Roman Settlement Found in England

Archaeology News - March 15, 2018

NORTH PETHERTON, ENGLAND—A settlement dating to the late Iron Age and Roman eras was found on a proposed construction site in southwestern England, according to a report in Somerset Live. Pottery, a possible ring ditch, and a pit were uncovered, along with three pieces of prehistoric worked flint and cropmarks of two enclosures. The site apparently went unused during the medieval period, and was then used for farming through the nineteenth century. The site will be preserved. To read about another site in the area, go to “Legends of Glastonbury Abbey.”

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Cache of Iron Age Coins Discovered in England

Archaeology News - March 15, 2018

CHIDDINGSTONE, ENGLAND—Kent Live reports that a hoard of gold coins was discovered by a metal detectorist in a farmer’s field in southeast England. The ten coins are thought to have been minted in northern France about 2,000 years ago. The Gauls may have used the coins to pay or bribe mercenaries to fight against Julius Caesar. Archaeologist Claire Donithorn of the Eden Valley Museum said the coins are being held at the British Museum, but may be returned to the local area. “They date from precisely the time when Britain emerged from prehistoric to historic times,” she said. “Our aim is to keep the hoard together and to ensure that it stays in the valley for us and for future generations.” To read about the disassembly of a gargantuan coin hoard, go to “Ka-Ching!

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Ancient Egyptian Red-Granite Column Relocated

Archaeology News - March 14, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the 17-ton Column of King Meneptah has been transported from the Salaheddin Citadel, where it had been conserved and stored, to the atrium of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza. King Meneptah, a son of Ramesses II, ruled from 1213 to 1203 B.C. His red-granite column, which stands more than 18 feet tall, was discovered in 1970 in the remains of the Meneptah Temple in a waterlogged residential neighborhood in Cairo. Engravings on the column include a list of the king’s titles, scenes depicting his victories over Libyan tribes, and his cartouche. Osama Abulkheir, director general of the GEM’s restoration department, said work on the column will be completed at the new museum, where it will share the atrium of the museum's main entrance with the colossus of Ramesses II. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

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Sites in South Africa Linked to Era of Super Volcano

Archaeology News - March 14, 2018

TEMPE, ARIZONA—According to a BBC News report, an international team of researchers has found evidence of human activity on the southern coast of South Africa, both before and after the cataclysmic eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Toba some 74,000 years ago. Both sites, one at a rock shelter and one in the open air on a beach, yielded shards of volcanic glass chemically fingerprinted to Mount Toba, which is located nearly 5,600 miles away. The scientists also found deposits of seashells from food preparation and stone flakes from toolmaking, and say the population of the groups that used these sites may have actually increased after the volcanic event, since they found an increase in the number of shells and stone flakes. It has been suggested that the eruption would have wiped out much of the global human population, but these coastal populations may have thrived after the ecological devastation, since they relied upon the sea for food. “We’re the first ones to really address the question of the Toba hypothesis in Africa,” said Curtis W. Marean of Arizona State University. “It’s in Africa that it really counts, because that’s the source location of modern humans.” To read about another discovery in South Africa, go to “The First Spears.”

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Archaeologist Examines Shipwreck Exposed on Maine Beach

Archaeology News - March 14, 2018

YORK BEACH, MAINE—Last week, marine archaeologist Stefan Claesson examined the remains of a wooden ship’s hull that was exposed after up to eight feet of sand eroded from Maine’s Short Sands Beach during a storm. According to a report in Seacoast Online, the wreckage was first exposed in 1958, and was seen again in 2007 and 2103. During the latter two appearances, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission took the opportunity to map the hull, and learned it had been a 60-foot, flat-bottomed vessel, likely to have been built between 1750 and 1850. Such boats had narrow sterns and were used to carry goods along the coast from port to port. The researchers also learned that balsam fir, yellow birch, beech, and red pine had been used in the construction of the ship. In this most recent encounter with the wreckage, Claesson collected samples to send to a dendrochronology lab. A study of the tree rings could “hopefully shed some light on this, because no one knows the history of the ship for certain,” Claesson said. “This will be the first time that this kind of work has been done.” Claesson also brought a drone to the site to collect additional data and create a 3-D model of the wreckage. To read about another shipwreck, go to “Is it Esmeralda?”

