New Thoughts on the Aberdeen Bestiary

Archaeology News - November 3, 2016

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that high-definition images of a medieval illuminated manuscript that once belonged to Henry VIII have revealed previously unknown marks on its pages. Art historian Jane Geddes of the University of Aberdeen said that the marks in the margins of the Aberdeen Bestiary indicate that it had not been finished and “tidied up” by the monks who created it for a wealthy individual, as had been thought. Rather, the marks suggest that the book was part of a monastery library. Sketches have been found in the margins, and prick marks on many of the images may have been made when illustrations were transferred to another copy. Some of the marks on the pages provide a guide to pronunciation for reading aloud. And, there are dirty finger marks on the bottom corners of the pages from turning them, and finger marks on the top center margins, perhaps made when turning the book around to show the illustrations to listeners. It is now thought that the manuscript could have been seized by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1541, rather than created for one of his ancestors. To read about one of Henry VIII's warships, go to “Mary Rose and Vasa.”

Categories: Blog

Possible High-Altitude Buffalo Jump Found in Wyoming

Archaeology News - November 3, 2016

DUBOIS, WYOMING—The Casper Star Tribune reports that archaeologist Todd Guenther and his students from Central Wyoming College found a possible buffalo jump site in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains. The team was surveying prehistoric campsites near the Dinwoody Glacier, when they found a mile-long series of lichen-covered cairns that led to a precipice, and stone flakes in a possible butchering area below it. Holes in the ground, surrounded by stones, were found near each end of the drive line. Known as shaman structures, it is thought that people used these pits to pray for a successful hunt. Guenther’s research suggests that these prehistoric people may have lived in the mountains all year long. He found that, in January, some of the ground in the region had been cleared of snow and ice by the wind. There were also free-flowing springs, and trees for fuel and shelter. “Would they have wasted weeks and weeks of work and expended thousands of calories carrying all the meat and pine nuts into the valleys below?” he asked. I think not.” To read in-depth about buffalo jumps, go to “Letter From Montana: The Buffalo Chasers.”

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An Update from the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project

Archaeology News - November 2, 2016

DURHAM, ENGLAND—The Chronicle Live reports that researcher Pam Graves, a member the Scottish Soldiers Archaeology Project team at the University of Durham, has been investigating what happened to the Scottish soldiers who survived imprisonment by Oliver Cromwell’s forces after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. (The team has recovered and studied the remains of some of the 1,700 Scottish soldiers who died while imprisoned.) Graves’ research indicates that the survivors went on to do a range of things, including working in the salt pans in England’s South Shields, draining the Fens in eastern England, being sent to Ireland and France for military service, and being sold into indentured servitude in America. Some of those sent to America ended up working at the Saugus ironworks in Lynn, Massachusetts, and at sawmills in Maine. “Tracing their names through history also shows us what these men did once they were released from indenture,” said Graves. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Lost and Found (Again).”

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4,000-Year-Old Grave in Wales Yields Intact Beaker

Archaeology News - November 2, 2016

GWYNEDD, WALES—The Daily Post reports that a 4,000-year-old cemetery has been unearthed by contract archaeologists at the Cefn Graianog Quarry. They found two graves lined with stone slabs, the larger of which contained two pots known as beakers. The smaller of the two pots was found damaged and had to be carefully reconstructed, explained Iwan Parry of Brython Archaeology, while the larger pot was found intact. The site has also yielded Bronze Age pits containing charcoal and pottery. For more, go to “Letter from Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”

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“Rapid and Irreversible” Decay Possible at Wetland Sites

Archaeology News - November 2, 2016

YORK, ENGLAND—The Yorkshire Post reports that a study conducted by chemists Kirsty High and Kirsty Penkman of the University of York simulated recent conditions at Star Carr, a waterlogged Mesolithic archaeological site, to see how environmental changes could affect ancient artifacts made from organic materials. Scientists had noticed that bone and wood recovered at Star Carr was deteriorating—the wood was crumbly, and the bone had demineralized. The change in preservation status at the site was thought to be due to a drop in the water table, which made the soil much more acidic. High and Penkman placed samples of bone and wood in peat from Star Carr, garden compost, and sand to see how they reacted in saturated, fluctuating, or dry conditions. After 12 months, they found that both the wood and bone placed in the peat from Star Carr had deteriorated rapidly. Penkman explained that pollution and changes in land use place wetlands and waterlogged archaeological sites at risk. As a result, she thinks that leaving organic remains in situ may no longer be the best way to protect them for future research. To read about a recent discoery at Star Carr, go to “Mesolithic Markings.”

