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Wreckage of USS Indianapolis Discovered in Philippine Sea

August 22, 2017

PHILLIPINE SEA, NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN—The Indianapolis Star reports that a group sponsored by the billionaire Paul Allen has succeeded in discovering the wreckage of USS Indianapolis, which sank following a Japanese torpedo attack on July 30, 1945. The 13-person team working from Allen's 250-foot research ship, R/V Petrel, said the wreckage was found at a depth of more than 18,000 feet. Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser carrying 1,197 sailors and Marines, was sailing back to the Philippines after delivering components for "Little Boy," the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in Japan on August 6, 1945. While 900 crewmen appear to have made it through the initial sinking, only 316 survived to be rescued when help arrived five days later on Aug. 2, 1945. The find comes after a recent break in the search, in July of 2016, when the Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division reported that a sailor had confirmed that a tank landing ship, LST-779, had passed the Indianapolis 11 hours before the torpedo struck. That account was confirmed by deck logs and narrowed the search area to just 600 square miles of open sea. According to the report, Allen’s team is still surveying the site of the wreckage and plans to conduct a live tour of the wreckage in the next few weeks. The crew is  apprently also working with the Navy on plans to honor the remaining 22 USS Indianapolis crew members and families of crew members. To read more about underwater recovery efforts, go to "Naval Mystery Solved.

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220-Year-Old Refugee Camp Found Near Galway

August 22, 2017

GALWAY, IRELAND—Accoring to a report in the Irish Times, archaeologists working in southeast Galway’s Slieve Aughty Mountains have discovered the remains of a refugee camp dating to the 1790s, when a group of Catholics from the island's northern Ulster province, the majority of which remains a part of the United Kingdom, were forced south during a sectarian war within the linen industry. Galway community archaeologist Christy Cunniffe believes a series of circular ditches dug around hut foundations on land owned by a local farmer, which researchers initially thought might date back to the Bronze age, are evidence of temporary camps built by Ultachs, Catholics who fled persecution by a group of violent Protestant agitators known as the "Peep-O-Boys" or "Peep o' Day Boys." According to Cunniffe, as many as 7,000 Catholics, mostly from County Armagh, are believed to have been discplaced after intense competition in the linen industry exploded across sectarian lines, resulting in one of the largest internal migrations in recent Irish history. For more on the archaeology in Ireland, go to "Samhain Revival.

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Ancient Trade Network Identified in Vietnam

August 21, 2017

MEKONG DELTA, VIETNAM—Archaeologists excavating a site in southern Vietnam have discovered evidence for a previously unknown 4,500-year-old trading network, reports VnExpress. Led by Australian National University archaeologist Catherine Frieman, the team discovered stone axes at a site in the region of Rach Nui, which has no stone resources of its own. “We knew some artifacts were being moved around, but this shows evidence for a major trade network that also included specialist tool-makers and technological knowledge,” said Friema. “This isn't a case of people producing a couple of extra items on top of what they need. It's a major operation.” For more on archaeology in Southwest Asia, go to “Letter from Laos: A Singular Landscape.”

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Portrait of Young Woman Revealed in Herculaneum

August 21, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A previously unstudied portrait of a Roman woman in Herculaneum, which was destroyed in A.D. 79 by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, has been revealed using a portable X-ray fluorescence machine, according to a report from Seeker. Excavations in the nineteenth century uncovered much of Herculaneum, including the “House of the Mosaic Atrium,” where the portrait was found. Analysis by Eleonora Del Federico, a chemistry professor at Pratt Institute, showed that a young woman was sketched with an iron-based pigment and then her eyes were highlighted using a lead-based pigment. High levels of potassium detected in the woman’s cheeks suggest a green earth-based pigment was used to help create a flesh-toned color. “We were very surprised at the complexity and sophistication of the painting technique, the use of color, mixture of pigments and layering,” Del Federico said. For more, go to “The Charred Scrolls of Herculaneum.”

