Image of Confucius Found in Western Han Dynasty Tomb

Archaeology News - March 2, 2017

NANCHANG, CHINA—China Daily reports that a polished bronze mirror measuring around three feet tall has been recovered from the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun, who was deposed after a 27-day reign as emperor of China in 74 B.C. The mirror’s wooden cover bears what may be the earliest-known image of the philosopher Confucius, who lived from 551 to 479 B.C., and two of his students. Head excavator Yang Jun of the Jiangxi Institute of Cultural Relics said the cover also bears nearly 2,000 Chinese characters written in ink. The text, thought to have been painted by the marquis’ teachers, tells stories of Confucius not recorded in other documents dating to the Western Han Dynasty. The mounted mirror is thought to have been used by the marquis as a folding screen. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

Gold Torques of “International Importance” Found in Britain

Archaeology News - March 1, 2017

STAFFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that several pieces of Iron Age gold jewelry have been found spread out, just below the surface on farmland in the West Midlands by a pair of metal detectorists. The two men handed the artifacts over to the Portable Antiquities Scheme of Birmingham Museums. Dubbed the “Leekfrith Iron Age Torques,” the hoard consists of three neck torques and a bracelet estimated to be about 2,500 years old. According to Julia Farley of the British Museum, the ornaments may have been crafted in Germany or France, and then carried to England by wealthy and powerful women who married into the local community. For more, go to “Anglo-Saxon Hoard - Staffordshire, England.”

Categories: Blog

Footprints in Wales Date to 7,000 Years Ago

Archaeology News - March 1, 2017

CARDIFF, WALES—Radiocarbon dating indicates that footprints seen on the Gower Peninsula at low tide are 3,000 years older than previously thought, according to a report in Wales Online. The footprints, left by a group of adults and children, were discovered in 2014, and at first were thought to date to the Bronze Age. Rhiannon Philp of Cardiff University thinks the 7,000-year-old tracks were made by Mesolithic hunters, since the tracks of deer and wild boar, headed in the same direction, are also preserved at the site. For more, go to “England's Oldest Footprints.”

Categories: Blog

Cypress Wood Provides Dates for Iran’s Sasanian Empire Sites

Archaeology News - March 1, 2017

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, FRANCE—Live Science reports that paleoecologist Morteza Djamali of the Mediterranean Institute of Biodiversity and Ecology led a team that carbon dated five fragments of cypress wood recovered from palaces, forts, and Zoroastrian fire temples dating to the Sasanian Empire, which ruled Persia from A.D. 224 to 651. All of the sites are located in Persis, in what is now southwestern Iran. The wood of the evergreen cypress tree was prized across the ancient world for its strength and scent, and was sacred to the Zoroastrians. The test results provided precise dates for the Sasanian structures, and suggest that a Zoroastrian fire temple at the Palace of Sarvistan may have been used for several hundred years after the Muslim conquest. For more, go to “Mesopotamian Accounts Receivable.”

Categories: Blog

Inscribed Jade Pendant Discovered in Belize

Archaeology News - March 1, 2017

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—KPBS reports that a large T-shaped pendant has been discovered at the Maya frontier site of Nim Li Punit by a team of researchers led by Geoffrey Braswell of the University of California San Diego. The jade pendant is inscribed with a historical text consisting of 30 hieroglyphs, including the T-shaped glyph “ik’,” which stands for “wind and breath.” The text is still being analyzed, but it may relate to the arrival of a new royal dynasty at Nim Li Punit, which is located in southern Belize. “We speculate that this piece was given to the first king who wore it in an attempt, perhaps, to form an alliance,” Braswell said. “As other Maya kingdoms were playing out their cold wars and struggles against each other, they sought alliances with minor players in smaller regions.” The pendant was found in an intact collapsed tomb that dates to around A.D. 800, along with a pot that may depict the Maya god of wind. Braswell thinks the pendant may have been buried as an offering to the wind god, who was believed to bring the annual rains, at a time when climate change is thought to have damaged agriculture and Maya civilization. For more, go to “Letter from Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

Categories: Blog

Pub Renovations Uncover 17th-Century Details

Archaeology News - February 28, 2017

FALMOUTH HARBOR, ENGLAND—Restoration of the St. Austell Brewery Chain Locker pub on the coast of southwestern England has revealed that the building dates to the late seventeenth century, according to a report in Cornwall Live. An original earth and hair plaster-bounded wall, a timber partition wall decorated with hand-painted wallpaper, and a stone fireplace are among the historic features uncovered at the site. The team from the Cornwall Archaeological Unit also discovered that the building had subsided over the years by more than ten inches. “Three extra floors have been put into the building over the years to compensate for the drop,” said site agent Tim Frampton. It had been thought that the historic pub dated to the eighteenth to early nineteenth century. The archaeological discoveries will be included in the final plan for the refurbishment of the historic pub. For more on archaeology in England, go to “Behind the Curtain.”

