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7,000-Year-Old Dwelling Unearthed in Iran

December 29, 2017

TEHRAN, IRAN—The Tehran Times reports that dwellings at Nadali-Beig Hill in western Iran are estimated to be 7,000 years old. According to archaeologist Hannan Bahranipour, several stages of construction have been uncovered, in addition to pottery. The excavation team will continue to study the site’s architecture, which is threatened by a dam on the nearby Jamishan River. For more on archaeology in Iran, go to “The Price of Plunder.”

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Large Fortress Uncovered on the Nile Delta

December 29, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to an ANSAmed report, a wall measuring about 70 feet long and 26 feet tall has been uncovered in Wadi Tumilat, at the site of the Canal of the Pharaohs, by a team led by Giuseppina Capriotti Vittozzi of the Italian Archaeological Center in Cairo. In antiquity, the canal linked the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. The newly unearthed wall was attached to a fortress, which Vittozzi described as “a different defensive structure of gigantic proportions.” The fortress and the city it protected were on the ancient route that connected Egypt to Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Underneath the fortress, the researchers have found evidence of an earlier Hyksos settlement. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing,” one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

 

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Researchers Investigate Underwater Pottery Site in Japan

December 28, 2017

KYOTO, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that researchers led by Kenichi Yano of Ritsumeikan University investigated the Tsuzuraozaki Kotei Iseki archaeological site, which is located under more than 200 feet of water in Lake Biwako, with an underwater robot. The site is known for containing a wide variety of pottery dating from as early as 8000 B.C. to the twelfth century A.D., and may have served as a dumping ground. The researchers spotted a Haji pottery urn, measuring about a foot long and dating to the sixth to eighth century A.D., and shallow, grayish-black bowls thought to be Sue pottery, made in Japan and southern Korea for funeral and ritual use beginning in the fifth century A.D. Strong currents in the lake are thought to have kept the pieces free from silt. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

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2,000-Year-Old Chinese Medical Texts Analyzed

December 28, 2017

CHANGSHA, CHINA—Xinhua reports that medical texts written more than 2,000 years ago, found on 48 of the more than 35,000 wooden slips discovered in a well in central China in 2002, have been analyzed by scholars. The texts on some of the slips recorded the command of Qin Shihuang, the country’s first emperor, to launch a nationwide search for an elixir of life, and replies from local governments and remote villages. For example, the village of Duxiang had not yet found a miraculous potion, but it reported that it would continue to search for one, while the people of Langya, located near the sea, handed over herbs collected from a local mountain. “It required a highly efficient administration and strong executive force to pass down a government decree in ancient times when transportation and communication facilities were undeveloped,” explained Zhang Chunlong of Hunan’s Provincial Institute of Archaeology. Medical texts on other slips recorded treatments such as acupuncture, oral medicines, and topical therapies administered in most cases to members of the upper class, under the direction of the government. For more on early Chinese history, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

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Thousands of Stained Glass Shards Found at Westminster Abbey

December 28, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND—Researchers led by archaeologist Warwick Rodwell have sifted through layers of dust and soot up to five feet deep in the cone-shaped pits on the upper sides of Westminster Abbey’s vaulted ceiling, according to a report in The Guardian. The debris accumulated for a period of 750 years, and large objects were sealed under the floors added to the space by Sir Christopher Wren some 300 years ago. The team members recovered buttons, coins, animal bones from workers’ lunches, a seventeenth-century tobacco wrapper, a medieval leather knife sheath, a fifteenth-century wood and leather overshoe, and invitations to the coronation of Queen Anne in 1702. They also found 30,000 fragments of stained glass dating back to the thirteenth century. The pieces of glass, which bear images of stars, flowers, sun rays, animals, and faces, were cleaned, sorted, and photographed at the stained glass studio at Canterbury Cathedral, where they are also being reassembled when possible, and prepared for display in slotted glass panels. “It has been the best jigsaw puzzle in the world,” said researcher Laura Atkinson. The attic space at Westminster Abbey will be transformed into a museum space accessed through a new tower, where the panels will be installed as windows. For more on archaeology at Westminster Abbey, go to “Built upon Bones.”

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Singapore’s World War II–Era Fortifications Explored

December 27, 2017

SINGAPORE—A new archaeological project focused on the island of Ubin in northeast Singapore aims to solve a mystery regarding its role in a twentieth-century fortification system, according to a report from The Straits Times. A battery on the island’s north shore was built in the late 1930s to defend the Strait of Johor against enemy ships and was meant to hold guns able to shoot 70 rounds per minute. There is no evidence, however, that guns were ever mounted on the emplacements, and archaeologists hope their survey will shed light on why that is. “One school of thought is that (the British) ran out of money,” said Lim Chen Sian, a fellow at the Yusof Ishak Institute. It is also possible that the survey will find evidence that the battery was armed. “If guns were mounted here, they would have had gunners manning the fort, and there would be a lot of debris—soldiers would be drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, eating and throwing trash,” said Lim. “If we can find that, the entire assemblage of artifacts would suggest this place has been used.” For more, go to “Letter From Singapore: The Lion City’s Glorious Past.”

