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Constantine’s Bronze Finger Found in France

May 31, 2018

PARIS, FRANCE—According to a report in The Art Newspaper, researcher Aurelia Azema has identified a piece of a bronze sculpture in the collections at the Louvre as a bronze index finger from the colossal bronze statue of Emperor Constantine housed in Rome’s Capitoline Museum. All that survives of the fourth-century statue in Rome is the head, the left forearm, the left hand missing part of its middle finger and most of its index finger, and a sphere that rested in the palm of the statue’s left hand. The missing digit arrived at the Louvre in the 1860s with items from the collection of the Italian Marquis Giampietro Campana. It was eventually cataloged as a toe in 1913. Azema, joined by specialist in ancient metallurgy Benoît Mille and archaeologist Nicolas Melard, created a 3-D model of the finger which they took to Rome earlier this month. The finger turned out to be an exact fit with Constantine’s colossal hand. To read about another Roman statue, go to “Artifact: Roman Dog Statue.”

Categories: Blog

Ötzi Receives Cardiovascular Check-Up

May 31, 2018

BOLZANO, ITALY—Scientists have examined a full-body computed tomography scan of Ötzi the Iceman for evidence of his heart health, according to a report in Live Science. Ötzi is the name given to the man whose naturally mummified, 5,300-year-old remains were discovered frozen in the Alps by hikers in 1991. Previous studies have determined that Ötzi may have suffered from bad teeth and knees, propensity to ulcers, and perhaps even Lyme disease, before he likely died around the age of 46 from a blow to the head and an arrow wound in his shoulder. The new study has revealed three calcifications in the region of his heart. Scientists say these hardened plaques put him at an increased risk of a heart attack. He also had calcifications around his carotid artery, and in the arteries at the base of his skull, which could have increased his risk of stroke. An earlier study had found that Ötzi carried a genetic predisposition for atherosclerosis, or a narrowing of the arteries from fatty deposits. Patrizia Pernter, a radiologist at the Central Hospital in Bozen-Bolzano and a member of the research team, said this was probably the most important factor in Ötzi’s heart disease, since he was fit and didn’t smoke tobacco. For more, go to “Ötzi’s Sartorial Splendor.”

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Possible Early Maori Village Found in New Zealand

May 31, 2018

EASTLAND PORT, NEW ZEALAND—The Gisborne Herald reports that fourteenth-century artifacts found in northeastern New Zealand suggest a Maori village could be in the area. Moa bones and other food remains, fish hooks made of moa bone, and tools made of obsidian and chert have been recovered. Richard Walter of the University of Otago said Maori canoes, or waka, are thought to have first landed in the region, so an early village site could help fill in gaps in knowledge about the first Maori settlers. The team of researchers also found evidence of trade with the South Island, including artifacts from Cook Strait, the body of water separating New Zealand’s two islands, and Nelson, a city on the South Island’s northern coast. To read about another recent discovery of remains of a Maori village, go to “World Roundup: New Zealand.”

Categories: Blog

Pictish Trash Pit Yields Artifacts in Scotland

May 31, 2018

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that Pictish artifacts have been recovered from the remains of a fort at Burghead, which is located on the coast of northeast Scotland. The fort is thought to have been burned during a tenth-century Viking invasion. The fire preserved a layer of oak planks that had been part of a wall in the fort, which otherwise would not have survived. Excavation of a trash pit has also yielded jewelry, including hair and dress pins, and animal bones, which do not usually survive in Scotland’s acidic soil. Gordon Noble of the University of Aberdeen said the artifacts will provide more information about the daily lives of the Picts. To read about the study of a Pictish artifact, go to “Game of Stones.”

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Janus Augustus Arch Unearthed in Spain

May 30, 2018

JAÉN, SPAIN—El País reports that the bases of the Janus Augustus Arch, which marked the beginning of the more than 900-mile-long Hispania Baetica, have been unearthed in southern Spain. “Thanks to this find, you can pinpoint down to the last centimeter where you are on the Via Augusta,” said Juan Pedro Bellón of Jaén University, “the main road through Baetica Hispania that leads to Rome in one direction and to the Atlantic in Cádiz in the other.” Bellón also explained that the monument would have marked the border and served as a symbol of Roman power and influence. He thinks blocks from the arch may have been reused in the thirteenth century to build the Mengibar Tower, which was part of an Arabic fort, but is hopeful that additional pieces from the arch will be found. He is also looking for a possible temple in the area. “So far, we have found ornamental remains and decorative vegetable molds,” he said. For more on Spain's connection with Rome, go to “Spain’s Silver Boom.”