Categories: Blog

Ostrich Eggshell Beads Found in Denisova Cave

Archaeology News - November 1, 2016

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that beads made of ostrich eggshells were discovered in Denisova Cave, which is located in the Altai Mountains. The beads measure less than one-half inch in diameter and are thought to be between 45,000 and 50,000 years old. “This is an amazing piece of work,” said researcher Maksim Kozlikin of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography. “The ostrich eggshell is quite robust material, but the holes in the beads must have been made with a fine stone drill.” He thinks the beads could have been part of a bracelet or a necklace, or may have been sewn into clothing. The presence of the beads in Denisova Cave suggests that the people who lived there had trade contacts to import either the eggshells or the finished beads. The jewelry items were found in the same archaeological layer where a bracelet made of dark green stone was found in 2008. For more, go to “Letter from Siberia: Fortress of Solitude.”

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Ancient Egyptian Boat Images Discovered in Abydos

Archaeology News - November 1, 2016

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—More than 120 images of boats have been found on the walls of a building in Abydos, Egypt, that dates back 3,800 years, according to Live Science. The building was built near the tomb of the pharaoh Senusret III (r. 1836–1818 B.C.). The images, which range in size from four inches to five feet across, would have overlooked a real wooden boat, only a few planks of which remain. The researchers, led by Josef Wegner of the University of Pennsylvania, believe there were even more images on the walls in ancient times. Inside the building, they also found more than 145 ceramic vessels. It appears that the boat images were drawn quickly by a number of people, possibly as part of a funerary ceremony for Senusret III. The pottery vessels may have been used to spill water on the ground during such a ceremony to symbolically float the boat. Further excavations are planned to learn more about the site. For more about archaeology in Egypt, go to “The Great Parallelogram.”

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Notorious Coin Discovered in Deadwood

Archaeology News - November 1, 2016

DEADWOOD, SOUTH DAKOTA—The Rapid City Journal reports that a notorious and rare nineteenth-century U.S. coin known as a “Racketeer Nickel” has been identified in the archaeological collections of the Historic Preservation Committee of Deadwood. In 1883, the U.S. Mint issued a five-cent nickel that bore a design similar to five-dollar gold coins then in circulation. Grifters quickly began to gold plate the nickels and passed them off as five-dollar coins. The Racketeer Nickel was recently identified by coin experts Kevin and Margie Akins during their analysis of coins discovered in a 2001 excavation of Deadwood’s Chinatown district. According to Kevin Akins, today fake versions of the nickel abound in online auctions. “It’s pretty easy to plate a nickel,” says Akins. “It makes such a great story, but they’re fakes. None of them has the provenance of this particular coin, the Deadwood Racketeer Nickel.” To read more, go to “America’s Chinatowns.”

Categories: Blog

Notorious Coin Discovered in Deadwood

Archaeology News - November 1, 2016

DEADWOOD, SOUTH DAKOTA—The Rapid City Journal reports that a notorious and rare nineteenth-century U.S. coin known as a “Racketeer Nickel” has been identified in the archaeological collections of the Historic Preservation Committee of Deadwood. In 1883, the U.S. Mint issued a five-cent nickel that bore a design similar to five dollar gold coins then in circulation. Grifters quickly began to gold plate the nickels and passed them off as five dollar coins. The Racketeer Nickel was recently identified by coin experts Kevin and Margie Akins during their analysis of coins discovered in a 2001 excavation of the Deadwood’s Chinatown district. According to Kevin Akins, today fake versions of the nickel abound in online auctions. “It’s pretty easy to plate a nickel,” says Akins. “It makes such a great story, but they’re fakes. None of them has the provenance of this particular coin, the Deadwood Racketeer Nickel.” To read more, go to “America’s Chinatowns.”  

 

 

Categories: Blog

Researchers Return to a Phoenician Shipwreck

Archaeology News - October 31, 2016

ISLAND OF GOZO, MALTA—An international team of underwater archaeologists returned this year to the site of a Phoenician shipwreck off the coast of the Maltese island of Gozo. The Times of Malta reports the researchers discovered a unique jug at the site that was made locally, demonstrating that the ship had docked somewhere on the Maltese archipelago. “We now have a ship that was actually leaving the Maltese islands before it sank off Gozo, because the island was one of its port calls,” says University of Malta archaeologist Timmy Gambin. “A shipwreck without any local items could mean that the ship just happened to sink close to Malta during its voyage.” Amphoras from North Africa and western Sicily were also found, demonstrating the Maltese islands were part of an international trade network. To read about a Phoenician shipwreck found off the coast of Spain, go to “History’s 10 Greatest Wrecks: Bajo Campagna.”

