Stele Fragment Unearthed in Northern Egypt

Archaeology News - January 18, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a section of a 19th-Dynasty stele has been discovered at the San Al-Hagar archaeological site in northern Egypt. Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the red-granite stele is carved with images of King Ramesses II presenting offerings to an as-yet-unidentified Egyptian deity. San Al-Hagar is known for its temples dedicated to the goddess Mut and the gods Horus and Amun, as well as for its monumental sculptures. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

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Norway’s Stone Age Houses Studied

Archaeology News - January 18, 2018

TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—Silje Fretheim of Norwegian University of Science and Technology analyzed the excavation of 150 well-preserved Stone Age dwellings in Norway and found that some Mesolithic hunter-gatherers built pit houses that were maintained for 1,000 years. According to a report in Science Nordic, the earliest traces of homes are small rings of stones that secured tent flaps made of animal skins, and cleared surfaces with areas of debris from stone tool construction. Fretheim thinks hunter-gatherers traveled with these small tents. Then, some 9,500 years ago, as the ice retreated and sea levels along the coast stabilized, people began to build pit houses with frameworks of wood and turf that were slightly larger than the tents. These larger dwellings may have been shared by larger family groups. Some of the pit houses were abandoned for a time and then reused over a period of more than 1,000 years. Fretheim suggests people placed the houses in areas supported by good fishing and hunting conditions because they recognized good places to live. To read about another archaeological project in Norway, focusing on much more recent history, go to “The Secrets of Sabotage.”

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Explorers Find Underwater Route Connecting Maya Cenotes

Archaeology News - January 17, 2018

TULUM, MEXICO—Telesur reports that researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses have been found in the tunnel-like caves, which range in width from 400 feet to just three feet. “This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” said Guillermo de Anda, director of the study. It is not yet clear how the Maya artifacts came to rest in the caves. To read about another recent discovery in Mexico's cenotes, go to “Where There’s Coal….”

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DNA Analysis Reveals Mummies’ Familial Relationship

Archaeology News - January 17, 2018

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND—According to a Science News report, a study of mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA obtained from two ancient Egyptian mummies known as the Two Brothers has revealed that they shared a mother, but had different fathers. The 12th-Dynasty mummies were found next to each other in the same tomb in 1907. Inscriptions on their coffins mention Khnum-Aa as the mother of both of the men. The inscriptions also list an unnamed local governor as their father, but it was unclear whether the men were supposed to be full brothers. An earlier analysis of the mummies’ mitochondrial DNA, obtained from liver and intestinal samples, suggested one or both of them did not have Khnum-Aa as a mother. Scholars also noted differences in the mens' features that could indicate that they were not biologically related. So, archaeogeneticist Konstantina Drosou of the University of Manchester and her colleagues obtained more reliable samples from the mummies’ teeth for the new study. The researchers note that the results reflect the importance of the maternal line of descent to the Egyptians. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

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Traces of Medieval Castle Uncovered in Ireland

Archaeology News - January 17, 2018

GALWAY, IRELAND—The Irish Times reports that limestone walls uncovered in Galway during the restoration of a fifteenth-century manor house may be part of a castle built in 1232. Called the castle of Bungalvy, the structure was built on the banks of the Corrib River by the De Burgos, an Anglo-Norman family credited with founding the port city. Charcoal deposits at the site could mark the fires that damaged the castle in 1233 and 1247. In the late thirteenth century, stone from the castle is thought to have been used to construct the nearby Red Earl’s house, which acted as a courthouse and was used by the De Burgos to collect taxes and host banquets. The De Burgos are thought to have constructed the castle at the site of a wooden defensive structure that had been built by the Gaelic O’Flaherty clan in 1124. For more, go to “Irish Vikings.”

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Possible Cause of Aztec Illness Identified

Archaeology News - January 17, 2018

JENA, GERMANY—The Guardian reports that researchers from the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have detected evidence of a typhoid-like illness in the remains of Aztecs who died in epidemics between 1545 and 1550, after the arrival of Europeans in the New World. According to the historical record, those who suffered from the illness known as “cocoliztli” in the Aztec Nahuatl language had high fevers, headaches, and bleeding from the eyes, mouth, and nose, and usually died within three or four days. The scientists used a new computational program to screen fragments of bacterial DNA extracted from 29 skeletons unearthed at a cemetery site in Oaxaca, Mexico, and found the Salmonella enterica bacterium, which today causes high fevers, dehydration, and gastro-intestinal complications. This is the first time that S. enterica has been identified in ancient New World remains, they said. The microbe is known to have been present in medieval Europe, and may have traveled to the New World in domesticated animals. “We cannot say with certainty that S. enterica was the cause of the cocoliztli epidemic,” said Kirsten Bos of the Max Planck Institute. “We do believe that it should be considered a strong candidate.” For more, go to “Aztec Warrior Wolf.”

