Subscribe to Archaeology News feed
Updated: 2 hours 21 min ago

Greek Inscriptions Found at Roman-Era Temple in Egypt

May 15, 2018

AL-HAG ALI, EGYPT—According to an Associated Press report, a temple built during the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius in the second century A.D. has been discovered in Egypt’s western desert. The excavation team has uncovered the foundations of a large, limestone building, and a long piece of limestone that had been inscribed in Greek and decorated with an image of the sun disc surrounded by cobras. The painting is thought to have been part of the entrance to the temple. To read about a recent reanalysis of mummies found in Egypt, go to “We Are Family.”

Categories: Blog

Leprosy May Have Originated in Europe

May 12, 2018

JENA, GERMANY—The Guardian reports that leprosy may have originated in Europe, and not in Asia, as had been previously thought. An international team of researchers led by Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History sampled about 90 different skeletons bearing the telltale deformations of leprosy. The skeletons were unearthed in Europe, and have been dated to between A.D. 400 and 1400. From the bones, the scientists reconstructed ten new genomes of medieval Mycobacterium leprae, in addition to the one or two strains already known to have been circulating in medieval Europe. “This latest research shows all the strains of the leprosy bacterium were in fact present in medieval Europe, which strongly suggests leprosy originated much closer to home, possibly in the far southeast of Europe, or western Asia,” said Helen Donoghue of University College London. The oldest strain was detected in a skeleton found in Great Chesterford, Essex, in southeast England, which has been dated to between A.D. 415 and 545. This is the same strain found in modern-day red squirrels, and may have been introduced to Britain through the ancient squirrel fur trade. The scientists will continue to search for the disease in even older human remains. For more, go to “Diagnosis of Ancient Illness.”

Categories: Blog

Genetic Study Estimates Number of First New World Migrants

May 12, 2018

LAWRENCE, KANSAS—According to a Live Science report, a new genetic study conducted by an international team of researchers suggests there were about 250 people in the first group to enter the New World from Siberia some 15,000 years ago. Nelson Fagundes of Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, Michael Crawford of the University of Kansas, and their colleagues analyzed DNA samples obtained from ten Native American individuals living in Central and South America, ten people from different Siberian groups, and 15 people from China. Computer simulation models helped the scientists work backward from the genetic variation and divergence seen in the populations today to figure out the original size of the so-called founding group. “Large populations have very efficient selection,” Fagundes explained, “while in small populations, mildly deleterious alleles can spread, which may increase genetic susceptibility to some diseases.” The estimate for the founding population in this case is so small that there would have been little genetic variation associated with the first wave of migration. Fagundes added that new genetic mutations, and the addition of later waves of migrants, eventually increased genetic diversity among Native American populations. To read in-depth about the first people to arrive in the Americas, go to “America, in the Beginning.”

Categories: Blog

Horse and Stable Discovered in Pompeii

May 12, 2018

POMPEII, ITALY—The Local reports that a horse killed during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 was found in an ancient stable outside of Pompeii’s city walls. A team of archaeologists injected liquid plaster into the cavity left behind by the horse’s body in the ancient ash. They are confident it was a horse based on a clear imprint of the animals’ ear, which had been pressed into the ground. The horse is thought to have stood about five feet tall at the withers. Traces of a harness with iron and bronze fittings were found near its head, suggesting it may have been a parade horse. The skeletons of donkeys and mules have been recovered from a stable at the House of the Chaste Lovers, but Pompeii officials said this is the first complete outline of a horse to be found in the ruined city. The recent rescue excavations, undertaken in an area of Civita Giuliana where unauthorized tunnels were found, also recovered jugs, tools, and kitchen utensils. To read more about Pompeii, go to “Food and Wine Gardens: Pompeii, Italy.”

Categories: Blog

Alutiiq Fish Trip Spotted From the Air in Alaska

May 11, 2018

KODIAK, ALASKA—KTOO Public Media reports that archaeologist Patrick Saltonstall of Alutiiq Museum spotted an Alutiiq fish trap during a recent helicopter survey of the Kodiak Archipelago. “I’d actually been there on survey and had found a village there and hadn’t seen the fish trap,” Saltonstall said. The trap is only the second to have been found in the area. Built some 500 years ago along the shoreline, the traps worked by allowing fish to enter their walls during high tide, but when the tide went out, the fish were stuck. Saltonstall also thinks rock spires, now inhabited by puffins, may have been used as defensive watchtowers. “They must’ve had a rope ladder they built to get up and down, and probably, they were hoisting baskets of food up,” he speculated. To read in-depth about archaeology in Alaska, go to “Cultural Revival.”

