BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA—According to a report in The Slovak Spectator, a joint Kuwaiti-Slovak archaeological team working at the Nestorian Christian settlement of Al-Qusur on Failaka Island in the Persian Gulf unearthed a palace dating from the seventh to ninth centuries, a sewerage system, and the base of a stone tower. “According to a preliminary analysis, it’s a unique so-called windcatch-tower, utilizing an ingenious interior cooling system based on the flow of air, caught by openings in the tower superstructure,” Matej Ruttkay, director of the Slovak Academy of Sciences’ Archaeological Institute, told the TASR newswire. Similar cooling systems have been found in the Middle East and North Africa. To read in-depth about the site, go to "Archaeology Island."
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—BBC News reports that a new genetic study of the remains of 51 Europeans between 45,000 and 7,000 years old has been led by David Reich at Harvard Medical School. The results suggests that beginning 37,00 years ago, all Europeans came from a single founding population that developed deep branches in different parts of Europe. At the end of the last Ice Age some 19,000 years ago, people thought to have come from Spain spread northward. Then some 14,000 years ago, populations from Turkey and Greece spread westward into Europe and replaced the first group. “We see multiple, huge movements of people displacing previous ones,” said Reich. The analysis also suggests that Ice Age Europeans had dark complexions and brown eyes until about 14,000 years ago, when blue eyes began to spread across the population. Pale skin began to appear after 7,000 years ago. Earlier populations also had more Neanderthal DNA than present-day people, which is consistent with the idea that it may have had harmful effects on modern humans and was lost over time through natural selection. To read about a masterpiece of Paleolithic art, go to "New Life for Lion Man."
KONYA, TURKEY—Rules for horse racing have been translated from a 2,000-year-old stone monument in central Anatolia. Written in Greek, the rules state that a horse that finishes first in a race cannot compete in another race, and an owner whose horse finishes first cannot enter another horse in additional races. The monument, located near a hippodrome, was dedicated to Lukuyanus, according to a report in The Daily Sabah. “Lukuyanus was a Roman jockey, and this structure here shows this was a place dedicated to horse racing and horse breeding," Hasan Bahar of Selçuk University explained. "Hittites used to build monuments here in a tribute to the mountains they deemed holy and we believe horse racing was a dedication to those holy mountains as well in the Roman era.” To read more about equine-related archaeology, go to "The Story of the Horse."
LIMA, PERU—Andina reports that a geoglyph has been discovered at Pampa de Majuelos in the Nazca desert by archaeologists Masato Sakai and Jorge Olano of Yamagata University. Sakai claims that the image, which measures more than 90 feet long, depicts an imaginary animal whose head with a long tongue are on the left, and whose spotted body and many legs are to the right. He suggests the image was created by moving stones from the whitish-colored ground and piling them to shape the animal in low relief. “This is a characteristic technique of geoglyphs and [the find] may date back to 2,000 to 2,500 years ago,” he said. To read about another mysterious Peruvian feature, go to "An Overlooked Inca Wonder."
TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—A team of researchers led by Sireen El Zaatari of the University of Tübingen examined the fossilized molars of 52 Neanderthals and modern humans from the Upper Paleolithic. They analyzed the microscopic wear and tear on the teeth to try to determine what the Neanderthals and modern humans ate, and how their diets related to the environment at the time. According to a report in International Business Times, the scientists found that the Neanderthals’ diet varied in response to what was readily available in the environment, while the diet eaten by modern humans was less affected by slight changes in climatic conditions. The Neanderthals are thought to have eaten more meat when they lived in open, cold steppe environments, and more plants, seeds, and nuts when living in forests. The modern humans are thought to have stuck with a diet based on more plant-based foods. “To be able to do this, they may have developed tools to extract dietary resources from their environment,” said El Zaatari. For more, go to "Decoding Neanderthal Genetics," which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.
JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA—According to a report in the Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, archaeologists from Jamestown Rediscovery found an iron object, described by conservator Katharine Corneli as a “semi-circle with a squiggly line in it,” in a cellar that lies just outside the boundaries of the original 1608 James Fort. Researchers think that it could be a fragment of a tool for cooking and baking, which would have had small legs to support a pot or Dutch oven over a fire. A pot fragment in the Jamestown Rediscovery artifact collection has marks on its base that may have come from cooking on such a grill. This object may have been deposited in the cellar as filler when the structure was abandoned. The rest of it may have been recycled into another item, but archaeologists will keep an eye out for additional grill pieces. For more, go to "Jamestown’s VIPs," which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2015.