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Ancient Fortress Investigated in the Scottish Highlands

Archaeology News - January 13, 2018

INVERNESS, SCOTLAND—The Herald reports that a broch, or roundhouse, in Comar Wood has been dated to 2,400 years ago. The stone building is thought to have been the home of a local chief or lord which was taken over by local people who used it intermittently as a defensive structure. Researchers from AOC Archaeology also recovered traces of metalworking and stones for grinding grain. They said the structure had been burned down twice and rebuilt over a period of 600 years before it was finally abandoned. “We don’t know why it was used in the way it appears to have been,” said archaeologist Mary Peteranna. “More excavation would be needed to further investigate the site.” To read about another recent discovery in Scotland, go to “Fit for a Saint.”

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Possible Scythian Tomb Found in Siberia

Archaeology News - January 13, 2018

BERN, SWITZERLAND—Newsweek reports that an undisturbed kurgan thought to hold the tomb of a Scythian prince has been found in southern Siberia by archaeologist Gino Caspari of Bern University. Caspari spotted the kurgan in a remote, swampy area in the Uyuk River Valley with high-resolution satellite imagery. Preliminary excavations, conducted with researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences and the State Hermitage Museum, suggest the burial dates to around 3,000 years ago, or the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. And the scientists are hopeful the tomb is situated below a layer of permafrost. “If it really turns out to be a permafrost tomb, we can hope for an exceptional preservation of objects that are usually not part of the archaeological record,” Caspari said. To read about another recent discovery in Siberia, go to “Squeezing History from a Turnip.”

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9th-Century Buddhist Stele Discovered in Tibet

Archaeology News - January 13, 2018

BEIJING, CHINA—According to a report in the Telegraph, India, a stele inscribed with an image of a standing Buddha has been found in northern Tibet’s Ngari prefecture. Shargan Wangdue of the Tibet Cultural Relics Protection Institute said the six-foot-tall stele dates to the ninth century, and is the oldest to have been found in the Himalayan region. The left side of the stone bears 24 lines of text written in Tibetan. Buddhist prayers were engraved on the right side. “This stele shows Buddhism was already being practiced during the Tubo period in [the] western part of Ngari,” Wangdue said. To read about genetic adaptations to high-altitude living in Tibet, see “The Heights We Go To.”

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New Dates for Viking Center in Ireland

Archaeology News - January 12, 2018

CORK, IRELAND—According to a report in the Irish Times, dendrochronological evidence suggests Vikings developed an urban center in Cork about 15 years before they arrived in County Waterford, which is known for its Viking presence. Cork City Council executive archaeologist Joanne Hughes said the oldest house at the site in Cork dates to A.D. 1070. She explained that the settlement expanded as buildings were placed on low mounds above the water level over a period of about 20 years. Some of the stone walls and foundations have survived at the now waterlogged site, as well as a highly decorated weaver's sword, saddle pommel, and thread winder, all made of wood. The walls will be preserved in situ, requiring changes to the plans for a new building at the site. For more, go to “The Vikings in Ireland.”

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Partial Kanji Character Found on Ancient Bowl in Japan

Archaeology News - January 12, 2018

IKI, JAPAN—According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun, a small pottery fragment found at the Karakami archaeological site on an island off the coast of Kyushu bears the left half of a kanji character. The piece is thought have been part of a bowl produced in China, and to date to the late Yayoi Pottery Culture period, between 300 B.C. and A.D. 300, making the kanji character, pronounced “shu” in Japanese, one of the oldest to be found on pottery in Japan. The character appears to have been etched onto the surface of the finished bowl with a sharp tool, and may have represented a person’s name. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

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Fifth-Dynasty Administrative Complex Uncovered in Tel Edfu

Archaeology News - January 12, 2018

ASWAN, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a royal administrative complex dating to the Fifth Dynasty (2498–2345 B.C.) has been found in the ancient city of Tel Edfu by a team of Egyptian and American scientists. Gregory Marward of the University of Chicago said 220 mudbricks bearing the stamps of King Djedkare Isesi were found in the complex. The site is thought to have been used to store goods collected by the king on his expeditions to the South Sinai, where his workers extracted copper and other raw materials from the earth. King Isesi is also known to have ordered an expedition to Punt, a kingdom on the Horn of Africa, to obtain rare goods. Nubian pottery and shells from the Red Sea were recovered at the site, along with a list of names of workers who are thought to have participated in the expeditions. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

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Moche Ceremonial Rooms Unearthed in Peru

Archaeology News - January 11, 2018

LIMA, PERU—Reuters reports that two chambers thought to have been used for elite Moche political ceremonies some 1,500 years ago have been found at the Limon archaeological complex in Lambayeque. Archaeologist Walter Alva said similar rooms have only been seen in illustrations made by the Moche. In one room, thought to have been used for feasting, Alva and his team uncovered two thrones. A circular podium, perhaps used for making announcements, was found in the second room. The walls were decorated with pictures of fish and sea lions. “These scenes had been depicted in the iconography of the Moche world but we had never been lucky enough to physically find where they took place,” Alva said. “It’s a very important finding.” To read in-depth about the Moche, go to “Painted Worlds.”