Categories: Blog

Colorado’s Network of Ancient Routes Studied

Archaeology News - February 28, 2017

GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO—The Daily Sentinel reports that Carl Conner and Richard Ott of the Dominguez Archaeological Research Group have been recording Ute habitation sites in Colorado, and are now looking for the trails and routes that connected them through the Ute Trails Project. “We wanted to take more of a landscape approach rather than just a site-by-site look,” Conner said. One of the trails under investigation was mentioned by Father Francisco Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, who wrote of his 1776 travels on a “very wide and well-beaten trail” to the Uncompahgre River Valley with Ute guides and Father Francisco Atanasio Dominguez. Conner and Ott have found that other trails, such as one that may have been used by Utes traveling on horseback between Wyoming and the Piceance Basin in Colorado, had water holes approximately every 25 miles. Many of the ancient footpaths became horseback trails and then wagon roads, and many of the trails through mountain passes are covered with modern highways. “Every mountain pass that’s worth a hill of beans has (an archaeological) site of some sort on it,” commented retired archaeologist John Goodwin. To read more about the Utes, go to “A Western Wiki-pedia.”

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Enclosure Discovered in Denmark

Archaeology News - February 28, 2017

STEVNS, DENMARK—Archaeologist Pernille Rohde Sloth of the Museum Southeast Denmark told Seeker that a Neolithic enclosure has been found at a construction site near Copenhagen. The oval-shaped palisade, formed with five rows of posts with irregular openings, covered about 60,000 square feet. Pits containing flint flakes, ax fragments, and pieces of pottery, all thought to be about 4,900 years old, have been unearthed in the structure’s interior area. It is not known whether all five rows of the palisade were built at the same time, or how long the structure was in use. “It has been suggested that the fence rows and their openings form a sort of labyrinth,” said Rohde Sloth. Further investigation could reveal whether the enclosure served a ritual purpose, or whether it was a fortification or fenced settlement. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bluetooth's Fortress.”

Categories: Blog

Prehistoric Pointillist Images Found in Southwestern France

Archaeology News - February 28, 2017

VÉZÈRE VALLEY, FRANCE—According to a report in Live Science, Randall White of New York University and his colleagues have discovered 16 limestone blocks at Abri Cellier that are thought to have been re-shaped and engraved some 38,000 years ago by Europe’s first modern humans. The mammoth and horse images on the blocks were formed with engraved dots and lines, a technique often associated with nineteenth-century pointilist artists. Fifteen of the tablets are thought to have been unearthed when the Aurignacian-period site was first excavated in 1927, but they were set aside and not studied at the time. The sixteenth tablet, which had been broken in half, was recovered during the new excavation, and it provided the date for the find. For more, go to “On the Origins of Art.”

Categories: Blog

Settlements Dating Back 12,000 Years Uncovered in England

Archaeology News - February 25, 2017

LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—Excavations in Lincolnshire associated with the construction of a new roadway have uncovered evidence of inhabitation stretching back to the Mesolithic period, according to a report in The Lincolnite. The finds, made by a team from Network Archaeology, include part of a Bronze Age cemetery, along with a settlement dating from the Iron Age to the Roman Age. Remains of a twelfth-century tower that may have been used as a beacon to warn against threats around the time of the First Battle of Lincoln in 1141 were also found. Additional discoveries include Mesolithic and Neolithic flint tools, field systems, pottery kilns, a possible vineyard, and a medieval monastic grange. “The evidence we’ve seen so far suggests that small communities were already living in this area around 12,000 years ago and that it has been a favored spot for human activity ever since,” said Chris Taylor of Network Archaeology. To read about another recent discovery in England, go to “Something New for Sutton Hoo.”

Categories: Blog

Neanderthal Genes Still Influencing Health Today

Archaeology News - February 25, 2017

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—New Scientist reports that a recent genetic study shows that Neanderthal DNA that survives in people of non-African descent is still controlling how some genes work. University of Washington geneticist Joshua Akey led a team that did a comprehensive DNA analysis of 214 Americans of European ancestry, and was able to isolate Neanderthal genes that were active in 52 kinds of tissue. In some cases, individuals had both a human and Neanderthal copy of a gene, and the team could compare the copies and find which variant controlled gene expression. They found that in the case of one gene that is a known risk factor for schizophrenia, the Neanderthal DNA controls the gene in such a way that it reduces the risk of developing the disease. “Strikingly, we find that Neanderthal sequences present in living individuals are not silent remnants of hybridization that occurred over 50,000 years ago, but have ongoing, widespread, and measurable impacts on gene activity,” says Akey. In other genes, such as ones that regulate brain activity, the influence of Neanderthal DNA is much less pronounced. To read more, go to “Should We Clone Neanderthals?