TOMARES, SPAIN—Construction workers in southern Spain discovered 19 amphoras containing 1,300 pounds of Roman coins. The unused bronze and silver-coated coins date to the fourth century A.D. Ana Navarro of the Seville Archaeological Museum said that the coins studied so far bear images of the emperors Constantine and Maximian. She thinks that the coins may have been stored to pay soldiers or civil servants. “It is a unique collection and there are very few similar cases,” she said in a BBC News report. To read about a large collection of Roman coins found in England, go to "Seaton Down Hoard," which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA—Excavations at Highland, the home of the United States' fifth president, James Monroe, have uncovered the foundation of a large house, according to a report in The Virginia Gazette. It had been thought that the modest building on the site was Monroe’s home, built in 1799, but dendrochronology of its corner posts suggests that they were cut between 1815 and 1818. This building is now thought to have been constructed during renovations of the property, perhaps as a guest house, mentioned by Monroe in a letter to his son-in-law in September 1818. “This finding represents a breakthrough in how the nation understands Monroe and how he lived,” said Sara Bon-Harper, executive director of James Monroe’s Highland. The newly uncovered foundation includes a chimney base and a stone cellar. Charred wood suggests that the house was destroyed by fire sometime after Monroe sold the property in 1826. Later newspaper accounts refer to the destruction of the former Monroe residence, and the construction of another home on the property in the 1870s. To read more about archaeology in Virginia, go to "Letter from Virginia: Free Before Emancipation."
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA—Scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology teamed with Oussama Khatib, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, to create OceanOne, a prototype humanoid robot designed to perform intricate underwater tasks. The robot has a head with stereoscopic vision and two fully articulated arms and hands that relay haptic feedback to the pilot’s controls. “You can feel exactly what the robot is doing. It’s almost like you are there; with the sense of touch you create a new dimension of perception,” Khatib told Engineering.com. In addition, sensors in the body monitor the current and automatically adjust to keep the robot stable. To test OceanOne, the team explored the wreck of La Lune, King Louis XIV’s flagship, which sank in 1664 off the southern coast of France. The deep water makes it a dangerous place for human divers, but OceanOne, guided by Khatib back on the boat, carefully recovered a vase from the wreck and placed it in a recovery basket. For more on underwater archaeology, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks..."
SPOKANE, WASHINGTON—According to an Associated Press report, the Army Corps of Engineers has determined that Kennewick Man, discovered in 1996 in southeastern Washington, is related to modern Native American populations. “I am confident that our review and analysis of new skeletal, statistical, and genetic evidence have convincingly led to a Native American Determination,” said Brig. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon, commander of the corps’ Northwestern Division. This means that the 8,500-year-old remains are now covered by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Kennewick Man is currently held at the Burke Museum in Seattle, under the custody of the Army Corps of Engineers. Interested tribes, such as the Colville, Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce, and Wanapum Indians, are planning to submit a joint request for the repatriation of the remains, also known as the Ancient One. To read about the earliest people to arrive in North America, go to "America, in the Beginning."
PARIS, FRANCE—Camille Daujeard and Denis Geraads of France’s National Museum of Natural History recently examined a hominin femur recovered from a Moroccan cave in 1994. Likely to have belonged to Homo rhodesiensis, the bone is covered with tooth marks that the researchers say were left by a large carnivore, possibly an extinct hyena. A report in Live Science adds that the marks were covered with sediment, so they were likely to have been made at the time of the hominin’s death or shortly after it. “During this period, early humans likely competed for space [such as natural caves] and resources with large carnivores, who occupied many of the same areas,” said Daujeard. The cave also contained the bones of animals such as gazelles and jackals, and stone tools dating to the Middle Pleistocene, between 781,000 and 126,000 years ago. Hominins are also thought to have scavenged and hunted large carnivores at this time. To read more about Pleistocene archaeology, go to "An Opportunity for Early Humans in China."
HAIFA, ISRAEL—A birdwatcher visiting Tel Dor last winter discovered an Egyptian scarab brought to the surface by heavy rains. According to a report in The Times of Israel, the seal is thought to have belonged to an official from the Thirteenth Dynasty, dating back to the eighteenth century B.C. “The scarab belonged to a very senior figure in the kingdom, probably the viceroy responsible for the royal treasury,” said Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa. Researchers think the scarab may have been carried to northern Israel by the viceroy or his representative, or it may have arrived at the site later, during the Roman period, when there was a demand for Egyptian artifacts.
TAICHUNG CITY, TAIWAN—Among the 48 sets of human remains unearthed in an ancient cemetery in central Taiwan, archaeologists found the graves of five children, and the remains of a woman who had been buried with an infant in her arms some 4,800 years ago. “When it was unearthed, all of the archaeologists and staff members were shocked. Why? Because the mother was looking down at the baby in her hands,” Chu Whei-lee of Taiwan’s National Museum of Natural Science said in a Reuters report.
