Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, March 22

Possible Mesolithic Cannibalism Detected in Spain

VALENCIA, SPAIN—Ars Technica reports that evidence of cannibalism has been found in a cave near Spain’s southeastern coast. Anthropologist Juan V. Morales-Pérez of the University of Valencia and his colleagues found some thirty human bones in the cave, including pieces of three skulls, buried in the cave with the bones of ibex, deer, boar, fox, and rabbit. All of the 10,000-year-old bones had butchery marks, and had been burned, and some of them had human gnaw marks. The researchers think the “anthropophagic practices” may reflect the occasional scarcity of other food products, since the human bones appear to have been lightly cooked, butchered, and thrown in a pile with other animal bones. But it is possible that the perceived cannibalism had been part of a ritual, perhaps to honor the dead, and that the remains were given a ceremonial burial. All of the bones could have been washed to the back of the cave over a period of thousands of years. For more, go to “Colonial Cannibalism.”

Radar Survey Reveals Roman Temple in Central Italy

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The Times of London reports that a team from the University of Cambridge discovered a huge Roman temple while conducting a radar survey of Falerii Novi, an archaeological site located about 30 miles north of Rome. The temple, colonnaded on three sides, measured nearly 400 feet long and 200 feet wide. During the final centuries of the Roman republic, some 2,500 people lived in the walled town, which featured a theater, a basilica, eight temples in total, and a large defensive gate. Archaeologist Martin Millett said the survey also revealed the history of the growth and development of the town during the last years of the Roman republic. For more, go to “A Brief Glimpse into Early Rome.”

World War One–Era Bottles Unearthed in Israel

RAMLA, ISRAEL—According to a report in The Telegraph, an excavation ahead of highway construction in central Israel uncovered hundreds of gin, wine, and beer bottles dating to the early twentieth century in a garbage pit. The pit was found near an old building converted into barracks for British troops under the command of Field Marshall Edmund Allenby, who was on a mission to capture Ottoman-controlled Jerusalem by Christmas of 1917. The beverages are thought to have been consumed in an officers’ club, since fragments of Italian porcelain plates were also recovered. “It’s an amazing discovery and it really gives you a sense of what these soldiers were doing and how they spent their spare time,” said excavation director Ron Toueg. The excavators also found toothbrushes, uniform buttons, shaving kits, and the silver tip from a short cane known as a “swagger stick,” a symbol of authority for Royal Flying Corps officers. To read in-depth about the recent excavation of a glass works, go to “Letter from Philadelphia: Empire of Glass.”


More Headlines
Tuesday, March 21

17th-Century European-Style Burial Found in Taiwan

KONSTANZ, GERMANY—According to a report in The International Business Times, six burials dating to the seventeenth century have been found by an international team of researchers in the church cemetery at the site of San Salvador de Isla Hermosa, located on the Taiwanese island of Heping Dao. A Spanish colony occupied the settlement from 1626 to 1642. The cemetery is thought to contain the remains of Europeans, local Taiwanese, and possible people brought to the island from Africa as slaves. One of the burials contained the remains of a man whose hands had been folded as if in prayer. “It’s the first time we have such an old European grave uncovered in Asia-Pacific as a whole,” said team leader María Cruz Berrocal of the University of Konstanz. Further analysis of the remains could tell the researchers where the cemetery’s occupants came from, what they ate, and details of their medical history. To read about archaeology on an island in the Indian Ocean, go to “Castaways.”

Ancient Rock Art Damaged in Chad

N’DJAMENA, CHAD—BBC News reports that ancient paintings in caves and rock shelters on the Ennedi Plateau have been defaced with graffiti. Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Chad’s minister of culture, said the 8,000-year-old paintings had been covered with names written in French and Arabic. Located in what is now the Sahara Desert, the artwork of the Ennedi Plateau was named to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites last year. Abdelkerim Adoum Bahar, head of the UNESCO in Chad, thinks the damage can be repaired. For more, go to “Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast.”

