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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
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. To read about cooking and experimental archaeology, see "How to Cook Like a Mycenaean." 

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."

Tuesday, October 14

Did Neanderthals Hunt With Projectiles?

NORMANDY, FRANCE—Arm bones that may have belonged to a Neanderthal 200,000 years ago have been recovered from silts close to the River Seine in Tourville-la-Rivière. “These are the oldest fossils found near Paris; it’s the oldest Parisian, if you like,” Bruno Maureille of the Université de Bordeaux told BBC News. The robustness of the humerus, ulna, and radius suggests that they are from a juvenile or young adult Neanderthal, but without other fossils, it is impossible to make a positive identification. A ridge on the upper-arm bone indicates that the individual might have been hurt by repeatedly throwing something. “There has been a widespread view that Neanderthals and earlier humans were reliant on thrusting spears, used for dangerous close-range confrontational hunting, and that only modern humans perfected launched projectiles—that view could now be questioned,” commented Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum. To read about the role of throwing in human evolution, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "No Changeups on the Savannah."

Celtic Chariot Fittings Found at Iron Age Hill Fort

LEICESTER, ENGLAND—Chariot fittings decorated with a triskele motif of three wavy lines were uncovered by students from the University of Leicester at the Burrough Hill site. They found the matching set of fittings, which appear to have been placed in a box and surrounded by iron tools and other accoutrements, in a pit near a house. “The function of the iron tools is a bit of a mystery, but given the equestrian nature of the hoard, it is possible that they were associated with horse grooming. One piece in particular has characteristics of a modern curry comb, while two curved blades may have been used to maintain horses’ hooves or manufacture harness parts,” John Thomas, co-director of the project, told Culture 24. Cereal chaff had been placed underneath the box and then the box and the chaff were burned in what may have been a religious ritual. The deposit was then covered with a layer of burnt cinder and slag. “This is a very rare discovery, and a strong sign of the prestige of the site,” Jeremy Taylor, co-director of the project, explained. To read about a chariot burial contemporary to the Celtic find, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Remains of Upright Horses Discovered in Thracian Tomb."

Viking Hoard Unearthed in Scotland

DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY, SCOTLAND—Metal detector enthusiast Derek McLennan found a hoard of more than 100 Viking artifacts on land owned by the Church of Scotland. County archaeologist Andrew Nicholson excavated the first level of the hoard, which contained an enameled silver Christian cross dating to the ninth or tenth century, dozens of silver arm rings, and ingots. “We were searching elsewhere when Derek initially thought he’d discovered a Viking gaming piece. A short time later he ran over to us waving a silver arm-ring and shouting ‘Viking’! It was tremendously exciting, especially when we noticed the silver cross lying face-downwards. It was poking out from under the pile of silver ingots and decorated arm rings, with a finely wound silver chain still attached to it. It was a heart-stopping moment when the local archaeologist turned it over to reveal rich decoration on the other side,” Rev. Dr. David Bartholomew recounted. A second cache of objects was found underneath the first. It included a silver Carolingian pot that was probably 100 years old when it was buried. “We still don’t know exactly what is in the pot, but I hope it could reveal who these artifacts belonged to, or at least where they came from,” McLennan said. To read about an infamous massacre carried out against Vikings in England, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Vengeance on the Vikings." 

Mosaic Floor Discovered in Amphipolis Tomb

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—A late fourth-century B.C. floor mosaic depicting Hermes, the Greek god of travel and a guide to the underworld, and a chariot in motion, has been uncovered in what is thought to be the antechamber to the main burial at the Macedonian tomb in Amphipolis. “The chariot is pulled by two white horses and driven by a bearded man wearing a laurel wreath on his head,” Greece’s Ministry of Culture announced in a press release reported by Discovery News. Part of the center mosaic, which is made up of white, black, gray, blue, red, and yellow pebbles, is missing, but enough fragments remain to reconstruct a large part of it. The image is framed by a wide border with a double meander, squares, and spiral shapes. To read more about Hellenistic mosaics, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Zeugma After the Flood."

Friday, October 10

Medieval “Vampire” Burial Unearthed in Bulgaria

SOFIA, BULGARIA—A thirteenth-century skeleton with a piece of an iron rod used for plowing driven through its chest has been unearthed at the Thracian site of Perperikon in southern Bulgaria. The left leg below the knee had been removed and placed beside the man’s skeleton. “We have no doubts that once again we’re seeing an anti-vampire ritual being carried out. Often they were applied to people who had died in unusual circumstances—such as suicide,” archaeologist Nikolai Ovcharov told The Telegraph. The metal was intended to keep the corpse from rising from the dead and disturbing the living, Ovcharov explained. “The ploughshare weighs almost two pounds and is dug into the body into a broken shoulder bone. You can clearly see how the collarbone has literally popped out.” To read about similar finds, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Vampire-Proofing Your Village."

Greece’s Antikythera Shipwreck Yields Luxury Artifacts

WOODS HOLE, MASSACHUSETTS—An international team of archaeologists and divers has learned that much of the Antikythera shipwreck and its cargo survive in the deep waters off the Greek island of Antikythera. They created a high-resolution, 3-D map of the site, and retrieved an intact jug, ship components, part of an ornate bed, and a very heavy bronze spear from a life-sized statue, perhaps of the goddess Athena. “The evidence shows us this is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered. It’s the Titanic of the ancient world,” Brendan Foley of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution told Science Daily. The luxury cargo, dating to 70 to 60 B.C., was probably traveling from the coast of Asia Minor west to Rome when the ship was lost. Sponge divers discovered the wreck in 1900, including bronze and marble statues, jewelry, furniture, glassware, and the device that came to be known as the Antikythera Mechanism. “We have a lot of work to do at this site to uncover its secrets,” said Theotokis Theodoulou of the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. To read about more amazing shipwrecks, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "History's 10 Greatest Shipwrecks."

Study Confirms Remains as Philip II of Macedon

THESSALONIKI, GREECE—An anthropological team investigating cremated remains found in a royal tomb in Vergina, Greece, has claimed that the remains belong to King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, and an unknown woman warrior. Theodore Antikas, head of the Art-Anthropological research team of the Vergina excavation, suggests that she may have been the daughter of Scythian King Ateas. The tomb was one of three excavated from the same mound in the late 1970s by Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos. This tomb, known as Tomb II, had been intact, and it contained silver and bronze vessels, gold wreaths, weapons, armor, and two gold larnakes, or caskets. Antikas told Discovery News that the identification of the middle-aged, male skeleton was based upon marks on the bones. “The individual suffered from frontal and maxillary sinusitis that might have been caused by an old facial trauma,” he said. Philip II was blinded when his right eye was hit with an arrow during the siege of Methone in 354 B.C. “He had signs of chronic pathology on the visceral surface of several low thoracic ribs, indicating pleuritis,” Antikas added of the warrior’s skeleton, which also showed signs of frequent horseback riding. Traces of an object made of royal purple, huntite, textile, beeswax, and clay had been placed on top of the bones in the gold larnax. A pelvis bone fragment from the other casket indicates that the remains belonged to a woman who died between the ages of 30 and 34. She had suffered a fracture in her left leg that had shortened it. “This leads to the conclusion that the pair of mismatched greaves—the left is shorter—the Scythian gorytus, or bow case, and weaponry found in the antechamber belonged to her,” Antikas explained. To read about the search for Alexander's tomb, see "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers."