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Medieval Copper Coins Unearthed in Northern India

September 15, 2018

NEW DELHI, INDIA—The Times of India reports that more than 250 copper coins dating to the sixteenth century A.D. were discovered near the entrance to the Khirki Mosque during conservation work undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India. The oldest coins were minted during the reign of Sher Shah Suri, who is also known as Sher Khan, between 1540 and 1545. The mosque, constructed in the fourteenth century in northern India, is thought to be one of seven built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, who converted from Hinduism to Islam. The building is known for its blend of Islamic and traditional Hindu architectural styles. To read about another recent discovery in Uttar Pradesh, go to “Indian Warrior Class.”

Categories: Blog

Gladiator Relief Discovered in Bulgaria

September 14, 2018

VELIKO TARNOVO, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a stone relief thought to date to the Severan Dynasty (A.D. 193-235) has been found in the ancient Roman city of Nicopolis ad Istrum, which is located in northern Bulgaria, by a team of archaeologists led by Ivan Tsarov of the Veliko Tarnovo Regional Museum of History. The rare image, discovered under the pavement in the southwestern corner of the city’s forum, depicts a type of gladiator known as a secutor, wearing a helmet and a shield and armed with a short sword, facing another type of gladiator called a retiarius, wearing an arm and a shoulder guard and carrying a trident, a dagger, and a net. Tsarov and his colleagues think the carved stone may have been part of a frieze that decorated a table where olive oil and grains were weighed, or part of a sacrificial altar associated with rituals performed before gladiatorial battles. The find is said to confirm three inscriptions mentioning gladiator fights that have been found in the city, even though an amphitheater has not been located. Tsarov thinks the battles may have been held in a wooden structure outside the city. To read about research on an area outside an amphitheater in present-day Austria where gladiatorial contests took place, go to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Categories: Blog

Humans May Have Arrived on Madagascar 10,000 Years Ago

September 14, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that the butchered bones of giant-sized elephant birds have been unearthed in Madagascar. Elephant birds are estimated to have stood about ten feet tall and weighed at least 1,000 pounds. The cut marks on the fossils suggest the birds had been butchered and eaten by humans some 10,000 years ago. James Hansford of the Zoological Society of London said the evidence pushes back the arrival of humans on the island by about 6,000 years, since it had been previously thought that humans first arrived on the island of Madagascar between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago. Elephant birds, which died out about 1,000 years ago, may have coexisted with humans for more than 9,000 years, but scientists do not yet know who the people who first arrived on Madagascar were or from where they originated. To read about earlier attempts to determine where Madagascar's settlers came from, go to “World Roundup.”

Categories: Blog

Viking City Excavated in Denmark

September 14, 2018

RIBE, DENMARK—Science Nordic reports that archaeologists from Aarhus University and the Museum of Southwest Jutland excavated and undertook 3-D laser surveys of the remains of the Viking seafaring and trading city of Ribe. The oldest layers of the settlement are well preserved, and are expected to help researchers understand how the city and its trade networks developed, beginning in the early eighth century A.D. By the ninth century A.D., raw materials were carried by ship to the city, where ironsmiths, amber workers, leather workers, comb makers, and jewelers practiced their crafts. The recovered artifacts include beads, amulets, coins, combs, dog excrement, gnawed bones, and a piece of a lyre, which still had its tuning pegs. For more on archaeology of the Vikings in Denmark, go to “Bluetooth's Fortress.”

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Bone Analysis Suggests the Maya Caged Big Cats

September 13, 2018

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA—Live Science reports that some of the pumas and jaguars slaughtered and buried at the Maya site of Copán as early as the fifth-century A.D. may have been raised in captivity. Nawa Sugiyama of George Mason University and her colleagues analyzed isotopes in the bones and teeth of big cats whose remains were uncovered in five ritual sites in the ancient city. Some of the bones had high levels of C4, a molecule common in agricultural plants, which suggests the cats were fed animals that ate plants raised by humans, and hence that the cats lived in captivity. Other big cat bones had high levels of C3, a molecule found in wild plants, which suggests these animals were killed in the wild. The remains of animals such as deer, owls, spoonbills, and crocodiles were tested as well. Isotope analysis suggests some of these animals originated in distant regions of the Copán Valley. Sugiyama said the Maya practice of trading wild and captured animals for ritual purposes may have been more extensive than previously thought. For more on the Maya, go to “The City at the Beginning of the World.”

