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Neolithic House Unearthed in Abu Dhabi

February 3, 2017

MARAWAH ISLAND, ABU DHABI—According to a report in The National, the foundations of a 7,500-year-old, three-room house with 30-inch-thick walls has been found on an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. “It’s a stunning find because there are no parallels to it anywhere else in the Gulf coast region,” said Mark Beech, head of coastal heritage at Abu Dhabi’s Tourism and Culture Authority. He said the Neolithic dwelling had walls that projected into the backyard to create a space for cooking that is similar to what is found in traditional Arabian houses. The structure was found in the smallest of seven mounds at the site. Beech thinks that the rest of the mounds could hold the remains of a village, where the residents herded sheep and goats, and also fished. Stone tools, beads made from shells, and a shark’s tooth have also been recovered. A ceramic jar made in what is now Iraq suggests that the residents engaged in long-distance trade. For more on archaeology in the area, go to “Archaeology Island.”

Categories: Blog

Royal Scribe’s 3,000-Year-Old Tomb Discovered in Luxor

February 3, 2017

SHINJUKU, JAPAN—Seeker reports that a team led by Jiro Kondo of Waseda University was working in Luxor, in the forecourt of the tomb of the royal scribe Userhat, when they discovered a hole leading to a previously unknown chamber. Hieroglyphics identified the chamber as the tomb of Khonsu, another royal scribe. The style of the tomb’s paintings suggests that it dates to between 1292 and 1069 B.C. A picture of four baboons adoring the solar boat of the sun god Ra-Atum had been carved on the chamber’s north wall. Baboons were associated with wisdom, science, and measurement, are believed to have been spiritual muses of scribes, and are also linked to Ra-Atum, perhaps because they warm themselves in the morning sun, and make noise when the sun rises. Baboons are not native to Egypt, but are thought to have been imported from Nubia as pets. Their morning calls may have also served as alarm clocks. Images on another section of wall depict Khonsu and his wife worshipping Osiris and Isis. Illustrations of two ram-headed deities, perhaps Khnum or Khnum-Re, are also present. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

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Genetic Study Suggests Modern Link to Stone Age Population

February 2, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—According to a report in Science Magazine, some modern, indigenous East Asian populations have a genetic makeup that closely resembles that of two female hunter-gatherers who were buried in the Russian Far East nearly 8,000 years ago. Nuclear DNA was extracted from the hunter-gatherers’ teeth, inner ear bones, and other skull bones, which were found in Devil’s Gate Cave along with pottery, harpoons, and nets and mats woven from wild sedge grass. The DNA was analyzed by a team led by Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge, who compared it to hundreds of genomes of modern Asians and Europeans. The hunter-gatherers from Devil’s Gate Cave were found to be most closely related to the Ulchi people, who live in the Amur Basin to the north. The study also suggests that the women looked like modern Ulchi people, in that they had brown eyes; thick, straight hair; and shovel-shaped incisors. The women were also related to modern people based in eastern Siberia and China, and to modern Koreans and Japanese. In addition, the results suggest that no other group, such as migrating farmers, contributed a significant amount of DNA to the people of the region. For more on the study of ancient DNA, go to “Worlds Within Us.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Historic Shipwreck Discovered Near Sweden

February 2, 2017

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—The Local Sweden reports that marine archaeologists from the Sjöhistoriska Museet (Maritime Museum) think they have discovered the wreckage of the Blekinge, a historically significant warship that sank off the coast of southern Sweden in 1713. The Blekinge is known to have been about 150 feet long, and it carried between 68 and 70 cannons. “It’s the first ship that was built in Karlskrona, and was launched in 1682. It participated in, among other things, King Karl XII’s sea assault against Denmark in 1700,” said Jim Hansson of the Swedish National Maritime Museums. Hansson thinks the ship may have been sunk deliberately, and used as a cannon barge to defend the city of Karlskrona during King Karl XII’s invasion of Russia. The shipwreck is buried under layers of sediment, and was probably damaged during the construction of a stone pier at the Karlskrona shipyard. For more, go to “History's 10 Greatest Wrecks...

