18th-Dynasty Tomb Excavated in Egypt

Archaeology News - September 12, 2017

LUXOR, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, Egyptian archaeologists led by Mostafa Waziri, head of the Luxor Department in Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry, have discovered a 3,500-year-old tomb in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank. The entrance to the New Kingdom tomb was found in the courtyard of a Middle Kingdom tomb. It led to a square chamber where the team found a niche containing a statue of seated Amenemhat, goldsmith for the god Amun, and his wife, Amenhotep, who wears a long dress and a wig. One of their sons is also shown, standing between their legs. The remains of three people were found in a shaft off the tomb’s main chamber, which also contained wooden sarcophagi and funerary masks, and 150 ushabti figurines made of faience, wood, pottery, and limestone. Osteologist Sherine Ahmed Shawqi examined the remains. She said that one female mummy showed signs of jaw abscesses and bone infection likely caused by dental cavities. The names of other officials were found on artifacts in the tomb and suggest that their graves may also be located in shafts off the courtyard. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

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Iron Age Coins Unearthed in England

Archaeology News - September 9, 2017

LINCOLN, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Grantham Journal, two men using metal detectors discovered a hoard of more than 280 gold and silver coins dating to the late Iron Age, and the period of the Roman Conquest, which occurred in A.D. 43. Adam Daubney, finds liaison officer for Lincolnshire County Council, said the coins are stamped with names like Dumnocoveros, Tigirseno, and Volisios, among the earliest personal names recorded in the area. They are believed to have been the names of local rulers. Fragments of a pot were found with the coins. University of Lincoln archaeologists surveyed the site and will continue their investigation into why the coins might have been buried. To read about the disassembly of an enormous Celtic coin hoard, go to “Ka-Ching!

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Remains from Viking Warrior’s Grave Identified as Female

Archaeology News - September 9, 2017

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—DNA testing has revealed that a warrior’s grave discovered in the Viking-era town of Birka in the late nineteenth century contained the remains of a woman. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University told The Local that the woman stood about five feet, seven inches tall, and was over the age of 30 at the time of her death. She was buried with weapons, including a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses. She also had a board game, thought to have been used to try out battle tactics and strategies, in her lap. “She’s most likely planned, led, and taken part in battles,” Hedenstierna-Jonson said. The DNA testing of the bones was done after osteologist Anna Kjellström of Stockholm University noticed that the skull’s cheekbones were finer and thinner than usually found on a man’s skull, and that the hip bones were also feminine. “It was probably quite unusual [for a woman to be a military leader], but in this case, it probably had more to do with her role in society and the family she was from, and that carrying more importance than her gender,” speculated Hedenstierna-Johnson. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

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Recording Alberta’s Endangered Heritage Sites

Archaeology News - September 9, 2017

 

ALBERTA, CANADA—Peter Dawson of the University of Calgary has employed 3-D digital imaging to record heritage sites in Alberta, such as rock art on the Okotoks Erratic, a late-nineteenth-century Chinese laundry, and the early twentieth-century plant at the Bitumount oil sands, which is dangerous and difficult to access, according to a report in The Calgary Sun. Dawson notes that the project can record information on heritage sites recently threatened by flood, wildfires, and development. And, the digital record, updated over time, could inform the work conducted by conservationists with Alberta Culture and Tourism, and could be used to construct virtual sites for tourists to visit. “It will allow you to be teleported to any site, as if you're at the building and you can tour the inside and the outside,” Dawson explained. To read about a discovery at a buffalo jump in Alberta, go to “A Removable Feast.”

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Young Child’s Burial Unearthed in Siberia

Archaeology News - September 8, 2017

TYUMEN, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that a team of researchers led by Alexander Tkachev of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography of Tyumen State University discovered the grave of a young Sikhirtya child among nine possible burials, surrounded by a small moat, on a high point on the Tazovsky peninsula. The child is thought to have been three or four years old at the time of death, which occurred in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries. The body had been placed on pieces of birch bark that had been sewn together, and was buried with two iron knives and an arrowhead. The child wore an impressive hat made of pieces of fur lined with woolen cloth. Bronze decorations had also been sewn into it. Reindeer bones at the child’s feet suggest that a meal of roasted venison, possibly cooked on mounds in the necropolis, was also provided for the afterlife. “The burial was unusually rich for such a little child,” Tkachev said. “In fact, we were rather taken aback.” For more, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

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Archaeologists Investigate Castle in Northeast Slovakia

Archaeology News - September 8, 2017

STARÁ L’UBOVÑA, SLOVAKIA—According to a report in The Slovak Spectator, excavations at the site of the Stará L’ubovña Castle, located in northeast Slovakia, have uncovered artifacts dating from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. The items include ceramics, pieces of tiled stoves, and metal objects such as a copper button, a musket ball, and coins. On the castle’s eastern side, the researchers found remnants of walls, wooden beams, and partitions. The castle’s third courtyard was home to a military barracks, mentioned in historic documents dating to 1564. The barracks is thought to have remained in use through the second half of the eighteenth century. To read in-depth about another castle, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

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Ancient Coastal Settlements Found in East Yorkshire

Archaeology News - September 7, 2017

SKEFFLING, ENGLAND—The International Business Times reports that traces of Roman and medieval-era settlements were uncovered along the Humber River, near the tip of East Yorkshire, in an investigation into the possibility of restoring saltmarsh habitats and intertidal land in the area. The villages, known from historic documents, are thought to have been abandoned due to coastal erosion and sea level rise. “We’ve known they were in this area, but they were lost,” said archaeologist Stephen Kemp of the Environment Agency. The excavation team found evidence of villages, small farms, and field systems, as well as a Benedictine priory. Kemp explained that early residents built flood defenses and moved to higher ground when necessary, but returned to the low-lying coastal areas to exploit wetland resources. The researchers have also studied the region’s environment and water levels dating back up to 8,000 years using sediment cores. To read about another discovery in the area, go to “Mesolithic Markings.”

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Female Migration Pattern Detected in Bronze Age Society

Archaeology News - September 7, 2017

MUNICH, GERMANY—The International Business Times reports that an analysis of the remains of 84 people who had been buried in southern Germany and western Austria between 2500 and 1650 B.C. suggests that most of the women had been born somewhere else. Alissa Mittnik of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History said the team of scientists examined DNA samples taken from the bones, which revealed “a great diversity of different female lineages.” The researchers also conducted an isotope analysis of the teeth, which indicated the women did not grow up in the Lech Valley, although they had been buried according to local customs. Overall, the study suggests the men lived and died in the Lech Valley, while the women had moved there from central Germany or Bohemia. Mittnikk also notes that the immigrant women could have contributed to the increase in cultural exchange seen during the Bronze Age. For more on archaeology in Germany, go to “Last Stand of the Blue Brigade.”

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17th-Century Shipwreck Unearthed in Stockholm

Archaeology News - September 7, 2017

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—The Local reports that a shipwreck discovered in Stockholm could be the Scepter, a flagship built in 1615 for Sweden’s King Gustav II Adolf. “It was really well preserved,” said Jim Hansson of the Stockholm Maritime Museum. “It is only to the first deck level, but you can still see the cut marks from the axes on the timber.” Wood from the wreckage has been dated to the winter of 1612 and 1613. Four big warships were built at the time, including the Scepter, which carried 36 guns. Historic records also indicate the Scepter was scuttled in 1639 for the construction of a new shipyard at the islet in central Stockholm. To read about another famous Swedish shipwreck, go to “History's Greatest Wrecks: Mary Rose and Vasa.”

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Inland Early Occupation Site Found in Brazil

Archaeology News - September 7, 2017

PARIS, FRANCE—Denis Vialou of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and his colleagues have found 23,000-year-old artifacts in the Santa Elina rock-shelter in eastern Brazil, according to a report in Science News. The artifacts, found in three sediment layers, include stone objects and bony plates taken from the skin of giant sloths that had been modified with notches and holes. Hearths were also found in the sediment layers. Early human occupation sites in South America are usually found along the coast. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Rio de Janeiro.”