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Catholic Burial Puzzles Archaeologists in England

December 27, 2017

ST. ALBANS, ENGLAND—According to BBC News, archaeologists have made a puzzling discovery in the churchyard of St. Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire: the body of a child with what appear to be rosary beads wrapped around the hand. The presence of rosary beads is indicative of a Catholic burial, but the cemetery is thought to have belonged to the Church of England. Historical records suggest that around 170 people were buried in the churchyard between 1750 and 1850. The Canterbury Archaeological Trust has been excavating the site for several months ahead of construction of a new visitor center, and the child’s burial with the beads is the only one among 80 graves to have any artifacts associated with it. According to site director Ross Lane, there are several possible explanations for the incongruous burial. “It could be an earlier burial,” he said, “or it could be that this was a visitor to St. Albans from further afield and they’ve just been caught in an epidemic and buried.” To read in-depth about a nineteenth-century cemetery in England, go to “Haunt of the Resurrection Men.”

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Evidence of Roman Army Camp Uncovered in Israel

December 27, 2017

 

MEGIDDO, ISRAEL—Further evidence of a major 2nd to 3rd century Roman military encampment has been uncovered at the site of Legio, near Tel Megiddo in northern Israel, according to a report from Haaretz. The camp was the base of the Sixth Legion, which helped secure Rome’s hold over the area and was likely involved in putting down Jewish uprisings, such as the Bar Kokhba Revolt from A.D. 132 to 135. This year, a monumental gate to the camp’s headquarters along with a stone mark and dedicatory inscription were discovered. The inscription is badly damaged, said Yotam Tepper of Haifa University, and is undergoing investigation. It may have marked the headquarters’ construction, listed the names of camp commanders, or celebrated heroes of the Sixth Legion. Also found, in the camp’s latrines, were more than 200 Roman coins dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries. And, a Roman cooking pot containing the cremated remains of a person, possibly a soldier, was uncovered in a manmade cave. To read more about the Roman presence in Israel, go to “Front Row Seats.”

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Ancient Turkish Monument Discovered in Mongolia

December 23, 2017

OSAKA, JAPAN—In eastern Mongolia, archaeologists led by Takashi Osawa of Osaka University have uncovered a mid-eighth-century tomb surrounded by 14 stone pillars, according to a report in the International Business Times. Turkic runes inscribed on the pillars indicate the deceased was a viceroy and high-ranking administrative officer during the Second Turkic Qaghanate. It had been previously thought that Turkic elites were only buried in particular parts of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of the ancient empire. The researchers think the inscriptions and the monument will offer new information on power relationships between rulers in the region as well as their religious ideas. For more, go to “In Search of History's Greatest Rulers: Genghis Khan, Founder of the Mongol EmpireGenghis Khan, Founder of the Mongol Empire.”

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Network of Military Defenses Found in Central Syria

December 23, 2017

PARIS, FRANCE—International Business Times reports that researchers from the University of Lyon and the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria have spotted a 4,000-year-old network of military structures in northern Syria on satellite images. The fortresses and towers were detected within a search area of 4,000 square miles. Some were constructed alongside a mountain ridge, and the network is thought to have been designed in general to protect urban areas and trade routes during the Bronze Age. Built with giant, unfinished blocks of basalt, the buildings stood within sight of each other so that soldiers would have been able to communicate with smoke signals. For more, go to “Bronze Age Bling.”

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3-D Models Made of Easter Island “Hats”

December 22, 2017

BINGHAMTON, NEW YORK—A team of researchers led by Carl Lipo of Binghamton University created 3-D models of 70 pukao, the hat-like sculptures found on Easter Island, according to an Laboratory Equipment report. Lipo said the computer models revealed previously unknown inscriptions and drawings carved into the red scoria. He thinks the construction of pukao and moai, the statues that sometimes wore the red headgear, required Rapa Nui communities to share information and resources. For more, go to “World Roundup.”

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Ancient Face Image Discovered in Northern Japan

December 22, 2017

KIKONAI, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that a piece of stone painted with a human face some 4,300 years ago has been found at the former location of a pit house at a Jomon Pottery Culture site on the southern edge of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost major island. The stone, which had been flattened and shaped into a triangle, measures about four inches per side. Yasushi Kosugi of Hokkaido University explained that the face image consists of lines forming a nose and eyebrows, oval eyes, and an open, oval mouth. “The find is extremely precious in that it could help ascertain what the spiritual culture in the mid-Jomon period was like,” he said. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Categories: Blog

“Operation Zeus” Recovers Thousands of Artifacts

December 22, 2017

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—According to a Reuters report, Turkish police have recovered more than 25,000 looted artifacts in a sting dubbed “Operation Zeus.” The artifacts include items from Anatolia, Greece, and Egypt, such as a golden crown bearing an inscription to the Greek god Helios, a bust dedicated to Alexander the Great’s conquest of India, a 3,000-year-old statue of a Hittite goddess, and Phoenician teardrop vials. A total of 13 people have been detained across the country in connection to the smuggling ring. To read about a curious discovery made in Turkey, go to “Let a Turtle Be Your Psychopomp.”

