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Roman-Era Necklace Discovered in Bulgaria

August 30, 2017

PETRICH, BULGARIA—The Sofia Globe reports that a well-preserved gold necklace has been discovered in an ancient shop at the site of Heraclea Sintica. The city was founded in the fourth century B.C., on the site of a Thracian settlement, and was destroyed by an earthquake in the fourth century A.D. The necklace is thought to have been imported from Rome in the fourth century A.D., and perhaps lost in the panic of the earthquake. No other gold objects were found in the shop. “If we were going to find a jewelry shop,” said Lyudmil Vagalinski of Bulgaria’s National Archaeological Museum, “we would find some other jewelry and there would have to be some other tools, but in this context, we find that it is a building from the end of the fourth century.” A lack of human remains at the site suggests the owner of the necklace survived the incident. For more, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

Categories: Blog

Large Building Foundations Found at Ancient Greek Port

August 29, 2017

SALAMIS, GREECE—The second phase of an underwater survey of the Classical-era coastline of the island of Salamis has revealed traces of what may have been a public building near its ancient port, according to a report in Tornos News. Aggeliki Simosi of the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate and the Institute of Underwater Archaeological Research and Yiannos Lolos of Ioannina University say the stone plinths indicate the large, solid structure was about 40 feet long. A spiral column pillar, pottery, and marble fragments of columns and statues were also found. In the late nineteenth century, an inscribed marble pedestal for a statue was recovered from the site. Scholars think the structure may have served as a temple or gallery through the late Roman period. The second-century A.D. geographer Pausanias mentioned a similar structure in his writings. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “Antikythera Man.”

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Cata Sands Site Yields Neolithic House, Whale Skeletons

August 29, 2017

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Scotsman, a well-preserved Neolithic house and the skeletons of 12 nineteenth-century whales in two large pits have been uncovered on the Orkney island of Sanday. An account dating to 1875 describes the practice of driving whales ashore at Cata Sands, where they were butchered for their blubber. The Neolithic house, complete with a hearth, internal partitions, and stone walls, rests on a base of rounded beach stones and a deep layer of sand and is thought to date to between 3400 and 3100 B.C. Pottery fragments, knives, a grinding stone, pieces of flint, and animal bones were also found. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “A Dangerous Island.

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Farmers’ Softer Foods May Have Changed Skull Shape

August 29, 2017

DAVIS, CALIFORNIA—The consumption of soft foods like cheese and other dairy products contributed to changes in the shape of the human skull, according to a report in The Telegraph. David Katz of the University of Calgary, Alberta, suggests that hunter-gatherers ate crunchy foods and gnawed meat off bones, which put stress on areas of the skull during chewing. Farmers, however, ate dairy products and grain mush, which reduced these chewing stresses. Katz and his team mapped points on more than 1,000 skulls of hunter-gatherers and farmers, and found that the temporalis muscle became smaller and changed position in the farmers’ skulls, while the upper jaws became shorter and the lower jaw became smaller. “Agriculture changed not only human culture and lifeways, but human biology as well,” he said. For more on early farmers, go to “The Neolithic Toolkit.”

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Shops Found Near Ancient City Center of Aspendos

August 28, 2017

ANKARA, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that shops and warehouses have been discovered near the center of the ancient city of Aspendos, located on the southwestern coast of Turkey. Archaeologist Veli Köse of Haceteppe University said valuable materials may have been sold and stored at the site, which he thinks also housed offices. The excavation has also recovered Hellenistic and Roman coins, a glass amphora, perfume bottles, bronze belt buckles, bone hair pins, jewelry, and nails. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

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Ming Dynasty Playwright’s Tomb Identified in China

August 28, 2017

NANCHANG, CHINA—The tomb of sixteenth-century playwright Tang Xianzu has been identified in a cluster of Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368‒1644) tombs in east China’s Jiangxi Province, according to a Xinhua report. Tang is remembered for four plays known as the Four Dreams, and his masterpiece, a romance called Peony Pavilion. The tomb is thought to hold the remains of Tang and his third wife, Fu. His second wife is also thought to have been buried in the cemetery. Several epitaphs found in the cemetery may have been written by Tang. “The epitaphs can help us learn more about the calligraphy, art, and literature in Tang’s time,” said Xu Changqing of the Jiangxi Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute. In addition, the discovery has yielded information about Tang’s life, his family relationships, and his ancestry. A monument to the playwright is planned for the site. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Tomb Couture.”

