Excavators Return to the Minoan Palace of Zominthos

Archaeology News - September 20, 2017

PSILORITIS, CRETE—Recent excavations at the Minoan palace of Zominthos uncovered two entrances, an internal stairway, and a second-century A.D. Roman coin, according to The Greek Reporter. The first entrance, on the northeast corner of the palace, led to a sanctuary with an altar and featured an anteroom with two desks. The second entrance, on the southeastern corner, is said to be in poor condition. It had been modified by the Mycenaeans and the Romans, and was damaged by looters in the 1960s. An internal stairway and the remains of ten-foot-tall walls indicate that the building was multistoried. The upper floors were supported by central pillars. The excavation also revealed floors made of glittering limestone and pebbles. Traces of frescoed mortar has also been found on the walls. In another area of the palace, above a metallurgical workshop, a claw-shaped pendulum and a vase decorated with the image of a pig were uncovered. Next door, the excavators found a small bronze scarab that had been made locally, and sea shells. For more, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

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World War I–Era German Submarine Found

Archaeology News - September 20, 2017

WEST FLANDERS, BELGIUM—BBC News reports that the wreckage of a World War I–era submarine has been found in the North Sea. The type UB-II vessel, thought to have been snagged in a cable and sunk by a mine, is expected to hold the remains of 23 people—a crew of 22 and one commander—according to West Flanders Governor Carl Decaluwé. The upper part of the submarine was damaged, but its hatches are still shut, and the conning tower is said to be intact. Periscopes and torpedo tubes have also been spotted on the sea floor. To read in-depth about the archaeology of a legendery World War I battlefield, go to “Letter From Turkey: Anzac's Next Chapter.”

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World War II Dog Tags Unearthed in England

Archaeology News - September 19, 2017

NORFOLK, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that dog tags, a piece of window from a B-17 Flying Fortress, and the grate from a wood-burning stove were uncovered at a former Royal Air Force base in Norfolk. Members of the United States’ 100th Bomb Group were stationed at the site during the Second World War. The excavation was conducted by the University of East Anglia, with assistance from the American Veterans Archaeology Recovery Program, the 100th Bomber Memorial Group, and the Waveney Valley Archaeology Group. The archaeologists hope to reunite the tags with their owners or their descendants. For more, go to “Archaeology of World War II.”

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Graves of Yuan Dynasty Chieftains Found

Archaeology News - September 19, 2017

GUIZHOU PROVINCE, CHINA—Xinhua reports that five tombs belonging to tribal leaders have been unearthed in southwest China. Three of the tombs date to between 1271 and 1368 A.D. and belonged to the Yang family, who were appointed as Tusi chieftains by the imperial government to rule over the city of Bozhou for 721 years. The last Yang family chieftain died during a rebellion in 1601. Officials from the Guizhou Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology say the discovery will help scholars understand the Tusi chieftain system and culture. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”

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Sugar Molecule May Help Identify Human Ancestors

Archaeology News - September 19, 2017

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—According to a report in The San Diego Tribune, scientists led by Anne K. Bergfeld and Ajit Varki of the University of California, San Diego, have identified a molecule made by many animals, and all apes, but not modern humans. It could help distinguish between fossils of hominins related to modern humans, and those of species that belong to side branches of the human family tree. The loss of the substance, called Neu5Gc, may have even created a fertility barrier between the ancestors of modern humans and other hominins. The scientists first tested a 50,000-year-old cave bear fossil, and found an unusual form of chondroitin sulfate, a surviving remnant of Neu5Gc, and then a four-million-year-old bovine fossil, which also contained the molecule. Since human ancestors are thought to have lost the ability to make Neu5Gc between two and three million years ago, it appears that the technique could help researchers more accurately identify the period of when the loss occurred. Varki and his colleagues are now refining the testing process so that a smaller amount of fossil would have to be destroyed in the analysis. When that work has been completed, hominin fossils may be considered for testing. For more, go to “Proteins Solve a Hominin Puzzle.”

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Long-Term Site Excavated on Dalmatian Island

Archaeology News - September 16, 2017

ZADAR, CROATIA—An ancient building with a hypocaust, or central heating system, has been found underneath a site dating to late antiquity and a medieval necropolis in Croatia’s Nature Park Telašćica, which is located on the Dalmatian island of Dugi otok. Total Croatia News reports the building was heated with hot air circulated through clay pipes under the floor and through the walls. Archaeologists from the University of Zadar also uncovered pottery, metal tools, and glass objects during the excavation. To read about another discovery in Croatia, go to “Neanderthal Necklace.”

