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April 7, 2016

CHENNAI, INDIA—Divers, geologists, and archaeologists from Indian’s National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) say they have found a wall, a flight of stairs, and stone blocks off the coast of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mamallapuram, according to an article in The Times of India. The team was following up on eyewitness accounts from tourists at the ancient seaport, who reported seeing a row of granite boulders some 875 yards out when the shoreline receded during the 2004 tsunami. “Some of them are badly damaged due to strong underwater currents and swells. However, we could make out that they were part of a building complex,” said Rajiv Nigam, head of the NIO’s marine archaeology unit. The buildings may have been inundated during a tsunami in the tenth century A.D. To see a slideshow of remarkable images of India's extraordinary stepwells, go to "The Islamic Stepwells of Gujarat, India."

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<p>TOKYO, JAPAN&mdash;Akio Tanigawa of

April 6, 2016

TOKYO, JAPAN—Akio Tanigawa of Waseda University has uncovered the remains of three people at the site of Krishitan Yashiki, or the Christian Mansion, a prison for Christian missionaries during the isolationist Edo Period (1603-1868). DNA analysis suggests that one set of remains may belong to Italian Jesuit priest Giovanni Battista Sidotti, who entered Japan illegally in 1708. Disguised as a samurai, he was captured and imprisoned until he died in 1714. “It is the first time we’ve found a near match of the bones of a foreign missionary,” Tanigawa told The Japan Times.

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April 6, 2016

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—A digital 3-D model has been made of a skull thought to be the remains of a soldier killed at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. The skull has been part of a museum collection since the early nineteenth century, and is said to have been recovered from an area of the battlefield where the Highlanders wrapped their plaids around their left arms and stooped low to attack Loyalist forces. The top of the skull bears an entry wound from a musket shot; there is an exit wound at the back of the skull. “We cannot say whether the skull fragment belongs to a Jacobite or one of the Government troops but the injury to the top of the head could be interpreted in a number of different ways," said Head of Archaeological Services Derek Alexander of the National Trust for Scotland in a press release. "It could be from someone, head down, looking at the ground as they charge forward, or an individual who has already been wounded and is on their hands and knees." To read more about archaeology in the region, go to "Letter From Scotland: Living on the Edge."

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April 6, 2016

CARDIFF, WALES—Evolutionary biologist David Stanton of Cardiff University and his colleagues analyzed mitochondrial DNA obtained from 74 red deer bones from archaeological sites on the Scottish mainland, Orkney, and the Inner and Outer Hebrides. It had been thought that the deer had been transported by humans from the Scottish mainland to the islands because even 22,000 years ago, when sea levels were at their lowest, the islands would have been too far away for the deer to reach them by swimming. Science reports that the genetic tests revealed 14 sets of variations, or haplotypes, in the Scottish deer, and ten of those haplotypes were new and found only on the outer Scottish islands. And, none of the deer from the Outer Hebrides carry the haplotypes of deer from the mainland or the islands of the Inner Hebrides. Stanton suggests that the deer from the Outer Hebrides and from Orkney may have been brought to Scotland by people from an as yet unknown location. They may have even come from western continental Europe, where red deer have an overall similar genetic profile. To read more about the prehistory of Orkney, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart."

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<p>BALTIMORE, MARYLAND&mdash;<em><a

April 5, 2016

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND—Live Science reports that five lead curse tablets, discovered in a grave in Athens, Greece, in 2003, have been studied by Jessica Lamont of John Hopkins University. The tablets, held at the Piraeus Museum, may have been placed in the young woman’s grave in order to deliver them to the gods of the underworld. Four of the tablets were engraved with well-written curses targeting different tavern keepers in Athens and the names of the chthonic gods. “It’s very rare that you get something so explicit and lengthy and beautifully written, of course in a very terrible way,” Lamont said. The fifth tablet was blank—the words of the curse were probably spoken over it. All of the tablets had been pierced with a nail and folded. Lamont explained that the tablets may have had nothing to do with the woman whose remains were also found in the grave. Her burial “would have been accessible, a good access point for someone to deposit these tablets underground and bury them,” she said. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to "Greece's Biggest Tomb," which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.