Categories: Blog

Possible Historic Shipwreck Discovered Near Sweden

February 2, 2017

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—The Local Sweden reports that marine archaeologists from the Sjöhistoriska Museet (Maritime Museum) think they have discovered the wreckage of the Blekinge, a historically significant warship that sank off the coast of southern Sweden in 1713. The Blekinge is known to have been about 150 feet long, and it carried between 68 and 70 cannons. “It’s the first ship that was built in Karlskrona, and was launched in 1682. It participated in, among other things, King Karl XII’s sea assault against Denmark in 1700,” said Jim Hansson of the Swedish National Maritime Museums. Hansson thinks the ship may have been sunk deliberately, and used as a cannon barge to defend the city of Karlskrona during King Karl XII’s invasion of Russia. The shipwreck is buried under layers of sediment, and was probably damaged during the construction of a stone pier at the Karlskrona shipyard. For more, go to “History's 10 Greatest Wrecks...

Categories: Blog

12,000-Year-Old Prostate Stones Found in Sudan

February 2, 2017

TREVISO, ITALY—Seeker reports that a team led by Donatella Usai and Sandro Salvatori of the Center for Sudanese and Sub-Saharan Studies uncovered the 12,000-year-old remains of a man who suffered from prostate stones. The skeleton was found in the cemetery of Al Khiday, which is located on the banks of the White Nile in central Sudan. The stones, which are about the size of walnuts, were found in the skeleton’s pelvic area and close to the lumbar vertebrae, and presumably caused extreme pain and made it difficult to urinate. The mineral composition of the stones and relatively low density established that they were not rocks, explained Lara Maritan of Padova University. Further examination with a scanning electron microscope revealed a form of calcium phosphate in the stones that indicates they were indeed produced by the prostate gland. Imprints of bacteria in the stones suggest that the man also suffered from an infection. For more on archaeology in Sudan, go to “The Cult of Amun.”

Categories: Blog

12,000-Year-Old Prostate Stones Found in Sudan

February 2, 2017

TREVISO, ITALY—Seeker reports that a team led by Donatella Usai and Sandro Salvatori of the Center for Sudanese and Sub-Saharan Studies uncovered the 12,000-year-old remains of a man who suffered from prostate stones. The skeleton was found in the cemetery of Al Khiday, which is located on the banks of the White Nile in central Sudan. The stones, which are about the size of walnuts, were found in the skeleton’s pelvic area and close to the lumbar vertebrae, and presumably caused extreme pain and made it difficult to urinate. The mineral composition of the stones and relatively low density established that they were not rocks, explained Lara Maritan of Padova University. Further examination with a scanning electron microscope revealed a form of calcium phosphate in the stones that indicates they were indeed produced by the prostate gland. Imprints of bacteria in the stones suggest that the man also suffered from an infection. For more on archaeology in Sudan, go to “The Cult of Amun.”

Categories: Blog

Hurricane Matthew Damage Uproots Artifacts in Georgia

February 1, 2017

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA—WLOX reports that artifacts such as pottery, metal fragments, brick and other construction materials, and oyster shells are turning up in Savannah as trees toppled last October by Hurricane Matthew are removed. The extensive root systems of approximately 40 fallen trees reach through cemeteries, parks, and historic battlefield sites, some of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. “When you think about Savannah and how old Savannah is and all the history we have above ground, I think it doesn’t surprise me at all that underground we have lots and lots of history,” said Library and Archives Director Luciana Spracher. The trees will be removed according to Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines to protect archaeological resources. For more, go to “Live Civil War Ordnance Uncovered by Hurricane Matthew.”

Categories: Blog

Roman Shipwreck Discovered Near the Balearic Islands

February 1, 2017

CABRERA, SPAIN—Last year, fisherman working off the coast of the tiny island of Cabrera, in the Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park, let the researchers at the Balearics Institute for the Study of Marine Archaeology (IBEAM) know that they had found pottery fragments in their nets. El País reports that the IBEAM team then investigated the site with a robot and found the wreckage of an 1,800-year-old Roman ship under more than 200 feet of water. The ship, which had been carrying an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 amphoras, is thought to have been transporting fermented fish sauce between North Africa, Spain, France, and Rome. Most of the amphoras at the shipwreck site measure about three feet long and are thought to have originated in North Africa, while the smaller jars are thought to have originated in southern Portugal. “As far as we know, this is the first time that a completely unaltered wreck has been found in Spanish waters,” said marine archaeologist Javier Rodríguez. For more on underwater archaeology, go to “Discovering Terror.”

