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2018-01-21T00:48:11.960Z
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IKI, JAPAN—According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun, a small pottery fragment found at the Karakami archaeological site on an island off the coast of Kyushu bears the left half of a kanji character. The piece is thought have been part of a bowl produced in China, and to date to the late Yayoi Pottery Culture period, between 300 B.C. and A.D. 300, making the kanji character, pronounced “shu” in Japanese, one of the oldest to be found on pottery in Japan. The character appears to have been etched onto the surface of the finished bowl with a sharp tool, and may have represented a person’s name. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”
ASWAN, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a royal administrative complex dating to the Fifth Dynasty (2498–2345 B.C.) has been found in the ancient city of Tel Edfu by a team of Egyptian and American scientists. Gregory Marward of the University of Chicago said 220 mudbricks bearing the stamps of King Djedkare Isesi were found in the complex. The site is thought to have been used to store goods collected by the king on his expeditions to the South Sinai, where his workers extracted copper and other raw materials from the earth. King Isesi is also known to have ordered an expedition to Punt, a kingdom on the Horn of Africa, to obtain rare goods. Nubian pottery and shells from the Red Sea were recovered at the site, along with a list of names of workers who are thought to have participated in the expeditions. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”
NEW ALAMEIN CITY, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a first- or second-century tomb containing several burial cavities has been discovered at the site of Al-Alamein on Egypt’s northern coast. Naema Sanad, director of the site, said there is a rock-cut staircase leading to the tomb’s main chamber. Its southern wall had been decorated with a Greek “welfare horn” adorned with flowers and leaves. Coins, pottery, and lamps have also been found. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”
CHENGDU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that more than 200 burial sites have been found in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on cliffs overlooking the Jinjiang River. The tombs date from 206 B.C. to A.D. 420. Pan Shaochi of the Chengdu Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute said some of the tombs have as many as seven chambers, and tunnels measuring up to 65 feet long. Evidence suggests some of the tombs have been looted, but as many as 1,000 gold, silver, and bronze artifacts have nonetheless been recovered. “The discovery of the tomb cluster has provided rich materials for archaeological research on the Han and Wei-Jin dynasties,” Pan said. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Underground Party.”
SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS—The Illinois News Network reports that a dried rose discovered in a box of artifacts at the Will County Historical Society may have adorned the funeral bier of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., in April 1865. Sandy Vasko, director of the historical society, said she thinks the flower had been given to General Isham Haynie of Illinois, who was a friend of Lincoln’s and may have been by his bedside when he died of a gunshot wound. General Haynie is thought to have given the rose to Mrs. James G. Elwood, whose husband was mayor of Joliet, Illinois. Elwood’s possessions were given to the historical society and stored away after it moved to its current building in 1971. The delicate dried flower will be put on limited display. Vasko added that the only other known flowers from Lincoln’s funeral are held in the Library of Congress. For more, go to “A Bold Civil War Steamer.”
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Guardian, an international team of researchers has uncovered drainage tunnels and metal workshops on the small island of Dhaskalio, which was first modified by people more than 4,000 years ago. Back then, the island was a heavily populated promontory connected to the Cycladic island of Keros—and its prehistoric sanctuary—by a narrow causeway. A network of terraces and stairways was carved into the surface of the pyramid-shaped promontory, which was then covered with white stone imported from Naxos. “What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanization,” explained Michael Boyd of the University of Cambridge. Colin Renfrew, also of the University of Cambridge, suggests the development of the site may have been spurred by its expansive views of the Aegean Sea and by the fact that it had the best harbor on Keros. Traces of grains, grapes, olives, figs, almonds, and pulses have been found in the soil on Dhaskalio. Much of the food is thought to have been imported. The drainage system may have been used to pipe in fresh water or to carry away sewage. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Monumental Find.”
CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a section of a 19th-Dynasty stele has been discovered at the San Al-Hagar archaeological site in northern Egypt. Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the red-granite stele is carved with images of King Ramesses II presenting offerings to an as-yet-unidentified Egyptian deity. San Al-Hagar is known for its temples dedicated to the goddess Mut and the gods Horus and Amun, as well as for its monumental sculptures. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”
TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—Silje Fretheim of Norwegian University of Science and Technology analyzed the excavation of 150 well-preserved Stone Age dwellings in Norway and found that some Mesolithic hunter-gatherers built pit houses that were maintained for 1,000 years. According to a report in Science Nordic, the earliest traces of homes are small rings of stones that secured tent flaps made of animal skins, and cleared surfaces with areas of debris from stone tool construction. Fretheim thinks hunter-gatherers traveled with these small tents. Then, some 9,500 years ago, as the ice retreated and sea levels along the coast stabilized, people began to build pit houses with frameworks of wood and turf that were slightly larger than the tents. These larger dwellings may have been shared by larger family groups. Some of the pit houses were abandoned for a time and then reused over a period of more than 1,000 years. Fretheim suggests people placed the houses in areas supported by good fishing and hunting conditions because they recognized good places to live. To read about another archaeological project in Norway, focusing on much more recent history, go to “The Secrets of Sabotage.”
