Subscribe to Archaeology News feed
Updated: 24 min 37 sec ago

Replica of Ancient Ship Launched in Bay of Haifa

March 18, 2017

HAIFA, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a replica of a 2,500-year-old ship has been christened the Ma’agan Michael II, for the kibbutz where a fifth-century B.C. shipwreck was found in 1985. The first Ma’agan Michael was constructed of Aleppo pine and oak, and is thought to have measured about 37 feet long and 13 feet wide. Ballast at the wreck site is thought to have come from the Greek island of Euboea and southern Cyprus. Archaeologists also recovered a carpenter’s toolbox from the site, and used traditional tools to build the replica ship. After the ceremony, the Ma’agan Michael II was sailed in the Bay of Haifa. Archaeologists are preparing to take the vessel on a three-day journey from Haifa down the Mediterranean coast to Herzliya, and test ways that ancient sailors might have sailed against the sea’s winds and currents. “We have no idea how they did it,” commented archaeologist Deborah Cvikel of Haifa University. For more, go to “Ship Underground.”

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Siberia Site Yields Reindeer Antler Armor

March 18, 2017

SALEKHARD, SIBERIA—According to a report in The Siberian Times, a team led by archaeologist Andrey Gusev of the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic has uncovered plates of armor made from reindeer antlers at the Ust-Polui site in northwestern Siberia. The armor dates to between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Gusev explained that the 30 plates differ from each other in size, ornamentation, and the placement of holes for attaching them to a leather base. Some of the plates may even have been used to create protective helmets. Gusev thinks the variations in the decorations on the plates suggest they belonged to different warriors, who left them as a gift or sacrifice to the gods. A tiny bronze ring found in a sanctuary at the site has been interpreted as an ornament for a bear claw, and may indicate the presence of a bear cult at the site some 2,000 years ago. For more, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

Categories: Blog

Cairo’s Colossus Identified as Psammetich I

March 18, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a colossal statue discovered in the remains of a temple dedicated to Ramses II probably represents Psammetich I, and not Ramses II, as was originally suggested. According to Khaled El-Enany, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, the back pillar on the torso piece of the 30-foot statue was carved with one of the five names of Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610 B.C., during the 26th Dynasty. “If it belongs to this king, then it is the largest statue of the Late Period that was ever discovered in Egypt,” he said. The two giant, quartzite fragments were found under the water table, near a congested residential area of Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood, and were moved with the help of Egypt’s Armed Forces to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir for restoration and exhibition. The excavation team also recovered a relief at the site that depicts Ramses II anointing a statue of the goddess Mut. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

Rare Military Insignia Found in Illinois

March 17, 2017

CAMP LINCOLN, ILLINOIS—The State Journal-Register reports that a collar disc bearing the insignia of a segregated military unit was found by workers replacing a bridge at Camp Lincoln. Based upon its style, the quarter-sized disc, worn on the uniform collar, is thought to have been lost by an Illinois Guardsman between 1923 and 1936. The disc bears the insignia of the Eighth Illinois Infantry, which fought on the Mexican border during the 1916 Pancho Villa Expedition, and then was sent to France in 1917 to fight in the First World War as the 370th Infantry. The 370th was one of the most decorated units of the war. “They probably should have received some Medals of Honor,” said Adriana Schroeder, command historian for the Illinois National Guard. “Instead, they received a lot of French awards and a couple of Distinguished Service Crosses on the American side.” To read about another discovery in Illinois, go to “Mississippian Burning.”

