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Byzantine Gold Coin Unearthed in Bulgaria

August 2, 2018

SOFIA, BULGARIA—The Sofia Globe reports that archaeologists have found a 14th-century Byzantine gold coin at the Byzantine frontier fortress of Rusokastro on southeastern Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. Broken in half, one side of the coin depicts Mary alongside the fortifications of Constantinople, while the other shows Jesus as he crowns two Byzantine emperors. To read about another recent discovery at the Rusokastro fortress, go to “Iconic Discovery.” 

Categories: Blog

19th-Century Buildings Excavated in Ontario

August 2, 2018

ANCASTER, ONTARIO—In an excavation carried out in advance of construction of a new arts center in Ancaster, archaeologists have uncovered a range of artifacts dating to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, according to a CBC report. The site once hosted the Bloody Assize of 1814, a series of trials in which 19 men were charged with high treason for aiding the enemy during the War of 1812 and 15 were sentenced to death. The excavation has uncovered a tin shop and an apothecary that dates to 1857, including glass from medicine jars and pieces of tobacco pipes. Based on the discovery of a drain system that was connected to the tin shop and the apothecary, archaeologists Stephen Brown believes that both buildings may have been built by the same person. A bottle of ginger beer dating to 1912 that was brewed by Pilgrim & Co. in nearby Hamilton was also unearthed. To read in-depth about the discovery of a legendary nineteenth-century shipwreck in Canada, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

Categories: Blog

New Discoveries on a Dutch Shipwreck

August 1, 2018

KENT, ENGLAND—According to a BBC report, Historic England scholars continue to make discoveries related to the wreck of the Dutch ship Rooswijk, which foundered on a sandbank off the coast of Kent in 1740. Recent analysis of coins recovered from the site show they bear holes in them that suggest crewmen sewed them into clothing in order to smuggle them to the Dutch East Indies. Historians have also managed to discover the names of 19 of the 237 crewmen who went down with Rooswijk. Among them was a Norwegian sailor named Pieter Calmer who had already survived one shipwreck at the Cape of Good Hope. "It's extraordinary that after more than 270 years we now know the names of some of the people who may have lost their lives with the Rooswijk," says Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England. "Seafaring was a dangerous way of life and this really brings it home." To read in-depth about a 17th-century Dutch shipwreck and its shipment of luxury goods, go to “Global Cargo.” 

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Potters’ Break Room Found in Central Israel

August 1, 2018

GEDERA, ISRAEL—A large spa and a game room have been uncovered in central Israel along with evidence of a pottery workshop that churned out wares for 600 years, according to a report in The Times of Israel. Game boards, including some for playing mancala, were etched into large stone benches at the site, which dates to the 3rd century A.D., during the Roman period. “We discovered a game room that was perhaps used for breaks from the potters’ intensive work,” said excavation codirector Ella Nagorsky, of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The complex was discovered ahead of construction of a new neighborhood. The game room included a cabinet that held glass cups and bowls, while the spa complex featured baths with hot and cold water. There is no historical record of the pottery workshop, which appears to have produced the same type of ceramics—“Gaza” wine jars—for 600 years. The archaeologists believe it may have been a family workshop that was passed down from generation to generation. They estimate that the site holds parts of more than 100,000 pots, some of which boast fingerprints left behind by ancient potters. To read more about artifacts dating to the Roman era uncovered in Israel, go to “Sun and Moon.”

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Burial Mound Unearthed in Kazakhstan

August 1, 2018

ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN—The Astana Times reports that Kazakh archaeologists have excavated a thirteen-foot-tall burial mound that once held the remains of a prominent member of one of the Saka tribes. These nomadic Iranian people were related to the Scythians and dominated the steppes in present-day Kazakhstan and southern Siberia during the first millennium B.C. Nearby, the team also discovered seven more recent Islamic graves that date to the 15th and 16th centuries A.D. The graves were oriented towards Mecca, and some of them contained jewlery, including a copper ring, a bronze earring, and a silver buckle. To read in-depth about a lavish Scythian burial mound, go to "Rites of the Scythians."

