Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, May 04

Buddhist Sculptures Discovered in Pakistan

SWAT VALLEY, PAKISTAN—Buddhist sculptures and carvings have been discovered in a shrine in the ancient city of Bazira, founded in the second century B.C. and damaged by earthquakes in the third century A.D. According to a report in Live Science, one of the 1,700-year-old sculptures is thought to depict the wealthy prince Siddhartha traveling on a horse named Kanthaka. Archaeologist Luca Olivieri thinks that the carving may illustrate the story of Siddhartha, who eventually became the Gautama Buddha, leaving his home to seek enlightenment. Another carving features a stupa with a platform, or harmika, near its top. Next to the stupa are two columns topped with lions. Olivieri said this sculpture may represent an actual stupa in the Swat Valley. A carving found in the shrine’s courtyard is thought to date to the post-earthquake period. It pictures an unknown male deity sitting on a throne while holding a wine goblet and a severed goat’s head. “The goat is an animal associated to the mountains in the cultures of Hindu Kush, the local region,” Olivieri said. To read more about the archaeology of Siddhartha Guatama, go to "Buddhism, in the Beginning."

Possible Extinct Bison Remains Found in Florida

VERO BEACH, FLORIDA—A team from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has uncovered what may be the 13,000-year-old bones and an upper molar of an extinct species of bison at the Old Vero Man site. “It most certainly puts bison on the menu when we know people were here in Vero Beach at that time. An eight-foot-tall bison leaves behind so much more than just a stone flake or a hearth. We couldn’t have asked for a better representative species from that era,” lead archaeologist Andrew Hemmings told TCPalm. The team also found charcoal, the bones of small mammals, and bone fragments that may have come from mammoths, mastodons, sloths, or ancient bison. To read more about the earliest people to reach the new world, go to "America, in the Beginning."

19th-Century Turtle Soup Can Unearthed in the Netherlands

DELFT, NETHERLANDS—According to The Netherland Times, construction crews digging a new railway tunnel in the city of Delft uncovered a shiny metal object that turned out to be a luxury container for turtle soup. The can was made of tin and wrapped in brass. The print, written in French, reads: “Preserved foods, W. Hoogenstraaten and Sons, purveyor, turtle soup, Leiden.” Bas Penning of Archaeology Delft explained that the company W. Hoogenstraaten and Sons was founded in Leiden in 1860, and changed its name in 1900, so the can was manufactured sometime in the late nineteenth century. The soup was therefore Dutch in origin, but was probably exported throughout Europe. “French was a common language then,” he said. To read about another recent archaeological discovery in the Netherlands, go to "Medieval River Engineering."

Tuesday, May 03

Study Suggests the Calusa Engineered Mound Key

ATHENS, GEORGIA—Researchers from the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, Pennsylvania State University, and Florida Gulf Coast University are studying Mound Key, an island built by the Calusa from hundreds of millions of shells, bones, and other discarded materials in Estero Bay. Extensive radiocarbon dates, taken from the island’s different layers, indicate that the younger building materials are found on the bottom, even though you would expect to find them on the top. “It appears that the island was occupied early in its existence, abandoned, and then reoccupied,” R&D Magazine reports. “During Mound Key’s second occupation, its inhabitants substantially altered the landscape by redepositing old midden to form at least the upper portions of the two largest midden-mounds.” To read about how modern-day Native Americans in Florida uphold ancient traditions, go to "People of the White Earth."

Scientists Examine Aircraft Carrier, Declassified Documents

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA—According to a report in Live Science, researchers have compared sonar images of the wreck of USS Independence (CVL22) with declassified documents to determine how the aircraft carrier was used in the years following World War II. Marine archaeologist James Delgado of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the Independence was one of a fleet of vessels assigned to Operation Crossroads to examine the effects of shock waves, heat, and radiation from the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. The Independence survived the tests and so was used for decontamination studies, and then as a laboratory for testing ways to handle radioactive waste. In 1951, the Navy stored radioactive waste in steel and concrete drums on the cleaned ship and then sank it in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. “Independence, by the time it was sunk, was at about a level that you would get with an average X-ray,” Delgado said. “Now we not only know what shape she’s in and where she lies, but also exactly what happened to the Independence.” To read more about USS Independence, go to "Wrecks of the Pacific."