TULUM, MEXICO—Telesur reports that researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses have been found in the tunnel-like caves, which range in width from 400 feet to just three feet. “This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” said Guillermo de Anda, director of the study. It is not yet clear how the Maya artifacts came to rest in the caves. To read about another recent discovery in Mexico's cenotes, go to “Where There’s Coal….”
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND—According to a Science News report, a study of mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA obtained from two ancient Egyptian mummies known as the Two Brothers has revealed that they shared a mother, but had different fathers. The 12th-Dynasty mummies were found next to each other in the same tomb in 1907. Inscriptions on their coffins mention Khnum-Aa as the mother of both of the men. The inscriptions also list an unnamed local governor as their father, but it was unclear whether the men were supposed to be full brothers. An earlier analysis of the mummies’ mitochondrial DNA, obtained from liver and intestinal samples, suggested one or both of them did not have Khnum-Aa as a mother. Scholars also noted differences in the mens' features that could indicate that they were not biologically related. So, archaeogeneticist Konstantina Drosou of the University of Manchester and her colleagues obtained more reliable samples from the mummies’ teeth for the new study. The researchers note that the results reflect the importance of the maternal line of descent to the Egyptians. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”
GALWAY, IRELAND—The Irish Times reports that limestone walls uncovered in Galway during the restoration of a fifteenth-century manor house may be part of a castle built in 1232. Called the castle of Bungalvy, the structure was built on the banks of the Corrib River by the De Burgos, an Anglo-Norman family credited with founding the port city. Charcoal deposits at the site could mark the fires that damaged the castle in 1233 and 1247. In the late thirteenth century, stone from the castle is thought to have been used to construct the nearby Red Earl’s house, which acted as a courthouse and was used by the De Burgos to collect taxes and host banquets. The De Burgos are thought to have constructed the castle at the site of a wooden defensive structure that had been built by the Gaelic O’Flaherty clan in 1124. For more, go to “Irish Vikings.”
JENA, GERMANY—The Guardian reports that researchers from the University of Tübingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have detected evidence of a typhoid-like illness in the remains of Aztecs who died in epidemics between 1545 and 1550, after the arrival of Europeans in the New World. According to the historical record, those who suffered from the illness known as “cocoliztli” in the Aztec Nahuatl language had high fevers, headaches, and bleeding from the eyes, mouth, and nose, and usually died within three or four days. The scientists used a new computational program to screen fragments of bacterial DNA extracted from 29 skeletons unearthed at a cemetery site in Oaxaca, Mexico, and found the Salmonella enterica bacterium, which today causes high fevers, dehydration, and gastro-intestinal complications. This is the first time that S. enterica has been identified in ancient New World remains, they said. The microbe is known to have been present in medieval Europe, and may have traveled to the New World in domesticated animals. “We cannot say with certainty that S. enterica was the cause of the cocoliztli epidemic,” said Kirsten Bos of the Max Planck Institute. “We do believe that it should be considered a strong candidate.” For more, go to “Aztec Warrior Wolf.”
INVERNESS, SCOTLAND—The Herald reports that a broch, or roundhouse, in Comar Wood has been dated to 2,400 years ago. The stone building is thought to have been the home of a local chief or lord which was taken over by local people who used it intermittently as a defensive structure. Researchers from AOC Archaeology also recovered traces of metalworking and stones for grinding grain. They said the structure had been burned down twice and rebuilt over a period of 600 years before it was finally abandoned. “We don’t know why it was used in the way it appears to have been,” said archaeologist Mary Peteranna. “More excavation would be needed to further investigate the site.” To read about another recent discovery in Scotland, go to “Fit for a Saint.”
BERN, SWITZERLAND—Newsweek reports that an undisturbed kurgan thought to hold the tomb of a Scythian prince has been found in southern Siberia by archaeologist Gino Caspari of Bern University. Caspari spotted the kurgan in a remote, swampy area in the Uyuk River Valley with high-resolution satellite imagery. Preliminary excavations, conducted with researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences and the State Hermitage Museum, suggest the burial dates to around 3,000 years ago, or the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. And the scientists are hopeful the tomb is situated below a layer of permafrost. “If it really turns out to be a permafrost tomb, we can hope for an exceptional preservation of objects that are usually not part of the archaeological record,” Caspari said. To read about another recent discovery in Siberia, go to “Squeezing History from a Turnip.”
