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Cachette of Mummies Discovered in Central Egypt

May 16, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a team from Cairo University discovered an unmarked burial site containing a collection of 17 mummies dating to the Late Period at Tuna Al-Gabal, also known as the necropolis of Khmun, located in central Egypt. Salah El-Kholi, head of the project, said that a radar survey of the area revealed the burial shafts, which also contained limestone and clay sarcophagi. The two clay sarcophagi are anthropoid coffins, one of which is damaged. Two papyri inscribed with Demotic script and a gold, feather-shaped decoration were also found. “This feather could be decoration on the hair dress of one of the deceased,” said El-Kholi. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “Messengers to the Gods.”

Categories: Blog

15th-Century Printed Page Discovered in Archive

May 13, 2017

READING, ENGLAND—Live Science reports that librarian Erika Delbecque found a page from a Latin text of instructions for priests known as the Sarum Ordinal or Sarum Pye in an archive at the University of Reading. The book was printed in late 1476 or early 1477 by William Caxton, who introduced the printing press to England, with black text, red paragraph marks, and double-sided pages. Delbecque said that the page is one of only two surviving fragments of the medieval book, which fell out of use after the Reformation. The rare leaf had been pasted into another book to reinforce its spine for about 300 years, until it was recovered at the University of Cambridge around 1820. The University of Reading purchased the page 20 years ago as part of a collection belonging to a typographer. To read in-depth about the search for medieval manuscripts, go to "Recovering Hidden Texts."

Categories: Blog

Millstone Found at Cleveland Park Site

May 13, 2017

CLEVELAND, TENNESSEE—According to a report in The Cleveland Banner, a large millstone was discovered near Taylor Spring in downtown Cleveland, the site where the city’s first residents are thought to have settled. A city public works crew found the stone while picking up litter and debris near the spring, and hauled it away as garbage. But a local resident noticed what had happened and contacted a historian, who alerted the crew’s director to the potential value of the find. City historian Bob George said that although it appears that the stream and spring at the site are not powerful enough to turn a millstone, there may have been dams at one time to increase the force of the water. He added that millstone may have belonged to the Cleveland Milling Company, which owned the property in 1906. To read more about historical archaeology in the United States, go to "Empire of Glass."

Categories: Blog

Millstone Found at Cleveland Park Site

May 13, 2017

CLEVELAND, OHIO—According to a report in The Cleveland Banner, a large millstone was discovered near Taylor Spring in downtown Cleveland, the site where the city’s first residents are thought to have settled. A city public works crew found the stone while picking up litter and debris near the spring, and hauled it away as garbage. But a local resident noticed what had happened and contacted a historian, who alerted the crew’s director to the potential value of the find. City historian Bob George said that although it appears that the stream and spring at the site are not powerful enough to turn a millstone, there may have been dams at one time to increase the force of the water. He added that millstone may have belonged to the Cleveland Milling Company, which owned the property in 1906. To read more about historical archaeology in the United States, go to "Empire of Glass."

Categories: Blog

Scottish Soldiers Remembered in Durham

May 12, 2017

DURHAM, ENGLAND—The National reports that Durham University hosted an event to commemorate the lives of the Scottish soldiers taken prisoner after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and imprisoned in Durham. A plaque in Durham Cathedral, which had stated that the soldiers’ burial place was unknown, has been updated, and a new plaque has been placed in the courtyard at Palace Green Library. The remains of some 1,700 of these men were found in a mass grave during the construction of the library, which began four years ago. Researchers have studied the remains to learn about the lives of the Scottish soldiers who died while imprisoned in England, and they have tracked down what happened to those who survived the battle and imprisonment. Their descendants were consulted in the creation of the new plaque, made of stone quarried at the site of the Battle of Dunbar. “It is our intention through this project to give these individuals a voice in our history,” explained Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor and warden of Durham University. The soldiers’ remains will eventually be reburied in a cemetery close to the original site of the mass grave. To read an in-depth article about the prisoners, go to "After the Battle." 

