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Coptic Christian Tombstone Unearthed in Luxor

October 24, 2017

LUXOR, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a tombstone carved with a cross and Christian texts written in Coptic was uncovered during restoration of the area known as the Avenue of Sphinxes, built by the 30th Dynasty king Nectanebo I, who ruled from 380 to 362 B.C. According to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, the site has long been a place of religious significance. In antiquity, the approximately 1.5-mile-long, sphinx-lined avenue was the site of a procession of priests, royalty, and devotees from Karnak Temple to Luxor Temple during the annual Festival of Opet, which celebrated the gods Amun, Mut, and their son, Khonsu. Christianity is thought to have arrived in Egypt in the first century A.D. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

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Virtual Reality Project Documents World War II–Era Ship

October 21, 2017

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND—Live Science reports that a 3-D model of the British freighter SS Thistlegorm has been created by divers and archaeologists from the University of Nottingham and Alexandria University. The merchant ship was sunk in 1941 by German bombers while carrying Allied war supplies, such as tanks, train engines, trucks, and motorcycles to Alexandria, Egypt. The wreckage has since become a popular dive spot in the Red Sea, and has been damaged by dive-boat anchors and looters. “What we hope this website will do is help to monitor what is going on,” said marine archaeologist Jon Henderson of the University of Nottingham. “One of the basic things for finding out how sites have been damaged is to carry out a baseline survey such as this, and then we can start to chart changes over time.” The Thistlegorm Project will also allow non-divers to explore the wreckage. To read about exploration of another shipwreck, go to “All Hands on Deck.”

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Excavation of Thouria’s Theater Continues

October 21, 2017

KALAMATA CITY, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, structures have been uncovered in the theater discovered last year in the ancient city of Thouria. The team members found the theater’s orchestra, and its stage, equipped with three parallel grooves which may have guided movable stage wheels. They also uncovered several rows of seats, and architectural details that may have fallen from overhead stands. Many of the theater’s seats are intact. For more, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

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Bronze Age Structures Unearthed on Greek Island of Thirassia

October 21, 2017

SANTORINI, GREECE—Newsweek reports that archaeologists from Ionian University, the University of Crete, and the Cycladic Antiquities Bureau have found Bronze Age stone structures linked by a series of stone platforms on Thirassia, one of the Santorini islands. The many buildings, constructed in various designs on terraces dug into steep slopes, suggest a large population lived at the site. One of the structures, an oval-shaped building, may have been a monument or temple. The site is thought to have been abandoned before it was covered by layers of lava and volcanic ash during the volcanic eruption on the island of Thera in the mid-second millennium B.C. The excavation team also recovered pottery, polished stone tools, crushing implements, and large storage vessels, in addition to bones, shells, and pieces of wood. For more, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

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New York Repatriates Caligula’s Marble Mosaic to Italy

October 21, 2017

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK—According to a report in NBC News, a four-foot square piece of mosaic thought to have graced a ceremonial ship belonging to Emperor Caligula has been repatriated to Italy. The ships sailed Lake Nemi, which is located about 20 miles south of Rome, and served as a retreat for the emperor during his reign from A.D. 37 to 41. The “floating palaces” were sunk after he was assassinated. In the 1930s, Mussolini drained the lake, and many of the artifacts, including the marble flooring from the ships, were moved to a museum, which was damaged during World War II. Italian authorities believe the flooring was looted from the museum after the war. The mosaic had been held in private hands in New York for the more than 45 years. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

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Storm Ophelia Uncovered 1,500-Year-Old Skeleton in Ireland

October 20, 2017

COUNTY WEXFORD, IRELAND—The Irish Post reports that people walking on the beach at Forlorn Point in southeast Ireland after Storm Ophelia discovered skeletal remains eroding from the soil. A forensic anthropologist thinks the bones could possibly date to the Iron Age. The remains have been removed from the site and are in the custody of the National Museum of Ireland. For more on archaeology in Ireland, go to “Samhain Revival.”