Categories: Blog

Gold Bridle Fittings Recovered from Viking Grave

March 17, 2017

SKANDERBORG, DENMARK—The gilded fittings of a horse’s bridle have been recovered from one of several graves dating to the early Viking Age discovered in central Denmark in 2012, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. “This type of bridle would only be available to the most powerful of people in the Viking Age, and we believe it might have been a gift of alliance from the king,” said Mereth Schifter Bagge of the Museum of Skanderborg. The bridle has been dated to A.D. 950, which suggests that the “Fregerslev Viking,” as the tomb’s occupant is called, may have been aligned with Gorm the Old, or perhaps a rival king. Excavation at the site will resume this spring. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Categories: Blog

Huge Polar Bear Skull Discovered at Alaska’s Walapka Site

March 17, 2017

UTQIAGVIK, ALASKA—Western Digs reports that a large polar bear skull has been discovered at the 4,000-year-old Walapka archaeological site in northern Alaska. Dubbed “The Old One,” the skull has been radiocarbon dated to about 1,300 years old. It measures more than 16 inches long, and while it resembles typical polar bears from the eyes forward, the back of the skull is narrow and elongated when compared to the skulls of most polar bears. Research biologist and wildlife veterinarian Raphaela Stimmelmayer found several skulls that resemble “The Old One” among the 300 polar bear skulls in the collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Archaeologist Anne Jensen thinks this huge bear may have been the type referred to as “weasel bears,” or “king bears,” by some Inuit groups in historic interviews with ethnographers. But the bears are not mentioned in accounts from the Utqiagvik region. “That may be because these bears were not around during the period when people were collecting ethnographic accounts—somewhat later here than in Canada—or because people just didn’t ask the right questions,” Jensen said. Further analysis of the skull is planned. For more on archaeology in Alaska, go to “Cultural Revival.”

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Hearth Unearthed in Wales

March 16, 2017

MONMOUTHSHIRE, WALES—According to a report in the Monmouthshire Beacon, a Neolithic hearth has been unearthed at a construction site in southern Wales. Found on the shores of a post-glacial lake, the hearth contained animal bones and charcoal, which have been dated by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center to about 5,000 years ago. Timbers from a Neolithic boat were discovered on the shores of the same lake last year, along with structural timbers dating to the Neolithic period, and the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age. For more, go to “Letter from Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on the Sahara Desert

March 16, 2017

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—The International Business Times reports that David Wright of Seoul National University thinks that Neolithic cattle herders may have contributed to the desertification of the Sahara as they spread west from the Nile River some 8,000 years ago. Cattle grazing and the loss of vegetation may have been enough to tip the balance from the green pastures of 6,000 years ago to the spread of scrub vegetation, changing atmospheric conditions, and less frequent monsoon rains. Wright wants to obtain cores from former lake beds in the Sahara to study the vegetation records. For more, go to “Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast.”

Categories: Blog

Fossils Suggests Leopards Roamed Neanderthal Landscape

March 16, 2017

SAN DANIELE PO, ITALY—Live Science reports that a fossil recovered in northern Italy, from the banks of the Po River, has been identified as the right shinbone of a leopard. It had been previously thought that leopards only lived in Italy’s mountainous regions during the Ice Age. Based upon its size, paleontologist Davide Persico of the University of Parma thinks the bone came from a large female or a young male. The age of the bone is not known, but other fossils from the area, including the remains of straight-tusked elephants, steppe bison, wooly mammoths, giant deer, rhinos, and elk, have been dated to no older than 180,000 years ago. “Probably, they lived on the Po plain with Neanderthal man,” Persico said of the carnivorous cat. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Categories: Blog

400,000-Year-Old Cranium Discovered in Portugal

March 15, 2017

MADRID, SPAIN—According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, a 400,000-year-old skull has been found at Gruta da Aroeira in Portugal, along with animal bones and Acheulean stone tools. The fossil was freed from a block of sediments at the Centro de Investigacion Sobre la Evolucion y Comportamiento Humanos over a two-year period. The partial skullcap, pieces of jaw and nasal floor, and two fragmentary teeth exhibit a mixture of traits, including some that are similar to those attributed to Neanderthals, and others to Homo erectus. Paleoanthropologist Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis has suggested that archaic members of the genus Homo were all one species exhibiting different, regional combinations of traits across the Old World. “What this fossil does for me is it reinforces what I’ve maintained for some time that this is all just normal variation,” he said. Genetic analysis of archaic human remains indicates that different groups may have interbred and produced viable offspring, an ability attributed to creatures in the same species. “My opinion would be that this fossil stresses the need to overcome the species question in order to understand the humans living in Eurasia about half a million years ago,” added João Zilhão of the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Categories: Blog

