LIMA, PERU—Andina reports that forensic anthropologists have reconstructed the face of the Lord of Sipan, a Mochica ruler whose third-century grave was discovered in Lambayeque in 1987 by archaeologist Walter Alva. Researchers from Inca Garcilaso de la Vega University, and Cícero Moraes and Paulo Miamoto of the Brazilian NGO Team of Forensic Anthropology and Odontology, used computer software to reassemble the Lord of Sipan’s skull, which had been severely damaged by the weight of his burial. The team also determined that the ruler stood about five feet, four inches tall, had arthritis in his spine, healthy teeth, and was between 45 and 55 years old when he died. “He was quite tall for that time period. He had a slightly strong muscle tone, which means he did not do any physical work, as befits his high rank,” Alva said. A replica of the reconstruction will be 3-D printed for display in the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipan. To read more about archaeology in Peru, go to "An Overlooked Inca Wonder."
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—The Guardian reports that evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen conducted a population analysis of 83 Indigenous Australians and 25 Papuans, and found that their ancestors can be traced back 50,000 years, to the first arrivals on the continent. “They are probably the oldest group in the world that you can link to one particular place,” he said. The study also suggests that about four percent of the Indigenous Australian genome came from an unknown human relative. Willerslev added that Indigenous populations in Australia remained almost totally isolated until about 4,000 years ago, about the same time that the languages now spoken by these populations began to spread. “You see a movement of people spreading across the continent and leaving signatures across the continent,” he said. “That is the time that this new language has spread.” For more on the prehistory of Australia, go to "The Rock Art of Malarrak."
LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY—Live Science reports that a team from the University of Kentucky has “virtually unwrapped” the En-Gedi scroll using X-ray-based micro-computed tomography scans. The scroll was discovered in the Holy Ark at the synagogue at En-Gedi, which was destroyed by fire around A.D. 600. The team, led by computer scientist Brent Seales, first identified each of the five layers of parchment in the scroll. Then they created a virtual geometric mesh for each of the layers to help make the text, written with an ink containing metal, more visible. In the last step, the researchers digitally flattened the scroll and merged the layers into one, 2-D image. The text, placed in two columns, consists of 35 lines of Hebrew. Biblical scholars now know that the En-Gedi scroll contains the beginning of the Book of Leviticus, the third of the five books in the Jewish Torah. And the text is identical to the text of the Book of Leviticus in medieval Hebrew Bibles. “This is quite amazing for us,” said Emanuel Tov, professor emeritus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “That in 2,000 years, this text has not changed.” To read about a similar project, go to "The Charred Scrolls of Herculaneum."
LE PIANELLE, ITALY—Live Science reports that airborne drones have been used to discover traces of a possible Samnite community in Italy’s Apennine Mountains, where rugged terrain has prevented scientists from taking conventional aerial photographs. Tesse Stek of Leiden University and his colleagues wanted to look for villages, farms, villas, and cemeteries that may have been connected to two ancient temples uncovered by construction projects in the region. So, they programed aerial drones to take photographs in areas where they had found artifacts on the ground. Strong winds in a narrow valley caused the loss of one drone, but other flights revealed several archaeological complexes surrounding the once-mysterious temples. “We have a very complete overview of the internal organization of the settlement, including its disposition along the road, storage spaces, domestic areas, and so on,” Stek said. The villages were denser and better organized than had been anticipated, he added. For more on the Samnites, go to "Pompeii Before the Romans."
NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA—According to a report in Nature, archaeologist Thomas Sutikna and geochronologist Richard Roberts of the University of Wollongong say that two teeth from modern humans have been found in the Indonesian cave where the remains of Homo floresiensis were discovered in 2003. The teeth have been dated to 46,000 years ago, making them slightly younger than the estimated date for the extinction of the hobbits some 50,000 years ago. The upper premolar and lower molar are larger than the teeth of H. floresiensis, but some scholars are not convinced that they belonged to a modern human. Other evidence for the presence of modern humans in the cave after the hobbits disappeared includes fireplaces and freshwater mollusk shells. “What we don’t yet know is whether there was at least a short overlap in the populations, thus raising the question once again of the possible role of modern humans in the extinction of floresiensis,” commented paleoanthroplogist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London. To read about another discovery in Indonesia, go to "The First Artists."
