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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, October 22

World War II Battlefield Found Off the Coast of North Carolina

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have located the wreckage of the German U-boat 576 and the freighter Bluefields, which sank some 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina on July 15, 1942. All aboard Bluefields were rescued, but the crew of U-576 was lost, making the site a war grave. “We have discovered an important battle site that is part of the Battle of the Atlantic. These two ships rest only a few hundred yards apart and together help us interpret and share their forgotten stories,” announced Joe Hoyt, a NOAA sanctuary scientist. Bluefields was part of a group of 19 merchant ships that was traveling to Key West, Florida, when attacked by the U-576. U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft, which provided the convoy’s air cover, bombed the submarine while another merchant ship attacked it with its deck gun. “Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic. But few people realize how close the war actually came to America’s shores. As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history,” said David Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. 

Early European Farmers Remained Lactose Intolerant

DUBLIN, IRELAND—Nuclear DNA analysis of 13 individuals suggests that early farmers in central Europe remained lactose intolerant for more than 5,000 years after they domesticated animals. “Our findings show progression toward lighter skin pigmentation as hunter and gatherers and non-local farmers intermarried, but surprisingly no presence of increased lactose persistence or tolerance to lactose,” announced Ron Pinhasi of University College Dublin. Early farmers probably relied upon fermented cheese and yogurt from their cows, goats, and sheep, rather than drinking their hard-to-digest raw milk. “Our results also imply that the great changes in prehistoric technology including the adoption of farming, followed by the first use of the hard metals, bronze and then iron, were each associated with the substantial influx of new people,” added Dan Bradley of Trinity College Dublin. The DNA samples were obtained from the inner ear region of the petrous bone in the skull, which is very dense and well protected from contamination and damage. To read more about the prehistoric genetic history of Europe, see "Genetic Study Reveals Third Group of European Ancestors."

Inscription Dedicated to Hadrian Unearthed in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—A Latin inscription on a large fragment of a lintel from an arch built to welcome Emperor Hadrian to Jerusalem in 130 A.D. could shed light on the causes of the Bar Kochba rebellion. The stone, erected by Hadrian’s Tenth Roman legion, was discovered in a cistern near Jerusalem’s Old City, where it had been recycled by the Byzantines as a paving stone. “This is another (part in the puzzle) in the historical mystery of what preceded what: the revolt of Bar Kochba or the foundation of the establishment of a city on top of the ruins of Jerusalem named ‘Aelia Capitolina’ and the change of status of Jerusalem to a Roman colony,” archaeologist Rina Avner of the Israel Antiquities Authority told Reuters. The stone places the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem during the period between the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 70 and the Bar Kochba rebellion. The other half of the inscription was unearthed in the nineteenth century by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau. “The inscription itself might have set in the top of a free-standing triumphal arch on the city’s northern boundary such as the Arch of Titus in Rome,” Avner explained. To read about a remarkable cache of jewlery dating to the time of the Bar Kochba rebellion, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Top 10 Discoveries of 2012."

Sphinx’s Head Discovered in Amphipolis Tomb

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—The missing head of one of the sphinxes guarding the entrance to the Macedonian tomb at Amphipolis has been found in the structure’s third chamber. The marble head, adorned with curly hair, is intact except for some damage to its nose. Traces of red paint have been found on the hair, which was tied with a white stripe. Fragments of the statue’s wings were also recovered, according to The Greek Reporter. To read about the search for Alexander the Great's tomb, see "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers."

Tuesday, October 21

Photographer’s Notebook Found in Melting Antarctic Ice

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND—A notebook belonging to George Murray Levick has been recovered from the melting snow and ice at Captain Scott’s 1910-1913 expedition base at Cape Evans, Antarctica, by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust. According to The Guardian, Levick used the “Wellcome Photographic Exposure Record and Diary 1910” at Cape Adare in 1911 to list dates, subjects, and exposure details for his photographs. “It’s an exciting find. The notebook is a missing part of the official expedition record. After spending seven years conserving Scott’s last expedition building and collection, we are delighted to still be finding new artifacts,” said Nigel Watson, Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Executive Director. The book’s binding had dissolved, so the pages were separated, conserved, and digitized before the book was sewn back together. The entries in the notebook have been linked to photographs held by the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. For more on photographs from another Antarctic expedition, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Photographs from Shackleton’s Expedition Developed."

England’s Real-Life War Horses

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—Local school children and injured service men and women participating in Operation Nightingale are assisting in an excavation on Salisbury Plain that is investigating how England’s horses and mules were cared for during World War I. Documentary evidence indicates that a veterinary hospital at the site, known as Larkhill Camp, quarantined and cared for some of the 500,000 animals that served the army by hauling weaponry, stores, and personnel to and from the front lines. No traces of the hospital buildings survived, but the test pits and metal detection survey did recover horse shoes, farrier’s nails, and other horse trappings. “This project enables researchers, young people, and those effected by the traumas of war to work together. Horses were such an important part of the legacy of World War I and ‘Digging War Horse’ helps people to understand the significance of horses during the war years at home and abroad,” said Philip Rowe in a University of Bristol press release. For more on WWI-era excavations, see "ANZAC's Next Chapter." Click here for images from the Larkhill Camp site excavation. 

