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Early Twentieth-Century Mosque Lamps Recovered

January 26, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that six historic lamps stolen from the El-Refai Mosque last month have been recovered by Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities Police. The authorities suspect that the lamps were taken during a film shoot at the mosque. The lamps date to 1910, and are part of a set of 15 that hang from the ceilings of the mausoleums of King Fouad, the last king of Egypt, and Princess Ferial, his half-sister. Each of the glass lamps bears a verse of the Koran in raised script. Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities credits the swift recovery of the artifacts to the quick reporting of the theft. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

17th-Century Shopping List Discovered at English Country House

January 26, 2017

KENT, ENGLAND—Kent Live reports that a seventeenth-century shopping list was found under the floorboards at Knole, one of the largest historic country houses in England. The shopping list was written in 1633 by Robert Draper, who asked his friend Mr. Bilby to bring a fire shovel, pewter spoons, a frying pan, and “greenfish,” which refers to cod before it has been salted or cured, to Copt Hall. Draper also asked for the prices of these items. Scholars think that the quality of the handwriting suggests Draper was a high-ranking servant. But how did the letter get from Copt Hall to Knole House? In 1637, the daughter of the Earl of Middlesex, who owned Copt Hall, married the Earl of Dorset, who owned Knole House, and the contents of Copt Hall were eventually moved to Knole. “It’s extremely rare to uncover letters dating back to the seventeenth century, let alone those that give us an insight into the management of the households of the wealthy, and the movement of items from one place to another,” said Nathalie Cohen, regional archaeologist for England’s National Trust. To read in-depth about Knole House, go to “The Many Lives of an English Manor House.”

Categories: Blog

Operation Pandora Recovers Thousands of Artifacts

January 25, 2017

THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS—NBC News reports that an international operation led by Cypriot and Spanish police has resulted in the recovery of more than 3,500 stolen cultural objects—almost half of which were archaeological artifacts—and the arrest of 75 people suspected of activity in criminal networks. Dubbed “Operation Pandora,” the coordinated effort focused on “cultural spoliation,” or the act of taking goods by force, and the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, particularly from countries at war. The police and other authorities from a total of 18 countries, in cooperation with UNESCO, Interpol, and Europol, initiated more than 90 investigations, and conducted thousands of inspections and searches of people, vehicles, and ships during October and November of 2016. More than 400 coins, an Ottoman tombstone, and a post-Byzantine icon depicting Saint George are among the recovered items. For more, go to “Sunken Byzantine Basilica.”

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“Dark Age” Jewelry Workshop Found in Kuwait

January 25, 2017

MOESGARD, DENMARK—According to a report in The Copenhagen Post, archaeologists from the Moesgaard Museum have found a 3,500-year-old jewelry workshop from the Dilmun culture on the tiny island of Failaka, which is located off the coast of Kuwait. The Dilmun culture, centered in Failaka, Bahrain, and possibly Qatar, was known as a Bronze Age trade hub for the major cities of Mesopotamia. But the trade network is thought to have collapsed around 1700 B.C., when its temples and cities were abandoned. “We have found the remains of a jewelry workshop in buildings from the period between 1700 and 1600 B.C.,” explained senior scientist Flemming Højland. “We found bits and pieces of semi-precious stones that do not exist naturally on the island of Failaka, but were imported—probably from India and Pakistan.” The jewelry suggests that the people living on Failaka resumed trade with people living to the east after the collapse of the established trade routes. To read in-depth about Failaka, go to “Archaeology Island.”

Categories: Blog

Flat Stone Found in the Mouth of a Roman-Period Skeleton

January 25, 2017

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that researchers from Historic England recently examined bones removed from a Roman-period cemetery in a soil block in 1991 and determined they were the remains of a man who had been buried face down with a flat stone in his mouth. Marks on the bones around the mouth suggest that he suffered from an infection, perhaps from the removal of his tongue. “The fact that he’s buried face down in the grave is consistent with somebody whose behavior marked them out as odd or threatening within a community,” said skeletal biologist Simon Mays. The man may have suffered from mental health issues and severed his own tongue, or it may have been cut out as a form of punishment, but no records of such a punishment have been found in Roman Britain. Other burials in Roman Britain have contained stones or objects in place of missing body parts, however. “It could be an attempt to complete an incomplete body,” Mays said. “Or it could be an attempt to replace part of a body with something obviously inanimate, like a stone or a pot, to prevent the corpse from being complete.” For more on archaeology of Roman Britain, go to “A Villa under the Garden.”