PARIS, FRANCE—Nature reports that evolutionary geneticist Eva-Maria Geigl of the Institute Jacques Monod and her colleagues Claudio Ottoni and Thierry Grange investigated the origins of domesticated cats by sequencing mitochondrial DNA obtained from more than 200 sets of cat remains recovered from more than 30 archaeological sites in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The cats lived between about 15,000 years ago and the eighteenth century A.D. The researchers found that wild cats from the Middle East are likely to have traveled with early farmers into the eastern Mediterranean. The feline hunters may have been drawn to the rodents attracted to new grain stockpiles. A mitochondrial lineage found in later Egyptian cat mummies was also found in the remains of cats in Eurasia and Africa, and in cat remains from a Viking site in northern Germany. Geigl suggests that seafaring peoples probably kept cats on their ships to keep rodents at bay as well. The team also found evidence indicating that the tabby coat variation first appeared in the medieval period. For more, go to "Animal Mummy Coffins of Ancient Egypt."
SUFFOLK, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that traces of a large structure at the Anglo-Saxon site at Rendlesham have been detected with aerial photography and geophysical surveys. Researchers think Rendlesham may be the “king’s village” described by the Venerable Bede, an eighth-century monk, who also mentioned a palace in the village. “We have discovered what we think is a large Anglo-Saxon Hall, which could be the palace itself, if you could call it that,” said Faye Minter of Suffolk County Council’s archaeological unit. The building measures 75 feet by 30 feet. Helen Geake of the British Museum explained that Anglo-Saxon kings probably had many palaces and halls in East Anglia so that they would have places to stay when they toured the kingdom. Scholars also think that the king at Rendlesham was buried in the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, located about four miles away. To read about other discoveries in Suffolk, go to "Letter from England: Writing on the Church Wall."
CHÂTELPERRON, FRANCE—Science reports that bioarchaeologist Matthew Collins of the University of York analyzed ancient proteins in hominin bone fragments that were discovered in the Grotte du Renne cave in central France between 1949 and 1963. Some of the many bone fragments, which were reportedly found in the same archaeological layer as bone tools and tiny beads made of animal teeth, shells, and ivory, appeared to be Neanderthal. But some researchers argued that the delicate artifacts must have been made by modern humans, who were entering Europe at about the same time that the artifacts were produced. The new study, conducted by Collins and an international team of scientists, dated and identified proteins and mitochondrial DNA in the bone fragments from the site, and determined that they probably are the remains of a single breast-fed Neanderthal infant. In addition, the bones were dated to about 42,000 years old—the same age as the beads and tools. “You can invent all sorts of stories,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “But the simplest explanation is that this assemblage was made at least in part by Neanderthals.” For more, go to "Neanderthal Necklace."
THYBORON, DENMARK—Live Science reports that the wreckage of the HMS Warrior has been discovered near Norway by marine archaeologist Innes McCartney of Bournemouth University and an exploration firm sponsored by the Sea War Museum Jutland. The Warrior is the last of the 25 British and German ships sunk during the Battle of Jutland, fought in the North Sea on May 31 and June 1, 1916, to be found. “It’s completely upside down, and it sank down into an area of very soft seabed, right to the level of the upper deck—so everything inside it is completely sealed in,” McCartney said. The British armored cruiser was heavily damaged during the battle by German gunfire. A British aircraft carrier attempted to tow the Warrior, but the vessel was eventually abandoned after the crew was moved to safety. McCartney explained that shipwrecks from the Battle of Jutland, many of which are war graves, have been looted for their valuable bronze fittings. The Warrior has been protected by its partial burial and because its location, away from the site of the battle, was unknown. “It’s the only wreck left from the Battle of Jutland that we can categorically say is completely unspoiled,” McCartney added. For more, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks..."
ASHKELON, ISRAEL—The Jerusalem Post reports that an Ottoman-era fisherman’s house and a lookout tower have been uncovered on the Mediterranean coastline by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority, who were assisted by boys and girls who live in the area. Excavation directors Federico Kobrin and Haim Mamliya said that the house had three rooms, and contained metal fish hooks, lead weights, a large bronze bell, and a stone anchor. Its door was placed on the north side of the building, presumably to keep wind and sea water out. The tower, situated on a hilltop, may have served as a lighthouse. To read about another recent discovery on the coast of Israel, go to "Sun and Moon."
