Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, September 08

Child Remains Uncovered at Peru’s Chornancap Temple

LIMA, PERU—Fox News Latino reports that at least 13 graves of the Chimu-Inca culture have been found at the Chornancap temple, located on the northern coast of Peru. The graves date to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Archaeologists led by Carlos Wester La Torre found the remains of six children who had been buried in pairs in shallow graves on the north, east, and west sides of the temple. The remains of the two children found on the west side are missing their feet. The team members speculate that the feet were amputated and the children sacrificed to act as “guardians” of the other tombs, which contained the remains of men and women. Some of these people may also have been sacrificed. One of the burials contains offerings that resemble objects depicted in a painting discovered in the temple. Those items include a vessel shaped to resemble the head of a coca-leaf chewer, and a standing, smiling man. To read about another recent discovery in Peru, go to "A Life Story."

Great Plague Pathogen Identified in Britain

LONDON, ENGLAND—The Independent reports that genetic traces of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes bubonic plague, have been detected in skeletons recovered from an orderly, seventeenth-century burial pit in London’s Bedlam burial ground. No outward evidence of the disease, which kills quickly, was found on the bones, but plague killed more than 100,000 people in London in 1665, so researchers suspected that the possibly 100 people buried in the pit died in the epidemic. Fragments of pottery, glass, and coffin handles in the pit were used to help date it. The remains of the dead were stacked with care in the crowded cemetery, where more than 3,000 people were interred in all. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany, will now sequence the recovered Yersinia pestis genome and compare it to pathogens from other historic outbreaks of plague. Further tests on the bones could yield information on the victims’ diets and where they had been born. To read more about London, go to "Haunt of the Resurrection Men."

Wednesday, September 07

Ushabti Figurine Found in Mexico Returned to Egypt

TAHRIR, EGYPT—Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has authenticated an ancient ushabti figurine recovered in Mexico. Ahram Online reports that the wooden statuette was handed over by a Mexican citizen who found it in his newly purchased house. Shabab Abdel-Gawad, head of Egypt's Antiquities Repatriation Department, said that the carving dates to the nineteenth dynasty, from around 1292 to 1190 B.C. Hieroglyphic text on the figurine includes the name “Ra-Nes,” and says that “he was honest.” Abdel-Gawad also suggested that the artifact had been excavated illegally and smuggled out of the country. The statuette is being restored at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir. To read more about Egypt, go to "The Great Parallelogram."

Scotland’s 5,000-Year-Old Cochno Stone Revealed

CLYDEBANK, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that Kenny Brophy of Glasgow University is leading a team of researchers in a new study of the Cochno Stone. “This is the biggest and, I would argue, one of the most important Neolithic art panels in Europe,” he said. The stone, which measures about 26 feet by 42 feet and is located in an urban area, was buried in 1965 to protect it from the weather, foot traffic, and vandals who carved graffiti into its surface. As a first step, the team is uncovering the stone. Then they will use 3-D imaging technology to record its cup and ring marks, and produce a life-size copy. The facsimile will include the prehistoric surface and the pre-1965 graffiti. To read about a silver hoard found in Scotland, go to "Lost and Found (Again)."

800-Year-Old Vishnu Temple Found in Bangladesh

DINAJPUR, BANGLADESH—The Dhaka Tribune reports that a figurine of Mohini, the only female avatar of the god Vishnu, has been found in a temple estimated to date to the eleventh or twelfth century. This is the thought to be the first time that a stone idol of Mohini, whose image is well known in south and west India, has been found in the eastern subcontinent. The style of the temple itself is also highly unusual for the region. The Madhabgaon Vishnu temple “is the first Navarath temple in Bangladesh,” explained archaeologist Shadhin Sen. The team of archaeologists and students from Jahangirnagar University also found a shankha, or conch shell, which had been placed in the hand of a Vishnu statue; a sudarshana chakra, or a weapon with more than 100 serrated edges used by Vishnu; a mace; and part of the foot of a Vishnu statue. Local people have asked that this temple be opened to the public after the excavation is completed. For more, go to "Letter from Bangladesh: A Family's Passion."

