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Alabaster Statue of Queen Tiye Discovered in Luxor

March 24, 2017

LUXOR, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a well-preserved alabaster statue thought to represent Queen Tiye, wife of King Amenhotep III and grandmother of King Tutankhamun, was discovered by Egyptian and European archaeologists at the Amenhotep III funerary temple in Kom El-Hittan. The archaeologists, working under the umbrella of the German Archaeological Institute, were lifting the lower part of a statue of King Amenhotep III when the Queen Tiye statue appeared by its left leg. Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany described the statue as “unique and distinguished,” adding that it is the first alabaster statue of the queen to be unearthed. “All previous statues of her unearthed in the temple were carved of quartzite,” he said. To read about another discovery in Egypt, go to “World’s Oldest Dress.”

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40-Ton Capstone Unearthed in Southern India

March 23, 2017

HYDERABAD, INDIA—According to report in the Deccan Chronicle, a 40-ton capstone has been unearthed at a megalithic burial site near the village of Neremetta. Such stones are thought to have been used to protect burials from predators. “We can safely say that this is the largest capstone found in South India and one of the largest in the country,” said D. Ramulu Naik, assistant director of the Telangana Archaeology and Museums Department. The stone measures 22 feet long, 13 feet wide, and two feet thick, and is thought to have been placed about 2,700 years ago. Naik also explained that the grave may have been dug near the capstone, and then filled with small stones. The giant stone could then have been rolled over the smaller stones or wooden logs. Or, it is possible that the grave was dug below the capstone. Arm bones and pottery were also found below a nearby menhir, or upright stone. For more on archaeology in India, go to “Letter from India: Living Heritage at RiskLiving Heritage at Risk.”

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Rare Calusa Artifacts Found in Waterlogged Florida Midden

March 23, 2017

PINELAND, FLORIDA—News-Press reports that University of Florida archaeologists Karen Walker and William Marquardt have excavated a 1,000-year-old midden on southwestern Florida’s Pine Island, where there was a large Calusa town some 1,000 years ago. The midden was formed at a time when the water table was low. “Then it rose pretty quickly,” Marquardt said. “We think it rose quickly enough that it sealed in this deposit, so it created an anaerobic situation and preserved the material.” The team had to pump out the groundwater to retrieve pieces of rope, nets with shell weights, twine, pieces of worked wood, and seeds. The researchers, who were assisted by volunteers, also recovered the tiny shells of truncatella snails that lived along the high-tide line. “Finding these guys here tells us where the shoreline was a thousand years ago,” Marquardt explained. To read more about archaeology in Florida, go to “Letter from Florida: People of the White EarthPeople of the White Earth.”

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Possible Mesolithic Cannibalism Detected in Spain

March 23, 2017

VALENCIA, SPAIN—Ars Technica reports that evidence of cannibalism has been found in a cave near Spain’s southeastern coast. Anthropologist Juan V. Morales-Pérez of the University of Valencia and his colleagues found some thirty human bones in the cave, including pieces of three skulls, buried in the cave with the bones of ibex, deer, boar, fox, and rabbit. All of the 10,000-year-old bones had butchery marks, and had been burned, and some of them had human gnaw marks. The researchers think the “anthropophagic practices” may reflect the occasional scarcity of other food products, since the human bones appear to have been lightly cooked, butchered, and thrown in a pile with other animal bones. But it is possible that the perceived cannibalism had been part of a ritual, perhaps to honor the dead, and that the remains were given a ceremonial burial. All of the bones could have been washed to the back of the cave over a period of thousands of years. For more, go to “Colonial Cannibalism.”

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Radar Survey Reveals Roman Temple in Central Italy

March 22, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The Times of London reports that a team from the University of Cambridge discovered a huge Roman temple while conducting a radar survey of Falerii Novi, an archaeological site located about 30 miles north of Rome. The temple, colonnaded on three sides, measured nearly 400 feet long and 200 feet wide. During the final centuries of the Roman republic, some 2,500 people lived in the walled town, which featured a theater, a basilica, eight temples in total, and a large defensive gate. Archaeologist Martin Millett said the survey also revealed the history of the growth and development of the town during the last years of the Roman republic. For more, go to “A Brief Glimpse into Early Rome.”

