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Mummy Discovered in Egypt’s Faiyum Oasis

November 15, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a mummy has been discovered at the Deir Al-Banat archaeological site in the Faiyum Oasis by a joint Russian-Egyptian team of researchers. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the mummy is well preserved, although the Greco-Roman period, wooden sarcophagus in which it was found is cracked and in poor condition. The linen-wrapped mummy wears a blue and gold cartonnage mask decorated with images of Kabir, the sky god. An image of the goddess Isis adorns the mummy’s chest area. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

Categories: Blog

8,000-Year-Old Grape Wine Detected on Pots From Georgia

November 14, 2017

TORONTO, CANADA—The Guardian reports that evidence of winemaking dating back some 8,000 years has been discovered by an international team of archaeologists and botanists, who analyzed fragments of fired clay pots and soil samples from two Neolithic villages in the South Caucasus region. The fragments from one of the jars, which had been decorated with “blobs” that the researchers say could have been intended to represent grapes, may have once held more than 80 gallons of the fermented liquid. The tests revealed tartaric acid, a substance found in grapes, on eight of the fragments. Tartaric acid, and three other acids linked to grapes and wine, were detected in the soil samples. Grape pollen, grape starch particles, and the remains of a fruit fly were also found. This is “certainly the example of the oldest pure grape wine in the world,” said Davide Tanasi of the University of South Florida Traces of 7,000-year-old wine made from grapes have been detected on jars found in the Zagros Mountains of northern Iran, and 9,000-year-old wine made from a mixture of grapes, honey, and other ingredients has been discovered in China’s Henan Province. For more, go to “Recreating Nordic Grog.”

Categories: Blog

Fire Damages Pre-Inca Site in Peru

November 14, 2017

CHICLAYO, PERU—BBC News reports that as much as 95 percent of Ventarron, a 4,500-year-old site located on Peru’s Lambayeque region on the northern coast, has been damaged by a fire thought to have been started in a nearby sugar cane field and spread by strong winds. The site is known for its murals, including an image of a deer trapped in a net, which is said to be among the oldest-known murals in the Americas. “We are losing an exceptional monument unique to its generation,” said archaeologist Walter Alva, who discovered the mural in 2007. To read about another set of murals in Peru, go to “Painted Worlds.”

Categories: Blog

5,000-Year-Old Mound Surveyed in Turkey

November 14, 2017

NEVŞEHIR PROVINCE, TURKEY—According to an Anadolu Agency report, a team of archaeologists led by Yalçin Kamiş of Nevşehir Haci Bektaş Veli University are mapping a 5,000-year-old mound in an area near Cappadocia. The oldest layer is thought to include a defensive fortress and settlement dating to the early Bronze Age. “The site contains a multilayered mound with remains of different periods, the oldest dating from the third to second millennium B.C. It is understood that there are Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine settlements in the area,” Kamiş explained. To read about another discovery in Turkey, go to “Let a Turtle Be Your Psychopomp.”

Categories: Blog

Scientists Evaluate Acoustics of Ancient Greek Theaters

November 14, 2017

EINDHOVEN, NETHERLANDS—According to a report in Live Science, Eindhoven University of Technology researchers mapped the acoustic qualities of ancient Greek theaters to see if descriptions of sound quality targeted to modern-day tourists have been exaggerated. For example, a whisper was said to be heard in the last of 55 rows of seats in the theater at Epidaurus, or 194 feet away from the stage. Using speedy, wireless measuring devices of their own making, the researchers, led by acoustician Constant Hak, took more than 10,000 measurements at different times during the day in the theater at Epidaurus, which dates to 400 B.C.; the theater of Argos, which dates to 200 B.C.; and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which dates to A.D. 200. The scientists found that loudly projected voices were intelligible in the seats in the last rows, but words spoken at a normal volume were not. The sounds of ripping paper and a dropped coin could be heard about halfway up the rows of seats, and a whisper and the strike of a match could be heard only by those sitting in the front row. So while the sound quality is good, according to the researcher, it is not as impressive as travel guides claim. To read about a recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.