Medieval Kiln Unearthed in Southeastern England

March 14, 2017

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND—The Daily Gazette reports that an excavation conducted by the Colchester Archaeological Trust ahead of construction work has uncovered a rare medieval pottery kiln. The well-preserved, wood-fired kiln was spotted with a magnetometry survey. Philip Crummy, director of the trust, explained that during the medieval period, the excavation site was a busy industrial area. “It is really good because we will be able to tie down some of the pottery in the town to where it actually came from,” added Colchester Council archaeological advisor Jess Tipper. The kiln and its artifacts could be displayed in the Colchester Castle Museum. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

Categories: Blog

Colonial-Era Artifacts Found at Malaysia’s Fort Cornwallis

March 14, 2017

GEORGE TOWN, MALAYSIA—The Malaysian Digest reports that a team led by archaeologist Goh Hsiao Mei of the University Sains Malaysia has found coins, porcelain, ceramics, and glass dating to the colonial era in the moat at Fort Cornwallis, a star-shaped structure built by the British East India Company in the late eighteenth century. The fort was first built of wood, and then strengthened with bricks. The moat was added in 1804 and was lined with charcoal and bitumen. The fort was never attacked, however. An outbreak of malaria in the 1920s prompted the municipal council to fill in the water feature. For more on Malaysia, go to “Letter from Borneo: The Landscape of Memory.”

Categories: Blog

Aberdeen Archaeologists Plan Search for 16th-Century School

March 14, 2017

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen will look for traces of a sixteenth-century grammar school that was situated in front of King’s College, a site now occupied by King’s College Chapel, according to The Scotsman. “It acted as a preparatory school for pupils who wished to study at the university and pupils underwent a grueling timetable, with prayers, classes on the Latin authors, and language lessons,” said project leader Gordon Noble. The team members hope to find evidence of the building’s ground plan, artifacts from the school, and develop a better understanding of educational practices in the years before the Protestant Reformation, which is thought to have brought about a more egalitarian educational system. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Viking Treasure Trove.”

Categories: Blog

Murals Depict Wardrobe Choices During China's Liao Dynasty

March 14, 2017

DATONG CITY, CHINA—Live Science reports that a second circular tomb decorated with vivid murals has been excavated by a team from the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology. The entrance to the tomb, which is believed to date to the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 907–1125) and was discovered in 2007, had been sealed with bricks, but the archaeologists were able to enter it through a hole in the arch-shaped roof. Once inside, they found ceramics and an urn containing cremated human remains thought to belong to a husband and wife. The walls of the tomb had been decorated with murals depicting servants, cranes, and clothing hanging on stands. The clothing had been painted in shades of blue, beige, yellow, and pink. One of the garments features a diamond-grid pattern outlined in green and yellow with a small red flower in each diamond. Plates holding accessories such as a headdress, bracelets, hairpins, and combs were shown on a rectangular table in front of the clothing rack. For more on archaeology in China, go to “Zinc Zone.”

Categories: Blog

Large Structure Discovered in Japan's Ancient Capital

March 14, 2017

NARA PREFECTURE, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that holes for nine pillars of a large structure dating to the late-seventh century have been unearthed at the “square of zelkova trees,” in the ancient capital of Asuka. The imperial palace stood to the south of square, which was known as the place where the Empress Saimei entertained guests from remote provinces, and her son, Emperor Tenji, cemented his reign by removing the competing Soga clan from power. The holes for the newly discovered building measure nearly three feet deep and four feet in diameter, and suggest that the building measured 36 feet long by 20 feet wide. “The square was almost certainly a multipurpose space,” explained Kanekatsu Inokuma of Kyoto Tachibana University. “The building may have been the venue of the banquets or some sort of lodging.” Masashi Kinoshita of Tokyo Gakugei University thinks the building may have served as a warehouse for the palace. To read more about Japan, go to “Dogu Figurine.”