LEIPZIG, GERMANY—Science reports that Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology zooarchaeologist Angela Perri surveyed excavations of prehistoric sites in Japan for evidence that early dogs helped people to hunt. She focused on the hunter-gatherers of the Jōmon culture who lived off the dense forest on the east coast of the island of Honshu, and found that beginning about 9,000 years ago, the Jōmon buried their dogs in shell middens in much the same way that they buried human hunters. Some of the 110 dog burials in the literature provided evidence of broken legs and teeth, injuries that the dogs may have sustained while hunting. And some of those injuries had healed, suggesting that humans had cared for the dogs. But after the Jōmon began farming about 2,500 years ago, dog remains appeared in the archaeological record as random piles of bones, and sometimes were even butchered. Perri suggests that the Jōmon revered dogs while they served a valued purpose as hunting companions, but when they were no longer needed to flush prey out of the forest cover and protect human hunters, dogs may have become a source of food. Jōmon groups located to the north and the south of Honshu, and who lived on foods from the sea, treated dogs like food all along, she added. To read in-depth about dogs in the archaeological record, go to "More Than Man's Best Friend."
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA—WUWF.com reports that a team led by archaeologist John Worth of the University of West Florida has found a large garbage pit at the site of Spanish colonist Tristan de Luna’s 1559 settlement in the western Florida Panhandle. One month after de Luna’s arrival, a hurricane destroyed most of the expedition’s ships and supplies. So far, the team members have recovered a deer antler and the remains of shellfish, conk, oysters, and scallops, which suggests the 1,500 Spaniards in the expedition hunted and fished for food. The pit also contained pieces of iron from the straps and hoops of wooden barrels. Worth thinks de Luna’s men may have recycled the iron for nails, or may have traded it for food with local Native Americans. The team has also found floor surfaces and post molds from structures, and a balance scale weight that may have been used by the expedition’s treasurer to weigh pay for the soldiers. The hurricane “may have even changed the entire history of the continent, by altering what could have been a successful Luna Expedition, and which would never have led to St. Augustine and never have led to the southeast becoming dominated by the English,” Worth said. For more, go to "Letter from Florida: People of the White Earth."
ANTIKYTHERA, GREECE—Nature reports that a set of human remains has been found at the site of the Antikythera shipwreck, known for the discovery of a clockwork device thought to have been used to track the motions of celestial bodies some 2,100 years ago. The remains of at least four people were recovered at the site in the 1970s. The newly discovered bones, which are red in color due to corroded iron artifacts at the site, include a partial skull with a jaw and several teeth, long bones from the arms and legs, and ribs. They were found under about 18 inches of sand and pieces of pottery by underwater archaeologists from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Over the years, the sand and debris protected the remains from hungry fish and sea currents. Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum of Denmark says that the size and condition of the bones suggest that they belonged to a young man. Schroeder also explained that both petrous bones—small, dense bones located behind the ear—have been recovered by the excavation team. “If there’s any DNA, then from what we know, it’ll be there,” he said. To read about another underwater discovery in Greek waters, go to "The City That Wasn’t."
OKINAWA, JAPAN—CNN reports that a team of Japanese researchers led by Masaki Fujita of the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum has found 23,000-year-old fish hooks made from sea snail shells in Sakitari Cave, located on the south side of the island of Okinawa. These fish hooks are older than hooks unearthed on Timor, which are thought to be at least 16,000 years old, and hooks found in Papua New Guinea, which have been dated to at least 18,000 years ago. The team also found evidence that early inhabitants of Okinawa cooked and ate frogs, birds, small mammals, eels, and perhaps even lobster. Human skeletal remains, beads, and an artifact that may be a grindstone have also been found in the cave. "We found fish and human bones that dated back some 30,000 to 35,000 years," Fujita said. "We don't know what kind of tools were used to catch these fish, but we're hoping to find some even older fishing tools." For more on the history of fishing, go to "Off With Their Heads."
