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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, October 09

New Dates for the End of the Greek Bronze Age

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND—Archaeologists from the University of Birmingham selected 60 samples of animal bones, plant remains, and building timbers from the site of Assiros in northern Greece that were radiocarbon dated and correlated at the University of Oxford and the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Heidelberg. “Until very recently the chronology of the later part of the Greek Bronze Age was entirely based upon historical dates derived from Egypt and the Near East with the aid of exported or imported objects such as Minoan or Mycenaean pottery or Egyptian scarabs,” Ken Wardle of the University of Birmingham told Phys.org. The new radiocarbon dates, however, suggest that the Greek Bronze Age ended 70 to 100 years earlier than had been previously thought. “This is a fundamental reassessment and it is important not just for Greece but in the wider Mediterranean context. It affects the ways in which we understand the relationships between different areas, including the hotly debated dates of developments in Israel and Spain,” he added. For more on the end of this era, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Drought May Have Doomed Bronze Age Civilizations."

Search for School’s Victims Moves from Florida to Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—The search for the remains of boys who died at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, has moved to Old Cathedral Cemetery in West Philadelphia. In 1925, Thomas Curry, aged either 15 or 17, was reportedly found dead from a crushed skull on a railroad bridge after he ran away from the notorious school. He may have been hit by a train. A casket was shipped from Florida to Philadelphia for a funeral and burial in his great-grandparents’ graves. Forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle of the University of South Florida has found 55 graves in the woods at the school and is working to identify the remains through DNA analysis. She and her assistant went to Pennsylvania to look for Curry. They unearthed the casket, which had thumbscrews that resembled those from the Florida graves. When they opened it however, they found only wood—no evidence that it had ever contained a body. “It is sad and disappointing. Rather to be able to shed light, it just raises so many more questions,” she told The Philadelphia Enquirer

Giant, Stepped Reservoir Found in Northwestern India

AHMEDABAD, INDIA—A 5,000-year-old stepwell has been discovered in Dholavira, one of the largest known cities of the Indus Valley civilization. Scientists from the Archaeological Survey of India and IIT-Gandhinagar say that the well is almost three times bigger than the Great Bath at Mohenjo Daro. They will use 3-D laser scanners, remote-sensing technology, and ground-penetrating radar to analyze Dholavira’s ancient water system. “Various surveys have indicated other reservoirs and stepwells may be buried in Dholavira. We also suspect a huge lake and an ancient shoreline are buried in the archaeological site,” V.N. Prabhakar of IIT Gandhinagar told The Times of India. To see images of similar, though later sites, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Islamic Stepwells of Gujarat, India."

Indonesia’s Cave Art Is at Least 40,000 Years Old

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA—Twelve stencils of human hands and two images of large animals that were discovered in a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in the 1950s have been subjected to uranium-thorium dating. The tests revealed that one of the stencils is at least 40,000 years old, and an image of a babirusa, drawn with what look like brush strokes, is at least 35,400 years old. These dates make the Indonesian art at least as old, if not older, than similar Ice Age art found in European caves. “It allows us to move away from the view that Europe was special. There was some idea that early Europeans were more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Now we can say that’s not true,” archaeologist Maxime Aubert of Griffith University told Nature News. Artistic ability may have arisen independently, or modern humans may have already had the capacity to create when they migrated out of Africa. Alistair Pike of the University of Southampton, who identified what is considered to be the oldest cave art in Europe, recommends searching for evidence of art in India and Southeast Asia, along the southern migration route. To watch a video about prehistoric rock art in Australia, watch ARCHAEOLOGY's "Aboriginal Rock Art."

Wednesday, October 08

Inca Ceremonial Site Uncovered in Central Peru

LIMA, PERU—Peru’s Ministry of Culture announced that human remains have been unearthed in Hatun Xauxa, an Inca administrative and ceremonial center in the central Andean region of Junin. The burial site may be an offering related to the founding of the city. Walls bearing traces of red paint and dating to the first period of the city’s construction were also unearthed at the northern end of the ushnu, or sacred throne where liquids were poured out in offerings by the Incas. “These findings allow us to gauge the religious importance and the complex nature of activities in the ushnu of Hatun Xauxa, reflected also in the constant change in its architecture,” the ministry told The Global Post. Archaeologists will compare the well of offerings and burials at Hatun Xauxa with similar findings at the Huanuco Pampa site, an admistrative center related to the Qhapaq Ñan Inca road system. To read about an Incan ceremonial site in Ecuador, see ARCHAEOLOGY'S "The Water Temple of Inca-Caranqui." 

Wooden-Handled Flint Knife Found in Denmark

RØDBY, DENMARK—A 3,000-year-old flint knife complete with its wooden handle has been uncovered in southern Zealand. “A dagger of this type has never before been found in Denmark,” Anders Rosendahl of the Lolland-Falster Museum told The Copenhagen Post. The knife dates to the Bronze Age, but when the supply of metal could not keep up with demand, artisans crafted tools from old materials with new designs. Similar knives have been found in Germany. Further study of the rare knife could link the two regions. To read about a recently unearthed Bronze Age ceremonial site, see "4,000-Year-Old Ritual Site Discovered in Poland."  

