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Painted Jade Mask Discovered in Classic-Era Maya Tomb

September 16, 2017

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—According to a report in Newsweek, a burial chamber at the Maya site of Waka’, which is located in northern Guatemala’s Laguna del Tigre National Park, has yielded a 700-year-old jade mask. The mask helped the researchers from the U.S.-Guatemalan El Perú-Waka’ Archaeological Project to identify the tomb’s occupant as a member of the royal Wak dynasty. It had been painted red with cinnabar, along with the ruler’s remains, and was found under the ruler’s head. The mask depicts the ruler with the same forehead hair decoration worn by the Maya maize god. Ceramic vessels, spondylus shells, jade ornaments, and a crocodile-shaped pendant carved from shell were also recovered from the tomb. David Freidel of Washington University in St. Louis explained that the Maya of the Classic period revered their rulers as divine, so the king’s tomb turned the royal palace acropolis into holy ground. For more, go to “Letter From Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

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Bones’ Cut Marks Hint at Funeral Rites in Neolithic Ireland

September 15, 2017

COUNTY SLIGO, IRELAND—The Leitrim Observer reports that evidence for the dismemberment of the dead has been found on bones unearthed at the 5,300-year-old passage tomb complex at Carrowkeel by an international team of scientists led by Thomas Kador of University College London. “We found indications of cut marks caused by stone tools at the site of tendon and ligament attachments around the major joints, such as the shoulder, elbow, hip, and ankle,” said Jonny Geber of the University of Otago in New Zealand. The bones were unearthed at the Neolithic site in 1911, presumed lost, and then rediscovered recently in boxes at the University of Cambridge. For more, go to “Bronze Age Ireland’s Taste in Gold.”

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New Dates Push Back Use of Zero

September 15, 2017

OXFORD, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that new radiocarbon dates have been obtained for the Bakhshali manuscript, which was written in an ancient form of Sanskrit on 70 pieces of birch bark, by members of the Heritage Science team at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. The text, discovered in 1881 in a village located in what is now Pakistan, is thought to have been a training manual complete with practice arithmetic problems for merchants trading on the Silk Road, and is known for its use of a dot to represent the concept of zero. The new dates indicate the oldest pieces of the Bakhshali manuscript date to the third or fourth century A.D., or about 500 years earlier than had been previously thought, based upon the style of writing and the content. The new dates make the Bakhshali manuscript the oldest-known record of the use of the zero symbol. For more on ancient writing, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

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Hurricane Irma Uncovered Dugout Canoe

September 14, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA—Hurricane Irma revealed a dugout canoe that had been resting on the bottom of the Indian River, according to a report by Orlando News 6. Concerned citizen Randy Shots spotted the canoe among the storm debris and alerted officials at Florida’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, who will conserve the vessel. The cypress canoe weighs between 600 and 700 pounds. For more, go to “Florida History Springs Forth.”

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Fighter Plane Test Model Found in Lake Ontario

September 14, 2017

TORONTO, CANADA—The Province reports that an Avro Arrow test model has been found at the bottom of Lake Ontario by a recovery group. As many as nine of the free-flight, one-eighth scale model planes are thought to rest in the lake. Now covered in zebra mussels, the plane was reportedly part of a secret program to develop a supersonic combat jet, which was abandoned by the Canadian government in 1959. The actual planes in the classified program are said to have been destroyed. Once the model has been brought to the surface, it will be stabilized and displayed at either the Canada Aviation Space Museum in Ottawa or the National Air Force Museum in Trenton. The recovery group will continue to search for the other test models. To read in-depth about underwater discoveries in the Great Lakes, go to “Shipwreck Alley.”

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Sacred Structures May Have Been Linked to Seismic Activity

September 14, 2017

PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND—Iain Stewart of the University of Plymouth suggests that ancient temples and other important structures in the Aegean region may have been built above fault lines in order to create a connection to the underworld, according to a report in The International Business Times. Mycenae, Ephesus, Cnidus, and Hierapolis were all built on fault lines, Stewart explained. And the temple of Apollo at Delphi, known for its oracle, was constructed over a spot thought to be the center of the world. Earthquakes produced the temple’s sacred spring, and intoxicating gases emanated from the fault line. The temple complex was rebuilt in the same location after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 B.C. To read more about archaeology in Greece, go to “Regime Change in Athens.”