17th-C. Dutch Warship Discovered Off the Coast of Tobago

AVERY POINT, CONNECTICUT—A team led by Kroum Batchvarov of the University of Connecticut has discovered the seventeenth-century Dutch ship Huis de Kreuningen, which was lost on March 3, 1677, during a battle against an invading French fleet in the southern Caribbean. The Dutch controlled the island of Tobago and were repelling French forces when the Huis de Kreuningen, the largest ship in the Dutch fleet, was sunk by the better-armed Glorieux. “To find the Huis de Kreuningen—almost by accident, as she was outside the boundaries where we expected to find her—undiscovered and untouched for over 300 years was an exciting moment,” Batchvarov told UCONN Today. Some 2,000 people were killed in the battle, including 250 Dutch women and children and 300 enslaved Africans. The Glorieux also sank during the battle, killing 370 men. “Although we have some written records of the battle itself, we possess no detailed plans of seventeenth-century warships, so our only sources of information about the ships of the day are the wrecks themselves,” Batchvarov said. For more underwater discoveries, see "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks."

Bone Study Suggests Gladiators Drank Ash Tonic

VIENNA, AUSTRIA—Analysis of the bones of gladiators excavated from tombs at the ancient city of Ephesus show that these warriors, who lived in the second or third century A.D., ate a mostly vegetarian diet of beans and grains, as did many other people living in the city. The amount of strontium in the gladiators’ bones, however, suggests that they had access to minerals and calcium that the rest of the population did not. Contemporary reports refer to gladiators as “hordearii,” or “barley eaters,” and mention a tonic made of ashes that scholars now think probably did exist. “Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion and to promote better bone healing,” study leader Fabian Kanz of the Medical University of Vienna told Science Daily. “Things were similar then to what we do today—we take magnesium and calcium (in the form of effervescent tablets, for example) following physical exertion.” To read more about gladitorial training, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Gladiator Diet."

Monday, October 20

Rock Art Panels May Be Linked to Hallucinogenic Plants

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO—Archaeologist Lawrence Loendorf of Sacred Sites Research was documenting rock art sites in southern New Mexico when he realized that hallucinogenic plants were growing beneath panels painted with series of triangles in red, yellow, and black. One of the plants, known as coyote tobacco, contains up to three times the amount of nicotine as conventional tobacco. It can bring on a trance-like state if smoked continuously for six to eight hours. The other plant, datura, is a potentially deadly psychedelic drug. He’s also found 1,000-year-old pottery at the 24 sites. “Every one of the sites where we find the tobacco, we also find El Paso ceramics, or we find other kinds of pots…that date generally in that same range,” Loendorf told Western Digs. The painted triangle motifs are recognized as a symbol of water and water-carrying vessels, so Loendorf speculates that shamans may have brought the plants to the sites for use in ceremonies and ended up seeding the plants accidentally. “I think that probably the ultimate reason for going through this trance is to intervene with spirits to make it rain,” he explained. The rock art will be dated with plasma oxidation technology. For more on rock art in New Mexico, see "Searching for the Comanche Empire."

Mastodon May Have Been Butchered at Ohio Site

BELLVILLE, OHIO—Volunteers are assisting Nigel Brush of Ashland University with the excavation of a mastodon skeleton discovered by a farmer in his soybean field. Among the pieces of tusk, leg, rib, and ankle bone the diggers have uncovered bits of flint and lines of charcoal that could show the animal had been butchered and cooked by Ice Age hunters. Further analysis will look for traces of blood on the flint flakes and cut marks on the bones. “It has the potential to be special,” Brush told The Columbus Dispatch. For more on Ice Age people of the Americas, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "America, in the Beginning."

CT Scans of Pharaohs Lead to Arthritis Rediagnosis

CAIRO, EGYPT—The mummies of 13 Egyptian pharaohs and queens who lived between 1492 and 1153 B.C. were x-rayed in the 1980s. The images indicated that Amenhotep III and three other pharaohs suffered from ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a disabling form of arthritis characterized by the erosion of the sacroiliac joints or fused facet joints. New CT scans of those mummies have given researchers led by radiologist Sahar N. Saleem and Egyptologist Zahi Hawass a better look at their ancient bones, according to a report in Science. The team found that all four pharaohs, whose average age at the time of death was 63, probably had diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, a form of arthritis that can be asymptomatic. In particular, Amenhotep III was 50 years old when he died, and his skeleton showed no signs of spinal deformity. He may have experienced mild back stiffness when he got up in the morning. To read about the role of animal mummies in ancient Egypt, see ARCHAEOLOGY’s "Messengers to the Gods."  

Possible Witch Bottle Found in England

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND—An intact green bottle has been unearthed at the site of the Old Magnus Buildings, constructed during the Tudor, Georgian, and Victorian periods for use as a free school. “Finding this very fragile bottle in one piece supports the idea that it was carefully placed in the ground. Perhaps it was buried during the Georgian part of the Old Magnus Building, but we can’t be certain,” archaeologist Will Munford of Pre-construct Archaeological Services of Lincoln told BBC News. The bottle may have been filled with fingernail clippings, hair, and urine, or pins as a protection from witches. “It’s a fascinating object and part of the history of Newark. If it is a witching bottle, it tells us a great deal about how people once viewed the world,” project manager Bryony Robins added. The building is being remodeled as part of England’s new National Civil War Centre. For more on the archaeology of witchcraft in England, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Witches of Cornwall."