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Ancient Wetland Garden Found in the Pacific Northwest

December 28, 2016

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA—Live Science reports that a prehistoric garden has been found on Katzie First Nation territory, located to the east of Vancouver. Archaeologist Tanja Hoffmann of the Katzie Development Limited Partnership and Simon Fraser University led the excavation of the 3,800-year-old waterlogged site. It yielded more than 3,700 whole and fragmented wapato plants, which grow in wetlands and produce starchy roots similar to potatoes. The plants were not domesticated, but Hoffmann said they were grown in a plot set over a pavement of tightly packed, uniformly sized rocks, which would have made it easier to harvest the tubers. Some 150 wooden harvesting tools were also recovered. To read more about archaeology in Canada, go to “A Removable Feast.”

Categories: Blog

5,000-Year-Old Rock Art Depicts Parents and Baby

December 24, 2016

PRATO, ITALY—Seeker reports that geologist Marco Morelli, director of the Museum of Planetary Sciences in Prato, led a team of researchers that found 5,000-year-old rock art on the ceiling of a small cavity in the Egyptian Sahara desert in 2005. The image, drawn in reddish-brown ochre, appears to depict a man and a woman with a baby floating above them. The woman’s head is missing due to damage to the painting. Morelli suggests that the position of the baby could indicate a birth or pregnancy. “As death was associated to Earth in contemporary rock art from the same area,” he said, “it is likely that birth was linked to the sky.” There are two animals in the scene: a headless lion, which has been found in other drawings in the region, and a baboon. There’s also a small circular mark to the side of the figures, which has been likened to a star. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

16th-Century Turkey Bones Uncovered at English Monastery

December 24, 2016

CHESHIRE, ENGLAND—According to a report in Runcorn and Widnes World, researchers at the University of Sheffield found turkey bones among the thousands of bone fragments of sheep, pig, and cattle unearthed at Norton Priory between 1970 and 1987. Located in northwest England, Norton Priory was an abbey complex inhabited from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries. The turkey is thought to have been introduced to England from the New World in the early sixteenth century, and it became popular with Henry VIII and the wealthy, who until then had dined on swan, goose, peacock, and boar's head. For more on archaeology in England, go to “A Villa under the Garden.”

Categories: Blog

Interbreeding May Have Helped Modern Humans Adapt to Cold

December 24, 2016

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—The New York Times reports that an international team of scientists led by Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley, compared the genomes of nearly 200 Inuit living in Greenland with the genomes of living populations around the world, Neanderthals, and the one known Denisovan genome. The team members focused on a region of the Inuit genome that may affect the levels of brown fat in the body, which generates heat, and found that nearly all the Inuit in the study carried the same genetic variants in this region. The same region in Neanderthals and modern populations showed a partial match to the Inuit genome, but the Denisovan genome “was almost a complete match,” according to Nielsen. He suggests that interbreeding with archaic human species may have helped migrating modern humans adapt to new environments some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. “We do see these variants in other populations, like in South America and East Asia, but nowhere do we see the same frequency that we see in Greenland,” Nielsen said. To read in-depth about an excavation near a Yup'ik village in Alaska, go to “Cultural Revival.”

Categories: Blog

Fragment of Engraved Stone Bowl Unearthed in Jerusalem

December 23, 2016

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—A fragment of a 2,100-year-old engraved bowl was found in a ritual bathing complex in Jerusalem Walls National Park, according to a report in Jewish Business News. Hyrcanus, the name engraved on the bowl, is thought to have been a common one during the Hasmonean period. Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University said the bowl is one of the oldest chalk vessels found in Jerusalem. She and Doron Ben-Ami of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained that stone vessels were often used by Jewish people because they were considered to be vessels that could not become ritually unclean. For more on archaeology in Israel, go to “Sun and Moon.”

Categories: Blog

Unusual Burial Uncovered on Anglo-Saxon Island

December 23, 2016

LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Grimsby Telegraph, a team of researchers from the University of Sheffield is continuing to investigate an Anglo-Saxon site in the village of Little Carlton that may have been an island monastery or trading post. Archaeologist Hugh Willmott said that the team recently found the remains of a person buried face down in a narrow grave. The body is thought to have been placed in the grave after it had started to decompose, since its legs are facing the wrong way. “A great deal of care has been taken in this burial,” Willmott said. “So this could be an individual who perhaps has died away from the site and been brought here to be interred here specially.” Such an individual may have been royalty or a holy person. The site has also yielded writing implements, hundreds of dress pins, a lead tablet bearing a woman’s name, imported glassware, and seventh- and eighth-century coins, and is thought to have been abandoned in the eighth century due to Viking raids. To read in-depth about an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, go to “Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Categories: Blog

Transformed Celtic Harness Fitting Found in Norway

December 23, 2016

TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—Horsetalk reports that a piece of bronze jewelry found by a metal detectorist near the Trondheim Fjord may have been crafted in a Celtic workshop. The ornament, thought to have been made in the eighth or ninth century as a fitting for a horse’s harness, resembles a bird and has fish- or dolphin-shaped patterns on each of its wings. Holes were later placed on the bottom of the ornament. Traces of rust on its back suggest that it had been turned into a brooch with a needle. “A housewife in mid-Norway probably received the fitting as a gift from a family member who took part in one or more Viking raids to Ireland or Great Britain,” said Aina Margrethe Heen Pettersen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She suggests that items brought back from the dangerous raids would have been treasured status symbols. For more, go to “A True Viking Saga.”