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Ancient Stone Walls Spotted in Satellite Images of Saudi Arabia

October 20, 2017

CRAWLEY, AUSTRALIA—David Kennedy of the University of Western Australia and his colleagues discovered nearly 400 low stone walls in west-central Saudi Arabia with satellite imagery, according to a report in Live Science. Most of the walls, which resemble field gates, had been built in the lava fields of Harrat Khaybar. Some were covered with lava flow, or were even placed on the sides of old lava domes. Kennedy said the smallest of the gates is about 43 feet long, while the longest is about 1,700 feet long. Some of the structures are rectangular-shaped, while others are “I” shaped, or have one stone wall with piles of stones at each end. The gate-like structures may be about 7,000 years old, and are thought to be older than other stone structures in the lava fields, such as those known as kites, which are thought to have been used in hunting. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Expanding the Story.”

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Army Training Base Yields 1980s Ammunition

October 20, 2017

FORT MCCOY, WISCONSIN—Archaeologists investigating the Army training center at Fort McCoy uncovered more than 30 .30-caliber blank cartridges and metal ammunition belt links, according to a report from the Westby Times. The cartridges were stamped with the identification “LC 81,” which indicates they had been manufactured in 1981 at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri. Markings were also found on the belt links, which were shipped with the blank cartridges for use with the M60 machine gun. To read about another discovery involving ammunition, go to “Fact-Checking Lawrence of Arabia.”

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Genome of 40,000-Year-Old "Tianyuan Man" Analyzed

October 19, 2017

BEIJING, CHINA—According to a report in Science Magazine, scientists led by Qiaomei Fu of the Molecular Paleontology Lab at the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology examined genome material extracted from the thighbone of a 40,000-year-old skeleton discovered in China’s Tianyuan Cave. The study indicates that “Tianyuan Man” was a modern human carrying only four to five percent of his DNA from Neanderthals, and no detectable DNA inherited from the Denisovans. It had originally been thought that Tianyuan Man was the offspring of a Neanderthal and a modern human. Tianyuan Man was found to share DNA with a person whose 35,000-year-old remains were discovered in Belgium’s Goyet Caves. The study indicates that about nine to 15 percent of the DNA of the Karitiana and Sururi peoples of Brazil and the Chane people of northern Argentina and southern Bolivia came from an ancestor also shared by Tianyuan Man, making them distant cousins. But this ancestor was not common to Native Americans living in North America, thus suggesting there were two different source populations for Native Americans. For more, go to “Decoding Neanderthal Genetics.”

Categories: Blog

An Update From Canada’s Old Parliament

October 19, 2017

MONTREAL, CANADA—Excavators have uncovered two nineteenth-century copper alloy stamps at the site of the old Parliament of the United Province of Canada, according to a report in The Star. The building was destroyed by fire during a riot on April 25, 1849. The stamps, which would have usually been kept in the Parliament’s archives, were found in areas corresponding to the office of the clerk of the legislative assembly, and the legislative council library. “The fact that it was a quick and violent fire resulted in them being left on site and rediscovered more than a century-and-a-half later,” said Louise Pothier of Montreal’s Pointe-à-Callière Museum. The fire also destroyed the two parliamentary libraries and documents dating back to the beginning of French colonization of Canada. The excavators recovered about 30 charred document fragments in one of the libraries. Scientists at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa determined the pages were minutes of the lower chamber of France’s parliament dating to 1830. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to “Discovering Terror.”

Categories: Blog

2,000-Year-Old Children’s Graves Discovered in Northern China

October 19, 2017

SHIJIANZHUANG, CHINA—According to a Xinhua News Agency report, the burials of more than 100 children and just six adults have been unearthed in a 2,000-year-old cemetery in northern China’s Hebei Province. Located near the ancient city of Fudi, the cemetery could contain as many as 700 more burials. Zhang Baogang of the Huanghua City Museum said the children had been buried in pottery urns made from local clay containing sea shells. Skulls and foot bones have been found in smaller pots, while other parts of the body have been found in larger pots, he added. Many of the children appear to have been only two to three years old at the time of death, but samples of the bones and teeth will be tested for information on their age and sex. Archaeologist Li Jun of Shanxi University suggested the many children may have been gathered together for a specific purpose, and were perhaps sacrificed, died in a plague, or worked to death. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Tomb Couture.”

