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17th-Century Shipwreck Unearthed in Stockholm

September 7, 2017

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—The Local reports that a shipwreck discovered in Stockholm could be the Scepter, a flagship built in 1615 for Sweden’s King Gustav II Adolf. “It was really well preserved,” said Jim Hansson of the Stockholm Maritime Museum. “It is only to the first deck level, but you can still see the cut marks from the axes on the timber.” Wood from the wreckage has been dated to the winter of 1612 and 1613. Four big warships were built at the time, including the Scepter, which carried 36 guns. Historic records also indicate the Scepter was scuttled in 1639 for the construction of a new shipyard at the islet in central Stockholm. To read about another famous Swedish shipwreck, go to “History's Greatest Wrecks: Mary Rose and Vasa.”

Categories: Blog

Inland Early Occupation Site Found in Brazil

September 7, 2017

PARIS, FRANCE—Denis Vialou of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and his colleagues have found 23,000-year-old artifacts in the Santa Elina rock-shelter in eastern Brazil, according to a report in Science News. The artifacts, found in three sediment layers, include stone objects and bony plates taken from the skin of giant sloths that had been modified with notches and holes. Hearths were also found in the sediment layers. Early human occupation sites in South America are usually found along the coast. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Rio de Janeiro.”

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Unusual, 7,200-Year-Old Vessel Uncovered in Israel

September 7, 2017

HAIFA, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Times of Israel, a small-scale silo has been unearthed at Tel Tsaf, in Israel’s Jordan Valley, by an international team of archaeologists led by Danny Rosenberg of the University of Haifa. “It’s really uncommon and doesn’t look like any vessel we have,” Rosenberg explained. The 7,200-year-old vessel was found in a room that is thought to have been connected to a burial complex, where the large bases of wheat and barley storage silos were found, along with thousands of seeds. The small vessel may have been a model for the construction of full-sized silos, and may have also been used in rituals connected to the successful storage and preservation of grain, to burial, and to regeneration of life. Pieces of ritual figurines, copper items, a shell imported from Egypt, and imported obsidian artifacts were also recovered. For more on archaeology in the area, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

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New Dates Obtained for Vindija Neanderthals

September 6, 2017

OXFORD, ENGLAND—Archaeologists Thibaut Devièse and Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford obtained new radiocarbon dates for Neanderthal bone fragments unearthed in Croatia’s Vindija Cave, according to a report in Science Magazine, by isolating and testing the amino acid hydroxyproline. Previous carbon dating of the Neanderthal remains in the late 1990s relied upon bone collagen, a gelatinous substance which can be contaminated by sediments. These earlier tests indicated the bones were between 29,000 and 34,000 years old, and suggest late-surviving Neanderthals shared the site with modern humans, whose remains and tools are also found in the cave. But the new dates indicate that Neanderthals used the cave some 40,000 years ago, or 8,000 years before modern humans lived in the region. “With this dating work, we are continuing our work to understand where and for how long the two species coexisted,” Devièse said. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Categories: Blog

Cache of Silver Coins Unearthed at Castle in Poland

September 6, 2017

WARSAW, POLAND—Eighteen silver coins dating to the seventeenth century were discovered in a defensive tower at Czluchów Castle in northwestern Poland, according to a report in Science & Scholarship in Poland. Michal Starski of the University of Warsaw said the valuable coins, which had been minted for foreign trade, may have been hidden during a period of war known as the Deluge, between 1655 and 1657, when the castle was captured by Swedish forces. “The Czluchów fortress resisted the Swedes for a long time,” Starski said. “The siege lasted for several months—ultimately, in the winter of 1655-56, when the surrounding lake fortress froze, the invaders captured it.” A similar cache of coins was found at a nearby cemetery in the beginning of the twentieth century. Starski thinks the coins may have come from the same collection. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow.”

Categories: Blog

Obsidian Artifacts Unearthed at Maya Site of Ceibal

September 6, 2017

CEIBAL, GUATEMALA—The International Business Times reports that 42 pieces of obsidian, or volcanic glass, were discovered in ritual contexts at the Maya site of Ceibal, which is located in the Maya lowlands. The artifacts date to the Preclassic period, between 700 and 350 B.C. In one grave, a long obsidian blade and an unshaped piece of obsidian rested with the remains of two sacrificed children, who had been buried facing each other. Another burial contained the remains of five children, all of whom were less than one year old. Four of the children’s bodies had been placed at the points of the compass, with a piece of obsidian buried at the center. The fifth child had been placed at the southwest corner. Caches of obsidian artifacts were also found in cross-shaped holes along the east-west axis of Ceibal’s public plaza. Kazuo Aoyama of Ibaraki University in Japan thinks the obsidian was transported from the highlands along early trade routes to Ceibal. Burying such rare, valuable tools would have been a significant sacrifice, according to Aoyama. For more, go to “Letter From Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

Categories: Blog

Roman Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Southeast England

September 2, 2017

WEST BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND—The International Business Times reports that archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology, assisted by volunteers, have uncovered the first half of a 1,600-year-old mosaic floor in a modest villa dating to the late fourth century A.D. So far, images in the large mosaic, which measures nearly 20 feet long, include a depiction of the the Greek hero Bellerophon attacking the Chimaera as he rides the winged horse Pegasus. Other scenes show King Iobates offering his daughter Philonoe to Bellerophon as a reward for killing the beast, which breathed fire and had a lion head affixed to the torso of a goat and the rear of a dragon, and a man wearing a lion skin, perhaps Hercules, fighting a centaur with a club. “The range of imagery is beyond anything seen in this country previously,” said archaeologist Duncan Coe. He notes, however, that the images lack the fine details of those executed by first-rate craftsmen. For more on Roman England, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

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Ancient Sunken City Found Off the Coast of Tunisia

September 1, 2017

NABEUL, TUNISIA—Ruins of the ancient Roman city of Neapolis have been discovered off the northeast coast of Tunisia, according to an AFP report. Underwater archaeologists from the Tunisian National Heritage Institute and Italy’s University of Sassari have found streets, monuments, and some 100 tanks that were used to produce garum, a popular fermented fish sauce. “This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major center for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world,” said team leader Mounir Fantar. The city is thought to have been submerged during a tsunami in A.D. 365. For more, go to “Romans on the Bay of Naples.”

Categories: Blog

Navy Scientists Weigh in on Sinking of Confederate Sub

September 1, 2017

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—The Post and Courier reports that Navy scientists disagree with Duke University researchers, who claimed that the sailors aboard the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley were killed when their spar-mounted torpedo rammed Housatonic, a Union blockade ship. Paul Taylor, a spokesperson for the Naval History and Heritage Command, said Navy scientists have also tested the forces of the explosion, but concluded that the men were not seriously injured by them. And James Downs, former chief medical examiner for the state of Alabama, examined the men’s intact brains, and found no sign of trauma. Kellen Correia, president and executive director of Friends of the Hunley, said that the Duke University researchers lacked the data collected by scientists at Clemson University, where the submarine is being conserved, and other research institutions. Additional theories on what led to the deaths of the Hunley crew implicate a small hole in its forward conning tower; a lack of oxygen while waiting for the tide to change after the attack; a possible collision with USS Canandaigua, which came to rescue the survivors of the Housatonic explosion; and a breach in the ballast tank, perhaps as a result of the explosion. But Navy researchers point out that there are clues that support and contradict each of these theories as well. To read in-depth about H.L. Hunley, go to “History's Greatest Wrecks: USS Monitor and H.L. Hunley.”

Categories: Blog

Study Suggests Neanderthals Used Adhesives

September 1, 2017

LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS—Paul Kozowyk of Leiden University and his colleagues suggest that Neanderthals pioneered the use of adhesives some 200,000 years ago, according to a report in Seeker. Neanderthals are known to have used tar to strengthen and waterproof the bindings between stone and bone tools and their handles. The team of researchers analyzed archaeological evidence for tar production at Neanderthal sites in Europe, and used the information to test three possible techniques developed by the early human relatives for producing tar by heating birch bark with embers and ash. Kozowyk said the different techniques varied in the amount of time and resources they required, and the amount of tar they produced as a result, and may have met different needs. It had been previously thought that adhesives were first produced by modern humans in Africa some 70,000 years ago. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Categories: Blog