Goddess’s Head Discovered at Arbeia Roman Fort

SOUTH SHIELDS, ENGLAND—The head of a small statue of the goddess Brigantia was uncovered by a WallQuest volunteer digging at Arbeia Roman fort, situated at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall. This area had been home to the Brigantes before the arrival of the Romans. “The Roman army was anxious to placate the goddess of what may have been seen as an inhospitable and hostile region, and these finds suggest that there may have been a shrine to Brigantia—the northern goddess—somewhere close to the present excavation site,” WallQuest project manager Nick Hodgson told Chronicle Live. The head was discovered in an aqueduct channel that was filled in when the fort was enlarged circa A.D. 208. “It looks as if the shrine got in the way of the extension to the fort and had to be demolished, and the statue was broken up then,” he added. To read about the complicated culture that grew up around Hadrian's Wall, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Artifact: Romano-British Brooch."  

Bronze Age Palace & Royal Burial Unearthed in Spain

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Science Daily reports that an audience hall has been found in the Bronze Age palace at La Almoloya, located in southeastern Spain. Archaeologists Vicente Lull, Cristina Huete, Rafael Micó, and Roberto Risch of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona suggest that the hall is the oldest-known building constructed specifically for political use in continental Europe. It features a ceremonial fireplace and a podium, and benches lining its walls would have seated 64 people. Other buildings at the site are well-constructed with eight to twelve rooms in each residence. Some of the stucco-covered walls were decorated with geometric and naturalistic motifs in what has been dubbed the Argaric style. A tomb discovered near the political hall contained the remains of a man and a woman, whose skull was encircled with a silver diadem. She had also been buried with four ear dilators, two of silver and two of gold. Rings, earrings, and bracelets made of silver were among the grave goods. Other items include a bronze dagger held together with silver nails, and a small ceramic cup decorated with silver rims.  To read about Bronze Age shipwrecks, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Cape Gelidonya and Uluburun."  

Tuesday, October 07

Young Girl’s Prone Burial Unearthed in Italy

ALBENGA, ITALY—The remains of a 13-year-old girl who suffered from anemia have been unearthed in northern Italy by a team from the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology at the Vatican. She had been buried face down in front of a church dedicated to Saint Calocero, which dates to the fifth or sixth century A.D. “The prone burial was linked to the belief that the soul left the body through the mouth. Burying the dead face-down was a way to prevent the impure soul threatening the living,” anthropologist Elena Dellù told Discovery News. Areas of spongy bone tissue on her skull are evidence of severe anemia that would have made her pale and prone to fainting. She may have experienced hematomas as well. “She could have suffered from an inherited blood disorder such as thalassemia or from hemorrhagic conditions. More simply, it could have been an iron lacking diet,” Dellù added. Excavation director Stefano Roascio says that the prone burial, suggesting that the girl had been rejected by her community, is at odds with the prestigious location of her burial, in front of the church. “A precise dating of the skeleton and further research on similar burials might help in finding more clues,” he said. To read about a strange female burial unearthed in France that dates to the same era, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Barbarian Body Modification."  

Iron Age Cooking Mound Excavated on Skomer Island

PEMBROKESHIRE, WALES—The first excavation on Skomer Island, known for its puffins and other seabirds, has examined a cooking mound containing fire-cracked stones. “This mound built up from numerous cooking episodes in the adjacent house. Our excavation discovered a cattle tooth from within the mound of stones, which has now been radiocarbon dated to the late Iron Age,” Toby Driver of the Royal Commission in Aberystwyth told Culture 24. Archaeological research on the island has focused on non-invasive techniques including aerial photography, airborne laser scanning, ground geophysics, and walkover surveys, in order to preserve the fragile landscape. “These new dates confirm pre-Roman settlement on Skomer. Even so, the burnt mound covers a substantial earlier field wall showing that the island was already well settled and farmed in previous centuries.” To read about another suprising prehistoric find in Wales, see "Neolithic Battlefield Unearthed."   

Location of Columbus’ Point of Departure Found in Spain

HUELVA, SPAIN—Traces of a fifteenth-century pottery and a reef unearthed at Palos de la Frontera in southwestern Spain have led archaeologist Juan Manuel Campos of the University of Huelva to claim he has discovered the exact location of Christopher Columbus’ departure for the New World in 1492. Historical sources describe La Fontanilla port as having a shipyard, a fresh water fountain, a pottery works, and a reef. “The reef was the port’s customs area, and it was the place where Columbus negotiated and made the arrangements necessary for the success of his historic voyage,” Campos told The Latin American Herald Tribune. To read about late medieval Jewish cemeteries in Spain, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Spain's Lost Jewish History."  

World War II Graffiti & Ancient Ritual Bath Uncovered in Israel

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—A 1,900-year-old ritual bath, or mikveh (miqwe), has been discovered at Ha-Ela Junction south of Beit Shemesh as part of the project to widen Highway 38. “We exposed a miqwe in which there are five steps; the fifth step being a bench where one could sit at the edge of the immersion pool. We found fragments of magnificent pottery vessels there dating to the second century CE, among them lamps, red burnished vessels, a jug, and cooking pots. Apparently the miqwe ceased to be used during the second century CE, perhaps in light of the Bar Kokhba revolt,” excavation director Yoav Tsur announced in an Israel Antiquities Authority press release. The team found that the water collection vat for the bath was enlarged some 1,700 years ago and may have been used to collect drinking water. In addition, graffiti left by two soldiers of the Royal Australian Engineers was found on the cistern’s ceiling. They had left their names and serial numbers in 1940. “It seems that the two were members of the Australian Sixth Division which was stationed in the country at the time of the British Mandate and was undergoing training prior to being sent into combat in France. Because France surrendered before the troops were ready they were ultimately sent to Egypt in October 1940 where they fought at the front in the Western Desert,” said archaeologist Assaf Peretz. Both men survived the war. To read about the study of other World War II-era sites, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Archaeology of WWII."