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Intact, Mycenaean-Era Tomb Discovered in Greece

September 13, 2017

ORCHOMENOS, GREECE—A 3,350-year-old tomb of has been uncovered in southern Greece, according to an Associated Press report. The intact tomb is said to have belonged to a single nobleman who was between the ages of 40 and 50 at the time of death. The 452-square-foot tomb also contained pottery, bronze horse bits, jewelry, bow fittings, and arrowheads. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

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Viking Sword Found on Mountain in Norway

September 13, 2017

OPPLAND, NORWAY—Fox News reports that a well-preserved Viking sword made of high-quality iron was discovered by reindeer hunters at an elevation of 5,381 feet on a mountain in southern Norway. Archaeologist Lars Pilø of Oppland County Council said the cold, dry conditions on the mountain helped to preserve the sword, which had been resting among small loose stones with its blade sticking out. During the winters, the sword would have been covered with snow and ice. The archaeologists and hunters returned to the site with a metal detector, but did not find any additional artifacts. They think the weapon may have been lost some 1,100 years ago by a Viking crossing the rough terrain during a blizzard. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

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Ankle Bone Analysis Suggests Early Primate Could Jump

September 13, 2017

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA—According to a report in The International Business Times, researchers led by Doug Boyer of Duke University have analyzed a 52-million-year-old ankle bone belonging to Donrussellia provincialis, one of the earliest-known primates. Boyer and his colleagues scanned the ankle bone, which was found in southeastern France, and compared it to ankle bones of other animals using computer algorithms. They found that the quarter-inch-long fossil was similar to those of tree shrews and other non-primate species, which suggests that the small creature could leap between tree branches and stick the landing with its grasping hands and feet. It had been suggested that the earliest primates were slow and deliberate animals who creeped along twigs and branches, but leaping may have helped Donrussellia provincialis avoid predatorsTo read about a famous fossil hoax, go to “Piltdown’s Lone Forger.”

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Roman-Era Baby Bottle Unearthed in Turkey

September 13, 2017

ÇANAKKALE, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that excavators working in the ancient port city of Parion discovered a small, 2,000-year-old pot thought to have been used to feed babies milk with its pacifier-like spout. Hasan Kasaoğlu of Atatürk University said such pots had a single handle and usually held between two to four ounces of liquid. “The products were made so that a baby could drink any liquid or baby food from it,” Kasaoğlu explained. “They are all made from baked clay. The clay is molded by pressing, then fired and ready for use.” To read about another recent discovery in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

Categories: Blog

Medieval Village Discovered in Denmark

September 12, 2017

AARHUS, DENMARK—Traces of a small, agricultural village dating to the medieval period have been unearthed in central Jutland, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. Records of Hovedstrup date back to 1300, but the village is thought to have been founded even earlier. Moesgaard Museum archaeologists have uncovered a road paved with stones and three homes marked by their post holes. Hovedstrup was abandoned in the late 1600s, during a time when many landlords rearranged their holdings to create new farms or hunting grounds. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Categories: Blog

Fire Management May Date Back 40,000 Years

September 12, 2017

LUNGTALANANA ISLAND, TASMANIA—According to a report in Australia's ABC News, information obtained from a sediment core taken from a lake on a remote island off the coast of Tasmania suggests that Aboriginal people were managing the land with fire at least 41,000 years ago. Researchers Simon Haberle of Australian National University, and fire ecologist David Bowman, in cooperation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, dated charcoal and pollen in the core sample, and determined that the pattern of how often the island’s vegetation caught fire over thousands of years changed over time. “What we see is that over most of the period of the record, frequent and low-intensity fires occurred on the island,” Haberle said. He thinks Aboriginal people regularly burned the landscape in order to prevent catastrophic fires in the dry, flammable environment. “When Europeans arrive there is a change in the fire regime and there are many very strong fires and in many cases catastrophic fires have occurred in the recent past,” he explained. For more, go to “Letter From California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire.”

Categories: Blog

Roman Swords Recovered at Vindolanda

September 12, 2017

HEXHAM, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that two metal swords and two wooden toy swords were unearthed at Vindolanda, a Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall in northern England. The artifacts are thought to date to around A.D. 120, when about 1,000 people lived at the site. One of the swords, found in a corner of a living room in a cavalry barrack, had a bent tip. It had probably been discarded. A second sword, with its blade and tang intact, was found in a neighboring room. Archaeologists speculate its owner may have left the fort in a hurry without it. Also recovered were two small wooden toy swords, bath clogs, leather shoes, knives, brooches, arrowheads, and ballista bolts. To read in-depth about Hadrian's Wall, go to “The Wall at the End of the Empire.”

Categories: Blog

18th-Dynasty Tomb Excavated in Egypt

September 12, 2017

LUXOR, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, Egyptian archaeologists led by Mostafa Waziri, head of the Luxor Department in Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry, have discovered a 3,500-year-old tomb in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank. The entrance to the New Kingdom tomb was found in the courtyard of a Middle Kingdom tomb. It led to a square chamber where the team found a niche containing a statue of seated Amenemhat, goldsmith for the god Amun, and his wife, Amenhotep, who wears a long dress and a wig. One of their sons is also shown, standing between their legs. The remains of three people were found in a shaft off the tomb’s main chamber, which also contained wooden sarcophagi and funerary masks, and 150 ushabti figurines made of faience, wood, pottery, and limestone. Osteologist Sherine Ahmed Shawqi examined the remains. She said that one female mummy showed signs of jaw abscesses and bone infection likely caused by dental cavities. The names of other officials were found on artifacts in the tomb and suggest that their graves may also be located in shafts off the courtyard. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

