Ancient Rock Art Damaged in Chad

Archaeology News - March 22, 2017

N’DJAMENA, CHAD—BBC News reports that ancient paintings in caves and rock shelters on the Ennedi Plateau have been defaced with graffiti. Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Chad’s minister of culture, said the 8,000-year-old paintings had been covered with names written in French and Arabic. Located in what is now the Sahara Desert, the artwork of the Ennedi Plateau was named to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites last year. Abdelkerim Adoum Bahar, head of the UNESCO in Chad, thinks the damage can be repaired. For more, go to “Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast.”

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Medieval Man’s Face Reconstructed

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The Independent reports that researchers from the University of Cambridge and Dundee University have reconstructed the face of a man who was buried face down in the cemetery of the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist in the thirteenth century. Known as “Context 958,” the man is thought to have lived at the hospital, which cared for indigent people of the town. According to John Robb of the University of Cambridge, analysis of the man’s robust skeleton suggests he led a life of hard work, and may have had a specialized trade, since he ate a diet relatively rich in meat or fish. But his burial at the hospital indicates that he fell on hard times and may not have been supported by a family network. Analysis of his teeth showed that the enamel had stopped growing twice in his youth, which indicates he experienced bouts of serious illness or extreme malnutrition. There was also evidence of a healed wound from a heavy blow to the back of his head. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

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Archaeologists Investigate Jamestown Church

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA—The Williamsburg Yorktown Daily reports that archaeologists from Preservation Virginia are investigating the remains of the three colonial churches at the site where a memorial church, built in 1906 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, now stands. The earlier churches date to 1617, the 1640s, and the 1680s. The team dug a pit in the chancel area and was recently working in the southeast corner, where high-status English colonists may have been buried. “We’ve gotten to an area where we can see in between the grave shafts in a couple of places,” said field supervisor Mary Anna Hartley. But earlier excavations may have moved two large gravestones that were placed flat on the church floor from the chancel to the cross-aisle in front of it. So any burials are probably unmarked. “That’s another thing we’re doing—figuring out what they found 100 years ago,” said archaeologist Danny Schmidt. “Archaeology of archaeology is a good way to put it.” For more, go to “Jamestown’s VIPs.”

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Copper Coins Unearthed in Israel Amid Byzantine Rubble

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a hoard of 1,400-year-old copper coins was uncovered last summer in the ruins of a two-story building in a Byzantine-era town. The coins bear the faces of Byzantine emperors Justinian I, Maurice, and Phocas, and were minted in Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia. Archaeologist Annette Landes-Naggar of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained that the building may have been a monastery, since the town was situated on a Christian pilgrimage route from the Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem. “The coins were found adjacent to the external wall of one of the monumental buildings found at the site, and it was found among the building stones that collapsed from the wall,” she said. The coins may have been placed in a niche in the wall for safekeeping. To read about another recent discovery in Israel, go to “Artifact: Bronze Age Jug.”

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Ancient Port of Salamis Found

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

SALAMIS, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, an ancient port, including harbor structures and fortifications, has been found by an international team of researchers on the island of Salamis. The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports said that the site is where Greek naval forces led by Themistocles gathered before the naval battle against King Xerxes and the Persians in 480 B.C. Monuments to the victory over the Persians are located adjacent to the site, which is also thought to have served as a commercial port. For more, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

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Treasure Discovered in Southwest China

Archaeology News - March 21, 2017

SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA—According to a report in Xinhua, a legendary treasure said have been lost some 300 years ago during a peasant uprising has been recovered from the Minjiang River, near its intersection with the Jinjiang River. Archaeologists from the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute drained a significant portion of the riverbed with pumps, and found the artifacts under 16 feet of earth. Seven silver ingots were previously found on the river bank in 2005 during a construction project. The legend states that the treasure was aboard a thousand boats traveling southward when the convoy, led by Zhang Xianzhong, was attacked and defeated by Ming Dynasty soldiers. Gold, silver, and bronze coins, jewelry, and iron weapons are among the more than 10,000 recovered artifacts. “The items are extremely valuable to science, history, and art,” commented archaeologist Li Boqian of Peking University. “They are of great significance for research into the political, economic, military, and social lives of the Ming Dynasty.” For more on archaeology in China, go to “Tomb from a Lost Tribe.”

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Replica of Ancient Ship Launched in Bay of Haifa

Archaeology News - March 18, 2017

HAIFA, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a replica of a 2,500-year-old ship has been christened the Ma’agan Michael II, for the kibbutz where a fifth-century B.C. shipwreck was found in 1985. The first Ma’agan Michael was constructed of Aleppo pine and oak, and is thought to have measured about 37 feet long and 13 feet wide. Ballast at the wreck site is thought to have come from the Greek island of Euboea and southern Cyprus. Archaeologists also recovered a carpenter’s toolbox from the site, and used traditional tools to build the replica ship. After the ceremony, the Ma’agan Michael II was sailed in the Bay of Haifa. Archaeologists are preparing to take the vessel on a three-day journey from Haifa down the Mediterranean coast to Herzliya, and test ways that ancient sailors might have sailed against the sea’s winds and currents. “We have no idea how they did it,” commented archaeologist Deborah Cvikel of Haifa University. For more, go to “Ship Underground.”

