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Cairo's Colossal Moving Project

January 26, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the 91-ton statue of Ramesses II was moved some 1,300 feet, from a storage area to the atrium of the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which is scheduled to open fully in 2022. The statue is said to have been moved four times: the first trip, from the Aswan quarry where it was carved to the Memphis necropolis, where it was part of the façade of Ptah’s temple, took place some 3,000 years ago. In 1955, the statue was moved to Cairo, and placed in what is now known as Ramesses Square. It was moved to the headquarters of the new Grand Egyptian Museum on the Giza Plateau in 2006 to protect it from pollution. Since then, it has been studied and reinforced in preparation for the most recent journey over a specially treated road. Egypt’s Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces and the Arab Contractors Company created an iron cage in which the colossus was hung for the trip, so that it would be able to move freely. For more, go to “Afterlife on the Nile.”

Categories: Blog

Inca Farming Terraces Restored in Peru

January 25, 2018

CUSCO, PERU—The Andina News Agency reports that traces of buildings, an aqueduct, walls, and agricultural terraces built by the Inca have been found near the city of Cusco, at Chinchero Archaeological Park. Felix Vilca of the Decentralized Culture Directorate of Cusco said the aqueduct probably carried water to crops. One of three large, rectangular buildings on one of the terraces had a stone floor and is thought to date to the colonial era. The four-year project to restore the farming terraces is expected to be completed this year. For more, go to “Letter From Peru: Connecting Two Realms.”

Categories: Blog

Teotihuacan May Have Been Renamed by the Spanish

January 25, 2018

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—According to an Associated Press report, archaeologist Veronica Ortega of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History thinks the city known as Teotihuacan, or “city of the gods,” may have originally been called Teohuacan, or “city of the sun,” by the Aztecs. Some 700 years after the city was abandoned, Aztec rulers traveled there in an effort to legitimize their rule. Ortega says the word “Teohuacan” had been written beneath an Aztec pictogram referring to the city with the sun, temple, and ruler signs in the Xolotol Codex. Later Aztec documents drawn up after the arrival of the Spanish use the word “Teotihuacan” for the same city, however. Ortega suggests Spanish colonists changed the city’s name because the sun was used as a symbol for rulers, and they wanted to change the seat of power in the region to Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. “They wanted people to see Teotihuacan as a place of worship, but not as a place where rulers were anointed, because they wanted to keep the political center in Tenochtitlan,” Ortega explained. For more, go to “Aztec Warrior Wolf.”

Categories: Blog

Prehistoric Artifacts Recovered From Norway’s Glaciers

January 25, 2018

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Newsweek reports that more than 2,000 artifacts dating back to as early as 4000 B.C. have been recovered from mountain passes in the glaciers of Oppland, Norway, by an international team of researchers. The artifacts include weapons and arrows, the remains of pack horses, and skis. Lars Pilø of the Glacier Archaeology Program at Oppland County Council said the skis are broader than modern skis, and may have been partly covered in fur. A tunic dating to the Iron Age, one Bronze-Age shoe, and the remains of sleds were also found. Pilø said that during the Late Antique Little Ice Age, a period stretching from A.D. 536 to 660, harvests failed and populations fell, but the number of artifacts from that time period suggests the survivors intensified other means of gathering food in the mountains. “This is sort of a dark archaeology, where we benefit from climate change that’s making this ice high in the mountains melt,” Pilø said. “There’s not much we can do to stop it, but at least we can be up there trying to find what we can.” For more on the relationship between archaeology and climate change, go to “Letter From Norway: The Big Melt.”

Categories: Blog

Sub-Saharan Glass Analyzed

January 24, 2018

HOUSTON, TEXAS—According to a report in The Independent, chemical analysis of 52 glass beads unearthed in Nigeria suggests the glass was produced locally. Abidemi Babatunde Babalola of Harvard University said it had been previously believed that glass imported from the Mediterranean and the Middle East was melted and reworked in glass workshops at the site of Igbo Olokun, which is located within Ile-Ife, the ancestral home of the Yoruba people of West Africa. But Babalola and his team said the composition of the glass is unique and reflects the local raw materials: some of the glass beads had high levels of lime and alumina, while a second group had low levels of lime and high levels of alumina. Babalola added that the glass was dated to between A.D. 1100 and 1500, before Europeans established trade networks in West Africa. For more about the glass workshops of Igbo Olokun and this project, go to “The Glass Economy.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Slave Ship Found in Alabama