Categories: Blog

Hundreds of Neolithic Pots Unearthed in Scotland

September 13, 2018

CLACKMANNAN, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that pieces of more than 200 pots spanning a period of more than 2,000 years were discovered on farmland in Scotland’s narrow “waist” by a team from Headland Archaeology. The oldest pieces are about 6,000 years old. Many of the pots had been used for cooking and eating by Neolithic farmers, and are thought to have held yogurt, butter, cheese, roasted hazelnuts, and toasted barley. The presence of crushed quartz dolerite in the material making up the vessels indicates they could have been made locally. To read in-depth about excavations in Scotland's Orkney archipelago, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

Categories: Blog

Evidence of 13,000-Year-Old Beer Found in Israel

September 13, 2018

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA—According to a report in The Times of Israel, evidence of beer brewing by the Natufians has been found on stone mortars dating to between 11,700 and 13,700 years ago. The mortars were found in northern Israel, near Raqefet Cave. Evidence of bread baked by the Natufians between 11,600 and 14,600 years ago was recently found in northeastern Jordan. The researchers, led by Li Liu of Stanford University, said they cannot be sure which of the two foodstuffs is older, but both the beer and the bread were probably used for feasting, and predate the known production of domesticated grains in the Levant by about 4,000 years. Analysis of the residues on the mortars suggest the beer was made with seven different species of plants, including wheat or barley, oats, legumes, and bast fibers such as flax. The scientists think the Natufians first germinated the grain and produced malt, heated the mash, and then fermented it with wild yeast, resulting in a thin mash or gruel. For more, go to “A Prehistoric Cocktail Party.”

Categories: Blog

Scientists Date Ochre Pattern on South African Rock Fragment

September 13, 2018

BERGEN, NORWAY—An international team of researchers led by Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen have concluded that the red marks on a small stone fragment recovered from South Africa’s Blombos Cave were made by a human with a piece of ochre some 73,000 years ago, according to a report in The Guardian. Because the six thin lines crossed by three additional lines end abruptly at the edge of the stone, the scientists think they were part of a larger design on a grindstone cobble that helped process ochre rocks into powder used to make paint. Microscopic examination and experimental reproduction of the design revealed that some of narrow the lines had been made with single strokes of an ochre crayon, which must have been hard and pointed, while others were made with a rubbing motion. “When we reproduced the lines, you have to have a very firm hand and have to apply the ochre quite determinedly to make them look like that,” Henshilwood explained. Similar designs have been found in places across the world, including Australia, France, and Spain, he added, but archaeologists do not know what they might have meant to the people who made them. For more on early examples of artistic expression, go to “The First Artists.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Human Remains Discovered in Texas

September 12, 2018

FRIO COUNTY, TEXAS—Texas Public Radio reports that Native American remains estimated to be about 1,000 years old were discovered by a bridge inspector this summer at an undisclosed location. “Initially, it was thought to be a cold case of some sorts, so obviously law enforcement got involved,” said Hernan Rozemberg, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation. The department’s archaeologists, assisted by scientists from Texas State University, examined the burial without disturbing it, and said the man had been buried resting partially on his left side with his knees drawn up. A projectile point was also spotted at the site. State transportation officials are now consulting with local Native American groups about the remains. To read in-depth about a collection of pictographs in southwest Texas, go to “Reading the White Shaman Mural.”

Categories: Blog

Repurposed Medieval Sarcophagus Found in England

September 12, 2018

LINCOLN, ENGLAND—A medieval sarcophagus dating to the twelfth or thirteenth century has been uncovered at a construction site in England’s East Midlands, according to a Lincolnshire Live report. The sarcophagus was designed to be wider at one end, in order to support a pillow or headdress. A hole in its center would have allowed fluids to drain away from the body. Found next to the stone foundation of a fifteenth-century building, the sarcophagus was surrounded by stones and set level with a cobbled surface. It had probably been moved to the site to serve as a trough for feeding animals, or to process wool or leather. The three holes at its foot end are thought to have been drilled in the fifteenth century in order to speed up drainage for its new purpose. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

