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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, August 26

Flooding Damages Rock Art in China

YINCHUAN, CHINA—China.org.cn reports that rare flooding in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of northwest China has damaged some of the thousands of prehistoric carvings on the cliffs of Helan Mountain. The images are thought to have been created by nomads who lived in the area between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago. Some of the images were damaged by mud and silt, and about a dozen images that had been carved on individual rocks were carried away by the flood waters. Other pictures were lost when layers of mountain rock peeled off or cracked in the heavy rains. Hu Zhiping, deputy director of the Helan Mountain Cliff Painting Administration, said that the extent of the damage is still being assessed. To read more about archaelogy in China, go to "Tomb from a Lost Tribe."

Bronze-Age Toy Unearthed in Anatolia

AKSARAY, TURKEY—Archaeologist Aliye Öztan announced in the Daily Sabah that a 4,200-year-old toy was discovered at the Acemhöyük site in central Turkey. Öztan described the toy as a bag-shaped rattle fashioned from terracotta and pebbles. He added that it probably had a handle at one time. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to "In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone."

New Thoughts on the Roman Invasion of Scotland

DUMFRIESSHIRE, SCOTLAND—Archaeologist Andrew Nicholson thinks flat-topped Burnswark Hill may have been the site of the first battle of the Roman invasion of Scotland around A.D. 140, according to a report in BBC News. Traces of a native hill fort have been found on the top of the hill, and two Roman camps that could have housed more than 6,000 soldiers have been found on its northern and southern slopes. It had been suggested that the Romans trained their troops at the abandoned fort, or that the Romans laid siege to the fort while it was being used by local tribespeople. But the current excavation, led by Andrew Nicholson, has uncovered “massive amounts” of lead shot that had been slung at the fort. And documentary evidence indicates that Roman general Lollius Urbicus had been sent to Scotland from the Middle East, where he had conquered one Jewish hill fort after another. “This literally is a site where people suffered an attrition to the very end and I would suspect that probably nobody survived this and the Roman army moved on into the rest of Scotland,” John Reid of the Trimontium Trust explained. For more, go to "Lead Sling Bullets May Have 'Whistled' During Battle." 

Scholars Find Name of Goddess in Etruscan Inscription

DALLAS, TEXAS—Discovery News reports that scholars have completed a preliminary reading of the text inscribed on a sandstone stele unearthed at an Etruscan sanctuary in Italy’s Mugello Valley. The 2,500-year-old stele measures about four feet tall by two feet wide, and was found in the foundation of a temple at the site of Poggio Colla. The text, made up of more than 120 characters, has been damaged. “Cleaning at a restoration center in Florence has allowed better visibility of the inscribed signs, making it possible to identify a larger sequence of letters and words,” said researcher Adriano Maggiani. Among the words is the name of the goddess Uni, consort of the Etruscan supreme deity, Tinia. The team members of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project think the sanctuary where the stele was found may have been dedicated to Uni. They have also recovered weaving tools, pottery, and gold jewelry that point to the worship of a fertility goddess. For more on the Etruscans, go to "The Tomb of the Silver Hands."

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Thursday, August 25

Neolithic Facial Ornaments Discovered in the Arctic Circle

KRASNOYARSK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that archaeologists from Krasnoyarsk Geoarkheologia discovered two pieces of jewelry that were worn inserted in the lower lip some 370 miles north of the Arctic Circle. “We found these labrets at the Neolithic site Bolshaya II, which is located on the bank of the Novaya River, a tributary of the Katanga River,” said Danil Lysenko. The labrets and several arrowheads, all of which are thought to date to the third or fourth millennium B.C., had been exposed by the wind and were lying on the surface of the ground. Labrets were made of shell, bone, or stone and are thought to have been worn by both men and women during this period. For more, go to "Letter from Siberia: Fortress of Solitude."

