SALEKHARD, RUSSIA—Scientists continue to study the well-preserved remains of a six- or seven-year-old boy whose medieval birch bark coffin was recovered from the Zeleny Yar necropolis. So far, they have learned that the boy had worms from eating raw or undercooked fish, which may have been a staple food fed to infants and small children. Petr Slominsky of the Institute of Molecular Genetics in Moscow told The Siberian Times that his team plans to gather DNA samples from the modern Khanty, Nenets, and Komi peoples, who live near the site of the necropolis, to compare with a sample from the remains. The task is complicated by damage to the remains caused by repeated thawing and freezing and by resin in the birch bark used to wrap the body. "The DNA we get is not very clean, and there is not very much of it," said Slominsky. "But at the moment we are working to clear the DNA and get more samples and as soon as we succeed we will start the analysis." For more on archaeology in the area, go to "Letter from Siberia: Fortress of Solitude."
ISLE OF BUTE, SCOTLAND—New radiocarbon dates for a preserved surface in the mound known as Cnoc An Rath could indicate a Viking presence at the site. Some think the archaeological monument may have been a Viking “thing,” or parliament site, based upon an analysis of long lost place names on the island. And archaeologist Paul Duffy told the Herald Scotland that a medieval Irish text mentions the island as being in the territory of the Gall-Gaidheil, Norse-Gael people who dominated much of the region around the Irish Sea. “We have got a very unusual and definite historical evidence which puts Bute in the Gall-Gaidheil territory, and possibly quite an important place in the Gall-Gaidheil territory," said Duffy. "What we have now is another brick in the evidential wall which suggests there is an assembly site on Bute." That could link the site to King Ketill Björnsson, a.k.a. Ketill Flatnose, a figure in Icelandic sagas. Icelandic tradition states that the king died on the Scottish islands. To read more, go to "Viking Trading or Raiding?"
CHATHAM TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY—According to an Associated Press report, historian William Styple and his son Brad think they may have found the place where Washington and his troops stayed after crossing the Delaware River and engaging in battles in Trenton and Princeton. The Styples found an 1855 newspaper article that reportedly records the memories of people who saw the camp, and late-nineteenth-century photographs of a mansion on the site, one of which was marked with the location of the camp’s flagpole. An archaeological survey, conducted by Michigan-based Commonwealth Heritage Group, recovered several dozen artifacts at the site, including metal buckles, a knob from a desk drawer, pottery, and a partial pipe bowl. “It could be an encampment during the war, possibly ’77. But armies constantly marched through here through the entire American Revolution, and bits of armies were camping as they passed through,” commented Eric Olsen, a park ranger at Morristown National Historical Park. For more on archaeology of the American Revolution, go to "Finding Parker’s Revenge."
NANJING, CHINA—Archaeologists from the Nanjing Museum say they have discovered traces of a rice field at the Neolithic site of Hanjing in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu. Carbonized rice from the site was dated to 8,000 years ago. The ancient rice paddy had been divided into different parts, each of which had a different shape and covered less than 100 square feet. China Daily also reports that the scientists found evidence the paddy had been repeatedly planted with rice. Lin Liugen, head of the museum’s archaeology institute, said that 10,000-year-old carbonized rice has been found elsewhere, but this is oldest rice paddy to have been uncovered in China. To read about another recent discovery, go to "The Price of Tea in China."
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA—Most tattoos found on Egyptian mummies are patterns of dots or dashes, but according to a report in Nature, bioarchaeologist Anne Austin of Stanford University found tattoos representing actual objects on a 3,000-year-old mummified woman from Deir el-Medina, the village where the artisans who worked on tombs in the Valley of the Kings are thought to have lived. Using infrared lighting and an infrared sensor, Austin and her team recorded more than 30 tattoos on the woman’s remains. Many of the images, which include pictures of lotus blossoms on the woman’s hips, cows on her arm, baboons on her neck, and wadjet eyes on her neck, shoulders, and back, are associated with the goddess Hathor. “Any angle that you look at this woman, you see a pair of divine eyes looking back at you,” Austin said. Some of the images are more faded than others, and are thought to have been applied as the woman aged. To read in-depth about the archaeology of body art, go to "Ancient Tattoos."
QUANG NAM, VIETNAM—Archaeologists led by Ton That Huong, head of the province’s Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, have discovered a well thought to date to the twelfth century at a site known for its Cham steles, statues, and temples. According to a report in Vietnam News, the square-shaped well measures approximately three feet per side and is lined with bricks similar to those used in other Cham structures in central Vietnam. The well is located on the edge of the archaeological site, near an agricultural field, so a fence will be built to protect it. To read more about ancient sites in the region, go to "Letter From Cambodia: Storied Landscape."
