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4,000-Year-Old Burials Uncovered in England

May 23, 2017

STRATFORD, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Stratford Observer, five burials were found at a possible henge site in England’s West Midlands during construction work. “The henge survived as a shallow, segmented circular ditch with an internal diameter of around [30 feet],” said Nigel Page, a project officer with Archaeology Warwickshire. “The five people had been buried within a segment of it.” Three of the burials faced west, or out from the henge. The two outer burials faced east, or into the henge. Page added that the ditch was probably surrounded by a bank to close off its interior. Further study of the rare, 4,000-year-old skeletons may reveal their ages and sexes, and possibly even a family connection between them. To read about another discovery in the area, go to “Secret Spaces.”

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Medieval Brewery Unearthed in East England

May 23, 2017

LINCOLN, ENGLAND—Lincolnshire Live reports that a possible medieval brewery has been discovered amid the rubble of several 800-year-old buildings in the path of a new highway. Church records indicate that the land was worked by the monks of Kirkstead Abbey, who farmed and raised sheep during the twelfth century. A team from Network Archaeology uncovered two rectangular structures with sloping sides and stepped-out limestones that may have supported a wooden floor. They think the buildings may have been malt kilns, since the bottom of the structures, and a gap in the stones that could have acted as a flue, had been blackened by smoke. For more, go to “Legends of Glastonbury Abbey.”

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Embalming Materials Recovered in Luxor

May 23, 2017

LUXOR, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a cache of 3,900-year-old embalming materials has been recovered in the courtyard under the tomb of Ipi, a 12th-Dynasty vizier of Thebes, by a team of researchers led by Spain’s University of Alcalá. The deposit, which had been covered with sand in Deir El-Bahari, included inscribed pots and bowls, bandages, oils, scrapers, a shroud, wide sheets of linen, small pieces of cloth for wrapping fingers and toes, and a mummification board bearing the ankh symbol. All of the materials are thought to have been used during Ipi’s mummification. “The identification of these materials is of great importance for understanding the mummification techniques used in the early Middle Kingdom and the assessment of the kinds of items, tools, and substances involved in the process of embalming,” said Antonio Morales, head of the Spanish mission. The team has also identified what appears to be the vizier’s mummified heart. The jars were discovered in the early 1920s by American Egyptologist Herbert Winlock and left in situ. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “The Great Parallelogram.”

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Revolutionary War–Era Musket Ball Tests Positive for Blood

May 20, 2017

MANALAPAN, NEW JERSEY—NJ.com reports that a lead musket ball recovered from Monmouth Battlefield Park has tested positive for human blood protein. Members of the Battlefield Restoration and Archaeological Volunteer Organization collect musket balls in an effort to learn more about the positions of the Continental Army and British troops during the battle, fought in June 1778. This musket ball in particular is thought to have been used as canister shot—one of many balls stuffed in a tin canister and fired from a cannon. Dan Sivilich, president of the group, sent the ball for testing because it bears an impression resembling coarsely woven fabric, suggesting had hit a person. He later learned the impression was probably made by a corn stalk after the ball was plowed under the surface of the soil. “It’s very exciting in the fact that we’ve identified a projectile that hit a human target, which tells us definitively that we found the battlefield,” Sivilich said. For more on the archaeology of the American Revolution, go to “Finding Parker’s Revenge.”

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Massive Viking Camp Recreated

May 20, 2017

TORKSEY, ENGLAND—According to a report in Lincolnshsire Live, a 135-acre Viking camp located along the River Trent in Lincolnshire has been investigated by archaeologists from the University of Sheffield and the University of York. Artisans, traders, women, and children are believed to have lived alongside the invading Viking Great Army, described in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, during the winter of A.D. 872-73. As they prepared to continue their battles against Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the Vikings are thought to have spent the winter processing their plunder and trading in goods and possibly slaves. Evidence for metalworking includes pieces of chopped up silver and hack-gold ready to be melted down into ingots. More than 100 Arabic silver coins, and 300 gaming pieces used to pass the time, were also recovered, along with iron tools, spindle whorls, needles, and fishing weights. There’s also evidence the Vikings spent time repairing their longships. The new research was compiled and used to recreate the camp through a virtual reality experience now traveling throughout England. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

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50,000-Year-Old Site Discovered in Australia