Categories: Blog

Sixth-Century Cemeteries Offer Clues to “Barbarian” Migration

September 12, 2018

STONY BROOK, NEW YORK—The Independent reports that an international team of researchers has examined two sixth-century A.D. cemeteries, one located in Hungary, and one in northern Italy, in order to study the migration of the Longobards, also known as the Lombards, the so-called barbarians who invaded Italy after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Krishna Veeramah of Stony Brook University said that those who were buried with many grave goods, such as swords, shields, and jewelry, had a genetic ancestry similar to that found in modern northern and central Europeans. Those who were buried without extravagant grave goods had genomes resembling those of today’s southern Europeans. The different types of burials also suggest the Longobards established the same sort of kinship groups in Italy that they shared while living in Central Europe. Thus, the test results suggest the burials are consistent with the barbarian invasions described by the Romans. The scientists hope to examine additional medieval cemeteries to gain a better understanding of migration within Europe from the fourth through eighth centuries. To read about an unusual Lombard burial, go to “Late Antique TLC.”

Categories: Blog

14th-Century Skeleton Unearthed in Northern Poland

September 11, 2018

BARCZEWKO, POLAND—According to a Science in Poland report, Arkadiusz Koperkiewicz of the University of Gdańsk and his colleagues from the University of Greifswald and the University of Klaipeda have uncovered the remains of a man who was killed in 1354 during the Lithuanian invasion and destruction of the city of Wartenburg. The body was found in the basement of a wooden building that had been burned down. Koperkiewicz’s team has also recovered arrowheads, crossbow bolts, silver and bronze ornaments, and fragments of a medieval Christian cross in the well-preserved city. The researchers are still looking for the site of the city’s church, however. Wartenburg’s cemetery has yielded traces of clothing, coins, and pottery. Some of the pottery had been broken, perhaps as a symbol of the fragility of human life, Koperkiewicz said. For more on archaeology in Poland, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow.”

Categories: Blog

Baby Teeth Offer Window to Health of Anglo Saxons

September 11, 2018

BRADFORD, ENGLAND—UPI reports that scientists led by Julia Beaumont of the University of Bradford analyzed the baby teeth of more than 1,000 Anglo-Saxon children who lived in the Raunds Furnells settlement, a tenth-century site in England’s East Midlands, to see whether evidence of malnourishment could be detected in the remains. They then compared the teeth of children who survived from conception to at least 1,000 days after with those who did not. The researchers found that nutritional stress slowed bone growth, but the dentine in teeth continued to grow, thus providing a more comprehensive understanding of the child’s diet and health status. Teeth will record high levels of nitrogen, indicating the child was starving, even when bone growth has stopped, Beaumont said. The study could help scientists evaluate risk factors affecting the health of living children, she added. For more on Anglo-Saxon England, go to “The Kings of Kent.”

Categories: Blog

Hundreds of Gold Imperial Coins Found in Italy

September 11, 2018

COMO, ITALY—CNN reports that at least 300 gold coins dating to the fourth or fifth century A.D., as well as a gold bar, were discovered in a buried soapstone vessel in northern Italy. The coins, which bear engravings referencing the emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonia, and Libio Severo, were found in the center of the city of Como, in an area where other Imperial-era artifacts have been uncovered. Numismatist Maria Grazia Facchinetti said the coins were found stacked in rolls similar to how coins are stored by banks today. “All of this makes us think that the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit,” she explained. For more, go to “Golden House of an Emperor.”

Categories: Blog

Paleolithic Mammoth Kill Site Found in Austria

September 8, 2018

DRASENHOFEN, AUSTRIA—Metro reports that a mammoth kill site was discovered in northeastern Austria ahead of a construction project. Martin Krenn of the Austrian Federal Monuments Office said the mammoth tusks and bones, along with the remains of other large animals, were uncovered, along with stone tools. The site is estimated to date back between 18,000 and 28,000 years. The animals are believed to have been driven over difficult terrain to the area, where they were killed with spears and butchered. To read about evidence of mammoth butchering in North America, go to “Schaefer and Hebior Kill Sites.”

