An Update From Canada’s Old Parliament

Archaeology News - October 19, 2017

MONTREAL, CANADA—Excavators have uncovered two nineteenth-century copper alloy stamps at the site of the old Parliament of the United Province of Canada, according to a report in The Star. The building was destroyed by fire during a riot on April 25, 1849. The stamps, which would have usually been kept in the Parliament’s archives, were found in areas corresponding to the office of the clerk of the legislative assembly, and the legislative council library. “The fact that it was a quick and violent fire resulted in them being left on site and rediscovered more than a century-and-a-half later,” said Louise Pothier of Montreal’s Pointe-à-Callière Museum. The fire also destroyed the two parliamentary libraries and documents dating back to the beginning of French colonization of Canada. The excavators recovered about 30 charred document fragments in one of the libraries. Scientists at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa determined the pages were minutes of the lower chamber of France’s parliament dating to 1830. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to “Discovering Terror.”

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2,000-Year-Old Children’s Graves Discovered in Northern China

Archaeology News - October 19, 2017

SHIJIANZHUANG, CHINA—According to a Xinhua News Agency report, the burials of more than 100 children and just six adults have been unearthed in a 2,000-year-old cemetery in northern China’s Hebei Province. Located near the ancient city of Fudi, the cemetery could contain as many as 700 more burials. Zhang Baogang of the Huanghua City Museum said the children had been buried in pottery urns made from local clay containing sea shells. Skulls and foot bones have been found in smaller pots, while other parts of the body have been found in larger pots, he added. Many of the children appear to have been only two to three years old at the time of death, but samples of the bones and teeth will be tested for information on their age and sex. Archaeologist Li Jun of Shanxi University suggested the many children may have been gathered together for a specific purpose, and were perhaps sacrificed, died in a plague, or worked to death. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Tomb Couture.”

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Sculpture of Queen Ankhnespepy II Unearthed at Saqqara

Archaeology News - October 19, 2017

GIZA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a wooden sculpture, thought to represent the head of Queen Ankhnespepy II, has been discovered near her pyramid at Saqqara. Ankhnespepy II ruled during the 6th Dynasty as regent for her young son after the death of Pepy I, around 2350 B.C. The sculpture measures about a foot long, retains traces of paint, and shows the queen wearing earrings. Earlier this month, the Egyptian-Swiss excavation team recovered the upper part of a granite obelisk that may have been part of the queen’s funerary temple, in addition to a pyramidion, or the capstone for a pyramid. “It is a promising area that could reveal more of its secrets soon,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. For more, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

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Climate May Have Contributed to the Fall of Egyptian Dynasty

Archaeology News - October 18, 2017

DUBLIN, IRELAND—According to a report in The Guardian, an analysis of environmental records and historic documents suggests a volcanic eruption may have contributed to the Roman victory over Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 30 B.C. Egypt’s defeat has long been blamed on the shortcomings of the 300-year-long Ptolemaic dynasty, including infighting, decadence, and incest. But ice core data, Islamic records of water levels in the Nile River, and ancient Egyptian histories written on papyrus suggest a volcanic eruption somewhere in the world in 44 B.C. may have disrupted the annual flooding of the Nile and triggered famine, plague, and social unrest. Historian Joe Manning of Yale University and climate historian Francis Ludlow of Trinity College Dublin say failure of the Nile floodwaters, and the resulting social stresses, could have weakened Cleopatra’s power and left her reign vulnerable to the Romans. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

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Possible Missing Jewelry Box Piece Found at Viking Fortress

Archaeology News - October 18, 2017

KØGE, DENMARK—A small silver artifact has been uncovered at Borgring, a Viking fortress in eastern Denmark. According to a report in Science Nordic, the object resembles one of the three parts known to be missing from an elaborate box brooch discovered in a Viking woman’s grave at the Fyrkat fortress in Hobro, which is located to the north of Borgring. “It will be incredible if this fitting is connected with the find from Fyrkat,” said Jeanette Varberg of the Moesgaard Museum. “If this really is where it comes from then it’s like finding a needle in the ocean.” The woman in the grave at Fyrkat is thought to have been a high-status shaman or sorceress. Analysis of her “well-used and highly treasured” box suggests it held white lead, which appears to have been used as a sealant to waterproof the box. Perhaps she traveled between the two castles, which are both thought to have been built by Harald Bluetooth, who was king of Denmark between A.D. 958 and 987. Analysis of the metal could offer more information on the origins of the two pieces. For more, go to “Bluetooth's Fortress.”

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Bronze Age Toys Recovered in Southeastern Turkey

Archaeology News - October 18, 2017

SANLIURFA, TURKEY—The International Business Times reports that 5,000-year-old toys have been discovered in one of the 120 tombs in the necropolis at the ancient religious center of Sogmatar, which was dedicated to Sin, the god of the moon. Excavation leader Celal Uludag said the first toy, found in a child’s grave, is an earthenware horse carriage with four wheels. The front of the vehicle was decorated with incised lines. Uludag thinks it was made for the children of the city’s ruler or administrators. The second toy from the tomb is a rattle with a bird motif. All of the tombs in the necropolis were situated around a large, central mound. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “The Price of a Warship.”

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Pacopampa Skeletons Bear Healed Injuries

Archaeology News - October 17, 2017

KANAGAWA PREFECTURE, JAPAN—According to a report in The Asahi Shimbun, archaeologists have found evidence of brutal injuries on skeletons dating from between the thirteenth and sixth centuries B.C. at Peru’s ceremonial center of Pacopampa. Tomohito Nagaoka of St. Marianna University School of Medicine said the remains of seven of the 104 individuals uncovered by the joint Peruvian-Japanese excavation team bore evidence of severe injuries, including fractures to the skull, facial features, and limbs, and a dislocated elbow joint. The bodies lacked signs of defensive wounds, and they were recovered in ceremonial areas of Pacopampa. Some of the traumatic injuries had healed, and no signs of malnutrition was found in the bones. All of the injured were aged 35 or older. Yuji Seki, head of the investigation, speculates that elite groups living at Pacopampa may have fought each other to ward off disaster and pray for good harvests. “These elite groups, such as oracles, might have repeatedly taken part in combat by throwing stones and using clubs,” Seki said. For more on archaeology in Peru, go to “Painted Worlds.”

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Three-Kingdoms Period Statue Found in South Korea

Archaeology News - October 17, 2017

GANGWON PROVINCE, SOUTH KOREA—The Korea Joongang Daily reports that a gilt-bronze statue thought to date to the sixth century A.D. has been recovered in the northern corner of the Three-story Stone Pagoda at Jinjeon Temple. The statue measures about three and a half inches tall, and depicts a Buddha triad, or two Hyupsi bodhisattvas on either side of an Avolokitesvara bodhisattva, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. The figures’ facial expressions and the patterns on their garments are well preserved. The engraving also depicts the light emanating from the Avolokitesvara’s head and body. To read about another recent discovery in South Korea, go to “Doll Story.”

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Ramses II Temple Uncovered in Abusir Necropolis

Archaeology News - October 17, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a temple dedicated to Ramses II has been uncovered in the Abusir necropolis by a team of Egyptian and Czech archaeologists. Archaeologist Mohamed Megahed said the temple, which measured about 170 feet long by 100 feet wide, had a large forecourt and was flanked by storage buildings. At least some of the mudbrick walls enclosing the court had been painted blue. The side walls were lined with stone columns. An elevated three-chambered sanctuary was accessed by a ramp or staircase located at the rear of the court. “The remains of this building, which constitutes the very core of the complex, were covered with huge deposits of sand and chips of stone of which many bore fragments of polychrome reliefs,” said Mirsolave Barta, director of the Czech mission. Two engravings—one of the different titles of Ramses II, and the other relating to the cult of solar deities such as Re, Amun, and Nekhbet—were also found. For more, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

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Roman-Period Structure Found Near Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Archaeology News - October 16, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Reuters reports that Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists have exposed eight courses of stone wall in the Western Wall Tunnels, some 26 feet below the surface of the Old City. The excavation has also uncovered an unfinished, theater-like structure dated to the Late Roman period with pottery and coins. (The results of radiocarbon testing are expected in a few months.) Such a theater was mentioned by Josephus Flavius and other ancient sources. The structure was found under Wilson’s Arch, one of a series of arches that supported a passageway to the Temple Mount, and may have been intended for musical performances or city council meetings. “This is the first time that a theater-like structure has been exposed in Jerusalem, so it’s extremely exciting,” said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Joe Uziel. The theater and the area around the arch were covered with dirt and debris after an earthquake around A.D. 360. For more on archaeology in Israel, go to “Reading Invisible Messages.”