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Maori Settlement Discovered During Roadwork

August 19, 2017

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND—Extensive remains of a Maori village were unearthed during road construction in Papamoa, according to a report from the New Zealand Herald. Archaeologists Ken Phillips and Cameron McCaffrey were called in when the first evidence of the settlement was uncovered, and their excavation uncovered more than 300 archaeological features. These included large postholes, cooking pits, and sweet potato pits. The settlement appears to have been home to a large number of people and to date to between 1600 and 1800, though more precise information will be provided by radiocarbon dating. Several of the cooking pits had evidence of fire reddening at the bottom and sides, as well as concentrated deposits of charcoal and fire-cracked rocks. In addition, pieces of obsidian, all apparently from an island known as Tuhua, were found, providing evidence that tool manufacturing took place on the site. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

Categories: Blog

Maori Settlement Discovered During Roadwork

August 19, 2017

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND—Extensive remains of a Maori village were unearthed during road construction in Papamoa, according to a report from the New Zealand Herald. Archaeologists Ken Phillips and Cameron McCaffrey were called in when the first evidence of the settlement was uncovered, and their excavation uncovered more than 300 archaeological features. These included large postholes, cooking pits, and sweet potato pits. The settlement appears to have been home to a large number of people and to date to between 1600 and 1800, though more precise information will be provided by radiocarbon dating. Several of the cooking pits had evidence of fire reddening at the bottom and sides, as well as concentrated deposits of charcoal and fire-cracked rocks. In addition, pieces of obsidian, all apparently from an island known as Tuhua, were found, providing evidence that tool manufacturing took place on the site. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

Categories: Blog

Fifth-Century Monks’ Complex Uncovered in Egypt

August 18, 2017

 

CAIRO, EGYPT—An excavation in Minya has turned up an ancient settlement that may have been a monks’ complex, according to a report from Ahram Online. The complex features a residential area measuring 320 by 425 feet that includes a mud-brick house once inhabited by a monk. Also discovered was a collection of burial chambers measuring 165 by 230 feet in all, as well as the lower part of a monk’s tombstone and a collection of metal coins and clay pots. Previous discoveries at the site have included the remains of a fifth-century mud-brick church, a shrine, a prayer hall, and chambers with walls on which Coptic hymns were written. For more, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

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Poisonous Chemical Found in Pompeii Water Pipe

August 18, 2017

POMPEII, ITALY—Researchers have analyzed a fragment of a lead water pipe from Pompeii and found that it contained toxic levels of the chemical element antimony, reports the International Business Times. Previously, scholars had suggested that widespread lead poisoning contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire. “They used it for work pipes, for sweetening the wine, for filling out small holes in aqueducts,” said University of Southern Denmark archaeochemist Kaare Lund. “There was a lot of lead in the Roman Empire.” But Lund and his team are proposing that lead by itself didn’t pose much of a health risk, since most pipes were lined with chalky deposits that would have kept significant amounts of lead from leaking into water. But Lund notes that antimony is much more toxic than lead, and if even trace amounts of it leached into the water supply it would have had disastrous consequences, leading to kidney and liver damage and even contributing to heart attacks. The team hopes to test more Roman lead in the future to determine how common the use of antimony-laced pipes was. To read more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

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Dutch Shipwreck Excavated off English Coast

August 18, 2017

KENT, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that archaeologists from Historic England and the Netherland’s Cultural Heritage Agency have returned to the site of the 18th-century Dutch East India ship Rooswijk. The ship sank off the coast of Kent in January 1740, and all 250 aboard perished. So far this season, the team has recovered artifacts that include a sailor's shoe, glass bottles, an onion jar, and Mexican silver dollars, as well as pieces of eight. The first scientifically excavated Dutch East India ship, Rooswijk was excavated in 2005, and a quantity of silver was discovered and returned to the Netherlands. But much about the wreck remains mysterious. “We have many questions,” said Dutch maritime expert Martijn Martens. “We do not even know what this ship really looked like.” To read more about nautical archaeology, go to “History’s 10 Greatest Wrecks.”

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Remains of Great Synagogue of Vilna Unearthed

August 17, 2017

 

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA—Archaeologists have unearthed remains of underground ritual baths at the Great Synagogue of Vilna, according to a report from Haaretz. The synagogue was completed in 1633 and, since it was not allowed to be taller than the city’s churches, it rose only three floors aboveground, but extended another two stories underground. The Nazis occupied Lithuania in June 1941, and burned and ransacked the synagogue later that year. The Russians razed the building in 1965 as part of an effort to erase all vestiges of the Jewish people from the city. The excavation, led by Jon Seligman of the Israel Antiquities Authority, followed a late nineteenth-century architectural plan for restoring the ancient bathhouse. The archaeologists found just two ritual baths, known as mikvehs, and are unsure whether more remain. To read about another recent discovery in Vilnius, go to “The Grand Army Diet.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Japanese Capital Discovered

August 17, 2017

YAO, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that archaeologists in Japan have unearthed the remains of Yugeno-miya, a capital that was built on the orders of the Empress Shotoku, who ruled from A.D. 767 to 770. According to historical accounts, after the empress's death construction ceased and the city remained unfinished. The archaeologists found pits arranged on a grid that would have held massive pillars, as well as the remains of a canal that stretched almost a half mile and was probably used in order the transport building materials. Earlier this year, the foundation of a pagoda said to have been built by a Buddhist monk favored by Empress Shotoku were found nearby. To read more about archaeology in Japan, go to “Khubilai Khan Fleet.” 