Categories: Blog

38,000-Year-Old Engraving Found in France

February 1, 2017

NEW YORK, NEW YORK—Live Science reports that new excavations at the Abri Blanchard rock shelter in southwestern France uncovered a broken limestone block engraved with an image of an aurochs, a type of extinct wild cow, surrounded by rows of small dots. Radiocarbon testing revealed that the block dates to some 38,000 years ago—a time when modern humans were first spreading into Europe. Anthropologist Randall White, who led the excavations, said that the block may have fallen from the ceiling of the rock shelter, or it may have been carried there by a member of the Aurignacian culture for carving. Similar images of aurochs have been found in France’s Chauvet Cave, and aligned dots have been found engraved on Aurignacian objects, but it is unusual to see the dots combined with an image of an animal. For more, go to “New Dates for the Oldest Cave Paintings.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Jar Discovered in Turkey May Contain Human Remains

January 31, 2017

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a team from the Milas Museum has unearthed an intact jar in southwestern Turkey’s Muğla province. Found at a construction site, the jar is thought to date to the Hellenistic period. It stands about 15 inches tall and may contain burned human remains. The jar has been taken to the Milas Archaeology Museum for further study. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Categories: Blog

England Returns Egyptian Ushabti Figurine

January 31, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—Ahram Online reports that a wooden ushabti figurine stolen from a storehouse in Aswan in 2013 has been recovered in London. The figurine, which stands about six and one-half inches tall, was discovered by Spanish archaeologists in 2009 at the Qubet Al Hawa necropolis, and was placed in a storehouse with other artifacts. Shaaban Abdel Gawad, head of the antiquities repatriation department at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, said that the theft occurred after the Spanish archaeological mission left the site. A curator at the British Museum spotted the ushabti and reported it to the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, leading to its return. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Categories: Blog

High-Tech Scans Detect Ancient Maya Highways

January 31, 2017

MIRADOR BASIN, GUATEMALA—Seeker reports that the Light Detection and Ranging tool, or lidar, has been used by researchers with the Mirador Basin Project to scan more than 430 square miles of jungle in Guatemala’s northern Petén region. The data collected with the technology was used to produce a detailed map of a 150-mile-long network of 17 Maya roads, first discovered in 1967. “The creation of these causeways allowed the unification of what appears to be the first state-level society in the Western Hemisphere,” said team leader Richard D. Hansen of the University of Utah. Trade goods, tribute, rulers, and armies could have traveled from city to city along the system of highways. The lidar scans also detected a system of corrals which may have been used to raise livestock for food on an industrial scale. The food could also have been distributed using the road system. The new research could help scientists understand why the Maya civilization in the Mirador Basin declined after A.D. 150. To read more about the Maya, go to “Tomb of the Vulture Lord.”

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Glass Workshop Found in Poland

January 31, 2017

ZYWIEC, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that the remains of a 2,000-year-old glass and metal workshop have been found on Mount Grojec in south-central Poland. Archaeologist Tomasz Gralak of the University of Wroclaw and his team uncovered furnaces, defective glass beads, and pieces of melted waste glass at the site, which was located in a settlement dating back more than 2,500 years. “It was here that half-processed material in the form of lumps of raw glass or metal bars was delivered and finished items were made,” he explained. Gralak and his team will analyze the glass to see if they can determine where it originated. The researchers think it may have been imported from as far away as the Mediterranean. The team also found a large cistern near the workshop, crucibles for melting metal, and stone grinders. “They were probably influenced by Celtic tribes, which had the knowledge of glass processing. But it was a local population, limited to the mountain areas,” he said. It had been thought that glass was not produced in Poland until the medieval period. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

Categories: Blog

Four 19th-Century Shipwrecks Found Near Australia

January 28, 2017

BUNDABERG, AUSTRALIA—The Australian Associated Press reports that four nineteenth-century shipwrecks have been found at Kenn Reef, located off the coast of Queensland, by a team of archaeologists from the Australian National Maritime Museum. Eight ships are known to have been wrecked in the area during the nineteenth century while traveling to and from trading ports in India and Indonesia. Anchors, fasteners, and at least six cannons have been found at the site. The next step is to try to identify the wrecks. “This will take months of careful examination of the archaeological discoveries against historical records, including ship’s logs and accounts of shipwrecks in newspapers from the period,” explained museum maritime archaeologist James Hunter. For more on underwater archaeology, go to “Discovering Terror.”