Categories: Blog

Roman-Era Tombs Discovered in Western Turkey

December 23, 2016

KÜTAHYA, TURKEY—Hürriyet Daily News reports that three Roman-era tombs have been unearthed at a construction site in an area of western Anatolia known during the Roman period as Cotyaeum. Kütahya Museum director Metin Türktüzün said that the 2,000-year-old tombs each contained the remains of four or five people. The team expects to find additional tombs at the site. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Categories: Blog

Human Remains Found at WW II Plane-Wreck Site in India

December 22, 2016

ARUNACHAL PRADESH, INDIA—Team members of the Defense Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) traveled to northeastern India’s Lower Dibang Valley to search for the remains of U.S. soldiers who were killed during World War II. According to BBC News, more than 1,300 people are thought to have been lost in the region, primarily from aircraft crashes. The DPAA team discussed possible crash sites with local residents, who presented them with human remains recovered among plane wreckage. Additional remains were then recovered from the crash site. After approval from the government of India, the remains will be sent for study and possible identification at the DPAA laboratory in the United States. For more, go to “Archaeology of World War II.”

Categories: Blog

Retaining Wall Discovered in Ancient Egyptian Cemetery

December 22, 2016

ASWAN, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a six-foot-tall wall has been found near the rock-cut tombs of Qubbet Al-Hawa by a team of archaeologists from the University of Birmingham, the Egypt Exploration Society, and the Qubbet Al-Hawa Research Project (QHRP). The wall is thought to support Old Kingdom tombs located on the upper terrace of the cemetery. “This find is likely to change our understanding of the ancient funerary landscape of Qubbet Al-Hawa,” said project codirector Essam Nagy. Pottery fragments in the wall date to the reign of King Pepi II of the Sixth Dynasty (2278–2184 B.C.), as well as the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom. This indicates "the expansion of the cemetery during the latter parts of both periods,” explained Eman Khalifa of the QHRP. Last month, the group announced the discovery of Sarenput I’s funerary causeway at the site. Sarenput I was governor of the area at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. General director of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities Nasr Salama thinks that additional tombs will soon be discovered at the site. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

An Update on the Lechaion Harbor Project

December 22, 2016

CORINTH, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, a team of archaeologists from the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and the University of Copenhagen continues to investigate the ancient port of Lechaion, which served as Corinth’s main harbor for more than 1,000 years. The harbor complex had an outer harbor connected to a protected inner lagoon by a 650-foot-long canal built in the fourth century B.C. Topographic and geophysical surveys of the area revealed a large channel and several smaller channels connecting at least four harbor basins. Soil cores will help the researchers to learn more about the ancient landscape. The remains of a tower that protected the harbor entrance have been found, along with pieces of columns that may have been part of a colonnade lining the front of the harbor. A massive structure in the middle of the inner harbor is thought to have been the base of a lighthouse. The team also found an underwater wooden structure in the bay that may have been part of a pier. To read about another recent underwater discovery in Greece, go to “Antikythera Man.”

Categories: Blog

Seal of Ottoman-Era Sultan Restored in Jaffa

December 21, 2016

JAFFA, ISRAEL—According to The Times of Israel, conservators at the Israel Antiquities Authority have restored a marble monogram, or tughra, that adorns the southern side of an Ottoman-era clock tower in Jaffa. A tughra incorporated the sultan’s name, titles, his father’s name and his blessings, and symbols of the Ottoman Empire. In 2001, three other marble carvings of Sultan Hamid Abdul II’s seal were removed from the tower and replaced with glass replicas, due to their poor state of preservation. The last of the carvings, positioned 36 feet above the sidewalk, was in danger of collapsing, so it was also removed. Conservator Mark Avrahami created a new support for the marble plaque, and used pigments to accentuate what remains of the image, before it was reinstalled. The tower is one of 100 that were built in the Ottoman Empire to celebrate the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Hamid Abdul II. To read about a recent archaeological discovery in Israel, go to “Sun and Moon.”

Categories: Blog

New Kingdom Relief Returned to Egypt

December 21, 2016

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a limestone relief removed from Queen Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir El-Bahari in the 1970s has been repatriated to Egypt. Shaaban Abdel-Gawad of the Antiquities Repatriation Department said that the relief fragment turned up at an auction in Spain and was identified with the help of researchers at the British Museum. The sculpture will be returned to its original place in the Luxor temple. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on Banquo’s Walk

December 21, 2016

LOCHABER, SCOTLAND—Members of Lochaber Archaeological Society and staff from AOC Archaeology investigated “Banquo’s Walk,” a purported ceremonial route to Tor Castle, a stronghold whose residents claimed Banquo, a character from the Shakespearean play Macbeth, as an ancestor. BBC News reports that in the late nineteenth century, the Ordnance Survey Name Book listed the tree-lined site as part of a road alignment leading to the ruined castle. But the excavation failed to uncover a road surface or ditches. The new study suggests that Banquo’s Walk may have been a clay-mining site. “Looking at the surviving natural layers and after further excavation through the banks,” said Clive Talbot of the Lochaber Archaeological Society, “we realized that the surface of Banquo’s Walk had been lowered by the removal of these natural deposits and the banks had been built with the upcast.” The clay may have been used to line the Caledonian Canal, built in the early nineteenth century. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Lost and Found (Again).”