May 20, 2017

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—The Guardian reports that a remote cave on the coast of Barrow Island, located off the coast of northwestern Australia, has yielded evidence of human occupation, including charcoal, marine and land animal remains, and other artifacts dating back to more than 50,000 years ago. Researchers from the University of Western Australia, the University of Queensland, the University of Adelaide, the University of Waikato, and Oxford University say the cave served as a hunting shelter between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago, and then became a dwelling for groups of families after about 10,000 years ago. The cave was then abandoned around 7,000 years ago, when the island is thought to have been separated from mainland Australia by rising sea levels. For more on archaeology in Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

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2,300-Year-Old Engraved Block Recovered in Egypt

May 19, 2017

ABYDOS, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a stone engraved with the cartouche of the 30th-Dynasty king Nectanebo II (r. ca. 360-342 B.C.) was recovered from an illegal excavation by the Tourism and Antiquities Police during a house inspection in the Beni Mansour area of Abydos. According to Hani Abul Azm, head of the Central Administration of Antiquities of Upper Egypt, subterranean water at the site has made it difficult to determine whether the block was part of the king’s royal shrine, or part of a temple that he had built. Further excavations are planned. To read about another discovery in Egypt, go to “World’s Oldest Dress.”

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17th-Century English Earthwork Investigated

May 19, 2017

NEWARK, ENGLAND—The Newark Advertiser reports that an English Civil Wars–era military earthwork, one of a network of 12 seventeenth-century earthworks placed around the strategic city of Newark in the East Midlands, is being excavated. The earthwork is thought to have been a cannon battery used by the Scots who joined a force of Parliamentarian troops during their third attack on the city in 1645. The Parlimentarian forces were eventually defeated by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Royalists in a battle known as the Relief of Newark. This earthwork “is quite a distance from central Newark, so it is possible the battery was built to protect the Great North Road and cut off all hope of rescue for the beleaguered Royalists,” said archaeologist Rachel Askew of the University of Central Lancashire. Askew and her team are also looking for evidence that the redoubt had been built long before the English Civil Wars by Henry VIII, who had an interest in protecting the Great North Road during the rebellion against his religious reforms. “We have also found pottery from that period on site and if we could prove the Henry VIII link that would be an amazing discovery of national significance,” Askew said. To read about another recent discovery relating to the English Civil Wars, go to “After the Battle.”

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First Farmers May Have Practiced “Unconscious Selection”

May 19, 2017

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND—ZME Science reports that scientists from the University of Sheffield examined the possible origins of agriculture by analyzing the sizes of the seeds of a range of crops thought to have been domesticated thousands of years ago. According to Colin Osborne and his team, the size of the seeds would not be directly affected if hunter-gatherers selected vegetable plants for their food value—leaves, stems, roots, or fruit. Changes in these seed sizes could have been the result of natural selection acting on cultivated crops, or genetic links between seed size and other plant characteristics such as the overall size of the plant, or the size of the crop yield. The researchers found that the seeds of seven vegetables did get bigger due to domestication, even in the case of crops such as sweet potato, which is propagated with tubers. Osborne noted that the sizes of grains, lentils, and beans, where the seed is eaten, were significantly larger than the seeds of vegetable crops. He also suggests that early changes to crops raised by the first farmers were unintended, and may have been the result of sowing wild plants in cultivated soil and then caring for them. For more on the archaeology of agriculture, go to “Mapping Maya Cornfields.”

Categories: Blog

New Thoughts on Hopewell Metal Beads

May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nature reports that tube-shaped beads found in a 2,000-year-old Native American grave in Illinois were made from shards of the Anoka meteorite, which landed in central Minnesota, more than 400 miles away. The 22 beads, found in 1945, were made by people of the Hopewell culture, and were found along with more than 1,000 shell and pearl beads. An earlier study had ruled out the Anoka meteor as the source of the material for the iron-nickel beads. But Timothy McCoy and his colleagues at the National Museum of Natural History compared the beads to a second chunk of the meteor and found that both the beads and the new piece of space rock contain micrometer-sized granules of iron enriched with nickel. Further tests indicated that the beads and the meteor were a near-perfect match. McCoy added that bands of a brittle mineral that extend through the Anoka meteorite would have made it possible to break off a lump of it. He also experimented with producing beads with a piece of the metal, a wood fire, and a stone hammer—and noted that making the beads must have been a very slow process. “You wonder how many failed experiments there were,” he commented. To read about another discovery associated with the Hopewell culture, go to “Baby Bobcat.”

