EVESHAM, ENGLAND—Archaeologists surveying a future development site in England’s West Midlands region were surprised to find a Bronze Age burial, reports the Worcester News. The team was following up on an earlier excavation at the site that revealed ditches thought to date to the Iron Age. In broadening their investigation to include a larger tract of land, the archaeologists discovered ditches with artifacts dating 1,000 years earlier than they expected, to the early Bronze Age. “The really unexpected find was a ‘beaker’ burial,” said Laurence Hayes of the environmental consulting firm RSK. “This large burial pit contained a near complete Early Bronze Age vessel known as a beaker, covered with intricate patterns, and a polished stone archer’s wrist guard.” The artifacts are being conserved and will eventually go on display at a local museum. To read in-depth about the Iron Age in the British Isles, go to “Letter From Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”
AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS—Emily Dickinson is known today as one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century, but in her lifetime she may have been more renowned for her gardening. At her family estate, she helped to tend an orchard, a greenhouse, and an expanse of flower and vegetable gardens. The size of these gardens was dramatically decreased in the decades after Dickinson died in 1886, but now a team of archaeologists is searching for their remnants. Last summer, they uncovered portions of a pathway leading to nineteenth-century flower and vegetable beds. “If we can follow out the historic path to its end, then theoretically we would find the location of past gardens,” Kerry Lynch of Archaeological Services at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told the New York Times. If they do locate these gardens, the archaeologists hope to find seeds or other botanical evidence dating back to when Dickinson was alive. For more on archaeology in Massachusetts, go to "Finding Parker’s Revenge."
EL MALPAIS NATIONAL MONUMENT, NEW MEXICO—Archaeologists have explored an Ancestral Pueblo village in northwest New Mexico that dates to 900 years ago and was built amid lava fields. Surrounding the village, called Las Ventanas, they found a detailed array of trails, whose purpose is unclear. The trails totaled 62 miles in all, and some had no apparent destination other than the lava itself. “What this means is the trails were built, primarily, as ritual features themselves, to access different points in the lava,” Paul Reed of Southwest Archaeology told Western Digs. Goods including ceramics and stone tools were also found along many of the paths, adding further evidence that they had a ceremonial purpose. The people who lived at Las Ventanas used the local black volcanic rock in their buildings, along with sandstone, which was traditionally used by Pueblo to the north at Chaco Canyon. The village comprises more than 100 separate sites, including a two-story great house with up to 85 rooms that is estimated to have been built between 1075 and 1125. For more, go to “Early Parrots in the Southwest.”
SUFFOLK, ENGLAND—Culture 24 reports that an archaeological investigation in Bury St. Edmunds, located near the southeast coast of England, has uncovered a building with a foundation made of flint and mortar that probably had timber walls and a tiled roof and floor. The building may have been a kitchen or cold storage area in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, perhaps placed at a distance from the houses in the core of the medieval market town to protect them from potential kitchen fires. The site also yielded pits where chalk was quarried between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. (Lime for making mortar would have been extracted from the chalk.) The excavation team from Suffolk Archaeology found a gaming counter with wear marks suggesting it had been worn on a string, worked bone and antler waste, pottery, a chain, a spindle whorl, and roof tile fragments among the trash and food waste in the pits. To read more on medieval England, go to "Writing on the Church Wall."
DENVER, COLORADO—Zooarchaeologist Jamie Hodgkins of the University of Denver thinks that climate change may have contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals some 40,000 years ago. According to a report in R&D Magazine, Hodgkins examined the remains of prey animals and found that bones of animals butchered by Neanderthals during colder periods showed higher frequencies of percussion marks. This suggests that they were processed to remove every bit of marrow. “As the climate got colder, Neanderthals had to put more into extracting nutrients from bones," Hodgkins said. "This is especially apparent in evidence that reveals Neanderthals attempted to break open even low marrow yield bones, like the small bones of the feet." For more, go to "Should We Clone Neanderthals?"
HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND—It had been thought that modern humans settled in southern Arabia with the development of agriculture, but a new genetic study by Francesca Gandini of the University of Huddersfield and colleagues suggests that people lived there some 20,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. According to a report in Sci-News, the researchers focused on a rare mitochondrial DNA lineage (R0a) that is found most frequently in Arabia and the Horn of Africa. They think this lineage is older than had been previously believed, and that when the Ice Age ended some 11,000 years ago, people migrated out of Arabia and into eastern Africa, through the Middle East, and into Europe. For more, go to "New Evidence for Mankind's Earliest Migrations."
ST. GEORGE, UTAH—Vandalism at archaeological and rock art sites is a growing problem in southern Utah. According to a report at Good4Utah.com, the Bureau of Land Management and Conserve Southwest Utah will create a “Petroglyph Patrol” as part of their Respect and Protect campaign. In particular, volunteers will monitor the Land Hill Heritage site during peak visitor times and educate visitors about appropriate behavior at rock art sites. “Losing these sites or having them destroyed to the point where we can’t read the stories that are there, is a huge loss to our culture, to everyone. It’s like burning down libraries,” said Susan Crook, land program manager/Southwest Utah National Conservation Lands Friends director. For more, go to "North America’s Oldest Petroglyphs."
