Archaeologists Investigate Site of the Battle of Grunwald

Archaeology News - October 3, 2017

GRUNWALD, POLAND—Archaeologists and metal detectorists joined forces to look for traces of the Battle of Grunwald, fought on July 15, 1410, according to a report in Science & Scholarship in Poland. On that day, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania defeated the German-Prussian Teutonic Knights in what is remembered as one of the largest battles in medieval Europe. Szymon Drej of the Battle of Grunwald Museum said the team recovered about 300 artifacts, including arrowheads, Prussian spearheads, and a seal bearing a Christian image of a pelican feeding blood to chicks in a nest. The seal, thought to be connected to a chapel that later stood on the battlefield, resembles one found in the courtyard of Malbork, a castle built by the Teutonic Knights in what is now northern Poland. After the battle, Polish and Lithuanian forces laid siege to the Malbork Castle in an attempt to crush Prussia. But the castle withstood the siege and the Teutonic Knights lost little territory in the Peace of Thorn of 1411. The researchers will continue to search the area for evidence of the battle. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

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Fragment of Akhenaten Sculpture Unearthed in Egypt

Archaeology News - October 3, 2017

MINYA, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, the head of a statue of the 18th dynasty pharaoh Akhenaten has been discovered in the first hall of the Great Atun Temple at Tel El-Amarna, Akhenaten’s capital city, by a joint Egyptian-English archaeological mission headed by Barry Kemp of the University of Cambridge. The head, which was carved from gypsum, measures about five inches long. Akhenaten is remembered for abandoning polytheism in favor of worship of the sun god, Aten, alone. For more, go to “In Search of History's Greatest Rulers: Nefertiti, Great Royal Wife and Queen of Egypt.”

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DNA Study Suggests New Dates for Modern Humans

Archaeology News - September 30, 2017

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA—Cosmos Magazine reports that a team of scientists has used a “molecular clock” to push back the emergence of anatomically modern humans in Africa by about 100,000 years, to between 260,000 and 350,000 years ago. Marlize Lombard of the University of Johannesburg, Carina Schlebusch and Mattias Jakobsson of Uppsala University, and colleagues examined DNA obtained from the 2,000-year-old bones of a young boy discovered on a beach in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. Known as the Ballito Bay child, his genome indicates he was a member of the San branch of the Khoe-San peoples. The Khoe-San are thought to have diverged from a common Homo sapiens ancestor long before any other groups, and therefore carry unique DNA. The scientists compared the Ballito Bay child’s DNA to that of six other individuals from KwaZulu-Natal who lived between 300 and 2,300 years ago—before and after the Khoe-San mixed with migrants from the north—and then estimated how long it would have taken for various mutations to have occurred over the course of many generations, in order to arrive at a date for the split between anatomically modern humans and archaic humans. The information also suggests that anatomically modern humans may have evolved in multiple places in Africa. “We’re at the stage now where we are going to meet up with paleontological and archaeological estimates to see how archaic humans transitioned to modern humans,” Schlebusch said. For more, go to “Our Tangled Ancestry.”

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Carvings of Maya Ball-Game Players Found in Belize

Archaeology News - September 30, 2017

CAYO DISTRICT, BELIZE—According to a report in Live Science, two stone panels engraved with images of the Maya ball game have been discovered at the site of Tipan Chen Uitz by Christopher Andres of Michigan State University and his colleagues. The table-sized engravings, thought to date to between A.D. 600 and 800, may have been part of the façade at the entrance to the city’s palatial complex. The first carving shows a large ball and a ball player wearing a protective belt. Hieroglyphics refer to a “nine-hand-span ball,” but the researchers don’t know if the measurement refers to the piece of latex used to make the ball, or to the size of the finished object. The second panel also shows a man wearing a protective belt. He is lunging forward, braced against his left knee. The image may depict a player attempting to strike a ball, the researchers said. His name, which has also been seen at a ball court in Naranjo, a Maya city in Guatemala, was included on the panel as well. The two carved names could refer to the same person. Architectural evidence also suggests a link between the two cities. To read about the burial of a Maya ruler in Guatemala, go to “Tomb of the Vulture Lord.

