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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, October 03

Men’s Roles in Scandinavian History Examined

OSLO, NORWAY—Lisbeth Skogstrand of the University of Oslo has surveyed the artifacts found in 805 men’s graves in Norway and Denmark dating from the Early Nordic Bronze Age to the late Roman period. She found that in the Early Bronze Age, grooming articles such as razors, tweezers, and possible implements for manicures were highly valued. “We have found traces of beard hair and possibly eyebrows on the razors, so they probably removed hair from various parts of the body,” she told Science Nordic. Weapons such as spears, shields, and other iron weapons were considered important enough to bury with dead in the early Roman period, until A.D. 200  At this time, perhaps men were required to protect their belongings from rival communities. After A.D. 200, men’s grave goods resemble those of women—tools and decorative items representing other roles in society. “There were more ways of being a man than we thought,” she quipped. To read about artifacts being discovered in Norway's retreating glaciers, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Big Melt."  

Shipwreck May Be Part of Kublai Khan’s Invading Fleet

MATSUURA, JAPAN—Pieces of a ship thought to date from the Mongol attempt to invade Japan 700 years ago have been discovered off the coast of Takashima Island. Divers investigated the wreckage, detected with shipboard sonar, and found port and starboard structures near the bow of the ship. Ballast stones may cover the ship’s keel. “We hope it is a Mongol invasion ship. We plan to clarify details like its structure, size, and origin by excavating further. It’s well preserved, so we expect it to carry a significant load of cargo like porcelains and weapons,” archaeologist Yoshifumi Ikeda of the University of the Ryukyus told The Asahi Shimbun. To read about previous excavations at the site, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Relics of the Kamikaze."  

Maryland’s Historians Search for Camp Parole

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND—Local historians from the Annapolis History Consortium think that  thousands of Union soldiers may have been housed at a site in Maryland’s Crystal Spring Farm and Forest. The soldiers had agreed to live in the camp as noncombatants until they could be exchanged for Confederate soldiers captured by the Union. Soldiers’ diaries, letters, and drawings; land records; and claims made by property owners whose land was damaged by the Army all point to Crystal Spring as the site of one of the three camps in the area. The land, however, is slated for development. “People have been looking for this camp for years,” historian Jane McWilliams told The Baltimore Sun. The developers will be required to check for potential historical resources on the property. “It wouldn’t stop the development, but there might have to be some changes,” said Sally Nash, the acting planning director for Annapolis. To read about a Confederate POW camp, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Life on the Inside."  

Marble Door Fragments Unearthed in Amphipolis

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—Greece’s Culture Ministry has announced that fragments of a marble door have been unearthed in the second chamber of the tomb at the Kasta Hill site. The door had a row of dots down the center that resembled nail heads, a style common to Macedonian tomb doors. “Based on our findings, we are absolutely sure about our dating to the last quarter of the fourth century B.C.,” excavation director Katerina Peristeri said in a government press release reported by Discovery News. The door had been crafted in two sections from marble brought to the site from the island of Thasso. The door was also hinged on its left side, so it was probably functional. It may have collapsed in an earthquake that struck Amphipolis in the sixth century A.D., or during bombing in 1913. To read about the search for Alexander the Great's tomb, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers."  

Thursday, October 02

Engineers Investigate Rock Fall at Parthenon

ATHENS, GREECE—Part of the flat-topped rock that supports the 2,500-year-old Parthenon is crumbling, according to engineers from the Central Archaeological Council who examined the Acropolis after the fall of a boulder of “considerable size” last January. According to Phys.org, the team found “instability over a wide area,” probably caused by rainwater drainage from the old Acropolis museum. The southern slope of the hill that supports the Parthenon will have to be reinforced. To read about how ancient Greeks viewed their own past, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Monuments and Memory."  

Moa Hunter Site Damaged in New Zealand

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND—The New Zealand Herald reports that a 600-year-old moa-hunter occupation site was disturbed in 2011 during work to clear and rebuild an earthquake-damaged home. “The site has played a crucial role in developing ideas about the origins of Maori culture and the relationship between moa hunters and classical Maori,” Heritage New Zealand summarized for Christchurch District Court. The two companies involved in the work had not submitted their plans to Heritage New Zealand, which is in charge of monitoring construction and minimizing damage to the historical record. “Although it is not possible to determine the exact extent of damage caused by the excavations for the foundations of a new dwelling, it is clear from the test trenches that the excavations for the gravel and concrete pad have cut through the in situ layer, disturbing at least one feature in the process,” the report concluded. 

Franklin Shipwreck Identified as HMS Erebus

OTTAWA, CANADA—The shipwreck discovered last month in the Arctic has been identified by Parks Canada underwater archaeologists as HMS Erebus, one of the ships in Sir John Franklin’s doomed 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to Asia. Franklin commanded the enterprise from the Erebus, but it is not known if he was buried at sea before the ship was abandoned in 1847. “Without a doubt it is the most extraordinary shipwreck I’ve ever had the privilege of diving on,” lead archaeologist Ryan Harris told CBC News. He and his diving partner did not enter the ship, but they could see below decks through exposed beams and old skylights. A total of seven dives have been conducted to date. To read about the discovery of HMS Investigator, the doomed vessel dispatched to search for HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, see ARCHAEOLOGY's feature "Saga of the Northwest Passage."  

