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Storms Reveal Roman Aqueduct in Spain

March 7, 2018

CÁDIZ, SPAIN—The Daily Telegraph reports that last week’s heavy storms and shifting sands revealed a first-century A.D. Roman aqueduct and a seventeenth-century road in southwestern Spain. The 50-mile-long aqueduct of Gades carried water to Cádiz from the springs of Tempul, and is thought to have been one of the largest in the Roman Empire. “We knew the aqueduct’s route passed this way but we had never seen it,” said Moisés Camacho of the Association for the Investigation and Dissemination of Cádiz’s Heritage. Two of the five fragments that have been uncovered are still held together with ancient mortar. The road uncovered by the storm was destroyed in 1755 by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake in Lisbon. Scholars think it may have been built over an earlier Roman road or parallel to one that is now under the sea. For more, go to “Spain’s Silver Boom.”

Categories: Blog

Nineteenth-Century Message in a Bottle Recovered in Australia

March 7, 2018

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—Deutsche Welle reports that a 132-year-old message-in-a-bottle was found on a remote beach on Australia's Wedge Island. “The note was damp, rolled tightly and wrapped with string,” said Tonya Illman, who was out for a walk with her family when she spotted the artifact. “We took it home and dried it out, and when we opened it we saw it was a printed form, in German, with very faint German handwriting on it.” The family handed the bottle over to researchers at the Western Australian Museum, who worked with German and Dutch officials to analyze the message. They determined that it had been tossed from the bark ship Paula on June 12, 1886, and was one of thousands of messages that had been thrown overboard as part of a 69-year study of global ocean currents. An entry in the captain’s journal from Paula matched the information on the bottle’s form. “The date and the coordinates correspond exactly with those on the bottle message,” said Ross Anderson of the Western Australia Museum. The bottle is thought to have washed up on the beach between six and 12 months later. To read in-depth about the discovery of a nineteenth-century shipwreck, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

Categories: Blog

World War II Wreckage Found in Coral Sea

March 7, 2018

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—BBC News reports that the wreckage of USS Lexington, and 11 of the 35 planes it had been carrying, have been found in deep water off the east coast of Australia by a team of researchers led by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. Lexington, also known as “Lady Lex,” was scuttled in 1942, during the Battle of the Coral Sea, after it had been struck by Japanese bombs and torpedoes. More than 200 crew members were lost during the fighting, and more than 2,000 were rescued. Two Japanese aircraft carriers were also sunk during the battle, which prevented them from taking part in the Battle of Midway the following month and paved the way for an Allied victory. To read about another recent discovery of a World War II–era ship, go to “Finding Indianapolis.”

Categories: Blog

Spanish Pistol Part Identified in Colorado

March 6, 2018

MESA COUNTY, COLORADO—The Daily Sentinel reports that a pistol part that may be 500 years old was unearthed at the Kannah Creek archaeological site in western Colorado. Known as a “dog,” the part has been identified as part of a spring-loaded arm in a Spanish wheellock pistol, dating to between 1500 and 1600. Such pistol parts are usually found in Texas and New Mexico. David Bailey of the Museums of Western Colorado thinks the part may have been carried to Colorado by Spanish explorers who traded with Ute Indians in the area. Pieces of Spanish armor and a rondel dagger have also been found at the Kannah Creek site. “We’re getting all the pieces but still don’t have a complete picture of what’s going on,” Bailey said. For more on archaeology in Colorado, go to “A Western Wiki-pedia.”

Categories: Blog

Iron Age Crouch Burial Unearthed in England

March 6, 2018

MARGATE, ENGLAND—Kent Online reports that an Iron Age burial has been discovered at the Margate Caves site in southeast England. The body had been placed in a crouched position in a bell-shaped chalk pit. “The settlement that our archaeologists and volunteers found on our site means the Margate Caves can tell a story of the Isle of Thanet that starts well before the Romans arrived here,” said Sarah Vickery, chair of the Margate Caves. The excavation team has also uncovered an Iron Age hillfort, ditches, and some postholes. For more on the Isle of Thanet, go to “Caesar’s English Beachhead.”