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World War One–Era Bottles Unearthed in Israel

March 22, 2017

RAMLA, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Telegraph, an excavation ahead of highway construction in central Israel uncovered hundreds of gin, wine, and beer bottles dating to the early twentieth century in a garbage pit. The pit was found near an old building converted into barracks for British troops under the command of Field Marshall Edmund Allenby, who was on a mission to capture Ottoman-controlled Jerusalem by Christmas of 1917. The beverages are thought to have been consumed in an officers’ club, since fragments of Italian porcelain plates were also recovered. “It’s an amazing discovery and it really gives you a sense of what these soldiers were doing and how they spent their spare time,” said excavation director Ron Toueg. The excavators also found toothbrushes, uniform buttons, shaving kits, and the silver tip from a short cane known as a “swagger stick,” a symbol of authority for Royal Flying Corps officers. To read in-depth about the recent excavation of a glass works, go to “Letter from Philadelphia: Empire of Glass.”

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17th-Century European-Style Burial Found in Taiwan

March 22, 2017

KONSTANZ, GERMANY—According to a report in The International Business Times, six burials dating to the seventeenth century have been found by an international team of researchers in the church cemetery at the site of San Salvador de Isla Hermosa, located on the Taiwanese island of Heping Dao. A Spanish colony occupied the settlement from 1626 to 1642. The cemetery is thought to contain the remains of Europeans, local Taiwanese, and possible people brought to the island from Africa as slaves. One of the burials contained the remains of a man whose hands had been folded as if in prayer. “It’s the first time we have such an old European grave uncovered in Asia-Pacific as a whole,” said team leader María Cruz Berrocal of the University of Konstanz. Further analysis of the remains could tell the researchers where the cemetery’s occupants came from, what they ate, and details of their medical history. To read about archaeology on an island in the Indian Ocean, go to “Castaways.”

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Ancient Rock Art Damaged in Chad

March 22, 2017

N’DJAMENA, CHAD—BBC News reports that ancient paintings in caves and rock shelters on the Ennedi Plateau have been defaced with graffiti. Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Chad’s minister of culture, said the 8,000-year-old paintings had been covered with names written in French and Arabic. Located in what is now the Sahara Desert, the artwork of the Ennedi Plateau was named to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites last year. Abdelkerim Adoum Bahar, head of the UNESCO in Chad, thinks the damage can be repaired. For more, go to “Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast.”

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Medieval Man’s Face Reconstructed

March 21, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The Independent reports that researchers from the University of Cambridge and Dundee University have reconstructed the face of a man who was buried face down in the cemetery of the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist in the thirteenth century. Known as “Context 958,” the man is thought to have lived at the hospital, which cared for indigent people of the town. According to John Robb of the University of Cambridge, analysis of the man’s robust skeleton suggests he led a life of hard work, and may have had a specialized trade, since he ate a diet relatively rich in meat or fish. But his burial at the hospital indicates that he fell on hard times and may not have been supported by a family network. Analysis of his teeth showed that the enamel had stopped growing twice in his youth, which indicates he experienced bouts of serious illness or extreme malnutrition. There was also evidence of a healed wound from a heavy blow to the back of his head. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

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Archaeologists Investigate Jamestown Church

March 21, 2017

JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA—The Williamsburg Yorktown Daily reports that archaeologists from Preservation Virginia are investigating the remains of the three colonial churches at the site where a memorial church, built in 1906 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, now stands. The earlier churches date to 1617, the 1640s, and the 1680s. The team dug a pit in the chancel area and was recently working in the southeast corner, where high-status English colonists may have been buried. “We’ve gotten to an area where we can see in between the grave shafts in a couple of places,” said field supervisor Mary Anna Hartley. But earlier excavations may have moved two large gravestones that were placed flat on the church floor from the chancel to the cross-aisle in front of it. So any burials are probably unmarked. “That’s another thing we’re doing—figuring out what they found 100 years ago,” said archaeologist Danny Schmidt. “Archaeology of archaeology is a good way to put it.” For more, go to “Jamestown’s VIPs.”