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Graves Exhumed at 19th-Century Georgia Cemetery

May 18, 2017

ATHENS, GEORGIA—The Athens Banner-Herald reports that a portion of a cemetery was unearthed at the campus of the University of Georgia in 2015 by archaeologist Laurie Reitsema and her students and colleagues. About one third of the 105 graves that were excavated contained enough material to attempt mitochondrial DNA analysis. The tests revealed that most of the people buried in the cemetery were of African descent, and were probably enslaved, since the cemetery closed about ten years before the start of the Civil War. One burial is known to date to after the Civil War, however, since it included two nickels minted sometime between 1867 and 1883. Two of the children buried in the cemetery suffered from syphilis, which can be passed from mother to child. A low rate of arthritis was also observed, when compared to the remains of enslaved people whose remains were uncovered at a nineteenth-century plantation in Charleston. Reitsema suggests this could indicate the difference between the work performed by those living on plantations and those living in towns. For more on the archaeology slavery, go to “Letter from Virginia: Free Before Emancipation.”

Categories: Blog

New Dates Obtained for Al Badiyah Mosque

May 18, 2017

FUJAIRAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—According to a report in Gulf News, the Al Badiyah Mosque may be more than 150 years younger than had been previously believed. Geochemist Julie Retrum of the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi and archaeologist Michele Ziolkowski sent samples of the farush blocks used to construct the mosque to the University of Minnesota, where trace amounts of uranium preserved in the coral were tested with a technique known as uranium-thorium radiometric dating. The scientists also tested blocks from two coastal watchtowers. The test results suggest the mosque was built in the sixteenth century. Earlier excavations at the site recovered charcoal fragments dated to between 1450 and 1655, and pottery and porcelain fragments dated to the sixteenth century. Retrum and Ziolkowski think the mosque was probably standing by 1599, when the Portuguese controlled trade in the Arabian Sea, and Portuguese documents refer to the presence of a fort in Bidiya. “This research has helped to throw new light on the ages of some of Fujairah’s historic buildings,” Ziolkowski said. To read about a recent discovery in the area, go to “Bronze Age Bling.”

Categories: Blog

Students Uncover 1,400-Year-Old Buddha Statue in India

May 17, 2017

ODISHA, INDIA—The Odisha Sun Times reports that students from Utkal University have discovered a 1,400-year-old statue of the Buddha with a seven-headed snake in eastern India. They found the statue buried three feet beneath a banyan tree whose roots had grown over it. “The recent discovery shows that the Buddhists were residing in the Banapur area in Khurda district earlier [than had been previously thought],” said team leader Anam Behera. The seven-headed snake is said to have protected the Buddha while he meditated over a period of seven rainy days. For more, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”

Categories: Blog

Human Bones Found Under South Korea’s Wolseong Palace

May 17, 2017

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA—The AFP reports that the bones of two people were found side-by-side under a western corner wall of Wolseong Palace, the capital of the Silla Kingdom, established in 57 B.C. The people are thought to have been sacrificed sometime during the fifth century A.D., and then to have been buried under the foundation. “This is the first archaeological evidence that folklore about humans being sacrificed for the foundations of buildings, dams, or walls were true stories,” said spokeswoman Choi Moon-Jung of the Gyeongju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage. The human remains will be examined in order to try to determine the health, diet, and characteristics of the individuals. DNA tests will also be attempted. For more on Korean archaeology, go to “Guide to the Afterlife.”

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Early Silk Road Settlement Found in Uzbekistan

May 17, 2017

MING-TEPE, UZBEKISTAN—The Daily Sabah reports that a 2,000-year-old Silk Road settlement, including a tomb, a workshop, and a garrison for travelers, has been discovered in Central Asia’s Ferghana Valley by a team of archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the Institute of Archaeology of Uzbekistan. The city is thought to have been part of the Hellenistic Dayuan Kingdom, said in ancient accounts to have linked the descendants of Greek colonists and Chinese civilization. “Chinese and foreign archaeologists are carrying out collaborative work for the re-exploration of the Silk Road,” explained Chen Xingcan, director of CASS. For more on archaeology of the Silk Road, go to “The Price of Tea in China.”

