Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, May 06

Picture Tattoos Spotted on 3,000-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA—Most tattoos found on Egyptian mummies are patterns of dots or dashes, but according to a report in Nature, bioarchaeologist Anne Austin of Stanford University found tattoos representing actual objects on a 3,000-year-old mummified woman from Deir el-Medina, the village where the artisans who worked on tombs in the Valley of the Kings are thought to have lived. Using infrared lighting and an infrared sensor, Austin and her team recorded more than 30 tattoos on the woman’s remains. Many of the images, which include pictures of lotus blossoms on the woman’s hips, cows on her arm, baboons on her neck, and wadjet eyes on her neck, shoulders, and back, are associated with the goddess Hathor. “Any angle that you look at this woman, you see a pair of divine eyes looking back at you,” Austin said. Some of the images are more faded than others, and are thought to have been applied as the woman aged. To read in-depth about the archaeology of body art, go to "Ancient Tattoos."

800-Year-Old Brick-Lined Well Discovered in Vietnam

QUANG NAM, VIETNAM—Archaeologists led by Ton That Huong, head of the province’s Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, have discovered a well thought to date to the twelfth century at a site known for its Cham steles, statues, and temples. According to a report in Vietnam News, the square-shaped well measures approximately three feet per side and is lined with bricks similar to those used in other Cham structures in central Vietnam. The well is located on the edge of the archaeological site, near an agricultural field, so a fence will be built to protect it. To read more about ancient sites in the region, go to "Letter From Cambodia: Storied Landscape."

More on 17th-C. Remains Unearthed in Durham, England

DURHAM, ENGLAND—Researchers from Durham University have examined the bones of up to 28 individuals thought to have been Scottish prisoners of war captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 by the English army. Historical sources say that at least 4,000 men were taken prisoner and marched to Durham Cathedral and castle, where they were held. The bodies in the two graves had been placed there haphazardly. Marks on the bones, perhaps made by scavenging animals, suggest that the graves were left open over a period of time. According to a report in Chronicle Live, the scientists have found many of the individuals to have been between 13 and 25 years old at the time of death. The condition of their teeth suggests that the young men had experienced malnutrition and disease in childhood, and that some of them smoked pipes, which became popular in the 1630s. Their lack of healed wounds suggests that they had not had previous battle experience. “We would like to know more about the circumstances of the battle and march south, and see if we can find any evidence for other mass graves as yet undiscovered,” said Beth Upex of the University of Durham. To read about more about historical archaeology in the British Isles, go to "Letter From Scotland: Living on the Edge."

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Thursday, May 05

Possible Iron Age Chamber Discovered in Scotland

HARRAY, ORKNEY—A landowner in Scotland found an intact underground chamber that may date to the Iron Age, according to a report in The Orcadian. “Peering inside the entirely roofed, pristine structure, we could see that, although the site was hitherto unknown to officialdom, it had been discovered previously, in the Victorian period, as the whole of the interior is covered in nineteenth-century rubbish—iron kettles, pots, glass bottles, marmalade jars, and imported French mustard jars!” said Martin Carruthers of the University of Highlands and Islands. Carruthers and county archaeologist Julie Gibson think the trash could provide clues to the life of a local resident in the nineteenth century, but for now, the structure has been closed up and is being monitored. To rea more about archaeology in Orkney, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart." 

Conservation of Civil War Ironclad Continues

NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA—Conservators at the USS Monitor Center at The Mariners’ Museum have begun to remove the marine concretions from the surfaces of the ship’s gun turret, which has been soaking in a 90,000-gallon treatment tank for five years. The Daily Press reports that the conservators will also remove the metal shields that line the interior of the turret to clean and to look for small artifacts that may have been trapped there when the warship sank. Most of the shields are in delicate condition, “but there are still four or five of them that are mostly intact—all on the starboard side of the turret where most of the artifacts have been found. So we believe there’s a pretty good chance there are more of them waiting to be exposed,” explained senior conservator William N. Hoffman. To date, the team has recovered a bone-handled knife, a silver table spoon, a monkey wrench, a glass tube for a steam engine gauge, and a cartridge for a naval carbine behind the shields. To read more about USS Monitor, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks."

New Evidence of a Sanctuary Unearthed in Heliopolis

CAIRO, EGYPT—Mahmoud Afify, head of the ancient Egyptian antiquities sector at the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, announced that the Egyptian-German Archaeological Mission to Matariya discovered a sanctuary of Nectanebo I (380-363 B.C.) in the temple precinct of Heliopolis. According to a report in ANSAmed, the building was constructed with limestone reliefs and columns, and had lower wall zones made of black basalt. Aiman Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian team, added that the eastern gate was made of brown silicified sandstone. The team also unearthed a bronze figurine of the goddess Bastet, basalt slabs carved with images of Nile gods and accompanying texts, and sculptor’s practice pieces. To read about animal mummies, go to "Messengers to the Gods."

Wednesday, May 04

Buddhist Sculptures Discovered in Pakistan

SWAT VALLEY, PAKISTAN—Buddhist sculptures and carvings have been discovered in a shrine in the ancient city of Bazira, founded in the second century B.C. and damaged by earthquakes in the third century A.D. According to a report in Live Science, one of the 1,700-year-old sculptures is thought to depict the wealthy prince Siddhartha traveling on a horse named Kanthaka. Archaeologist Luca Olivieri thinks that the carving may illustrate the story of Siddhartha, who eventually became the Gautama Buddha, leaving his home to seek enlightenment. Another carving features a stupa with a platform, or harmika, near its top. Next to the stupa are two columns topped with lions. Olivieri said this sculpture may represent an actual stupa in the Swat Valley. A carving found in the shrine’s courtyard is thought to date to the post-earthquake period. It pictures an unknown male deity sitting on a throne while holding a wine goblet and a severed goat’s head. “The goat is an animal associated to the mountains in the cultures of Hindu Kush, the local region,” Olivieri said. To read more about the archaeology of Siddhartha Guatama, go to "Buddhism, in the Beginning."

Possible Extinct Bison Remains Found in Florida

VERO BEACH, FLORIDA—A team from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has uncovered what may be the 13,000-year-old bones and an upper molar of an extinct species of bison at the Old Vero Man site. “It most certainly puts bison on the menu when we know people were here in Vero Beach at that time. An eight-foot-tall bison leaves behind so much more than just a stone flake or a hearth. We couldn’t have asked for a better representative species from that era,” lead archaeologist Andrew Hemmings told TCPalm. The team also found charcoal, the bones of small mammals, and bone fragments that may have come from mammoths, mastodons, sloths, or ancient bison. To read more about the earliest people to reach the new world, go to "America, in the Beginning."

19th-Century Turtle Soup Can Unearthed in the Netherlands

DELFT, NETHERLANDS—According to The Netherland Times, construction crews digging a new railway tunnel in the city of Delft uncovered a shiny metal object that turned out to be a luxury container for turtle soup. The can was made of tin and wrapped in brass. The print, written in French, reads: “Preserved foods, W. Hoogenstraaten and Sons, purveyor, turtle soup, Leiden.” Bas Penning of Archaeology Delft explained that the company W. Hoogenstraaten and Sons was founded in Leiden in 1860, and changed its name in 1900, so the can was manufactured sometime in the late nineteenth century. The soup was therefore Dutch in origin, but was probably exported throughout Europe. “French was a common language then,” he said. To read about another recent archaeological discovery in the Netherlands, go to "Medieval River Engineering."

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