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Stone Flakes Analyzed in Large-Scale Study

March 6, 2018

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—According to a report in Cosmos Magazine, hominins developed more efficient cutting tools over time. Researchers led by Željko Režek of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology surveyed more than 19,000 tools from 34 archaeological sites ranging in age from 2.5 million to 12,000 years old. They found that over time, the flakes, which had been produced by Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Homo sapiens, had longer, sharper, and more complex cutting edges. Režek says more efficient cutting tools would have required less raw material. But the scientists note that some of the dullest edges were among those that had been produced by modern humans. For more, go to “Earliest Stone Tools.”

Categories: Blog

Nineteenth-Century Shipwreck Is Not the Clotilda

March 6, 2018

MOBILE, ALABAMA—According to an AL.com report, researchers led by underwater archaeologist James Delgado, of SEARCH, and Dave Conlin, chief of the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center, have determined that the nineteenth-century shipwreck discovered in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is not Clotilda, a vessel said to be the last American slave ship. When the wooden shipwreck was discovered in January, in an area where Captain William Foster wrote that he burned and sank Clotilda in 1860, archaeologists Greg Cook and John Bratten of the University of West Florida conducted an initial field examination during low tide, but they were not allowed to disturb the wreck site because no permits had been issued. In the recent investigation, the team of archaeologists was able to probe the muddy river bottom in order to map the wreckage. They determined that this wreck is too big to be Clotilda. “If this isn’t the Clotilda, then we’ll keep looking until we find it,” said Joe Womack, a descendant of a Clotilda survivor. For more, go to “Bold Civil War Steamer.”

Categories: Blog

Human Remains Recovered From World War II Wreckage

March 3, 2018

FORT SHAFTER, HAWAII—Stars & Stripes reports that human remains have been recovered from sunken World War II–era airplanes off the coast of Palau by a joint underwater recovery team of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and civilians led by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The remains are thought to belong to American air crews shot down in 1944. For more, go to “Letter From the Marshall Islands: Defuzing the Past.”

Categories: Blog

Cadaver Dogs Identify Possible Revolutionary War Graves

March 3, 2018

WASHINGTON, GEORGIA—According to a Fox News report, cadaver dogs detected more than two dozen possible war graves at the 400-acre Battle of Kettle Creek site in northern Georgia. On February 14, 1779, American soldiers led by Andrew Pickens defeated a Loyalist militia in a two-hour surprise attack. As many as 80 soldiers are thought to have been buried across the wooded battlefield. Archaeologist Tom Gresham and his team have examined five of the spots identified by the dogs with ground-penetrating radar. The researchers found shallow pits with clusters of rocks, but none of the traditional burial markers, such as teeth or jacket buttons. White crosses have been placed where soldiers are thought to have fallen. “That will help tell the story more precisely of where the troops were, where they were firing from, what positions they were defending,” Gresham explained. For more on the archaeology of the American Revolution, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

Categories: Blog

Scientists Review Genetic and Linguistic History of Vanuatu

March 3, 2018

JENA, GERMANY—According to a report in Nature, two new DNA studies investigated why the residents of Vanuatu speak languages related to those found in Southeast Asia, even though their genetic ancestry is more similar to that found in Papua New Guinea, which has its own distinct languages. Both studies indicate that the first people to reach Vanuatu some 3,000 years ago came from Taiwan. About 500 years later, they were joined at Vanuatu by people of mostly Papuan ancestry. Later inhabitants of the archipelago were primarily Papuan, but also carried Austronesian ancestry. The team led by David Reich of Harvard Medical School suggests the original population was almost completely replaced by Papuans by around 2,300 years ago. But the other team, co-led by Cosimo Posth of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, suggests the Papuans mixed into the original settler population gradually. They say this gradual mixing could account for the characteristics of the language spoken on Vanuatu today. Linguist Andrew Pauley of the Australian National University, a critic of this idea, says the first people who lived on Vanuatu may have already spoken both Austronesian and non-Astronesian languages picked up during their travels. Geneticist Mark Stoneking of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology adds that the analysis of additional ancient genomes from the region will probably make the picture even more complicated. For more on the intersection of archaeology and linguistics, go to “Wolf Rites of Winter.”