CORK, IRELAND—According to a report in the Irish Times, dendrochronological evidence suggests Vikings developed an urban center in Cork about 15 years before they arrived in County Waterford, which is known for its Viking presence. Cork City Council executive archaeologist Joanne Hughes said the oldest house at the site in Cork dates to A.D. 1070. She explained that the settlement expanded as buildings were placed on low mounds above the water level over a period of about 20 years. Some of the stone walls and foundations have survived at the now waterlogged site, as well as a highly decorated weaver's sword, saddle pommel, and thread winder, all made of wood. The walls will be preserved in situ, requiring changes to the plans for a new building at the site. For more, go to “The Vikings in Ireland.”
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA—The Guardian reports that the 40,000-year-old remains of “Mungo Man” and more than 100 other early Australians have been handed over to traditional owners for reburial in southeast Australia. “Mungo Man” was discovered in 1974 at Lake Mungo, now a dry lake bed, by geomorphologist Jim Bowler of Australian National University. Since their discovery, the remains have been in the custody of Australian National University and then the National Museum of Australia. “It is an amazing day and a privilege to be part of,” said Bowler, who is now 88 years old. To read about another recent discovery in Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—Tests of ancient Egyptian papyri suggest that metal-filled black ink was used across Egypt from roughly 200 B.C. to A.D. 100, according to a report in Cosmos. It had been thought that most writing had been completed with carbon-based ink until the fourth or fifth century A.D. Thomas Christiansen of the University of Copenhagen and his team analyzed inks from papyri printed before 88 B.C., and a second group of papyri dated up to the second century A.D., with radiation-based X-ray microscopy at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. All four varieties of ink identified on the papyri contained copper, in the form of the minerals cuprite, azurite, and malachite. The researchers think soot and charcoal created during the process of removing copper from ores may have been used in the ink. Christiansen notes the blue pigment used by the ancient Egyptians was produced with copper scraps from the metal workshops attached to temples. For more on the use of Egyptian blue, go to “Hidden Blues.”
FRANKFURT, GERMANY—According to a report in Seeker, recent excavations in northern Iraq led by Dirk Wicke of Goethe University uncovered traces of a loom dating to the fifth or sixth century A.D., and pieces of clay imprinted with images of griffins and horses that may have been seals placed on rolls of fabric. The loom, placed in the corner of a room, would have supported vertical hanging threads pulled straight by clay loom weights. A bench of six mudbricks had been situated in front of the loom, presumably so the weaver could insert the horizontal threads. Below the loom, the excavators found a cylinder seal dated to the Assyrian period, between the ninth and seventh centuries B.C. Two winged genies with a cone and a bucket of liquid thought to have been used during a purifying ritual appear on the seal. “It is difficult to pinpoint an exact meaning to it, but this image was very often depicted in the royal palaces and appears to act as a beneficiary motif used to magically protect the king and inhabitants of the palace or palaces,” Wicke said. The team also uncovered a stone wall dating to the Assyrian period that may have been part of a watchtower. To read about an excavation in Iraqi Kurdistan, go to “Erbil Revealed.”
LYON, FRANCE—The Local reports that a medieval treasure trove has been found near the Cluny Abbey in eastern France. The excavation team, made up of researchers from the University of Lyon II and France’s National Center for Scientific Research, discovered the cache of twelfth-century coins while looking for the corner of the abbey’s infirmary. Most of the 2,200 silver coins were issued by Cluny Abbey. The 21 gold coins, which had been stored in a canvas bag, originated in the Middle East. Additional gold items include a gold signet ring engraved with the word “Avete,” a Latin greeting, and a folded piece of gold leaf. Team member Vincent Borrel said that in their time, the items discovered would have been able to purchase a six-day supply of bread and wine for the abbey. For more, go to “France’s Roman Heritage.”
JINGCHUAN COUNTY, CHINA—An excavation in northwest China has uncovered a 1,000-year-old ceramic box containing cremated human remains said to have belonged to Siddhārtha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, according to a report in Live Science. An inscription on the box explains that two monks, named Yunjiang and Zhiming, of the Mañjuśrī Temple of the Longxing Monastery collected the more than 2,000 pieces of cremated remains, including teeth and bones, over a period of 20 years, and buried them in the temple on June 22, 1013, as a way to practice and promote Buddhism. More than 260 Buddhist statues, and the remains of a building that may have been part of the monastery complex, were also found. Hong Wu of the Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology said it was not clear whether the statues, which had been made as early as the fourth century A.D., had been buried at the same time as the cremated remains. Some of the statues, which depict the Buddha, bodhisattvas, arhats, and deities, stood more than six feet tall. Few of the statues had been inscribed, but carved steles were also recovered. For more, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”