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Angkor-Era Iron-Smelting Furnace Unearthed in Cambodia

February 8, 2017

PREAH VIHEAR PROVINCE, CAMBODIA—An international team of scientists has discovered an Angkor-era iron smelter, according to a report in Cambodia Daily. Mitch Hendrickson of the University of Illinois at Chicago said that the team uncovered some collapsed sidewalls and the base of a nearly 1,000-year-old furnace, which was set at an angle so that liquefied iron ore could flow out of it. “The way that we think they built them is that they constructed the furnaces out of clay: They smelt the iron and then, to extract the bloom, they had to break down the walls,” Hendrickson explained. Traces of at least six such furnaces have been found at the site, but Hendrickson and archaeologist Phon Kaseka of the Royal Academy of Cambodia expect that the site was used to produce iron for a long period of time, and probably holds the remains of many such small furnaces, which measured only about three feet by six feet. Iron was used to make weapons, tools, and reinforcement bars for Angkor’s many stone temples. For more, go to “Angkor Urban Sprawl.”

Categories: Blog

Pharaonic Period Wall-Painting Fragments Found in Egypt

February 8, 2017

HILDESHEIM, GERMANY—Ahram Online reports that a large building complex is being excavated in the ancient city of Pi-Ramesses, the capital of Egypt during the reign of Ramesses II, by a team of researchers from the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum. The expansion of the nearby village of Qantir is endangering the 3,000-year-old site, which, according to a magnetic survey conducted last year, measures more than 650 feet long by 500 feet wide. It is thought to have been a palace or a temple with several phases of construction. Children’s footprints were also found near the building, preserved in a mortar pit where smashed pieces of painted wall plaster had been dumped. “No motifs are recognizable so far, but we are certainly dealing with the remains of large-scale multi-colored wall paintings,” said mission director Henning Franzmeier. The team members will attempt to conserve and reconstruct the wall paintings. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

General’s Sixth-Century Tomb Found in Northern China

February 7, 2017

SHANXI PROVINCE, CHINA—Live Science reports that a sixth-century tomb containing the remains of a military general and his wife has been discovered in an ancient cemetery in northern China by a team made up of researchers from the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Shanxi University, Taiyuan Municipal Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and the Agency of Cultural Relics and Tourism of Jinyuan District, Taiyuan city. The names of Zhao Xin, and his wife, Princess Neé Liu, were found inscribed on a piece of sandstone in the tomb, which also recorded the date of their burial—the equivalent of March 18, 564—and information about their lives. Zhao Xin died at the age of 67, while he still commanded a garrison of soldiers at Huangniu Town. The inscription also states that he had led them to victory in battle with the Yi barbarians. Princess Neé Liu was said to be modest, humble, respectful, and chaste. It is not known why the two were buried at the same time, but further study of the remains is underway. The tomb also contained about 100 colored pottery figurines of warriors, camels, oxcarts, and drummers, the largest of which stands about 22 inches tall. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

DNA Suggests Baltic Hunter-Gatherers Learned to Farm

February 7, 2017

DUBLIN, IRELAND—Genome Web reports that researchers from Trinity College Dublin, the University of Cambridge, and University College Dublin analyzed human remains from Latvia and Ukraine ranging in age from 8,300 to 4,800 years old, and found little change in the Baltic hunter-gatherer genome through the Neolithic period. The study suggests that farmers from the Middle East, who migrated into Central and Western Europe, where they interbred with hunter-gatherers and eventually replaced them, did not expand into the Baltic. And, archaeological evidence supports the idea that the transition to farming occurred slowly in the Baltic. Hunter-gatherers there are thought to have adopted domesticated livestock, the cultivation of grains, and pottery through trade and cultural contact with farming communities. The study did detect a possible migration of people from the Pontic Steppe to the East some 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. These people may have brought early Slavic languages to the Baltic with them. For more, go to “The Neolithic Toolkit.”

Categories: Blog

Fourth-Century A.D. Mosaic Floor Unearthed in Leicester

February 7, 2017

LEICESTER, ENGLAND—The Leicester Mercury reports that a team from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services has uncovered Roman-era remains in Leicester’s city center. Some 1,500 years ago, the area under excavation covered nearly two-thirds of a city block, or insula, in the town of Ratae. So far, the excavators have uncovered a section of a street and three buildings. The first building, a house dating to the fourth-century A.D., had mosaic floors in at least three of its rooms. In one square room, a large section of floor measuring about six feet by ten feet has survived. It had a thick border of red tiles surrounding a center of grey tiles, which was decorated with designs fashioned with additional red tiles. The floor will be removed from the site and conserved. The second building is thought to have been a townhouse with a portico, a courtyard, and under-floor heating. A small building located in the center of the insula, perhaps for privacy, had an unusual sunken room or cellar, and an apse that may have held a statue and served as a shrine. For more, go to “A Villa under the Garden.”

Categories: Blog

3-D Virtual Model Reconstructs Germany’s Heidelberg Castle

February 4, 2017

KARLSRUHE, GERMANY—The International Business Times reports that architectural historian Julian Hanschke of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has digitally reconstructed Heidelberg Castle using photographs, drawings, and surveys of the ruins made by researchers some 100 years ago. The result is a highly detailed, 3-D model of what the Renaissance-era castle would have looked like inside and out in 1683. Located on a hill overlooking the town of Heidelberg, the first castle building on the site was constructed in the early thirteenth century. A second castle was built in the late thirteenth century, but in 1537, a fire started by a bolt of lightning destroyed the upper castle. The castle complex was repeatedly rebuilt and expanded, and damaged by war and fire, until it became a source for building materials in the late eighteenth century. To read about excavations at another castle, go to “Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Categories: Blog

More From Fredericksburg’s Civil War Trench

February 4, 2017

FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA—The Free Lance-Star reports that the excavation of a Civil War trench at Fredericksburg’s Riverfront Park has yielded three spent .54 caliber brass cartridges for a Burnside carbine, an innovative firearm loaded at the rear portion of its barrel. The cartridges were found together in the trench, and may have been fired by an individual soldier. The weapon, designed by Ambrose E. Burnside in the mid-1850s, was used by 43 Union cavalry regiments. Some Confederate cavalry units also carried Burnside carbines, but those weapons were probably obtained from fallen Union soldiers. Burnside rose to the rank of major general in the Union army and oversaw Union defeats at the Battle of Fredericksburg and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. For more, go to “A Civil War POW Camp in Watercolor.”

Categories: Blog

Rock Art Sites Discovered in Tibet

February 4, 2017

MARKHAM COUNTY, TIBET—China Daily reports that eight rock art sites have been found in Tibet by a team of more than 20 researchers from the Tibetology Institute at Sichuan University. The sites are thought to be more than 1,000 years old. “They include cliff-side carvings, circular engraved statues, ancient Tibetan texts, and Mani stones,” said researcher Zhang Yanqing. (Mani stones are engraved with a mantra, and serve as a form of prayer in Tibetan Buddhism.) Zhang thinks the petroglyphs, which reflect Indian and Chinese influences, were created during the reigns of kings Trisong Detsan (A.D. 755-797) and Tride Songtsan (A.D. 798-815). “As both Buddhist art and a historical find, these carvings are of great value and should be protected,” he said. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

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