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Greek Helmet Found North of Black Sea

May 30, 2018

TAMAN PENINSULA, RUSSIA—A grave in southwest Russia dating to the fifth century B.C. has yielded an ancient Corinthian helmet, according to The Greek Reporter. Roman Mimohod of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences said this is the first Greek helmet of its kind to be found north of the Black Sea, in the Greek Kingdom of the Bosporus. The bronze helmet, of a type worn by foot soldiers, has slits for the eyes, and a padded interior that would have covered the entire head and neck. When a warrior died, his helmet was buried next to him. To read about another recent discovery in Russia, go to “Nomadic Chic.”

Categories: Blog

Ammonite Fossil Discovered at First Nations Site

May 30, 2018

SASKATOON, CANADA—The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that Lauren Rooney, an archaeology student at the University of Saskatchewan, discovered a fossil at the Wolf Willow dig site in Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The ammonite fossil is estimated to be 65 million years old. This fossil had not been carved, but the Blackfoot people are known to have carved ammonite fossils into buffalo figures called Iniskim some 800 years ago for use in medicine bundles and in stories relating to the origin of the bison. “If you use your imagination, it looks like two hind legs, two front legs, and then the fifth one is where the head should be,” explained Ernie Walker of the University of Saskatchewan. He thinks the newly discovered fossil may have been brought to Wanuskewin from southern Alberta, where ammonite fossils and Iniskim are more commonly found. For more on the relationship between native peoples and bison, go to “Bison Bone Mystery.”

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Man Crushed by Fallen Stone Uncovered at Pompeii

May 30, 2018

NAPLES, ITALY—According to an Associated Press report, the skeleton of a man who was crushed by a fallen stone has been unearthed at Pompeii. The block of stone, thought to have been a doorjamb violently thrown by a pyroclastic cloud during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, rests on the man’s upper body. Officials said that an infection in the man's tibia may have impeded his ability to walk. This would have made escape difficult for the man, who was at least 30 years old. To read more about life at Pompeii, go to “Food and Wine Gardens: Pompeii, Italy.”

Categories: Blog

Hawaiian Artifact Returned to Islands

May 26, 2018

HONOLULU, HAWAII—KHON2 News reports that a Hawaiian wooden carving thought to date to the eighteenth or nineteenth century will be handed over to the Bishop Museum. Known as a ki’i, or image, the 20-inch-tall carving represents the Hawaiian god Ku, who is depicted as a human figure wearing a headdress and standing in a warrior pose, with knees bent, calves flexed, and hands clenched at the back of the thighs. “It’s representative of the classic Kona style of ki’i that was carved most typically in the Kona region during the reign of Kamehameha I,” said Melanie Ide, president of the Bishop Museum. The ki’i is known to have been in a private collection in Europe since at least 1940. For more, go to “In Search of History's Great Rulers: Kamehameha I, King of Hawaii.”

Categories: Blog

Industrial Site Excavated on the Isle of Wight

May 25, 2018

ISLE OF WIGHT, ENGLAND—Volunteer diggers led by archaeologist Ruth Waller unearthed traces of chamber and bottle kiln floors at the site of the West Medina Mills, according to a report in the Isle of Wight County Press. In 1851, Charles Francis and Sons won the prize medal at the Great Exhibition for the Medina Cement created at the site, which is located near the River Medina on the Isle of Wight, off England’s southern coast. Portland cement was later made there. After 1944, the mill was used for cement storage and distribution. To read about a giant coin hoard discovered on Jersey, across the English Channel from the Isle of Wight, go to “Ka-Ching!