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Stone Adze Unearthed in New Zealand

Archaeology News - October 14, 2017

WAIKANAE, NEW ZEALAND—Stuff.co.nz reports that a Maori adze made of Nelson argillite was unearthed at a golf course construction site near the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Human remains, and shell middens dated to the sixteenth century, have been uncovered in the area in the past. Archaeologist Andy Dodd said the cutting tool was recovered from disturbed earth and would be impossible to date accurately. “However, stone tools such as adzes were readily replaced with metal tools when these became available,” he said. For more, go to “World Roundup: New Zealand.”

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Scientists Analyze DNA of Canada’s Lost Beothuk People

Archaeology News - October 14, 2017

ONTARIO, CANADA—The Globe and Mail reports that a team of researchers led by Hendrik Poinar and Ana Duggan of McMaster University has recovered mitochondrial DNA from the remains of 19 individuals who were members of Newfoundland’s Beothuk culture, which died out in the early nineteenth century. The team members also retrieved mitochondrial DNA from the remains of 53 Maritime Archaic people who lived in Newfoundland between 8,000 and 3,200 years ago. Samples from two Paleo-Eskimos, who spread to the island from the Arctic, were also analyzed. It had been previously thought that the Beothuk had descended from the Maritime Archaic people, but a comparison suggests the two groups were not closely related. “The island got populated twice—at least—by distinct groups,” Duggan said. Oral tradition suggests that some Beothuk fled Newfoundland after the arrival of Europeans. A chromosomal study could reveal whether any First Nation groups may be their descendants. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to “Standing Still in Beringia?

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Genetic Study Questions Idea of Early Easter Island Contacts

Archaeology News - October 13, 2017

SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA—A new genetic study casts doubt on the ideas that the Polynesians who populated Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, had contact with Native Americans from South America before the arrival of Europeans in the eighteenth century. According to a report in Live Science, scientists led by Lars Fehren-Schmitz of the University of California Santa Cruz examined genetic samples obtained from the skeletal remains of five individuals unearthed at Ahu Nau Nau, one of the sites where enormous statues called moai are found on the island. The bones ranged in age from as early as 1445 to the early twentieth century. Fehren-Schmitz wants to know when the gene flow between Native Americans and the people of Rapa Nui occurred, and says studying the ancient populations of other islands could offer additional evidence. But an earlier study conducted by Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo detected genetic markers typical of Native Americans in some Rapa Nui skeletons. He thinks that just a few people from South America may have reached the island, which lies 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile. Their genes “may be easily missed when ancient DNA from only five individuals are investigated,” he said. For more on genetic studies, see “The Heights We Go To.”

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Fifth-Century Gold Artifacts Found at Ring Fort in Sweden

Archaeology News - October 13, 2017

ÖLAND ISLAND, SWEDEN—Gold rings and a coin have been discovered at Sandby Borg, a ringfort on an island off Sweden’s southeastern coast, according to a report in The Local. The site is known for the large number of unburied bodies that have been uncovered there, suggesting a massacre occurred in the fifth century A.D. Archaeologists Clara Alfsdotter and Sophie Vallulv said the gold artifacts are evidence of a link to the Roman Empire. The coin was minted between A.D. 425 and 455, during the rule of Emperor Valentinian III, who is depicted on one side of the coin with his foot resting on the head of a barbarian. The size of the rings suggest they belonged to a woman. Roman glass unearthed in the area where the gold objects were found indicates a house once stood on the site. “It seems to have had a special purpose, and it may have been the house of a chieftain or a minor king,” said team leader Helena Victor. She now thinks robbery may have been the motive for the massacre. To read in-depth about the massacre at Sandby Borg, go to “Öland, Sweden. Spring, A.D. 480.”

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Prehistoric Burials and Artifacts Unearthed in Wiltshire

Archaeology News - October 13, 2017

LARKHILL GARRISON, ENGLAND—Prehistoric burials were uncovered during construction work at a military base located about a mile and a half from Stonehenge, according to a report in Salisbury Journal. One of the burials contained the remains of an infant who had been placed in a grave dug in an existing ditch. “Prehistoric pottery was found in the ditch fill which sealed the grave, which suggests the burial was also prehistoric,” said archaeologist Ruth Panes of Wessex Archaeology. A second body was identified as a male aged between 15 and 17 at the time of death. A third had been buried in a crouched position, probably sometime between 2400 and 1600 B.C. Postholes from a roundhouse measuring about 14 feet in diameter were also revealed, as well as prehistoric pits and ditches, and worked flint. The excavators said they think the area under investigation was once a woodland, since they have uncovered a large number of hollows formed by fallen or removed trees. More recent features include five zig-zag-shaped air-raid trenches, and the foundations of three military buildings that probably date to World War II. For more, go to “Quarrying Stonehenge.”