Categories: Blog

Temple to Near Eastern God Found on Corsica

Archaeology News - February 25, 2017

 

MARIANA, CORSICA—A team of French archaeologists excavating the Roman city of Mariana on the island of Corsica have discovered a Mithraeum, or a temple dedicated to the Indo-Iranian god Mithras, reports International Business Times. Mithraism was probably spread through the Roman Empire by Near Eastern merchants and soldiers around the same time Christianity was introduced. “This is a very rare and exciting find,” says archaeologist Philippe Chapon, who led the team. “It is the first time we find evidence that Mithraism was practiced in Corsica.” Inside the temple the team found fragments of a marble altar depicting Mithras sacrificing a bull, while a dog and a snake drink its blood. The archaeologists also found oil lamps, bronze bells, as well as the marble head of a woman. Some of the artifacts show signs of being damaged, perhaps after the temple was attacked by Christians, who built a church on the island around A.D. 400. To read more about Near Eastern dieties, go to “How to Pray to a Storm God.”

Categories: Blog

Sally Hemings’ Monticello Living Quarters Excavated

Archaeology News - February 25, 2017

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA—Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the living space of Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman with whom Thomas Jefferson is thought to have fathered six children, according to a report from NPR. The excavation is part of a renovation project at Jefferson’s Monticello plantation that aims to illuminate the lives of the enslaved people who lived there. The area where Hemings is thought to have lived was turned into a restroom in 1941. In the area, archaeologists have uncovered a fireplace, the original brick floor, and traces of several shelves. One of the goals of the project is to make the presence of enslaved people at the plantation more apparent to visitors. “There were no remnants of slavery that visitors could encounter,” said Christa Dierksheide, a historian at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello. “And we're recreating or restoring spaces where enslaved families would've worked, would've lived, and made it the dynamic place that it was.” For more, go to “Mr. Jefferson’s Laboratory.”

Categories: Blog

Skeletons Buried Hand in Hand Excavated in London

Archaeology News - February 24, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—The skeletons of two men who appear to have been interred hand in hand were excavated from a plague burial ground in London during the construction of the Crossrail tunnel, according to a report from The Guardian. The men are thought to have been in their 40s and were buried in the early fifteenth century in a carefully dug double grave. They were placed in identical positions, with their heads angled to the right, and the left hand of one man clasping the right hand of the other. “One possible interpretation is that they were related in some way, for example by blood or marriage,” said archaeologist Sam Pfizenmaier, who led the excavation, noting that the positioning of their hands could be accidental. Both men are thought to have died in an outbreak of bubonic plague and were buried in the cemetery in Smithfield that opened in 1348 and ultimately held more than 50,000 bodies. DNA of several of the skeletons excavated from the cemetery has revealed exposure to Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague. To read about another discovery as part of the Crossrail project, go to “A Tale of Two Railroads.”

Categories: Blog

WWII Bomb Defused in Greek City

Archaeology News - February 24, 2017

THESSALONIKI, GREECE—Soldiers recently defused a World War II bomb in Greece’s second-largest city after evacuating tens of thousands of people from the area, according to a report from Agence France-Presse. The bomb was discovered during roadwork near a gas station. It took several hours to defuse the five-foot-long bomb, which was found to contain 375 pounds of explosives. According to Army chief of staff Nikos Phanios, the American-made bomb’s firing mechanism “was still in a very good shape, and this was what had us worried.” The bomb is thought to have been dropped by a British place as part of a campaign of strikes on the city’s railway station and port in 1943. Around 70,000 people were evacuated from a one-mile radius around the site before the bomb was defused. “A bomb of this size has never been found in an area this densely populated” in Greece, said regional security chief Apostolos Tzitzikostas. For more on handling unexploded ordnance from World War II, go to “Letter from the Marshall Islands: Defuzing the Past.”