Categories: Blog

18th-Century Water Pipes Discovered in Edinburgh

August 1, 2018

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—A network of wooden water pipes has been found beneath Edinburgh’s city center, according to a report in the Edinburgh Evening News. Fifteen pieces of the elm piping were found at George Square as part of construction work on a new underground heating system at the University of Edinburgh. The pipes were part of an underground network built in 1756 to supply the city with clean drinking water from surrounding rural areas. “To uncover these water pipes preserved in situ beneath the cobbles was just incredible,” said Lindsay Dunbar of AOC Archaeology Group. “Whilst the use of such wooden pipes is well-documented and preserved examples exist within museums and collections, to find the pipes in situ is much rarer.” The pipes were extremely well preserved, allowing archaeologists to note details regarding their construction and joining techniques. The wood pipes, which were prone to rotting, were eventually replaced with cast iron ones. For more on the archaeology of water systems, go to “Rome’s Oldest Aqueduct,” which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

Categories: Blog

Early Agriculture in the Jordan Valley

July 31, 2018

TEL TSAF, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Times of Israel, a team led by University of Haifa archaeologist Danny Rosenberg has unearthed new evidence for the transition to agriculture at the village site of Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley around 7,500 years ago. Excavations at levels dating to this period have yielded evidence of agriculture in the form of the remains of olives, grains, and beans, but almost no evidence for hunting. “A thousand years earlier, the flesh of hunted animals is still a major component of our ancestors’ diet,” says Rosenberg. “A few hundred years later, we already find evidence that hunting is becoming more marginal.” This summer, Rosenberg’s team also uncover a roasting pit containing a nearly complete skeleton of a pig, possible evidence of a community-wide festival. To read about an unusual artifact excavated at Tel Tsaf, go to "World Roundup: Israel." 

Categories: Blog

Three Hundred Years of History Uncovered in Quebec

July 31, 2018

L’ANCIENNE-LORETTE, QUEBEC—More than 50,000 artifacts dating back over more than three centuries have been uncovered on the grounds of a Catholic church just west of Quebec City, according to a CBC report. Members of the Huron-Wendat First Nation lived in the area along with Jesuit priests for several decades in the late seventeenth century, said lead archaeologist Stéphane Noël. Later, in the winter of 1759, the French were forced to leave the site to make room for the British army. Among the finds is a large collection of stone pipes, which show that the Huron-Wendat continued to carve their own even though they had access to European goods. Archaeologists have also unearthed evidence that the Huron-Wendat were using European gunflints as scrapers and drills, and that the First Nation peoples were connected to an extensive trade network. Among the remains of the 300 years of French occupation of the area is a nearly intact icehouse that would have been packed with snow to keep food from spoiling. A cannonball associated with the British army’s brief occupation of the area was found as well. For more on archaeology in Quebec, go to “Off the Grid: Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal.”

Categories: Blog

Possible Roman Library Unearthed

July 31, 2018

COLOGNE, GERMANY—The Guardian reports that German archaeologists excavating in downtown Cologne have unearthed the foundations of a Roman building that may have been a library. Dating to the middle of the second century A.D., the remains were found near what was once the forum of the ancient Roman city of Colonia. Niches in the building’s walls were likely intended to house up to 20,000 scrolls, and archaeologists believe an alcove adjacent to the possible library may have been dedicated to the goddess Minerva. To read about the only known Roman library of manuscripts to have survived antiquity, go to “The Charred Scrolls of Herculaneum.”   

Categories: Blog

Roman Villa in Lod Yields Another Ancient Mosaic

July 31, 2018

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Jerusalem Post, a 1,700-year-old mosaic depicting birds, fish, and complex geometric designs has been found in a Roman villa in the ancient city of Lod, which is located in central Israel. The mosaic was discovered by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists during the construction of a visitors’ center at the site, which will exhibit the many mosaics uncovered in the ancient city since 1996. The villa where this mosaic was found featured a mosaic-paved reception room, or triclinium, an internal columned courtyard that had also been decorated with mosaics, frescoes, and a water system. To read about mosaic inscriptions dating to the Byzantine period that were recently discovered in Israel, go to “Gods of the Galilee.”