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2,000-Year-Old Terracotta Toys Discovered in Turkey

Archaeology News - September 29, 2017

ÇANAKKALE, TURKEY—Toys and figurines have been recovered from the 2,000-year-old tombs of children in the ancient city of Parion in northwest Turkey, according to a report in The Daily Sabah. Hasan Kasaoğlu of Atatürk University said female figurines were found in girls’ tombs, while male figurines were found in boys’ tombs. Figurines representing animals and mythological creatures were also uncovered. Kasaoğlu thinks the toys may have been presented as gifts to accompany the children on the journey to the afterlife. A baby bottle was discovered in the same necropolis earlier this month. To read about another discovery in Turkey, go to “Let a Turtle Be Your Psychopomp.”

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Wooden Sculptures Found at Peru’s Chan Chan

Archaeology News - September 29, 2017

TRUJILLO, PERU—Archaeologist Cintia Cueva Garcia reportedly told Andina News Agency that four wood sculptures, a scepter, metal vessels, textiles, and winkle shells were uncovered at the Chayhuac An enclosure at Chan Chan, which is located on Peru’s northern coast. The fourth wood sculpture, found lying on a funerary platform, represents a male figure holding a cup at chest height. His face is covered with white clay. “It is common to find wood figures at Chan Chan, but what matters now is that we have found one [in a funerary context],” Garcia said. Such sculptures are thought to have been used to mark the tombs of important people. One of the four wood sculptures is female, which is also unusual, Garcia explained. For more, go to “Peruvian Woman of Means.”

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New Thoughts on the Battle of Wood Lake

Archaeology News - September 29, 2017

WOOD LAKE, MINNESOTA—The West Central Tribune reports that archaeologists Sigrid Arnott and David Maki, assisted by battlefield archaeologist Douglas Scott, have analyzed nearly two dozen pieces of ammunition recovered from the steep ravine and military road at Wood Lake Battlefield. On September 23, 1862, some 700 Dakota warriors, led by Little Crow and other chiefs, concealed themselves along the ravine and planned to ambush the 1,700 soldiers, led by Lt. Col. Henry Sibley, after they had broken camp and were spread out over the road. But the warriors opened fire when a number of members of the Third Regiment went out to look for food on the prairie just after daybreak. The positions of conical bullets, fired by the U.S. military, and handmade musket balls, shot by the Dakota, suggests that other members of the Third Regiment joined the fight. Sibley then ordered a retreat, under the cover of the Renville Rangers, a group of mixed-blood Dakota who had enlisted to fight in the Civil War. Arnott said the analysis also shows the final battle took place to the west, where the Dakota lacked the cover of the ravine and were vulnerable to Sibley’s artillery. For more on Civil War–era archaeology, go to “Life on the Inside.”

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Additional Colossal Statue Pieces Recovered in Cairo

Archaeology News - September 29, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to a report in Egypt Independent, German and Egyptian archaeologists have recovered two toes and the pedestal for the colossal statue of King Psammetich I that was discovered in Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood earlier this year. Psammetich I ruled for 54 years during the 26th Dynasty, some 2,600 years ago. The pedestal, which is engraved with a hieroglyphic inscription, was damaged by its long submersion in groundwater. The team has now recovered 40 percent of the statue. Additional pieces of the 30-foot-tall sculpture may still be uncovered at the site. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt, go to Afterlife on the Nile.

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Nahuange Metalsmiths May Have Preferred Rose Gold

Archaeology News - September 28, 2017

BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA—Live Science reports that Marcos Martinón-Torres of University College London and Juanita Saenz-Samper of the Museum of Gold in Bogotá examined 44 metal artifacts created by the Nahuange culture between A.D. 100 and 1000 in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. The objects included nose pendants, necklaces, earrings, belts, and bracelets. They determined that the Nahuange artifacts had undergone a process of oxidation and polishing known as depletion gilding, which involves beginning with a mixture of gold and copper, and bringing the gold to the surface. Then the Nahuange metalsmiths are thought to have removed the gold surface in order to bring out the pink and orange color of the remaining metal. “That defies our expectations that the more golden the better,” Martinón-Torres said. For more, go to “Bronze Age Ireland’s Taste in Gold.”