Study Offers Insight Into Amazonia’s Earthworks

August 31, 2017

HELSINKI, FINLAND—It had been previously thought that Amazonia was populated by small hunter-gatherer societies who left little trace in the dense forest. But Pirjo Kirstiina Virtanen of the University of Helsinki has been studying large earthworks in Brazil that were built by the ancestors of the Apurina and Manchineri peoples as early as 3,000 years ago, according to a report in The International Business Times. Virtanen’s consultation with the Apurina and Manchineri suggests the structures were related to the changing pathways of the sun and moon. Along these pathways, people could communicate with animals, departed spirits, and celestial bodies. “What is important here is that the indigenous perspective is key,” Virtanen said. Some of the geoglyphs were used continually, and some used at different stages of life, such as puberty. The forms of the earthworks could also have meaning, such as the strength of the shape a square, and its connection to the four cardinal directions. When the sites were abandoned, they were swallowed by the forest, or houses and farms were built in them and around them. “The ancestral people here didn’t use stones or other materials, they simply moved the land,” Virtanen explained. For more on archaeology in South America, go to “A Life Story.”

Categories: Blog

Bones From Underwater Cave in Mexico Dated

August 31, 2017

HEIDELBERG, GERMANY—Nature News reports that human remains recovered from Mexico’s Chan Hol Cave are at least 11,300 years old, and could be more than 13,000 years old. A nearly complete skull and other human bones were discovered by divers in the underwater cave in 2012, but by the time scientists visited the cave a few weeks later, only fragments of bone remained on the cave floor, including a piece of pelvic bone covered by a stalagmite. Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of the University of Heidelberg dated the calcite surrounding the recovered piece of pelvic bone by analyzing its levels of uranium and thorium isotopes. Calcite two centimeters away from the bone was determined to be 11,300 years old. The rate at which the calcite formed suggests the skeleton had been on the cave floor for more than 13,000 years. The condition of the bone fragments has made it impossible to recover DNA samples from them, but Stinnesbeck is hopeful that the few teeth not removed by the thieves will produce usable genetic material. To read about the discovery of another ancient skeleton in a cave in Mexico, go to “Naia—the 13,000-Year-Old Native American.”

Categories: Blog

Roundhouse Excavated in Scotland’s Highlands

August 30, 2017

ASSYNT, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that a stone roundhouse known as Clachtoll Broch may have been abandoned after a fire some 2,000 years ago. “The fire could have been caused by an attack or caused by accidental burning of the building,” said Graeme Cavers of AOC Archaeology. Among the artifacts recovered are stone lamps, pottery, and a knocking stone filled with burned grain. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

Categories: Blog

Lost Medieval Village Discovered With Aerial Laser Scanner

August 30, 2017

WROCLAW, POLAND—According to a report in The International Business Times, archaeologist Maria Legut-Pintal of Wroclaw University of Science and Technology has discovered the village of Goschwitz in southwest Poland. The small village consisted of about 20 farmhouses, constructed of timber framing on stone foundations, arranged around a central square. Scholars have been searching for the village, thought to have been founded some 700 years ago by the Duke of Löwenberg, who was also known as Bolko I the Strict, for more than 70 years. Using airborne laser-scanning technology, Legut-Pintal found the village, which was occupied for only 50 years. She has two ideas regarding the failure of Goschwitz: The village may have been destroyed during the Hussite Wars, or poor soil may have made survival impossible. “We will be able to answer this question only after excavation studies, when we establish the exact time of village abandonment,” she explained. For more on archaeology in Poland, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow.”

Categories: Blog

Skull Study Offers View of Violence in Medieval London

August 30, 2017

OXFORD, ENGLAND—Kathryn Krakowka of the University of Oxford examined hundreds of skulls recovered from six London cemeteries dating between A.D. 1050 and 1550. According to a report in New Scientist, she found that violence in medieval London may have been tied to sex and social status. Nearly seven percent of the skulls bore evidence of violent trauma, or about double the rate of trauma found in cemeteries in other parts of England. And, the rate of signs of violence was even higher in the skulls of young men aged 26 to 35, and higher in those who had been buried in free parish cemeteries rather than monastic cemeteries, usually associated with the paying upper classes. Krakowka speculates that the upper classes may have turned to officials in the developing legal system of the time to address disputes, or even resorted to formal duels while wearing armor. Historic coroners’ rolls record that most homicides occurred on Sunday nights, when Krakowka says men would have been visiting taverns, and on Monday mornings. “This, in combination with my results, possibly suggests that those of lower status resolved conflict through informal fights that may or may not have been fueled by drunkenness,” she said. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

