Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, January 19

British Woman Returns Souvenir Jug to Turkey

LONDON, ENGLAND—The Daily Sabah reports that a British citizen who purchased an ancient artifact at the site of the ancient city of Ephesus in the 1960s has returned it to Turkey. The artifact, a jug thought to have been produced by the Yortan culture some 4,500 years ago in western Turkey, will be handed over to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Possible Seat of “Lost” Dark Age Kingdom Found in Scotland

GALLOWAY, SCOTLAND—Archaeologists Ronan Toolis and Christopher Bowles of Guard Archaeology began excavating the Trusty’s Hill Fort site in southern Scotland to investigate Pictish carvings they found there, according to a report in BBC News. But instead of uncovering evidence of Picts, the team found traces of a royal stronghold thought to have been built by local Britons around A.D. 600. The hill was fortified with a high-status timber-laced stone rampart, and enclosures on lower-lying slopes. In the citadel, there was king’s hall and a smith’s shop for working gold, silver, bronze, and iron. The inhabitants of the citadel ate a diet rich in beef, oats, and barley grown in the surrounding countryside. Toolis and Bowles think this stronghold may have been the royal seat of the kingdom of Rheged, which had been thought to have been located further to the south, in the Cumbria region of northwestern England. They now think the rock carvings may have been adopted from the Picts as symbols of royalty. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Lost and Found (Again).”

Bones of Medieval Horse Recovered at Roman Colosseum

ROME, ITALY—The Local, Italy, reports that the remains of a horse dating to between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was unearthed near the steps to the basement of the Colosseum. Francesco Prosperetti, Rome’s superintendent for archaeology, said that tests will be conducted on the bones to try to determine how old the horse was at the time of death and the state of its health. That information could help archaeologists figure out what it was doing at the ancient site. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

Wednesday, January 18

Rock in Croatia Cave May Have Been Collected by Neanderthals

LAWRENCE, KANSAS—According to a report in Seeker, a team led by David Frayer of the University of Kansas and Davorka Radovčić of the Croatian Natural History Museum found an unusual piece of brown limestone with reddish corners and black stripes among artifacts recovered from a Neanderthal cave site more than 100 years ago. The stone measures about five inches long, four inches high, and about a half inch thick. Had the researchers come across the rock, “we would have likely taken it home with us,” Frayer said. The stone was never flaked, and does not show any signs of wear that would suggest it had been used as a tool. The researchers think the rock was collected “as a curiosity” some 130,000 years ago and stored by Neanderthals at the Krapina cave site. An outcropping of similar rock has been found about a mile away from the cave, where it could have been picked up, or it may have been carried closer to the site by a nearby stream. Neanderthals are also known to have collected teeth, shells, and bird talons and feathers as materials for jewelry. To read about another recent discovery involving Neanderthals, go to “Early Man Cave.”

Neolithic Long House Discovered in Moldova

CHISINAU, MOLDOVA—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that an international team of researchers has found traces of a 7,000-year-old long house in the Eastern European country of Moldova. Similar houses, built by what is known as the Linear Pottery culture, have been found in other parts of Europe, but this is the first one to be found in Moldova. Such long houses were made of wooden posts driven into the ground to support wattle-and-daub walls topped with gabled roofs. “Commonly, on both sides of the houses we discover cavities from which clay was taken to cover the walls,” said Maciej Dębiec of the University of Rzeszów and the University of Regensburg. Early European farmers are thought to have lived in long houses with their animals. Dębiec, Stanislav Terna of Chisinau University, and their team will return to the newly discovered site this spring for further investigation. They expect the Moldavian long house will be similar in size to other structures built by the Linear Pottery culture, or about 65 feet long 20 feet wide. The team has found two additional sites in Moldova where additional long houses may have stood. For more, go to “The Neolithic Toolkit.”

2,400-Year-Old Basement Unearthed in Northwest China

XI’AN, CHINA—Xinhua News Agency reports that a basement dating to the Warring States Period (476–221 B.C.) has been discovered at the site of Yueyang City, the ancient capital of the Qin state, in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. The rare brick room had stone pillar bases, measured about 16 feet long by about 13 feet wide, and sat about three feet below ground level. It is thought to have been part of the ruler’s residential palace, and may have been used for storage. A fireplace was also found in the structure, according to Liu Rui of the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Fireplaces are also thought to have been limited to residential palaces during the Warring States Period. The strength of the Qin state eventually gave rise to China’s first emperor, who established the Qin Dynasty and united China in 221 B.C. For more, go to “The Price of Tea in China.”

