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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, December 27

Chinchorro Mummies Receive CT Scans

SANTIAGO, CHILE—The AFP reports that 15 Chinchorro mummies were taken from Chile’s National Museum of Natural History to the Los Condes clinic for computerized tomography scans. “We want to see what they physically looked like, to reconstruct them and bring to life someone who died thousands of years ago,” said chief radiologist Marcelo Galvez. The Chinchorro used wood, plants, and clay to create the mummies, which date back some 7,400 years. The mummies, which are the oldest known in the world, preserved newborns and fetuses, and are thought to have been made by their families. The researchers also collected skin and hair samples from the mummies to try to obtain DNA for study. “We want to better understand their way of life—from their diet to whether we Chileans still carry their genes,” added Veronica Silva of the National Museum of Natural History. For more, go to “Peruvian Woman of Means.”

Colombia Hands Over Artifacts to Peru’s Ambassador

LIMA, PERU—According to a report in Peru This Week, the government of Colombia handed over eight artifacts from the Nazca, Huari, and Chimú cultures to the Peruvian ambassador, Ignacio Higueras Hare. The artifacts will return to Peru’s Institute of Anthropology and History. Argentina and Germany have also repatriated artifacts to Peru this year. To read about a recent discovery, go to “Blue Collar in Ancient Peru.”

Ancient Wetland Garden Found in the Pacific Northwest

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA—Live Science reports that a prehistoric garden has been found on Katzie First Nation territory, located to the east of Vancouver. Archaeologist Tanja Hoffmann of the Katzie Development Limited Partnership and Simon Fraser University led the excavation of the 3,800-year-old waterlogged site. It yielded more than 3,700 whole and fragmented wapato plants, which grow in wetlands and produce starchy roots similar to potatoes. The plants were not domesticated, but Hoffmann said they were grown in a plot set over a pavement of tightly packed, uniformly sized rocks, which would have made it easier to harvest the tubers. Some 150 wooden harvesting tools were also recovered. To read more about archaeology in Canada, go to “A Removable Feast.”

Friday, December 23

5,000-Year-Old Rock Art Depicts Parents and Baby

PRATO, ITALY—Seeker reports that geologist Marco Morelli, director of the Museum of Planetary Sciences in Prato, led a team of researchers that found 5,000-year-old rock art on the ceiling of a small cavity in the Egyptian Sahara desert in 2005. The image, drawn in reddish-brown ochre, appears to depict a man and a woman with a baby floating above them. The woman’s head is missing due to damage to the painting. Morelli suggests that the position of the baby could indicate a birth or pregnancy. “As death was associated to Earth in contemporary rock art from the same area,” he said, “it is likely that birth was linked to the sky.” There are two animals in the scene: a headless lion, which has been found in other drawings in the region, and a baboon. There’s also a small circular mark to the side of the figures, which has been likened to a star. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Interbreeding May Have Helped Modern Humans Adapt to Cold

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—The New York Times reports that an international team of scientists led by Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley, compared the genomes of nearly 200 Inuit living in Greenland with the genomes of living populations around the world, Neanderthals, and the one known Denisovan genome. The team members focused on a region of the Inuit genome that may affect the levels of brown fat in the body, which generates heat, and found that nearly all the Inuit in the study carried the same genetic variants in this region. The same region in Neanderthals and modern populations showed a partial match to the Inuit genome, but the Denisovan genome “was almost a complete match,” according to Nielsen. He suggests that interbreeding with archaic human species may have helped migrating modern humans adapt to new environments some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. “We do see these variants in other populations, like in South America and East Asia, but nowhere do we see the same frequency that we see in Greenland,” Nielsen said. To read in-depth about an excavation near a Yup'ik village in Alaska, go to “Cultural Revival.”

16th-Century Turkey Bones Uncovered at English Monastery

CHESHIRE, ENGLAND—According to a report in Runcorn and Widnes World, researchers at the University of Sheffield found turkey bones among the thousands of bone fragments of sheep, pig, and cattle unearthed at Norton Priory between 1970 and 1987. Located in northwest England, Norton Priory was an abbey complex inhabited from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries. The turkey is thought to have been introduced to England from the New World in the early sixteenth century, and it became popular with Henry VIII and the wealthy, who until then had dined on swan, goose, peacock, and boar's head. For more on archaeology in England, go to “A Villa under the Garden.”

Thursday, December 22

Fragment of Engraved Stone Bowl Unearthed in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—A fragment of a 2,100-year-old engraved bowl was found in a ritual bathing complex in Jerusalem Walls National Park, according to a report in Jewish Business News. Hyrcanus, the name engraved on the bowl, is thought to have been a common one during the Hasmonean period. Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University said the bowl is one of the oldest chalk vessels found in Jerusalem. She and Doron Ben-Ami of the Israel Antiquities Authority explained that stone vessels were often used by Jewish people because they were considered to be vessels that could not become ritually unclean. For more on archaeology in Israel, go to “Sun and Moon.”

Unusual Burial Uncovered on Anglo-Saxon Island

LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Grimsby Telegraph, a team of researchers from the University of Sheffield is continuing to investigate an Anglo-Saxon site in the village of Little Carlton that may have been an island monastery or trading post. Archaeologist Hugh Willmott said that the team recently found the remains of a person buried face down in a narrow grave. The body is thought to have been placed in the grave after it had started to decompose, since its legs are facing the wrong way. “A great deal of care has been taken in this burial,” Willmott said. “So this could be an individual who perhaps has died away from the site and been brought here to be interred here specially.” Such an individual may have been royalty or a holy person. The site has also yielded writing implements, hundreds of dress pins, a lead tablet bearing a woman’s name, imported glassware, and seventh- and eighth-century coins, and is thought to have been abandoned in the eighth century due to Viking raids. To read in-depth about an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, go to “Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Roman-Era Tombs Discovered in Western Turkey

KÜTAHYA, TURKEY—Hürriyet Daily News reports that three Roman-era tombs have been unearthed at a construction site in an area of western Anatolia known during the Roman period as Cotyaeum. Kütahya Museum director Metin Türktüzün said that the 2,000-year-old tombs each contained the remains of four or five people. The team expects to find additional tombs at the site. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Transformed Celtic Harness Fitting Found in Norway

TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—Horsetalk reports that a piece of bronze jewelry found by a metal detectorist near the Trondheim Fjord may have been crafted in a Celtic workshop. The ornament, thought to have been made in the eighth or ninth century as a fitting for a horse’s harness, resembles a bird and has fish- or dolphin-shaped patterns on each of its wings. Holes were later placed on the bottom of the ornament. Traces of rust on its back suggest that it had been turned into a brooch with a needle. “A housewife in mid-Norway probably received the fitting as a gift from a family member who took part in one or more Viking raids to Ireland or Great Britain,” said Aina Margrethe Heen Pettersen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She suggests that items brought back from the dangerous raids would have been treasured status symbols. For more, go to “A True Viking Saga.”