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Egyptologists at the Fitzwilliam Museum reportedly expected to find the embalmed remains of an adult’s organs in a miniature cedar sarcophagus that was discovered in Giza in 1907 by the British School of Archaeology. However, a CT scan has revealed the remains of a human fetus, estimated to have been no more than 18 weeks old at the time of death, which occurred sometime between 664 and 525 B.C. “The care taken in the preparation of this burial clearly demonstrates the value placed on life even in the first weeks of its inception,” Julie Dawson, head of conservation at the museum, told The Telegraph. The small-scale coffin had been carefully decorated, and the remains inside it had been wrapped in bandages. Molten black resin was poured over the tiny mummy before the coffin was closed.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Peter Hiscock and his team from the University of Sydney say that one tiny piece of worked stone is evidence of the world’s oldest ax. The fragment, thought to have come from the polished edge of an ax when it was re-sharpened, was excavated in the early 1990s by Sue O’Connor of Australian National University, along with other artifacts from Carpenter’s Gap, a rock shelter in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Hiscock and his team found the basalt fragment among the materials from the oldest levels of the site, which date to 45,000 to 49,000 years ago. The scientists think the ax may have been crafted by the first people to arrive in Australia. “We know that they didn’t have axes where they came from. There’s no axes in the islands to our north. They arrived in Australia and innovated axes,” O’Connor said in a report by BBC News. To read about finds from the same area dating to much more recently, go to "What's the Point?"
WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—A 1,300-year-old Anglo-Saxon cemetery of 55 burials has been unearthed in southeast Wiltshire. The cemetery dates from the late seventh to early eighth centuries, and includes the remains of men, women, and children. Another Anglo-Saxon cemetery from the same time period was found nearby on the Salisbury Plain last month. “We now have the opportunity to compare and contrast the burial practices of two communities living only a few miles apart. They would almost certainly have known each other,” project manager Bruce Eaton of Wessex Archaeology said in a Culture 24 report. The graves also contained iron knives, spears, a shield boss, bone pins, beads, coins pierced for necklaces, and combs. A large spear head and shield boss had been buried with a tall man who may have been a warrior; a high-status woman’s burial included bronze jewelry, beads, a bone comb, a chatelaine, and a bronze workbox. To read about another Anglo-Saxon discovery, go to "The Kings of Kent."
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND—A team of scientists analyzed DNA from more than 1,000 dromedary camels living in West Africa, Pakistan, Oman, and Syria, and found that they were genetically very similar, despite the distances between them. Camels are thought to have been domesticated some 3,000 years ago. “People would travel hundreds of miles with their camels carrying all their precious goods. And when they reached the Mediterranean, the animals would be exhausted. So they would leave those animals to recover and take new animals for their return journey,” Olivier Hanotte of Nottingham University said in a BBC News report. The scientists say that this mixing up of camel populations has helped one-humped camels to maintain genetic diversity. For more on the relationship between people and animals, go to "The Story of the Horse."
MONTREAL, CANADA—A second tannery has been uncovered in the St. Henri neighborhood of Montreal. Last summer, a village of tanneries was found, but the newly uncovered site is in better condition and will offer archaeologists more information about the industry, which was positioned outside the city limits in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The site will be completely excavated so that The Turco Interchange can be replaced. “At some point near the turn of the twentieth century, the area was paved over and turned into a rail yard. Then of course in the 1960s, they built the Turco Interchange,” Dinu Bumbaru, policy director for Heritage Montreal, told CBC News.
WATERLOO, CANADA—A 25-foot-long section of corduroy road was unearthed at King Street and Conestoga Road during the construction of a light rail system in Waterloo, Ontario. Corduroy roads were made by placing logs over muddy roads. Another section of log road was uncovered under King Street in March. These roads are thought to have been built by Mennonites who immigrated to Ontario from the United States in the early nineteenth century. “As per the requirements of both the project agreement and the Ontario Heritage act, GrandLinq has stopped work in this area and an investigation is underway,” Kim Moser, rapid transit community relations, said in a report in The Record. To read more about archaeology in Canada, go to "Canada Finds Erebus," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.
SALEKHARD, RUSSIA—Scientists continue to study the well-preserved remains of a six- or seven-year-old boy whose medieval birch bark coffin was recovered from the Zeleny Yar necropolis. So far, they have learned that the boy had worms from eating raw or undercooked fish, which may have been a staple food fed to infants and small children. Petr Slominsky of the Institute of Molecular Genetics in Moscow told The Siberian Times that his team plans to gather DNA samples from the modern Khanty, Nenets, and Komi peoples, who live near the site of the necropolis, to compare with a sample from the remains. The task is complicated by damage to the remains caused by repeated thawing and freezing and by resin in the birch bark used to wrap the body. "The DNA we get is not very clean, and there is not very much of it," said Slominsky. "But at the moment we are working to clear the DNA and get more samples and as soon as we succeed we will start the analysis." For more on archaeology in the area, go to "Letter from Siberia: Fortress of Solitude."