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East African Hominin Diet Studied

May 17, 2017

TEMPE, ARIZONA—According to a report in The International Business Times, a study by Joshua Robinson, John Rowan, Christopher Campisano, and Kaye Reed of Arizona State University, and Jonathan Wynn of the University of South Florida, analyzed animal and hominin fossils to learn about the environment in areas of East Africa between 3.5 and one million years ago, since it has been suggested that a change from woody forests to cooler grassy plains might be connected to the emergence of the genus Homo. Stable isotopes preserved in fossilized teeth indicate whether animals fed on the leaves of woody trees, or if they ate grasses from arid, open plains. The researchers analyzed these isotopes in a 2.8 million-year-old Homo fossilized jaw, which was discovered at the site of Ledi-Geraru in Ethiopia, and is about 400,000 years older than the previously oldest known Homo fossil. The test results suggest this individual ate a diet similar to other animals that lived in the region during the same time period, even though some of those animals ate a diet based on tree leaves prior to 2.8 million years ago. The early Homo diet, however, was also similar to that eaten by Australopithecus, implying that a change in diet did not coincide with the origin of Homo. For more, go to “The Human Mosaic.”

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Artifacts Repatriated to Peru

May 16, 2017

CHICLAYO, PERU—Andina reports that an American citizen has handed over nine owl-head ornaments and one copper disc ornament thought to have been crafted by the Mochica and Lambayeque cultures to the Lord of Sipán Royal Tombs Museum. He had acquired the artifacts 28 years ago from an antiquities dealer in Lima. “They resemble [Lord of] Sipán pieces and might belong to other tombs around him,” said museum director Walter Alva, who excavated the tomb of the Moche Lord of Sipán, discovered at Huaca Rajada in 1987. Alva estimates the owl heads, associated with night and priests, are about 1,300 to 1,400 years old. The copper disc ornament is probably about 700 years old, he added. For more, go to “Peruvian Woman of Means.”

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Bolivia’s Tiwanaku Citadel Surveyed

May 16, 2017

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA—The Latin America Herald Tribune reports that the archaeological complex at Tiwanaku spans some 1,675 acres, and is thus larger than had been previously thought. Archaeologist Jose Ignacio Gallegos led a team that employed topographic imagery, satellite technology, and drone flights to make plans for the conservation of the site. The survey also revealed a large underground plaza and two platforms that may be part of a pyramid. There may even be as many as 100 circular houses, a network of water channels, and another temple buried at the site. “It’s going to change the focus and many theories will be enriched or complemented, but mainly it will allow us to make a …reinterpretation of what [Tiwanaku] was,” said Julio Condori, director of the Centro de Investigaciones Arqueologicas Antropologicas y Administracion de Tiwanaku. Plans to excavate later this year are being made. To read about another discovery made using remote sensing, go to “Angkor Urban Sprawl.”

Categories: Blog

Medieval Teutonic Castle Uncovered in Poland

May 16, 2017

TORUŃ, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a thirteenth-century castle has been unearthed in north-central Poland. The structure, built on a steep slope in Unislaw overlooking the Vistula River valley, is thought to have been first built by the Teutonic Knights. “It consisted of the high castle and two wards,” said team leader Bogusz Wasik of Nicolaus Copernicus University. The high castle, he explained, measured only about 100 feet long. A small courtyard was situated in front of the buildings. Ceramics, animal bones, eggshells, and fish bones and scales were found in a kitchen area. Other artifacts include a knife and armor plates. The castle was captured and destroyed during the Thirteen Years’ War, when the Teutonic Knights were eventually defeated by Poland and the Prussian Confederation. The castle was annexed to Poland and rebuilt, but was destroyed again in the seventeenth century during the Polish-Swedish wars. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

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Cachette of Mummies Discovered in Central Egypt

May 16, 2017

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a team from Cairo University discovered an unmarked burial site containing a collection of 17 mummies dating to the Late Period at Tuna Al-Gabal, also known as the necropolis of Khmun, located in central Egypt. Salah El-Kholi, head of the project, said that a radar survey of the area revealed the burial shafts, which also contained limestone and clay sarcophagi. The two clay sarcophagi are anthropoid coffins, one of which is damaged. Two papyri inscribed with Demotic script and a gold, feather-shaped decoration were also found. “This feather could be decoration on the hair dress of one of the deceased,” said El-Kholi. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to “Messengers to the Gods.”

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