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Bronze Dog Statue Unearthed in England

Archaeology News - September 28, 2017

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review, two men discovered a hoard of Roman bronze artifacts in southwest England. Archaeologist Kurt Adams, Gloucestershire and Avon finds liaison officer, said the hoard dates to the fourth century A.D. and includes items that may have been deliberately broken, including small vessel fittings. A detailed statue of a standing dog with an open mouth was found intact. The “licking dog” may have been connected to a Roman healing temple located on what are now the grounds at Lydney Park, a nearby seventeenth-century country estate, or perhaps another undiscovered temple. To read about another discovery from Roman England, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

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Boat Petroglyph Discovered in Northern Norway

Archaeology News - September 28, 2017

NORDLAND COUNTY, NORWAY—According to a report in The Local, a 13-foot-long petroglyph depicting a boat was discovered in northern Norway by retired geologist Ingvar Lindahl. Archaeologist Jan Magne Gjerde of Tromsø University said the petroglyph is thought to be between 10,000 and 11,000 years old, based upon the height of water level marks on the rock where it was carved. Gjerde said the image shows the boat’s keel line and railing line, as well as the boat’s bows. For more, go to “The Church that Transformed Norway.”

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1,000-Year-Old Victims of Human Sacrifice Found in Peru

Archaeology News - September 27, 2017

LAMBAYEQUE, PERU—International Business Times reports that the remains of nine men of the Sican culture were discovered by a team of Peruvian and Japanese archaeologists at the site of Huaca de la Cruz, which is located in the Pomac Forest Historic Sanctuary in northern Peru. The men are thought to have been ritually killed some 1,000 years ago. The team also unearthed a metallurgy workshop and a tomb thought to have belonged to a member of the Sican elite. For more, go to “Letter From Peru: Connecting Two Realms.”

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Viking-Era Weaver’s Sword Discovered in Ireland

Archaeology News - September 27, 2017

CORK CITY, IRELAND—A wooden weaver’s sword has been discovered in southern Ireland, according to a report in RTE News. The tool, carved from yew, measures nearly 12 inches long and is decorated with carved human faces in the Viking style. Maurice Hurley of the Archaeological Consultancy Services Unit said the sword dates to the eleventh century, and was found among 19 Viking-era houses with central hearths. “The sword was used probably by women, to hammer threads into place on a loom,” Hurley explained. “The pointed end is for picking up the threads for pattern-making.” A wooden thread-winder decorated with carved horse heads was also recovered. The artifacts are housed in the Cork Public Museum. For more, go to “The Vikings in Ireland.”

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Possible Outhouse Unearthed at Site of Paul Revere’s Home

Archaeology News - September 27, 2017

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS—CBS Boston reports that an excavation at the site of Paul Revere’s home, which was built in Boston’s North End in 1711, has uncovered a four-foot-by-six-foot brick rectangle that may have served as a privy. “Typically what you would do is you would dig a big pit, you’d line it with bricks,” said city archaeologist Joe Bagley. “You typically would also line it with clay, because you didn’t want the contents to leach into your well.” The handle to an eighteenth-century German-made beer stein is the only item to have been found in the pit so far, but the outhouse could yield thousands of discarded artifacts, in addition to information on the health and diet of the Revere family. To read about a Revolutionary War–era discovery elsewhere in Massachusetts, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

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8th-Century A.D. Royal Toilet Unearthed in South Korea

Archaeology News - September 26, 2017

GYEONGIU, SOUTH KOREA—According to a KBS Korea report, an eighth-century A.D. toilet has been unearthed in a palace dating to the Unified Silla Dynasty in eastern South Korea. The toilet is made up of two rectangular slabs of stone on either side of an oval-shaped receptacle with a hole at its bottom. Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage researchers suggest users would have placed a foot on each of the rectangular stone slabs and squatted over the receptacle. Pouring water into the hole would have flushed waste down into the drainage system. To read about another recent discovery in South Korea, go to “Doll Story.”