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Precise Chronology Helps Scientists Study Maya Collapse

January 25, 2017

TUCSON, ARIZONA—The International Business Times reports that Ceibal-Petexbatun Archaeological Project scientists, led by Takeshi Inomata of the University of Arizona, are studying possible processes behind the two collapses of Maya civilization at Guatemala’s Maya site of Ceibal, which was occupied for about 2,000 years, between approximately 1000 B.C. and A.D. 950. The researchers obtained more than 150 radiocarbon dates from charcoal samples, and conducted a detailed study of ceramics from the site, in order to assemble a precise chronology of events. Population sizes over time were determined through carefully controlled excavations. The researchers found similar patterns preceding the collapse of Maya civilization during the Preclassic period, sometime between A.D. 150 and 300, and during the Classic Period, around A.D. 800 to 950, including violent warfare, social unrest, and political crises in multiple cities in the Maya lowlands. They also found that smaller waves of collapse were followed by major collapse and the abandonment of Maya population centers. For more, go to “Letter from Guatemala: Maya Metropolis.”

Categories: Blog

Bones Offer Clues to Health of Ancient Egypt’s Children

January 24, 2017

WARSAW, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team of scientists from the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw examined the bones of 29 children whose remains were recovered from shallow graves in the sand at the Saqqara necropolis. Most of them were three to five years of age, and had probably been weaned from breast milk. “Some of the children buried at Saqqara could have died from diseases and infections, to which they were more susceptible because of lower resistance after changing diet,” said bioarchaeologist Iwona Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin of the University of Manchester. Analysis of the bones revealed the children suffered from deficiencies of iron and B vitamins; parasitic diseases, including malaria; tooth decay, due to a diet rich in carbohydrates; inhibited growth from a diet low in nutrients; and sinusitis, brought on by dust and desert sand. But most of the children’s remains did not show any signs of disease. Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin explained that it takes time to develop lesions on bones. “It could mean that due to a weak immune system [the child] succumbed to disease very quickly,” she said. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

Revolutionary War Artifacts Recovered in Virginia

January 24, 2017

GLOUCESTER POINT, VIRGINIA—The Daily Press reports that artifacts dating to the Revolutionary War were found in a cellar at the site of Gloucester Point, an affluent colonial-era town located in southeastern Virginia, across the York River from Yorktown. Among the recovered artifacts is a brass plate engraved with the name “Lt. Dickson, 80th Regt. of Foot,” referring to an officer of the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers, who eventually surrendered Gloucester Town to American and French forces in 1781 during the Siege of Yorktown. Other artifacts include French infantry buttons, an English half-penny dated 1773, a silver piece of eight, two matching shoe buckles, and pieces of brass hardware. “We think they were all deposited during some sort of post-Revolution cleanup,” said archaeologist Anna Rhodes of DATA Investigations. The site has also yielded more than 600 features, including defensive ditches from the time of the Revolution and the Civil War. For more on the archaeology of the American Revolution, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Goddess Sculpture Discovered Off Turkish Coast

January 24, 2017

IZMIR, TURKEY—Hürriyet Daily News reports that a 2,700-year-old terracotta statue has been discovered at a shipwreck site under more than 140 feet of water off the coast of southwestern Turkey. The statue, discovered by a team of archaeologists from Dokuz Eylul University, is of the lower half of a woman’s body, and is thought to represent a Cypriot goddess. The statue and other cargo items, including ceramic plates and amphoras, had been covered with sand. “When we cleaned its surroundings, we saw the toes of the sculpture,” said team leader Harun Özdaş. “Then we uncovered the lower part of the body. The goddess sculpture had a dress on it. We know that such sculptures were made of two pieces. This is why we believe that the upper part of the sculpture is in the same place.” The team will return to the site, with the permission of Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry and the support of the Development Ministry, to look for the rest of the goddess later this year. To read about another discovery in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Categories: Blog

Study Suggests Pompeii’s Artifacts Were Well Worn

January 21, 2017

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—USA Today reports that a team of researchers including Theodore Peña of the University of California, Berkeley, is analyzing street trash and storage containers preserved at Pompeii, a Roman city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Peña said that in a farmhouse near Pompeii the team found beat-up kitchen gear on the shelves, including a dented bronze bucket, pots with broken rims, and a cracked casserole dish. The stove was full of ashes, suggesting that the people “just basically didn’t take out the garbage.” The researchers also found that the amphoras at a wine-bottling facility had been patched before reuse. And the lack of pieces of glass and ceramic in street trash suggests that the material was being repaired and recycled. “We’re actually starting to see evidence of people’s choices and how they dealt with their objects,” said graduate student Caroline Cheung. To read in-depth about the archaeology of Roman refuse, go to “Trash Talk.”