Medieval Man’s Face Reconstructed

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The Independent reports that researchers from the University of Cambridge and Dundee University have reconstructed the face of a man who was buried face down in the cemetery of the Hospital of St. John the Evangelist in the thirteenth century. Known as “Context 958,” the man is thought to have lived at the hospital, which cared for indigent people of the town. According to John Robb of the University of Cambridge, analysis of the man’s robust skeleton suggests he led a life of hard work, and may have had a specialized trade, since he ate a diet relatively rich in meat or fish. But his burial at the hospital indicates that he fell on hard times and may not have been supported by a family network. Analysis of his teeth showed that the enamel had stopped growing twice in his youth, which indicates he experienced bouts of serious illness or extreme malnutrition. There was also evidence of a healed wound from a heavy blow to the back of his head. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

Monday, March 20

Archaeologists Investigate Jamestown Church

JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA—The Williamsburg Yorktown Daily reports that archaeologists from Preservation Virginia are investigating the remains of the three colonial churches at the site where a memorial church, built in 1906 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, now stands. The earlier churches date to 1617, the 1640s, and the 1680s. The team dug a pit in the chancel area and was recently working in the southeast corner, where high-status English colonists may have been buried. “We’ve gotten to an area where we can see in between the grave shafts in a couple of places,” said field supervisor Mary Anna Hartley. But earlier excavations may have moved two large gravestones that were placed flat on the church floor from the chancel to the cross-aisle in front of it. So any burials are probably unmarked. “That’s another thing we’re doing—figuring out what they found 100 years ago,” said archaeologist Danny Schmidt. “Archaeology of archaeology is a good way to put it.” For more, go to “Jamestown’s VIPs.”

Copper Coins Unearthed in Israel Amid Byzantine Rubble

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a hoard of 1,400-year-old copper coins was uncovered last summer in the ruins of a two-story building in a Byzantine-era town. The coins bear the faces of Byzantine emperors Justinian I, Maurice, and Phocas, and were minted in Constantinople, Antioch, and Nicomedia. Archaeologist Annette Landes-Naggar of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained that the building may have been a monastery, since the town was situated on a Christian pilgrimage route from the Mediterranean coast to Jerusalem. “The coins were found adjacent to the external wall of one of the monumental buildings found at the site, and it was found among the building stones that collapsed from the wall,” she said. The coins may have been placed in a niche in the wall for safekeeping. To read about another recent discovery in Israel, go to “Artifact: Bronze Age Jug.”

Ancient Port of Salamis Found

SALAMIS, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporteran ancient port, including harbor structures and fortifications, has been found by an international team of researchers on the island of Salamis. The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports said that the site is where Greek naval forces led by Themistocles gathered before the naval battle against King Xerxes and the Persians in 480 B.C. Monuments to the victory over the Persians are located adjacent to the site, which is also thought to have served as a commercial port. For more, go to “A Surprise City in Thessaly.”

Treasure Discovered in Southwest China

SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA—According to a report in Xinhua, a legendary treasure said have been lost some 300 years ago during a peasant uprising has been recovered from the Minjiang River, near its intersection with the Jinjiang River. Archaeologists from the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute drained a significant portion of the riverbed with pumps, and found the artifacts under 16 feet of earth. Seven silver ingots were previously found on the river bank in 2005 during a construction project. The legend states that the treasure was aboard a thousand boats traveling southward when the convoy, led by Zhang Xianzhong, was attacked and defeated by Ming Dynasty soldiers. Gold, silver, and bronze coins, jewelry, and iron weapons are among the more than 10,000 recovered artifacts. “The items are extremely valuable to science, history, and art,” commented archaeologist Li Boqian of Peking University. “They are of great significance for research into the political, economic, military, and social lives of the Ming Dynasty.” For more on archaeology in China, go to “Tomb from a Lost Tribe.”