Categories: Blog

Sculpture of Queen Ankhnespepy II Unearthed at Saqqara

October 19, 2017

GIZA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a wooden sculpture, thought to represent the head of Queen Ankhnespepy II, has been discovered near her pyramid at Saqqara. Ankhnespepy II ruled during the 6th Dynasty as regent for her young son after the death of Pepy I, around 2350 B.C. The sculpture measures about a foot long, retains traces of paint, and shows the queen wearing earrings. Earlier this month, the Egyptian-Swiss excavation team recovered the upper part of a granite obelisk that may have been part of the queen’s funerary temple, in addition to a pyramidion, or the capstone for a pyramid. “It is a promising area that could reveal more of its secrets soon,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. For more, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

Categories: Blog

Climate May Have Contributed to the Fall of Egyptian Dynasty

October 18, 2017

DUBLIN, IRELAND—According to a report in The Guardian, an analysis of environmental records and historic documents suggests a volcanic eruption may have contributed to the Roman victory over Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 30 B.C. Egypt’s defeat has long been blamed on the shortcomings of the 300-year-long Ptolemaic dynasty, including infighting, decadence, and incest. But ice core data, Islamic records of water levels in the Nile River, and ancient Egyptian histories written on papyrus suggest a volcanic eruption somewhere in the world in 44 B.C. may have disrupted the annual flooding of the Nile and triggered famine, plague, and social unrest. Historian Joe Manning of Yale University and climate historian Francis Ludlow of Trinity College Dublin say failure of the Nile floodwaters, and the resulting social stresses, could have weakened Cleopatra’s power and left her reign vulnerable to the Romans. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Missing Jewelry Box Piece Found at Viking Fortress

October 18, 2017

KØGE, DENMARK—A small silver artifact has been uncovered at Borgring, a Viking fortress in eastern Denmark. According to a report in Science Nordic, the object resembles one of the three parts known to be missing from an elaborate box brooch discovered in a Viking woman’s grave at the Fyrkat fortress in Hobro, which is located to the north of Borgring. “It will be incredible if this fitting is connected with the find from Fyrkat,” said Jeanette Varberg of the Moesgaard Museum. “If this really is where it comes from then it’s like finding a needle in the ocean.” The woman in the grave at Fyrkat is thought to have been a high-status shaman or sorceress. Analysis of her “well-used and highly treasured” box suggests it held white lead, which appears to have been used as a sealant to waterproof the box. Perhaps she traveled between the two castles, which are both thought to have been built by Harald Bluetooth, who was king of Denmark between A.D. 958 and 987. Analysis of the metal could offer more information on the origins of the two pieces. For more, go to “Bluetooth's Fortress.”

Categories: Blog

Bronze Age Toys Recovered in Southeastern Turkey

October 18, 2017

SANLIURFA, TURKEY—The International Business Times reports that 5,000-year-old toys have been discovered in one of the 120 tombs in the necropolis at the ancient religious center of Sogmatar, which was dedicated to Sin, the god of the moon. Excavation leader Celal Uludag said the first toy, found in a child’s grave, is an earthenware horse carriage with four wheels. The front of the vehicle was decorated with incised lines. Uludag thinks it was made for the children of the city’s ruler or administrators. The second toy from the tomb is a rattle with a bird motif. All of the tombs in the necropolis were situated around a large, central mound. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “The Price of a Warship.”

