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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, August 04

Connecticut Site May Be Linked to Pequot War

WINDSOR, CONNECTICUT—Brian Jones of the Office of the Connecticut State Archaeologist was looking for traces of a palisade that protected English colonists from Pequot attacks in the seventeenth century when he found signs of a cellar that had been backfilled. The Hartford Courant reports that further investigation revealed eighteenth-century artifacts as well as a few from the seventeenth century, including pottery, food waste, nails, and clay pipes at a site thought to have been the home of Captain John Mason. In 1637, Mason led English colonists, allied with Narragansetts, in the “Mystic Massacre,” which killed approximately 500 Pequot men, women, and children living in a fortified village. “It may be impossible to prove a direct association with Mason, but it is currently our working hypothesis that this was his ca. 1635 house,” Jones said. For more on archaeology in New England, go to "Peeping through the Leaves."

Unusual “Wells” Found in Denmark

AARS, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that Bjarne Nielsen of the Vesthimmerlands Museum and his team have found seven mysterious black spots in northeastern Jutland, one of which includes the remains of a stone-lined well, near a Neolithic settlement and graves containing burned human bones. The well measures nearly five and one-half feet deep and contained burned bone fragments. “We believe these are human bones that were crushed after burning. Perhaps because the soul needed to be completely released from the body,” Nielsen said. The other features, also lined with stones, may have been covered by roofs supported by thick poles. Nielsen explained that constructions similar to the well have been found in the United Kingdom, but not in Europe. “This indicates there has been a connection between the Limfjord and England some 4,000 years ago,” he said. For more, go to "The Neolithic Toolkit."

Roman Goddess Figurine Unearthed in England

SOUTH SHIELDS, ENGLAND—A second Roman goddess figurine has been unearthed by a WallQuest volunteer digging at Arbeia Roman Fort in northern England. Located on the River Tyne at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall, the fort served as supply base where grain was stored for the Roman army. The bronze figurine is thought to represent Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, grain, and fertility, and may have been mounted on a larger piece of furniture. “At first I didn’t believe the goddess was real since the condition seemed pristine and the detail was incredible, but then our site supervisor fell eerily quiet, triggering a hum of authentic excitement,” volunteer Amanda Seim told the Shields Gazette. To read more about Roman finds in England, go to "A Villa under the Garden."

3,500-Year-Old Tomb Discovered in Cyprus

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN—An excavation in Cyprus’ ancient harbor town of Hala Sultan Tekke has uncovered a late Bronze Age tomb and an associated pit filled with precious artifacts imported from Mesopotamia, Greece, Egypt, and Anatolia. Led by Peter Fischer of the University of Gothenburg, the excavators from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition recovered the remains of eight infants and nine adults who may have been family members. The researchers think the pit may have served as a way to present objects, such as a diadem, pearls, earrings, gold scarabs, and pottery decorated with religious symbols, to the deceased without reopening the tomb. “In the late Bronze age period in Cyprus, people tended to be buried inside their houses rather than in cemeteries. No cemeteries from the period have been found so far, so this could be quite an exciting find in that respect,” Fischer said in an International Business Times report. For more on archaeology in Cyprus, go to "Living the Good Afterlife."

Wednesday, August 03

Walls at Tintagel Castle May Date to the Sixth Century

CORNWALL, ENGLAND—The Cornwall Archaeological Unit and English Heritage have unearthed thick stone walls that may date to the sixth century in previously unexcavated terrace areas near the thirteenth-century site of Tintagel Castle. Geophysical surveys of this area suggested that two rooms sit below the surface. The excavation team has also recovered fragments of imported pottery and glass, suggesting that the sixth-century residents of the site were wealthy. Among their belongings, archaeologists have found late Roman amphoras and fine red-slip tableware imported from western Turkey. “The discovery of high-status buildings—potentially a royal palace complex—at Tintagel is transforming our understanding of the site,” Win Scutt of English Heritage told The Telegraph. To read about excavations of another castle, go to "Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North."

Study Suggests Population Growth Spurred Plant Domestication

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Brian Codding and Elic Weitzel of the University of Utah employed a database of more than 3,500 radiocarbon dates obtained from charcoal, nutshells, animal bones, and other artifacts found in North America to reconstruct population histories dating back 15,000 years. Assuming that as populations grew they would leave behind more artifacts, they found that the population in eastern North America nearly doubled some 6,900 years ago, and continued to grow rapidly until 5,200 years ago. Plants are thought to have been domesticated in the region about 5,000 years ago. “These people were producing food to feed themselves and their families [by farming], they’re still hunting and foraging,” Brian Codding said in a report by The Independent. Archaeological evidence from the region suggests that those first crops included squash, sunflower, marshelder, and pitseed goosefoot, a grain related to quinoa. For more, go to "Europe's First Farmers." 