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Unusual, 7,200-Year-Old Vessel Uncovered in Israel

Archaeology News - September 7, 2017

HAIFA, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Times of Israel, a small-scale silo has been unearthed at Tel Tsaf, in Israel’s Jordan Valley, by an international team of archaeologists led by Danny Rosenberg of the University of Haifa. “It’s really uncommon and doesn’t look like any vessel we have,” Rosenberg explained. The 7,200-year-old vessel was found in a room that is thought to have been connected to a burial complex, where the large bases of wheat and barley storage silos were found, along with thousands of seeds. The small vessel may have been a model for the construction of full-sized silos, and may have also been used in rituals connected to the successful storage and preservation of grain, to burial, and to regeneration of life. Pieces of ritual figurines, copper items, a shell imported from Egypt, and imported obsidian artifacts were also recovered. For more on archaeology in the area, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

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New Dates Obtained for Vindija Neanderthals

Archaeology News - September 6, 2017

OXFORD, ENGLAND—Archaeologists Thibaut Devièse and Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford obtained new radiocarbon dates for Neanderthal bone fragments unearthed in Croatia’s Vindija Cave, according to a report in Science Magazine, by isolating and testing the amino acid hydroxyproline. Previous carbon dating of the Neanderthal remains in the late 1990s relied upon bone collagen, a gelatinous substance which can be contaminated by sediments. These earlier tests indicated the bones were between 29,000 and 34,000 years old, and suggest late-surviving Neanderthals shared the site with modern humans, whose remains and tools are also found in the cave. But the new dates indicate that Neanderthals used the cave some 40,000 years ago, or 8,000 years before modern humans lived in the region. “With this dating work, we are continuing our work to understand where and for how long the two species coexisted,” Devièse said. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

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Cache of Silver Coins Unearthed at Castle in Poland

Archaeology News - September 6, 2017

WARSAW, POLAND—Eighteen silver coins dating to the seventeenth century were discovered in a defensive tower at Czluchów Castle in northwestern Poland, according to a report in Science & Scholarship in Poland. Michal Starski of the University of Warsaw said the valuable coins, which had been minted for foreign trade, may have been hidden during a period of war known as the Deluge, between 1655 and 1657, when the castle was captured by Swedish forces. “The Czluchów fortress resisted the Swedes for a long time,” Starski said. “The siege lasted for several months—ultimately, in the winter of 1655-56, when the surrounding lake fortress froze, the invaders captured it.” A similar cache of coins was found at a nearby cemetery in the beginning of the twentieth century. Starski thinks the coins may have come from the same collection. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow.”

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Obsidian Artifacts Unearthed at Maya Site of Ceibal

Archaeology News - September 6, 2017

CEIBAL, GUATEMALA—The International Business Times reports that 42 pieces of obsidian, or volcanic glass, were discovered in ritual contexts at the Maya site of Ceibal, which is located in the Maya lowlands. The artifacts date to the Preclassic period, between 700 and 350 B.C. In one grave, a long obsidian blade and an unshaped piece of obsidian rested with the remains of two sacrificed children, who had been buried facing each other. Another burial contained the remains of five children, all of whom were less than one year old. Four of the children’s bodies had been placed at the points of the compass, with a piece of obsidian buried at the center. The fifth child had been placed at the southwest corner. Caches of obsidian artifacts were also found in cross-shaped holes along the east-west axis of Ceibal’s public plaza. Kazuo Aoyama of Ibaraki University in Japan thinks the obsidian was transported from the highlands along early trade routes to Ceibal. Burying such rare, valuable tools would have been a significant sacrifice, according to Aoyama. For more, go to “Letter From Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

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Roman Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Southeast England

Archaeology News - September 2, 2017

WEST BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND—The International Business Times reports that archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology, assisted by volunteers, have uncovered the first half of a 1,600-year-old mosaic floor in a modest villa dating to the late fourth century A.D. So far, images in the large mosaic, which measures nearly 20 feet long, include a depiction of the the Greek hero Bellerophon attacking the Chimaera as he rides the winged horse Pegasus. Other scenes show King Iobates offering his daughter Philonoe to Bellerophon as a reward for killing the beast, which breathed fire and had a lion head affixed to the torso of a goat and the rear of a dragon, and a man wearing a lion skin, perhaps Hercules, fighting a centaur with a club. “The range of imagery is beyond anything seen in this country previously,” said archaeologist Duncan Coe. He notes, however, that the images lack the fine details of those executed by first-rate craftsmen. For more on Roman England, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

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Ancient Sunken City Found Off the Coast of Tunisia

Archaeology News - September 1, 2017

NABEUL, TUNISIA—Ruins of the ancient Roman city of Neapolis have been discovered off the northeast coast of Tunisia, according to an AFP report. Underwater archaeologists from the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and Italy’s University of Sassari have found streets, monuments, and some 100 tanks that were used to produce garum, a popular fermented fish sauce. “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world,” said team leader Mounir Fantar. The city is thought to have been submerged during a tsunami in A.D. 365. For more, go to “Romans on the Bay of Naples.”