Categories: Blog

3,500-Year-Old Inscriptions Documented in Egypt

May 25, 2018

WARSAW, POLAND—According to a Science in Poland report, inscriptions on the rocks near the temple of Hathor at Gebelein, located in southern Egypt, have been documented and translated by researchers led by Wojciech Ejsmond of the University of Warsaw. Temples dedicated to Anubis and Sobek have also been located in the region. Many of the hieroglyphs, which were engraved into the rock, or engraved and then painted, are prayers that were written by scribes and, in some cases, signed. “We know Egyptian beliefs primarily from official texts from monumental temples and tombs, made for royals and elite members,” Ejsmond explained. These inscriptions, however, offer a glimpse into the popular religious beliefs of priests and pilgrims. The inscriptions have been difficult to see and study because the shape of the hill where they are located has changed over the years, putting the faded texts out of easy reach. To read in-depth about Egyptian tomb paintings, go to “Emblems for the Afterlife.”

Categories: Blog

Mound Builder Land Use Analyzed in Louisiana

May 25, 2018

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS—Fox News reports that Jayur Mehta of the University of Illinois and Elizabeth Chamberlain of Vanderbilt University examined Grand Caillou, a mound builder site in coastal Louisiana, through sediment coring, radiocarbon dating, optically stimulated luminescence dating, and analysis of ceramics in order to investigate how and why mound builders chose building locations. The study suggests the mound was built on a natural levee on a major lobe of the Mississippi River Delta that was a few feet higher than the surrounding landscape. Distinct layers, including clay placed at the bottom, looser sediments in the middle, and a clay cap placed on top of the mound increased its durability. Pottery at the site dates to between A.D. 1000 and 1400. The village, which supported about 500 people, had been established by about A.D. 1200. Ratios of carbon isotopes indicated saltwater incursion of the area could have led to the abandonment of the village by A.D. 1400. Many of Louisiana’s coastal mounds are now being lost to erosion. For more on mound builder sites, go to “Off the Grid: Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, Texas.”

Categories: Blog

Ancient Kangaroo Feast Found in Australia

May 24, 2018

PILBARA REGION, AUSTRALIA—According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report, a cave in northwestern Australia has yielded evidence of a campfire and kangaroo feast that may date back 20,000 years. Charcoal from the fire pit will be radiocarbon dated to confirm its age. Stone tools and flakes found near the charcoal may have been used to butcher the kangaroo. “We’ll have to have a look at them under the microscope, but they are the pieces that people were using at the site,” said Michael Slack of Scarp Archaeology. Traditional land owner Garren Smith said stories about the cave have been passed down through the generations. “It’s good that they are doing this and getting the records, having a look at how old things are,” he said. For more on archaeology in Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

Categories: Blog

Neolithic Site Found in Cyprus

May 24, 2018

THESSALONIKI, GREECE—According to a Cyprus Mail report, a team of researchers led by Nikolaos Efstratiou of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki has found a Neolithic site in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, which are located in the center of the island of Cyprus. A hunter-gatherer site, found nearby, has been under excavation as well. The scientists are waiting for dating test results, but they think the region had long been in use by mobile groups of people, perhaps as a stop between the coast and the mountains, until they eventually built a permanent settlement in the Neolithic period. To read about a mosaic found on Cyprus, go to “And They’re Off!

Categories: Blog

Greco-Roman Bath Site Unearthed in Egypt

May 24, 2018

GHARBEYA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that sections of a large red-brick building have been unearthed at the San El-Hagar archaeological site in northern Egypt by a team of researchers led by Saeed El-Asal of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The building is thought to have been part of a Greco-Roman bath complex. Pottery, terracotta statues, bronze tools and coins, a stone engraved with hieroglyphs, and a small statue of a lamb have been recovered, in addition to a gold coin minted during the reign of King Ptolemy IV (244-204 B.C.) in honor of his father, Ptolemy III, whose portrait appears on one side.  A horn of plenty and the king's name adorn the obverse. To read in-depth about tomb paintings in Egypt, go to “Emblems for the Afterlife.”

Categories: Blog

Spanish Galleon Wreckage Discovered Off Coast of Colombia

May 24, 2018

CAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS—CBS News reports that the wreckage of San José has been discovered under 2,000 feet of water off the coast of Colombia by a team of researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Maritime Archaeology Consultants, Switzerland AG, and the Colombian government. The ship, a three-masted Spanish galleon carrying 62 guns and a cargo of ceramics, gold, silver, and emeralds, sank in 1708 during a battle with British ships that was part of the War of Spanish Succession. The ship was identified by its engraved bronze cannons, which were first spotted on the sea floor by research engineer Jeff Kaeli of WHOI using the REMUS 6000, a remotely operated vehicle carrying cameras and sensors. “I’m not a marine archaeologist, but ... I know what a cannon looks like,” he said. “So in that moment, I guess I was the only person in the world who knew we’d found the shipwreck.” The government of Colombia plans to build a museum and conservation lab to preserve and display San Jose’s artifacts. To read about pages of a book found in a shipwreck, go to “The Pirate Book Club.”