Study Records Marks Left on Bones by Human Eaters

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Ten volunteers used only their hands and teeth to eat raw, roasted, and boiled lamb for a study led by Antonio J. Romero of the University of the Basque Country. According to a UPI report, the scientists then analyzed the marks left on the 90 lamb bones, and found that men left more marks than women, but the marks themselves were indistinguishable. Tooth marks appeared more regularly in the bones of meat that had been roasted or boiled. Raw bones had more damage on the tips and edges, and tended to be crushed more often. The study will help archaeologists distinguish between bones gnawed on by hominins and those left behind by other carnivores who may have visited sites used by early hunter-gatherers. To read more on hunter-gatherers, go to "The First Casus Belli."

Did a Mutation Help Modern Humans Breathe Campfire Smoke?

UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA—Gary Perdew of Pennsylvania State University and his team examined the genomes of three Neanderthals, a Denisovan, a modern human who lived some 45,000 years ago, and living people, and found that all of the modern humans carried a mutation that helps regulate the body’s response to some of the carcinogens in wood smoke and charred meat. The other hominins did not have the mutation. As a result, they may have been more susceptible to lung infections and other toxic effects of wood smoke while eating cooked food and using fire for light, warmth, and protection from predators. “We prospered because of this mutation,” Perdew said in a report in The Guardian. “I wouldn’t say Neanderthals died out because of it, but it could have been a contributing factor.” However, some researchers caution that scientists are not able to observe the reactions of extinct hominins sitting around a fire. “The problem is it’s really difficult to test,” explained David Wright of Seoul National University and the University of York. For more, go to "Catching Fire and Keeping It."

Tuesday, August 02

Roman Cooking on Display in Restored Pompeii Kitchen

POMPEII, ITALY—The Local, Italy, reports that cooking equipment, such as metal grills, pots, pans, and earthenware crocks, has been returned to the kitchen in the Fullonica di Stephanus, a three-story launderette where the garments of wealthy Romans were washed some 2,000 years ago. The equipment was discovered in the launderette in 1912, but had been moved to other areas of Pompeii over the years. The grills were placed over troughs where charcoal fires were lit. Meat, fish, and vegetables were then placed on the grills. Soups and stews were cooked in pots and pans on tripods placed in the coals. “We’re delighted the pieces have finally been put back on display where they were found,” said Massimo Osanna, archaeological superintendent of Pompeii. For more on Pompeii, go to "Family History."

Prehistoric Native American Fishing Camp Found in New Jersey

SOUTH CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY—Ancient hearths and some 1,300 artifacts, including unglazed ceramics and pieces of soapstone, have been found at an industrial construction site along the South Camden waterfront. Archaeologists from Richard Grubb & Associates think the site was used by Native Americans for processing and cooking fish around 1400 to 1350 B.C. Native Americans “would have been fishing along the Delaware, utilizing the forests around them for shelter, watercraft … just maximizing the natural resources,” forensic archaeologist Kimberlee Sue Moran of Rutgers University-Camden, said in a report by the Courier-Post. She added that evidence for long-term settlement during this time period is unusual. For more, go to "Possible Revolutionary War Campsite Found in New Jersey."

Update From The Alamo

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—Lead investigator Nesta Anderson announced at a “Reimagine The Alamo” press conference that more than 300 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artifacts, including Native American ceramics from the mission era, square nails, and a bone button, have been uncovered near the west wall of the Alamo. The excavation team has also recovered a piece of glass stamped with the words “San Antonio Apothecary,” ceramics from Europe and Mexico, part of a toothbrush, and a blade that may have been part of a utility knife or scissors. “As of yet, we’re not finding a lot of battle-related things,” Anderson said in a Houston Chronicle report. Work at the south wall of the Alamo is now underway as well. For more on archaeology in Texas, go to "Off the Grid: Caddo Mounds State Historic Site." 

1,000-Year-Old Human Remains Uncovered in Northern Ireland

COUNTY DOWN, NORTHERN IRELAND—Excavations on the grounds of an eighteenth-century country house known as Hillsborough Castle have uncovered a skeleton thought to have belonged to a young woman who lived 1,000 years ago. Archaeologists and volunteers had been looking for traces of a medieval church on the site when they found the remains and signs of additional burials. “We arrived hoping to find the remains of a fifteenth- or sixteenth-century church, but about two hours into our first day we uncovered a skeleton,” Jonathan Barkley of Northern Archaeology Consultancy told BBC News. The skeleton will be studied before it is reburied. No other human remains at the site will be removed. The excavation is being conducted ahead of construction to transform the castle into a tourist destination. For more, go to "Saving Northern Ireland's Noble Bog."