and pottery and porcelain fragments dated to the sixteenth century. Retrum and Ziolkowski think the mosque was probably standing by 1599, when the Portuguese controlled trade in the Arabian Sea, and Portuguese documents refer to the presence of a fort in Bidiya. “This research has helped to throw new light on the ages of some of Fujairah’s historic buildings,” Ziolkowski said. To read about a recent discovery in the area, go to “Bronze Age Bling.”

Categories: Blog

Students Uncover 1,400-Year-Old Buddha Statue in India

Archaeology News - May 17, 2017

ODISHA, INDIA—The Odisha Sun Times reports that students from Utkal University have discovered a 1,400-year-old statue of the Buddha with a seven-headed snake in eastern India. They found the statue buried three feet beneath a banyan tree whose roots had grown over it. “The recent discovery shows that the Buddhists were residing in the Banapur area in Khurda district earlier [than had been previously thought],” said team leader Anam Behera. The seven-headed snake is said to have protected the Buddha while he meditated over a period of seven rainy days. For more, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”

Categories: Blog

Human Bones Found Under South Korea’s Wolseong Palace

Archaeology News - May 17, 2017

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—The AFP reports that the bones of two people were found side-by-side under a western corner wall of Wolseong Palace, the capital of the Silla Kingdom, established in 57 B.C. The people are thought to have been sacrificed sometime during the fifth century A.D., and then to have been buried under the foundation. “This is the first archaeological evidence that folklore about humans being sacrificed for the foundations of buildings, dams, or walls were true stories,” said spokeswoman Choi Moon-Jung of the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage. The human remains will be examined in order to try to determine the health, diet, and characteristics of the individuals. DNA tests will also be attempted. For more on Korean archaeology, go to “Guide to the Afterlife.”

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