Categories: Blog

Sediment Core Offers Clues to Fate of Australia’s Megafauna

January 21, 2017

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA—The International Business Times reports that scientists led by Sander van der Kaars of Monash University and Gifford Miller of the University of Colorado Boulder collected a sediment core in the Indian Ocean off the coast of southwest Australia. The core contained layers of dust, pollen, ash, and spores from a fungus that grew on the dung of plant-eating mammals that had blown or washed into the ocean. The scientists used this information to construct a model of the climate and ecosystems in southwest Australia over the past 150,000 years. The number of fungus spores in the layers of the core suggest the herbivores were plentiful in the region between 150,000 and 45,000 years ago. But then the megafauna population collapsed over a period of just a few thousand years, even though the climate remained relatively stable. Miller explained that if modern human hunters had killed even one juvenile male per year, it could have limited the ability of the species to reproduce and led to extinction in just a few hundred years. For more on archaeology in Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

Categories: Blog

Burials at Medieval Monastery in Sudan Analyzed

January 21, 2017

ONTARIO, CANADA—Live Science reports that the remains of more than 120 individuals exhumed from four 1,000-year-old cemeteries at the medieval site of the al-Ghazali Christian monastery in Sudan have been analyzed. In one of the cemeteries, almost all of the skeletons belonged to males, who may have been monks from the monastery. People who lived in nearby settlements are thought to have been buried in two of the other cemeteries. The most recently discovered cemetery contained only 15 burials. Robert Stark of McMaster University explained that stone structures and tombstones found in all of the cemeteries were engraved in Greek or Coptic with prayers and information about the people buried in them. Some of the burials contained well-preserved burial shrouds that had been placed over the skulls of the deceased. Post-mortem cut marks were found on the bones of two of the individuals. Another person seems to have been placed in a grave in a haphazard way, even though the grave itself was neatly dug and a stone structure was placed on top of it. For more on archaeology in Sudan, go to “The Cult of Amun.”

Categories: Blog

Viking Manor House Discovered in Sweden's Oldest Town

January 21, 2017

KORSHAMN, SWEDEN—The Local Sweden reports that Johan Runer of the Stockholm County Museum, Sven Kalmring of the Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, and Andreas Viberg of Stockholm University used ground-penetrating radar to conduct geophysical surveys at the site of the ancient Viking trade center of Birka, located on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren. They think they have found a Viking manor hall that may have belonged to the king’s royal bailiff. The hall measured more than 130 feet long and dates to the period after A.D. 810. The research team also found a fenced area connected to the hall that may have been used for religious activities, including the first known Christian mission to Sweden, in the early ninth century, by Saint Ansgar, archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Categories: Blog

British Woman Returns Souvenir Jug to Turkey

January 20, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—The Daily Sabah reports that a British citizen who purchased an ancient artifact at the site of the ancient city of Ephesus in the 1960s has returned it to Turkey. The artifact, a jug thought to have been produced by the Yortan culture some 4,500 years ago in western Turkey, will be handed over to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Seat of “Lost” Dark Age Kingdom Found in Scotland

January 20, 2017

GALLOWAY, SCOTLAND—Archaeologists Ronan Toolis and Christopher Bowles of Guard Archaeology began excavating the Trusty’s Hill Fort site in southern Scotland to investigate Pictish carvings they found there, according to a report in BBC News. But instead of uncovering evidence of Picts, the team found traces of a royal stronghold thought to have been built by local Britons around A.D. 600. The hill was fortified with a high-status timber-laced stone rampart, and enclosures on lower-lying slopes. In the citadel, there was king’s hall and a smith’s shop for working gold, silver, bronze, and iron. The inhabitants of the citadel ate a diet rich in beef, oats, and barley grown in the surrounding countryside. Toolis and Bowles think this stronghold may have been the royal seat of the kingdom of Rheged, which had been thought to have been located further to the south, in the Cumbria region of northwestern England. They now think the rock carvings may have been adopted from the Picts as symbols of royalty. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Lost and Found (Again).”

