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."
EL SOTO, BOLIVIA—Human remains dated to 1,100 years ago have been unearthed at a Tupi-Guarani culture archaeological site in eastern Bolivia, according to a report in Telesur, based upon reporting from the local newspaper, El Deber. The skeleton is thought to have belonged to a young woman who had been buried lying curled on her side. Archaeologist Danilo Drakic explained that the site, discovered by schoolchildren who were planting a garden, was a trade center for people living as far away as the regions that are now Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. Pottery, shells, and lapis stones imported from Chile have also been recovered. For more on archaeology in South America, go to "An Overlooked Inca Wonder."
FALKIRK, SCOTLAND—Culture 24 reports that excavations at a settlement located outside the walls of Camelon Roman Fort in central Scotland have uncovered Roman socketed bolt heads, a spiraled ox-goad, 12 hobnails, traces of cereal grains, and the possible remains of a bread oven. Many of the artifacts, and industrial waste products from iron smelting, were retrieved from pits dated to between 41 B.C. and A.D. 116. Experts from Guard Archaeology say the bolt heads are blunted, suggesting that they may have been used by the soldiers stationed at the fort for target practice. The ox-goad, when placed on a wooden shaft, may have been used to control oxen pulling a plow. Some of the recovered nails bear traces of mineralized leather, but none of them were found corroded together, so they were probably not all from the same sandal or boot. The excavation also yielded pottery dated from the mid-first century to the third century that had been imported from Northern Gaul. To read about a silver hoard discovered in Scotland, go to "Lost and Found (Again)."
CORK, IRELAND—The Irish Times reports that an international team of researchers collected data on animal bones and seeds from archaeological digs across southeast Ireland, and analyzed pollen extracted from a sediment core taken from a lake in Kilkenny, to learn what people ate between 2,700 and 2,000 years ago. “Cattle and pigs provided dairy and meat, barley was a staple, and we also have evidence of a variety of wheats, including spelt, emmer, and naked wheat,” said Katharina Becker of University College Cork. The researchers partnered with baker Declan Ryan to attempt to recreate baked products of Ireland's Iron Age. Since houses from the period do not contain recognizable hearths, Becker suggests that people may have gathered at boiling pits to eat. She speculates that the Iron-Age diet was probably plant-based, with meat and dairy foods served on special occasions. For more, go to "The Vikings in Ireland."
ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—A structure constructed of stone slabs up to 13 feet long has been found beneath a huge midden at the Ness of Brodgar by a team led by researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. According to a report in BBC News, archaeologists think the building, which measures some 33 feet wide, may have been the first structure at the site. Its unusual stones have rounded edges and may have been brought from another site and reused. “Perhaps they may be part of a stone circle that predates the main Ness site. It is a bit of a mystery and we won’t know more until we do more work,” said site director Nick Card. Most of the other structures at the Ness of Brodgar were made of pieces of flagstone and may also have had slate roofs. The site sits between two Neolithic monuments, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness, and is thought to have served as a gathering place for more than 1,000 years. To read in-depth about this site, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart."
OXFORD, ENGLAND—Live Science reports that David Howell of the Bodleian Libraries and colleagues have discovered pictographic scenes under the layer of gesso that covers Codex Selden, a 20-page document created in southern Mexico in the sixteenth century from a long strip of deer hide. They used a technique known as hyperspectral imaging to reveal the pictures beneath the layer of chalk and plaster, which presumably was applied to the document to prepare it for reuse. The researchers analyzed seven pages of the codex—one of only 20 such texts produced in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans to have survived—and found glyphs and figures formed with red, yellow, and orange organic paints. Some of the images may record genealogical information, including two figures thought to represent siblings, since they are connected with a red umbilical cord. Other figures depict people walking with sticks or spears, and some of the female figures have red hair or headdresses. The name of one individual preserved in Codex Selden resembles that of an ancestral figure recorded in other codices, but more research is needed into the possibility that the documents refer to the same person. For more, go to "The Maya Codices."
IONA, SCOTLAND—The Press and Journal reports that a site believed to have been a prehistoric village has been unearthed on the island of Iona. The island is best known for the monastery founded in the sixth century A.D. by the monk Columba, who took refuge there after being exiled from his native Ireland. The new discoveries, made during a survey prior to building an extension of the island’s primary school, include pottery, flints, and other materials that may date back as far as 2,500 years. The excavation, which was led by Clare Ellis of Argyll Archaeology, also unearthed an extension to the island’s medieval wall. “What is most exciting to me is that the lines of the property that exist now are very similar to the property lines that existed more than 2,000 years ago,” said Ellis. To read in-depth about archaeology in Scotland, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”
BOLZANO, ITALY—Researchers have used genetic analysis to determine which animals were used to make the clothes worn by Ötzi the Iceman, according to a report in Live Science. The results show that Ötzi, who died 5,300 years ago in the Ötztal Alps on the border of Austria and Italy and whose well-preserved mummy was discovered by hikers in 1991, wore an outfit fashioned from a range of animals likely selected for the different properties of their skin or fur. His shoes were made from hardy cattle leather, his leggings from more supple goatskin. His coat was made from sheep, for warmth, his hat from brown bear, and his quiver from deer. The researchers believe the evidence indicates that Ötzi obtained at least some of his garments or the material to make them via trade. “It is probable that the Iceman was not a hermit,” said Niall O’Sullivan of the University College Dublin in Ireland and the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman. “He likely traded furs or domestic animals.” To read more about Ötzi, go to “Heart Attack of the Mummies.”
ABAKAN, RUSSIA—In the Russian republic of Khakassia in southern Siberia, archaeologists excavating a Bronze Age cemetery have unearthed the grave of a woman who was buried with an unusual number of artifacts. The Siberian Times reports that the woman, who was accompanied by the remains of a child, lived sometime between 2500 and 1800 B.C., and was likely a person of high status. She was buried with a bronze knife, some 100 animal teeth pendants, and a dress decorated with about 1,500 beads. The excavation director, Andrey Polyakov, was particularly excited by the discovery of a ceramic incense burner in the grave, which was decorated with sun motifs that are similar to those found on rock art in the region. "Its importance is hard to overestimate," says Polyakov. "All such images previously discovered had been found only on cliffs or separate stones. Now there is the prospect to find out when they were made." To read more about archaeology in the area, go to "Letter From Siberia: Fortress of Solitude."