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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, October 17

Neolithic Village Discovered in a Lake in Northern Poland

TORUŃ, POLAND—A team of archaeologists led by Andrzej Pydyn of Nicolaus Copernicus University has discovered a Neolithic settlement in the waters of Lake Gil Wielki. “In shallow water in the reservoir we found a large amount of animal bones, remains of tools made of antler and numerous fragments of pottery, used at various times by ancient communities. Among them, the fragments that caught our attention relate to the tradition of late Neolithic, probably associated with the so-called Corded Ware culture,” he told Science & Scholarship in Poland. The team mapped the site with side-scan sonar and are waiting for the results of tests to date the village. To read about the suprisingly sophisticated technology of this era, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Neolithic Toolkit."

Early 20th C. Sphinx Recovered in California

GUADALUPE, CALIFORNIA—The body of a giant sphinx from the set of the 1923 silent movie “The Ten Commandments” has been carefully removed from the sand in Guadalupe, California. The 15-foot-tall plaster sphinx is one of 21 that lined the path featured in the three-hour film, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. “[The 1923 film] was one of the largest movie sets ever made, because they didn’t have special effects. So anything that they wanted to look large, they had to build large,” Doug Jenzen, executive director of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, explained to Live Science. The hollow sphinxes eventually collapsed under the wind and rain and were covered by the shifting sand dunes. “The site is basically being destroyed through erosion. It’s become more critical to try to salvage some materials before they disappear,” said historical archaeologist M. Colleen Hamilton of Applied EarthWorks.

Egyptian Mummy Receives New Diagnosis

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA—A team of radiologists from St. Mary’s Medical Center examined the 2,100-year-old mummy of a child from the “Tombs & Treasures of Ancient Egypt” exhibit at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. Based upon X-rays taken more than 40 years ago, it had been thought that the child was between the ages of four and nine at the time of death, and that she had succumbed to tuberculosis, which can wear away bone. That diagnosis relied upon what appeared to be missing vertebrae in the lower spine. (Braided hair under her gilded mask suggest the child was a girl.) Views of the girl’s teeth from the new scans indicate that she was no more than three and one-half years old at the time of death, and the missing vertebrae were found lodged in her chest. They were probably displaced during the mummification process. The doctors think that the girl died of appendicitis—a “small, bright spot” in her central abdomen is thought to be a calcified deposit that blocked the organ and caused it to rupture. “Thanks to medical science, technology, and brilliant engineering we are unlocking secrets today that can inform history more than 2,000 years old,” Lew Crampton, CEO of the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, told The Sun-Sentinel. To read about animal mummies in ancient Egypt, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Messengers to the Gods."

Egypt’s Meidum Pyramid Will Be Restored

BENI SUEF, EGYPT—Mamdouh El-Damaty, Egypt’s Antiquities Minister, announced that the Meidum Pyramid will be restored and the site will be made tourist friendly with a visitor’s center and an informational sound and light show. The Meidum Pyramid is thought to have been built for Huni, the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty, from several mud-brick mastabas. In the fifteenth century, the Arab historian Al-Maqrizi described the pyramid as having five steps, but in 1788, during Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt, only three mastabas were observed by French explorers. “The unusual appearance of Meidum pyramid led Beni Suef inhabitants to call it ‘Al-Haram Al-Kadam (Pseudo Pyramid), Youssef Khalifa, head of the ancient Egyptian section, told Ahram Online. To read about the construction of pyramids, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "How to Build a Pyramid."

More Headlines
Thursday, October 16

Prehistoric Camps Found in the High Tetons

JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING—Matt Stirn and Rebecca Sgouros of the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum have found 30 previously unrecorded camps on the west slope of the Teton Range. They think families may have spent the summer, and perhaps the spring and fall, on the mountain, beginning as early as 11,000 years ago. They found stone points, tools, soapstone fragments, and one complete soapstone bowl—its lip was visible above the ground surface. Biomolecular testing may reveal how old the bowl is and what it was used for. “What we consider steep and difficult terrain probably was nothing for them. It would be interesting to ask: Did the severity of the topography on the Jackson side of the Tetons cause problems? Or maybe not. Both answers would be interesting,” Stirn told The Jackson Hole News & Guide. Further research will explore the east side of the Tetons and melting ice patches that may hold preserved artifacts. Stirn and Sgouros will also work with the U.S. Forest Service to develop a protection and preservation plan for the newly discovered archaeological sites. To read about Stirn's previous high altitude discoveries, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Villages in Wyoming Challenge Migration Map."