Stone Engraved With Text Unearthed in Myanmar

ARAKAN STATE, MYANMAR—Narinjara News reports that a stone engraved with 44 sentences of text was unearthed at a pagoda located near the western coast of Myanmar. U Nyein Lwin, director of the local archaeological department, said that that almost half of the sentences on the stone are illegible because the stone was damaged on one side. The text is thought to date to the Mrauk Oo period, which dates from around 1430 to 1785, and will be translated. For more on Myanmar, go to "Earthquake Strikes Bagan Archaeological Zone."

Tuesday, September 06

World War II Submarine Found Near Denmark

ROSKILDE, DENMARK—The Guardian reports that a team led by museum owner Gert Normann Andersen and marine archaeologist Innes McCartney have found the wreckage of the HMS Tarpon, a Royal Navy T-class submarine sunk in 1940 by a heavily armed German merchant vessel, the Schiff 40. German naval records indicate that the Tarpon fired twice, and that both torpedoes missed the merchant vessel, which had been suspected of carrying arms to occupied Norway. The records also indicate that the German ship used sonar to find the Tarpon and dropped several depth charges on it. Divers found the Tarpon standing almost upright on the seabed off the coast of Denmark. “The damage was so severe behind the conning tower it would have flooded in seconds,” McCartney said. The glass in the submarine’s periscope had been shattered, and some of its hatches were open. Two of the submarine’s torpedo tubes were empty. McCartney explained that 57 British submarines were lost during the war. “The question for the Ministry of Defense is how to protect them from threats including fishing trawlers and illegal metal reclaimers,” he said. “After all, they are the tombs of British sailors.” For more, go to "Archaeology of World War II."

Nineteenth-Century Graves Unearthed in Montreal

MONTREAL, CANADA—Archaeologists uncovered two complete graves and scattered human bones representing about 40 different people from a site that had been a Protestant cemetery between 1799 and 1852. The Star reports that the archaeological team was investigating the site ahead of the installation of electrical cables below René-Lévesque Boulevard in downtown Montreal. At this time, the researchers are not sure if the loose bones came from a mass grave, or if they were left behind when most of the remains from the cemetery were moved at the end of the nineteenth century. The bones will be analyzed to determine the age, sex, and size of the individuals. To read about another discovery in Canada, go to "Franklin’s Last Voyage."

Viking Sword Discovered in Iceland

SKAFTARHREPPUR, ICELAND—The Iceland Monitor reports that a group of men out hunting geese in southern Iceland recovered a 1,000-year-old Viking sword. “It was just lying there, waiting to be picked up,” said hunter Rúnar Stanley Sighvatsson. The men handed the artifact over to officials from the Cultural Heritage Center of Iceland. Experts believe the sword had been placed in a grave. An excavation of the site is being planned. For more, go to "Artifact: Viking Sword."

Are Digital Images Accurate Enough for Research?

SWANSEA, WALES—BBC News reports that high-resolution, 3-D reconstructions of a skull and artifacts recovered from the wreckage of Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose are now available to the public. The skull, recovered on the ship’s lower deck, was identified by researchers as having belonged to a carpenter based on the tools, including a wood plane and a whetstone holder, found near the bones. The carpenter's remains reveal that he suffered from an abscess in his jaw, and arthritis in his spine, ribs, and left clavicle. He also had a healed wound across his right eyebrow. Researchers will have access to additional bones recovered from the Mary Rose. “We're going to challenge the research community to see if they can actually do osteological analysis,” said materials engineer Richard Johnston of Swansea University. “Then we will take the results from around the world and try and compare those to a study that we did, where people looked at the real remains,” he explained. To read more about this wreck, go to "Mary Rose and Vasa."