Categories: Blog

1,800-Year-Old Kiln Uncovered in Verulamium

May 12, 2017

HERTFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND—St. Alban’s Review reports that an 1,800-year-old kiln has been unearthed at Verulamium, a Roman town in southeastern England. Archaeologists found the kiln deep underground, ahead of the installation of a new gas pipe. “To find another ancient pottery kiln is a wonderful surprise,” said Councillor Annie Brewster. Recent excavations at the ancient site also uncovered a townhouse and the absence of a tower expected at the corner of the city walls. To read more about Roman Britain, go to “The Wall at the End of the Empire.”

Categories: Blog

An Update on Mississippi’s Asylum Cemetery

May 12, 2017

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI—The Clarion-Ledger reports that as many 7,000 people may be buried on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus. The deceased are thought to have been patients of the Mississippi Asylum for the Insane, which stood on the property from 1855 to 1935. In 2013, 66 coffins were uncovered during road construction, and a ground-penetrating radar survey before the construction of a parking garage in 2014 detected another 2,000 coffins. Because the burials rest in areas where the school is considering additional construction work, officials may exhume the burials and create a memorial, visitors’ center, and a lab where the remains and artifacts could be studied. “It would make Mississippi a national center on historical records relating to health in the premodern period, particularly those being institutionalized,” commented Molly Zuckerman of Mississippi State University’s Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures. To read about a very different sort of discovery made in Mississippi, go to “Not Quite Ancient.”

Categories: Blog

Burial Chamber Discovered in Pyramid at Dahshur

May 12, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to a report in Live Science, a team of archaeologists from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has discovered a burial chamber in the remains of a 3,800-year-old pyramid uncovered at the Dahshur royal necropolis last month. At the time, the name “Ameny Qemau,” a pharaoh who ruled around 1790 B.C., was found on an alabaster block at the site. Within the chamber, the researchers found a wooden box inscribed with the name “Hatshepset,” who may have been a daughter of Ameny Qemau. Such boxes were used to store canopic jars containing the inner organs of mummies, but only a few mummy wrappings were recovered from this box. Egyptologist James Allen of Brown University suggested that the princess may have been buried in her father’s pyramid, which would explain why two pyramids in Dahshur bear his name. The excavation team also found a poorly preserved sarcophagus in the burial chamber. For more on Egypt, go to “Hidden Blues.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Log Boat Unearthed in England

May 11, 2017

LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—Lincolnshire Live reports that roadwork has uncovered a 20-foot log boat that may be 4,000 years old. A wood sample has been sent for radiocarbon dating. The vessel was found in a silted-up channel of the Witham River, with the prow slightly higher than the stern, which suggests that it had been pulled ashore. The prow is not as well preserved as the stern, perhaps because it was exposed to the air while the rear of the vessel was covered by the swampy riverbank. The vessel was probably made by splitting a tree trunk in half with wedges, then hollowing out half of it with flint or metal tools, and then, possibly, subjecting it to controlled burning. Slots cut into the stern of the boat would have held a transom board to square it off. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

Categories: Blog

Remnants of World War I Battle Found in Israel

May 11, 2017

ROSH HA’AYIN, ISRAEL—Fox News reports that students uncovered World War I rifle cartridges and shell fragments at the site of the Battle of Megiddo, which took place on September 19, 1918, in central Israel. Further exploration by the Israel Antiquities Authority team revealed two military outposts used by the Ottoman army, a piece of a British army cap insignia, and Ottoman rifle cartridges. Archaeologist Shahar Crispin identified the insignia as belonging to Britain’s Norfolk Regiment, which attacked the ridge where the excavation took place. According to weapons expert Alexander Glick, the artifacts indicate that British forces shelled the Turkish positions with 18-pounder guns. The Ottomans responded with massive light arms fire that had been manufactured in Germany. To read about another recent discovery in Israel, go to “Mask Metamorphosis.”