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2,000-Year-Old Siberia Site Yields Reindeer Antler Armor

Archaeology News - March 18, 2017

SALEKHARD, SIBERIA—According to a report in The Siberian Times, a team led by archaeologist Andrey Gusev of the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic has uncovered plates of armor made from reindeer antlers at the Ust-Polui site in northwestern Siberia. The armor dates to between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Gusev explained that the 30 plates differ from each other in size, ornamentation, and the placement of holes for attaching them to a leather base. Some of the plates may even have been used to create protective helmets. Gusev thinks the variations in the decorations on the plates suggest they belonged to different warriors, who left them as a gift or sacrifice to the gods. A tiny bronze ring found in a sanctuary at the site has been interpreted as an ornament for a bear claw, and may indicate the presence of a bear cult at the site some 2,000 years ago. For more, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

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Cairo’s Colossus Identified as Psammetich I

Archaeology News - March 18, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a colossal statue discovered in the remains of a temple dedicated to Ramses II probably represents Psammetich I, and not Ramses II, as was originally suggested. According to Khaled El-Enany, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, the back pillar on the torso piece of the 30-foot statue was carved with one of the five names of Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610 B.C., during the 26th Dynasty. “If it belongs to this king, then it is the largest statue of the Late Period that was ever discovered in Egypt,” he said. The two giant, quartzite fragments were found under the water table, near a congested residential area of Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood, and were moved with the help of Egypt’s Armed Forces to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir for restoration and exhibition. The excavation team also recovered a relief at the site that depicts Ramses II anointing a statue of the goddess Mut. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

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Rare Military Insignia Found in Illinois

Archaeology News - March 17, 2017

CAMP LINCOLN, ILLINOIS—The State Journal-Register reports that a collar disc bearing the insignia of a segregated military unit was found by workers replacing a bridge at Camp Lincoln. Based upon its style, the quarter-sized disc, worn on the uniform collar, is thought to have been lost by an Illinois Guardsman between 1923 and 1936. The disc bears the insignia of the Eighth Illinois Infantry, which fought on the Mexican border during the 1916 Pancho Villa Expedition, and then was sent to France in 1917 to fight in the First World War as the 370th Infantry. The 370th was one of the most decorated units of the war. “They probably should have received some Medals of Honor,” said Adriana Schroeder, command historian for the Illinois National Guard. “Instead, they received a lot of French awards and a couple of Distinguished Service Crosses on the American side.” To read about another discovery in Illinois, go to “Mississippian Burning.”

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Gold Bridle Fittings Recovered from Viking Grave

Archaeology News - March 17, 2017

SKANDERBORG, DENMARK—The gilded fittings of a horse’s bridle have been recovered from one of several graves dating to the early Viking Age discovered in central Denmark in 2012, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. “This type of bridle would only be available to the most powerful of people in the Viking Age, and we believe it might have been a gift of alliance from the king,” said Mereth Schifter Bagge of the Museum of Skanderborg. The bridle has been dated to A.D. 950, which suggests that the “Fregerslev Viking,” as the tomb’s occupant is called, may have been aligned with Gorm the Old, or perhaps a rival king. Excavation at the site will resume this spring. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

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Huge Polar Bear Skull Discovered at Alaska’s Walapka Site

Archaeology News - March 17, 2017

UTQIAGVIK, ALASKA—Western Digs reports that a large polar bear skull has been discovered at the 4,000-year-old Walapka archaeological site in northern Alaska. Dubbed “The Old One,” the skull has been radiocarbon dated to about 1,300 years old. It measures more than 16 inches long, and while it resembles typical polar bears from the eyes forward, the back of the skull is narrow and elongated when compared to the skulls of most polar bears. Research biologist and wildlife veterinarian Raphaela Stimmelmayer found several skulls that resemble “The Old One” among the 300 polar bear skulls in the collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Archaeologist Anne Jensen thinks this huge bear may have been the type referred to as “weasel bears,” or “king bears,” by some Inuit groups in historic interviews with ethnographers. But the bears are not mentioned in accounts from the Utqiagvik region. “That may be because these bears were not around during the period when people were collecting ethnographic accounts—somewhat later here than in Canada—or because people just didn’t ask the right questions,” Jensen said. Further analysis of the skull is planned. For more on archaeology in Alaska, go to “Cultural Revival.”

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Neolithic Hearth Unearthed in Wales

Archaeology News - March 16, 2017

MONMOUTHSHIRE, WALES—According to a report in the Monmouthshire Beacon, a Neolithic hearth has been unearthed at a construction site in southern Wales. Found on the shores of a post-glacial lake, the hearth contained animal bones and charcoal, which have been dated by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center to about 5,000 years ago. Timbers from a Neolithic boat were discovered on the shores of the same lake last year, along with structural timbers dating to the Neolithic period, and the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age. For more, go to “Letter from Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”

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New Thoughts on the Sahara Desert

Archaeology News - March 16, 2017

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—The International Business Times reports that David Wright of Seoul National University thinks that Neolithic cattle herders may have contributed to the desertification of the Sahara as they spread west from the Nile River some 8,000 years ago. Cattle grazing and the loss of vegetation may have been enough to tip the balance from the green pastures of 6,000 years ago to the spread of scrub vegetation, changing atmospheric conditions, and less frequent monsoon rains. Wright wants to obtain cores from former lake beds in the Sahara to study the vegetation records. For more, go to “Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast.”