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Cave Paintings Identified in Spain

Archaeology News - September 16, 2017

CANTABRIA, SPAIN—The International Business Times reports that four new sets of cave paintings in northern Spain have been identified with 3-D laser scanning and photometric techniques by a team led by Roberto Ontañón of the Museum of Prehistory of Cantabria. The sites had been identified by speleologists, but the images were degraded and difficult to see with the naked eye. “These technologies allow you to detect colors beyond the range of the visible spectrum (infrared to ultraviolet) and, in this way, ‘reveal’ paintings that at first sight are imperceptible or difficult to distinguish,” Ontañón explained. He estimates the paintings are between 20,000 and 30,000 years old. For more on cave paintings, go to “The First Artists.”

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Painted Jade Mask Discovered in Classic-Era Maya Tomb

Archaeology News - September 16, 2017

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—According to a report in Newsweek, a burial chamber at the Maya site of Waka’, which is located in northern Guatemala’s Laguna del Tigre National Park, has yielded a 700-year-old jade mask. The mask helped the researchers from the U.S.-Guatemalan El Perú-Waka’ Archaeological Project to identify the tomb’s occupant as a member of the royal Wak dynasty. It had been painted red with cinnabar, along with the ruler’s remains, and was found under the ruler’s head. The mask depicts the ruler with the same forehead hair decoration worn by the Maya maize god. Ceramic vessels, spondylus shells, jade ornaments, and a crocodile-shaped pendant carved from shell were also recovered from the tomb. David Freidel of Washington University in St. Louis explained that the Maya of the Classic period revered their rulers as divine, so the king’s tomb turned the royal palace acropolis into holy ground. For more, go to “Letter From Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

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Bones’ Cut Marks Hint at Funeral Rites in Neolithic Ireland

Archaeology News - September 15, 2017

COUNTY SLIGO, IRELAND—The Leitrim Observer reports that evidence for the dismemberment of the dead has been found on bones unearthed at the 5,300-year-old passage tomb complex at Carrowkeel by an international team of scientists led by Thomas Kador of University College London. “We found indications of cut marks caused by stone tools at the site of tendon and ligament attachments around the major joints, such as the shoulder, elbow, hip, and ankle,” said Jonny Geber of the University of Otago in New Zealand. The bones were unearthed at the Neolithic site in 1911, presumed lost, and then rediscovered recently in boxes at the University of Cambridge. For more, go to “Bronze Age Ireland’s Taste in Gold.”

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New Dates Push Back Use of Zero

Archaeology News - September 15, 2017

OXFORD, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that new radiocarbon dates have been obtained for the Bakhshali manuscript, which was written in an ancient form of Sanskrit on 70 pieces of birch bark, by members of the Heritage Science team at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. The text, discovered in 1881 in a village located in what is now Pakistan, is thought to have been a training manual complete with practice arithmetic problems for merchants trading on the Silk Road, and is known for its use of a dot to represent the concept of zero. The new dates indicate the oldest pieces of the Bakhshali manuscript date to the third or fourth century A.D., or about 500 years earlier than had been previously thought, based upon the style of writing and the content. The new dates make the Bakhshali manuscript the oldest-known record of the use of the zero symbol. For more on ancient writing, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

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Hurricane Irma Uncovered Dugout Canoe

Archaeology News - September 14, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA—Hurricane Irma revealed a dugout canoe that had been resting on the bottom of the Indian River, according to a report by Orlando News 6. Concerned citizen Randy Shots spotted the canoe among the storm debris and alerted officials at Florida’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, who will conserve the vessel. The cypress canoe weighs between 600 and 700 pounds. For more, go to “Florida History Springs Forth.”

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Fighter Plane Test Model Found in Lake Ontario

Archaeology News - September 14, 2017

TORONTO, CANADA—The Province reports that an Avro Arrow test model has been found at the bottom of Lake Ontario by a recovery group. As many as nine of the free-flight, one-eighth scale model planes are thought to rest in the lake. Now covered in zebra mussels, the plane was reportedly part of a secret program to develop a supersonic combat jet, which was abandoned by the Canadian government in 1959. The actual planes in the classified program are said to have been destroyed. Once the model has been brought to the surface, it will be stabilized and displayed at either the Canada Aviation Space Museum in Ottawa or the National Air Force Museum in Trenton. The recovery group will continue to search for the other test models. To read in-depth about underwater discoveries in the Great Lakes, go to “Shipwreck Alley.”

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Sacred Structures May Have Been Linked to Seismic Activity

Archaeology News - September 14, 2017

PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND—Iain Stewart of the University of Plymouth suggests that ancient temples and other important structures in the Aegean region may have been built above fault lines in order to create a connection to the underworld, according to a report in The International Business Times. Mycenae, Ephesus, Cnidus, and Hierapolis were all built on fault lines, Stewart explained. And the temple of Apollo at Delphi, known for its oracle, was constructed over a spot thought to be the center of the world. Earthquakes produced the temple’s sacred spring, and intoxicating gases emanated from the fault line. The temple complex was rebuilt in the same location after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 B.C. To read more about archaeology in Greece, go to “Regime Change in Athens.”