Categories: Blog

Wildfire Revealed Hundreds of Sites in Canada

July 31, 2018

ALBERTA, CANADA—CBC News reports that a wildfire that burned about 50 percent of the ground cover in Waterton Lakes National Park last year has revealed more than 250 Blackfoot camps and foot trails dating back some 7,000 years. “We’re finding so much that we’re starting to rewrite what we thought we knew about Waterton history and indigenous camp history,” said archaeologist Bill Perry of Parks Canada. Flakes from the production of stone tools, arrowheads, projectile points, and bison remains have been found, in addition to artifacts dating to the time of European contact, such as glass trading beads. A Depression-era work camp has also come to light in the park. Rock foundations, cans for tobacco and evaporated and condensed milk, a metal sewing needle case, a Boy Scout pin, and a cold cream jar are among the artifacts recovered at the site. For more on forest fires, go to “Letter From California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire.”

Categories: Blog

Eighteenth-Century Rockets Unearthed in India

July 31, 2018

SHIMOGA, INDIA—According to an AFP report, a stockpile of more than 1,000 corroded eighteenth-century rockets has been found in an abandoned well in southern India. State assistant director of archaeology R. Shejeshwara Nayaka said the weapons, known as Mysorean rockets, were cylindrical iron tubes that contained propellant and black powder, and were developed by Tipu Sultan, ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. This cache of weapons is thought to have belonged to Tipu Sultan himself, who was killed in 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War while fighting against the British East India Company. “Digging of the dry well where its mud was smelling like gunpowder led to the discovery of the rockets and shells in a pile,” Nayaka said. Tipu Sultan’s rockets are said to have been the first weapon of their kind, and to have influenced the development of the Congreve rocket, which was employed by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. For more, go to “Letter from India: Living Heritage at Risk.”

Categories: Blog

Cinnabar Detected in Inca Burial

July 28, 2018

ARICA, CHILE—According to a Live Science report, a new study of a fifteenth-century grave in northern Chile has detected the presence of cinnabar, a highly toxic, fine-grained red pigment derived from mercury ore. Discovered in the 1970s, the grave of the Cerro Esmeralda mummies contained the remains of a young woman around the age of 18, and an approximately nine-year-old girl. The two are thought to have been killed in a ritual Inca sacrifice, before their bodies had been placed in the fetal position in the grave, along with more than 100 artifacts. Fabric in the grave was colored with bright-red pigment, which the Inca usually produced using the mineral hematite. Use of cinnabar among the Inca has been linked to high social status, but the scientists, led by Bernardo Arriaza of Chile’s Universidad de Tarapacá, do not yet know where this cinnabar came from or why it was used. They did note that the mineral has toxic effects on human health, however, pointing out that nervous, muscular, and gastrointestinal problems, and even death, can occur when the mineral powder is inhaled. The Inca may have scattered the red powder over their ceremonial burial sites in order to deter grave robbers, the researchers suggested. For more on mummies in Chile, go to “Atacama’s Decaying Mummies.”

Categories: Blog

Roof of Thracian Tomb Uncovered in Bulgaria

July 28, 2018

PLOVDIV, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that archaeologists led by Kostadin Kisyov of the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology have discovered the roof of a monumental tomb in southern Bulgaria. Based upon the style of architecture, coins, and pottery found around the tomb, scientists have dated the burial to the third century A.D. The tomb sits within the Maltepe burial mound, which stood about 90 feet tall, and is said to be the largest ancient Thracian burial mound in the Balkan Peninsula. The top of the structure was found about 16 feet under the crest of the mound. Large stone blocks on the roof are thought to have supported a statue of the Thracian aristocrat resting inside the grave. “We are still at the beginning [of the tomb’s excavation],” said Kisyov. “Right now, we are on the roof of the tomb which has been partly destroyed by treasure hunters’ digging.” Scans of the tomb suggest it is similar to one discovered in the ancient city of Viminacium. That tomb is thought to have belonged to the emperor Marcus Aurelius Carinus, who reigned over Rome from A.D. 283 to 285. For more, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

Categories: Blog

Han Dynasty Village Uncovered in China

July 27, 2018

SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA—Xinhua reports that a village made up of pits, ditches, nine houses, and a well datingto the Han Dynastry (202 B.C. to A.D. 220) has been found in southwest China. The site has also yielded cooking utensils, kettles, urns, pots, tiles, and bronze coins. “We figured out the distribution of the village through excavation,” explained archaeologist Yang Yang of the Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute of Chengdu. “The residential area was located in the western and northern areas, while drainage connecting with the river was in the eastern and southern parts of the village.” The information from the site could help scientists understand the economy and standard of living during the Han Dynasty. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Underground Party.”

