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Pacopampa Skeletons Bear Healed Injuries

17 hours 35 min ago

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.”

Categories: Blog

Three-Kingdoms Period Statue Found in South Korea

18 hours 4 min ago

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

18 hours 57 min ago

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

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

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

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

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.”

Categories: Blog

Fifth-Century Gold Artifacts Found at Ring Fort in Sweden

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.”

Categories: Blog

Prehistoric Burials and Artifacts Unearthed in Wiltshire

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.”

Categories: Blog

Arabic Words Detected in Viking Silk Garments

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.”

Categories: Blog

Inca Site Reportedly Discovered in Peru

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.”

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Investigate Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

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.”

Categories: Blog

Evidence of Domesticated Rice Found in South America

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.”

Categories: Blog

World War II Lifeboat Discovered Near Orkney Islands

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.”

Categories: Blog

Traces of a Neolithic Longhouse Uncovered in Denmark

October 11, 2017

VINGE, DENMARK—The postholes of a 4,000-year-old dwelling have been uncovered at a construction site in Denmark, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. Found on the northern island of Zealand, the outline of soil stains indicates the house measured nearly 150 feet long and more than 20 feet wide. It had two aisles, where archaeologists think a wealthy family lived with their farmhands and livestock. “It proved to be a gigantic farmhouse from the Late Neolithic Period,” said Jens Johannsen of the Roskilde Museum. “The house is nearly three times as big as other houses from this period, and it is the only one like it in the area.” For more on archaeology in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Categories: Blog

1,100-Year-Old Iron Objects Discovered in Slovakia

October 11, 2017

BOJNÁ, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that a treasure trove of iron objects was discovered in a stone oven in western Slovakia. Karol Pieta of the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences said that some 1,100 years ago, the items, including bits for horses’ bridles and two keys, were placed in an earthenware pot and hidden in the oven, which was located in a system of Great Moravian hill forts guarding a pass through the mountains. “We can assume that the inhabitants hid the precious iron objects in a functioning oven when the fortification was suddenly invaded,” Pieta said. The forts are thought to have been burned down and abandoned in the tenth century. The fortifications are being reconstructed to look as they did in the ninth century. For more, go to “Letter From Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”

Categories: Blog

Luwian Scholar Translates Possible Sea Peoples Inscription

October 11, 2017

BEYKÖY, TURKEY—According to a report in Live Science, Fred Woudhuizen, a Dutch scholar of the ancient language known as Luwian, has translated a 3,200-year-old inscription discovered in the late nineteenth century on a 95-foot stretch of stone at an archaeological site in Beyköy, a town located near Turkey’s Black Sea coast. The ancient stone, said to have been recycled in local building project, no longer exists, but a copy of the inscription was reportedly found in the estate of archaeologist James Mellaart, remembered for his excavation of Turkey’s 9,500-year-old city of Çatalhöyük. Assisted by Swiss geoarchaeologist Eberhard Zangger, Woudhuizen says the inscription describes how King Kupantakuruntas came to rule the kingdoms of Mira and Troy, and how the two kingdoms engaged in naval campaign, led by the Trojan prince Muksus, against Ashkelon. Woudhuizen and Zangger think it would have been difficult for Mellaart, who was part of an earlier translation team as an expert on the archaeology of western Turkey, to forge such a long text in Luwian. They cannot be certain that the text is authentic, however, until records of the inscription are found apart from Mellaart’s estate. To read in-depth about another ancient inscription discovered in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Categories: Blog

5,000-Year-Old Copper Ax Found in Switzerland

October 7, 2017

ZUG-RIEDMATT, SWITZERLAND—According to a report in Live Science, a copper ax similar to the one carried by Özti the Iceman some 5,000 years ago has been found at the northern foot of the Alps, where prehistoric villages were built on wooden stilts. “It was a very efficient general-purpose ax, especially proper for woodworking,” said Gishan Schaeren of the Canton of Zug’s Office for Monuments and Archaeology. Chemical analysis of the lead in the blade linked the metal to the same source in southern Tuscany used to produce the larger, heavier blade carried by Özti. But it had been thought that people living to the north and south of the Alps did not have much contact. Schaeren disagrees. He thinks the people who traveled the Alps during the Copper Age probably had extensive knowledge of the landscape and its natural resources. “It is one step to a much more connected worldview,” he said. For more, go to “Ötzi’s Sartorial Splendor.”

Categories: Blog

More on Florida’s Latest Dugout Canoe

October 7, 2017

TALAHASSEE, FLORIDA—WHAS 11 reports that the Florida Division of Historical Resources has released more information on the 15-foot log vessel that washed up from the Indian River during Hurricane Irma. Radiocarbon dating of the wood indicates there is a 50 percent chance the tree used to make the canoe died or was cut down between 1640 and 1680, and a 37 percent chance it dates to between 1760 and 1818. “The canoe has some interesting features, like the presence of paint and wire nails, that indicate it may have been made in the nineteenth or twentieth century, so this adds to the mystery,” said Sarah Revell of the Florida Department of State. She explained that the canoe might have been made in the early twentieth century from an old log, or even crafted in the 1600 or 1700s, and then modified over time. After being discovered in September, the canoe was stored in a freshwater pond and then transported to a conservation laboratory, where it will be desalinized and any algae on the exterior will be removed. Then the vessel will be soaked in polyethylene glycol for strengthening. For more, go to “Florida History Springs Forth.”

 

Categories: Blog

Genetic Study Hints at Prehistoric Social Networks

October 7, 2017

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—A new genetic study of Eurasians who lived 34,000 years ago suggests that hunter-gatherers have long practiced marrying outside their home groups, according to a report in Science News. DNA samples were taken from four males whose remains were unearthed at the Sunghir site in eastern Russia. Evolutionary geneticist Martin Sikora of the Natural History Museum of Denmark and his colleagues say the individuals in the study shared no signs of close biological kinship, which could have resulted from small bands of hunter-gatherers mixing at random. The researchers think the hunter-gatherers developed a system to limit the chance of inbreeding, which also strengthened their ties to other social groups. Communication with in-laws and larger networks could have transmitted cultural advances and social learning, thus increasing the chance of survival while foraging over a large area. It had been thought that hunter-gatherers lived among close kin and competed with other kin groups, much like modern chimpanzees do. For more, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

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