Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, December 19

Possible Medical Office Found in Nea Paphos, Cyprus

KRAKÓW, POLAND—Archaeologists from Jagiellonian University have excavated a possible medical office in the agora at the site of Nea Paphos, according to a report in The Cyprus Mail. Its rooms are thought to have collapsed during an earthquake in A.D. 126. In the first room, the team uncovered two intact glass vessels in a box that may have had an iron handle. The box also contained two intact oil lamps. Two collections of bronze coins dating to the first half of the second century A.D. were found nearby. The second room contained another intact glass vessel, and seven surgical instruments made of bronze and iron. The tools are thought to have been kept in a bronze box. To read about another find at Nea Paphos, go to “Artifact.”

Caribou Fence Recorded in Canada’s Northwest Territories

YELLOWKNIFE, CANADA—According to a report in CBC News, archaeologist Tom Andrews of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center and his team are using drones to take high-resolution photographs of wooden fences thought to have been built by the Sahtu Dene people an estimated 100 years ago. The hunters would have used the fence to corral caribou. “It’s a real smart hunting strategy that’s probably been used for thousands of years,” Andrews said. After the hunt, the Sahtu Dene may have sold the large quantities of caribou meat to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Andrews said that he wants to record the fence because it is deteriorating, and it could be wiped out at any time by a forest fire. His team will also study the tree rings in the wood from the fence to pinpoint when it was built. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to “A Removable Feast.”

Eastern Han Dynasty Tombs Found Near Beijing

BEIJING, CHINA—The Associated Press reports that construction work has uncovered ancient, square-shaped city walls and more than 1,000 tombs in Tongzhou, a suburb southeast of Beijing. Most of the tombs date to the eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 25–220). Yu Ping, a spokeswoman for the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Cultural Heritage, said it had been previously thought that the region first developed along a trade route during the Sui and Tang Dynasties (A.D. 581-907). Ceramic and porcelain urns, sculptures of animals, copper tools, and mirrors that may have been imported from the northern kingdom of Yan were also found. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Traces of Cooked Plants Detected on 10,000-Year-Old Pottery

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that traces of cooked wild grains from grasses, leafy plants, and aquatic plants have been detected in oily residues on 10,000-year-old pottery fragments. According to scientists from the University of Bristol and Sapienza University of Rome, cooking the plants would have made them tastier, easier to digest, and in some cases, less toxic. The more than 100 pieces of pottery were recovered from two sites in the Libyan Sahara, which was a green savannah at the time. Julie Dunne of the University of Bristol explained that the pottery fragments are the earliest direct evidence researchers have of plant processing by hunter-gatherers. Stones found near the pottery suggest that some of the grains may have been ground into flour. “Or they may have just boiled the grains for prolonged periods and made a kind of porridge,” she said. “Interestingly enough, that is one of the staples in Africa today—it may be that this has a very long history.” For more, go to “Libya's Forgotten History.”

Friday, December 16

2,100-Year-Old Wine Press Unearthed in Israel

ASHKELON, ISRAEL—A 2,100-year-old wine press and a nearby building were discovered at the site of an elementary school construction project on the Mediterranean coast of southern Israel. The Jewish News Service reports that the press, which was covered with a thick layer of plaster mixed with seashells, is thought to have been part of a larger farm. The square-shaped press had a flat surface where grapes were stomped into juice. The juice would flow into a pit where the skins were filtered out, and then it was piped into a collection vat. The nearby building may have provided a place to store wine vessels and accommodations for the workers. The press will be preserved as part of the new school. For more on archaeology in Israel, go to “Mask Metamorphosis.”

Archaeologists Trace Istanbul’s Earthquakes

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—According to a report in Hürriyet Daily News, Şerif Barış of Kocaeli University is leading a team of archaeologists and geologists who are examining damage to the roads and structures of the ancient city of Bathonea, located on the European shore of the Sea of Marmara, to try and determine the location and magnitude of earthquakes that occurred before A.D. 1500. For example, in 2012 the team unearthed a church that had been damaged by an earthquake. “The bones of three bodies were found under the structure, as well as coins from the Justinian era,” Barış said. “This showed us that one of the big Istanbul earthquakes, which occurred in 557 A.D., also gave great damage to the Hagia Sophia,” he said. Damage to structures was noted in the sixth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, as well as the early sixteenth century, when there was a large earthquake known as the “small doomsday.” Barış added that information about past earthquakes could help scientists predict future ones. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Asuka-Period Painting Found on Discarded Wooden Panel

TOTTORI, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that fragments of an ink painting on wood have been found in an ancient road on the island of Honshu. The panel is thought to have been burned, broken up, and thrown away between the late seventh and early eighth centuries, when the road was built. The artwork is estimated to have measured about 27 inches long by six inches wide, and it had a small hole in the upper part of the panel. The image, revealed using infrared rays, is thought to depict six women, but most of the bodies of the figures are indiscernible. Akio Donohashi, professor emeritus at Kobe University, thinks the panel painting shows a procession related to a funeral ritual. He notes that the image is similar to a wall painting in the Takamatsuzuka Tomb, which is located in Nara Prefecture and dates to about the same period. Similar paintings have also been found in the Kingdom of Goguryeo, which covered an area from northeastern China to the northern Korean Peninsula, and in China’s Tang Dynasty. “Because of that, the value of the panel painting is high when we think about the spread of various cultures,” Donohashi said. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Thursday, December 15

Ancient Pot of Meat Soup Found in China’s Henan Province

XINYANG, CHINA—New Kerala reports that a vessel containing traces of meat stew prepared more than 2,000 years ago was found earlier this week in a tomb built during the reign of the ancient state of Chu, between 700 and 200 B.C. The vessel is said to have contained beef bones and other ingredients. The contents of the vessel will be analyzed. For more, go to “China’s Legendary Flood.”

Dental Plaque Dates Raw Food Consumption

YORK, ENGLAND—The Deccan Herald reports that scientists from the University of York and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona analyzed dental plaque taken from 1.2-million-year-old hominin remains recovered in northern Spain’s Sima del Elefante. Microfossils in the plaque suggest that the hominin ate raw animal tissue, uncooked grasses, pollen from a species of pine, and insects. The researchers also found possible fragments of a toothpick. All of the materials were uncharred, and there was no microcharcoal, or evidence that the individual had inhaled any smoke, in the sample. So far, the earliest known evidence for the use of fire in Europe is 800,000 years old and was found at Cueva Negra, in southeastern Spain. A site of similar age has been found in Israel, and possible sites for very early use of fire have been found in Africa. Taken together, the evidence suggests that human ancestors began using fire and cooking food sometime between 1.2 million and 800,000 years ago. Karen Hardy of the University of York noted that cooked food provides more energy, and may have fueled an evolutionary increase in brain size. The date of the remains coincides with the possible development of salivary amylase, an enzyme necessary to digest cooked starchy foods. To read in-depth about investigation of ancient dental plaque, go to “Worlds Within Us.”

Ancient Kitchens Unearthed in Western Turkey

BALIKESIR, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that archaeologists are excavating the 2,600-year-old city of Dascylium, located in the ancient kingdom of Lydia. In one area, they found two kitchens that had been preserved one on top of the other. “Below, one was collapsed due to fire, then the second one was built on it, but this one also collapsed due to another fire,” said Kaan İren of Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University. The kitchens have yielded mortars made of basalt, containers, fish bones, and seeds. Iren says this is the first time a complete kitchen from this time period has been found in Anatolia. The investigation also found more than 20 feet of wall that had been built to strengthen a burial mound, in addition to rock-cut tombs. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”