January 24, 2018

MOBILE, ALABAMA—According to an Associated Press report, a wooden shipwreck exposed by particularly low tides in a river delta in southwestern Alabama may be the Clotilda, said to be the last ship to bring enslaved Africans to the United States in 1860. The importation of slaves was outlawed in the United States in 1807, but a plantation owner who had made a bet that he could sneak African slaves into the country, past the federal troops guarding Mobile Bay, in the days leading up to the start of the Civil War, employed an Alabama steamboat captain to do so. The Clotilda’s captain, William Foster, wrote that he burned the ship after it delivered its cargo of 110 captives. “[T]he location is right, the construction seems to be right, [it's] from the proper time period, it appears to be burnt,” said archaeologist Greg Cook of the University of West Florida, who examined the wreckage. Cook and his colleagues will attempt to further verify the ship’s identity. To read in-depth about a group of enslaved people who were marooned on an Indian Ocean island, go to “Castaways.”

Categories: Blog

Scholars Translate Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

January 24, 2018

HAIFA, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that Eshbal Ratson and Jonathan Ben-Dov of the University of Haifa have pieced together and deciphered 60 tiny fragments of one of the last two unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran. Notes made in the margins of the scroll by a scribe helped Ratson and Ben-Dov to read the text, which was written in code. It describes a 364-day lunar calendar, and festivals of New Wheat, New Wine, and New Oil. Today, the Jewish festival of Shavuot celebrates the festival of New Wheat. According to the newly translated text, the members of the Jewish sect that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls celebrated the festival of New Wine 50 days after Shavuot, and the festival of New Oil 50 days after that. The text also described a festival that marked the transitions between the four seasons of the year on special days known as Tekufah, a word in modern Hebrew that translates as “period.” For more, go to “Scroll Search.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on Mexico’s First Domesticated Turkeys

January 23, 2018

YORK, ENGLAND—An international team of researchers suggests turkeys were not domesticated in Mexico as a food source, but to fulfill a symbolic and cultural role, according to a report in the International Business Times. Aurélie Manin of the University of York and her colleagues analyzed the remains of 55 turkeys that lived in Mesoamerica between 300 B.C. and A.D. 1500. They found that modern European domesticated turkeys are descended from Mexican ancestors. But, ancient turkey bones are rarely found amid domestic garbage at archaeological sites in Mesoamerica. Instead, the bones are usually found buried in temples and in human graves, and do not bear any marks suggesting the birds had been eaten. And, some of the bones came from birds found outside their natural range, which suggests Mesoamericans may have traded live birds. Manin also said turkeys were often depicted as gods or used as symbols in Mesoamerican iconography. A study of the carbon isotope ratios in the turkey bones suggests that one type of turkey was likely to have been domesticated and fed a diet of grains like corn from cultivated crops, while another, more ornate wild type, remained free to eat bugs and wild plants. For more, go to “The Rabbit Farms of Teotihuacán.”

Categories: Blog

4,500-Year-Old Clam Processing Site Examined in Japan

January 23, 2018

YOYOHASHI, JAPAN—According to a report in the Japan Times, archaeologists have analyzed the Sakatsuji Shell Midden, which is one of seven prehistoric shell middens in Honshu’s Aichi Prefecture. The researchers said that some 4,500 years ago, Sakatsuji Shell Midden was located along the sea coast, and was likley to have been a clam processing site. The mound currently measures about five feet tall, 20 feet wide, and 80 feet long, and has at least four layers and 55 possible furnaces made of stones. During the mid-Jomon period, people are thought to have traveled to the site to dig clams and boil them in the furnaces. After the clammers stripped the meat from the shells, the researchers suggest they leveled the piles of shells so that the site could be used again. Since so many clams were prepared at a time, the stripped meat may have been dried after cooking so that it would last longer and could perhaps be traded. The team also determined that the Sakatsuji midden is at least 700 years older than the other middens in the region. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Categories: Blog

