Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, May 03

Archaeologists Search for Civil War Earthworks

FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE—The Tennessean reports that archaeologists are looking for a missing piece of the Union Army’s front line earthworks in land recently acquired for Carter Hill Battlefield Park. On November 30, 1864, Confederate troops under the command of Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood attacked fortified positions held by Union troops led by Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield in what is known as the Battle of Franklin. Battle of Franklin Trust CEO Eric Jacobson said that archaeologists recovered fired bullets from an area of disturbed soil, including traditional Minie balls and Williams Patent “cleaner” bullets, which were used by Federal troops to clean musket barrels. “If you’re finding a fired Williams cleaner, that means they were so desperate they were using them and then it was hitting something: a Confederate,” Jacobson said. The Confederates “busted through this line and that’s why the fighting is so awful here.” The Confederates suffered heavy losses in both men and leadership at Franklin. The Union Army retreated to Nashville, where another battle wiped out Hood’s army about two weeks later. For more, go to “A Bold Civil War Steamer.”

Middle-Kingdom Garden Discovered in Luxor

LUXOR, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a 4,000-year-old funerary garden has been found in the Dra Abul Naga necropolis by a team of Spanish archaeologists. The garden was placed in the open courtyard of a rock-cut tomb. Measuring about ten feet long by six and one-half feet wide, the garden was separated into sections about one foot square. Each square is thought to have contained different kinds of plants and flowers. An elevated area in the middle of the garden may have supported a small tree or bush. A corner of the garden contained the roots and trunk of a small tree, and a bowl of dried dates and other fruit. “The discovery of the garden may shed light on the environment and gardening in ancient Thebes during the Middle Kingdom, around 2000 B.C.,” said Jose Galan of the Spanish National Research Council. Galan added that this is the first time that a funerary garden has been uncovered in ancient Thebes. His team also unearthed a small mudbrick chapel holding three 13th-Dynasty steles at the site of the rock-cut tomb. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Early 19th-Century Canal Boat Found in New York Lake

OSWEGO COUNTY, NEW YORK— reports that scuba divers assisted by maritime archaeologist Ben Ford of Indiana University of Pennsylvania investigated the wreckage of an early nineteenth-century canal boat in Oneida Lake. Known as a Durham boat, the vessel measured about 60 feet long and ten feet wide, and could carry about 20 tons of cargo in shallow waters. The vessel’s frame and bottom planks were made of white oak, while the siding was made of eastern white pine. A mallet, a wooden scoop, and a stoneware jug were found in the boat’s cabin. The cargo consisted of more than five tons of small stones from the south shore of Oneida Lake. The research team suspects the vessel sank in a storm while crossing the lake. To read about maritime archaeology in the Great Lakes, go to “Shipwreck Alley.”

Tuesday, May 02

Reindeer Herders Participate in Experimental Archaeology

ALBERTA, CANADA—Radio Canada International reports that Robert Losey of the University of Alberta and colleague Tatiana Nomokonova are investigating possible uses for reindeer-bone artifacts recovered from Russia’s Ust’-Polui archaeological site. They think the objects may be pieces of a 2,000-year-old reindeer bridle or harness, and will ask the Nenets reindeer herders of the Yamal Peninsula in northwestern Siberia to test them. The researchers used a 3-D laser scan to produce digital models of the artifacts, which they then printed in plastic. They then attempted to replicate those objects in actual reindeer antler for use in the field. Losey and Nomokonova will live with the Nenets for a period and hope to learn how Arctic people may have interacted with herds of reindeer in the past. “It’s really unknown though when reindeer keeping first began, when people first started taming and breeding reindeer,” Losey said. “So the question is really were people harnessing and working with reindeer 2,000 or 3,000 years ago in the Arctic or are these objects something else entirely?” For more on archaeology in Siberia, go to “Squeezing History from a Turnip.”