Iron Age Coins Unearthed in England

September 9, 2017

LINCOLN, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Grantham Journal, two men using metal detectors discovered a hoard of more than 280 gold and silver coins dating to the late Iron Age, and the period of the Roman Conquest, which occurred in A.D. 43. Adam Daubney, finds liaison officer for Lincolnshire County Council, said the coins are stamped with names like Dumnocoveros, Tigirseno, and Volisios, among the earliest personal names recorded in the area. They are believed to have been the names of local rulers. Fragments of a pot were found with the coins. University of Lincoln archaeologists surveyed the site and will continue their investigation into why the coins might have been buried. To read about the disassembly of an enormous Celtic coin hoard, go to “Ka-Ching!

Categories: Blog

Remains from Viking Warrior’s Grave Identified as Female

September 9, 2017

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—DNA testing has revealed that a warrior’s grave discovered in the Viking-era town of Birka in the late nineteenth century contained the remains of a woman. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University told The Local that the woman stood about five feet, seven inches tall, and was over the age of 30 at the time of her death. She was buried with weapons, including a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses. She also had a board game, thought to have been used to try out battle tactics and strategies, in her lap. “She’s most likely planned, led, and taken part in battles,” Hedenstierna-Jonson said. The DNA testing of the bones was done after osteologist Anna Kjellström of Stockholm University noticed that the skull’s cheekbones were finer and thinner than usually found on a man’s skull, and that the hip bones were also feminine. “It was probably quite unusual [for a woman to be a military leader], but in this case, it probably had more to do with her role in society and the family she was from, and that carrying more importance than her gender,” speculated Hedenstierna-Johnson. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Categories: Blog

Recording Alberta’s Endangered Heritage Sites

September 9, 2017

 

ALBERTA, CANADA—Peter Dawson of the University of Calgary has employed 3-D digital imaging to record heritage sites in Alberta, such as rock art on the Okotoks Erratic, a late-nineteenth-century Chinese laundry, and the early twentieth-century plant at the Bitumount oil sands, which is dangerous and difficult to access, according to a report in The Calgary Sun. Dawson notes that the project can record information on heritage sites recently threatened by flood, wildfires, and development. And, the digital record, updated over time, could inform the work conducted by conservationists with Alberta Culture and Tourism, and could be used to construct virtual sites for tourists to visit. “It will allow you to be teleported to any site, as if you're at the building and you can tour the inside and the outside,” Dawson explained. To read about a discovery at a buffalo jump in Alberta, go to “A Removable Feast.”

Categories: Blog

Young Child’s Burial Unearthed in Siberia

September 8, 2017

TYUMEN, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that a team of researchers led by Alexander Tkachev of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography of Tyumen State University discovered the grave of a young Sikhirtya child among nine possible burials, surrounded by a small moat, on a high point on the Tazovsky peninsula. The child is thought to have been three or four years old at the time of death, which occurred in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries. The body had been placed on pieces of birch bark that had been sewn together, and was buried with two iron knives and an arrowhead. The child wore an impressive hat made of pieces of fur lined with woolen cloth. Bronze decorations had also been sewn into it. Reindeer bones at the child’s feet suggest that a meal of roasted venison, possibly cooked on mounds in the necropolis, was also provided for the afterlife. “The burial was unusually rich for such a little child,” Tkachev said. “In fact, we were rather taken aback.” For more, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Investigate Castle in Northeast Slovakia

September 8, 2017

STARÁ L’UBOVÑA, SLOVAKIA—According to a report in The Slovak Spectator, excavations at the site of the Stará L’ubovña Castle, located in northeast Slovakia, have uncovered artifacts dating from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. The items include ceramics, pieces of tiled stoves, and metal objects such as a copper button, a musket ball, and coins. On the castle’s eastern side, the researchers found remnants of walls, wooden beams, and partitions. The castle’s third courtyard was home to a military barracks, mentioned in historic documents dating to 1564. The barracks is thought to have remained in use through the second half of the eighteenth century. To read in-depth about another castle, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Coastal Settlements Found in East Yorkshire

September 7, 2017

SKEFFLING, ENGLAND—The International Business Times reports that traces of Roman and medieval-era settlements were uncovered along the Humber River, near the tip of East Yorkshire, in an investigation into the possibility of restoring saltmarsh habitats and intertidal land in the area. The villages, known from historic documents, are thought to have been abandoned due to coastal erosion and sea level rise. “We’ve known they were in this area, but they were lost,” said archaeologist Stephen Kemp of the Environment Agency. The excavation team found evidence of villages, small farms, and field systems, as well as a Benedictine priory. Kemp explained that early residents built flood defenses and moved to higher ground when necessary, but returned to the low-lying coastal areas to exploit wetland resources. The researchers have also studied the region’s environment and water levels dating back up to 8,000 years using sediment cores. To read about another discovery in the area, go to “Mesolithic Markings.”

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