Iron Age Skull Found in England

January 23, 2018

SOMERSET, ENGLAND—The Telegraph reports that a skull discovered last spring on a riverbank in southwest England belonged to a woman who lived sometime between 380 and 190 B.C. Cut marks suggest the 45-year-old woman had been decapitated, either before or after death, and her head deposited in the River Sowy. “We have found similar severed heads like this in other water places,” said archaeologist Richard Bunning of South West Heritage Trust, “so it seems that they were sacred places, rather than just where people were living.” The rest of the woman’s body is missing, but investigators did recover the remains of posts that had been driven deep into the riverbed and may have supported a raised walkway for ritual activity at the river. The posts are being radiocarbon dated to see if they are the same age as the skull. Bunning added that analysis of the skull indicates the woman had severe osteoarthritis in the joint of her right jaw, gum disease, and tooth loss. “We don’t know if she was a victim or a revered member of a tribe, but it was clearly an important ritual site,” Bunning concluded. To read about another site nearby, go to “Legends of Glastonbury Abbey.”

Categories: Blog

18th-Century Inn Excavated in Scottish Highlands

January 20, 2018

SUTHERLAND, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that the site of an eighteenth-century inn in the Scottish Highlands has been investigated by a team of archaeologists and volunteers. The Wilkhouse Inn dates to the 1740s and is thought to have been used by travelers and drovers moving cattle to market. The excavators uncovered remains of the inn’s thick, lime mortared walls and a piece of window glazing. Fragments of wine and beer bottles were also recovered, along with pieces of porcelain, buttons, and a sheep bone. Historic accounts record that visitors were served cold meat, eggs, new cheese, and milk, by the innkeeper, Robert Gordon, and his wife. Coins found at the site include a French Louis XIII Double Tournois dating to between 1610 and 1643, suggesting that travelers may have stopped at the site before the inn was built. The inn was abandoned in 1819, when the land was cleared for sheep farming. Nick Lindsay of Clyne Heritage Society said timber rafters, slates, glass, and building stones would have been removed from the inn at that time. “It was then likely left as a ruin, which gradually collapsed over the decades and centuries to a broad pile of rubble,” he said. To read more about the archaeology of Scotland, go to "Letter From Scotland." 

Categories: Blog

11,000-Year-Old Burial Uncovered in China

January 20, 2018

GUIYANG, CHINA—Xinhua News Agency reports that the 11,000-year-old burial of a child who was under the age of two at the time of death has been found in a cave in southwest China. Zhang Xinglong of Guizhou Province’s Institute of Archaeology said tone tools, bone objects, and hunting tools dating to the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras were also found at the site. Researchers are now working to determine whether the tomb is the oldest to be recorded in the province. To read more about Neolithic and Paleolithic discoveries in China, go to "The First Pots." 

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Ritual Cave Site Discovered in Ireland

January 20, 2018

COUNTY MAYO, IRELAND—The Journal reports that human remains discovered on Ben Gorm Mountain in 2016 have been dated to as early as 3600 B.C. Upon excavating the natural boulder chamber where a hiker spotted scattered bones, researchers found the remains of at least ten adults, teens, and children that had been placed in a pit over a period of 1,200 years. Their skulls may have been ritually removed after the bodies had decomposed. “Large pieces of quartz had been placed in and around the bones,” explained Marion Dowd of the Institute of Technology, Sligo, the archaeologist in charge of the investigation. “Only a very small portion of each skeleton was found, with the majority of bones apparently deliberately removed.” Dowd added that the site indicates a highly complex practice of processing the dead during the Neolithic period. To read more about the prehistory of Ireland, go to "Samhain Revival."

Categories: Blog

Traces of Bronze Age Beer Found in Greece

January 20, 2018

THESSALONIKI, GREECE—According to the Greek Reporter, Soultana-Maria Valamoti of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and her team have uncovered evidence of beer brewing during the Bronze Age, between the third and second centuries B.C. The researchers recovered cereal residues, germinated cereal grains, and pieces of milled cereals inside two houses at the archaeological site of Archontiko, which is located in northern Greece. They suggest that the grains had been malted and charred. Similar evidence has been found in central Greece, at the site of Argissa. Valamonti said the practice of brewing beer may have spread to Greece from the eastern Mediterranean. To read more about ancient drinking, go to "Recreating Nordic Grog." 