New Thoughts on a Viking Runestone

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN—Per Homberg of the University of Gothenburg suggests that the inscription on the Rök Runestone, which dates to the late A.D. 800s, does not refer to acts of heroism, kings, and wars, as had been previously thought, but honors the power of writing itself and harnesses it to honor the dead. Homberg says the Rök Runestone is unusual because its text is long, but its meaning is similar to that expressed on other runestones. “The riddles on the front of the stone have to do with the daylight that we need to be able to read the runes, and on the back are riddles that probably have to do with the carving of the runes and the runic alphabet, the so-called futhark,” he said in Laboratory Equipment. In this interpretation, the 24 “kings” mentioned at the bottom of the stone are not rulers, but the set of runes themselves. To read more about the Viking world, go to "The First Vikings."

Intact Pot Unearthed in St. Augustine, Florida

SAINT AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA—KAGS TV reports that city archaeologist Carl Halbirt unearthed an intact pot at the site of the Mill Top Tavern, across from the Castillo de San Marcos. He thinks the pot was buried in a pit at least 300 years ago by Native Americans and may have had ritual significance. The pot contained pieces of another pot and soil that will be analyzed. To read more about the archaeology of Native Americans in Spanish Florida, go to "Off the Grid: Mission San Luis." 

Monday, May 02

Deer Park’s Cobbled Floors Revealed in Cornwall

CORNWALL, ENGLAND—Culture 24 reports that restoration work at the Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park revealed the cobbled floor and central wall of the property’s upper deer house. The ground floor of the structure would have supported a timber manger to feed the deer that lived on the land; the hay was stored on the structure’s upper floor. The team also exposed the elaborate cobbled floor in the park’s stone seating area. Visitors would have been able to sit and look across the deer park and out to the sea from the seat. “Although the building had partially collapsed and its original form is uncertain—there are no known surviving photos—the team managed to clear away rubble and soil to reveal the original plan of the building along with a rear ledge which would have supported a wooden seat,” explained James Gossip of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit. Additional evidence suggests that the slate roof over the seat had cast iron gutters to carry water away from the structure. Both buildings are thought to be between two and three hundred years old. To read more about archaeology on an English estate, go to "The Many Lives of an English Manor House."

Medieval Cooling Tower Unearthed in Kuwait

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA—According to a report in The Slovak Spectator, a joint Kuwaiti-Slovak archaeological team working at the Nestorian Christian settlement of Al-Qusur on Failaka Island in the Persian Gulf unearthed a palace dating from the seventh to ninth centuries, a sewerage system, and the base of a stone tower. “According to a preliminary analysis, it’s a unique so-called windcatch-tower, utilizing an ingenious interior cooling system based on the flow of air, caught by openings in the tower superstructure,” Matej Ruttkay, director of the Slovak Academy of Sciences’ Archaeological Institute, told the TASR newswire. Similar cooling systems have been found in the Middle East and North Africa. To read in-depth about the site, go to "Archaeology Island." 

Genetic Study of Ice Age Europeans Examines Migration Patterns

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—BBC News reports that a new genetic study of the remains of 51 Europeans between 45,000 and 7,000 years old has been led by David Reich at Harvard Medical School. The results suggests that beginning 37,00 years ago, all Europeans came from a single founding population that developed deep branches in different parts of Europe. At the end of the last Ice Age some 19,000 years ago, people thought to have come from Spain spread northward. Then some 14,000 years ago, populations from Turkey and Greece spread westward into Europe and replaced the first group. “We see multiple, huge movements of people displacing previous ones,” said Reich. The analysis also suggests that Ice Age Europeans had dark complexions and brown eyes until about 14,000 years ago, when blue eyes began to spread across the population. Pale skin began to appear after 7,000 years ago. Earlier populations also had more Neanderthal DNA than present-day people, which is consistent with the idea that it may have had harmful effects on modern humans and was lost over time through natural selection. To read about a masterpiece of Paleolithic art, go to "New Life for Lion Man." 

Inscription in Anatolia Explains Racing Rules

KONYA, TURKEY—Rules for horse racing have been translated from a 2,000-year-old stone monument in central Anatolia. Written in Greek, the rules state that a horse that finishes first in a race cannot compete in another race, and an owner whose horse finishes first cannot enter another horse in additional races. The monument, located near a hippodrome, was dedicated to Lukuyanus, according to a report in The Daily Sabah. “Lukuyanus was a Roman jockey, and this structure here shows this was a place dedicated to horse racing and horse breeding," Hasan Bahar of Selçuk University explained. "Hittites used to build monuments here in a tribute to the mountains they deemed holy and we believe horse racing was a dedication to those holy mountains as well in the Roman era.” To read more about equine-related archaeology, go to "The Story of the Horse."