Categories: Blog

Tattoos Detected on 5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Mummies

March 2, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND—According to a BBC News report, tattoos have been found on two 5,000-year-old bodies naturally preserved in shallow graves by desert conditions at the site of Gebelein in Upper Egypt. Daniel Antoine of the British Museum said the images push back the evidence of tattooing in Africa by about 1,000 years. It had been thought that only the women of ancient Egyptian society wore tattoos, but infrared scans of the male mummy revealed that dark smudges on his upper arm were actually images of a wild bull with a long tail and a Barbary sheep. Similar tests revealed four small S-shaped motifs on the female mummy’s shoulder. The tattoos may have conveyed status, bravery, and magical knowledge, and are thought to have been created by placing soot under the skin. “Only now are we gaining new insights into the lives of these remarkable preserved individuals,” Antoine said. To read in-depth about body art in the archaeological record, go to “Ancient Tattoos.”

Categories: Blog

Islamic City’s Port Structures Uncovered

March 2, 2018

AMMAN, JORDAN—According to an ANSA report, the ancient port of Ayla has been found in the Red Sea, off the coast of the modern city of Aqaba. One thousand years ago, Ayla connected cities on overland trade routes to ports in India, Asia, and Africa. Ehab Eid of the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan said that, in addition to the port structures, the excavators found a pottery kiln and workshops for the maintenance and manufacture of ships and sails. For more on archaeology in Jordan, go to “Desert Life.”

Categories: Blog

15th-Century Coin Cache Found in the Netherlands

March 2, 2018

VIANEN, NETHERLANDS—The Netherlands Times reports that a cache of fifteenth-century coins was discovered during construction work in the central Netherlands. The collection of 12 gold and hundreds of silver coins was found in a glazed earthenware cooking pot. Fabric in the pot suggests the coins had been placed in textile bags or wrapped in cloth. The coins bear images of King Henry VI of England, Bishop of Utrecht David of Burgundy, and Pope Paul II. For more on archaeology in the Netherlands, go to “Letter From Rotterdam: The City and the Sea.”

Categories: Blog

Burials Discovered Under 17th-Century Church in Poland

March 2, 2018

RZESZÓW, POLAND—Traces of an older wooden church and human remains were found underneath the floor of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rzeszów during renovation and restoration work, according to a report in Science in Poland. Archaeologist Dariusz Bobak of the Rzeszów Archaeological Center Foundation said the current church had been built on a cemetery in the early seventeenth century. The older of two crypts found at the site predates the current church. It held the remains of four adults and a small child who had been placed in upright coffins within two rooms. Some elements of their clothing and a set of Rosary beads were also recovered. The second crypt, on the opposite side of the church’s transept, held several coffins, the contents of which have not yet been examined by anthropologist Joanna Rogóż. This crypt was built as part of the current church and so dates to the seventeenth century. Further research could help the archaeologists identify the distinguished occupants of the two crypts. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

Categories: Blog

Rain Reveals Ancient Artifacts in Iraq

March 1, 2018

BAGDAD, IRAQ—Asharq Al-Awsat reports that heavy rains have uncovered pottery, coins, and pieces of metal in the region of ancient Babylon. The artifacts date back to the Parthian Empire (247 B.C.–A.D. 224) through the Islamic period. “Last year, 1,000 pieces were discovered this way, which proves that the ruins may be close to the surface and not always buried deep in the ground,” said Hussein Fleih, Babylon’s director of antiquities. To read in-depth about cuneiform tablets from Babylon and other areas of ancient Mesopotamia, go to “The World's Oldest Writing.”