Categories: Blog

Rock-Hewn Tombs Uncovered in Northern Egypt

January 19, 2018

NEW ALAMEIN CITY, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a first- or second-century tomb containing several burial cavities has been discovered at the site of Al-Alamein on Egypt’s northern coast. Naema Sanad, director of the site, said there is a rock-cut staircase leading to the tomb’s main chamber. Its southern wall had been decorated with a Greek “welfare horn” adorned with flowers and leaves. Coins, pottery, and lamps have also been found. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Cliff Tombs Discovered in Southwest China

January 19, 2018

CHENGDU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that more than 200 burial sites have been found in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on cliffs overlooking the Jinjiang River. The tombs date from 206 B.C. to A.D. 420. Pan Shaochi of the Chengdu Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute said some of the tombs have as many as seven chambers, and tunnels measuring up to 65 feet long. Evidence suggests some of the tombs have been looted, but as many as 1,000 gold, silver, and bronze artifacts have nonetheless been recovered. “The discovery of the tomb cluster has provided rich materials for archaeological research on the Han and Wei-Jin dynasties,” Pan said. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Underground Party.”

Categories: Blog

Dried Flower May Be Linked to President Lincoln

January 19, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS—The Illinois News Network reports that a dried rose discovered in a box of artifacts at the Will County Historical Society may have adorned the funeral bier of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., in April 1865. Sandy Vasko, director of the historical society, said she thinks the flower had been given to General Isham Haynie of Illinois, who was a friend of Lincoln’s and may have been by his bedside when he died of a gunshot wound. General Haynie is thought to have given the rose to Mrs. James G. Elwood, whose husband was mayor of Joliet, Illinois. Elwood’s possessions were given to the historical society and stored away after it moved to its current building in 1971. The delicate dried flower will be put on limited display. Vasko added that the only other known flowers from Lincoln’s funeral are held in the Library of Congress. For more, go to “A Bold Civil War Steamer.”

Categories: Blog

Early Bronze Age Architecture and Technology Studied in Greece

January 19, 2018

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Guardian, an international team of researchers has uncovered drainage tunnels and metal workshops on the small island of Dhaskalio, which was first modified by people more than 4,000 years ago. Back then, the island was a heavily populated promontory connected to the Cycladic island of Keros—and its prehistoric sanctuary—by a narrow causeway. A network of terraces and stairways was carved into the surface of the pyramid-shaped promontory, which was then covered with white stone imported from Naxos. “What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanization,” explained Michael Boyd of the University of Cambridge. Colin Renfrew, also of the University of Cambridge, suggests the development of the site may have been spurred by its expansive views of the Aegean Sea and by the fact that it had the best harbor on Keros. Traces of grains, grapes, olives, figs, almonds, and pulses have been found in the soil on Dhaskalio. Much of the food is thought to have been imported. The drainage system may have been used to pipe in fresh water or to carry away sewage. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Monumental Find.”

Categories: Blog

Stele Fragment Unearthed in Northern Egypt

January 18, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a section of a 19th-Dynasty stele has been discovered at the San Al-Hagar archaeological site in northern Egypt. Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the red-granite stele is carved with images of King Ramesses II presenting offerings to an as-yet-unidentified Egyptian deity. San Al-Hagar is known for its temples dedicated to the goddess Mut and the gods Horus and Amun, as well as for its monumental sculptures. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

Categories: Blog

Norway’s Stone Age Houses Studied

January 18, 2018

TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—Silje Fretheim of Norwegian University of Science and Technology analyzed the excavation of 150 well-preserved Stone Age dwellings in Norway and found that some Mesolithic hunter-gatherers built pit houses that were maintained for 1,000 years. According to a report in Science Nordic, the earliest traces of homes are small rings of stones that secured tent flaps made of animal skins, and cleared surfaces with areas of debris from stone tool construction. Fretheim thinks hunter-gatherers traveled with these small tents. Then, some 9,500 years ago, as the ice retreated and sea levels along the coast stabilized, people began to build pit houses with frameworks of wood and turf that were slightly larger than the tents. These larger dwellings may have been shared by larger family groups. Some of the pit houses were abandoned for a time and then reused over a period of more than 1,000 years. Fretheim suggests people placed the houses in areas supported by good fishing and hunting conditions because they recognized good places to live. To read about another archaeological project in Norway, focusing on much more recent history, go to “The Secrets of Sabotage.”

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