Categories: Blog

Pot of Medieval Loot Discovered in Bulgaria

September 8, 2018

SOFIA, BULGARIA—A fourteenth-century A.D. pot containing nearly 1,000 gold, silver, and bronze coins and artifacts such as buckles, earrings, rings, and buttons was discovered in the medieval Kaliakra Cape Fortress, which is located on Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea coast, according to an Archaeology in Bulgaria report. Archaeologist Boni Petrunova of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History said the small, light coins reflect the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire and Byzantium. For example, the 20 hyperpyrons, or late Byzantine gold coins, in the collection had been clipped, or made smaller by shaving metal from their circumference, to such an extent that it was difficult to identify them. Eight Venetian gold coins dating to the mid-fourteenth century were also found in the pot, along with a few coins from Wallachia, a Bulgarian ally to the north, and a single Tatar coin, all of which may have flown through local markets. The objects are thought to have been looted by a Tatar leader who quickly hid his treasure during one of the last Mongol invasions of the region, since there were still threads attached to the buttons, suggesting they had been ripped off a lavish garment in a hurry. To read about another recent discover in Bulgaria, go to “Mirror, Mirror.”

Categories: Blog

First World War Training Trench Found in Ireland

September 7, 2018

SPIKE ISLAND, IRELAND—The Irish Examiner reports that archaeologists led by Barra O’Donnabhain of University College Cork have found a trench used by the British military to train World War I–era soldiers on Spike Island, home of a nineteenth-century prison, in Cork Harbor. The prison, built in 1847 during the Great Famine and closed in 1883, was once the world’s largest. Two corroded grenades were recovered from the bottom of the chest-deep military trench, which had been carved through the convict cemetery. Soldiers who trained on Spike Island were sent into battle on the Western Front and Gallipoli. The British eventually handed the island over to the Irish state in 1938. To read in-depth about excavations of the Gallipoli battlefield, go to “Letter from Turkey: Anzac's Next Chapter.”

Categories: Blog

Artifacts and Fossils Lost in Brazil’s Museum Fire

September 7, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that as many as 700 ancient Egyptian artifacts were destroyed in the fire that engulfed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro earlier this week. The 200-year-old building was constructed as a palace for the country’s ruling family. The Egyptian artifacts in the museum’s collection included objects collected by Pedro I, who became the first emperor of Brazil in 1822, and an ancient mummy given to his son, Pedro II, by Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt. The skull of a woman who lived in Brazil some 11,500 years ago, known as the Luzia fossil, and objects representing South America’s cultural heritage, such as items of feather work and masks, are also believed to have been lost to the flames. To read about excavations in Rio de Janeiro, go to “Off the Grid.”

Categories: Blog

DNA of Germany’s Early Medieval Warriors Studied

September 7, 2018

NIEDERSTOTZINGEN, GERMANY—Science Magazine reports that analysis of DNA samples taken from the 1,400-year-old remains of ten Germanic, noble warriors and three children discovered in southern Germany suggests that some of them had been born locally, while others may have originated in different parts of Europe. The study, led by Niall O’Sullivan, now of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, also revealed that at least 11 of the individuals were male—the test results of the remaining two were inconclusive. Overall, five of the individuals in the sample were directly related to each other, but three people who had been buried in the same grave were unrelated. One of them had DNA associated with people from northern, eastern, and central Europe, while the other two had DNA suggesting they were related to people from southern Europe. Analysis of isotopes obtained from their teeth suggests that only one of the two individuals with southern European relatives grew up in the same area as the burial. O’Sullivan and his colleagues wonder whether the Germanic warriors may have welcomed foreigners into their households, or whether it is possible they adopted child hostages for use in intertribal negotiations. To read in-depth about a Roman settlement in Germany, go to “The Road Almost Taken.”

Categories: Blog

Cache of Gold Rush–Era Coins Uncovered in Canada

September 6, 2018

DAWSON CITY, YUKON—A crew building a recreational trail in northwest Canada discovered a cache of 23 Canadian and American coins dating to the nineteenth century, according to a CBC News report. “These are coins that would have been in common circulation during the [Klondike] Gold Rush,” said archaeologist Christian Thomas of the Yukon government. The coins were buried in what was a busy part of Dawson City where day laborers, miners, and service industry workers lived. The oldest of the coins, which have a total face value of $9.50, is dated 1864. Adjusted for inflation, the amount is equivalent to about $240 today, although prices for basic goods could be extremely high. Thomas explained that a pound of butter sold for about five dollars in Dawson City at the time. “A lot of the tax records show that a lot of these properties were foreclosed on,” Thomas said, “so people would stay, they might go visit family, intending to come back [to Dawson], but just never made it back because they didn’t make their big gold strike.” To read about a recent discovery in the Yukon dating back around 900 years, go to “Time’s Arrow.”

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