Categories: Blog

17th-Century Clan Lands Surveyed in Scotland

May 23, 2018

ARROCHAR, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that a team led by Heather James of Calluna Archaeology found more than 80 archaeological sites dating to the seventeenth century during a survey of the western shores of Loch Lomond, which is located in west-central Scotland. The sites include farmsteads, bridges, sheepfolds, earthen banks, quarries, cairns, and almshouses for travelers. The territory has long been associated with Clan MacFarlane, whose castle was located on the loch’s island of Elanvow. A possible watchtower site, discovered on Tarbet Island, may have been used by the MacFarlanes to monitor the area. “They were a clan who struggled to keep their head above water, but they eventually made peace with their rivals, the Campbells, which helped them for a while,” James said. The lands were eventually sold in the eighteenth century to pay off debts at a time when many of the clan’s men moved to other parts of Scotland, Ireland, or America. The land is now part of a national park. To read about another site in Scotland associated with clan warfare, go to “A Dangerous Island.”

Categories: Blog

Thousands of 2,000-Year-Old Bones Unearthed in Denmark

May 23, 2018

AARHUS, DENMARK—AFP reports that the 2,000-year-old bones of more than 80 boys and men have been recovered from a bog in Denmark that could hold the remains of as many as 380 people. Mette Løvschal of Aarhus University said many of the well-preserved bones bear fresh cut marks from sharp weapons. She thinks the boys and men were killed in battle by Roman soldiers who raided Germania, or by warriors from a rival tribe. “They do not seem to have a lot of healed trauma, from experience with previous battles,” she said. Most of the wounds are on the right sides of the warriors’ bodies, which suggests they had been holding shields with their left arms. Gnaw marks on the bones suggest the bodies lay on the battlefield before they were stripped of personal belongings and deposited in the bog. Four of the pelvises found in the bog had been strung on a stick. “It seems to have aggressive undertones to it as well,” Løvschal said. For more, go to “Denmark’s Bog Dogs.”

Categories: Blog

30,000-Year-Old Modern Human Bones Found in Siberia

May 23, 2018

IRKUTSK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that bones unearthed in eastern Siberia during road construction could represent the oldest modern humans outside Africa and the Middle East. Some of the recovered bones have been dated to about 50,000 years ago, and are undergoing tests to identify them, while others have been dated to about 30,000 years ago, and identified as Homo sapiens. Tools made of topaz and rock crystal, bone knives thought to have been used for hunting, an amulet made of a cave lion tooth, and other animal bones were also found at the site, which is located in the Tunkinskaya Valley. “The most important question now is when Homo sapiens appeared in Siberia, and the Tunka valley finds will allow scientists to shed light on it,” said researcher Mikhail Shunkov of the Russian Academy of Sciences. To read about another recent discovery in Siberia, go to “Nomadic Chic.”

Categories: Blog

Scientists Name Hitler’s Suspected Cause of Death

May 21, 2018

MEAUX, FRANCE—Philippe Charlier of Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and his colleagues examined teeth and skull fragments held in Moscow and identified as Adolf Hitler’s for evidence of the manner of his death in Berlin in 1945, according to an AFP report. Analysis of the tartar deposits on the teeth found no evidence of meat consumption. Charlier said this agreed with Hitler’s known vegetarianism. The researchers also said the skull fragments were consistent with radiographies taken of Hitler’s skull a year before his death. A hole thought to have been made by a bullet was found in one of the skull fragments. The teeth showed no evidence of powder from a gunshot, so the bullet is thought to have entered through the neck or the forehead. Charlier added that bluish deposits on the false teeth may have been caused by a chemical reaction between cyanide and metal. “We didn’t know if he had used an ampule of cyanide to kill himself or whether it was a bullet in the head,” Charlier said. “It’s in all probability both.” For more, go to “The Third Reich’s Arctic Outpost.”

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