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Possible Military Commander’s Home Unearthed in Rome

March 9, 2018

ROME, ITALY—According to a New York Times report, a richly decorated building that may have been the home of a military commander has been uncovered in Rome at the site of the new Amba Aradam subway station. State archaeologist Simona Morretta said the house had at least 14 rooms that were built around a central courtyard. Found about 40 feet underground, the house, which contained several wooden artifacts, was situated near the second-century A.D. military barracks discovered two years ago. “The decorations were mainly intact, both the patterned mosaic floors and the frescoed walls,” Morretta said. The walls had been intentionally leveled off at about five feet tall, and the building filled in with dirt, perhaps before the walls surrounding the city were built in A.D. 271. Another building, which may have served as a warehouse, was also unearthed. The buildings will be removed from the site until the construction work has been completed, and then returned and displayed in the new subway station. To read about another discovery made during construction of Rome's new subway line, go to “Rome’s Oldest Aqueduct.”

Categories: Blog

Cannonballs Unearthed at Malaysia’s Fort Cornwallis

March 8, 2018

GEORGE TOWN, MALAYSIA—Nine cannonballs have been found near two cannons that were recently uncovered at Fort Cornwallis, according to a report in The Star. The ammunition was unearthed by graduate students Noridayu Bakry, Nurulnatasha Azman, Suhana Yusof, and Saw Chaw Ye of the University of Science Malaysia. “The cannonballs are not for the cannons as the sizes are comparatively smaller,” said Saw. One of the cannonballs measures about four inches in diameter; the others are smaller and may have been canister shot. Saw says the ammunition still has to be analyzed, but it could be from the same period as the 200-year-old cannons, which were marked with the emblem of Britain’s King George III. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Letter From Singapore: The Lion City's Glorious Past.”

Categories: Blog

Storms Reveal Roman Aqueduct in Spain

March 7, 2018

CÁDIZ, SPAIN—The Daily Telegraph reports that last week’s heavy storms and shifting sands revealed a first-century A.D. Roman aqueduct and a seventeenth-century road in southwestern Spain. The 50-mile-long aqueduct of Gades carried water to Cádiz from the springs of Tempul, and is thought to have been one of the largest in the Roman Empire. “We knew the aqueduct’s route passed this way but we had never seen it,” said Moisés Camacho of the Association for the Investigation and Dissemination of Cádiz’s Heritage. Two of the five fragments that have been uncovered are still held together with ancient mortar. The road uncovered by the storm was destroyed in 1755 by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake in Lisbon. Scholars think it may have been built over an earlier Roman road or parallel to one that is now under the sea. For more, go to “Spain’s Silver Boom.”

Categories: Blog

Nineteenth-Century Message in a Bottle Recovered in Australia

March 7, 2018

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—Deutsche Welle reports that a 132-year-old message-in-a-bottle was found on a remote beach on Australia's Wedge Island. “The note was damp, rolled tightly and wrapped with string,” said Tonya Illman, who was out for a walk with her family when she spotted the artifact. “We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it we saw it was a printed form, in German, with very faint German handwriting on it.” The family handed the bottle over to researchers at the Western Australian Museum, who worked with German and Dutch officials to analyze the message. They determined that it had been tossed from the bark ship Paula on June 12, 1886, and was one of thousands of messages that had been thrown overboard as part of a 69-year study of global ocean currents. An entry in the captain’s journal from Paula matched the information on the bottle’s form. “The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message,” said Ross Anderson of the Western Australia Museum. The bottle is thought to have washed up on the beach between six and 12 months later. To read in-depth about the discovery of a nineteenth-century shipwreck, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

Categories: Blog

World War II Wreckage Found in Coral Sea

March 7, 2018

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—BBC News reports that the wreckage of USS Lexington, and 11 of the 35 planes it had been carrying, have been found in deep water off the east coast of Australia by a team of researchers led by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. Lexington, also known as “Lady Lex,” was scuttled in 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, after it had been struck by Japanese bombs and torpedoes. More than 200 crew members were lost during the fighting, and more than 2,000 were rescued. Two Japanese aircraft carriers were also sunk during the battle, which prevented them from taking part in the Battle of Midway the following month and paved the way for an Allied victory. To read about another recent discovery of a World War II–era ship, go to “Finding Indianapolis.”

Categories: Blog

Spanish Pistol Part Identified in Colorado

March 6, 2018

MESA COUNTY, COLORADO—The Daily Sentinel reports that a pistol part that may be 500 years old was unearthed at the Kannah Creek archaeological site in western Colorado. Known as a “dog,” the part has been identified as part of a spring-loaded arm in a Spanish wheellock pistol, dating to between 1500 and 1600. Such pistol parts are usually found in Texas and New Mexico. David Bailey of the Museums of Western Colorado thinks the part may have been carried to Colorado by Spanish explorers who traded with Ute Indians in the area. Pieces of Spanish armor and a rondel dagger have also been found at the Kannah Creek site. “We’re getting all the pieces but still don’t have a complete picture of what’s going on,” Bailey said. For more on archaeology in Colorado, go to “A Western Wiki-pedia.”

