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14,000-Year-Old Hunting Camp Unearthed in Argentina

5 hours 47 min ago

TRES ARROYOS, ARGENTINA—Archaeologists digging a prehistoric campsite in Argentina have discovered evidence that humans first began visiting the location some 14,000 years ago, reports Ars Technica. Long-term excavations at the site, known as Arroyo Seco 2, have unearthed dozens of flint and quartzite tools, as well as numerous butchered animal bones representing a number of now-extinct species. While horses were the most common animal to be found at the site, the researchers have also discovered the remains of ground sloths, camels, and giant armadillos. The earliest radiocarbon dates from the site support the theory that humans first reached the New World by 17,000 to 15,000 years ago. To read more in-depth about these early people, go to “America, in the Beginning.” 

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Asian Metal Found in Prehistoric American Dwelling

7 hours 55 min ago

CAPE ESPENBERG, ALASKA—Western Digs reports that metal artifacts unearthed in an ancestral Inuit house dating to between A.D. 1100 and 1300 were made in Asia. The objects, which include a bronze belt buckle, an iron bead, and a copper fishhook, likely made their way to the New World via trade networks that were active long before European contact. Purdue University archaeologist H. Kory Cooper led a team that used X-ray fluorescence to analyze the buckle and bead, and found they were made of leaded alloy that was smelted in medieval Asia. “We believe these smelted alloys were made somewhere in Eurasia and traded to Siberia and then traded across the Bering Strait to ancestral Inuit people,” says Cooper. Though the objects cannot be radiocarbon dated, the buckle was attached to a leather strap that is between 500 and 800 years old. To read more about archaeology in Alaska, go to "Cultural Revival."

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Possible Death by Boomerang in the Outback

8 hours 22 min ago

NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA—An 800-year-old skeleton discovered in Australia's Toorale National Park has a wound to the skull that is consistent with being struck by a wooden boomerang, reports Live Science. A team led by Michael Westaway of Griffith University studied the remains, which belonged to a man between the ages of 25 and 35, and found that he had two head injuries that were in the process of healing and one long cut that had no sign of having healed, suggesting the wound was mortal. According to ethnographic accounts, Aborigines once used boomerangs that were bigger and more lethal than the more familar returning boomerang. It's possible the man, who had no defensive wounds to his arms, was attacked at a distance by such a weapon. The team was also able to determine the man ate a meal of crayfish and possum just before he died. To read about Aboriginal archaeology, go to "The Rock Art of Malarrak."

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Three Sarcophagi Found in Northwestern Turkey

September 30, 2016

ÇANAKKALE, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that workers repairing broken water pipes on private land in northwestern Turkey discovered three sarcophagi dating to the eighth century B.C. The burials are thought to be an extension of the ancient cemetery for the Greek trade center of Parium, which had two harbors and was located about a mile away from the burial site. Archaeologists have opened two of the sarcophagi and found gold beads, a ring, three pieces of gold, two brooches, and a mirror. To read more about archaeology in Turkey, go to "Zeugma After the Flood."

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Israel’s Tel Lachish Gate Uncovered

September 30, 2016

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Live Science reports that a team of Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists finished uncovering a large city gate dating to the eighth century B.C. at Tel Lachish National Park. Sa’ar Ganor, director of the excavation, explained that the gate into the ancient city had six chambers, three on each side of the main street. One of the rooms contained benches with armrests, jars, scoops for grain, and jar handles stamped with identifying symbols. The jars are thought to have been part of the preparations undertaken by the Kingdom of Judah for war with Assyria in the late eighth century B.C. The shrine in the gate had white-plastered walls, a bench, two four-horned altars, and ceramic lamps, bowls, and stands. The Israel Antiquities Authority said that the horns on the altar had been cut, perhaps due to religious reforms instituted by King Hezekiah to centralize religious activity in Jerusalem. Ganor said that a stone toilet seat found in the shrine may have been placed there as a way to desecrate it and prevent the room from being used for religious ceremonies. Soil samples, however, suggest the latrine was never actually used. To read more about archaeology in Israel, go to "Mask Metamorphosis." 