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Kiln Found at Japan’s Toshadaiji Temple

Archaeology News - March 13, 2018

NARA, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that archaeologists have uncovered a kiln on the grounds of the Toshadaiji temple complex, which was founded in A.D. 759 by a Buddhist monk and built over a period of about 50 years. The kiln is thought to have been used to produce tiles for the roof of the kondo, or main hall, and other structures of the UNESCO World Heritage site. “The tile kiln was likely set up on the temple grounds during the final stage of construction of the kondo, east pagoda, and other buildings,” said Michio Maezono of the Nara College of Arts. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

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Possible Cemetery Found at Belvoir Plantation

Archaeology News - March 13, 2018

CROWNSVILLE, MARYLAND—According to a report in The Washington Post, Maryland Department of Transportation archaeologists investigated oral history reports of a slave cemetery at Belvoir, a plantation owned by the grandmother of “Star Spangled Banner” composer Francis Scott Key. Traces of slave quarters were found at Belvoir in 2014, including pottery, buttons, and other artifacts, just a short walk away from the prospective cemetery site, where cadaver dogs have indicated the presence of human remains. Chief archaeologist Julie Schablitsky explained that the location of the site on an uneven hillock, which would not have been suitable for farming, and the regular pattern of fieldstones, which were often used to mark the graves of enslaved people, both suggest the presence of burials. Further research will attempt to identify who may have been buried there between 1736 and 1864, when slaves in Maryland were emancipated, but there are no plans to excavate. To read in-depth about the site, go to “Letter From Maryland: Belvoir's Legacy.”

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Roman Mirror Frames Unearthed in Bulgaria

Archaeology News - March 13, 2018

PAVLIKENI, BULGARIA—According to an Archaeology in Bulgaria report, five small lead frames that once held glass mirrors have been discovered in a building at a Roman villa and ceramic factory in northern Bulgaria. Archaeologist Kalin Chakarov of the Pavlikeni Museum of History said three of the mirrors had been decorated with an image of a krater, or large wine vessel, and leafy vines. They also were inscribed with the words “a good soul” in Greek. Mirrors are usually found in temples, but this building is thought to have been residential quarters for people who worked in the villa on the estate, thought to have been owned by a military veteran between the second and third centuries A.D. The site was abandoned after A.D. 235, perhaps due to barbarian invasion. For more on archaeology in Bulgaria, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

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Archaeologists Investigate Roman Reservoir in Bulgaria

Archaeology News - March 10, 2018

MUSINA, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a team of researchers led by archaeologist Kalin Chakarov of the Pavlikeni Museum of History has investigated a water catchment reservoir at a spring inside Musina Cave, a water source that supplied the ancient city of Nicopolis ad Istrum. The city was founded by Emperor Trajan in the early second century A.D. in what is now northern Bulgaria to celebrate his victories over the Dacian tribes north of the Danube River. The Romans also built the reservoir and a 12-mile-long aqueduct to transport the water to the city’s western fortress wall. Chakarov said the octagonal-shaped reservoir was constructed of large stone blocks each weighing more than 1,000 pounds and held together with iron bars covered in lead. Four rows of those blocks have survived. “The water catchment reservoir has two openings—one in its northern end and one in its western end, giving the start to two canals,” Chakarov added. “The first one is the one sending water to Nicopolis ad Istrum, while the other one is a spillway sending the excess water to the main canal.” To read about another discovery in Bulgaria, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

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Prehistoric Projectile Point Found in Southern Canada

Archaeology News - March 10, 2018

ONTARIO, CANADA—A small projectile point dating back to 7500 B.C. has been discovered in Windsor, Canada’s southernmost city, according to a CBC News report. Jim Molnar of Fisher Archaeological Consulting said the point, which was unearthed during an archaeological investigation ahead of road construction, was dated by its style. Pottery, buttons, and dishware were also recovered. Members of the Walpole Island First Nation, who have been monitoring the dig, suggest the site could be a large one and would like it to be fully excavated. “We need to give it voice,” said consulting manager Dean Jacobs, “we need to celebrate the artifacts and give it life because it has so much history to tell us.” For more, go to “Mussel Mass in Lake Ontario.”

