Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, January 31

Hurricane Matthew Damage Uproots Artifacts in Georgia

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA—WLOX reports that artifacts such as pottery, metal fragments, brick and other construction materials, and oyster shells are turning up in Savannah as trees toppled last October by Hurricane Matthew are removed. The extensive root systems of approximately 40 fallen trees reach through cemeteries, parks, and historic battlefield sites, some of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. “When you think about Savannah and how old Savannah is and all the history we have above ground, I think it doesn’t surprise me at all that underground we have lots and lots of history,” said Library and Archives Director Luciana Spracher. The trees will be removed according to Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines to protect archaeological resources. For more, go to “Live Civil War Ordnance Uncovered by Hurricane Matthew.”

Roman Shipwreck Discovered Near the Balearic Islands

CABRERA, SPAIN—Last year, fisherman working off the coast of the tiny island of Cabrera, in the Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park, let the researchers at the Balearics Institute for the Study of Marine Archaeology (IBEAM) know that they had found pottery fragments in their nets. El País reports that the IBEAM team then investigated the site with a robot and found the wreckage of an 1,800-year-old Roman ship under more than 200 feet of water. The ship, which had been carrying an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 amphoras, is thought to have been transporting fermented fish sauce between North Africa, Spain, France, and Rome. Most of the amphoras at the shipwreck site measure about three feet long and are thought to have originated in North Africa, while the smaller jars are thought to have originated in southern Portugal. “As far as we know, this is the first time that a completely unaltered wreck has been found in Spanish waters,” said marine archaeologist Javier Rodríguez. For more on underwater archaeology, go to “Discovering Terror.”

38,000-Year-Old Engraving Found in France

NEW YORK, NEW YORK—Live Science reports that new excavations at the Abri Blanchard rock shelter in southwestern France uncovered a broken limestone block engraved with an image of an aurochs, a type of extinct wild cow, surrounded by rows of small dots. Radiocarbon testing revealed that the block dates to some 38,000 years ago—a time when modern humans were first spreading into Europe. Anthropologist Randall White, who led the excavations, said that the block may have fallen from the ceiling of the rock shelter, or it may have been carried there by a member of the Aurignacian culture for carving. Similar images of aurochs have been found in France’s Chauvet Cave, and aligned dots have been found engraved on Aurignacian objects, but it is unusual to see the dots combined with an image of an animal. For more, go to “New Dates for the Oldest Cave Paintings.”

Ancient Jar Discovered in Turkey May Contain Human Remains

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a team from the Milas Museum has unearthed an intact jar in southwestern Turkey’s Mu─čla province. Found at a construction site, the jar is thought to date to the Hellenistic period. It stands about 15 inches tall and may contain burned human remains. The jar has been taken to the Milas Archaeology Museum for further study. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

England Returns Egyptian Ushabti Figurine

LONDON, ENGLAND—Ahram Online reports that a wooden ushabti figurine stolen from a storehouse in Aswan in 2013 has been recovered in London. The figurine, which stands about six and one-half inches tall, was discovered by Spanish archaeologists in 2009 at the Qubet Al Hawa necropolis, and was placed in a storehouse with other artifacts. Shaaban Abdel Gawad, head of the antiquities repatriation department at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, said that the theft occurred after the Spanish archaeological mission left the site. A curator at the British Museum spotted the ushabti and reported it to the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, leading to its return. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Monday, January 30

High-Tech Scans Detect Ancient Maya Highways

MIRADOR BASIN, GUATEMALA—Seeker reports that the Light Detection and Ranging tool, or lidar, has been used by researchers with the Mirador Basin Project to scan more than 430 square miles of jungle in Guatemala’s northern Petén region. The data collected with the technology was used to produce a detailed map of a 150-mile-long network of 17 Maya roads, first discovered in 1967. “The creation of these causeways allowed the unification of what appears to be the first state-level society in the Western Hemisphere,” said team leader Richard D. Hansen of the University of Utah. Trade goods, tribute, rulers, and armies could have traveled from city to city along the system of highways. The lidar scans also detected a system of corrals which may have been used to raise livestock for food on an industrial scale. The food could also have been distributed using the road system. The new research could help scientists understand why the Maya civilization in the Mirador Basin declined after A.D. 150. To read more about the Maya, go to “Tomb of the Vulture Lord.”

2,000-Year-Old Glass Workshop Found in Poland

ZYWIEC, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that the remains of a 2,000-year-old glass and metal workshop have been found on Mount Grojec in south-central Poland. Archaeologist Tomasz Gralak of the University of Wroclaw and his team uncovered furnaces, defective glass beads, and pieces of melted waste glass at the site, which was located in a settlement dating back more than 2,500 years. “It was here that half-processed material in the form of lumps of raw glass or metal bars was delivered and finished items were made,” he explained. Gralak and his team will analyze the glass to see if they can determine where it originated. The researchers think it may have been imported from as far away as the Mediterranean. The team also found a large cistern near the workshop, crucibles for melting metal, and stone grinders. “They were probably influenced by Celtic tribes, which had the knowledge of glass processing. But it was a local population, limited to the mountain areas,” he said. It had been thought that glass was not produced in Poland until the medieval period. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

Friday, January 27

Four 19th-Century Shipwrecks Found Near Australia

BUNDABERG, AUSTRALIA—The Australian Associated Press reports that four nineteenth-century shipwrecks have been found at Kenn Reef, located off the coast of Queensland, by a team of archaeologists from the Australian National Maritime Museum. Eight ships are known to have been wrecked in the area during the nineteenth century while traveling to and from trading ports in India and Indonesia. Anchors, fasteners, and at least six cannons have been found at the site. The next step is to try to identify the wrecks. “This will take months of careful examination of the archaeological discoveries against historical records, including ship’s logs and accounts of shipwrecks in newspapers from the period,” explained museum maritime archaeologist James Hunter. For more on underwater archaeology, go to “Discovering Terror.”

2,000-Year-Old Doll Discovered in Japan

OSAKA, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that a small doll from the Yayoi Pottery Culture (300 B.C.–A.D. 300) was discovered in a burial at the Kori ruins in the southern city of Ibaraki. The neighboring Kori and Heka ruins are thought to have been part of a large village, and they share more than 140 tombs, according to the Osaka Center for Culture Heritage. The clay figurine, which stands about two inches tall, consists of a round head placed on a cylindrical torso with a flat base. It has holes for its eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. This is the first time that this type of figurine has been found in Osaka prefecture, and it is one of only a few to have been found intact. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Wildfire Revealed Thousands of Native American Artifacts

SHOSHONE NATIONAL FOREST, WYOMING—According to a report in Western Digs, a Shoshone campsite thought to have been used off and on for perhaps as long as 2,500 years has been found along Caldwell Creek in the Absaroka Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Norton Point fire of 2011 revealed the high-altitude site as a “carpet” of stone artifacts and pieces of chipped stone near what is now a popular trailhead. Laura Scheiber of Indiana University and her team have recovered arrow points, bone tools, bifacial knives, and grooved mauls, most of which are thought to date to within a few hundred years before the Mountain Shoshone first made contact with Europeans. Upstream from the site, the research team also found a series of hearths, a Shoshone knife, a grinding rock, and fragments of pottery characteristic of pre-contact Shoshone culture. “The recovery of more than 1,000 ceramic sherds is especially exciting,” she said, since it triples the number of samples available for study and analysis. For more, go to “Letter from Montana: The Buffalo Chasers.”