Categories: Blog

Roman Mithras Temple Reconstructed in London

November 11, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—The remains of a Roman temple dedicated to the bull-slaying god Mithras, which dates to the third century A.D., are set to be reopened to the public in Bloomberg's new European headquarters, according to a report in The Guardian. Mithraism was a cult religion devoted to Mithras practiced across the Roman Empire from about the first to the fourth centuries A.D. and was especially popular among soldiers. While their beliefs and rituals remain largely a mystery, followers of Mithraism had a complex system of initiation and met in underground temples called mithraea, many of which survive. The London Temple of Mithras was first discovered in 1954 and, for a time, was partially (and poorly) reconstructed for visitors on a nearby car park roof. Now in its original location, the mithraeum will be displayed alongside artifacts uncovered at the site. To read more about Roman Britain, go to “The Wall at the End of the Empire.”

Categories: Blog

Luxury 17th-Century Items Uncovered Near Paul Revere House

November 11, 2017

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS—Evidence of a sumptuous lifestyle enjoyed by a seventeenth-century family has been uncovered near the Paul Revere House in Boston’s North End, according to a report from The Boston Globe. The finds include a shard of a ceramic bowl of a type known as “sgraffito” probably produced between 1630 and 1640 in the Pisa region of northern Italy, making it the oldest known piece of European ceramic to have been discovered in the city. Also found at the site were decorated pieces of expensive Italian glass, animal bones suggesting a rich diet, and a clasp from a woman’s bodice. “They’ve got glassware that would make Liberace blush,” said Joe Bagley, Boston city archaeologist. The items were apparently discarded by the family of John Jeffs, a mariner active in the Atlantic trade, and suggest that people living in Puritan Boston were comfortable acquiring ostentatious and luxurious items. Bagley expected to find a large number of nineteenth-century artifacts in the excavation, which is being carried out in advance of construction work, and was surprised to find insights into life two centuries earlier as well. To read about a Revolutionary War–era discovery made near Boston, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

Categories: Blog

Luxury 17th-Century Items Uncovered Near Paul Revere House

November 11, 2017

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS—Evidence of a sumptuous lifestyle enjoyed by a seventeenth-century family has been uncovered near the Paul Revere House in Boston’s North End, according to a report from The Boston Globe. The finds include a shard of a ceramic bowl of a type known as “sgraffito” probably produced between 1630 and 1640 in the Pisa region of northern Italy, making it the oldest known piece of European ceramic to have been discovered in the city. Also found at the site were decorated pieces of expensive Italian glass, animal bones suggesting a rich diet, and a clasp from a woman’s bodice. “They’ve got glassware that would make Liberace blush,” said Joe Bagley, Boston city archaeologist. The items were apparently discarded by the family of John Jeffs, a mariner active in the Atlantic trade, and suggest that people living in Puritan Boston were comfortable acquiring ostentatious and luxurious items. Bagley expected to find a large number of nineteenth-century artifacts in the excavation, which is being carried out in advance of construction work, and was surprised to find insights into life two centuries earlier as well. To read about a Revolutionary War–era discovery made near Boston, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

Categories: Blog

Medieval Mass Graves Unearthed

November 11, 2017

KUNTA HORA, CZECH REPUBLIC—While excavating beneath a Catholic chapel in the eastern Czech Republic, archaeologists have unearthed some 1,500 skeletons from 30 medieval mass graves, reports the Prague Daily Monitor. Experts believe the remains belong to people who likely died during a famine in 1318 and a plague epidemic that began in 1348. "We must realize that such a mass grave represents a sample of a population within a very short period, which is extremely valuable to us," says the Czech Institute of Archaeology's Jan Frolik, who supervised the dig. The burials were probably unmarked and while the team found some buckles and coins in the cemetery, the people were largely buried without any grave goods. To read more about medieval mass graves, go to “Vengeance on the Vikings.”