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Doll Discovered in Japan

January 28, 2017

OSAKA, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that a small doll from the Yayoi Pottery Culture (300 B.C.–A.D. 300) was discovered in a burial at the Kori ruins in the southern city of Ibaraki. The neighboring Kori and Heka ruins are thought to have been part of a large village, and they share more than 140 tombs, according to the Osaka Center for Culture Heritage. The clay figurine, which stands about two inches tall, consists of a round head placed on a cylindrical torso with a flat base. It has holes for its eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. This is the first time that this type of figurine has been found in Osaka prefecture, and it is one of only a few to have been found intact. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Categories: Blog

Wildfire Revealed Thousands of Native American Artifacts

January 28, 2017

SHOSHONE NATIONAL FOREST, WYOMING—According to a report in Western Digs, a Shoshone campsite thought to have been used off and on for perhaps as long as 2,500 years has been found along Caldwell Creek in the Absaroka Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Norton Point fire of 2011 revealed the high-altitude site as a “carpet” of stone artifacts and pieces of chipped stone near what is now a popular trailhead. Laura Scheiber of Indiana University and her team have recovered arrow points, bone tools, bifacial knives, and grooved mauls, most of which are thought to date to within a few hundred years before the Mountain Shoshone first made contact with Europeans. Upstream from the site, the research team also found a series of hearths, a Shoshone knife, a grinding rock, and fragments of pottery characteristic of pre-contact Shoshone culture. “The recovery of more than 1,000 ceramic sherds is especially exciting,” she said, since it triples the number of samples available for study and analysis. For more, go to “Letter from Montana: The Buffalo Chasers.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Pilgrim’s Remains Found at Medieval Leprosy Hospital

January 27, 2017

WINCHESTER, ENGLAND—The excavation of a medieval cemetery at St. Mary Magdalen leprosarium has revealed the bones of a possible Christian pilgrim, who was identified by the presence of a scallop shell in his grave, according to a report in the International Business Times. Scallop shells were a symbol of pilgrimage to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela, the endpoint of a route known as the Way of St. James that grew in popularity during the twelfth century. Simon Roffey of the University of Winchester noted that 86 percent of the more than 100 skeletons found at the hospital cemetery showed signs of leprosy on their bones. And, since there is also a form of leprosy that does not leave marks on the bones, it is possible that the rest of the people buried in the cemetery also suffered from the disease. “This contradicts previous evidence we have that leprosy was an ‘umbrella term’ for other conditions,” Roffey explained. It had been thought that leprosy spread through Europe with the Crusades, but archaeological evidence suggests that the Winchester hospital was founded before the Crusades began. Roffey and his team suggest that pilgrims may have contracted the disease in crowded churches and spread it to others through their travels. For more, go to “Diagnosis of Ancient Illness.”

Categories: Blog

Update on 2,600-Year-Old Celtic Grave Discovered in Germany

January 27, 2017

BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG, GERMANY—Scientists have continued to excavate a burial chamber removed in an 88-ton soil block from the Heuneburg hill fort in 2005, according to a report in Live Science. State archaeologist Dirk Krausse said the waterlogged grave contained the remains of an elite Celtic woman who died in 583 B.C.—a date determined through study of the tree rings of the planks of the chamber floor. Among the artifacts were a petrified sea urchin and an ammonite, suggesting that the woman was “a kind of priestess,” according to Krausse. Other items include gold, bronze, and amber jewelry, and poorly preserved textiles and furs. A computed tomography scan of a bronze sheet at the feet of a second woman in the tomb revealed traces of an iron horse bit. The bronze sheet may have been another piece of horse gear worn over the forehead. An ornament made of boars’ tusks and bronze pendants that would have jingled when worn on a horse’s chest was also recovered. The style of the jewelry resembles artifacts found in cultures to the south of the Alps, and suggests that there had been more trade between the two regions than had been previously thought. To read about another discovery in Germany, go to “World’s Oldest Pretzels.”

Categories: Blog

Cambridge Cemetery Yield’s Friars’ Medieval Bones

January 27, 2017

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that more than 25 skeletons have been uncovered in a section of the University of Cambridge including many of its science departments. The site had been home to an Augustinian friary that was founded in 1290. “They come in, they set up their friary and mark off an area as a cemetery and they start burying people in nice, neat rows,” said site director Craig Cessford of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit. After 100 to 150 years, the cemetery was full, and the friars reused the land multiple times in subsequent years, according to Cessford, until the friary was dissolved under Henry VIII in 1538. Later development on the site disturbed the bones, which are now being collected and processed for study by osteoarchaeologists. The excavation team expects to recover the remains of as many as 40 people from the cemetery before redevelopment of the site can begin. To read about a “magic shoe” that was discovered at the University of Cambridge, go to “Artifact.”

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