Tuesday, January 17

1,000-Year-Old Tomb Unearthed in Denmark

AARS, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that a large tomb has been found in north Jutland by Bjarne Henning Nielsen of the Vesthimmerlands Museum. Nielsen speculates the tomb may have been constructed for the early eleventh-century Viking chief Ulv Galiciefarer, who was known for his raids on Galicia and was sometimes referred to in historic documents as an “earl of Denmark.” Nielsen says the burial site is surrounded by dark soil that may have been left by a building placed over the tomb—a practice reserved for the nobility. Nielsen also recovered a sword from the grave that dates to the early years of the second millennium. The region where the tomb was found is thought to have belonged to Valdemar the Great, king of Denmark from 1157 to 1182, whose great-grandfather is known to have been Ulv Galiciefarer. “It is private property he inherited from his father’s side,” Nielsen said, “and Galiciefarer is part of the lineage.” To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

New Dates Obtained for Bones from Canada’s Bluefish Caves

MONTREAL, CANADA—New radiocarbon dates have been obtained for animal-bone fragments discovered in northern Yukon’s Bluefish Caves in the 1970s, according to a report in CBC News. If confirmed, the results could push back the human presence in the area known as Beringia by 10,000 years. Ariane Burke and Lauriane Bourgeon of the University of Montreal examined some 36,000 bone fragments from the caves, and found 15 with cut marks and 20 others with possible cut marks. They sent the bones to Thomas Higham of Oxford University for radiocarbon dating. The oldest of the marked bones, a horse’s mandible that appears to have had its tongue removed with a stone tool, has been dated to at least 23,000 years ago. The researchers say these new dates support genetic research indicating a group of early migrants was isolated in Beringia, perhaps by glaciers, between 15,000 and 24,000 years ago. Tools such as microblades and burins have been found in the Bluefish Caves, in some instances as deep as the horse mandible. “Is it the final chapter?” asked Yukon government archaeologist Greg Hare. “I don’t think so. But it’s good, solid work, and I’m excited they’ve been able to revisit it and come up with those dates.” To read in-depth about the peopling of the Americas, go to “America, in the Beginning.”

Low Water Levels Reveal Buddha Carving in Eastern China

NANCHANG, CHINA—Xinhua News reports that archaeologists have examined a 12-foot-tall Buddha statue that has been submerged in Hongmen Reservoir in eastern China for more than 50 years. The statue, carved into a cliff face, emerged when renovations to the hydropower gate lowered the water level of the reservoir by more than 30 feet. According to Xu Changqing, head of the Jiangxi Provincial Research Institute of Archaeology, the style of the statue suggests that it was carved during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The research team also examined the flooded remains of the town of Xiaoshi, which had been a trade center and a hub for water transportation. Local history suggests that the statue had been placed at the dangerous intersection of two rivers noted for the rapid flow of water. “According to folk tale[s], the ancient people built the statue to pray for safety,” said Guan Zhiyong, head of the Hongmen Township government. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Personalized Necklace Recovered at Nazi Extermination Camp

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Live Science reports that excavations at the Sobibór Nazi extermination camp in eastern Poland have uncovered a silver medallion thought to have belonged to a German Jewish girl named Karoline Cohn. The pendant, along with other pieces of jewelry, was uncovered near the site of a barracks for female prisoners. It is inscribed with the birthdate July 3, 1929, the words “Mazal Tov” in Hebrew, and “Frankfurt A.M.,” referring to the city and the Main River. Researchers used a deportation database maintained by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, to link the information on the pendant to Karoline Cohn. Cohn was born on July 3, 1929, and was deported from Frankfurt on November 11, 1941, to the Minsk ghetto, where some records indicate she died. If she did not carry the pendant to Sobibór herself from the Minsk ghetto, it may have been transported by a family member. Archaeologist Yoram Haimi of the Israel Antiquities Authority is investigating a possible family tie between Cohn and diarist Anne Frank, who was also born in 1929 and owned a nearly identical necklace. “It’s exactly the same, but only with a different birthdate,” Haimi said. Additional examples of the pendant may surface as the investigation continues. For more, go to “Gas Chamber Found at Sobibór Death Camp.”