Categories: Blog

8th-Century Skeleton Discovered at Hereford Cathedral

November 11, 2017

HEREFORD, ENGLAND—The Hereford Times reports that a skeleton discovered underneath Hereford Cathedral dates back to the origins of the city. Excavations ahead of construction work to improve the cathedral’s cloisters found three skeletons nearly seven feet underground. According to archaeologists, one of the skeletons belonged to a man who died in middle age, potentially due to several apparent blade injuries. Radiocarbon dating determined that the man lived sometime between A.D. 680 and 780, a period when the city was still a dangerous Anglo-Saxon frontier settlement in the Kingdom of Mercia, in the Welsh borderlands. To read more about Anglo-Saxon England, go to “The Kings of Kent.”

Categories: Blog

Medieval Jewish Cemetery Excavated in Italy

November 10, 2017

BOLOGNA, ITALY—According to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report, more than 400 graves at the site of a medieval Jewish cemetery have been uncovered as part of a construction project near Bologna’s Via Orfeo. In 1569, after Pope Pius V banished Jews from most papal territories, he reportedly turned the cemetery’s land over to the nuns of a nearby cloister and told them to destroy the graves. Archaeologists recovered the remains of adults and children, and artifacts made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and amber. No tombstones were found, and 150 of the graves showed signs of intentional desecration. To read about another recent discovery in Italy, go to “Itinerant Etruscan Beekeepers.

Categories: Blog

Teenager’s Bones Recovered from Scottish Cave

November 10, 2017

EIGG, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that tests have confirmed that some 50 human bones discovered in Frances Cave on the island of Eigg belonged to a single teenager who lived between 1430 and 1620. The cave is also known as Massacre Cave, after a story of clan warfare said to have wiped out as many as 400 members of the Macdonald clan by their Macleod rivals in 1577. The Macdonalds are said to have retreated to the cave when the Macleods arrived on the island seeking revenge after several of their young men were tied up and returned to their boats for reportedly harassing the local girls. The Macleods are accused of setting a turf fire at the entrance to the cave that suffocated the hiding Macdonalds. “When post-excavation analysis has been completed we will discuss what happens next with the community on Eigg,” said archaeologist Kirsty Owen of Historic Environment Scotland. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Fit for a Saint.”

Categories: Blog

Cuneiform Tablet From Anatolia Records Infertility Plan

November 10, 2017

KAYSERI PROVINCE, TURKEY—Daily Sabah reports that a 4,000-year-old Assyrian clay tablet found in Anatolia records a marriage agreement that includes a plan for how to proceed in case of infertility. Researchers led by Ahmet Berkiz Turp of Harran University said the agreement provided for a hierodule, or a female slave, who would serve as a surrogate if the couple were not able to produce a child within the first two years of marriage. “The female slave would be freed after giving birth to the first male baby and ensuring that the family is not left without a child,” Turp said. To read in-depth about cuneiform tablets, go to “The World's Oldest Writing.”

Categories: Blog

Study Suggests Farmers and Hunter-Gatherers Coexisted

November 10, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—According to a report in Seeker, a new genetic study indicates that most of today’s Europeans still carry hunter-gatherer DNA. Mark Lipson and David Reich of Harvard Medical School and their team of international colleagues analyzed samples taken from the remains of 180 people who lived in what are now Hungary, Germany, and Spain between 8,000 and 4,000 years ago. The farmers, who migrated into Europe from the Near East, could be differentiated from the hunter-gatherers based on the different isotope ratios in their bones and teeth, due to the differences in their diets. The researchers then constructed mathematical models to describe how farmer and hunter-gatherer populations might have interacted with each other. The data suggests that after an initial exchange, the two groups continued their contact over a long period of time. And, the farmers moved around a lot, perhaps searching for arable land as their populations grew. “During this period, it seems likely that hunter-gatherers were not migrating such long distances, but our knowledge is not complete,” Lipson said. Overall, the scientists think farmers and hunter-gatherers coexisted for some time before hunter-gatherers were completely integrated into farming populations. To read about evidence of early conflict among hunter-gatherers, go to “The First Casus Belli.”