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April 5, 2016

AUKLAND, NEW ZEALAND—A team of researchers from the University of Aukland’s School of Psychology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and Victoria University used computational evolutionary methods to analyze historical data from 93 Austronesian cultures organized into three main groups of high, moderate, and low levels of social stratification. Forty of the 93 cultures in the study practiced some form of ritualistic killing of humans—justified as a supernatural punishment—including burning, drowning, strangulation, bludgeoning, burial, cutting to pieces, crushing beneath a canoe, or rolling off the roof of a house followed by decapitation. The study found that cultures with the highest level of social stratification were most likely to practice human sacrifice, while more egalitarian societies were less likely to practice human sacrifice. “By using human sacrifice to punish taboo violations, demoralize the underclass, and instill fear of social elites, power elites were able to maintain and build social control,” Joseph Watts said in a press release. “What we found was that sacrifice was the driving force, making societies more likely to adopt high social status and less likely to revert to egalitarian social structure,” added team member Quentin Atkinson. To read about the tomb of a likely human sacrifice victim in Korea, go to "Mysterious Golden Sacrifice."

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April 5, 2016

MIGDAL, ISRAEL—A bronze incense shovel and a bronze jug were unearthed next to each other in a storehouse near a dock at the site of Magdala, a Jewish settlement located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The site is known for its ritual baths and a first-century synagogue decorated with mosaic floors. Carvings on the Magdala Stone, found in the synagogue’s main hall, depict the Second Temple of Jerusalem and a seven-branched menorah. The shovel also dates to the Second Temple period, and may have been used to rake or gather embers from incense burned in rituals or as a tool for daily tasks. “A similar incense shovel and a jug as those found here in Migdal were discovered by Yigael Yadin in a cache dating to the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising which was revealed in the Cave of the Letters in the Judean Desert. Incense shovels have also been found in the Galilee at Bethsaida, Taiyaba and in Wadi Hammam, and across the country, but all-in-all this is a very rare find,” archaeologist Arfan Najar said in a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority. For more on archaeology in Israel, go to "Autumn of the Master Builder."

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April 5, 2016

BELFAST, IRELAND—An international team of scientists has shown that a “mass animal deposition” event occurred near the Col de Traversette pass some 2,000 years ago. The scientists, led by Bill Mahaney of York University in Toronto, say that the deposition was left by the 30,000 men of the Carthaginian army, 37 elephants, and more than 15,000 horses and mules led over the Alps by Hannibal during the Second Punic War with Rome. “The deposition lies within a churned-up mass from a three-foot thick alluvial mire, produced by the constant movement of thousands of animals and humans. Over 70 percent of the microbes in horse manure are from a group known as the Clostridia that are very stable in soil—surviving for thousands of years. We found scientifically significant evidence of these same bugs in a genetic microbial signature precisely dating to the time of the Punic invasion,” Chris Allen of Queen’s University Belfast said in a press release. This route through the Alps was first suggested as Hannibal’s path by biologist Sir Gavin de Beer some 50 years ago. For more on archaeology in the Alps, go to "Ötzi, the Iceman."

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April 5, 2016

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—A team of archaeologists working on the Great Arab Revolt Project (GARP) has discovered a bullet that they say was fired by Lawrence of Arabia at the site of the 1917 Hallat Ammar train ambush. “The bullet we found came from a Colt automatic pistol, the type of gun known to be carried by Lawrence and almost certainly not used by any of the ambush’s other participants,” Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol said in a press release. “Lawrence has something of a reputation as a teller of tall tales, but this bullet—and the other archaeological evidence we unearthed during ten years of fieldwork—indicates how reliable his account of the Arab Revolt in Seven Pillars of Wisdom is,” said archaeologist Neil Faulker. For more on Middle Eastern archaeology, go to "The World in Between."

Categories: Blog

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April 5, 2016

PULLMAN, WASHINGTON—Kyle Bocinsky and Tim Kohler of Washington State University and their colleagues at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois analyzed data from 1,000 archaeological sites in the American Southwest, and 30,000 tree-ring dates, in order to examine patterns of societal expansion and collapse. They found that periods of drought and crop failure were followed by periods of exploration and exploitation. Between A.D. 600 and 700, people stored their maize in underground chambers. That practice ended with a mild drought. The following Pueblo I period was marked by aboveground storage rooms and perhaps a more restricted exchange of food between family groups. This period, ended by drought, was followed by the large shared plazas and great houses, and hierarchal social structure, of the Pueblo II period. Some of the greatest evidence of social inequality is seen during the Pueblo III period, ended by the largest and most widespread drought. During the following Pueblo IV period, thought to be more egalitarian, people built pueblos that shared plazas and ceremonial spaces. “There’s a point where people say, ‘This isn’t working. We’re leaving,’” Kohler said in a press release. Then “there’s a new period of wealth creation, investment in architecture and culture change,” he explained. To read more about archaeology in this area, go to "Early Parrots in the Southwest."