Categories: Blog

Iron Age Crouch Burial Unearthed in England

March 6, 2018

MARGATE, ENGLAND—Kent Online reports that an Iron Age burial has been discovered at the Margate Caves site in southeast England. The body had been placed in a crouched position in a bell-shaped chalk pit. “The settlement that our archaeologists and volunteers found on our site means the Margate Caves can tell a story of the Isle of Thanet that starts well before the Romans arrived here,” said Sarah Vickery, chair of the Margate Caves. The excavation team has also uncovered an Iron Age hillfort, ditches, and some postholes. For more on the Isle of Thanet, go to “Caesar’s English Beachhead.”

Categories: Blog

Stone Flakes Analyzed in Large-Scale Study

March 6, 2018

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—According to a report in Cosmos Magazine, hominins developed more efficient cutting tools over time. Researchers led by Željko Režek of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology surveyed more than 19,000 tools from 34 archaeological sites ranging in age from 2.5 million to 12,000 years old. They found that over time, the flakes, which had been produced by Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens, had longer, sharper, and more complex cutting edges. Režek says more efficient cutting tools would have required less raw material. But the scientists note that some of the dullest edges were among those that had been produced by modern humans. For more, go to “Earliest Stone Tools.”

Categories: Blog

Nineteenth-Century Shipwreck Is Not the Clotilda

March 6, 2018

MOBILE, ALABAMA—According to an AL.com report, researchers led by underwater archaeologist James Delgado, of SEARCH, and Dave Conlin, chief of the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center, have determined that the nineteenth-century shipwreck discovered in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is not Clotilda, a vessel said to be the last American slave ship. When the wooden shipwreck was discovered in January, in an area where Captain William Foster wrote that he burned and sank Clotilda in 1860, archaeologists Greg Cook and John Bratten of the University of West Florida conducted an initial field examination during low tide, but they were not allowed to disturb the wreck site because no permits had been issued. In the recent investigation, the team of archaeologists was able to probe the muddy river bottom in order to map the wreckage. They determined that this wreck is too big to be Clotilda. “If this isn’t the Clotilda, then we’ll keep looking until we find it,” said Joe Womack, a descendant of a Clotilda survivor. For more, go to “Bold Civil War Steamer.”

Categories: Blog

Human Remains Recovered From World War II Wreckage

March 3, 2018

FORT SHAFTER, HAWAII—Stars & Stripes reports that human remains have been recovered from sunken World War II–era airplanes off the coast of Palau by a joint underwater recovery team of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians led by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The remains are thought to belong to American air crews shot down in 1944. For more, go to “Letter From the Marshall Islands: Defuzing the Past.”

Categories: Blog

Cadaver Dogs Identify Possible Revolutionary War Graves

March 3, 2018

WASHINGTON, GEORGIA—According to a Fox News report, cadaver dogs detected more than two dozen possible war graves at the 400-acre Battle of Kettle Creek site in northern Georgia. On February 14, 1779, American soldiers led by Andrew Pickens defeated a Loyalist militia in a two-hour surprise attack. As many as 80 soldiers are thought to have been buried across the wooded battlefield. Archaeologist Tom Gresham and his team have examined five of the spots identified by the dogs with ground-penetrating radar. The researchers found shallow pits with clusters of rocks, but none of the traditional burial markers, such as teeth or jacket buttons. White crosses have been placed where soldiers are thought to have fallen. “That will help tell the story more precisely of where the troops were, where they were firing from, what positions they were defending,” Gresham explained. For more on the archaeology of the American Revolution, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

Categories: Blog

Scientists Review Genetic and Linguistic History of Vanuatu

March 3, 2018

JENA, GERMANY—According to a report in Nature, two new DNA studies investigated why the residents of Vanuatu speak languages related to those found in Southeast Asia, even though their genetic ancestry is more similar to that found in Papua New Guinea, which has its own distinct languages. Both studies indicate that the first people to reach Vanuatu some 3,000 years ago came from Taiwan. About 500 years later, they were joined at Vanuatu by people of mostly Papuan ancestry. Later inhabitants of the archipelago were primarily Papuan, but also carried Austronesian ancestry. The team led by David Reich of Harvard Medical School suggests the original population was almost completely replaced by Papuans by around 2,300 years ago. But the other team, co-led by Cosimo Posth of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, suggests the Papuans mixed into the original settler population gradually. They say this gradual mixing could account for the characteristics of the language spoken on Vanuatu today. Linguist Andrew Pauley of the Australian National University, a critic of this idea, says the first people who lived on Vanuatu may have already spoken both Austronesian and non-Astronesian languages picked up during their travels. Geneticist Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology adds that the analysis of additional ancient genomes from the region will probably make the picture even more complicated. For more on the intersection of archaeology and linguistics, go to “Wolf Rites of Winter.”

Categories: Blog

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