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Intact, Mycenaean-Era Tomb Discovered in Greece

Archaeology News - September 13, 2017

ORCHOMENOS, GREECE—A 3,350-year-old tomb of has been uncovered in southern Greece, according to an Associated Press report. The intact tomb is said to have belonged to a single nobleman who was between the ages of 40 and 50 at the time of death. The 452-square-foot tomb also contained pottery, bronze horse bits, jewelry, bow fittings, and arrowheads. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

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Viking Sword Found on Mountain in Norway

Archaeology News - September 13, 2017

OPPLAND, NORWAY—Fox News reports that a well-preserved Viking sword made of high-quality iron was discovered by reindeer hunters at an elevation of 5,381 feet on a mountain in southern Norway. Archaeologist Lars Pilø of Oppland County Council said the cold, dry conditions on the mountain helped to preserve the sword, which had been resting among small loose stones with its blade sticking out. During the winters, the sword would have been covered with snow and ice. The archaeologists and hunters returned to the site with a metal detector, but did not find any additional artifacts. They think the weapon may have been lost some 1,100 years ago by a Viking crossing the rough terrain during a blizzard. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

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Ankle Bone Analysis Suggests Early Primate Could Jump

Archaeology News - September 13, 2017

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA—According to a report in The International Business Times, researchers led by Doug Boyer of Duke University have analyzed a 52-million-year-old ankle bone belonging to Donrussellia provincialis, one of the earliest-known primates. Boyer and his colleagues scanned the ankle bone, which was found in southeastern France, and compared it to ankle bones of other animals using computer algorithms. They found that the quarter-inch-long fossil was similar to those of tree shrews and other non-primate species, which suggests that the small creature could leap between tree branches and stick the landing with its grasping hands and feet. It had been suggested that the earliest primates were slow and deliberate animals who creeped along twigs and branches, but leaping may have helped Donrussellia provincialis avoid predatorsTo read about a famous fossil hoax, go to “Piltdown’s Lone Forger.”

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Roman-Era Baby Bottle Unearthed in Turkey

Archaeology News - September 13, 2017

ÇANAKKALE, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that excavators working in the ancient port city of Parion discovered a small, 2,000-year-old pot thought to have been used to feed babies milk with its pacifier-like spout. Hasan Kasaoğlu of Atatürk University said such pots had a single handle and usually held between two to four ounces of liquid. “The products were made so that a baby could drink any liquid or baby food from it,” Kasaoğlu explained. “They are all made from baked clay. The clay is molded by pressing, then fired and ready for use.” To read about another recent discovery in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

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Medieval Village Discovered in Denmark

Archaeology News - September 12, 2017

AARHUS, DENMARK—Traces of a small, agricultural village dating to the medieval period have been unearthed in central Jutland, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. Records of Hovedstrup date back to 1300, but the village is thought to have been founded even earlier. Moesgaard Museum archaeologists have uncovered a road paved with stones and three homes marked by their post holes. Hovedstrup was abandoned in the late 1600s, during a time when many landlords rearranged their holdings to create new farms or hunting grounds. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

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Fire Management May Date Back 40,000 Years

Archaeology News - September 12, 2017

LUNGTALANANA ISLAND, TASMANIA—According to a report in Australia's ABC News, information obtained from a sediment core taken from a lake on a remote island off the coast of Tasmania suggests that Aboriginal people were managing the land with fire at least 41,000 years ago. Researchers Simon Haberle of Australian National University, and fire ecologist David Bowman, in cooperation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, dated charcoal and pollen in the core sample, and determined that the pattern of how often the island’s vegetation caught fire over thousands of years changed over time. “What we see is that over most of the period of the record, frequent and low-intensity fires occurred on the island,” Haberle said. He thinks Aboriginal people regularly burned the landscape in order to prevent catastrophic fires in the dry, flammable environment. “When Europeans arrive there is a change in the fire regime and there are many very strong fires and in many cases catastrophic fires have occurred in the recent past,” he explained. For more, go to “Letter From California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire.”

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Roman Swords Recovered at Vindolanda

Archaeology News - September 12, 2017

HEXHAM, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that two metal swords and two wooden toy swords were unearthed at Vindolanda, a Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall in northern England. The artifacts are thought to date to around A.D. 120, when about 1,000 people lived at the site. One of the swords, found in a corner of a living room in a cavalry barrack, had a bent tip. It had probably been discarded. A second sword, with its blade and tang intact, was found in a neighboring room. Archaeologists speculate its owner may have left the fort in a hurry without it. Also recovered were two small wooden toy swords, bath clogs, leather shoes, knives, brooches, arrowheads, and ballista bolts. To read in-depth about Hadrian's Wall, go to “The Wall at the End of the Empire.”

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