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Fossils Suggests Leopards Roamed Neanderthal Landscape

Archaeology News - March 16, 2017

SAN DANIELE PO, ITALY—Live Science reports that a fossil recovered in northern Italy, from the banks of the Po River, has been identified as the right shinbone of a leopard. It had been previously thought that leopards only lived in Italy’s mountainous regions during the Ice Age. Based upon its size, paleontologist Davide Persico of the University of Parma thinks the bone came from a large female or a young male. The age of the bone is not known, but other fossils from the area, including the remains of straight-tusked elephants, steppe bison, wooly mammoths, giant deer, rhinos, and elk, have been dated to no older than 180,000 years ago. “Probably, they lived on the Po plain with Neanderthal man,” Persico said of the carnivorous cat. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

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400,000-Year-Old Cranium Discovered in Portugal

Archaeology News - March 15, 2017

MADRID, SPAIN—According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, a 400,000-year-old skull has been found at Gruta da Aroeira in Portugal, along with animal bones and Acheulean stone tools. The fossil was freed from a block of sediments at the Centro de Investigacion Sobre la Evolucion y Comportamiento Humanos over a two-year period. The partial skullcap, pieces of jaw and nasal floor, and two fragmentary teeth exhibit a mixture of traits, including some that are similar to those attributed to Neanderthals, and others to Homo erectus. Paleoanthropologist Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis has suggested that archaic members of the genus Homo were all one species exhibiting different, regional combinations of traits across the Old World. “What this fossil does for me is it reinforces what I’ve maintained for some time that this is all just normal variation,” he said. Genetic analysis of archaic human remains indicates that different groups may have interbred and produced viable offspring, an ability attributed to creatures in the same species. “My opinion would be that this fossil stresses the need to overcome the species question in order to understand the humans living in Eurasia about half a million years ago,” added João Zilhão of the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

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Medieval Kiln Unearthed in Southeastern England

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND—The Daily Gazette reports that an excavation conducted by the Colchester Archaeological Trust ahead of construction work has uncovered a rare medieval pottery kiln. The well-preserved, wood-fired kiln was spotted with a magnetometry survey. Philip Crummy, director of the trust, explained that during the medieval period, the excavation site was a busy industrial area. “It is really good because we will be able to tie down some of the pottery in the town to where it actually came from,” added Colchester Council archaeological advisor Jess Tipper. The kiln and its artifacts could be displayed in the Colchester Castle Museum. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

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Colonial-Era Artifacts Found at Malaysia’s Fort Cornwallis

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

GEORGE TOWN, MALAYSIA—The Malaysian Digest reports that a team led by archaeologist Goh Hsiao Mei of the University Sains Malaysia has found coins, porcelain, ceramics, and glass dating to the colonial era in the moat at Fort Cornwallis, a star-shaped structure built by the British East India Company in the late eighteenth century. The fort was first built of wood, and then strengthened with bricks. The moat was added in 1804 and was lined with charcoal and bitumen. The fort was never attacked, however. An outbreak of malaria in the 1920s prompted the municipal council to fill in the water feature. For more on Malaysia, go to “Letter from Borneo: The Landscape of Memory.”

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Aberdeen Archaeologists Plan Search for 16th-Century School

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen will look for traces of a sixteenth-century grammar school that was situated in front of King’s College, a site now occupied by King’s College Chapel, according to The Scotsman. “It acted as a preparatory school for pupils who wished to study at the university and pupils underwent a grueling timetable, with prayers, classes on the Latin authors, and language lessons,” said project leader Gordon Noble. The team members hope to find evidence of the building’s ground plan, artifacts from the school, and develop a better understanding of educational practices in the years before the Protestant Reformation, which is thought to have brought about a more egalitarian educational system. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Viking Treasure Trove.”

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Murals Depict Wardrobe Choices During China's Liao Dynasty

Archaeology News - March 14, 2017

DATONG CITY, CHINA—Live Science reports that a second circular tomb decorated with vivid murals has been excavated by a team from the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology. The entrance to the tomb, which is believed to date to the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 907–1125) and was discovered in 2007, had been sealed with bricks, but the archaeologists were able to enter it through a hole in the arch-shaped roof. Once inside, they found ceramics and an urn containing cremated human remains thought to belong to a husband and wife. The walls of the tomb had been decorated with murals depicting servants, cranes, and clothing hanging on stands. The clothing had been painted in shades of blue, beige, yellow, and pink. One of the garments features a diamond-grid pattern outlined in green and yellow with a small red flower in each diamond. Plates holding accessories such as a headdress, bracelets, hairpins, and combs were shown on a rectangular table in front of the clothing rack. For more on archaeology in China, go to “Zinc Zone.”

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