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Greek-Style Temple Uncovered in Jordan

August 17, 2017

AMMAN, JORDAN—A Greek-style temple has been discovered in Umm Qais, around 75 miles north of Amman, according to a report from The Jordan Times. A team from Yarmouk University led by archaeologist Atef Sheyyab discovered the temple along with a water network. The temple was built during the Hellenistic era (332-63 B.C.) and went on to be reused during the Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic eras. The temple consisted of an inner area (a pronaos), a podium, and a holy chamber (a naos). The team discovered a number of Ionic-order columns that once supported the structure’s roof. Broken pottery samples will be used to more precisely date the temple. The water network includes Hellenistic wells and Roman tunnels, which lead to a hot bath outside the town. For more on archaeology in Jordan, go to “Mystery Buildings at Petra.”

Categories: Blog

Excavations of Lord Elgin’s Ship Continue

August 17, 2017

KYTHIRA, GREECE—Underwater excavation of Mentor, a ship that sank off the Greek island of Kythira in 1802, has turned up a range of items, including chess pieces, combs, and a toothbrush, according to a report from Greek Reporter. This is the fifth year in a row that excavations of the wreck have been undertaken by the Greek Ephorate of Old Antiquities. Other findings included pieces of furniture, coins, parts of a pulley, ropes, and metal portions of one of the ship’s masts. The ship was carrying antiquities taken from the Parthenon by British diplomat Lord Elgin, and was headed to Malta and then on to England, but instead sank at the entrance to the port of Avlemona on Kythira. Many if not all the sculptures from the Parthenon were salvaged in the years after the wreck and ultimately sold to the British Museum. Previous excavations have recovered various objects used by the ship’s 10-man crew, including cookware, glass, ceramics, porcelain, bottles, guns, bullets, a small cannon shell, and several compasses. For more on excavations of Mentor, go to “What If They Never Arrived?

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Parts of Tudor Palace Unearthed in London

August 17, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—Parts of Greenwich Palace, where Henry VIII as well as his daughters Mary I and Elizabeth I were born, have been unearthed, according to The Wharf. Two rooms from the Tudor Palace were discovered during construction of a new visitor center at the Old Royal Naval College in southeast London. The rooms are thought to have been used as kitchens, a brewhouse, or for doing laundry. One of the rooms included a lead-glazed tiled floor, and the other had what are thought to have been “bee boles,” pockets in the wall where beehive baskets could be kept during the colonies’ winter hibernation. In the summer, when the hive baskets were kept outdoors, the cavities may have been used to keep food and drink cool. The palace was built in the fifteenth century and included state apartments, a chapel, courtyards, gardens, and a jousting area, but was demolished in the seventeenth century under the Stuarts and ultimately replaced with Greenwich Hospital, which today houses the Old Royal Naval College. “To find a trace of Greenwich Palace, arguably the most important of all the Tudor palaces, is hugely exciting,” said Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England. For more, go to “Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Roman Villa Excavated on Sicily

August 16, 2017

 

TAMPA, FLORIDA—Portions of an ancient Roman villa on the island of Sicily as well as artifacts discovered at the site are offering new insights into life there nearly 2,000 years ago, according to a report from International Business Times. A team from the University of South Florida is excavating a 5,400-square-foot Roman villa called Durruelu, near the coastal town of Realmonte. The uncovering of new walls and floor levels, as well as a staircase and water channel, has established that the structure was consistently occupied from the second to the seventh century and was reconfigured in the fifth century. Cookware, lamps, pottery, and pottery-making equipment discovered at the site show that pottery, bricks, and tiles were produced there at large scale. Parts of the site were excavated decades ago, and the current excavation included 3-D scans of the entire site. To read in-depth about the excavation of another villa, go to “Romans on the Bay of Naples.”