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Copper Coins Unearthed in Israel Amid Byzantine Rubble

March 21, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a hoard of 1,400-year-old copper coins was uncovered last summer in the ruins of a two-story building in a Byzantine-era town. The coins bear the faces of Byzantine emperors Justinian I, Maurice, and Phocas, and were minted in Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia. Archaeologist Annette Landes-Naggar of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained that the building may have been a monastery, since the town was situated on a Christian pilgrimage route from the Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem. “The coins were found adjacent to the external wall of one of the monumental buildings found at the site, and it was found among the building stones that collapsed from the wall,” she said. The coins may have been placed in a niche in the wall for safekeeping. To read about another recent discovery in Israel, go to “Artifact: Bronze Age Jug.”

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Ancient Port of Salamis Found

March 21, 2017

SALAMIS, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, an ancient port, including harbor structures and fortifications, has been found by an international team of researchers on the island of Salamis. The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports said that the site is where Greek naval forces led by Themistocles gathered before the naval battle against King Xerxes and the Persians in 480 B.C. Monuments to the victory over the Persians are located adjacent to the site, which is also thought to have served as a commercial port. For more, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

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Treasure Discovered in Southwest China

March 21, 2017

SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA—According to a report in Xinhua, a legendary treasure said have been lost some 300 years ago during a peasant uprising has been recovered from the Minjiang River, near its intersection with the Jinjiang River. Archaeologists from the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute drained a significant portion of the riverbed with pumps, and found the artifacts under 16 feet of earth. Seven silver ingots were previously found on the river bank in 2005 during a construction project. The legend states that the treasure was aboard a thousand boats traveling southward when the convoy, led by Zhang Xianzhong, was attacked and defeated by Ming Dynasty soldiers. Gold, silver, and bronze coins, jewelry, and iron weapons are among the more than 10,000 recovered artifacts. “The items are extremely valuable to science, history, and art,” commented archaeologist Li Boqian of Peking University. “They are of great significance for research into the political, economic, military, and social lives of the Ming Dynasty.” For more on archaeology in China, go to “Tomb from a Lost Tribe.”

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Replica of Ancient Ship Launched in Bay of Haifa

March 18, 2017

HAIFA, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a replica of a 2,500-year-old ship has been christened the Ma’agan Michael II, for the kibbutz where a fifth-century B.C. shipwreck was found in 1985. The first Ma’agan Michael was constructed of Aleppo pine and oak, and is thought to have measured about 37 feet long and 13 feet wide. Ballast at the wreck site is thought to have come from the Greek island of Euboea and southern Cyprus. Archaeologists also recovered a carpenter’s toolbox from the site, and used traditional tools to build the replica ship. After the ceremony, the Ma’agan Michael II was sailed in the Bay of Haifa. Archaeologists are preparing to take the vessel on a three-day journey from Haifa down the Mediterranean coast to Herzliya, and test ways that ancient sailors might have sailed against the sea’s winds and currents. “We have no idea how they did it,” commented archaeologist Deborah Cvikel of Haifa University. For more, go to “Ship Underground.”

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2,000-Year-Old Siberia Site Yields Reindeer Antler Armor

March 18, 2017

SALEKHARD, SIBERIA—According to a report in The Siberian Times, a team led by archaeologist Andrey Gusev of the Scientific Research Center of the Arctic has uncovered plates of armor made from reindeer antlers at the Ust-Polui site in northwestern Siberia. The armor dates to between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Gusev explained that the 30 plates differ from each other in size, ornamentation, and the placement of holes for attaching them to a leather base. Some of the plates may even have been used to create protective helmets. Gusev thinks the variations in the decorations on the plates suggest they belonged to different warriors, who left them as a gift or sacrifice to the gods. A tiny bronze ring found in a sanctuary at the site has been interpreted as an ornament for a bear claw, and may indicate the presence of a bear cult at the site some 2,000 years ago. For more, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