Persephone Revealed in Amphipolis Mosaic

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—The Greek Ministry of Culture has released additional images that show the completely uncovered mosaic floor in the Macedonian tomb at Amphipolis. Persephone can now be seen riding in the chariot, wearing a white robe fastened with a red ribbon, as she is abducted and taken to the underworld by Hades. The Greek Reporter states that protective layers have been placed over the mosaic as archaeologists continue with their work. To read about the rescue of ancient mosaic floors in Turkey, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Mosaic Masters."

MRI Shows ‘Princess Ukok’ Suffered From Breast Cancer

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA—MRI scans of ‘Princess Ukok,’ the mummified remains of a Pazyryk woman who was buried in the permafrost of the Altai Mountains 2,500 years ago, show that she suffered from breast cancer. It had been thought that her fractured skull and dislocated joints, perhaps from a fall from a horse, had been the cause of her death. “During the imaging of the mammary glands, we paid attention to their asymmetric structure and the varying asymmetry of the MR signal. We are dealing with a primary tumor in the right breast and right axial lymph nodes with metastases,” Andrey Letyagin of the Russian Academy of Medical Science told The Siberian Times. Letyagin and his colleague Andrey Savelov think that in her weakened state, the princess may have fallen from her horse while traveling to winter camp. To read about body decoration on other Pazyryk mummies, see ARCHAEOLOGY's special package "Ancient Tattoos."

Wednesday, October 15

Glass Produced in Sweden Earlier Than Previously Thought

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN—Anna Ihr of the University of Gothenburg has researched how vitrified artifacts from archaeological sites can be interpreted. She analyzed pieces of primary glass remains found in a cracked crucible at Old Lödöse, a medieval trade center located along Sweden’s Gota Älve River. “The dating of my finds shows that glass was produced in Old Lödöse prior to 1260. That’s 300 years earlier than the previously oldest known written sources, which are from 1556. This means that Sweden’s history of glass production now has to be revised,” Ihr told Innovations Report. Ihr also studied the glassy slag that was unintentionally produced in ceramic kilns at the ancient city of Qalhat in Oman. Her analysis showed that the kilns were fueled with dried fish, which fused with ashes and minerals in sand. “The use of dried fish was a conscious choice, though,” she said.

Prehistoric Barbeque, Oven Uncovered in Cyprus

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—An ash-filled pit lined with rocks that may have been used as a barbeque in prehistory has been excavated at the Prastio-Mesorotsos site in western Cyprus. “If this feature was for roasting food, this pit-roast technique would have served the needs of a great number of people, possibly bands of hunters exploiting the upland resources,” read a statement from the Cyprus department of antiquities, reported in the Cyprus Mail. The excavation team, led by Andrew McCarthy of the University of Edinburgh, also uncovered a domed structure that may have been used as an oven for baking bread and roasting meat. 

Cult Complex Found at Israel’s Tel Burna

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—Archaeologists working at Israel’s site of Tel Burna described their discovery of a 3,300-year-old cult complex at the annual meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists in Istanbul. Artifacts from the complex include three connected cups, thought to have been imported from Cyprus; a cylinder-shaped seal; a scarab bearing Egyptian hieroglyphs; fragments of two masks that may have been used in processions; and massive pithoi that may have held goods paid in tithes or stored food for ritual feasts. “From the finds within the building, we can reconstruct the occurrence of feasts, indicated by several goblets and a large amount of animal bones. Some of these animal bones are burnt, probably indicating their use in some sacrificial activity,” Itzhaq Shai of Ariel University told Live Science. The analysis of residues from the cups and the pithoi could offer more information on their use. Shai thinks the complex may have been devoted to the worship of Baal, the Canaanite storm god, or perhaps the war goddess Anat. To read about a 5,000-year-old sanctuary in Syria, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Temple of the Storm God."

Sicily’s Selinunte Had a Large Industrial Quarter

BONN, GERMANY—An industrial area with 80 kilns has been found at the Greek site of Selinunte on the southwest coast of Sicily. “The largest one is 17 feet in diameter, making it the biggest kiln ever found in a Greek city,” Martin Bentz of the University of Bonn told Discovery News. Although located within Selinunte’s city walls, the industrial quarter, which dates to 550 B.C., was separated from inhabited areas to keep residents from the fire danger, smell, and noise. It had a central courtyard where products such as roof tiles and vases were dried before firing, two large working and firing areas, and a shop. “The whole construction is more than 3,900 square feet, by far the largest workshop we know in the Greek world,” Bentz said. To read about a recently discovered Phoencian ship that was engaged in trade with Sicily, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Phoenician Artifacts Recovered Off Coast of Malta."