Categories: Blog

Monumental Chamber Tombs Discovered in Greece

August 28, 2017

NEMEA, GREECE—Tornos News reports that two chamber tombs have been discovered at the Mycenaean cemetery at Aedonia by a team led by Konstantine Kissas of the Corinth Antiquities Ephory and Kim Shelton of the University of California, Berkeley. One of the tombs, which had been looted in the 1970s, has been dated to between 1350 and 1200 B.C. The other tomb is thought to be a few hundred years older. Burials were found in three pits and on the floor of the second chamber. One of the pits measured more than 12 feet long, and had been covered with large stone slabs. It contained the remains of three people. A second pit contained two more burials, copper arrows, and five knives, two of which had handles decorated with fine gold leaves. Fragments of two piers, and monumental vases decorated with flowers, were found in the third pit. The burials on the floor were accompanied by simple vases and stone buttons. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

Categories: Blog

Gate Discovered at Medieval Castle in Slovakia

August 25, 2017

VINNÉ, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that Viniansky Castle’s main gate has been found. The ruined castle, located in eastern Slovakia, sat on a hill overlooking the trade route to Poland. “When we started our research six years ago, we had no gateway, now we have two of them,” said researcher Jaroslav Gorás. The newly discovered gate is thought to date to the thirteenth century, and is located in the oldest part of the small castle. But the second gate is located just 100 feet away, puzzling archaeologists. “It was a big investment, moreover, every extra opening in a castle wall was harder to keep from enemies,” said Peter Bednár of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. To read in-depth about excavations at the site of another castle, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.

Categories: Blog

Gate Discovered at Medieval Castle in Slovakia

August 25, 2017

VINNÉ, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that Viniansky Castle’s main gate has been found. The ruined castle, located in eastern Slovakia, sat on a hill overlooking the trade route to Poland. “When we started our research six years ago, we had no gateway, now we have two of them,” said researcher Jaroslav Gorás. The newly discovered gate is thought to date to the thirteenth century, and is located in the oldest part of the small castle. But the second gate is located just 100 feet away, puzzling archaeologists. “It was a big investment, moreover, every extra opening in a castle wall was harder to keep from enemies,” said Peter Bednár of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. To read in-depth about excavations at the site of another castle, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.

Categories: Blog

Possible Copper-Age Wine Found in Italy

August 25, 2017

TAMPA, FLORIDA—The International Business Times reports that traces of wine have been found in an unglazed, 5,000-year-old jar at Monte Kronio, an archaeological site located on the western coast of Sicily, by a team led by Davide Tanasi of the University of South Florida. The residue contained tartaric acid, which is a byproduct of wine fermentation, and a sodium salt connected to tartaric acid. It had been previously thought that winemaking began in Italy some 3,000 years ago, based upon the discovery of grape seeds. The researchers are now trying to determine whether the wine found in the current excavation was red or white. For more, go to “A Prehistoric Cocktail Party.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Copper-Age Wine Found in Italy

August 25, 2017

TAMPA, FLORIDA—The International Business Times reports that traces of wine have been found in an unglazed, 5,000-year-old jar at Monte Kronio, an archaeological site located on the western coast of Sicily, by a team led by Davide Tanasi of the University of South Florida. The residue contained tartaric acid, which is a byproduct of wine fermentation, and a sodium salt connected to tartaric acid. It had been previously thought that winemaking began in Italy some 3,000 years ago, based upon the discovery of grape seeds. The researchers are now trying to determine whether the wine found in the current excavation was red or white. For more, go to “A Prehistoric Cocktail Party.”