Categories: Blog

Rome’s Lead Levels Analyzed Through Soil Samples

August 30, 2017

ROME, ITALY—According to a report in Phys.org, a team of scientists, led by Hugo Delile of France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, analyzed and dated sediment cores from more than 170 sites in the harbors at Ostia and Portus in order to find the amount of lead in the Roman water system over time. Water carried into Rome via the aqueducts was at first distributed through terracotta or wooden pipes. But levels of lead in the sediments spiked between 200 B.C. and A.D. 250, indicating that lead pipes were likely in use during this period, which begins about 150 years earlier than had been previously thought. The study also suggests the lead levels dropped during the Imperial period, perhaps because the extensive plumbing system was not maintained during civil wars. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

Categories: Blog

Roman-Era Necklace Discovered in Bulgaria

August 30, 2017

PETRICH, BULGARIA—The Sofia Globe reports that a well-preserved gold necklace has been discovered in an ancient shop at the site of Heraclea Sintica. The city was founded in the fourth century B.C., on the site of a Thracian settlement, and was destroyed by an earthquake in the fourth century A.D. The necklace is thought to have been imported from Rome in the fourth century A.D., and perhaps lost in the panic of the earthquake. No other gold objects were found in the shop. “If we were going to find a jewelry shop,” said Lyudmil Vagalinski of Bulgaria’s National Archaeological Museum, “we would find some other jewelry and there would have to be some other tools, but in this context, we find that it is a building from the end of the fourth century.” A lack of human remains at the site suggests the owner of the necklace survived the incident. For more, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

Categories: Blog

Large Building Foundations Found at Ancient Greek Port

August 29, 2017

SALAMIS, GREECE—The second phase of an underwater survey of the Classical-era coastline of the island of Salamis has revealed traces of what may have been a public building near its ancient port, according to a report in Tornos News. Aggeliki Simosi of the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate and the Institute of Underwater Archaeological Research and Yiannos Lolos of Ioannina University say the stone plinths indicate the large, solid structure was about 40 feet long. A spiral column pillar, pottery, and marble fragments of columns and statues were also found. In the late nineteenth century, an inscribed marble pedestal for a statue was recovered from the site. Scholars think the structure may have served as a temple or gallery through the late Roman period. The second-century A.D. geographer Pausanias mentioned a similar structure in his writings. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “Antikythera Man.”

Categories: Blog

Cata Sands Site Yields Neolithic House, Whale Skeletons

August 29, 2017

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Scotsman, a well-preserved Neolithic house and the skeletons of 12 nineteenth-century whales in two large pits have been uncovered on the Orkney island of Sanday. An account dating to 1875 describes the practice of driving whales ashore at Cata Sands, where they were butchered for their blubber. The Neolithic house, complete with a hearth, internal partitions, and stone walls, rests on a base of rounded beach stones and a deep layer of sand and is thought to date to between 3400 and 3100 B.C. Pottery fragments, knives, a grinding stone, pieces of flint, and animal bones were also found. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “A Dangerous Island.

Categories: Blog

Farmers’ Softer Foods May Have Changed Skull Shape

August 29, 2017

DAVIS, CALIFORNIA—The consumption of soft foods like cheese and other dairy products contributed to changes in the shape of the human skull, according to a report in The Telegraph. David Katz of the University of Calgary, Alberta, suggests that hunter-gatherers ate crunchy foods and gnawed meat off bones, which put stress on areas of the skull during chewing. Farmers, however, ate dairy products and grain mush, which reduced these chewing stresses. Katz and his team mapped points on more than 1,000 skulls of hunter-gatherers and farmers, and found that the temporalis muscle became smaller and changed position in the farmers’ skulls, while the upper jaws became shorter and the lower jaw became smaller. “Agriculture changed not only human culture and lifeways, but human biology as well,” he said. For more on early farmers, go to “The Neolithic Toolkit.”

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