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Dancing Shiva Sculpture Unearthed in Eastern India

Archaeology News - March 10, 2018

SAMBALPUR, INDIA—According to a report in The New Indian Express, a four-foot-tall sculpture bearing an image of Lord Shiva as Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer, has been found on the banks of the Devi River in eastern India. Archaeologists from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) say the sculpture dates to the seventh or eighth century A.D., and may have stood on the top of a temple’s main tower. The team of researchers is examining other artifacts collected by locals for additional clues. Further excavation of the site could reveal traces of the temple, which may have been damaged in antiquity by invaders. For more, go to “Letter From India: Living Heritage at Risk.”

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Lives of Oxford’s Medieval Students Revealed

Archaeology News - March 9, 2018

OXFORD, ENGLAND—The Independent reports that artifacts dating back 700 years offer a window into the lives of students at a medieval Franciscan friary. The excavation recovered writing implements, such as quills, styluses, a rare pencil made of lead, parchment prickers, and vellum scissors; cutlery with iron blades and bone and wood handles; iron spoons, beer mugs, jugs, and Spanish amphoras that likely held imported wine; oil lamps, bronze book marks, and a clasp from a thirteenth-century book; and a wooden ball thought to have been used to play games. Food remains suggest the students and teachers ate pottages of vegetables and wheat, barley, oats, and rye; and beef, lamb, goose, salmon, trout, herring, eel, oysters, mussels, nuts, and eggs. Glass bottles thought to have been used for collecting urine for medical examination were also found, along with a small wooden bowl that may have been used for bloodletting. Christian religious objects include a pilgrim badge from a visit to Thomas Becket’s tomb in Canterbury, a pendant depicting the crucifixion, and tiny containers that may have held sacramental oil. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

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Possible Military Commander’s Home Unearthed in Rome

Archaeology News - March 9, 2018

ROME, ITALY—According to a New York Times report, a richly decorated building that may have been the home of a military commander has been uncovered in Rome at the site of the new Amba Aradam subway station. State archaeologist Simona Morretta said the house had at least 14 rooms that were built around a central courtyard. Found about 40 feet underground, the house, which contained several wooden artifacts, was situated near the second-century A.D. military barracks discovered two years ago. “The decorations were mainly intact, both the patterned mosaic floors and the frescoed walls,” Morretta said. The walls had been intentionally leveled off at about five feet tall, and the building filled in with dirt, perhaps before the walls surrounding the city were built in A.D. 271. Another building, which may have served as a warehouse, was also unearthed. The buildings will be removed from the site until the construction work has been completed, and then returned and displayed in the new subway station. To read about another discovery made during construction of Rome's new subway line, go to “Rome’s Oldest Aqueduct.”

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Cannonballs Unearthed at Malaysia’s Fort Cornwallis

Archaeology News - March 8, 2018

GEORGE TOWN, MALAYSIA—Nine cannonballs have been found near two cannons that were recently uncovered at Fort Cornwallis, according to a report in The Star. The ammunition was unearthed by graduate students Noridayu Bakry, Nurulnatasha Azman, Suhana Yusof, and Saw Chaw Ye of the University of Science Malaysia. “The cannonballs are not for the cannons as the sizes are comparatively smaller,” said Saw. One of the cannonballs measures about four inches in diameter; the others are smaller and may have been canister shot. Saw says the ammunition still has to be analyzed, but it could be from the same period as the 200-year-old cannons, which were marked with the emblem of Britain’s King George III. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Letter From Singapore: The Lion City's Glorious Past.”

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Storms Reveal Roman Aqueduct in Spain

Archaeology News - March 7, 2018

CÁDIZ, SPAIN—The Daily Telegraph reports that last week’s heavy storms and shifting sands revealed a first-century A.D. Roman aqueduct and a seventeenth-century road in southwestern Spain. The 50-mile-long aqueduct of Gades carried water to Cádiz from the springs of Tempul, and is thought to have been one of the largest in the Roman Empire. “We knew the aqueduct’s route passed this way but we had never seen it,” said Moisés Camacho of the Association for the Investigation and Dissemination of Cádiz’s Heritage. Two of the five fragments that have been uncovered are still held together with ancient mortar. The road uncovered by the storm was destroyed in 1755 by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake in Lisbon. Scholars think it may have been built over an earlier Roman road or parallel to one that is now under the sea. For more, go to “Spain’s Silver Boom.”