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Cemetery May Hold Victims of a 17th-Century Epidemic

Archaeology News - October 29, 2016

MIŃSK MAZOWIECKI, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that more than 100 shallow burials in a “hastily prepared necropolis” were found in eastern Poland during road improvement work. Based upon coins found in some of the graves, the burials are thought to date to the seventeenth century. Cholera, which is spread through contaminated water and food, spreads easily during war and after natural disasters, and is suspected to be the cause of this epidemic. “We have found only a few artifacts in the graves, while generally there are considerably more in the necropolises from this period—such as clothing accessories, for example studs, buckles and pins,” said contract archaeologist Szymon Lenarczyk. “In this case, everything indicates that the dead were buried in the graves naked or in shrouds. The skeletons were buried without funerary objects.” Some of the graves contained more than one body, and some of the bodies may have been burned before burial in an attempt to prevent the spread of infection. For more, go to “A Parisian Plague.”

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Cave Burial Found in Mexico May Be 2,000 Years Old

Archaeology News - October 29, 2016

CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO—Western Digs reports that a cave in the Chihuahuan Desert has yielded stone points, textiles, an ear of corn, a squash, the partial skeleton of a young child, large human leg bones that had been tied together, and the remains of a scarlet macaw, all estimated to be about 2,000 years old, based upon a lack of pottery and other artifacts usually associated with farmers and traders. “If we confirm the hypothesis [that this burial dates from] the Late Archaic, we could have a site with information about the transition to agricultural, sedentary communities in the region,” said archaeologist Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. The human remains were probably first buried somewhere else, and then moved to the cave for reburial. It is not known if the bones represent relatives, but they were placed near each other and surrounded with baskets, textiles, a bag or dress made of deer hide, and a large sea shell. The bird and seashell are not found locally, and suggest that the trade in exotic goods and wildlife began centuries earlier than had been previously thought. Carbon dating of material from the site is underway. For more, go to “Early Parrots in the Southwest.”

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Eighth-Century Pictish Cross Slab Recovered in Orkney

Archaeology News - October 28, 2016

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that a carved stone has been recovered from an eroding cliff face by Nick Card and a team from the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology (ORCA) at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and Historic Environment Scotland. The stone, located on the East Mainland coast, was uncovered by powerful wind and waves and spotted by archaeologist Hugo Anderson-Whymark, who investigated the area after a storm. Closer examination of the stone revealed it to be a weathered Pictish cross slab carved with a dragon or similar beast that probably dates to the eighth century, when the people of Orkney were beginning to convert to Christianity. The reverse side of the stone bears a carving of a beast grasping what may be a staff in its open beak. Only two similar carved stones have ever been found in Orkney. The team is seeking additional funding to investigate the rest of the site. To read in-depth about archaeology on the Orkney Islands, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

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New Techniques for Finding Hidden Texts in Egyptian Coffins

Archaeology News - October 28, 2016

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—Wired reports that Mike Toth, an expert in imaging techniques, is working with archaeologists, physicists, and engineers to develop ways to find and read the texts written on the layers of ancient papyri in cartonnage, coffins made for middle-class Egyptians. In the past, researchers dismantled the ancient coffins and funerary masks, and washed the paint, plaster, and gesso off the papyri to look for rare texts in the layers. “Apart from destroying a mummy, washing away is a reckless way to deal with something where the littlest thing can be really interesting,” said Derin McLeod of the University of California, Berkeley's Tebtunis Center. Multi-spectral imaging, X-ray phase contrast, and fluorescence offer new ways to look for signs of ink, and possibly even read the texts. For more, go to “Animal Mummy Coffins of Ancient Egypt.”

