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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, March 05

Medieval Mint Uncovered in India

HARYANA, INDIA—Salvage excavations in the village of Bohar Majra in northern India have uncovered a rectangular structure identified as a mint dating to King Mihira Bhoja, who ruled between 836 and 885 A.D. According to B.R. Mani of the Archaeological Survey of India, the mint was in use until the eleventh century. “The site has yielded hundreds of terracotta coin molds and crucibles from the last phase of the site,” he told The Hindu.

18th Dynasty Tomb Found in Luxor

LUXOR, EGYPT—The tomb of Maayi, a government official from Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, has been accidently discovered by a joint Spanish-Egyptian team digging on Luxor’s west bank. A hole in the wall of tomb number TT109 led them to Maayi’s tomb. “The tomb is very well decorated, which reflects the luxurious life of its owner,” Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online. The excavation will continue once the debris blocking the entrance to the tomb is removed.

EU and UN Call For Action at Pompeii

ROME, ITALY—At an emergency meeting yesterday, Italian officials agreed to release two million euros in funding from the European Union for maintenance at the World Heritage site of Pompeii, where heavy rainfall triggered the collapse of several ancient walls. Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini told BBC News that he was “unblocking many measures which will get the machine working.” Johannes Hahn, Regional Policy Commissioner for the EU, called every collapse “a huge defeat.”

Tuesday, March 04

War Trophy or Honored Ancestor?

CHILLICOTHE, OHIO—Anthropologists from the University of Sao Paulo and the University of Cambridge analyzed 112 human skulls from Borneo that were known to have been collected by headhunters and published their findings in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. They found that 60 percent of the skulls showed signs of violence. But some of the bones only showed signs of cut marks, which would have made it difficult to know if the cut marks had been made during an act of violence or as part of a mortuary custom such as dismemberment and cleaning of the bones. Bradley Lepper, curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society, applied this information to skulls uncovered in Ohio in his column for The Columbus Dispatch. He thinks that the separate human skulls sometimes found in Hopewell mounds burials are the remains of honored ancestors. 

Long-Term Drought May Have Led to Fall of Harappan Civilization

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Palaeoclimatologist Yama Dixit of the University of Cambridge and her team tested sediment samples taken from an ancient, closed-basin lake on the edge of the Indus Valley. The age of the layers was determined with radiocarbon dating of organic matter, while the preserved shells of lake snails provided information about oxygen isotopes and water levels. According to a report in Nature News, what they found indicates that the monsoon cycle stopped for some 200 years around 2000 B.C. This long-term drought may have contributed to the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization. “What drove this climate change 4,100 years ago? We don’t see major changes in the North Atlantic or in the solar activity at that time,” asked Anil Gupta, director of the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in Dehradun, India.

Germany’s Second Oldest Church Uncovered

MAINZ, GERMANY—Traces of a 1,200-year-old church have been discovered incorporated into the 1,000-year-old “Old Cathedral” in Mainz. The older walls, which date to the time of Charlemagne, stretch from the basement to the roof. “This is the only surviving Carolingian cathedral in Germany,” Rhineland-Palatinate state curator Joachim Glatz told The Local. Two burials dating to the time of the earlier church have also been found. The building was severely damaged during World War II. 

Monday, March 03

Ireland’s Seventeenth-Century Pirates

DUBLIN, IRELAND—Underwater archaeologist Connie Kelleher, now of the Ireland National Monuments Service, has been collecting information about the seventeenth-century pirates that were based in Munster, Ireland. She has examined two sets of stairs carved out of cliff rock, one near “Dutchman’s Cove” that also had niches for candles or lanterns, and one near “Gokane Point” that led to a subterranean cavern with a waterway. Pirates and smugglers would have been able to reach the sea in the dark with these staircases. Kelleher also wants to look for the pirate fleet destroyed by the Dutch in Crookhaven Harbor in 1614. “Certainly part of the lower hulls and its cargoes could be there—things that were in the hold of the [salvaged] ships. Similarly, if a ship exploded, then the material could be scattered, and we could be dealing with a wider archaeological site,” she told Live Science

New Kingdom Tombs Discovered in Aswan

ASWAN, EGYPT—Four rock-cut tombs dating to the New Kingdom period have been discovered on Elephantine Island in the Nile River. One of the tombs belonged to an official named User, who is depicted in wall paintings with his family and deities, and with five priests while wearing a leopard fur before an offering table. Nasr Salama, head of Aswan monuments, told Ahram Online that the other tombs belonged to Ba-Nefer, a supervisor of the gods’ priests of Elephantine; Amenhotep, who held the stamps of Upper Egypt and ruled Elephantine; and Elephantine ruler User Wadjat. The tombs are being restored.

Rain in Pompeii Causes Additional Collapses

ROME, ITALY—Heavy rains in Pompeii have triggered the collapse of a tomb wall in the necropolis of Porta Nocera and part of an arch supporting the Temple of Venus. According to a Reuters report in The Guardian, Italy’s Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini, called an emergency meeting of officials for a report on the reasons for the collapses and to verify that routine maintenance had occurred at the ancient site. 

Neolithic Bones Discovered in Irish Cave

KNOCKNAREA, IRELAND—Human skeletal remains dating to the Neolithic period have been recovered from a tiny cave on Knocknarea. Of the 13 bone fragments, three belonged to a child, and ten to an adult. “Significantly, too, it seems the adult had been placed there about 300 years before the child, who died about 5,200 years ago,” Marion Dowd of the Institute of Technology Sligo told the Irish Mirror. She suggests that the bodies had been placed in the cave, and their bones collected and moved to another location after decomposition had taken place. These few small bones had been missed.