Categories: Blog

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April 5, 2016

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—Analysis of DNA samples from 92 pre-Columbian mummies and skeletons, ranging in age from 500 to 8,600 years old, suggests that European colonization wiped out their genetic lineages. “Surprisingly, none of the genetic lineages we found in almost 100 ancient humans were present, or showed evidence of descendants, in today’s Indigenous populations,” Bastien Llamas of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide said in a press release. Llamas and his team of researchers think that a major portion of isolated groups of early Americans died out after European colonization. “This closely matches the historical reports of a major demographic collapse immediately after the Spaniards arrived in the late 1400s,” he said. The study also yielded information about the arrival of the first Americans. “Our genetic reconstruction confirms that the first Americans entered around 16,000 years ago via the Pacific coast, skirting around the massive ice sheets that blocked an inland corridor route which only opened much later. They spread southward remarkably swiftly, reaching southern Chile by 14,600 years ago,” added Alan Cooper, director of ACAD. For more on the earliest Americans, go to "America, in the Beginning."

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April 5, 2016

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—The Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts has been launched by Justin McDaniel of the University of Pennsylvania and Harald Hundius, David Wharton, and Bounleut Thammachak of the National Library of Laos. “This is a huge project to preserve, make accessible, catalogue and scan the entire corpus of Northern Thai manuscripts. Anyone from students and researchers to monks and nuns can now read this preserved literature of an entire people,” McDaniel said in a press release. The library contains approximately 5,000 ancient manuscripts from monastic temples, and will eventually contain more than 7,000. The database also includes material from the Preservation of Northern Thai Manuscripts Project of the Chiang Mai University Library. “It’s mostly Buddhist material, but also scientific material, historical material, botany, astrology, grammar, folk tales, philosophical tales, a massive corpus going back from 1410 to the 1950s when print became more popular,” McDaniel added. To read about an ancient site on the Thai-Cambodian border, go to "The Battle Over Preah Vihear."

Categories: Blog

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April 5, 2016

DEKALB, ILLINOIS—Archaeologist Eli Orrvar is excavating the nineteenth-century barn at the home of Joseph F. Glidden, who improved the design of barbed wire and patented it in 1874. Barbed wire was used to construct inexpensive fencing that could restrain cattle, and at first, Glidden manufactured it in his barn. The excavation will become part of the exhibit at the Glidden Homestead. “We have this plan for the usage and historical restoration. The idea is to clear this off so we can clear [the flooring] and then dig those test pits and see if there are artifacts in there,” historic site director Rob Glover told The Northwest Herald. So far, the team has uncovered a glass medicine bottle, a kitchen knife handle, and fragments of glass, coal, and animal bones. To read more about historical archaeology in the United States, go to "Letter from Philadelphia: City Garden."

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April 5, 2016

POINT ROSEE, NEWFOUNDLAND—A second possible New-World Viking site has been found on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of “L’Anse aux Meadows,” which was discovered in 1960. The site was spotted by  archaeologist Sarah H. Parcak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, while she was looking at high-resolution satellite images of New World coastlines. The site, called Point Rosee, appeared as a dark stain with buried rectilinear features. On the ground, magnetometer readings showed elevated iron readings, and test trenches exposed turf walls, ash residue, a fire-cracked boulder, and roasted ore called bog iron. “It screams, ‘Please excavate me!’,” Parcak told The New York Times. Team member Douglas Bolender of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, thinks the buried structure could be a smithy for forging longboat nails and weaponry. “There’s no lock that it’s Norse, but there’s no alternative evidence,” he explained. To read more about Norse settlements, go to "The Vikings in Ireland."

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April 4, 2016

BELFAST, IRELAND—An international team of scientists has shown that a “mass animal deposition” event occurred near the Col de Traversette pass some 2,000 years ago. The scientists, led by Bill Mahaney of York University in Toronto, say that the deposition was left by the 30,000 men of the Carthaginian army, 37 elephants, and more than 15,000 horses and mules led over the Alps by Hannibal during the Second Punic War with Rome. “The deposition lies within a churned-up mass from a three-foot thick alluvial mire, produced by the constant movement of thousands of animals and humans. Over 70 percent of the microbes in horse manure are from a group known as the Clostridia that are very stable in soil—surviving for thousands of years. We found scientifically significant evidence of these same bugs in a genetic microbial signature precisely dating to the time of the Punic invasion,” Chris Allen of Queen’s University Belfast said in a press release. This route through the Alps was first suggested as Hannibal’s path by biologist Sir Gavin de Beer some 50 years ago. For more on archaeology in the Alps, go to "Ötzi, the Iceman."