Categories: Blog

Medieval Fasting Rules May Have Altered Chicken Evolution

May 11, 2017

OXFORD, ENGLAND—News.com.au reports that Christian religious beliefs and increased urbanization may have shaped the domestication of the chicken during the medieval period. Liisa Loog of Oxford University said that chickens were first domesticated about 6,000 years ago. The new study combined DNA data from chicken bones recovered at archaeological sites in Europe with statistical modeling, and found that some of the features of modern chickens, such as the ability to live in close proximity to one another, rapid egg laying, and a reduced fear of humans arose about 1,000 years ago, when religious fasting rules excluded the consumption of four-legged animals, but allowed the devout to eat chickens and their eggs. Loog explained that selection pressures, including different preferences and ecological factors, can change over time. For more on human consumption of animals, go to “The Rabbit Farms of Teotihuacán.”

Categories: Blog

France Repatriates Artifacts to Egypt

May 10, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that French officials handed over a limestone relief recovered from a Paris auction house during a ceremony at Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters. Shaaban Abdel-Gawad of the ministry’s Antiquities Repatriation Department said that the sculpture, which dates to the 30th Dynasty and depicts the goddess Sekhmet carrying a sun disk on her head, is thought to have been taken from a temple at the Saqqara necropolis sometime in the twentieth century. Hieroglyphs on the relief include the cartouche of King Nekhtenbo II. A collection of more than 40 artifacts seized at Charles de Gaulle Airport was also returned. Most of those objects date to the Coptic era, and include jewelry and cosmetic containers. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “World’s Oldest Dress.”

Categories: Blog

4,000-Year-Old Paintings Revealed on Egyptian Tomb Walls

May 10, 2017

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Live Science reports that 4,000-year-old tombs excavated more than 100 years ago in the Beni Hassan cemetery have been cleaned and conserved by a team from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. A team led by Linda Evans of Macquarie University’s Australian Centre for Egyptology then surveyed the tombs using modern techniques. The effort has revealed scenes on the walls that were not recorded during the initial investigation, and clarified other images, including one of an Egyptian mongoose wearing a collar and walking on a leash on the wall of a tomb occupied by Baqet I, a governor during the 11th Dynasty. Evans noted that the person walking the mongoose also holds the leash of a spotted hunting dog. Although mongooses were not fully domesticated, Evans suggests they may have been kept as pets to control pests such as snakes, rats, and mice. Or, they may have been employed by hunters to flush birds from cover. For more, go to “Recovering Hidden Texts.”

Categories: Blog

Additional Homo naledi Fossils Found

May 9, 2017

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA—The Guardian reports that the fossils of additional Homo naledi individuals have been found in the Rising Star Cave system, in a chamber some 300 feet away from the site were the first specimens were discovered in 2013. That brings the total number to at least 18 individuals, including the nearly complete skull of an adult. Homo naledi stood nearly five feet tall, weighed about 100 pounds, and had a small brain and curved fingers, but wrists, hands, legs, and feet resembling those of Neanderthals and modern humans. Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand said that the bones show few signs of stress or disease, which suggests Homo naledi may have been the dominant species in the area between 335,000 and 236,000 years ago—a time when Homo sapiens also lived in the region. Berger thinks stone tools attributed to modern humans may have been made by Homo naledi, although no tools have been found with the hominin fossils. He also speculates that they were able to control fire, since they were able to navigate the underground cave. “I think the discovery of this second chamber adds to the idea that Homo naledi deliberately disposed of its dead in the deep underground chambers of the Rising Star cave system,” he said. For more on Homo naledi, go to “A New Human Relative.”

Categories: Blog

Airborne Laser Scans Detect Ancient Structures in Poland

May 9, 2017

WARSAW, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team of researchers from Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University used airborne laser scanning to find ancient barrows, mounds, fields divided by raised earthen strips, tar extraction facilities, and charcoal piles in the Bialowieza Forest. Once the sites were spotted with from the air, the archaeologists visited the sites to try to determine their age and function. Some of the sites were also examined with GPR georadar. “Because of the strict regulations concerning the protection of the natural heritage in the Bialowieza National Park and the adjoining reserves, we cannot conduct excavations there,” said Joanna Wawrzeniuk. One cluster of 25 barrows, located in the northern section of Bialowieza National Park, is thought to have been made by the Iron Age Wielbark culture. The team also discovered a fortified settlement near the Orlówka River. This circular fortification measured about 100 feet in diameter and was surrounded by marshes. It may have served as a watch outpost during the Middle Ages. For more on the use of airborne laser scanning, go to “Angkor Urban Sprawl.”