ISLE OF BUTE, SCOTLAND—New radiocarbon dates for a preserved surface in the mound known as Cnoc An Rath could indicate a Viking presence at the site. Some think the archaeological monument may have been a Viking “thing,” or parliament site, based upon an analysis of long lost place names on the island. And archaeologist Paul Duffy told the Herald Scotland that a medieval Irish text mentions the island as being in the territory of the Gall-Gaidheil, Norse-Gael people who dominated much of the region around the Irish Sea. “We have got a very unusual and definite historical evidence which puts Bute in the Gall-Gaidheil territory, and possibly quite an important place in the Gall-Gaidheil territory," said Duffy. "What we have now is another brick in the evidential wall which suggests there is an assembly site on Bute." That could link the site to King Ketill Björnsson, a.k.a. Ketill Flatnose, a figure in Icelandic sagas. Icelandic tradition states that the king died on the Scottish islands. To read more, go to "Viking Trading or Raiding?"
CHATHAM TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY—According to an Associated Press report, historian William Styple and his son Brad think they may have found the place where Washington and his troops stayed after crossing the Delaware River and engaging in battles in Trenton and Princeton. The Styples found an 1855 newspaper article that reportedly records the memories of people who saw the camp, and late-nineteenth-century photographs of a mansion on the site, one of which was marked with the location of the camp’s flagpole. An archaeological survey, conducted by Michigan-based Commonwealth Heritage Group, recovered several dozen artifacts at the site, including metal buckles, a knob from a desk drawer, pottery, and a partial pipe bowl. “It could be an encampment during the war, possibly ’77. But armies constantly marched through here through the entire American Revolution, and bits of armies were camping as they passed through,” commented Eric Olsen, a park ranger at Morristown National Historical Park. For more on archaeology of the American Revolution, go to "Finding Parker’s Revenge."
NANJING, CHINA—Archaeologists from the Nanjing Museum say they have discovered traces of a rice field at the Neolithic site of Hanjing in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu. Carbonized rice from the site was dated to 8,000 years ago. The ancient rice paddy had been divided into different parts, each of which had a different shape and covered less than 100 square feet. China Daily also reports that the scientists found evidence the paddy had been repeatedly planted with rice. Lin Liugen, head of the museum’s archaeology institute, said that 10,000-year-old carbonized rice has been found elsewhere, but this is oldest rice paddy to have been uncovered in China. To read about another recent discovery, go to "The Price of Tea in China."
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA—Most tattoos found on Egyptian mummies are patterns of dots or dashes, but according to a report in Nature, bioarchaeologist Anne Austin of Stanford University found tattoos representing actual objects on a 3,000-year-old mummified woman from Deir el-Medina, the village where the artisans who worked on tombs in the Valley of the Kings are thought to have lived. Using infrared lighting and an infrared sensor, Austin and her team recorded more than 30 tattoos on the woman’s remains. Many of the images, which include pictures of lotus blossoms on the woman’s hips, cows on her arm, baboons on her neck, and wadjet eyes on her neck, shoulders, and back, are associated with the goddess Hathor. “Any angle that you look at this woman, you see a pair of divine eyes looking back at you,” Austin said. Some of the images are more faded than others, and are thought to have been applied as the woman aged. To read in-depth about the archaeology of body art, go to "Ancient Tattoos."
QUANG NAM, VIETNAM—Archaeologists led by Ton That Huong, head of the province’s Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, have discovered a well thought to date to the twelfth century at a site known for its Cham steles, statues, and temples. According to a report in Vietnam News, the square-shaped well measures approximately three feet per side and is lined with bricks similar to those used in other Cham structures in central Vietnam. The well is located on the edge of the archaeological site, near an agricultural field, so a fence will be built to protect it. To read more about ancient sites in the region, go to "Letter From Cambodia: Storied Landscape."
DURHAM, ENGLAND—Researchers from Durham University have examined the bones of up to 28 individuals thought to have been Scottish prisoners of war captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 by the English army. Historical sources say that at least 4,000 men were taken prisoner and marched to Durham Cathedral and castle, where they were held. The bodies in the two graves had been placed there haphazardly. Marks on the bones, perhaps made by scavenging animals, suggest that the graves were left open over a period of time. According to a report in Chronicle Live, the scientists have found many of the individuals to have been between 13 and 25 years old at the time of death. The condition of their teeth suggests that the young men had experienced malnutrition and disease in childhood, and that some of them smoked pipes, which became popular in the 1630s. Their lack of healed wounds suggests that they had not had previous battle experience. “We would like to know more about the circumstances of the battle and march south, and see if we can find any evidence for other mass graves as yet undiscovered,” said Beth Upex of the University of Durham. To read about more about historical archaeology in the British Isles, go to "Letter From Scotland: Living on the Edge."