Categories: Blog

Rome’s Lead Pipes May Have Added Antimony to Water Supply

November 9, 2017

NANTERRE, FRANCE—Live Science reports that an international team of scientists led by Philippe Charlier of Max Fourestier Hospital tested a lead water pipe from a home in Pompeii and found it carried highly toxic levels of antimony. The metal is thought to have been added to lead to strengthen it. To begin the investigation, the researchers dissolved a fragment of the metal pipe in concentrated nitric acid, and then heated it to more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit to ionize the elements so that they could be identified within a mass spectrometer. The analysis suggests the possible levels of antimony in city’s water supply could have caused antimony intoxication, diarrhea, and vomiting, leading to severe dehydration and eventually liver and kidney damage. Antimony has also been found in the groundwater close to volcanoes, possibly increasing the exposure of Pompeii’s population to the toxic element. The researchers suggest testing additional pipes throughout the Roman Empire, and looking for traces of antimony in the bones and teeth of ancient Romans, for more information on how antimony poisoning might have affected their health. For more on Pompeii, go to “Family History.”

Categories: Blog

Glass Fragment from Calligraphy Set Found in Japan

November 9, 2017

KYOTO, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that a fragment of a twelfth-century glass vessel was unearthed in an area of nobles’ homes in Heiankyo, Japan’s ancient capital. Researchers from the Gangoji Institute for Research of Cultural Property in Nara say the bluish-green fragment may have been part of the spout of a “suiteki” container, which would have been imported from China during the Heian Period, from A.D. 794 to 1185, for dropping water onto ink-grinding stones. The site may have been a base to distribute imported suiteki to aristocrats in Kyoto. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Sundial Unearthed in Roman Town

November 9, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a 2,000-year-old sundial has been discovered in a roofed theater at the site of the ancient town of Interamna Lirenas, which is located in central Italy. An inscription on the sundial names Marcus Novius Tubula, a plebeian tribune to Rome, and dates the artifact to the first century B.C. Alessandro Launaro of the University of Cambridge said the sundial and its inscription suggest the small town was more aware of and involved in the affairs of the capital than had been previously thought. Additional engravings on the face of the timepiece mark the seasons with respect to the winter solstice, equinox, and summer solstice. Only part of its needle, which cast the shadow necessary to show the time, was preserved. To read about a 3,300-year-old sundial discovered in Egypt, go to “Artifact.”

Categories: Blog

Luxurious Bathtubs Unearthed in China

November 8, 2017

SHAANXI PROVINCE, CHINA—China.org reports that three 2,000-year-old baths, complete with bricks, tiles, and sewerage drains, have been uncovered in Liyang, an ancient capital city located in northwest China. “The shape, structure, and size of the baths were very similar to the baths in the imperial palace of Xianyang, capital during the Qin Dynasty,” said researcher Liu Rui. The baths are thought to be some of the oldest in China. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

Cut Marks on Fossils May Have Been Made by Crocodiles

November 8, 2017

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—According to a report in Science Magazine, scrapes and cut marks found on animal fossils may have been made by the teeth of attacking crocodiles, rather than the tools of early human ancestors, as had been previously suggested by a study of 3.4-million-year-old animal remains. In that study, the researchers suggested the marks on the bones had been made by Australopithecus afarensis some 800,000 years before the oldest-known stone tools were used. Yonatan Sahle and Sireen El Zaatari of the University of Tübingen and Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, recently butchered a sheep carcass with stone flakes and compared the marks to those made on sheep bones by captive crocodiles. Even under a microscope, they found the cut marks to be indistinguishable from those made by the reptiles. “The resemblance is so stunning,” Sahle said. For more, go to “Earliest Stone Tools.”

Categories: Blog

Section of Roman Road Unearthed in Germany

November 8, 2017

BERLIN, GERMANY—According to an Associated Press report, a Roman road was discovered in western Germany by construction workers preparing the local Christmas market. Aachen city archaeologist Andreas Schaub said the road measures about 20 feet wide and is thought to date to the second century A.D. The road may have connected Aachen to what is today the city of Maastricht in the Netherlands. For more, go to “Slime Molds and Roman Roads.”

Categories: Blog

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