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Nineteenth-Century Message in a Bottle Recovered in Australia

Archaeology News - March 7, 2018

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—Deutsche Welle reports that a 132-year-old message-in-a-bottle was found on a remote beach on Australia's Wedge Island. “The note was damp, rolled tightly and wrapped with string,” said Tonya Illman, who was out for a walk with her family when she spotted the artifact. “We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it we saw it was a printed form, in German, with very faint German handwriting on it.” The family handed the bottle over to researchers at the Western Australian Museum, who worked with German and Dutch officials to analyze the message. They determined that it had been tossed from the bark ship Paula on June 12, 1886, and was one of thousands of messages that had been thrown overboard as part of a 69-year study of global ocean currents. An entry in the captain’s journal from Paula matched the information on the bottle’s form. “The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message,” said Ross Anderson of the Western Australia Museum. The bottle is thought to have washed up on the beach between six and 12 months later. To read in-depth about the discovery of a nineteenth-century shipwreck, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

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World War II Wreckage Found in Coral Sea

Archaeology News - March 7, 2018

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—BBC News reports that the wreckage of USS Lexington, and 11 of the 35 planes it had been carrying, have been found in deep water off the east coast of Australia by a team of researchers led by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. Lexington, also known as “Lady Lex,” was scuttled in 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, after it had been struck by Japanese bombs and torpedoes. More than 200 crew members were lost during the fighting, and more than 2,000 were rescued. Two Japanese aircraft carriers were also sunk during the battle, which prevented them from taking part in the Battle of Midway the following month and paved the way for an Allied victory. To read about another recent discovery of a World War II–era ship, go to “Finding Indianapolis.”

Categories: Blog

Spanish Pistol Part Identified in Colorado

Archaeology News - March 6, 2018

MESA COUNTY, COLORADO—The Daily Sentinel reports that a pistol part that may be 500 years old was unearthed at the Kannah Creek archaeological site in western Colorado. Known as a “dog,” the part has been identified as part of a spring-loaded arm in a Spanish wheellock pistol, dating to between 1500 and 1600. Such pistol parts are usually found in Texas and New Mexico. David Bailey of the Museums of Western Colorado thinks the part may have been carried to Colorado by Spanish explorers who traded with Ute Indians in the area. Pieces of Spanish armor and a rondel dagger have also been found at the Kannah Creek site. “We’re getting all the pieces but still don’t have a complete picture of what’s going on,” Bailey said. For more on archaeology in Colorado, go to “A Western Wiki-pedia.”

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Iron Age Crouch Burial Unearthed in England

Archaeology News - March 6, 2018

MARGATE, ENGLAND—Kent Online reports that an Iron Age burial has been discovered at the Margate Caves site in southeast England. The body had been placed in a crouched position in a bell-shaped chalk pit. “The settlement that our archaeologists and volunteers found on our site means the Margate Caves can tell a story of the Isle of Thanet that starts well before the Romans arrived here,” said Sarah Vickery, chair of the Margate Caves. The excavation team has also uncovered an Iron Age hillfort, ditches, and some postholes. For more on the Isle of Thanet, go to “Caesar’s English Beachhead.”

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Stone Flakes Analyzed in Large-Scale Study

Archaeology News - March 6, 2018

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—According to a report in Cosmos Magazine, hominins developed more efficient cutting tools over time. Researchers led by Željko Režek of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology surveyed more than 19,000 tools from 34 archaeological sites ranging in age from 2.5 million to 12,000 years old. They found that over time, the flakes, which had been produced by Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens, had longer, sharper, and more complex cutting edges. Režek says more efficient cutting tools would have required less raw material. But the scientists note that some of the dullest edges were among those that had been produced by modern humans. For more, go to “Earliest Stone Tools.”

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