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Arabic Words Detected in Viking Silk Garments

Archaeology News - October 12, 2017

UPPSALA, SWEDEN—According to a report in BBC News, textile archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University found Arabic words woven into tiny geometric designs on garments made from imported silk recovered from Viking graves in Birka and Gamla Uppsala more than 100 years ago. Larsson said she had not previously encountered designs similar to the ones embroidered on the garments in Sweden. “I couldn’t quite make sense of them and then I remembered where I had seen similar designs—in Spain, on Moorish textiles,” she recalled. Looking at the designs under magnification and at different angles, Larsson spotted the word “Ali,” the name of the fourth caliph of Islam and cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, written in Arabic Kufic script, along with the word “Allah,” written in mirrored lettering, in at least 10 of the 100 pieces of clothing she has examined. Islamic ideas of an afterlife may have influenced Viking-age burial customs, Larsson explained, though “the possibility that some of those in the graves were Muslim cannot be completely ruled out,” she said. Scientists will now try to establish the origins of the people who were buried in the graves. To read about a gem engraved with the word “Allah” found in a Viking woman's grave, go to “One Ring to Bind Them.”

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Inca Site Reportedly Discovered in Peru

Archaeology News - October 12, 2017

CUSCO REGION, PERU—The Andina News Agency reports that villagers living in Peru’s southern rainforest discovered a remote Inca site while grazing their animals near the Megantoni National Sanctuary. After alerting local authorities, they returned to the site with government officials. The team members revealed platforms, passages, walls, and a stone dwelling that had been covered in heavy foliage. Wilfredo Alagon, mayor of La Convencion, said measures will be taken to protect the structures. For more on archaeology in Peru, go to “Painted Worlds.”

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Archaeologists Investigate Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

Archaeology News - October 12, 2017

BEDFORD COUNTY, VIRGINIA—Archaeologists are investigating land once owned by Thomas Jefferson before a new two-lane parkway is constructed at Poplar Forest, his private retreat and plantation. According to a report in The News & Advance, Jack Gary, director of archaeology for Poplar Forest, said more than 30 sites were found. Some of the sites contained daub, which was used as a material in the construction of log cabins and to fireproof wooden chimneys. These sites are thought to have been the homes of enslaved people. A broken horse bit was uncovered in the area of a roadbed. The researchers also recovered stone weapons thought to be about 8,000 years old, and burned chestnut wood dated to the mid-1600s. The fires may have been set by Native Americans to clear the land. To read about a recent discovery at Jefferson's Monticello, go to “Close Quarters.”

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Evidence of Domesticated Rice Found in South America

Archaeology News - October 12, 2017

EXETER, ENGLAND—Rice was domesticated in South America’s wetlands at least 4,000 years ago, according to a report in Science Magazine. Archaeobotanist José Iriarte of the University of Exeter examined a collection of rice phytoliths, or bits of silica made by plant cells, from Monte Castelo, an archaeological site in Brazil’s southwestern Amazon basin inhabited for more than 9,000 years. The study suggests that as the rice grains grown by the people living at Monte Castelo increased in size over time, they played a larger role in the diet. Iriarte says the crop, grown at lake and river edges, would have ripened during the flooding season, when other food was scarce. Evidence of different species of domesticated rice has also been found near China’s Yangtze River and in West Africa. Rice is thought to have been domesticated in Asia some 11,000 years ago, and in West Africa about 2,000 years ago. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.”

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World War II Lifeboat Discovered Near Orkney Islands

Archaeology News - October 12, 2017

ORKNEY ISLANDS, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Herald Scotland, underwater archaeologists with the Shiptime Maritime Archaeology Project have found a small vessel lost on October 13, 1939, after a German submarine attacked HMS Royal Oak, which was moored in Scapa Bay. More than 800 of the 1,200 battleship’s crew were lost in the attack. About 100 of the men escaped to the small steam-powered pinnace, which had been tethered to the side of HMS Royal Oak. But the small lifeboat, designed to carry 59 people, capsized and sank. It was found about 1,000 feet from HMS Royal Oak. “The site will now be recorded and will add to our knowledge surrounding the sinking of HMS Royal Oak,” said Pete Higgins of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology. To read about the underwater archaeology of the attack on Pearl Harbor, go to “December 7, 1941.”

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