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6th-Dynasty Obelisk Found in Saqqara

October 7, 2017

SAQQARA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that an eight-foot-long piece of an Old Kingdom obelisk has been discovered at the Saqqara necropolis. Inscriptions on one side of the side of the red granite monument name Queen Ankhnespepy II, who lived around 2350 B.C. and ruled as regent for her young son. “This is probably why her pyramid is the biggest of the necropolis after the pyramid of the king himself,” said Philippe Collombert of the University of Geneva. The researchers think the obelisk originally stood about 15 feet tall. An indentation on the obelisk's tip suggests it was capped with copper or golden foil. “Queens of the 6th Dynasty usually had two small obelisks at the entrance to their funerary temple, but this obelisk was found a little far from the entrance of the complex of Ankhnespepy II,” added Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. Waziri suggested stonecutters may have moved the obelisk from the queen’s funerary temple, perhaps during the New Kingdom or Late Period, when much of the stone in the Saqqara necropolis was recycled. For more, go to “Afterlife on the Nile.”

Categories: Blog

Study Tracks Neanderthal Traits in Modern Humans

October 6, 2017

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—Scientists linked 15 physical traits in modern humans to Neanderthal DNA based on analysis of the genomes and information on physical appearance, diet, sun exposure, behavior, and disease of more than 100,000 present-day Britons. According to an Associated Press report, the study suggests that genetic material passed down from Neanderthals has contributed to the skin tone, hair color, and sleep and mood patterns of non-Africans. All of these traits can be linked to people's exposure to sunlight, explained Michael Dannemann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. He and his colleagues speculate that Neanderthals were well adapted to lower levels of ultraviolet radiation when modern humans arrived in Eurasia and the two populations began to mix. The study also indicates that Neanderthals could have had as wide a variety of hair and skin tones as people do today. For more, go to “Decoding Neanderthal Genetics.”

Categories: Blog

Unusual Stone Tools Uncovered in Wales

October 6, 2017

DENBIGHSHIRE, WALES—According to a report in Live Science, members of the Clwydian Range Archaeological Group, a team of amateur researchers led by professional archaeologists, have uncovered about 20 unusual stone tools at a Bronze Age site in the hills of northeast Wales. The heavily used tools are triangular in shape and range in size from about two inches to eight inches long. Consulting archaeologist Ian Brooks says they appear to have been deliberately buried in what was the bottom of a stream some 4,500 years ago. “I’ve not seen anything like them before, and I’ve talked to a number of colleagues who’ve never seen anything like them,” Brooks said. He explained that the tools’ purpose is unknown, but the battered points on the hard limestone tools could have been used to chip ornamental designs onto the surfaces of boulders and rock faces. “The point on these things would be about the right sort of size for pecking that sort of design,” he said. For more, go to “Letter From Wales: Hillforts of the Iron AgeHillforts of the Iron Age.”

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Merchant Ship Sunk During World War II Found Near Australia

October 6, 2017

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Kyodo News reports that the SS Macumba, an Australian merchant ship sunk by Japanese aircraft on August 6, 1943, has been found off the coast of northern Australia. “Three people died on that ship and one body wasn’t recovered so it’s a war grave site,” explained senior heritage officer David Steinberg of the Northern Territory government. The captain and 36 crew members survived. The Macumba had been transporting supplies from Sydney to Darwin, where Japanese air raids had killed more than 200 people in 1942. Pictures of the vessel, which rests under more than 130 feet of water, suggests it is sitting upright and has formed an artificial reef. “We’re looking to put a protected zone around the site to prohibit entry into it until we understand its full significance,” added Steinberg. For more on archaeology in Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

Categories: Blog

Carved Reindeer Antler Uncovered in Poland

October 5, 2017

GOŁĘBIEWO, POLAND—A carved piece of antler, unearthed in central Poland, may have originated in South Lapland some 10,000 years ago, according to a report in The International Business Times. Known as a bâton percé, the nearly 12-inch-long antler was carved with ten triangles filled with parallel lines along one side of a central groove. DNA analysis identified the object as a reindeer antler, while isotope analysis suggests the reindeer lived in either North Karelia or South Lapland. A team of researchers led by Grzegorz Osipowicz of Nicolaus Copernicus University suggests the antler could represent previously unknown contact between the hunter gatherers of the European Plains and southern Scandinavia. For more on archaeology of Scandinavia, go to “Letter From Norway: The Big Melt.”