Restoration of Mausoleum of Augustus Underway

ROME, ITALY—The Associated Press reports that the mausoleum of the Emperor Augustus, which has been closed to the public since the 1970s, will be restored with funding provided by the city of Rome, the culture ministry, and a private company. Located in the historic city center, the monument was constructed in 28 B.C. at a site along the Tiber River, and originally had a bronze sculpture of Augustus on its roof. The structure also holds the remains of the emperors Vespasian, Nero, and Tiberius. “I hope the mausoleum will be given back as soon as possible to the people,” said Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi. Workers have already cleaned out the garbage and cut back the trees and weeds that had grown over it. The restoration is scheduled to be completed in 2019. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

1,700-Year-Old Underground Temple Found at Roman Fortress

DIYARBAKIR PROVINCE, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a 1,700-year-old underground temple of Mithras has been found near Zerzevan Castle, which was located on what was the eastern border of the Roman Empire. The strategic Roman border garrison town, surrounded by fortress walls, was situated on a high, rocky hill, overlooking a valley to protect an ancient trade route. Aytaç Coşkun of Dicle University thinks the mystery religion practiced at the Mithraeum may have been popular among the Roman soldiers at the castle until the fourth century, when Christianity arrived. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

Mycenaean Chamber Tomb Discovered on Greek Island

SALAMINA, GREECE—Sewerage repairs on the Greek island of Salamis have led to the discovery of a Mycenaean chamber tomb, according to The Greek Reporter. Archaeologist Ada Kattoula of the Western Attica, Piraeus, and the Islands Antiquities Ephorate said another project in 2009 uncovered two other tombs in the area, which is part of a Mycenaean-era cemetery first investigated in 1964. “The excavation conditions are extremely difficult because there are many springs in the area and the specific tombs, being carved into the rock, are prone to flooding,” she explained. At least five people were buried in the chamber tomb, along with pottery vessels, at different times. The remains will be studied. For more, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

Monday, May 01

Can Fossil Fractures Be Linked to Hominin Behavior?

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI—According to a report in Science News, Libby Cowgill and James Bain of the University of Missouri evaluated injuries found in Neanderthal fossils, and the possibility that comparing them to injuries experienced by modern humans could offer insights what Neanderthal lives were like. About 30 percent of known Neanderthal fractures affect the face and head, a far greater ratio than almost all modern causes of injury. In an earlier study, a team of researchers, including Erik Trinkaus of Washington University in St. Louis, compared Neanderthal injuries, perhaps inflicted by large prey, to those suffered by rodeo riders. Trinkaus later suggested that these upper-body injuries could reflect clashes with other Neanderthals, or even Homo sapiens. Alternatively, many Neanderthals with lower-body injuries may have died before reaching rock-shelters, where fossils are usually found. In their follow-up, Cowgill and Bain compared the record of Neanderthal injuries to fracture data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, and found similar patterns in Neanderthal injuries and those caused by accidents involving golf, water tubing, and games involving Frisbee and boomerangs, rather than rodeo riding. Cowgill and Bain concluded that it may not be meaningful to compare injury patterns experienced by modern humans and extinct hominins. This is especially the case since Neanderthals' fractures may have occurred during the fossilization process, as Trinkaus explained. To read more about Neanderthals, go to “Early Man Cave.”

Renovations Uncover Empty Jars at Thailand’s Wat Daeng Temple

AYUTTHAYA, THAILAND—Archaeologists renovating the chapel of Wat Daeng temple in the Tha Rua district of Ayutthaya found 32 jars buried beneath the chapel’s main Buddha statue, according to a report in The Bangkok Post. The empty jars, buried bottom up in rows, were spotted when a brick was removed from a wall in the statue’s base. Archaeologist Chaiyos Charoensantipong of the Third Fine Arts Office explained that the jars were probably added as a structural support for the 300-year-old statue, and will help researchers understand how the chapel was constructed. The heads of four of the six Buddha statues in the chapel were stolen in 2009. For more, go to “The Buddha of the Lake.”

Vikings May Have Grown Their Own Grapes

COPEHAGEN, DENMARK—It had been thought that grapes were not grown in Denmark before the medieval period, but The Local, Denmark, reports that strontium isotope analysis of two grape seeds recovered at the site of the Viking settlement at Tissø suggests they may have been grown on the main Danish island of Zealand. One of the pips has been dated to the Iron Age, the other to the late Viking period. “We do not know how [the grapes] were used—it may have been just to have a pretty bunch of grapes decorating a table, for example—but it is reasonable to believe that they made wine,” said archaeological botanist Peter Steen Henriksen of Denmark’s National Museum. The Vikings probably first encountered grapes and wine in their travels. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”