Categories: Blog

Oslo Fjord’s Stone Age Settlements

May 11, 2018

OSLO, NORWAY—Science Nordic reports that archaeologists Steinar Solheim and Per Perrson of the University of Oslo have studied more than 500 radiocarbon dates taken from charcoal found in more than 150 Stone Age settlements around Oslo Fjord to create a model of the region’s population between 8000 and 2000 B.C., as the climate changed after the last Ice Age. “It was probably a bit warmer than it is today,” Solheim said. “We see a lot of hazel, alder, elm, and later oak, all of which are tree species that prefer warmer environments.” The model suggests the population was stable over time, even through a period marked by an extreme drop in global temperatures that began around 6000 B.C. and lasted for several centuries. The study also suggests people may have been more mobile at the beginning of the period than they were at the end of the Stone Age. “Eventually, you get a network of settlements, where some places are more specialized for hunting or fishing or for other resource use,” Solheim explained. To read more about archaeology in Norway, go to “Letter From Norway: The Big Melt.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on the Spread of the Justinian Plague

May 11, 2018

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a large-scale genetic study led by Eske Willerslev and Peter de Barros Damgaard of the University of Copenhagen suggests the Justinian Plague, which killed an estimated 25 million people in A.D. 541, may have originated in central and eastern Asia, and not in Egypt, as had been previously thought. The scientists analyzed the genomes of 137 people who lived between 2,500 B.C. and A.D. 1500 and were buried in the steppe stretching from Hungary to northeastern China. An older version of the Justinian plague strain was detected in an individual from the Tian Shan mountains who died around A.D. 200, and a version dated to between the sixth and ninth centuries A.D. was found in an individual buried in North Ossetia, Russia. The disease was thought to have been brought to Constantinople by rats traveling on grain ships from Egypt, but Willerslev and Damgaard think it might have been carried by the Huns—a name given to the diverse nomadic groups who attacked the Roman Empire in the fourth century. “An appearance has also been found in Egypt,” Damgaard explained. “As such, increased interaction under the Hunnic and later the Turk Khaganate would have aided in bringing this plague strain through the Silk Road.” For more, go to “A Parisian Plague.”

Categories: Blog

Hepatitis B Detected in 4,500-Year-Old Remains

May 11, 2018

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Science Magazine reports that a team of scientists led by Eske Willerslev of the University of Cambridge has detected the virus that causes hepatitis B (HBV) in the 4,500-year-old remains of a man who lived in what is now Osterhofen, Germany. In all, the team sequenced the genomes of 304 people who lived in Eurasia between 3500 and 500 B.C., and found the virus in 12 of them. In addition, geneticist Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and his colleagues found traces of HBV in the teeth of three skeletons, also unearthed in Germany, dating from 5000 to 3200 B.C. Krause said the liver-destroying disease “seems to have been pretty common in the past.” The oldest-known hepatitis B virus strain before these studies were conducted had been found in a sixteenth-century mummy in Italy. For more on ancient evidence of disease, go to “Heart Attack of the Mummies.”

Categories: Blog

Continuously Occupied Cave Excavated in East Africa

May 9, 2018

JENA, GERMANY—Haaretz reports that evidence for 78,000 years of human occupation has been found in Kenya’s Panga ya Saidi network of caves, ranging from the Middle Stone Age to the present day. The cave’s main chamber measures more than 1,000 feet square, and could have housed hundreds of people, according to Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, although it has recently been used just for burials and rituals. Stone arrowheads, blades, and tools with a dull edge for attachment to a shaft first appeared in the cave’s layers dated to about 67,000 years ago, or some 10,000 years after the first inhabitants, who used larger stone tools, moved in. Kenya’s oldest-known bead, dated to about 65,000 years old, was also recovered. Carved bones, tusks, and worked pieces of ochre were found in layers dated between 48,000 and 25,000 years ago. Petraglia explained that the turning points in technologies were marked by mixes of tools and artifacts, rather than sudden changes. He thinks the cave’s inland location, in a transitional area between the forest and the savannah, may have provided generations of residents with a stable environment at a time when other areas of Africa experienced drought. To read about another discovery in Kenya, go to “Earliest Stone Tools.”