POZNAŃ, POLAND—A report in Science & Scholarship in Poland describes a 5,000-year-old burial discovered and reconstructed by a team led by Danuta Żurkiewicz of Adam Mickiewicz University. Żurkiewicz said the evidence suggests the people buried in this cemetery, located on what is now the border between Ukraine and Moldova, were nomads who built monumental burial mounds. One mound in particular contained the remains of a man who stood over six feet tall. “This is not a typical height for the contemporary community. The man had to stand out with his stature,” Żurkiewicz explained. His body had been placed on a woven mat in a rectangular pit with a wooden roof that was covered with four limestone slabs. Analysis of the man’s bones suggests that he died between 35 and 50 years of age, and that he suffered from spinal degeneration, perhaps brought on by frequent horseback riding. To read about another group of nomads, go to "Rites of the Scythians."
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS—WCVB.com reports that an excavation in the Washington Garden at Boston’s Old North Church has recovered artifacts reflecting the lives of English, Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants in the nineteenth century. City archaeologist Joseph Bagley said that the artifacts, which include pottery, toys, a clay pipe emblazoned with a shamrock, wooden clothespins, animal bones, religious figurines, and medicine bottles were recovered from a tenement privy. To read about another discovery in a privy, go to "World’s Oldest Pretzels."
CHELMSFORD, ENGLAND—Essex Live reports that the archaeological investigation of a proposed development site in eastern England has uncovered a lime kiln thought to have been used between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Lime produced in the kiln by burning limestone or chalk would have been used in mortar, concrete, and plaster. The excavation team, made up of researchers from AECOM and Oxford Archaeology East, suggests that the kiln may have provided supplies for Henry VIII’s renovation of a nearby estate, which he called the Palace of Beaulieu. The building is now known as New Hall and is occupied by a school. For more on archaeology in England, go to "The Prisoners of Richmond Castle."
SILKEBORG, DENMARK—Science Nordic reports that archaeologists found a 3,000-year-old clay pot in central Jutland that appears to have been discarded after a recipe burned. Kaj F. Rasmussen of Museum Silkeborg said that the pot, found intact in a waste pit, contained a white-yellow crust, rather than the black, burned starch that is usually found in ancient cooking pots. A sample of the residue was analyzed with mass spectrometry by Mads Chr. Christensen of the Danish National Museum. The results suggest that the crusty substance was burned bovine fat, perhaps curds from making hard cheese. “I cannot help but wonder if someone had a guilty conscience. It’s well and truly burnt and must have smelt terrible,” Rasmussen said. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to "Bronze Age Traveler."
STÖðVARFJÖðDUR, ICELAND—Iceland Review reports that excavations in Iceland’s East Fjords, led by archaeologist Bjarni F. Einarsson, have uncovered a longhouse that has been dated to as early as the year 800, some 70 years earlier than Iceland’s first permanent Nordic settler was thought to have arrived. Bjarni explained that the longhouse was built in the Nordic style, and its location is near a good harbor facing Norway and the British Isles. He thinks the building may have served as an outpost occupied on a seasonal basis to harvest natural resources. For more, go to "Iceland’s Young Migrant."
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Live Science reports that Jeffrey Splitstoser of the George Washington University and Jan Wouters of University College London used high-performance liquid chromatography to detect indigo in pieces of multi-colored cotton fabric from Peru’s Huaca Prieta, a temple made of layers of a concrete-like material made from ash, shells, and sand. The oldest scrap of blue fabric is thought to be at least 6,200 years old. When the temple was excavated in 2007 and 2008, archaeologists Tom Dillehay and Duccio Bonavia found that as the temple was renovated between 6,200 and 4,000 years ago, pieces of woven cotton in bundles were sealed in the layers of concrete-like material along a ramp to the top of the structure. The blue color of the textiles appeared when conservators washed away the ash. The first chemical analyses of the samples did not detect any indigo, which produces almost all blue dye in nature, so Splitstoser contacted Wouters, who conducted tests with the more sensitive technique. “That’s when we realized that we had the world’s oldest indigo, by far,” Splitstoser said. To read about use of an early artificial blue pigment, go to "Hidden Blues."