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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, June 28

Neolithic Figurine Found in Polish Village

RZESZOW, POLAND—While while on vacation in the village of Kosina in southeastern Poland, an archaeologist stumbled upon a clay figurine that he believes dates back to around 5000 B.C. Science and Scholarship in Poland reports that Piotr Alagierski was walking in a cultivated field when he came across the nearly 3-inch-long clay figure that appears to have been made by some of the first farming communities in the region. According to Alagierski, the figurine is reminiscent of similar artifacts found in Slovakia and Romania but differs from known Polish examples in its lifelike rather than exaggerated depicition of the human form. Alagierski plans to conduct excavations at the site, where he also found fragments of ceramic vessels and obsidian, and the object will undergo chemical tests that may help to determine the origin of the clay. For more on archaeology in Poland, go to “Letter from Poland: Warsaw Remembers.”

Devon Site Shows Signs of Pre-Roman Occupation

  DEVON, ENGLAND—New radiocarbon dating at a site in southwest England suggests it was in use for 1,200 years longer than had been thought, according to a report from BBC News. Evidence at the rural site, called Ippleden, indicates it was occupied from the fourth century B.C. Sherds of pottery uncovered by archaeologists from the University of Exeter show that the site’s residents traded with people from afar and enjoyed delicacies such as wine and olive oil. According to archaeologist Stephen Rippon, the researchers initially believed the site was only used during the Roman period, but now recognize that it was occupied during the pre-Roman Iron Age as well. They believe it was a farming community, based on the discovery of remains of a granary. In addition, debris from iron working was unearthed near the settlement’s edge, suggesting it may have hosted industrial activity. For more, go to “Letter from Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”

7,000-Year-Old High Altitude Site Discovered in Peru

PUNO, PERU—A site discovered in Peru at 12,500 feet above sea level suggests that hunter-gatherers lived all-year-round at very high altitudes beginning at least 7,000 years ago. USA TODAY reports that archaeologists uncovered the remains of 16 individuals at the site of Soro Mik'aya Patjxa in the Andean Highlands, as well as stone points, animal bones—likely of the vicuña, a relative of the llamaand evidence of wild tubers. According to the researchers, several factors point to the group's permanent residence in upper altitudes, including the lack of any imported materials found at the site, the great distance to lower elevations in the area, and the results of stable isotope analysis on their bone material, which yielded low oxygen and high carbon isotope ratios, indicating a life spent in thin air and dizzying heights. To read more about archaeology in Peru, go to “An Overlooked Inca Wonder.”

Medieval Abbey Wall Unearthed in England

EVESHAM, ENGLAND—Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a fourteenth-century abbey wall in the West Midlands of England, reports the Evesham Observer. The wall was built on the orders of Abbot William de Chyryton between 1317 and 1344 to mark the boundary between lands held by Evesham Abbey and the nearby town. The archaeologists also discovered pieces of an unusually decorated medieval cooking pot, along with the surface of a Roman road or yard. The latter find suggests the Anglo-Saxon settlement that became the medieval town of Evesham was founded on the site of an earlier Roman-era site. To read in-depth about medieval English churches, go to “Writing on the Church Wall.”

Tuesday, June 27

Face of 500-Year-Old Dublin Man Reconstructed

DUBLIN, IRELAND—Archaeologists have used the remarkably well-preserved skull of a young Dubliner, who died during the Tudor period (1485-1603), to reconstruct the man's face using 3-D digital technology. The Irish Times reports that the man's skeleton, which was found in 2014 during construction to extend Dublin's light rail system, indicates that he was in his late 20s or early 30s at the time of death and likely spent his whole life in Dublin under conditions of poverty and hard labor. According to Rónán Swan, an architect with Transportation Infrastructure Ireland, the remains of approximately 5,000 individuals have turned up during road and rail excavations in Ireland, but few have been intact enough to allow for reconstruction. To read more about facial reconstruction, go to "Neolithic FaceTime." 

DNA Suggests Medieval Mediterranean Diversity

BOLOGNA, ITALY—A study of populations from around the Mediterranean that combines ancient DNA (aDNA) and genomic analysis of modern people evidences a divison between Greeks hailing from the country's mainland and those from its islands. According to a report in Haaretz, an Italian team from the University of Bologna looked at 23 populations from around the region in order to map their genetic relationship and found that modern continental Greeks, especially in the north, show more genetic similarity with Albanians as well as Slavic peoples, while Greek islanders show more affinity with southern Italians and Sicilians. Because all of the populations tested shared a genetic inheritance from Neolithic farming populations, the team believes it will be possible to point to historic migrations documented in the written record to determine when genetic shifts such as the one in Greece began to occur. To read more about ancient DNA, go to "Worlds Within Us."  