DURHAM, ENGLAND—Researchers from Durham University have examined the bones of up to 28 individuals thought to have been Scottish prisoners of war captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 by the English army. Historical sources say that at least 4,000 men were taken prisoner and marched to Durham Cathedral and castle, where they were held. The bodies in the two graves had been placed there haphazardly. Marks on the bones, perhaps made by scavenging animals, suggest that the graves were left open over a period of time. According to a report in Chronicle Live, the scientists have found many of the individuals to have been between 13 and 25 years old at the time of death. The condition of their teeth suggests that the young men had experienced malnutrition and disease in childhood, and that some of them smoked pipes, which became popular in the 1630s. Their lack of healed wounds suggests that they had not had previous battle experience. “We would like to know more about the circumstances of the battle and march south, and see if we can find any evidence for other mass graves as yet undiscovered,” said Beth Upex of the University of Durham. To read about more about historical archaeology in the British Isles, go to "Letter From Scotland: Living on the Edge."
HARRAY, ORKNEY—A landowner in Scotland found an intact underground chamber that may date to the Iron Age, according to a report in The Orcadian. “Peering inside the entirely roofed, pristine structure, we could see that, although the site was hitherto unknown to officialdom, it had been discovered previously, in the Victorian period, as the whole of the interior is covered in nineteenth-century rubbish—iron kettles, pots, glass bottles, marmalade jars, and imported French mustard jars!” said Martin Carruthers of the University of Highlands and Islands. Carruthers and county archaeologist Julie Gibson think the trash could provide clues to the life of a local resident in the nineteenth century, but for now, the structure has been closed up and is being monitored. To rea more about archaeology in Orkney, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart."
NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA—Conservators at the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum have begun to remove the marine concretions from the surfaces of the ship’s gun turret, which has been soaking in a 90,000-gallon treatment tank for five years. The Daily Press reports that the conservators will also remove the metal shields that line the interior of the turret to clean and to look for small artifacts that may have been trapped there when the warship sank. Most of the shields were blown off in battle, “but there are still four or five of them that are mostly intact—all on the starboard side of the turret where most of the artifacts have been found. So we believe there’s a pretty good chance there are more of them waiting to be exposed,” explained senior conservator William N. Hoffman. So far, the team has recovered a bone-handled knife, a silver table spoon, a monkey wrench, a glass tube for a steam engine gauge, and a cartridge for a naval carbine behind the shields. To read more about USS Monitor, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks."
CAIRO, EGYPT—Mahmoud Afify, head of the ancient Egyptian antiquities sector at the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, announced that the Egyptian-German Archaeological Mission to Matariya discovered a sanctuary of Nectanebo I (380-363 B.C.) in the temple precinct of Heliopolis. According to a report in ANSAmed, the building was constructed with limestone reliefs and columns, and had lower wall zones made of black basalt. Aiman Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian team, added that the eastern gate was made of brown silicified sandstone. The team also unearthed a bronze figurine of the goddess Bastet, basalt slabs carved with images of Nile gods and accompanying texts, and sculptor’s practice pieces.
SWAT VALLEY, PAKISTAN—Buddhist sculptures and carvings have been discovered in a shrine in the ancient city of Bazira, founded in the second century B.C. and damaged by earthquakes in the third century A.D. According to a report in Live Science, one of the 1,700-year-old sculptures is thought to depict the wealthy prince Siddhartha traveling on a horse named Kanthaka. Archaeologist Luca Olivieri thinks that the carving may illustrate the story of Siddhartha, who eventually became the Gautama Buddha, leaving his home to seek enlightenment. Another carving features a stupa with a platform, or harmika, near its top. Next to the stupa are two columns topped with lions. Olivieri said this sculpture may represent an actual stupa in the Swat Valley. A carving found in the shrine’s courtyard is thought to date to the post-earthquake period. It pictures an unknown male deity sitting on a throne while holding a wine goblet and a severed goat’s head. “The goat is an animal associated to the mountains in the cultures of Hindu Kush, the local region,” Olivieri said. To read more about the archaeology of Siddhartha Guatama, go to "Buddhism, in the Beginning."
VERO BEACH, FLORIDA—A team from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has uncovered what may be the 13,000-year-old bones and an upper molar of an extinct species of bison at the Old Vero Man site. “It most certainly puts bison on the menu when we know people were here in Vero Beach at that time. An eight-foot-tall bison leaves behind so much more than just a stone flake or a hearth. We couldn’t have asked for a better representative species from that era,” lead archaeologist Andrew Hemmings told TCPalm. The team also found charcoal, the bones of small mammals, and bone fragments that may have come from mammoths, mastodons, sloths, or ancient bison. To read more about the earliest people to reach the new world, go to "America, in the Beginning."
DELFT, NETHERLANDS—According to The Netherland Times, construction crews digging a new railway tunnel in the city of Delft uncovered a shiny metal object that turned out to be a luxury container for turtle soup. The can was made of tin and wrapped in brass. The print, written in French, reads: “Preserved foods, W. Hoogenstraaten and Sons, purveyor, turtle soup, Leiden.” Bas Penning of Archaeology Delft explained that the company W. Hoogenstraaten and Sons was founded in Leiden in 1860, and changed its name in 1900, so the can was manufactured sometime in the late nineteenth century. The soup was therefore Dutch in origin, but was probably exported throughout Europe. “French was a common language then,” he said. To read about another recent archaeological discovery in the Netherlands, go to "Medieval River Engineering."