Categories: Blog

Pacopampa Skeletons Bear Healed Injuries

October 17, 2017

KANAGAWA PREFECTURE, JAPAN—According to a report in The Asahi Shimbun, archaeologists have found evidence of brutal injuries on skeletons dating from between the thirteenth and sixth centuries B.C. at Peru’s ceremonial center of Pacopampa. Tomohito Nagaoka of St. Marianna University School of Medicine said the remains of seven of the 104 individuals uncovered by the joint Peruvian-Japanese excavation team bore evidence of severe injuries, including fractures to the skull, facial features, and limbs, and a dislocated elbow joint. The bodies lacked signs of defensive wounds, and they were recovered in ceremonial areas of Pacopampa. Some of the traumatic injuries had healed, and no signs of malnutrition was found in the bones. All of the injured were aged 35 or older. Yuji Seki, head of the investigation, speculates that elite groups living at Pacopampa may have fought each other to ward off disaster and pray for good harvests. “These elite groups, such as oracles, might have repeatedly taken part in combat by throwing stones and using clubs,” Seki said. For more on archaeology in Peru, go to “Painted Worlds.”

Categories: Blog

Three-Kingdoms Period Statue Found in South Korea

October 17, 2017

GANGWON PROVINCE, SOUTH KOREA—The Korea Joongang Daily reports that a gilt-bronze statue thought to date to the sixth century A.D. has been recovered in the northern corner of the Three-story Stone Pagoda at Jinjeon Temple. The statue measures about three and a half inches tall, and depicts a Buddha triad, or two Hyupsi bodhisattvas on either side of an Avolokitesvara bodhisattva, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. The figures’ facial expressions and the patterns on their garments are well preserved. The engraving also depicts the light emanating from the Avolokitesvara’s head and body. To read about another recent discovery in South Korea, go to “Doll Story.”

Categories: Blog

Ramses II Temple Uncovered in Abusir Necropolis

October 17, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a temple dedicated to Ramses II has been uncovered in the Abusir necropolis by a team of Egyptian and Czech archaeologists. Archaeologist Mohamed Megahed said the temple, which measured about 170 feet long by 100 feet wide, had a large forecourt and was flanked by storage buildings. At least some of the mudbrick walls enclosing the court had been painted blue. The side walls were lined with stone columns. An elevated three-chambered sanctuary was accessed by a ramp or staircase located at the rear of the court. “The remains of this building, which constitutes the very core of the complex, were covered with huge deposits of sand and chips of stone of which many bore fragments of polychrome reliefs,” said Mirsolave Barta, director of the Czech mission. Two engravings—one of the different titles of Ramses II, and the other relating to the cult of solar deities such as Re, Amun, and Nekhbet—were also found. For more, go to “Egypt’s Final Redoubt in Canaan.”

Categories: Blog

Roman-Period Structure Found Near Jerusalem’s Western Wall

October 16, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Reuters reports that Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists have exposed eight courses of stone wall in the Western Wall Tunnels, some 26 feet below the surface of the Old City. The excavation has also uncovered an unfinished, theater-like structure dated to the Late Roman period with pottery and coins. (The results of radiocarbon testing are expected in a few months.) Such a theater was mentioned by Josephus Flavius and other ancient sources. The structure was found under Wilson’s Arch, one of a series of arches that supported a passageway to the Temple Mount, and may have been intended for musical performances or city council meetings. “This is the first time that a theater-like structure has been exposed in Jerusalem, so it’s extremely exciting,” said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Joe Uziel. The theater and the area around the arch were covered with dirt and debris after an earthquake around A.D. 360. For more on archaeology in Israel, go to “Reading Invisible Messages.”

Categories: Blog

Stone Adze Unearthed in New Zealand

October 14, 2017

WAIKANAE, NEW ZEALAND—Stuff.co.nz reports that a Maori adze made of Nelson argillite was unearthed at a golf course construction site near the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Human remains, and shell middens dated to the sixteenth century, have been uncovered in the area in the past. Archaeologist Andy Dodd said the cutting tool was recovered from disturbed earth and would be impossible to date accurately. “However, stone tools such as adzes were readily replaced with metal tools when these became available,” he said. For more, go to “World Roundup: New Zealand.”

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