Categories: Blog

Pre-Dynastic Rock Art Discovered in Egypt

October 5, 2017

ASWAN, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a team of researchers from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities discovered panels of 15,000-year-old rock art during a survey in the Subeira Valley. The images, carved into sandstone, depict hippopotamuses, wild bulls, donkeys, and gazelles. Similar images have been found at sites in Al-Qarta and Abu Tanqoura. “These markings helped archaeologists to determine the exact dating of the newly discovered ones in Subeira Valley,” explained Nasr Salama, director general of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities. For more, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

Categories: Blog

Additional Bronze-Age Items Found in Swiss Alps

October 5, 2017

BERN, SWITZERLAND—The Local reports that snow melt in the Lötschberg Pass, a shortcut between the Bernese Oberland and the Valais, has revealed additional items in a cache of Bronze Age artifacts. Researchers from the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern say the cache included a wooden box of flour, fragments of bows, flint arrowheads, birch bark, a cord made of animal fibers, and a container made of cow horn. Radiocarbon dates suggest the box was left behind by a mountain traveler some 4,000 years ago. For more, go to “Switzerland Everlasting.”

Categories: Blog

Bronze Sculptures Recovered at Antikythera Shipwreck Site

October 5, 2017

ANTIKYTHERA, GREECE—According to a report in The Guardian, pieces of at least seven different bronze sculptures have been recovered at the site of the Antikythera shipwreck, made famous by the discovery of the Antikythera mechanism in 1901. Brendan Foley of Lund University said the pieces were found among large boulders that may have tumbled over the wreckage during an earthquake in the fourth century A.D. with an underwater metal detector. Recovering any possible additional statue pieces will require moving the boulders, some of which weigh several tons, or cracking them open. The team also discovered a slab of red marble, a silver tankard, pieces of wood from the ship’s frame, and a human bone. A bronze disc about the size of the geared wheels in the Antikythera mechanism was also found this year. Preliminary X-rays of the object revealed an image of a bull, but no cogs, so it may have been a decorative item. Investigation of the deepwater site will continue next year. “We’re down in the hold of the ship now, so all the other things that would have been carried should be down there as well,” Foley said. To read about the discovery of a skeleton discovered at the same site, go to “Antikythera Man.”

Categories: Blog

Section of Hadrian's Wall Discovered in Newcastle

October 4, 2017

NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND—A previously recorded stretch of Hadrian's Wall has been rediscovered in Newcastle in northeastern England, according to a report in ChronicleLive. Archaeologists working on a project to restore a building in the city's center unearthed the section, which was last seen during 1952 construction on the same site. More sections of the wall are understood to occupy space underneath Newcastle, and the remains of a milecastle—a small Roman fort—have also been found nearby. To read more about Hadrian's Wall go to “The Wall at the End of the Emire.”

Categories: Blog

Norse Meeting Place Investigated in Scotland

October 4, 2017

 

THURSO, SCOTLAND—A geophysical survey may have detected evidence of a medieval Norse parliament meeting place in the Scottish Highlands, according to a report from BBC News. The survey of Thing’s Va Broch, which was carried out by researchers from the Orkney Research Center for Archaeology, the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, and the Caithness Broch Project, detected “faint features” that may relate to activity associated with the meetings. Thing’s Va, which is the site of an Iron Age broch, or stone-built roundhouse, derives its name from “ting,” the Norse word for meeting place. Archaeologists will undertake exploratory excavations this month to try to learn more about the site. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

Categories: Blog

How Agriculture Developed in Northern Mesopotamia

October 3, 2017

TELL BRAK, SYRIA—Science Nordic reports that a new study of grains excavated from ancient cities in northern Mesopotamia is giving archaeologists a new picture of how agriculture developed in the area. A team led by Oxford University archaeologist Amy Styring measured the stable isotopes of 276 grain samples taken from the Syrian site of Tell Brak, as well as four other settlements dating from 6500 to 2000 B.C. They compared the results with modern samples grown under controlled conditions, which allowed them to assess how much manure was used to cultivate the grains. Among their findings was that as the cities grew in size, farmers cultivated larger areas and used less manure, in contrast with southern Mesopotamia, where irrigation became widespread and the land was farmed very intensively. To read more, go to “Urbanization at Tell Brak, Syria.”