Categories: Blog

Anglo-Saxon Cemetery on Lindisfarne Excavated

August 16, 2017

DURHAM, ENGLAND—Two complete skeletons have been discovered in what is thought to be an Anglo-Saxon cemetery on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England, according to a report from Chronicle Live. The cemetery is believed to have been linked to the island’s monastery, and those buried in it may have included those who worked the monastery’s land or pilgrims who traveled to the island. Another dig on the island recently discovered an early church. “They found the church and we have found the congregation,” said Durham University archaeologist David Petts, who led the cemetery excavation. The two complete skeletons will be analyzed for insights into the individuals’ diet, health, and geographic origins. The discovery of seal bones along with the remains of other animals offers an initial clue into what the people on the island were eating. “They are hunting seals and making the most of the resources available to them,” said Petts. A charnel pit containing bones that may have been gathered together after being turned up by plowing was also discovered. To read in-depth about Anglo-Saxon England, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Categories: Blog

Ptolemaic-Era Tombs Uncovered in Egypt

August 15, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Three rock-cut tombs from the Ptolemaic era have been discovered near the town of Samelut in Upper Egypt, according to a report from Ahram Online. The tombs, which were discovered by an Egyptian archaeological mission, contain a number of sarcophagi of varied shapes and sizes in addition to a range of clay fragments. Studies of these fragments suggest they are from the 27th Dynasty and the Greco-Roman era. “This fact suggests that the area was a large cemetery over a long period of time,” said Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Ministry of Antiquities’ Ancient Egyptian Sector. Previous excavations in the area uncovered around 20 tombs built in the catacomb style typical of the period, but the newly discovered tombs have a different architectural design. The two tombs for which excavation has been completed each featured a perpendicular burial shaft—the first leading to a single burial chamber with four sarcophagi and nine burial holes, and the second leading to two burial chambers, one of which contains the remains of two sarcophagi and six burial holes, including one designed for a small child. The bones found in the tombs belonged to men, women, and children, suggesting the tombs were part of a large cemetery that served a large city. For more, go to “Afterlife on the Nile.”

Categories: Blog

Initiation Rites and Rock Art in Namibia

August 15, 2017

WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA—A recent survey of rock art in the Namib Desert is yielding new insights into the cultures of ancient hunter-gatherers, reports the International Business Times. Among the most intriguing rock art panels recorded by the survey is one that depicts a female antelope, or kudu. Dating to perhaps 3,000 years ago, it probably played a role in female initiation rituals, says Quaternary Research Services archaeologist John Kinahan. Such rituals took place in isolated locations in ritual seclusion shelters, which the rock art panel also appears to depict. Nearby, Kinahan identified a stone circle that is likely the remains of one of the shelters. “It is possible that the sociable characteristics of the female kudu were given as example to follow to young girls who prepared to become women,” says Kinahan. “Kudus are docile and sociable, they look after the youngsters all together and collaborate without the males. These characteristics were probably seen as desirable for women to have.” To read more about archaeological discoveries in southern Africa, go to “The First Use of Poison.”

Categories: Blog

Early Islamic House Unearthed in Jordan

August 15, 2017

JERASH, JORDAN—Live Science reports that archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an extravagant early Islamic period house in the city of Jerash. The building seems to have been destroyed on January 18, 749, when an earthquake struck the city. The team did not find any objects related to daily life, but they did find troughs filled with thousands of the stone cubes known as tesserae that are used to create mosaics. That suggests that the house was possibly undergoing a remodel at the time of the earthquake. The discovery also allows a rare glimpse into the process of mosaic creation. “What our findings now indicate is that these tesserae were most likely produced on location,” says Aarhus University archaeologist Rubina Raja, the project's co-leader. “You would have the craftsmen or craftswomen who actually carved these tesserae on-site to be used later.” The team also found the skeleton of a young person who appears to have died in the house when the earthquake struck. To read more about early Islamic archaeology, go to “Expanding the Story.”

Categories: Blog

Silver Coins Signal Rome's Rise

August 15, 2017

FRANKFURT, GERMANY—The International Business Times reports that a new geochemical study shows that shortly after the Romans defeated the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War, they began to mint their coins in silver mined on the Iberian Peninsula, which Carthage had controlled up to that point. A team led by Katrin Westner of the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at Goethe University, Frankfurt, tested the silver content of 70 Roman coins minted between 310 and 101 B.C. They found that before the second Punic War, Roman coins were made from silver mined in the Aegean. But after Carthage's defeat around 209 B.C., the Romans began to use silver mined in what is now Spain. “This massive influx of Iberian silver significantly changed Rome’s economy, allowing it to become the superpower of its day," says Westner. "We know this from the histories of Livy and Polybius and others, but our work gives contemporary scientific proof of the rise of Rome." To read more about how Rome evolved into a superpower, go to “Rome’s Imperial Port.”

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