DETROIT, OREGON—Low water levels in Oregon’s Detroit Lake revealed a wooden cargo wagon and a concrete pit near what had been a Forest Service Ranger Station before the area was flooded in 1953 by the Detroit Dam. U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Cara Kelly interviewed locals who lived in the area, known as Old Detroit, and learned that at one time, the pit in question may have been lined with rocks and filled with goldfish. “It really was the beginning of full administration and protection of the forest reserves. Guard stations during this time served as backcountry living quarters where forest rangers were stationed during the summer, constructing trails, installing telephone lines, and patrolling land on horseback in search of smoke from wildfires,” she said in a report in the Appeal Tribune. To read about a site where the National Forest is conducting research, go to "Off the Grid."
VIBORG, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that two flint axes, said to be the largest ever found in Denmark, have been recovered from a drained bog near Tastum Lake. The flint axes date to the Neolithic period and are thought to have been placed in the bog as part of a ritual sacrifice between 3800 and 3500 B.C. “It’s fascinating that they could master the flint and produce such a perfect ax,” said archaeologist Mikkel Kieldsen of the Viborg Museum. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to "Bronze Age Bride."
PARKIN, ARKANSAS—Archaeologist Jeffrey Mitchem of the Arkansas Archeological Survey has sent a sample of a wooden post first unearthed at Parkin Archeological State Park in 1966 to David Stalhe, a tree-ring specialist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. According to a report in Arkansas Online, carbon dating of the bald cypress post in 1966 indicated that it was cut between 1515 and 1663. Mitchem’s team has rediscovered the posthole, which measures about 35 inches in diameter and is more than five feet deep. Some have speculated that the post was part of a large cross said to have been erected by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto at a village called Casqui in 1541. “The best indication we could have is if the carbon-14 testing says it’s from 1541,” Mitchem said. For more on archaeology in Arkansas, go to "Off the Grid."
LONG MELFORD, ENGLAND—Volunteers digging a test pit in the Suffolk village of Long Melford uncovered a small “pseudo Venus” that is missing its head and pedestal. Fragments of similar figurines have been found in nearby Colchester and along Hadrian’s Wall. John Nunn, one of the volunteers, thinks that the carving, which dates to the first or second century, could indicate that a Roman fort was located nearby. “Research has led me to believe that it could be the missing link in a string of forts across East Anglia which includes known sites at Colchester and Ixworth. The forts were usually sited within a day’s march of each other so it would fit,” he said in a report in the East Anglian Daily Times. Archaeological officer Fay Minter adds that evidence of a Roman town has been found in Long Melford, but military finds such as armor or buckles would be needed to confirm the presence of a Roman fort.
DORSET, ENGLAND—Human ancestors may have had a modern, upright gait earlier than had been previously thought, according to research conducted by archaeologists from Bournemouth University. Sedimentologist Matthew Bennett used computer software developed for analyzing crime-scene footprints to create and analyze 3-D images of the 3.6 million-year-old hominin footprints preserved in Laetoli, Tanzania, and discovered in the 1970s. Archaeologists had only been able to make detailed casts of the prints of one individual for study. The Independent reports that the software has helped the research team to disentangle the rest of the overlapping footprints, and to provide insight into the size and gait of the walkers. The team now thinks that the prints were left by a total of four individuals who had been walking in pairs at a pace of about two miles per hour. The leading pair is thought to have been a male and a female, followed by a pair of males. “Understanding a range of footprints tells us more about a species and the variations within its population,” Bennett said. For more, go to "England's Oldest Footprints."
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Chris Tyler-Smith of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute led an international study of the Y-chromosomes of more than 1,200 men from 26 populations around the world. The scientists then built a tree of the Y-chromosomes to show how they are related to one another. According to a report in The International Business Times, some parts of the tree were more like bushes, with many branches originating at the same point. “This pattern tells us that there was an explosive increase in the number of men carrying a certain type of Y chromosome, within just a few generations,” explained Yali Xue of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. This increase was seen some 50,000 years ago across Asia and Europe, and 15,000 years ago in the Americas. These population increases may have been due to plentiful resources as people moved into new continents. Later expansions are seen in sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe, South Asia, and East Asia, between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago. “What we think likely happened is that advances in technology led to more hierarchical societies led by small groups of men whose privileges allowed them to have a lot of sons,” Tyler Smith added.
HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND—Scientists from Oxford University have tested a small sample taken from a full head of braided hair discovered in a lead coffin in Romsey Abbey in the early nineteenth century. The hair, complete will small pieces of scalp, has been kept in a display case in the church. “It seems based on this analysis that there was pine resin in the hair of the person,” Thibaut Deviese said in a report by BBC News. It is not clear, however, if the pine resin was used as a hair-care treatment or if it had been applied in a funerary ritual. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the person died in the mid to late Saxon era, between A.D. 895 and 1123. The tests also suggest that the person ate a diet that included fish. “The fact that this person had a marine diet could be very specific to perhaps members of the monastic community,” explained Frank Green, archaeological advisor to Romsey Abbey. Some think the hair could belong to St. Ethelflaeda, the first abbess and the abbey’s patron saint.