A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, February 20

Saxon Burial Ground Uncovered

HADDENHAM, ENGLAND—Archaeologists excavating the parking lot of a village pub have discovered nine burials that are believed to date to the early Saxon era, around the sixth century A.D. Though early Saxons were pagan, the burials are oriented east to west, which was a Christian practice. Among the grave goods unearthed were a spear, knife, and a shield found with a male burial. “Projects such as these prove how even the smallest developments can yield a wealth of archaeological information and details not only of how people lived but also of their treatment toward the dead more than 1,400 years ago," archaeologist Jonathan House told the Cambs Times.

Excavations at the Site of Buddha's First Sermon

VARANASI, INDIA—The Archaeological Survey of India is beginning new excavations at Sarnath, a sacred site where Buddha is thought to have delivered his first sermon. Previous excavations there unearthed artifacts and remains dating back to the third century B.C, when the emperor Ahoska the Great erected a large pillar at the site. But the early history of Sarnath is still murky. Archaeologist Ajay Srivastava told the Times of India that the team hopes to use new scientific methods to understand the chronology of Sarnath. "We hope to unearth useful finds to throw light on the past of this important Buddhist site," said Srivastava. 

Medieval Graves Found Under the Uffizi

FLORENCE, ITALY—During a construction project to expand Florence’s famed Uffizi Museum, the Telegraph reports that workers have uncovered sixty skeletons dating to the fifth or sixth century A.D. under one of the museum’s libraries. The bones are now being examined to determine the cause of death, which researchers believe may have been plague or infectious disease. The deceased appear to have been buried somewhat carelessly and hastily, perhaps to halt the spread of disease, and do not show signs of traumatic injury. Although Florentia was a wealthy provincial capital during the Roman Empire, little is known about the city’s early medieval period.  

Wednesday, February 19

Herring Dominated Prehistoric Pacific Fisheries

VANCOUVER, CANADA—Archaeologists at Simon Fraser University have studied more than half a million fish bones from 171 sites in the Pacific Northwest, and found that herring was much more important in prehistory than today. The Pacific herring population is dwindling, and the researchers say understanding the ecological and cultural aspects of prehistoric fisheries can help in designing a more sustainable management system for today's erratic herring catch. “By compiling the largest dataset of archaeological fish bones in the Pacific Northwest Coast, we demonstrate the value of using such data to establish an ecological baseline for modern fisheries,” archaeologist Iain McKechnie said in a Simon Fraser University statement.   

Australia's Mungo Man May Be Repatriated

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA—Discovered in a dry lake bed in southeastern Australia in 1970, the 43,000-year-old skeleton known as Mungo Man is the oldest known Australian. Since being found, his remains have been kept at Australian National University, and they are no longer being studied. Now Aboriginal groups are negotiating with officials for the return of the remains to Lake Mungo National Park, where they would be reunited with the 20,000-year-old skeleton dubbed Mungo Lady who was uncovered not far from Mungo Man. “This discovery changed Australian history, but Mungo Man has spent too long in his cardboard box. He needs to go home,” archaeologist Jim Bowler told The Australian          

Tuesday, February 18

Hellenistic Settlement Uncovered in Israel

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that salvage excavations in advance of work on a natural gas pipeline have revealed a small rural settlement that reached its greatest extent in the third century B.C., when the region was ruled by the Hellenistic Seleucid Dynasty. Like many other rural villages in Israel, the site was abandoned sometime in the first century B.C., when Herod the Great began his reign. "The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the beginning of Herod the Great's rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea," Jerusalem regional archaeologist Yuval Baruch explained in an IAA statement. "And it may be related to Herod's massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects."

Long-Lost Fragments of Colossi Found in Luxor

LUXOR, EGYPT—Egyptologists have uncovered missing quartzite blocks that once belonged to the Colossi of Memnon, two massive statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III that once stood at the entrance of his mortuary temple in Luxor. The blocks had been missing from the colossi since an earthquake in 27 B.C. devastated the temple. The missing pieces included fragments of the arm, belt, and skirt of one of the colossi, as well as parts of the royal crown and foundation stone for both statues. Aly El-Asfar, head of the Ministry of State for Antiquities' ancient Egyptian section, told Al-Ahram that the discovery will enable archaeologists to reconstruct the colossi. 

Aztec Dog Burials Discovered

MEXICO CITY, MEXICOArchaeologists digging beneath an apartment building in Mexico City have discovered the remains of 12 dogs who were buried sometime between 1350 and 1520 A.D. Dogs were considered sacred animals by the Aztecs, who believed they accompanied human souls to the afterlife. While archaeologists have found isolated dog burials at Aztec sites before, this is the first time multiple dogs have been discovered buried together. "This is definitely a special finding because of the number of dogs and because we have found no connection to a building or with the deceased,” archaeologist Rocio Morales Sanchez told the Associated Press. 

Medieval "Graffiti" Found in Scottish Castle

KILCHOAN, SCOTLANDAn archaeological team doing preservation work at the chapel of Mingary Castle on the west coast of Scotland has discovered markings scratched into the plaster walls. Made sometime between 1265 and 1295, the markings are thought to depict a local lighthouse, a ship, and perhaps the first letter of a name. "They've left messages on the wall and we're reading them," local historian Jon Haylett told BBC Radio Scotland. "It's pretty simple stuff, the sort of marks that would have been made by an illiterate man."