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Fossilized Bee's Nest May Offer Environmental Clues

September 30, 2016

LONDON, ENGLAND—Cosmos Magazine reports that scientists led by Jennifer Parker of University College London created 3-D digital models of a fossilized bee’s nest found in South Africa near the 2.8-million-year-old remains of the “Taung Child,” in order to learn more about the environment in which it lived. Discovered in a limestone quarry in 1924, the Taung Child represents a young individual of the Australopithecus africanus species. The study suggests that the nest was built by an extinct type of bee that lived in the ground and built solitary nests. Parker and her team noted that these bees preferred bare, dry soil with good sun exposure, located near a reliable pollen source, supporting the idea that the Taung Child lived in a dry savannah environment, rather than in a cave. “It is not impossible that bees can nest in the ground, but underneath an overhang for example or in a shallow cave,” commented entomologist Michael Batley of the Australian Museum in Sydney. “Finding nests in the ground doesn’t mean it has to be right out in the open, but it wouldn’t be deep inside a cave,” he said. To read more about paleoanthropology in South Africa, go to "A New Human Relative."

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Etruscan Tombs Discovered in Italy

September 29, 2016

MONTALTO DI CASTRO, ITALY—ANSA.it reports that 17 additional tombs dating from the ninth to third centuries B.C. have been found in the Poggetto Mengarelli necropolis at the Etruscan site of Vulci. This part of the park has been looted recently. “The number of tombs present in this small area is impressive,” said Alfonsina Russo, Archaeology Superintendent for Rome. One man’s tomb contained silver rings and bronze ornaments and vases. A young girl in another tomb had been buried with gold earrings and two siren statues. A bronze mirror was also recovered. To read in-depth about Vulci, go to "The Tomb of the Silver Hands."

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17th-Century Equine Skeleton Unearthed in St. Augustine

September 29, 2016

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA—First Coast News reports that an equine skeleton was discovered at the site of a hotel in downtown St. Augustine during the construction of a swimming pool. City archaeologist Carl Halbirt said that the animal stood approximately 40 inches tall from its hooves to its shoulder, and may have been a donkey, or one of the small horse breeds the Spanish brought with them to the New World. The skeleton is estimated to be about 330 years old, making it one of the oldest horse burials in the United States. “The burial is next to the church hospital of La Soledad,” Halbirt said. “So it’s quite possible this animal may have been used by one of the people who managed or ministered the church hospital of La Soledad in the seventeenth century.” The archaeology team will leave the remains in the ground. To read more about Spanish Florida, go to "Off the Grid: Mission San Luis."

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Scattered Bones Found Under Church Floor in Wales

September 29, 2016

ANGLESEY, WALES—BBC News reports that the remains of at least six people have been found beneath the floor of a church on an island off the northwest coast of Wales. Conservationists were cleaning the alabaster tomb where Goronwy Tudur was buried in 1382, and replacing rotten wooden floor beams at St. Gredifael’s Church, when they found the scattered remains. Spencer Smith of the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust said repairs and care of the tomb, paid for by Queen Victoria in the 1850s, probably disturbed the burials under the church floor. Goronwy Tudur was the uncle of Owain Tudur, who was grandfather of Henry Tudor, or Henry VIII. The tomb was moved from Llanfaes Friary to St. Gredifael’s Church after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. To read more about archaeology in Britain, go to "The Many Lives of an English Manor House." 

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19th-Century Pub Unearthed in Manchester

September 29, 2016

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND—The Manchester Evening News reports that an excavation ahead of a construction project in the city center has uncovered the remains of a 200-year-old pub and several houses. Artifacts from the site include unopened bottles of brandy and crockery personalized with the name of Thomas Evans, owner of the Astley Arms pub in 1821. “It’s brilliant because you can suddenly connect it to the local people in the area,” said senior archaeologist Aidan Turner. “We looked online about his family history and one of his descendants now lives in Texas.” The team also recovered keys, pots for quills, and pipes. The pub was renamed the Paganini Tavern in 1840, when it was owned by Thomas Inglesent, but the property reverted to the Astley Arms by the 1850s. The pub remained open until 1928. To read more about urban archaeology in England, go to "Haunt of the Resurrection Men." 