Categories: Blog

19th-Century Flour Mill Unearthed in Northern Virginia

October 3, 2017

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA— The Alexandria Times reports that archaeologists are working at the site of Robinson Terminal South, a planned luxury condiminum and retail complex near the banks of the Potomac River. They have uncovered the foundation of a flour mill called Pioneer Mills, which dates back to 1854. At its height, Pioneer Mills produced thousands of barrels of flour a month, which were brought down the Potomac and out to the Atlantic Ocean for shipment up and down the east coast. After surviving multiple ownerships, the American Civil War, and Reconstruction, the mill was damaged by a cyclone and an interior fire in 1896. The space subsequently housed a grain warehouse, a shipbuilding facility, and an airplane engineering facility, among other ventures, before the Washington Post purchased the building. The paper sold the property to its current owners, the development company EYA, in 2013. To read more about archaeology in Virginia, go to “Letter from Virginia: American Refugees.”

Categories: Blog

19th-Century Flour Mill Unearthed in Northern Virginia

October 3, 2017

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA— The Alexandria Times reports that archaeologists are working at the site of Robinson Terminal South, a planned luxury condiminum and retail complex near the banks of the Potomac River. They have uncovered the foundation of a flour mill called Pioneer Mills, which dates back to 1854. At its height, Pioneer Mills produced thousands of barrels of flour a month, which were brought down the Potomac and out to the Atlantic Ocean for shipment up and down the east coast. After surviving multiple ownerships, the American Civil War, and Reconstruction, the mill was damaged by a cyclone and an interior fire in 1896. The space subsequently housed a grain warehouse, a shipbuilding facility, and an airplane engineering facility, among other ventures, before the Washington Post purchased the building. The paper sold the property to its current owners, the development company EYA, in 2013. To read more about archaeology in Virginia, go to “Letter from Virginia: American Refugees.”

Categories: Blog

How Did Modern Humans Contract HSV2?

October 3, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Virologist Charlotte Houldcroft of the University of Cambridge and her colleagues think Paranthropus boisei may have infected the ancestors of modern humans with herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2), the virus that results in genital herpes. According to a report in Live Science, an earlier genetic study of HSV2 suggests the virus infected the ancestors of modern humans between three and 1.4 million years ago. So, the team of researchers found tropical rainforest areas in Africa where the ancestors of modern chimpanzees may have lived during the last three million years. Then they layered the climate data with the locations of hominin fossils. The scientists found that Paranthropus boisei, known for its massive jaws and huge molars, was the most likely of the hominin species living during the time period in question to have come in contact with ancestral chimpanzees and other hominins. They speculate that Paranthropus boisei contracted the virus from these ancestral chimps and eventually passed it on to Homo erectus. For more, go to “Diagnosis of Ancient Illness.”

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Investigate Site of the Battle of Grunwald

October 3, 2017

GRUNWALD, POLAND—Archaeologists and metal detectorists joined forces to look for traces of the Battle of Grunwald, fought on July 15, 1410, according to a report in Science & Scholarship in Poland. On that day, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania defeated the German-Prussian Teutonic Knights in what is remembered as one of the largest battles in medieval Europe. Szymon Drej of the Battle of Grunwald Museum said the team recovered about 300 artifacts, including arrowheads, Prussian spearheads, and a seal bearing a Christian image of a pelican feeding blood to chicks in a nest. The seal, thought to be connected to a chapel that later stood on the battlefield, resembles one found in the courtyard of Malbork, a castle built by the Teutonic Knights in what is now northern Poland. After the battle, Polish and Lithuanian forces laid siege to the Malbork Castle in an attempt to crush Prussia. But the castle withstood the siege and the Teutonic Knights lost little territory in the Peace of Thorn of 1411. The researchers will continue to search the area for evidence of the battle. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

Categories: Blog

Fragment of Akhenaten Sculpture Unearthed in Egypt

October 3, 2017

MINYA, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, the head of a statue of the 18th dynasty pharaoh Akhenaten has been discovered in the first hall of the Great Atun Temple at Tel El-Amarna, Akhenaten’s capital city, by a joint Egyptian-English archaeological mission headed by Barry Kemp of the University of Cambridge. The head, which was carved from gypsum, measures about five inches long. Akhenaten is remembered for abandoning polytheism in favor of worship of the sun god, Aten, alone. For more, go to “In Search of History's Greatest Rulers: Nefertiti, Great Royal Wife and Queen of Egypt.”

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