Categories: Blog

Heat Wave Exposes Historic Gardens at Stately English Home

July 27, 2018

DERBYSHIRE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that the recent heat wave has revealed the plan of the historic gardens at Chatsworth House, which was built in the mid-sixteenth century on the River Derwent in central England as the seat of the Duke of Devonshire. The ornate flower beds and paths, seen as outlines in the scorched modern lawns, were planted in the late seventeenth century over an area of 105 acres. “It wasn’t a lost landscape or anything—we knew it was there,” said Steve Porter, head of gardens. “But the fact is, it’s normally a green lawn so everything is hidden underneath so it’s not visible.” For more, go to “The Archaeology of Gardens.”

Categories: Blog

Roman-Era Burial Discovered in Greece

July 27, 2018

ATHENS, GREECE—Reuters reports that an 1,800-year-old tomb has been found on the Greek island of Sikinos, in a mausoleum that had been converted into a church and monastery during the Byzantine period. “A monument, one of the Aegean’s most impressive, has got an identity,” announced Dimitris Athanassoulis of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades. “We now have the person for whom the building was built, we have her remains, her name.” The burial had been well hidden between two walls in the building’s basement. A Greek inscription records the woman’s name as Neko. She was buried with gold wristbands, rings, a long necklace, a carved cameo buckle, and glass and metal vases. Scientists are currently collecting information and trying to find out more about Neko, Athanassoulis added. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “A Bronze Age Landmark.”

Categories: Blog

4,500-Year-Old Grave in Ukraine Contained Decorated Bones

July 27, 2018

POZNAŃ, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that unusual markings have been found on the bones of a woman who was buried in a monumental mound in the central Dniester region of Ukraine some 4,500 years ago by members of a nomadic shepherding culture. At first, scientists thought the markings might have been made by animals, but recent analysis of the remains suggests they were purposely applied with a black substance resembling tar. “Some time after the woman’s death the grave was reopened, bone decoration was performed, and the bones were rearranged in anatomical order,” explained Danuta Żurkiewicz of Adam Mickiewicz University. Similar markings found on other bones have been interpreted in the past as remnants of tattoos. Żurkiewicz added that women were rarely buried in such monumental mounds. The placement of her grave and the decoration of her bones suggest she was an important member of her community. To read in-depth about body markings in the archaeological record, go to “Ancient Tattoos.”

Categories: Blog

Military Veterans Uncover Saxon Warrior

July 26, 2018

SALISBURY PLAIN, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that an excavation next to Barrow Clump in southern England has uncovered the remains of a Saxon warrior who was buried in the sixth century A.D. The diggers included members of Operation Nightingale, a program that involves military veterans in archaeology. The Saxon soldier was buried wearing a belt buckle and carrying a knife and tweezers. His pattern-welded sword, lifted intact from the grave, still bears traces of its wood and leather scabbard. The condition of the artifacts surprised the researchers, led by Richard Osgood of the Defense Infrastructure Organization, since the site has been damaged by plowing, badgers, and the moving of heavy equipment from the nearby military base. He suspects the Saxon occupants of the cemetery lived in a village in the valley below the hill. “It’s that Saxon thing of looking up the hill and knowing your ancestors are up there on a site that was already ancient and special,” he said. To read about the excavation of an Anglo-Saxon feasting hall, go to “The Kings of Kent.”

Categories: Blog

Maya Cave Paintings Discovered in Mexico

July 26, 2018

MERIDA, MEXICO—Researchers led by archaeologist Sergio Grosjean Abimerhi of the Mexican Institute of Ecology, Science, and Culture have discovered Maya paintings of birds, mammals, a cross, geometric figures, people, and hands covering a 49-foot-long section of cave wall in eastern Yucatán, according to a report in The Latin American Herald Tribune. The cave also contains a small sinkhole full of water. Experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History will travel to the cave to assist with recording, dating, and interpreting the images. “Right now we’re unable to reveal the exact location, because unfortunately in the Yucatán, the looters and vandals are always a step ahead of us,” Grosjean said. To read in-depth about a Maya city in Guatemala, go to “The City at the Beginning of the World.”

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