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Wreckage of World War I–Era Warship Found

Archaeology News - September 26, 2017

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—According to BBC News, the wreckage of HMS Pheasant has been found off the coast of Orkney’s Old Man of Hoy by a team made up of researchers from the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology (ORCA), the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, and SULA Diving. An image of the vessel on the sea floor has been created using multibeam sonar technology. The crew of 89 was lost on March 1, 1917, when the destroyer, which was patrolling the waters to the west of Orkney at full speed, hit a mine thought to have been laid by the German submarine U-80 about two months earlier. The remains of a single sailor, and a buoy marked HMS Pheasant, were recovered. To read in-depth about archaeology on the Orkney Islands, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

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The Search for a Lost City Founded by Alexander the Great

Archaeology News - September 26, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—British Museum researchers say they may have found Alexander the Great’s lost city of Qalatga Darband in Iraq, according to a report in The Times of London. The archaeologists first looked for the ancient site with declassified American spy satellite photographs dating to the 1960s, and then with the aid of a camera-equipped drone. “Where there are walls underground the wheat and barley don’t grow so well, so there are color differences in the crop growth,” explained lead archaeologist John MacGinnis. The images suggest the city boasted large buildings, fortified walls, and stone presses for wine production. Terracotta roof tiles, a fragment of a seated female figurine that may depict the Greek goddess Persephone, and a nude figure that may represent Adonis have been found on the ground. For more, go to “In Search of History's Greatest Rulers: Alexander the Great, King of MacedonAlexander the Great, King of Macedon.”

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Statue of Badhrakali Discovered in Southern India

Archaeology News - September 26, 2017

TAMIL NADU, INDIA—India.com reports that a statue of the goddess Bhadrakali has been unearthed in southern India. The statue, which measures about 40 inches tall, is estimated to be 1,000 years old. It depicts the crowned goddess sitting on a block of stone, with her left foot stamping a demigod, and her right foot resting on a platform. In her arms she holds a skull, a trident, a drum, a shield, weapons, and bells. “The expression of anger on the face had been beautifully depicted by the sculptor,” said archaeologist V. Narayanamoorthy. “It looks very natural.” For more, go to “Letter From India: Living Heritage at Risk.”

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Toad Bones Found in 4,000-Year-Old Canaanite Tomb

Archaeology News - September 25, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Times of Israel, a small Canaanite tomb at the end of a burial shaft has been discovered in Jerusalem. The grave contained the bones of one person, who had been placed in the tomb in the fetal position with the head on a headrest. “The interesting thing is how did they get the body in?” asked Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority. In addition, an intact set of jars, one of which contained the remains of nine decapitated toads, was recovered. Taking off the toads’ heads may have facilitated the removal of their toxic skin before consumption. Pollen from date palms and myrtle bushes was also found on the pottery, but those plants are not native to the region. The archaeologists think the plants may have been cultivated as part of a burial custom. The tomb is one of 67 shaft tombs in the Middle Bronze Age cemetery in the Nahal Repha’im basin, where two settlements and two temples have also been found. For more, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

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Archaeologists Search for Oxford's Ancient Past

Archaeology News - September 23, 2017

OXFORD, UNITED KINGDOM—Researchers from Oxford Archaeology have uncovered a 6,000-year-old stone flake that a neolithic hunter may have whittled from a flint tool, according to a report in the Oxford Mail. They will seek to discover more clues to Oxfordshire's ancient past as they begin to excavate 200 trenches across South Oxford ahead of construction of a flood alleviation channel. The area that is now Oxford has history that goes back millenia and was mostly wet marshland until the Normans drained much of it sometime in the 11th and 12th centuries. The team also hopes to learn more about the Oxen Ford, the original route that gave Oxford it's name, long thought by scholars to have been covered by the city's Medieval-era North Hinksey Causeway. To read more about archaeology in England, go to “The Scientist's Garden.

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