Categories: Blog

Crouched Medieval Burials Found in Siberia

Archaeology News - February 24, 2017

YAMAL PENINSULA, RUSSIA—Unusual burials of three women and a man dating to the eleventh century have been discovered in Russia’s Yamal Peninsula, according to a report from The Siberian Times. All four bodies were found in a crouched position, which archaeologist Andrey Plekhanov said indicates they may have been ritually buried or possibly even sacrificed. All four also suffered from serious diseases or starvation, and the man was set on fire after death, a phenomenon not previously recorded in the area. “We can be sure that he did not die in the fire,” said Plekhanov. “His dead body was set to fire, but not a very strong one. His bones remained almost intact, the fire damage[d] mostly the soft tissues.” Among the artifacts found with the bodies were a bronze bracelet with a bear image, a knife with a bronze handle, a tanning scraper, bronze and silver pendants, a ring, and a facial mask made of animal skin. Fragments of pottery, possibly from the funeral meal, were also found. To read about another recent discovery in the area, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

Categories: Blog

Chaco Canyon’s Matrilineal Dynasty

Archaeology News - February 23, 2017

 

CHACO CANYON, NEW MEXICO—New research shows that a matrilineal dynasty may have controlled Pueblo Bonito, one of the massive masonry villages at the Ancestral Puebloan site of Chaco Canyon, reports Live Science.  A team of archaeologists and geneticists recently reanalyzed an elaborate two-layered burial crypt at the site that had been previously excavated. Such burial arrangements are rare in Puebloan cultures and the crypt is thought to have held high-ranking members of Chacoan society, who were buried there from A.D. 800 to 1120, when the site was abandoned. At the bottom of this crypt lay the graves of two men who had been buried with thousands of turquoise beads and other prestigious objects. Above them, separated by a wooden floor, were the graves of 12 people thought to have descended from the two men. A genomic study of the remains showed that nine of the people in the crypt all had identical mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from mothers, suggesting power was inherited at Chaco through the maternal line. "For the first time, we're saying that one kinship group controlled Pueblo Bonito for more than 300 years," said University of Virginia archaeologist Steve Plog, who co-led the study. "This is the best evidence of a social hierarchy in the ancient Southwest." To read about how Pueblo culture endured Spanish rule, go to “The First American Revolution.”

Categories: Blog

Japanese Internment Camp on Oahu Excavated

Archaeology News - February 23, 2017

HONOLULU, HAWAII—Archaeologists are excavating an area of the Honouliuli National Monument where a Japanese internment and POW camp once stood, according to a report from NBC News. William Belcher, an archaeologist at the University of Hawaii West Oahu, and his students aim to preserve the site and map its features. In one area, they are looking for underground concrete slabs where they believe the camp’s mess hall once stood. The camp was one of more than a dozen World War II–era internment sites, and was used to detain prominent local Japanese residents and to house prisoners of war. Since Japanese people made up some 40 percent of Hawaii’s population, and many worked on plantations, only a small portion were interred at the camp. To read in-depth about underwater archaeology of the attack on Pearl Harbor, go to “December 7, 1941.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Children’s Footprints Uncovered in Egypt

Archaeology News - February 23, 2017

 

CAIRO, EGYPT—Children’s footprints dating back more than 3,000 years have been found at Pi-Ramesse, which was the Egyptian capital during the reign of Ramesses II (r. 1279–1213 B.C.), according to a report from Seeker. The prints were found near rare painting fragments in a mortar pit measuring around 8 by 26 feet. According to Henning Franzmeier, field director of the Qantir-Piramesse project, the footprints measure around 6 to 6.5 inches, which corresponds to an age of three to five. It is unclear whether the footprints were left by more than one child. “The differences in size are not big enough for us to clearly differentiate,” said Franzmeier. “And they are also not so well preserved that we could distinguish so far any other features of the feet.” It is also unclear why the children would have been in the area. Further excavation in the area and analysis of the footprints will be carried out in the project’s next field season. To read about another discovery in Egypt, go to “World’s Oldest Dress.”

Categories: Blog

A Bronze Age Male Migration

Archaeology News - February 23, 2017

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA—Science reports that a new DNA study shows males belonging to a Bronze Age culture now known as the Yamnaya had a transformative impact on the European population. Prior to the Yamnaya migration, many prehistoric Europeans were descended from Neolithic farmers who migrated to Europe from Anatolia beginning around 9000 years ago. Some 4000 years later, the Yamnaya, herders who had mastered horseback riding and were likely speakers of Indo-European, left the Eurasian steppe and moved west into central Europe. To investigate the ratio of men to women who participated in these two migrations, Stanford University geneticists used a new statistical method to compare DNA from 20 skeletons belonging to people who lived after the arrival of Neolithic farmers and 16 who lived just after the Yamnaya migration. They found that equal numbers of men and women took part in the Neolithic population movement, but that there were some 10 men for every woman who participated in the Yamnaya migration. The finding is consistent with the theory that the Yamnaya who moved west were largely horse-mounted male warriors. To read more about the study of prehistoric Indo-European languages, go to “Telling Tales in Proto-Indo-European.” 

Categories: Blog

Pages

Subscribe to Archaeological Institute of America aggregator - Blog

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!