Categories: Blog

Graves of Indentured Laborers Found on Top of Pyramid in Peru

August 25, 2017

LIMA, PERU—According to a Reuters report, the remains of 16 indentured Chinese laborers have been unearthed at the top of the Bellavista huaca, or adobe pyramid, in Lima. Indentured workers were brought to Peru after 1854, when slavery was abolished. The people buried at the top of the adobe pyramid, which was built by the Ichma people some 1,000 years ago, are thought to have picked cotton on a nearby plantation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The site may have been chosen for the graves because Chinese laborers were usually excluded from Lima’s Catholic cemeteries. The bodies in the earliest burials had been wrapped in shrouds, while the bodies in the later burials had been placed in coffins and dressed in blue-green jackets. Archaeologist Roxana Gomez added that an opium pipe and a small ceramic vessel were found in one of the coffins. For more, go to “Letter From Peru: Connecting Two Realms.”

Categories: Blog

Graves of Indentured Laborers Found on Top of Pyramid in Peru

August 25, 2017

LIMA, PERU—According to a Reuters report, the remains of 16 indentured Chinese laborers have been unearthed at the top of the Bellavista huaca, or adobe pyramid, in Lima. Indentured workers were brought to Peru after 1854, when slavery was abolished. The people buried at the top of the adobe pyramid, which was built by the Ichma people some 1,000 years ago, are thought to have picked cotton on a nearby plantation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The site may have been chosen for the graves because Chinese laborers were usually excluded from Lima’s Catholic cemeteries. The bodies in the earliest burials had been wrapped in shrouds, while the bodies in the later burials had been placed in coffins and dressed in blue-green jackets. Archaeologist Roxana Gomez added that an opium pipe and a small ceramic vessel were found in one of the coffins. For more, go to “Letter From Peru: Connecting Two Realms.”

Categories: Blog

Babylonian Tablet Offers Accurate Trigonometric Table

August 25, 2017

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—A 3,700-year-old cuneiform tablet housed at Columbia University is inscribed with the world’s oldest and most accurate working trigonometric table, according to a report in The Guardian. Early twentieth-century scholars noted the Pythagorean triples on the tablet, but did not know how the numbers were used. Mathematicians Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger of the University of New South Wales say the calculations on Plimpton 322, as the Babylonian tablet is known, describe the shapes of right triangles based on ratios, whereas modern trigonometric tables are based upon measurements of angles and circles. Babylonian mathematicians used base 60 for their calculations, rather than base 10, which allowed for more accurate fractions. In addition, Mansfield and Wildberger explained that Plimpton 322 includes four columns and 15 rows of numbers, for a sequence of 15 right triangles decreasing in inclination. Based upon the mathematics, however, the broken table probably originally had six columns and 38 rows of numbers. The researchers think the large numbers on the table could have been used to survey land and calculate how to construct temples, palaces, and step pyramids. To read in-depth about cuneiform tablets, go to “The World's Oldest Writing.”

Categories: Blog

Babylonian Tablet Offers Accurate Trigonometric Table

August 25, 2017

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—A 3,700-year-old cuneiform tablet housed at Columbia University is inscribed with the world’s oldest and most accurate working trigonometric table, according to a report in The Guardian. Early twentieth-century scholars noted the Pythagorean triples on the tablet, but did not know how the numbers were used. Mathematicians Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger of the University of New South Wales say the calculations on Plimpton 322, as the Babylonian tablet is known, describe the shapes of right triangles based on ratios, whereas modern trigonometric tables are based upon measurements of angles and circles. Babylonian mathematicians used base 60 for their calculations, rather than base 10, which allowed for more accurate fractions. In addition, Mansfield and Wildberger explained that Plimpton 322 includes four columns and 15 rows of numbers, for a sequence of 15 right triangles decreasing in inclination. Based upon the mathematics, however, the broken table probably originally had six columns and 38 rows of numbers. The researchers think the large numbers on the table could have been used to survey land and calculate how to construct temples, palaces, and step pyramids. To read in-depth about cuneiform tablets, go to “The World's Oldest Writing.”