17th-Century Scottish Soldiers Will Be Reburied in England

DURHAM, ENGLAND—The remains of 1,700 soldiers who were captured by Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1650 at the Battle of Dunbar will be reinterred in a cemetery in Durham, near the mass grave where the bones were unearthed in 2013. According to a report in Culture 24, after the battle some 3,000 captive soldiers were marched from southeastern Scotland to Durham, where they were imprisoned and many died of starvation and disease. But why won’t the bones be sent to Scotland for reburial? “Our research is clear that not all of the individuals were from the United Kingdom, and several more may be from either Scotland or northern England. Home was perhaps not Scotland for all these men,” Chris Gerrard of the University of Durham explained. The excavation team also thinks that additional remains are probably located under Durham University structures on Palace Green, so reburial in Durham will keep the remains together. It also accords with British law, Gerrard noted. The university will retain several of the soldiers’ teeth for future study. For more, go to "English Civil War Mass Grave Identified."

Sarcophagus Discovered in Kushite-Dynasty Burial Chamber

LUXOR, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a burial chamber and sarcophagus were discovered on Luxor’s west bank by archaeologists of the Egyptian American South Asasif Conservation Project. They have been excavating the tomb of Karabasken, a government official in Thebes. The sarcophagus, carved from red granite, dates to the 25th Dynasty (728–657 B.C.), and was not painted nor engraved. Mahmoud Affifi of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities explained that it is a unique example of a Kushite sarcophagus in an elite tomb. Damage to the sarcophagus suggests that there had been attempts to break into it in antiquity. “The interior of the sarcophagus was flooded after the first attempt, but further cleaning work will show if any fragments of the wooden coffin or other burial equipment are still preserved inside,” said Elena Pischikova, director of the archaeological mission. For more on archaeology in Egypt, go to "The Great Parallelogram."

Wednesday, August 24

Metal Artifacts Recovered in Israel

HADERA, ISRAEL—Relatives who inherited a collection of ancient metal artifacts have turned them over to the Israel Antiquities Authority, according to a report in Live Science. The objects were gathered over a period of many years from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, near the power plant in northern Israel where the collector worked. Among the objects are a toggle pin and the head of a knife thought to be more than 3,500 years old. Other items, such as mortars and pestles and candlestick fragments, were probably manufactured in Syria and imported to Israel during the eleventh century. The collection also includes also a hand grenade thought to date to the Crusader, Ayyubid, or Mamluk periods. Archaeologists suggest that the artifacts may have been part of a metal merchant’s cargo lost in the early Islamic period. To read about another recent find from the waters off Israel, go to "Sun and Moon."

Remnants of 19th-Century Wheelhouse Uncovered in Canada

OTTAWA, ONTARIO—CBC News reports that a 145-year-old wheelhouse, or railway turntable, and three spur lines have been unearthed at a construction site in Canada’s capital city, near the path of a new light-rail line. The turntable’s limestone wall was discolored by a fire in 1883. “The stonework itself was pretty rushed. So it looks like they were in a hurry to get their spur line completed,” said Jeff Earl of Past Recovery Archaeological Services. A wooden pivot line in the center of the wheelhouse has also survived. The wheelhouse was operated by the Ottawa St. Lawrence Railways, whose trains transported logs from sawmills at Chaudière Falls to the St. Lawrence River, where they were placed on ships headed to Europe. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to "Franklin’s Last Voyage." 

Well-Preserved Brick Vault Found in Anatolia

─░ZMIR, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a well-preserved brick vault has been unearthed in the ancient city of Metropolis. Serdar Aybek of Manisa Celal Bayar University said that the 1,900-year-old vault is located in a public bath. Excavations at the site, which began in 1990, have also uncovered a Hellenistic-era theater, Roman-era shops and streets, a gallery with columns, a hall with mosaics, and a temple dedicated to Krezimos, or Zeus. More than 10,000 artifacts, including ceramics, glassware, and sculptures have also been recovered. To read about another discovery in Turkey, go to "In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone."

Earthquake Strikes Bagan Archaeological Zone

BAGAN, MYANMAR—At least one person has died in a 6.8-magnitude earthquake that shook central Myanmar, home to the Bagan Archaeological Zone, the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan from the ninth through the thirteenth centuries. BBC News reports that at least 66 of the more than 2,000 surviving temples, stupas, and pagodas have been damaged. Earthquakes have destroyed most of the city’s original 10,000 structures. For more, go to "The Ancient Burmese City of Bagan."

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