A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, November 04

New Mosaics Revealed at Zeugma

GAZIANTEP, TURKEY—Excavations this summer at the ancient Greco-Roman center of Zeugma in southern Turkey have revealed three new mosaics. They were discovered in an elaborate building known as the Muzalar House, which will now undergo stabilization. “From now on, we will work on restoration and conservation," archaeologist Kutalmış Görkay told the Hürriyet Daily News. "We plan to establish a temporary roof for long-term protection…. Excavations will be finished in the Muzalar House next year."  Görkay estimates that 25 of the city's houses are now underwater due to dam construction, but that there could be as many as 3,000 more at the site. To read more about the dramatic mosaics discovered in the city, see "Zeugma After the Flood."

Ancient Village Discovered in Colombia

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA—Archaeologists surveying in advance of energy-related construction southwest of Bogota have uncovered a 12-acre settlement dating as far back as 900 B.C., according to Colombia Reports. The village appears to have endured until 1500 A.D., when it was last occupied by the Muisca people, who were wiped out when the Spaniards arrived. Until now, researchers had assumed that pre-Columbian people in the area were mainly nomadic. But the newly discovered village suggests that settlements lasted for hundreds of years in the region, challenging scholars' assumptions about prehistoric societies in what is now Colombia. 

Siberia's Massive Moose Geoglyph Dated

CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA—Three years ago, researchers discovered a 900-foot-long stone structure in the shape of a moose high in the Ural Mountains. Now further archaeological work at the massive geoglyph has uncovered clues to its construction and allowed researchers to date it to between 4000 and 3000 B.C. Some 155 stone tools have been found near the geoglyph, most of which were used for digging or breaking stones. "Judging by the different sizes of the tools—from 17cm-long and weighing about three kilograms to some being just two centimeters—we can assume they were used by both adults and children," Chelyabinsk History and Archaeology Institute archaeologist Stanislav Grigoryev told the Siberian Times. "We can also assume it means that everyone participated in creating the moose." It appears the Neolithic people who created the geoglyph dug 30-foot-wide trenches and then filled them in with stones. Grigoryev says the style of the moose seems to resemble petroglyphs found in Finland. To read about medieval ruins found at the center of a Siberian Lake, see "Fortress of Solitude."

Monday, November 03

Tree Carvings Help Date World War II Site in Poland

POZNAŃ, POLAND—Carvings in beech trees are helping archaeologists date World War II-era fortifications that were built between 1934 and 1944 in a forest in western Poland. Known as the Miedzyrzecz Fortification Region, the trenches were intended to defend the eastern border of the Third Reich. Dawid Kobialka and colleagues Maksymilian Frąckowiak and Kornelia Kajda of the Institute of Prehistory at Adam Mickiewicz University think that some of the inscriptions from 1944 may have been carved by Polish captives forced to work on the fortifications by the Germans. “On several trees we have recorded a clear concentration of Polish names—including Klimowicz, Wolski, Kubiak—next to which specific August dates are inscribed with the year 1944. Two words are also visible: “Łódź” (name of a city) and “Polacy” (Poles),” Kobialka told Science & Scholarship in Poland. But a metal detector survey failed to turn up anything at the site. “This report was not a surprise. If that trench was dug in 1944, it can be assumed that it never served a defensive function—the Germans retreated before the Russians. Therefore, in the trench there were no soldiers or fighting, there were no shells or any other items usually found in places of armed conflict,” he added. To read more about the study of this period, see "The Archaeology of World War II."

“Ancient” Skull Recovered From a Cave in England

LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND—Cavers exploring Dunald Mill Hole in northwestern England discovered what is being described as an ancient human skull. At the request of Lancashire Police, a team from the Cave Rescue Organization (CRO) retrieved the skull. “CRO was asked to retrieve it as part of the subsequent police investigation and a small team completed the task later in the day,” a spokesperson told The Westmorland Gazette.

Remains May Have Been Rural Roman Farmers

WORCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND—Domestic pottery and the remains of two individuals who lived during the Roman period have been unearthed at a school in England’s West Midlands. One of the burials was of a woman over the age of 50. Hobnails, which are associated with rural Roman agricultural burials, were found with her bones. The other set of remains belonged to an adult male between the ages of 25 and 30 at the time of death. The bones show signs of degenerative joints and osteoarthritis. His head had been removed and placed alongside his legs. “This discovery seems to support evidence that during Roman times there were small farmsteads in Worcestershire, owned or run by a family,” archaeologist Tom Vaughan told The Worcester News. The boot-wearing woman may have worked on the farmstead—preparing food, manufacturing cloth, or as a general laborer. To read about another rural site in England with a strong Roman prescence, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Letter From England: The Scientist's Garden." 

Friday, October 31

The Big Circles of the Middle East

PERTH, AUSTRALIA—Jordan’s “Big Circles” were first spotted from airplanes in the 1920s, but little has been learned about them since then. The low walls, often made from uncut stones, would not have kept animals in or enemies out. New aerial images of the structures, which generally measure more than 1,300 feet in diameter, have been taken by David Kennedy of the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project and the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME), located at the University of Western Australia. “Most are crude circles, but many are clearly intended to be geometrically precise, although often slightly distorted,” he told the Daily Mail. Kennedy hopes the photographs will bring attention to the rings. Excavation could tell scientists more about their construction and purpose.

Preserved Grains & Trade Goods Unearthed in Indonesia

YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA—Rice and maize grains dating to sometime between the eighth and tenth centuries have been found in a bamboo basket on the slope of Mount Sindoro in Central Java. Joko Siswanto, head of the Yogyakarta Archaeology Agency, says that the maize and other imported artifacts such as Chinese vases from the Tang Dynasty suggest that Indonesia was part of an international trade network at this time. “The finding is also crucial to help us trace the history of food cultivation and technology in Indonesia, especially in Java,” he told The Jakarta Post. To read more about contemporary sites on Borneo, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Letter From Borneo: Landscape of Memory."

Second Leaf of Marble Door Uncovered in Amphipolis

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—According to the Greek Reporter, a second leaf of a marble door has been found in the third chamber of the massive Hellenistic tomb in northern Greece, along with a sand-filled trench. The marble door is estimated to weigh one and a half tons. Tracks carved in stone on the floor to guide the pivoting doors have also been uncovered. Archaeologists are continuing to dig in an effort to reach the tomb's fourth chamber. To read about the search for Alexander the Great's tomb, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers."  

17th-Century Luxury Goods Discovered in Irish Castle

DUBLIN, IRELAND—The Irish Times reports that workers installing an elevator shaft at Rathfarnham Castle found a cache of seventeenth-century artifacts sealed between two stone floors at the bottom of one of the castle towers. The damp environment yielded well preserved objects, including a foldable toothbrush, clay pipes, jewelry, porcelain, coins, chamber pots, an intact drinking glass and early wine bottles, ointment jars, and a stoppered perfume bottle. “Most of the material here was imported. The family had a lot of contacts with the royal courts in England so they would have gone to London, seen the fashion, and brought it all back to show off to all of their neighbors and friends,” said Alva MacGowan, find supervisor with Archaeology Plan. Food remains indicate that the family, the descendants of Lord Adam Loftus, who built the castle in 1583, enjoyed shellfish, cherries, apricots, peaches, and tea leaves. “Tea was only introduced in England in 1650. They correspond with the porcelain tea sets imported from China. The family were importing high luxury goods from all over the world, which shows Ireland wasn’t as cut off and unfashionable as we might think,” MacGowan added.