Categories: Blog

19th-Dynasty Priest’s Statue Unearthed in Heliopolis

May 9, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—Egypt Today reports that two artifacts have been discovered in northeastern Cairo, in the ancient city of Heliopolis. “The digging process uncovered a statue of a royal compartment’s priest,” said Mamdouh Eldamaty of Ain Shams University. He added that the compartment dates to the Ramesses dynasty, during the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. “The area witnessed important incidents of the ancient Egyptian history, including King Ramesses II to King Ramesses IX,” Eldamaty explained. “The royal compartment was considered as the first of its kind during that Late Dynasty of Egypt.” Eldamaty’s team also found a second, small artifact that has not yet been identified. To read about a recent reanalysis of a pair of Egyptian mummies, go to “We Are Family.”

Categories: Blog

New Kingdom Tomb Discovered in Saqqara

May 9, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a tomb dating to the reign of Ramesses II (1279–1213 B.C.) has been discovered in Saqqara. Ola El-Aguizy of Cairo University said that inscriptions on the tomb walls indicate it belonged to General Iwrkhy, his son Yuppa, and grandson Hatiay. Iwrkhy is thought to have moved to Egypt from another land when he began his career under Seti I, and to have attained his high rank in the court of Ramesses II. Images on the walls relate to Iwrkhy’s military career, including an infantry unit and charioteers crossing a waterway dotted with crocodiles, presumed to be Egypt’s eastern border, and relationships with other countries, such as pictures of Canaanite wine jars being unloaded from boats. Other images depict daily life in the military garrison. The tomb features a forecourt, a statue room, plastered vaulted storehouses, a peristyle court, and chapels. Excavation of the tomb will continue. To read in-depth about tomb paintings in Egypt, go to “Emblems for the Afterlife.”

Categories: Blog

Well-Preserved Ancestral Puebloan Pot Found in Arizona

May 9, 2018

ST. GEORGE, UTAH—The Spectrum reports that hiker Randy Langstraat discovered a nearly intact pot estimated to be 1,000 years old in the Arizona Strip desert. After concealing the pot in situ, he contacted the Bureau of Land Management. Archaeologist Sarah Page returned to the site with Langstraat, where they found the pot undisturbed. “While the BLM is tasked to protect these resources,” she said, “we need everyone’s help to do so.” The vessel is thought to have been crafted by the Ancestral Puebloan people who lived in the region between A.D. 1050 and 1250. It has an effigy handle that may depict a deer or bighorn sheep. Pieces that may have represented the animal’s ears or horns have broken off. To read about another discovery associated with the Ancestral Puebloan people, go to “Angry Birds.”

Categories: Blog

World War II–Era Deposit Unearthed in Poland

May 9, 2018

MASURIA, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that a 14-year-old boy on vacation with his family discovered documents and family heirlooms once owned by an aristocratic Prussian family in two milk cans buried near Lake Jeziorak in northeastern Poland. Most of the objects, including glasses, toiletries, clothing, hunting accessories, military decorations, a Wehrmacht officer uniform, banknotes, jewelry, a pocket watch, and a silver spoon, had been owned by Count Hans Joachim von Finckenstein, who lived in an estate near the lake until 1945. The cans also contained his will, marked with the family seal and coat of arms, a diary dating to World War I, letters, postcards, notes, and family photo albums. The personal items were handed over to the count’s daughter, who is now 81 years old and lives in Germany. She and a sister had been sent away from the estate before the arrival of the Red Army in 1945. Although the count eventually died in a Soviet camp, his wife was reunited with the children in Germany. Researcher Michal Mlotek thinks she may have buried the items before she left. “You can guess that these were things that could be used again after being retrieved,” he said, “most of them had a sentimental value, so in a sense they were a family treasure.” For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

Categories: Blog

China’s Oldest Bone Tools

May 8, 2018

ZHENGZHOU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that seven bone hammers estimated to be 115,000 years old have been found in central China, at a Paleolithic site in Xuchang City. Li Zhanyang of the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology said the tools had been made from the long leg bones of herbivores, and are thought to have been used to retouch stone tools. Before this discovery, China’s oldest known bone tools, unearthed in southwest China, dated to 35,000 years ago. For more on archaeology in China, go to “Tomb Couture.”

Categories: Blog

Doctor Offers Possible Diagnosis for 12th-Century Sultan

May 8, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—According to a Live Science report, Stephen Gluckman of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine suggests that Saladin may have been killed by typhoid. Born in what is now Tikrit, Iraq, Saladin fought against the Egyptian Fatimid Caliphate, and eventually became commander of Syrian troops in Egypt. In 1187, his army conquered Jerusalem, which led to the Third Crusade, from 1189 to 1192. Saladin died in 1193, at the age of 55 or 56, after a two-week-long illness with fever. Gluckman analyzed historical documents that recorded the sultan’s symptoms, and ruled out plague or smallpox, which kill people quickly, and tuberculosis, because there was no mention of coughing or breathing problems. Malaria, Gluckman added, is likely to have caused chills, which were not listed in the records. However, Gluckman explained, typhoid is contracted through the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella typhi, and causes high fever, weakness, stomach pain, headache, and loss of appetite. For more on archaeology in Iraq, go to “Assyrian Archivists.”

Categories: Blog

Two 19th-Century Ships Discovered Off Coast of Australia

May 8, 2018

WELSHPOOL, AUSTRALIA—According to a report in The Guardian, the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean has revealed two nineteenth-century ships, about 20 miles apart, some 1,400 miles off the southwest coast of Australia. Tests of samples of coal recovered from both wreck sites suggest the vessels had traveled from Britain. The first ship was found in splinters, in a debris field of coal, as if it sank after an explosion. A large, rectangular metal object at the site has been identified as a water tank. Records of coal ships lost during the nineteenth century are incomplete, but researchers suggest the wooden ship may be the brig W Gordon, which had been traveling to Australia from Scotland when it disappeared in 1877, or the barque Magdala, which was lost in 1882 while sailing from Wales to Indonesia. The second wreck, found sitting upright on the seabed, is thought to have been made of iron and to have had at least two decks. This ship may be the barque West Ridge, which sank in 1883. “These are the deepest wrecks so far located in the Indian Ocean, they’re some of the most remote shipwrecks in the world,” said Ross Anderson of the Western Australian Museum. To read about the investigation of another shipwreck, go to “Is it Esmeralda?”

Categories: Blog

Third Radar Study of Tutankhamun’s Tomb Completed

May 8, 2018

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a third radar survey of Tutankhamun’s tomb has found no evidence of any hidden chambers. Francesco Porcelli of the Polytechnic University of Turin led the team that conducted ground-penetrating radar (GPR) studies of the tomb, which is located in the Valley of the Kings. Porcelli said the GPR found no evidence of walls, voids, or doorjambs or lintels in the natural rock adjacent to the tomb. To read in-depth about tomb paintings in Egypt, go to “Emblems for the Afterlife.”

Categories: Blog

DNA Tests Suggest Family Relationships in Roman Cemetery

May 8, 2018

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND—According to a report in the Daily Gazette, scientists have detected a family relationship among individuals whose remains were found in a fourth-century A.D. burial site in southeast England. Earlier burials in the cemetery, which date to the era of Roman paganism, were laid out north-south, while later Christian burials, associated with traces of a church building, were oriented east-west. The configuration of the graves also suggested to researchers that the Christian cemetery had been arranged in family plots. Scientists led by Nelson Fernández of Essex University analyzed mitochondrial DNA and human leukocyte antigen from bone samples of 29 individuals in the Christian-era cemetery. “It means we have been able to for the first time scientifically prove the long-held theory there were family burial areas at the Butt Road Roman cemetery by showing they shared the same inherited genetic markers,” Fernández said. For more on Roman England, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

Categories: Blog

40,000-Year-Old Stone Tools Unearthed in Australia

May 5, 2018

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA—The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that nearly 100 flaked stone tools estimated to be up to 40,000 years old were uncovered in southeastern Australia during sewer work. “It gives us an understanding of how long our ancestors have been in this area and where they traveled,” said Stephen Hood, a spokesperson for the Gunai Kurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation. The artifacts have been photographed and documented, and will be reburied near their original location after the traditional land owners have analyzed them. To read about another discovery in Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

Categories: Blog

Mesolithic Settlement Found in Copenhagen

May 5, 2018

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that flint arrowheads as well as human and animal bones have been uncovered during construction work at Kastellet, a star-shaped fortress dating to the seventeenth century located in what is now Copenhagen. The artifacts suggest a settlement stood on the site some 7,000 years ago. The people who lived there are thought to have been hunter-gatherers who were part of the Kongemose culture, which covered southern Scandinavia. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Categories: Blog

Pages

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA Facebook Instagram YouTube Twitter
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!