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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, June 28

Lifeguard Finds Medieval Oil Lamp

ASHEKELON, ISRAEL—Lifeguard Meir Amsik was out for his regular run on a beach at Tel Ashkelon National Park when he discovered a clay oil lamp eroding out of a costal cliff. After showing it to a colleague, the two decided to contact the Israel Antiquities Authority and alert specialists to the find. Archaeologist Sa’ar Ganor then examined the artifact and dated it to the twelfth century A.D., the Crusader Period. “Finding such a treasure is very exciting,” Amsick told the Jerusalem Post. “Just to feel like a part of history fulfills a sense of appreciation for what was here before me, and makes me feels like a link in the chain.” To read about the discovery of coins in Israel dating to the time of the Bar-Kokhba rebellion, go to “Artifact: Roman Coins in Israel.”

Medieval Weapons Foundry Discovered in Siberia

IRKUTSK, RUSSIA—Beneath a road used by tourists traveling to the popular destination of Lake Baikal, archaeologists have discovered a medieval forge dating to about A.D. 1000. Led by Irkutsk National Research Technical University's Artur Kharinsky, members of the team first noticed the site when they spotted slag on the surface of the road. The Siberian Times reports that remote sensing at the spot showed the presence of two underground structures, which after excavation were found to be stone furnaces that would have been used to smelt iron ore for knives and arrowheads. "Judging by the amount of iron, which can be produced with such forges, the locals managed not only to meet the needs of their own territory, but also to export production to neighboring areas," says Kharinsky. It's likely the forge was used by the medieval Turkic-speaking Kurykan people, who were know for their blacksmithing abilities. To read more about medieval-era archaeology in Siberia, go to “Fortress of Solitude.”

Possible Gateway to Pan Sanctuary Discovered

  HAIFA, ISRAEL—LiveScience reports that recent excavations at the Greco-Roman city of Hippos near the Sea of Galilee may shed light on the discovery last year of a remarkable bronze mask depicting the half-man half-goat god Pan. University of Haifa archaeologist Michael Eisenberg led a team that unearthed a six-foot-tall Roman gate near a stone building where the mask was found, leading him to speculate that the gate might have led to a sanctuary dedicated to Pan. "The mask, and now the gate in which it was embedded, are continuing to fire our imaginations," Eisenberg says. "The worship of Pan sometimes included ceremonies involving drinking, sacrifices and ecstatic rituals, including nudity and sex. This worship usually took place outside the city walls, in caves and other natural settings." The possible sanctuary was located near the city gates and was constructed sometime during the reign of Hadrian, who was emperor from A.D. 117 to A.D. 138. To read more about Roman cults, go to "Saving the Villa of the Mysteries."


More Headlines
Monday, June 27

Viking Tomb Studied in Denmark

SILKEBORG, DENMARK—Study of a wooden Viking tomb dating to A.D. 950 shows it held the remains of a man and a woman who were likely nobles who had international connections. ScienceNordic reports that the man was buried with Baltic ceramics and coins from what is now Afghanistan, along with a battle-ax. “It’s a very large ax and would have been a formidable weapon," said archaeologist Kirsten Nelleman Nielsen, who led the excavation. "People across Europe feared this type of ax, which at the time was known as the Dane Ax—something like the ‘machine gun’ of the Viking Age.” The woman was buried in a wagon, as was typical for female nobility of the period, and went to her death carrying two keys, one of which fits a small shrine that was also buried with her. To read more about the archaeology of Vikings, go to "The First Vikings."

Ancient Boat Discovered in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA—The Associated Press reports that tests show a boat found in Cambodia earlier this year near the Angkor Wat temple complex was made in the early thirteenth century A.D. Measuring 42 feet long, the boat was found in a riverbed by a farmer digging for mud and is the oldest to be discovered in Cambodia. Until it is ready for public viewing, the boat is being kept underwater in a pond at Angkor Wat. To read more about the archaeology of Angkor Wat, go to "Remapping the Khmer Empire." 

Friday, June 24

Fortified Village Unearthed in Illinois

BEARDSTON, ILLINOIS—Archaeologists are excavating at the Lawrenz Gun Club site, one of the largest known fortified Mississippian Period villages in the Illinois River Valley, reports the Journal Courier. The site's defensive palisade was built around A.D. 1150, but a team led by Indiana University archaeologist Jeremy Wilson has unearthed another structure dating to A.D. 1100, which was part of an earlier and smaller settlement of some 100 people. The later fortified village could have housed up to 600 people and covered some 50 acres. The team has also unearthed a number of pot sherds as well as stone tools. “What we’re seeing here is ceramics that are either traded up or crafted in a very similar fashion to what was being made down near modern day St. Louis at that time," said Wilson. "The stone is also non-local. They’re getting a lot of this material from other parts of the lower Midwest.” To read about another site dating to the same period, go to “Mississippian Burning.”

Skeletons and Gold Coins Found in Pompeii Shop

ROME, ITALY—Archaeologists excavating a shop on the outskirts of Pompeii have found four skeletons, several gold coins, and a necklace pendant, according to an Associated Press report. The skeletons belonged to young people who died in the back of the shop when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. There was an oven in the shop that the archaeologists believe may have been used to make bronze objects. There is evidence that the shop was targeted by looters seeking treasure after the eruption, but they apparently missed the gold coins and the gold-leaf-foil, flower-shaped pendant. Archaeologists have been excavating a second shop as well, though they are unsure what its purpose was. The dig has also turned up a fourth-century B.C. tomb containing an adult skeleton surrounded by six black vases. For more on the archaeology of Pompeii, go to "Family History."

Ancient Canaanites Imported Animals from Egypt

RAMAT-GAN, ISRAEL—Archaeologists have found evidence that ancient Canaanites imported and sacrificed animals from Egypt around 5,000 years ago. Isotopic analysis of donkey, sheep, and goat remains found in Early Bronze Age levels at Gath shows that the animals were born and raised in the Nile River valley and arrived in Canaan shortly before their deaths. “That there were trade connections between Egypt and Canaan in the Early Bronze Age is not new,” said Aren Maeir, head of the excavations in Gath, told Haaretz. “The fact that animals were a part of the trade—and that they went from Egypt to Canaan—is very interesting.” Among the imported animal remains was a complete skeleton of a donkey that was found under the foundations of a residential building. The donkey was apparently sacrificed and then put in place before the start of construction, a practice known from other Early Bronze Age sites in Israel. For more, go to “The Gates of Gath.”

Early Rice Paddies Discovered in Japan

NARA, JAPAN—In the south of Japan’s largest island of Honshu, archaeologists digging at the site of a future hotel have discovered remnants of 2,500-year-old rice paddies, reports the Asahi Shimbun. The paddies were planted during the Yayoi period, which lasted from 300 B.C. to A.D. 300. Traces of small rice paddies dating to this period had been found in the area, but the newly discovered paddies number around 500, and some measure up to 530 square feet. The discovery shows rice cultivation existed on a massive scale in Japan earlier than previously believed. To read more about archaeology in Japan, go to "Khubilai Khan Fleet."