Categories: Blog

<p><img src="http://archaeology.org

April 4, 2016

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—A team of archaeologists working on the Great Arab Revolt Project (GARP) has discovered a bullet that they say was fired by Lawrence of Arabia at the site of the 1917 Hallat Ammar train ambush. “The bullet we found came from a Colt automatic pistol, the type of gun known to be carried by Lawrence and almost certainly not used by any of the ambush’s other participants,” Nicholas Saunders of the University of Bristol said in a press release. “Lawrence has something of a reputation as a teller of tall tales, but this bullet—and the other archaeological evidence we unearthed during ten years of fieldwork—indicates how reliable his account of the Arab Revolt in Seven Pillars of Wisdom is,” said archaeologist Neil Faulker. For more on Middle Eastern archaeology, go to "The World in Between."

Categories: Blog

<p><img src="http://archaeology.org

April 4, 2016

PULLMAN, WASHINGTON—Kyle Bocinsky and Tim Kohler of Washington State University and their colleagues at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois analyzed data from 1,000 archaeological sites in the American Southwest, and 30,000 tree-ring dates, in order to examine patterns of societal expansion and collapse. They found that periods of drought and crop failure were followed by periods of exploration and exploitation. Between A.D. 600 and 700, people stored their maize in underground chambers. That practice ended with a mild drought. The following Pueblo I period was marked by aboveground storage rooms and perhaps a more restricted exchange of food between family groups. This period, ended by drought, was followed by the large shared plazas and great houses, and hierarchal social structure, of the Pueblo II period. Some of the greatest evidence of social inequality is seen during the Pueblo III period, ended by the largest and most widespread drought. During the following Pueblo IV period, thought to be more egalitarian, people built pueblos that shared plazas and ceremonial spaces. “There’s a point where people say, ‘This isn’t working. We’re leaving,’” Kohler said in a press release. Then “there’s a new period of wealth creation, investment in architecture and culture change,” he explained. To read more about archaeology in this area, go to "Early Parrots in the Southwest."

Categories: Blog

<p><img src="http://archaeology.org

April 4, 2016

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—Analysis of DNA samples from 92 pre-Columbian mummies and skeletons, ranging in age from 500 to 8,600 years old, suggests that European colonization wiped out their genetic lineages. “Surprisingly, none of the genetic lineages we found in almost 100 ancient humans were present, or showed evidence of descendants, in today’s Indigenous populations,” Bastien Llamas of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) at the University of Adelaide said in a press release. Llamas and his team of researchers think that a major portion of isolated groups of early Americans died out after European colonization. “This closely matches the historical reports of a major demographic collapse immediately after the Spaniards arrived in the late 1400s,” he said. The study also yielded information about the arrival of the first Americans. “Our genetic reconstruction confirms that the first Americans entered around 16,000 years ago via the Pacific coast, skirting around the massive ice sheets that blocked an inland corridor route which only opened much later. They spread southward remarkably swiftly, reaching southern Chile by 14,600 years ago,” added Alan Cooper, director of ACAD. For more on the earliest Americans, go to "America, in the Beginning."

Categories: Blog

<p><img src="http://archaeology.org

April 1, 2016

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—The Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts has been launched by Justin McDaniel of the University of Pennsylvania and Harald Hundius, David Wharton, and Bounleut Thammachak of the National Library of Laos. “This is a huge project to preserve, make accessible, catalogue and scan the entire corpus of Northern Thai manuscripts. Anyone from students and researchers to monks and nuns can now read this preserved literature of an entire people,” McDaniel said in a press release. The library contains approximately 5,000 ancient manuscripts from monastic temples, and will eventually contain more than 7,000. The database also includes material from the Preservation of Northern Thai Manuscripts Project of the Chiang Mai University Library. “It’s mostly Buddhist material, but also scientific material, historical material, botany, astrology, grammar, folk tales, philosophical tales, a massive corpus going back from 1410 to the 1950s when print became more popular,” McDaniel added. To read about an ancient site on the Thai-Cambodian border, go to "The Battle Over Preah Vihear."

Categories: Blog

<p><img src="http://archaeology.org

April 1, 2016

DEKALB, ILLINOIS—Archaeologist Eli Orrvar is excavating the nineteenth-century barn at the home of Joseph F. Glidden, who improved the design of barbed wire and patented it in 1874. Barbed wire was used to construct inexpensive fencing that could restrain cattle, and at first, Glidden manufactured it in his barn. The excavation will become part of the exhibit at the Glidden Homestead. “We have this plan for the usage and historical restoration. The idea is to clear this off so we can clear [the flooring] and then dig those test pits and see if there are artifacts in there,” historic site director Rob Glover told The Northwest Herald. So far, the team has uncovered a glass medicine bottle, a kitchen knife handle, and fragments of glass, coal, and animal bones. To read more about historical archaeology in the United States, go to "Letter from Philadelphia: City Garden."

Categories: Blog

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