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Severed Heads Found in 2,500-Year-Old Burial in Siberia

September 29, 2016

GORNO-ALTAISK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that a 2,500-year-old grave from the Pazyryk culture has been found in the Altai Mountains. The grave was looted in antiquity, but still contained the remains of an adult and a child or teenager, who had been buried with two small bronze mirrors, ceramics, gold foil, and wearing fur garments. Their heads, however, had been removed and placed at their knees. Nikita Konstantinov of Gorno-Altaisk State University said the Pazyryks often buried defeated enemies without their heads, since they made the skulls into bowls. “But this is obviously a different case,” he said. It is possible that the heads were detached when the grave was looted, but the rest of the skeletons remained undisturbed. Konstantinov and his team will try to determine the age and sex of the skeletons, and study the cervical vertebrae to try to learn more about how the heads were removed. “We have no similar cases, so we need to investigate this one very thoroughly,” he said. To read more about the Pazyryk culture, go to "Iron Age Mummy."

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Bath Discovered in Roman Barracks in Bulgaria

September 28, 2016

WARSAW, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team of archaeologists from the Center for the Study of Antiquity of Southeastern Europe at the University of Warsaw excavated a Roman barracks at the site of Novae in Bulgaria. Although the buildings had been constructed with wood, the floor of one large room had been made from hydraulic mortar, suggesting that the room had been used as a bath. “Until now, throughout the empire only two baths in wooden buildings have been discovered, but never and nowhere in the barracks of legionnaires,” said archaeologist Piotr Dyczek. The team also uncovered terracotta and lead pipes, water channels lined with stone and bricks, and a collection of 48 coins dating from the beginning of the second century A.D. to the mid-third century A.D. Dyczek thinks the coins may have been hidden during the invasion of the Goths. To read more about archaeology in Bulgaria, go to "Thracian Treasure Chest."

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Archaeologists Confirm Shipwreck is Franklin’s HMS Terror

September 28, 2016

NUNAVUT, CANADA—Radio Canada International reports that Parks Canada underwater archaeologists have confirmed that the shipwreck discovered earlier this month by a team from the Arctic Research Foundation is the HMS Terror. The team conducted a side-scan sonar survey of the site and dove three times on the wreckage, which features three masts, iron bow sheathings, and a double-wheeled helm. “The dives took place during difficult weather conditions and through poor visibility,” said Marc-André Bernier, head of Underwater Archaeology at Parks Canada. “The wreck’s upper deck is heavily covered in silt and marine life.” The ship was found in uncharted waters in Terror Bay about 60 miles north of the site where the HMS Erebus was discovered in 2014. The two ships were abandoned in sea ice in 1848 by the polar explorers of Sir John Franklin’s Expedition. All 129 crew members were lost along with the ships. To read in-depth about the discovery of Erebus, go to "Franklin’s Last Voyage."

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Engraved Blocks May Be From Ramses II Temple

September 28, 2016

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the Egyptian-German Archaeological Mission has found a group of large blocks at the site of Matariya in northern Cairo, where the ancient city of Heliopolis was located. The blocks are thought to have been part of a temple built by Ramses II. Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector of the Ministry of Antiquities, said that the engravings on the blocks show Ramses II anointing a divinity. According to Aymen Ashmawi, co-director of the mission, the blocks would have come from the temple’s innermost rooms. “It confirms the hypothesis that Ramses II showed special interest in Heliopolis in the later decades of his long reign of almost 70 years,” Ashmawi said. For more on ancient Egypt, go to "The Great Parallelogram."

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Could Neanderthals Hear & Speak Like Modern Humans?

September 27, 2016

MUNICH, GERMANY—The Christian Science Monitor reports that scientists led by Alexander Stoessel of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology examined the tiny bones of the Neanderthal middle ear. They found that although the bones look very different from the ossicles of modern humans, they amplified the vibrations received from the eardrum in a way similar to the modern human ear. This suggests that Neanderthals were capable of hearing the same range of frequencies as modern humans, and probably heard speech as modern humans did. Previous research has found that Neanderthals and modern humans also had similar hyoid bones, a horseshoe-shaped structure that supports the tongue and the ability to speak. Unfortunately, a larynx, or voice box, which is formed from soft tissue, has not been found in the Neanderthal fossil record. “As humans, we always try to point out the differences between modern humans and Neanderthals to show that these are the different ones,” Stoessel said. “But now our research shows actually how similar they were to us.” For more on Neanderthals' abilities, go to "Gimme Middle Paleolithic Shelter."