Categories: Blog

Bones of Medieval Horse Recovered at Roman Colosseum

January 20, 2017

ROME, ITALY—The Local, Italy, reports that the remains of a horse dating to between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was unearthed near the steps to the basement of the Colosseum. Francesco Prosperetti, Rome’s superintendent for archaeology, said that tests will be conducted on the bones to try to determine how old the horse was at the time of death and the state of its health. That information could help archaeologists figure out what it was doing at the ancient site. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

Categories: Blog

Rock in Croatia Cave May Have Been Collected by Neanderthals

January 19, 2017

LAWRENCE, KANSAS—According to a report in Seeker, a team led by David Frayer of the University of Kansas and Davorka Radovčić of the Croatian Natural History Museum found an unusual piece of brown limestone with reddish corners and black stripes among artifacts recovered from a Neanderthal cave site more than 100 years ago. The stone measures about five inches long, four inches high, and about a half inch thick. Had the researchers come across the rock, “we would have likely taken it home with us,” Frayer said. The stone was never flaked, and does not show any signs of wear that would suggest it had been used as a tool. The researchers think the rock was collected “as a curiosity” some 130,000 years ago and stored by Neanderthals at the Krapina cave site. An outcropping of similar rock has been found about a mile away from the cave, where it could have been picked up, or it may have been carried closer to the site by a nearby stream. Neanderthals are also known to have collected teeth, shells, and bird talons and feathers as materials for jewelry. To read about another recent discovery involving Neanderthals, go to “Early Man Cave.”

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Long House Discovered in Moldova

January 19, 2017

CHISINAU, MOLDOVA—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that an international team of researchers has found traces of a 7,000-year-old long house in the Eastern European country of Moldova. Similar houses, built by what is known as the Linear Pottery culture, have been found in other parts of Europe, but this is the first one to be found in Moldova. Such long houses were made of wooden posts driven into the ground to support wattle-and-daub walls topped with gabled roofs. “Commonly, on both sides of the houses we discover cavities from which clay was taken to cover the walls,” said Maciej Debiec of the University of Rzeszów and the University of Regensburg. Early European farmers are thought to have lived in long houses with their animals. Debiec and his team will return to the newly discovered site this spring for further investigation. They expect the Moldavian long house will be similar in size to other structures built by the Linear Pottery culture, or about 65 feet long 20 feet wide. The team has found two additional sites in Moldova where additional long houses may have stood. For more, go to “The Neolithic Toolkit.”

Categories: Blog

2,400-Year-Old Basement Unearthed in Northwest China

January 19, 2017

XI’AN, CHINA—Xinhua News Agency reports that a basement dating to the Warring States Period (476–221 B.C.) has been discovered at the site of Yueyang City, the ancient capital of the Qin state, in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. The rare brick room had stone pillar bases, measured about 16 feet long by about 13 feet wide, and sat about three feet below ground level. It is thought to have been part of the ruler’s residential palace, and may have been used for storage. A fireplace was also found in the structure, according to Liu Rui of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Fireplaces are also thought to have been limited to residential palaces during the Warring States Period. The strength of the Qin state eventually gave rise to China’s first emperor, who established the Qin Dynasty and united China in 221 B.C. For more, go to “The Price of Tea in China.”

Categories: Blog

1,000-Year-Old Tomb Unearthed in Denmark

January 18, 2017

AARS, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that a large tomb has been found in north Jutland by Bjarne Henning Nielsen of the Vesthimmerlands Museum. Nielsen speculates the tomb may have been constructed for the early eleventh-century Viking chief Ulv Galiciefarer, who was known for his raids on Galicia and was sometimes referred to in historic documents as an “earl of Denmark.” Nielsen says the burial site is surrounded by dark soil that may have been left by a building placed over the tomb—a practice reserved for the nobility. Nielsen also recovered a sword from the grave that dates to the early years of the second millennium. The region where the tomb was found is thought to have belonged to Valdemar the Great, king of Denmark from 1157 to 1182, whose great-grandfather is known to have been Ulv Galiciefarer. “It is private property he inherited from his father’s side,” Nielsen said, “and Galiciefarer is part of the lineage.” To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

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