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Genomes of Early Scandinavians Analyzed

Archaeology News - January 11, 2018

UPPSALA, SWEDEN—According to a report in the Copenhagen Post, a new genetic study supports the idea that Scandinavia was settled by hunter-gatherers from central Europe and what is now Russia. Geneticist Mattias Jakobsson of Uppsala University and an international team of researchers sequenced the genomes of seven hunter-gatherers who lived in Scandinavia between 6,000 and 9,500 years ago. They found evidence of a migration from central Europe, and a later migration from what is now Russia. These hunter-gathers from the east are thought to have brought advanced hunting tools to Scandinavia. The data suggests when the two groups mixed, they produced a population whose genetic variants could have helped them adapt to limited sunlight and cold weather. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

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Two Shipwrecks Discovered Off the Coast of Mexico

Archaeology News - January 11, 2018

SISAL, MEXICO—Two shipwrecks, a total of 12 cannons, and a sunken nineteenth-century lighthouse have been discovered off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, according to a report in the Live Science. Helena Barba Meinecke of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said the first ship is a Dutch warship dating to the eighteenth century. A letter written in 1722 by Antonio de Cortaire, who was then Yucatan governor, blames north winds for the sinking of two Dutch ships in 1722. The newly discovered shipwreck may be one of these two lost vessels. The lighthouse is thought to have been destroyed by a tropical storm. The second newly discovered shipwreck is a nineteenth-century British steamboat, thought to have been built sometime between 1807 and 1870. Porcelain, stoneware, and cutlery have been recovered from the wreck site. To read about another recent discovery in the Yucatan, go to “Where There’s Coal…

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18th-Century Kitchen Features Uncovered at Monticello

Archaeology News - January 11, 2018

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA—Live Science reports that the clean-out areas for four brick stoves in a cellar at Monticello’s South Pavilion have been linked to James Hemings, an enslaved chef who cooked for Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson and his wife, Martha, lived on the upper floors of the South Pavilion while the main house was under construction. In the early nineteenth century, the cellar was converted into a washhouse, and in the twentieth century, it was repurposed as visitor bathrooms. It has only recently been investigated by archaeologists, who recovered animal bones, toothbrushes, ceramics, glass bottles, and beads in the fill. Field research manager Crystal Ptacek said that in the eighteenth century, the stoves would have stood about waist high, and could have accommodated multiple pans cooking over low heat. Hemings is thought to have learned to use such stoves in France, in order to cook the multicourse meals favored by the wealthy, while Jefferson was U.S. minister to France from 1784 to 1789. The kitchen is one of the “really rare instances where we can associate a workspace and artifact with a particular enslaved individual whose name we know,” explained Fraser Neiman, director of archaeology at Monticello. For more on archaeology at Monticello, go to “Close Quarters.”

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1,000-Year-Old Summer Palace Uncovered in China

Archaeology News - January 10, 2018

DUOLUN COUNTY, CHINA—Xinhua News Agency reports that a 1,000-year-old palace has been found in the mountains of northern China. Ge Zhiyong of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Institute of Archaeology said the foundations of 12 buildings have been found at the site, which is thought to have been a summer residence for the imperial family during the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 916–1125). Archaeologists excavated one of the buildings, which covered an area of 2,500 square feet, and recovered glazed tiles, pottery, copper nails, and iron building components. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Underground Party.”

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Headless Statue of Sacred Bull Found in Java

Archaeology News - January 10, 2018

SUKOHARJO, INDONESIA—A village resident in Central Java province uncovered a statue of a bull while digging holes to plant banana trees, according to a Jakarta Post report. The statue, which is missing its head, is thought to date to the Mataram Kingdom, or from the late sixteenth century to the early eighteenth century. It is thought to depict Lembu Andini, a sacred animal said to have carried the Hindu god Shiva. Bimo Kokor Wijanarko, Sukoharjo cultural heritage analyst, suspects the statue’s head was stolen and the rest of it reburied by looters. “A lot of animal-shaped ancient relics were found headless,” he said. “Maybe this is because the heads of statues are very valuable.” To read about another discovery in Indonesia, go to “The First Artists.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Musical Instruments Discovered in Siberia

Archaeology News - January 10, 2018

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that mouth harps made between 1,580 and 1,740 years ago from splintered cow or horse ribs have been unearthed at two archaeological sites in the Altai Republic by Andrey Borodovsky of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Three of the musical instruments were unfinished. The other two were complete, and one of them is still able to produce a tune. It measures about four inches long and three inches wide. Borodovsky said mouth harps made from long animal bones, rather than splintered portions of ribs, have been found in the Tuva region of Siberia and in Mongolia. To read about another recent discovery in Siberia, go to “Arctic Ice Maiden.”

Categories: Blog

Painted Tombstone Unearthed in Egypt

Archaeology News - January 10, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a team of archaeologists has uncovered several Hellenistic tombs, offering vessels, lamps, and an unusual tombstone at the Al-Abd archaeological site, located within the eastern cemetery of the ancient city of Alexandria. The tombstone is thought to have been installed as a false tomb door in order to mislead thieves, according to Ayman Ashmawy of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The outer surface of the tombstone was decorated to look like the façade of an Egyptian temple, complete with a staircase and a set of double doors. The poorly preserved stone will be restored. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

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