ATHENS, GEORGIA—Researchers from the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, Pennsylvania State University, and Florida Gulf Coast University are studying Mound Key, an island built by the Calusa from hundreds of millions of shells, bones, and other discarded materials in Estero Bay. Extensive radiocarbon dates, taken from the island’s different layers, indicate that the younger building materials are found on the bottom, even though you would expect to find them on the top. “It appears that the island was occupied early in its existence, abandoned, and then reoccupied,” R&D Magazine reports. “During Mound Key’s second occupation, its inhabitants substantially altered the landscape by redepositing old midden to form at least the upper portions of the two largest midden-mounds.” To read about how modern-day Native Americans in Florida uphold ancient traditions, go to "People of the White Earth."
MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA—According to a report in Live Science, researchers have compared sonar images of the wreck of USS Independence (CVL22) with declassified documents to determine how the aircraft carrier was used in the years following World War II. Marine archaeologist James Delgado of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the Independence was one of a fleet of vessels assigned to Operation Crossroads to examine the effects of shock waves, heat, and radiation from the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. The Independence survived the tests and so was used for decontamination studies, and then as a laboratory for testing ways to handle radioactive waste. In 1951, the Navy stored radioactive waste in steel and concrete drums on the cleaned ship and then sank it in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. “Independence, by the time it was sunk, was at about a level that you would get with an average X-ray,” Delgado said. “Now we not only know what shape she’s in and where she lies, but also exactly what happened to the Independence.” To read more about USS Independence, go to "Wrecks of the Pacific."
GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN—Per Homberg of the University of Gothenburg suggests that the inscription on the Rök Runestone, which dates to the late A.D. 800s, does not refer to acts of heroism, kings, and wars, as had been previously thought, but honors the power of writing itself and harnesses it to honor the dead. Homberg says the Rök Runestone is unusual because its text is long, but its meaning is similar to that expressed on other runestones. “The riddles on the front of the stone have to do with the daylight that we need to be able to read the runes, and on the back are riddles that probably have to do with the carving of the runes and the runic alphabet, the so-called futhark,” he said in Laboratory Equipment. In this interpretation, the 24 “kings” mentioned at the bottom of the stone are not rulers, but the set of runes themselves. To read more about the Viking world, go to "The First Vikings."
SAINT AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA—KAGS TV reports that city archaeologist Carl Halbirt unearthed an intact pot at the site of the Mill Top Tavern, across from the Castillo de San Marcos. He thinks the pot was buried in a pit at least 300 years ago by Native Americans and may have had ritual significance. The pot contained pieces of another pot and soil that will be analyzed. To read more about the archaeology of Native Americans in Spanish Florida, go to "Off the Grid: Mission San Luis."
CORNWALL, ENGLAND—Culture 24 reports that restoration work at the Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park revealed the cobbled floor and central wall of the property’s upper deer house. The ground floor of the structure would have supported a timber manger to feed the deer that lived on the land; the hay was stored on the structure’s upper floor. The team also exposed the elaborate cobbled floor in the park’s stone seating area. Visitors would have been able to sit and look across the deer park and out to the sea from the seat. “Although the building had partially collapsed and its original form is uncertain—there are no known surviving photos—the team managed to clear away rubble and soil to reveal the original plan of the building along with a rear ledge which would have supported a wooden seat,” explained James Gossip of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit. Additional evidence suggests that the slate roof over the seat had cast iron gutters to carry water away from the structure. Both buildings are thought to be between two and three hundred years old. To read more about archaeology on an English estate, go to "The Many Lives of an English Manor House."
BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA—According to a report in The Slovak Spectator, a joint Kuwaiti-Slovak archaeological team working at the Nestorian Christian settlement of Al-Qusur on Failaka Island in the Persian Gulf unearthed a palace dating from the seventh to ninth centuries, a sewerage system, and the base of a stone tower. “According to a preliminary analysis, it’s a unique so-called windcatch-tower, utilizing an ingenious interior cooling system based on the flow of air, caught by openings in the tower superstructure,” Matej Ruttkay, director of the Slovak Academy of Sciences’ Archaeological Institute, told the TASR newswire. Similar cooling systems have been found in the Middle East and North Africa. To read in-depth about the site, go to "Archaeology Island."
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—BBC News reports that a new genetic study of the remains of 51 Europeans between 45,000 and 7,000 years old has been led by David Reich at Harvard Medical School. The results suggests that beginning 37,00 years ago, all Europeans came from a single founding population that developed deep branches in different parts of Europe. At the end of the last Ice Age some 19,000 years ago, people thought to have come from Spain spread northward. Then some 14,000 years ago, populations from Turkey and Greece spread westward into Europe and replaced the first group. “We see multiple, huge movements of people displacing previous ones,” said Reich. The analysis also suggests that Ice Age Europeans had dark complexions and brown eyes until about 14,000 years ago, when blue eyes began to spread across the population. Pale skin began to appear after 7,000 years ago. Earlier populations also had more Neanderthal DNA than present-day people, which is consistent with the idea that it may have had harmful effects on modern humans and was lost over time through natural selection. To read about a masterpiece of Paleolithic art, go to "New Life for Lion Man."