Categories: Blog

World War I Submarine Found Near Papua New Guinea

December 22, 2017

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA—The wreckage of HMAS AE-1, the Royal Australian Navy’s first submarine, has been found off the coast of Papua New Guinea, according to a Sky News report. The vessel vanished on September 14, 1914, for unknown reasons, sometime after making contact with another Australian ship at 2:30 p.m. that day. The only known German vessel in the region had been a small survey ship, so it has been assumed the submarine was not destroyed by enemy action. All 35 crew members, including sailors from Australia, Britain, and New Zealand, were lost. To read about the legendary World War I battlefield at Gallipoli, go to “Letter From Turkey: Anzac's Next Chapter.”

Categories: Blog

Byzantine-Era Monastery Uncovered in Central Israel

December 21, 2017

JERUSALEM--A 1,500-year-old monastery has been found in central Israel, at the site of Beit Shemesh, according to a Haaretz report. The well-preserved building had been decorated with mosaic floors, including a floor graced with images of birds, leaves, and pomegranates in one room. A marble pillar base and other artifacts made of marble imported from Turkey were recovered. The complex is thought to have served as a pilgrimage site until it was abandoned in the seventh century. For more, go to “Sunken Byzantine Basilica.”

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Menorah Found on Reused Stone in Tiberias

December 21, 2017

JERUSALEM—According to a Fox News report, a basalt tomb door carved with an image of a seven-branched menorah was discovered in the ancient city of Tiberias in 2010. The door, thought to date to the second to fourth centuries, had been reused in the construction of a seventh-century building. Excavation director Katia Cytryn-Silverman of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University explained that the tomb door was probably brought to the site from the Jewish cemetery to the north of the city of Tiberias, when the Umayyads remodeled a mosque that once stood there. After the mosque was destroyed by an earthquake in 1068, the site was used for sugar production by the Knights Hospitaller. To read about the discovery of another item with an image of a menorah, go to “Byzantine Riches.”

Categories: Blog

16th-Century Turkey Bones Indentified in Southwestern England

December 21, 2017

EXETER, ENGLAND—Zooarchaeologist Alan Outram and colleagues at the University of Exeter say they have found the butchered bones of what may have been one of the first turkeys to arrive in England from the Americas. According to a report in The Plymouth Herald, the two leg bones and one wing bone were recovered from a construction site in Exeter in 1983, but were not identified at the time as turkey bones. The researchers dated the turkey remains to between 1520 and 1550 based on the pottery found lying beside the bones. Some of pottery had been imported from Spain, Germany, and Italy. The remains of a calf, chickens, sheep, and at least one goose were also found. Historical records indicate that William Strickland, a member of Parliament who traveled to the Americas, brought six of the birds back to southwestern England in 1524 or 1526. The first birds were likely kept by the elite as a display of wealth, but they became a popular meal by the 1570s, and were eventually driven to London like cattle in the seventeenth century. To read about the development of the modern chicken, go to “Fast Food.”

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Granary Discovered in Eastern China

December 21, 2017

HANGZHOU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that a 5,000-year-old stockpile of carbonized, unhusked rice was unearthed at the Neolithic site of Liangzhu City in eastern China. The pile covered more than an acre and measured nearly two feet thick, weighing in at about 110 tons. Liu Bin of the Zhejiang Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology said the stored grain suggests the people of Liangzhu had developed a system of paddy agriculture. A water conservation system was discovered at the site in 2015. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Wari Temple Unearthed in Peru

December 20, 2017

CUSCO, PERU—Andina reports that a D-shaped temple with massive stone walls has been discovered at the Espiritu Pampa archaeological site by a team of researchers led by archaeologist Javier Fonseca. A smaller D-shaped structure within the temple may have been used as an astronomical observatory. The building is thought to have been constructed by the people of the Wari culture for religious rituals. Fragments of animal teeth, Wari-style ceramics, a silver chest plate, and a crown or headdress were also found in the temple. One of the vessels had been decorated with human-like features on its neck, which was topped with a crown-like painting. The vessel could suggest elite government figures were housed in the area. For more, go to “A Wari Matriarchy?

Categories: Blog

Medieval College Buildings Virtually Re-created

December 20, 2017

ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND—Historic buildings at the University of St. Andrews that date to 1450 have been digitally recreated to appear as they did some five centuries ago, according to a report in The Scotsman. The recreation has been timed to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. St Salvator’s Quad and Chapel were selected for representation in the first phase of the project because Patrick Hamilton, a theologian, was burned at the stake there in 1528 for supporting the ideas of Christian reformer Martin Luther. Yet in 1559, St. Andrews town officials officially rejected Catholicism and transformed local religious buildings to reflect the change in theology. The medieval college buildings were altered again in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To read about a recent discovery in Scotland, go to “Fit for a Saint.”

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