Categories: Blog

Brains of Two-Sided Stone-Tool Makers Scanned

May 9, 2017

NORFOLK, ENGLAND—The Yorkshire Post reports that Shelby Putt of the Stone Age Institute and her team scanned the brains of volunteers with functional near-infrared spectroscopy while they produced two-sided stone weapons, such as hand axes and cleavers. It had been thought that such stone tool production, first undertaken some 1.75 million years ago, would be linked to the evolution of language. But the scientists instead found that the same areas of the brain were activated in the tool makers as in those who play the piano in a rock-and-roll style. Both skills require a combination of visual memory, hearing, movement awareness, and action planning. “We think this marked a turning point in the evolution of the human brain, leading to the evolution of a new species of human,” Putt said. For more, go to “Earliest Stone Tools.

Categories: Blog

Nineteenth-Century Urban Trash Uncovered in Iowa

May 9, 2017

DAVENPORT, IOWA—According to a report in The Globe Gazette, John Hedden of the University of Iowa and his team uncovered a small section of what may be a city trash pit dating to the early nineteenth century. They recovered more than 30,000 artifacts, all from working-class homes, including a chamber pot, animal bones, broken china, shoe soles, pipes, medicine and liquor bottles, and an ink well. “You never see this dense (amount of material in) an early deposit,” Hedden said. “We were just astounded as we dug into it.” Hedden explained that in the early nineteenth century, the site, located along Western Avenue, was a swampy area that was unsuitable for development, and so was probably used as a local dumping ground. He added that sanitary conditions in the neighborhood were so poor that in 1839 a ditch was constructed in the middle of Harrison Street to carry waste to the river. Davenport officials eventually passed an ordinance that made it illegal to throw manure, spoiled meat, animals and their entrails, and decayed vegetables into public spaces, streets, or alleys. To read about another discovery in the Midwest, go to “Baby Bobcat.”

Categories: Blog

Project Aims to Catalog Prehistoric Hand Paintings

May 6, 2017

A team of archaeologists is attempting to catalog all of the prehistoric hand paintings in European caves, according to a report in Seeker. The team, led by Hipolito Collado, head of archaeology for the government of Extremadura, Spain, is taking scans and high-resolution photos of the hand paintings and then posting them in a 3-D format in an online database where researchers around the world can access them. “It’s about making inaccessible art accessible,” said Collado. Among the questions he hopes to answer are: Why did early people paint hands in caves? Were they trying to mark territory? Do the paintings have anything to say about the role of Paleolithic women? Why are fingers missing from the hands in some of the paintings? According to Collado, painted hands have been found in 36 caves in Europe—all in France, Spain, and Italy. To read more about hand stencils found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, go to “The First Artists.”

Categories: Blog

Chinese Mural Tomb Unearthed

May 5, 2017

XINZHOU, CHINA—Live Science reports that a team from the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology has excavated a large tomb dating to ca. A.D. 600. A long corridor in the tomb was decorated with an unusual array of murals, including depictions of fantastical creatures, such as a winged horse carrying a tiger in its mouth, a blue monster-like figure that appears to be leaping or falling, and a nearly naked god known as the Master of the Wind running in the direction of the burial chamber. In additional to fantastical themes, the murals depict scenes from everyday life, such as horse trading and hunting. Though the tomb had been looted recently, the murals were undamaged. To read more about how Chinese archaeologists are dealing with looting, go to “Tomb Raider Chronicles.” 

Categories: Blog

Nomad Tombs Excavated in Central China

May 5, 2017

ZHENGZHOU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that more than 90 burials have been excavated to date at the Yinxu archaeological site in central China. Most of the graves are thought to date to the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 B.C.). Another 18 brick tombs are thought to be about 1,800 years old. Grave goods from these burials include two-handled bronze and iron pots, iron short swords, and strings of agate beads, which resemble objects used by nomads from the north who settled in central China, according to Shen Wenxi of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Anyang Station. The skeleton of a man, recovered from one of the graves, could shed additional light on these people's origins. For more on archaeology in China, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”

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