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Cairo’s Colossus Identified as Psammetich I

March 18, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a colossal statue discovered in the remains of a temple dedicated to Ramses II probably represents Psammetich I, and not Ramses II, as was originally suggested. According to Khaled El-Enany, Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, the back pillar on the torso piece of the 30-foot statue was carved with one of the five names of Psammetich I, who ruled from 664 to 610 B.C., during the 26th Dynasty. “If it belongs to this king, then it is the largest statue of the Late Period that was ever discovered in Egypt,” he said. The two giant, quartzite fragments were found under the water table, near a congested residential area of Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood, and were moved with the help of Egypt’s Armed Forces to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir for restoration and exhibition. The excavation team also recovered a relief at the site that depicts Ramses II anointing a statue of the goddess Mut. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

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Rare Military Insignia Found in Illinois

March 17, 2017

CAMP LINCOLN, ILLINOIS—The State Journal-Register reports that a collar disc bearing the insignia of a segregated military unit was found by workers replacing a bridge at Camp Lincoln. Based upon its style, the quarter-sized disc, worn on the uniform collar, is thought to have been lost by an Illinois Guardsman between 1923 and 1936. The disc bears the insignia of the Eighth Illinois Infantry, which fought on the Mexican border during the 1916 Pancho Villa Expedition, and then was sent to France in 1917 to fight in the First World War as the 370th Infantry. The 370th was one of the most decorated units of the war. “They probably should have received some Medals of Honor,” said Adriana Schroeder, command historian for the Illinois National Guard. “Instead, they received a lot of French awards and a couple of Distinguished Service Crosses on the American side.” To read about another discovery in Illinois, go to “Mississippian Burning.”

Categories: Blog

Gold Bridle Fittings Recovered from Viking Grave

March 17, 2017

SKANDERBORG, DENMARK—The gilded fittings of a horse’s bridle have been recovered from one of several graves dating to the early Viking Age discovered in central Denmark in 2012, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. “This type of bridle would only be available to the most powerful of people in the Viking Age, and we believe it might have been a gift of alliance from the king,” said Mereth Schifter Bagge of the Museum of Skanderborg. The bridle has been dated to A.D. 950, which suggests that the “Fregerslev Viking,” as the tomb’s occupant is called, may have been aligned with Gorm the Old, or perhaps a rival king. Excavation at the site will resume this spring. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

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Huge Polar Bear Skull Discovered at Alaska’s Walapka Site

March 17, 2017

UTQIAGVIK, ALASKA—Western Digs reports that a large polar bear skull has been discovered at the 4,000-year-old Walapka archaeological site in northern Alaska. Dubbed “The Old One,” the skull has been radiocarbon dated to about 1,300 years old. It measures more than 16 inches long, and while it resembles typical polar bears from the eyes forward, the back of the skull is narrow and elongated when compared to the skulls of most polar bears. Research biologist and wildlife veterinarian Raphaela Stimmelmayer found several skulls that resemble “The Old One” among the 300 polar bear skulls in the collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Archaeologist Anne Jensen thinks this huge bear may have been the type referred to as “weasel bears,” or “king bears,” by some Inuit groups in historic interviews with ethnographers. But the bears are not mentioned in accounts from the Utqiagvik region. “That may be because these bears were not around during the period when people were collecting ethnographic accounts—somewhat later here than in Canada—or because people just didn’t ask the right questions,” Jensen said. Further analysis of the skull is planned. For more on archaeology in Alaska, go to “Cultural Revival.”

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Hearth Unearthed in Wales

March 16, 2017

MONMOUTHSHIRE, WALES—According to a report in the Monmouthshire Beacon, a Neolithic hearth has been unearthed at a construction site in southern Wales. Found on the shores of a post-glacial lake, the hearth contained animal bones and charcoal, which have been dated by the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center to about 5,000 years ago. Timbers from a Neolithic boat were discovered on the shores of the same lake last year, along with structural timbers dating to the Neolithic period, and the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age. For more, go to “Letter from Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”

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