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Navy Scientists Weigh in on Sinking of Confederate Sub

Archaeology News - September 1, 2017

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—The Post and Courier reports that Navy scientists disagree with Duke University researchers, who claimed that the sailors aboard the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley were killed when their spar-mounted torpedo rammed Housatonic, a Union blockade ship. Paul Taylor, a spokesperson for the Naval History and Heritage Command, said Navy scientists have also tested the forces of the explosion, but concluded that the men were not seriously injured by them. And James Downs, former chief medical examiner for the state of Alabama, examined the men’s intact brains, and found no sign of trauma. Kellen Correia, president and executive director of Friends of the Hunley, said that the Duke University researchers lacked the data collected by scientists at Clemson University, where the submarine is being conserved, and other research institutions. Additional theories on what led to the deaths of the Hunley crew implicate a small hole in its forward conning tower; a lack of oxygen while waiting for the tide to change after the attack; a possible collision with USS Canandaigua, which came to rescue the survivors of the Housatonic explosion; and a breach in the ballast tank, perhaps as a result of the explosion. But Navy researchers point out that there are clues that support and contradict each of these theories as well. To read in-depth about H.L. Hunley, go to “History's Greatest Wrecks: USS Monitor and H.L. Hunley.”

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Study Suggests Neanderthals Used Adhesives

Archaeology News - September 1, 2017

LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS—Paul Kozowyk of Leiden University and his colleagues suggest that Neanderthals pioneered the use of adhesives some 200,000 years ago, according to a report in Seeker. Neanderthals are known to have used tar to strengthen and waterproof the bindings between stone and bone tools and their handles. The team of researchers analyzed archaeological evidence for tar production at Neanderthal sites in Europe, and used the information to test three possible techniques developed by the early human relatives for producing tar by heating birch bark with embers and ash. Kozowyk said the different techniques varied in the amount of time and resources they required, and the amount of tar they produced as a result, and may have met different needs. It had been previously thought that adhesives were first produced by modern humans in Africa some 70,000 years ago. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

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Study Offers Insight Into Amazonia’s Earthworks

Archaeology News - August 31, 2017

HELSINKI, FINLAND—It had been previously thought that Amazonia was populated by small hunter-gatherer societies who left little trace in the dense forest. But Pirjo Kirstiina Virtanen of the University of Helsinki has been studying large earthworks in Brazil that were built by the ancestors of the Apurina and Manchineri peoples as early as 3,000 years ago, according to a report in The International Business Times. Virtanen’s consultation with the Apurina and Manchineri suggests the structures were related to the changing pathways of the sun and moon. Along these pathways, people could communicate with animals, departed spirits, and celestial bodies. “What is important here is that the indigenous perspective is key,” Virtanen said. Some of the geoglyphs were used continually, and some used at different stages of life, such as puberty. The forms of the earthworks could also have meaning, such as the strength of the shape a square, and its connection to the four cardinal directions. When the sites were abandoned, they were swallowed by the forest, or houses and farms were built in them and around them. “The ancestral people here didn’t use stones or other materials, they simply moved the land,” Virtanen explained. For more on archaeology in South America, go to “A Life Story.”

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Bones From Underwater Cave in Mexico Dated

Archaeology News - August 31, 2017

HEIDELBERG, GERMANY—Nature News reports that human remains recovered from Mexico’s Chan Hol Cave are at least 11,300 years old, and could be more than 13,000 years old. A nearly complete skull and other human bones were discovered by divers in the underwater cave in 2012, but by the time scientists visited the cave a few weeks later, only fragments of bone remained on the cave floor, including a piece of pelvic bone covered by a stalagmite. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of the University of Heidelberg dated the calcite surrounding the recovered piece of pelvic bone by analyzing its levels of uranium and thorium isotopes. Calcite two centimeters away from the bone was determined to be 11,300 years old. The rate at which the calcite formed suggests the skeleton had been on the cave floor for more than 13,000 years. The condition of the bone fragments has made it impossible to recover DNA samples from them, but Stinnesbeck is hopeful that the few teeth not removed by the thieves will produce usable genetic material. To read about the discovery of another ancient skeleton in a cave in Mexico, go to “Naia—the 13,000-Year-Old Native American.”

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