Twin Basketmaker Villages Discovered in Arizona

PETRIFIED NATIONAL FOREST PARK, ARIZONA—Two villages estimated to be 1,300 years old have been discovered in the high desert of northern Arizona. The sites, recently acquired by Petrified Forest National Park, feature walls and floors lined with slabs of sandstone. “Last year we found a large habitation site, and this summer we found a match, less than a mile away, a site that has dozens and dozens of different features. We have now two large groups of pit house structures, both of them with probably more than 50 structures associated with them,” park archaeologist William Reitze told Western Digs. He and his team also recovered ceramics and stone points from the late Basketmaker period, when the residents of the village were transitioning from nomadic foraging to a more sedentary society based upon agriculture. “These sites are often in large sand dunes, but there is no rock there. So any kind of slab at all that you find out there was brought in by people,” Reitze explained. To read more about the prehistory of the Southwest, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Who Were the Anasazi?"  

Wednesday, October 01

Wild Chimpanzees Observed Transmitting Behavior Socially

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND—The Sonso chimpanzee community living in Uganda’s Budongo Forest has been observed passing a new natural behavior from individual to individual by a team made up of scientists from the University of St. Andrews, the University of Neuchâtel, Anglia Ruskin University, and the Université du Quebec. This is the first time that social transmission has been documented in a wild community. The chimpanzees developed variants of using “leaf-sponges,” which are folded leaves used for drinking water. The variations included adding moss to the leaves to make a drinking device, and reusing a discarded leaf sponge. Science Daily reports that by using a technique called network-based diffusion analysis, the researchers estimated that each time a “naïve” chimpanzee observed moss-sponging, this individual was 15 times more likely to develop the behavior. Thibaud Gruber of the University of Neuchâtel explained that such social learning probably originated in an ancestor common to great apes and humans. “This study tells us that chimpanzee culture changes over time, little by little, by building on previous knowledge found within the community. …In this respect, this is a great example of how studying chimpanzee culture can help us model the evolution of human culture. Nevertheless, something must have subsequently happened in our evolution that caused a qualitative shift in what we could transmit, rendering our culture much more complex than anything found in wild apes. Understanding this qualitative jump in our evolutionary history is what we need to investigate now,” he said. To read more about chimpanzee tool use, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Cultured Cousins?"  

Ancient Earthquake Damage Found in Israel

HAIFA, ISRAEL—A team led by Michael Eisenberg of the University of Haifa has uncovered the northern section of the first-century basilica at Hippos, a center of Greek and Roman culture located near the Sea of Galilee. The roof of the structure collapsed during an earthquake in 363, killing the occupants, whose skeletons were found beneath the rubble. Among the victims was a woman who had been wearing a gold dove pendant. Eisenberg and his team used coins to date the collapse and attribute it to the earthquake. “The latest of those coins dated to 362 A.D. About three feet above the debris of the basilica we found Early Byzantine rooms dated by dozens of coins in the floors themselves to 383 A.D.,” Eisenberg told Discovery News. “It shows that major parts of the city were totally destroyed and neglected for a period of about 20 years.” Hippos was finally destroyed by an earthquake in 749. To read about the dramatic history of a Hellenistic site near the Sea of Galilee, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Excavating Tel Kedesh."  

Remote Sites Yield Evidence of Early South Americans

ORONO, MAINE—New research is focusing on hunter gatherers who colonized South America at the close of the last Ice Age. Kurt Rademaker of the University of Maine has found a rock shelter high in the Andes that was inhabited 12,400 years ago. “The [Pucuncho Basin] has fresh water, camelids, stone for toolmaking, combustible fuel for fires and rock shelters for living in,” he told Nature News. “Basically, everything you need to live is here. This is one of the richest basins I’ve seen, and it probably was then too.” And scientists are carefully examining the stone tools from South America’s Paleo-Indian sites because many of them are made from stone not available in the area where they were found. “What we’re seeing is that 12,000 years ago or more, these groups already had networks, knew the landscape and moved between the coast and the interior,” said César Méndez of the University of Chile. To read more about the earliest sites in the New World, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "America, In the Beginning."   

Students Unearth Sweat Lodge at Cahokia Mounds

SAINT LOUIS, MISSOURI—Students from Saint Louis University discovered three partial house basins and the entire basin of a burned sweat lodge during their field school at the Fingerhut Tract of Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site this summer. The sweat lodge measures nine feet in diameter and would have had a domed roof. Charcoal within the sweat lodge will be radiocarbon dated. The students also uncovered many microdrills. “This area of Cahokia Mounds may have been involved in craft specialization for the prehistoric chiefdom,” said principal investigator Mary Vermillion. To read about a recent discovery of a ritual burn at Cahokia, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Mississippian Burning."