Categories: Blog

Roman Coin Hoard Unearthed in Cornwall

August 25, 2017

CORNWALL, ENGLAND—Cornwall Live reports that metal detecting enthusiasts discovered nearly 2,000 Roman coins in a freshly plowed field near the southwestern tip of England. The coins, which date to between A.D. 253 and 274, are thought to have been placed in a tin container with a handle and lead stopper, and buried in a stone-lined pit. Known as radiates, the coins were cast from bronze that included one percent silver. The two men who discovered the coins, Kyle Neil and Darren Troon, marked the area where they found the first few coins, and then alerted an archaeologist when they found a bunch of coins together in another area. They stayed to help with the excavation. “It was a day I don’t think we’ll ever forget,” Troon said. The coins are currently being studied at the Royal Cornwall Museum and the British Museum. To read about the discovery of thousands of Roman coins in England, go to “Seaton Down Hoard.”

Categories: Blog

Roman Coin Hoard Unearthed in Cornwall

August 25, 2017

CORNWALL, ENGLAND—Cornwall Live reports that metal detecting enthusiasts discovered nearly 2,000 Roman coins in a freshly plowed field near the southwestern tip of England. The coins, which date to between A.D. 253 and 274, are thought to have been placed in a tin container with a handle and lead stopper, and buried in a stone-lined pit. Known as radiates, the coins were cast from bronze that included one percent silver. The two men who discovered the coins, Kyle Neil and Darren Troon, marked the area where they found the first few coins, and then alerted an archaeologist when they found a bunch of coins together in another area. They stayed to help with the excavation. “It was a day I don’t think we’ll ever forget,” Troon said. The coins are currently being studied at the Royal Cornwall Museum and the British Museum. To read about the discovery of thousands of Roman coins in England, go to “Seaton Down Hoard.”

Categories: Blog

Clay Recipes for China’s Terracotta Warriors Studied

August 25, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—Three different clay recipes were used to construct the army of 7,000 terracotta warriors, bricks, and other figures in Emperor Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum, according to a report in Science News. Patrick Quinn of University College London and Chinese colleagues analyzed clay samples taken from different areas of the enormous tomb, which was built for China’s first emperor in the third century B.C. in northwest China. The objects in the study included 12 terracotta warriors, two acrobat statues, five clay bricks, fragments of clay recovered from inside three bronze waterfowl statues, and an earthen wall in the pit where the acrobat statues were unearthed. The researchers determined that all of the clay originated from deposits near the tomb, but the recipes for the different objects varied as to the amount of light and dark clays, sand, and plant fragments. Quinn and his colleagues think the appropriate mixtures may have been distributed to local workshops, where potters constructed the warrior statues and other items. Stamps and inscriptions on some of the objects indicate they may have been crafted at off-site factories, in collaboration with local potters. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on Historic City Walls in Tanzania

August 25, 2017

YORK, ENGLAND—According to a report in the International Business Times, Carol Lang of the University of York and her colleagues say the walls at Tanzania’s abandoned city of Engaruka served as part of an irrigation system. Founded some 700 years ago, Engaruka was home to an estimated 40,000 people. It had been thought that the city’s ten-foot-tall walls had been intended to control soil erosion, but Lang’s research suggests that as canals channeled water from river flooding into farmers’ fields, the walls trapped alluvial sediments, which enriched the soil over a period of hundreds of years. “We see the walls weren’t built in one stage,” Lang said. “When we excavate the site, these walls are revealed in their totality. But the people who engineered the irrigation system never actually saw these walls totally at all.” A reduction in the water supply, and climate change, are thought to have led to the abandonment of the city some 200 years ago. For more, go to “Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast.”

Categories: Blog

Civil War Sub’s Crew Probably Killed by Explosion’s Shockwave

August 24, 2017

CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA—According to a report in Nature News, Rachel Lance of Duke University suggests the sailors on board H.L. Hunley, the Confederate combat submarine which rammed USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor with a torpedo affixed to a spar, were killed by the shockwave of the explosion. The remains of the eight men were found at their hand-crank stations within the 40-foot-long vessel, and none of them had suffered broken bones. Lance and her team simulated explosive forces on a one-sixth scale model of the submarine submerged in a pond, and measured the pressure inside the vessel. They also tested the effect of authentic weapons on iron plate, the transmission of blast energy, and calculated rates of human respiration. The researchers concluded the force of the blast would have damaged the sailors’ lungs and brains, and either killed them or knocked them unconscious, leaving the submarine to drift out on the tide and slowly fill with water. For more, go to “History's Greatest Wrecks: USS Monitor and H.L. Hunley.”

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