Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
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 were blown off in battle, “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. So far, 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."

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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."

Tuesday, May 03

Study Suggests the Calusa Engineered Mound Key

ATHENS, GEORGIA—Researchers from the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, Pennsylvania State University, and Florida Gulf Coast University are studying Mound Key, an island built by the Calusa from hundreds of millions of shells, bones, and other discarded materials in Estero Bay. Extensive radiocarbon dates, taken from the island’s different layers, indicate that the younger building materials are found on the bottom, even though you would expect to find them on the top. “It appears that the island was occupied early in its existence, abandoned, and then reoccupied,” R&D Magazine reports. “During Mound Key’s second occupation, its inhabitants substantially altered the landscape by redepositing old midden to form at least the upper portions of the two largest midden-mounds.” To read about how modern-day Native Americans in Florida uphold ancient traditions, go to "People of the White Earth."

Scientists Examine Aircraft Carrier, Declassified Documents

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA—According to a report in Live Science, researchers have compared sonar images of the wreck of USS Independence (CVL22) with declassified documents to determine how the aircraft carrier was used in the years following World War II. Marine archaeologist James Delgado of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the Independence was one of a fleet of vessels assigned to Operation Crossroads to examine the effects of shock waves, heat, and radiation from the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. The Independence survived the tests and so was used for decontamination studies, and then as a laboratory for testing ways to handle radioactive waste. In 1951, the Navy stored radioactive waste in steel and concrete drums on the cleaned ship and then sank it in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. “Independence, by the time it was sunk, was at about a level that you would get with an average X-ray,” Delgado said. “Now we not only know what shape she’s in and where she lies, but also exactly what happened to the Independence.” To read more about USS Independence, go to "Wrecks of the Pacific."

New Thoughts on a Viking Runestone

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN—Per Homberg of the University of Gothenburg suggests that the inscription on the Rök Runestone, which dates to the late A.D. 800s, does not refer to acts of heroism, kings, and wars, as had been previously thought, but honors the power of writing itself and harnesses it to honor the dead. Homberg says the Rök Runestone is unusual because its text is long, but its meaning is similar to that expressed on other runestones. “The riddles on the front of the stone have to do with the daylight that we need to be able to read the runes, and on the back are riddles that probably have to do with the carving of the runes and the runic alphabet, the so-called futhark,” he said in Laboratory Equipment. In this interpretation, the 24 “kings” mentioned at the bottom of the stone are not rulers, but the set of runes themselves. To read more about the Viking world, go to "The First Vikings."

Intact Pot Unearthed in St. Augustine, Florida

SAINT AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA—KAGS TV reports that city archaeologist Carl Halbirt unearthed an intact pot at the site of the Mill Top Tavern, across from the Castillo de San Marcos. He thinks the pot was buried in a pit at least 300 years ago by Native Americans and may have had ritual significance. The pot contained pieces of another pot and soil that will be analyzed. To read more about the archaeology of Native Americans in Spanish Florida, go to "Off the Grid: Mission San Luis." 

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