Categories: Blog

Woman Buried in Viking Grave in Demark Was Born in Norway

March 13, 2017

RANDERS, DENMARK—According to a report in The Copenhagen Post, archaeologist Ernst Stidsing of East Jutland Museum says that a woman buried in a Viking grave in Randers, Denmark, was born in southern Norway. He arrived at this conclusion based on the style of her bronze and silver jewelry, and the results of strontium isotope analysis of her teeth. He added that the high-status woman may have traveled to Denmark to marry. To read about a young woman who traveled to Denmark more than 3,000 years ago, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Categories: Blog

Algiers Metro Station Dig Yields Trove of Artifacts

March 13, 2017

ALGIERS, ALGERIA—The AFP reports that excavation for a metro station in the Algerian capital has uncovered artifacts spanning a period of 2,000 years, including coins, weapons, a fifth-century public building from the ancient Roman port town of Icosium paved with mosaics, and a seventh-century Byzantine necropolis. The excavation, begun in 2009, has also revealed the remains of the Ottoman-era Es Sayida mosque, which was demolished in 1831 by the French colonial government. Revisions to the plans for the Martyrs Square metro station, set to open later this year, will incorporate an archaeological museum. To read about discoveries made during construction of a subway in Turkey, go to “The Price of a Warship.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Roman Sarcophagus Identified at English Estate

March 11, 2017

OXFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND—The New York Times reports that a large fragment of a 1,700-year-old Roman sarcophagus was discovered by a visitor to the gardens at Blenheim Palace, a World Heritage site dating to the eighteenth century. There are no records of how the sarcophagus, which is carved with images of Dionysus and wine flowing from crushed grapes, arrived on the estate. But it is known that it was used to collect water from a natural spring in the nineteenth century, and then in the early twentieth century, it was incorporated into a rock garden. A conservation team led by Nicholas Barnfield of Cliveden Conservation cut the bolts that held the marble fragment to a lead cistern and took it to their workshop, where they carefully cleaned the surface with water and wooden picks over a six-month period. “There are no inscriptions to indicate who it was for, but it was obviously someone of very high status,” Barnfield said. The sarcophagus is now on display inside Blenheim Palace. To read about another discovery in the area, go to “Alfred the Great’s Forgotten Ally.”

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Race to Exhume Historic Remains in Philadelphia

March 11, 2017

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that archaeologists and anthropologists have come from all over the East Coast to volunteer their time and skills to exhume as many as 300 burials discovered on a residential construction site within Philadelphia’s Old City. The graves had been part of the First Baptist Church burial ground, which was founded in 1707. When the cemetery closed in 1859, the graves were supposed to have been moved. The Philadelphia Historical Commission and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission say they do not have the jurisdiction to intervene in the project, but the developer has given the archaeologists time to salvage the burials. “These are our ancestors,” said Anna Dhody, head of the city’s Mütter Institute and a leader of the excavation. “This is our history. We can learn so much from these bones—about the yellow fever epidemic in 1793, the cholera epidemic of 1849.” The developer has also agreed to pay to have the remains reinterred at Mount Moriah cemetery, where they were supposed to have been transferred in the mid-nineteenth century. For more, go to “Letter from Philadelphia: Empire of Glass.”

Categories: Blog

10th-Century Tree-Lined Street Discovered in Japan

March 11, 2017

TOTTORI, JAPAN—According to a report in The Asahi Shimbun, the roots of 18 willow trees were unearthed along a 200-foot-long stretch of ancient road at the Aoyayokogi ruins, located on the island of Honshu. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the trees lived in the late tenth century, which corresponds with a wood strip marked “Tengyo junen,” or the tenth year of Tengyo (A.D. 947), that was also recovered. The trees may have been supported by 40 wooden stakes found at the site. “Boulevard willow trees are believed to have been planted in [the] ‘miyako’ (ancient capital),” said Toshihide Omi of the Agency for Cultural Affairs. “What a surprise to find them even in rural areas as well.” For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Categories: Blog

Pages

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!