Categories: Blog

Native American Burial Site Found in Gulf of Mexico

March 1, 2018

VENICE, FLORIDA—According to a WTSP News report, a 7,000-year-old Native American burial site has been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Manasota Key. The Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research investigated the site with magnetometry, sub-bottom profiling, and side-scan sonar, and found peat, wooden stakes, and human remains. At the time of burial, the site is thought to have been a peat-bottomed freshwater pond about nine feet above sea level. “As important as the site is archaeologically, it is crucial that the site and the people buried there are treated with the utmost sensitivity and respect,” said Timothy Parsons, director of Florida’s Division of Historical Resources. “The people buried at the site are the ancestors of America’s living indigenous people.” For more, go to “Florida History Springs Forth.”

Categories: Blog

Traces of Nicotine Detected in Ancient Dental Plaque

March 1, 2018

PULLMAN, WASHINGTON—The International Business Times reports that a team led by Shannon Tushingham of Washington State University, working in cooperation with members of the Ohlone tribe in the San Francisco Bay Area, used liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to look for evidence of nicotine, caffeine, and atropine in plaque obtained from the teeth of eight people buried between 6,000 and 300 years ago in what is now California. In the past, archaeologists have relied upon the presence of pipes, charred tobacco seeds, and analysis of hair and fecal matter to trace the spread of tobacco in the ancient Americas. Two of the samples, collected from a man who had been buried with a pipe and an older women, tested positive for nicotine. Jelmer Eerkens of the University of California, Davis, said the woman’s age supports the idea that younger women may have avoided intoxicants in order to protect infants, while older women used the substances. The team plans to additional tests to look for other intoxicating chemicals in dental plaque. To read in-depth about research on ancient dental plaque, go to “Worlds Within Us.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on Possible Hominin Communication

March 1, 2018

YORK, ENGLAND—Chimpanzees and bonobos both have repertoires of gestures that convey meaning to other members of their species. According to a report in Science Magazine, researchers led by Kirsty Graham of the University of York have concluded that about 90 percent of these gestures overlap between species and therefore were probably inherited. It is possible the apes developed the gestures independently, but the high correspondence suggests this is unlikely. Graham speculates that when humans see these gestures, many of them will also understand the meaning conveyed, suggesting the signals may have been passed down from the apes’ last common ancestor with modern humans. Further research will test how the gestures develop over an ape’s lifetime, and see whether people share any of the gestures. For more, go to “No Changeups on the Savannah.”

Categories: Blog

Churchyard Burials Revealed in England

February 28, 2018

WARGRAVE, ENGLAND—The Henley Standard reports that construction work for a new church annex in a village in southeastern England has revealed human remains that appear to date from the early medieval period through the Victorian Age. As many as 90 individuals could be represented among the bones. “We can see many intercutting burials which cut through to the burial plot next to them,” said archaeologist Stephanie Duensing of John Moore Heritage. Remains of coffins and a shroud are helping the archaeologists date the remains, which are being cleaned in a shed at the site. Bone specialist Ceri Boston said she’s found evidence of scurvy, syphilis, arthritis, and poor dental health among the population. One man is thought to have been a bare-knuckle boxer due to a broken nose and rib fractures, though his unusual toe fractures also suggest he may have been a naval conscript. “They used to round up troublemakers and people in jail and shove them off to the navy,” Boston explained. To read about another recent discovery in southeastern England, go to “Caesar’s English Beachhead.”

Categories: Blog

Cannons Unearthed at Malaysia’s Fort Cornwallis

February 28, 2018

GEORGE TOWN, MALAYSIA—The Star reports that two cannons were unearthed in an excavation of the moat and outer defensive structures at Fort Cornwallis that is part of a project to reconstruct the moat. The fort was built by the British East India Company in the late eighteenth century, and the cannons bear a symbol of King George III, who ruled Britain from 1760 to 1820. The weapons are thought to have been at the fort for at least 200 years. “One of the interpretations was that the fort was not involved in any war,” said Mokhtar Saidin of the University of Science Malaysia. “However, with the discovery of the cannons and cannonballs at the end of last year, we might have to take another look at the fort’s history.” Mokhtar notes that there is no mention of cannons at the star-shaped fort on a map of the site dating to 1877. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Letter From Singapore: The Lion City's Glorious Past.”

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