Early Church Uncovered on Holy Island of Lindisfarne

  NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND—The remains of what may be among the oldest Anglo-Saxon churches in Northumbria have been discovered on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, according to a report from Chronicle Live. An excavation led by Richard Carlton of Newcastle University has uncovered sandstone blocks that are around three feet long, foundations that measure more than three feet wide, what appears to be an altar base, and the division between the church’s nave and chancel. The church was located on the Heugh, a ridge on the island offering a vantage on Bamburgh, where the Northumbrians had their royal capital. The church is thought to date to between A.D. 630 and 1050, most likely on the earlier end of the span, and may have been built on the same site where St. Aidan raised a wooden church in A.D. 635. “There are not many churches of potentially the seventh or eighth Centuries known in medieval Northumbria, which stretched from the Humber to the Forth,” said Carlton. “It adds another chapter to the history of Holy Island.” To read in-depth about the Northumbrians’ royal seat at Bamburgh, go to “Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Ancient Fish Trap Discovered in Alaska

KODIAK ISLAND, ALASKA—A prehistoric stone fish trap has been found on northern Kodiak Island, reports Alaska Native News. Alutiiq Museum archaeologist Patrick Saltonstall identified the rare trap, known as a corrall, at the mouth of a stream. At high tide, salmon would swim above the corrall, but at low tide the fish would be trapped within its stone walls. “The fish trap took a lot of work to build and maintain. I imagine that it was reused year after year and that it was owned by a community or an extended family,” says Saltonstall. “Many lines of archaeological evidence indicate that Alutiiq ancestors developed tools to efficiently harvest large quantities of fish. A fish trap is another great example.” Next to the trap Saltonstall also discovered previously unidentified petroglyphs. To read in-depth about the archaeology of native Alaskan peoples, go to “Cultural Revival.”

Monday, June 26

Scientists Examine Possible Link Between Art and Echoes

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Science News reports that hunter-gatherers and early farmers living in the central Mediterranean may have been drawn to rock shelters with special acoustic properties. Margarita Díaz-Andreu and Tommaso Mattioli of the University of Barcelona and their team investigated echoes produced by caves in the Baume Brune cliff face in southeastern France, and in the Valle d’Ividoro on Italy’s eastern coast. Each location consists of multiple rock shelters, but only some of them were decorated with paintings between 6,500 and 5,000 years ago. The researchers connected a special microphone to a digital recorder to measure the direction, intensity, and timing of sound waves generated by popped balloons at different distances outside each of the decorated and undecorated caves. In France, those distances ranged from 70 to 120 feet from the entrance to the caves, and in Italy, where the terrain was rougher, from 250 to 1,000 feet. The acoustic data was then used to create 3-D, slow-motion depictions of the echoes as moving circles originating from the place where the sound was reflected. Díaz-Andreu and her colleagues suggest that the sites decorated with rock art produced audible echoes, and the sites with the most paintings reflected the best echoes. For more, go to “The First Artists.”

Third-Century Structure Discovered in Rome

ROME, ITALY—Construction of Rome’s new metro Line C has uncovered traces of buildings dating to the third century A.D., according to a report in The Local, Italy. The buildings were found more than 30 feet below ground level on the Caelian Hill, near the Aurelian Walls, which were also built during the third century to surround the ancient city. A fire on the site preserved wood from the structures. The excavation also uncovered plaster fragments and frescoes, pieces of furniture, sculptures, windows, and the skeleton of a dog, which was found on the building’s doorstep. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology will try to determine whether seismic activity could have ignited the fire. To read about another discovery made during construction of Rome's metro, go to “While You Are Waiting.”

Colonial-Era Brass Lock Unearthed in Michigan

MACKINAW CITY, MICHIGAN—According to a report in Michigan Live, a brass lock measuring nearly three inches long was discovered at the site of a fur trader’s home at Fort Michilimackinac, located on Mackinac Island in the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The intact lock is estimated to be about 250 years old, and is thought to have been used to secure a small trunk or chest. The house where it was found was built around 1730 and was demolished in 1781. The lock was unearthed in the building’s root cellar. To read about another discovery in Michigan, go to “Leftover Mammoth.”