Categories: Blog

Possible Medical Office Found in Nea Paphos, Cyprus

December 20, 2016

KRAKÓW, POLAND—Archaeologists from Jagiellonian University have excavated a possible medical office in the agora at the site of Nea Paphos, according to a report in The Cyprus Mail. Its rooms are thought to have collapsed during an earthquake in A.D. 126. In the first room, the team uncovered two intact glass vessels in a box that may have had an iron handle. The box also contained two intact oil lamps. Two collections of bronze coins dating to the first half of the second century A.D. were found nearby. The second room contained another intact glass vessel, and seven surgical instruments made of bronze and iron. The tools are thought to have been kept in a bronze box. To read about another find at Nea Paphos, go to “Artifact.”

Categories: Blog

Caribou Fence Recorded in Canada’s Northwest Territories

December 20, 2016

YELLOWKNIFE, CANADA—According to a report in CBC News, archaeologist Tom Andrews of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center and his team are using drones to take high-resolution photographs of wooden fences thought to have been built by the Sahtu Dene people an estimated 100 years ago. The hunters would have used the fence to corral caribou. “It’s a real smart hunting strategy that’s probably been used for thousands of years,” Andrews said. After the hunt, the Sahtu Dene may have sold the large quantities of caribou meat to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Andrews said that he wants to record the fence because it is deteriorating, and it could be wiped out at any time by a forest fire. His team will also study the tree rings in the wood from the fence to pinpoint when it was built. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to “A Removable Feast.”

Categories: Blog

Eastern Han Dynasty Tombs Found Near Beijing

December 20, 2016

BEIJING, CHINA—The Associated Press reports that construction work has uncovered ancient, square-shaped city walls and more than 1,000 tombs in Tongzhou, a suburb southeast of Beijing. Most of the tombs date to the eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 25–220). Yu Ping, a spokeswoman for the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage, said it had been previously thought that the region first developed along a trade route during the Sui and Tang Dynasties (A.D. 581-907). Ceramic and porcelain urns, sculptures of animals, copper tools, and mirrors that may have been imported from the northern kingdom of Yan were also found. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

Traces of Cooked Plants Detected on 10,000-Year-Old Pottery

December 20, 2016

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that traces of cooked wild grains from grasses, leafy plants, and aquatic plants have been detected in oily residues on 10,000-year-old pottery fragments. According to scientists from the University of Bristol and Sapienza University of Rome, cooking the plants would have made them tastier, easier to digest, and in some cases, less toxic. The more than 100 pieces of pottery were recovered from two sites in the Libyan Sahara, which was a green savannah at the time. Julie Dunne of the University of Bristol explained that the pottery fragments are the earliest direct evidence researchers have of plant processing by hunter-gatherers. Stones found near the pottery suggest that some of the grains may have been ground into flour. “Or they may have just boiled the grains for prolonged periods and made a kind of porridge,” she said. “Interestingly enough, that is one of the staples in Africa today—it may be that this has a very long history.” For more, go to “Libya's Forgotten History.”

Categories: Blog

2,100-Year-Old Wine Press Unearthed in Israel

December 17, 2016

ASHKELON, ISRAEL—A 2,100-year-old wine press and a nearby building were discovered at the site of an elementary school construction project on the Mediterranean coast of southern Israel. The Jewish News Service reports that the press, which was covered with a thick layer of plaster mixed with seashells, is thought to have been part of a larger farm. The square-shaped press had a flat surface where grapes were stomped into juice. The juice would flow into a pit where the skins were filtered out, and then it was piped into a collection vat. The nearby building may have provided a place to store wine vessels and accommodations for the workers. The press will be preserved as part of the new school. For more on archaeology in Israel, go to “Mask Metamorphosis.”

Categories: Blog

Archaeologists Trace Istanbul’s Earthquakes

December 17, 2016

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—According to a report in Hürriyet Daily News, Şerif Barış of Kocaeli University is leading a team of archaeologists and geologists who are examining damage to the roads and structures of the ancient city of Bathonea, located on the European shore of the Sea of Marmara, to try and determine the location and magnitude of earthquakes that occurred before A.D. 1500. For example, in 2012 the team unearthed a church that had been damaged by an earthquake. “The bones of three bodies were found under the structure, as well as coins from the Justinian era,” Barış said. “This showed us that one of the big Istanbul earthquakes, which occurred in 557 A.D., also gave great damage to the Hagia Sophia,” he said. Damage to structures was noted in the sixth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, as well as the early sixteenth century, when there was a large earthquake known as the “small doomsday.” Barış added that information about past earthquakes could help scientists predict future ones. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Categories: Blog

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