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Scholars Say Ancient Structure May Have Been a Dining Hall

September 27, 2016

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Haaretz reports that Joseph Patrich of Hebrew University and Shlomit Wexler-Bedolah of the Israel Antiquities Authority believe that two rooms found near the Western Wall Plaza five years ago served as Jerusalem’s city council triclinium in the first century B.C. The rooms, connected by a water feature with a decorative fountain, are thought to have been part of a large, opulent building. Indentations on the walls may have been left by sofa seating, where guests could have rested and dined. The structure is thought to have been destroyed in an earthquake around A.D. 30. It was previously believed that the rooms served as a public fountain. To read more about archaeology in Israel, go to "Artifact: Roman Coins in Israel."

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Roman Coins Unearthed at Medieval Castle in Japan

September 27, 2016

URUMA, JAPAN—The Japan Times reports that Roman coins dating to the third and fourth centuries A.D. have been found at the ruins of Katsuren Castle in southern Japan. The castle dates to the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, when trade with China and Southeast Asia could have transported the four copper coins to Okinawa. X-ray analysis of the worn coins suggests that they bear an image of Constantine I and a soldier holding a spear. The castle site also yielded a coin from the Ottoman Empire. For more on Roman coin finds, go to "Seaton Down Hoard."

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New Thoughts on the Death of Ötzi the Iceman

September 27, 2016

BALZANO, ITALY—Seeker reports that Angelika Fleckinger, the director of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, requested that chief inspector Alexander Horn of Munich’s Criminal Investigation Department research a possible scenario for the death of the 5,300-year-old frozen mummy known as Ötzi the Iceman. Horn evaluated information from the forensic medical examinations conducted on the mummy’s remains, and used behavioral investigative analysis to analyze records of the ancient “crime scene.” He suggests that Ötzi was resting in the mountains, where he had eaten a hearty meal of wild goat, when he was taken by surprise and shot in the shoulder with an arrow. Another injury, to his right hand, may have been inflicted a few days prior to his murder. “Since no other injuries could be found, we believe he came out as a winner from that hostile encounter,” Horn said. The loser, however, may have carried a grudge and pursued Ötzi. And, since Ötzi's mummy was found with his valuable copper ax, made with materials from southern Tuscany, theft was an unlikely motive for the murder. “A personal conflict is more likely,” Horn said. “We are talking of a behavioral pattern that is also prevalent today in most murder cases. It starts with little things and it grows to the extreme.” To read more, go to "Ancient Tattoos: Ötzi the Iceman."

 

Categories: Blog

What Killed the Crew of the Franklin Expedition?

September 27, 2016

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—The Star.com reports that researchers from the University of Glasgow think that accidents, and not illnesses such as tuberculosis, scurvy, and lead poisoning, may have been responsible for the loss of many of the Franklin Expedition’s 129 crew members. No log books from the Franklin Expedition have ever been found, so team leader Keith Millar and colleagues evaluated the “sick books” of nine Royal Navy ships that searched for the lost ships of the Franklin Expedition. Those ships were similarly equipped to the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus. The researchers found that the crews of the later ships suffered some symptoms of scurvy and lead poisoning, but not on a large scale. Millar suggests that accidents that occurred while hunting for wild game on foot in a harsh climate and over difficult terrain could be to blame for the Franklin Expedition’s heavy losses. Robert Park of the University of Waterloo, who was on the team that discovered HMS Erebus in 2014, disagrees with Millar, noting that 15 Franklin Expedition officers were dead by 1848, three years into the expedition. “I can’t imagine a catastrophic accident that would kill so many officers,” he said. For more, go to "Franklin’s Last Voyage."

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Rare Roman-Era Coffin May Have Been Reused

September 24, 2016

DORSET, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a limestone sarcophagus holding the remains of a Roman man was uncovered in a quarry in southwest England by a team from Thames Valley Archaeologist Services. The researchers said that the burial was unusual because the man’s feet had been bent backwards so that his body would fit in the coffin. “In the Roman period, burial in a sarcophagus was moderately common in Italy but very unusual in Britain, where even wooden coffins seem to have been rare,” said archaeologist Steve Ford. He thinks the sarcophagus, which would have been a prestigious item, may have been reused. An initial examination of the bones did not reveal any signs of disease. Further investigation into the cause of death are underway. For more on Roman Britain, go to "Artifact: Roman Eagle Sculpture."

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