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Byzantine-Era Inn Found in Anatolia

Archaeology News - October 28, 2016

ÇANAKKALE PROVINCE, TURKEY—Hürriyet Daily News reports than an inn dating to the Byzantine period has been unearthed behind the western gate of the ancient harbor city of Assos, known for its Temple of Athena and large theater overlooking the Aegean Sea. “The existence of this complex is mentioned in ancient sources but it has never been unearthed,” said Nurettin Arslan of Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. “Ancient resources from the Byzantine era provide information about the inn but none of them defined this structure and its location.” The team will look for additional sections of the inn, which may include a bakery, kitchens, cisterns, guest rooms, and a chapel. The excavation conducted by Arslan’s team is part of a larger restoration project to make the site more visitor friendly. To read more about archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

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Air Raid Shelter Found Under English Driveway

Archaeology News - October 28, 2016

LUTON, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a man in eastern England was backing out of his driveway when his wheel got stuck in a hole that opened up in the paving stones. At first Simon Marks thought it was a sinkhole, but he could see parts of a ladder, so he used a camera and a selfie stick to get a better look. He found what could be an air raid shelter dating to World War II that had been filled in with dirt and garbage. At the time of the war, the land was an empty plot. “It was so well structured with the concrete roof and the walls, it was quite clear what it was going to be,” Marks said. If found to be structurally sound, the family plans to keep the shelter under the driveway. For more, go to “Archaeology of World War II.”

Categories: Blog

Geneticists Develop New Model for Ancient Human Relationships

Archaeology News - October 27, 2016

VANCOUVER, CANADA—ABC News Australia reports that statistical geneticist Ryan Bohlender of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and his team developed a new computer model to evaluate the possible relationships among the ancestors of modern humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. The tool varied estimations of population size and dates for when the populations stopped interbreeding, and accounted for inconsistencies in previous studies of genomes of modern and archaic humans. The analysis suggests that interbreeding occurred both within and outside of Africa, that the early population in Africa was 50 percent larger than had been thought, and that modern humans diverged from the family tree some 440,000 years ago. The study also suggests that the different populations may have interbred less frequently than previously thought, and in similar numbers in Europe and in East Asia. (It had been suggested that interbreeding occurred more frequently in East Asia.) And, according to Bohlender, Melanesians may carry a small amount of DNA from an unidentified, extinct human species. Future computer simulations will add additional populations into the mix to see how they affect the results. For more, go to “A New Human Relative.”

Categories: Blog

Ritual Use of Cave Lions May Have Contributed to Their Extinction

Archaeology News - October 27, 2016

CANTABRIA, SPAIN—Cosmos reports that human hunters may have contributed to the extinction of Panthera spelaea, the Eurasian cave lion, some 14,000 years ago. Marian Cueto of the Universidad de Cantabria and her team examined nine lion claws, or phalanxes, recovered in La Garma, a cave in northern Spain associated with human rituals during the Upper Paleolithic period. They found cut marks and signs of scraping on the bones similar to the ones made by modern hunters when they skin an animal in a way that keeps the claws attached to the pelt. The researchers add that the locations of the bones on the cave floor suggest that the pelt may have been used as a floor covering. For more on the relationship between ancient people and cats, go to “Baby Bobcat,” which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2015.

Categories: Blog

Ancient Beverage Brewed in Milwaukee

Archaeology News - October 27, 2016

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN—NPR reports that archaeologist Bettina Arnold of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her research team worked with Lakefront Brewery to try to re-create an alcoholic beverage that had been placed in a bronze cauldron and buried in a grave sometime between 400 and 450 B.C. in what is now Germany. The recipe was based upon the research of paleobotanist Manfred Rösch, who analyzed the residues in the Iron Age cauldron. He found evidence of honey, meadowsweet, barley, and mint—ingredients in a type of beverage known as a braggot. The experimental mixture took seven hours to make. It was then left to ferment for two weeks, producing a smooth drink with an herbal, minty taste. “I don’t think people would be interested in purchasing it to drink,” commented Chris Ranson of Lakefront Brewery. To read about another find from the same time period, go to “Tomb of a Highborn Celt,” which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2015.

Categories: Blog

What Motivated the Violent Burials of the Sonoran Desert?

Archaeology News - October 26, 2016

TUCSON, ARIZONA—The Washington Post reports that James Watson and Danielle Phelps of the University of Arizona examined unusual burials dating to the beginning of the agricultural period in the Sonoran Desert, around 2100 B.C. When a body was buried on its side, with its arms crossed and knees bent, the person is thought to have been buried with the respect of the community. But sometimes, bodies were tumbled headfirst into graves, with bones broken and limbs splayed. Watson and Phelps suggest that as people moved into settled communities and attempted to establish control over farming territories, tensions between different groups may have turned into feuds lasting generations. These tensions may be reflected in the violent deaths and disrespectful burials. Watson speculates that desecrating the corpse of an enemy may have been a way to gain prestige, but it also could have increased the risk of retaliation. For more, go to “Early Parrots in the Southwest.”

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