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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, November 26

Lost Village Uncovered in England

IRONBRIDGE GORGE, ENGLAND—In Shropshire, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of six cottages buried by a slow-moving landslide in 1952. "People were just literally able to see their houses being ripped apart, and there was nothing they could do about it," archaeologist Shane Kelleher of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust told the BBC. Inside one of the homes archaeologists found an ornate mosaic floor, and other cottages are decorated with high-quality tiles, which the area was once famous for producing. The team will rebury the structures after recording them. To read about another recent excavation in England, see "The Scientist's Garden."

Neolithic Handax Discovered in Denmark

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—A Neolithic ax still attached to its wooden handle has been discovered on the Danish island of Lolland. Archaeologists working ahead of the construction of a tunnel unearthed the artifact, which seems to have been ritually deposited on the seabed about 5,500 years ago. "Finding a hafted [handle-bearing] ax as well preserved as this one is quite amazing," Museum of Lolland-Falster archaeologist Soren Anker Sorensen told the BBC. Earlier this year, archaeologists on the project discovered footprints dating to the same period. To read about that discovery, see “Tunnel Reveals Stone Age Footprints.”

Tuesday, November 25

19th-Century Homes of Feuding Families Investigated

HARDY, KENTUCKY—A team led by Kim McBride of the University of Kentucky has been excavating the site of the home of Randal McCoy, head of the McCoys of Kentucky. The home of the head of the Hatfield family, “Devil Anse” Hatfield of Saran Ann, West Virginia, is also under investigation. “I’m very pleased to say that something has been recovered at each of the locations,” Tony Tackett of Pike County Tourism told the Williamson Daily News. At the McCoy cabin, McBride has recovered parts of the cabin’s foundation, primitive glass, bullets, stained glass, nails, and fragments of tools. To read about another historical discovery in Kentucky, see "Sequoyah Was Here." 

Army Assists With Study of Anglo-Saxon Sword

ALDERSHOT, ENGLAND—Archaeologists have enlisted the help of the army to X-ray a sword unearthed at the cemetery at Barrow Clump. “The sword was too large for our in-house X-ray facilities,” Laura Joyner of Wessex Archaeology told Culture 24. The X-ray showed that the corroded sixth-century sword, hidden by its wood and leather scabbard, had been made by a process called pattern welding, where several bands of metal are beaten together to create a single, strengthened blade. “In this case, three twisted rods of wrought iron with steel surfaces were used, showing as a distinctive pattern on the X-ray image. The blade itself was also edged in steel. This is probably because steel can be sharpened to a much finer edge than iron. It is possible to tell the difference between metals on an X-ray image as they corrode in different ways,” Joyner explained. Other grave goods recovered from the cemetery were also X-rayed. They included a spearhead that had been produced from a single piece of iron, and a shield boss with decorative studs to attach it to a wooden shield. To read more about Anglo-Saxons, see "The Kings of Kent." 

Archaeologists Are Examining Amphipolis Tomb Paintings

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—The Greek Ministry of Culture announced that painted figures have been found on the door frames of the second chamber of the 2,300-year-old tomb under excavation in Amphipolis. Pictures of the figures have not yet been released. “We are not hiding anything. New findings are revealed slowly as the restoration process continues,” Culture Minister Kostas Tassoulas told Discovery News. The paintings, which are being examined with lasers, may help archaeologists determine who had been buried in the lavish tomb. In the second phase of the excavation, a team from the University of Thessaloniki will use 3-D tomographic imagery to search the burial mound for additional chambers. 

Monday, November 24

Jewelry Recovered With Middle Kingdom Mummy

LUXOR, EGYPT—The mummy of a wealthy woman whose sarcophagus had been trapped under a collapsed roof has been recovered from the necropolis below the temple of Pharaoh Thutmosis III (1490-1436 B.C.). “A large boulder, which had fallen down before the tomb was looted, had crushed and buried a previously untouched coffin with all its content,” Myriam Seco Álvarez, director of the Thutmosis III Temple Project, told Discovery News. “She still wore the marvelous jewelry that was attached during the process of mummification.” The jewelry includes a necklace of semiprecious stones and gold plates with a golden shell pendant; two golden arm bangles; and very worn silver ornaments on both ankles. To read about tattooing during the Middle Kingdom, see "Faience Bowl and Figurine."

1,700-Year-Old Tombs Excavated in China

KUCHA, CHINA—A 1,700-year-old cemetery has been excavated along the route of the Silk Road in northwest China, according to a report in Live Science. Seven of the ten excavated tombs were large, brick structures, one of which contained carvings of mythical creatures. Four of the creatures represent different seasons and parts of the heavens, including the White Tiger of the West, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the Black Turtle of the North, and the Azure Dragon of the East. Zhiyong Yu, director of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute, said that the tombs were probably built for wealthy people, but that they had been looted in antiquity and no identifying materials remain in the burials. Analysis of the skeletal remains suggest that some of the tombs were used multiple times, however. “In ancient times, Kucha was called Qiuci in Chinese literature. It was a powerful city-state in the oasis of the Western Frontiers,” Zhiyong Yu and his team wrote in Chinese Cultural Relics. To read about looting of similar sites in China, see "Tomb Raider Chronicles."

Tourist Receives Hefty Fine for Defacing Colosseum

ROME, ITALY—A 42-year-old Russian tourist has been fined €20,000 and has received a suspended sentence for vandalizing the Colosseum. Italian authorities say that the man was using a sharp stone to carve a ten-inch-tall letter “K” into a ground-floor brick wall when he was apprehended by a guard and arrested. Rome’s archaeology superintendent Mariarosaria Barbera told Wanted in Rome that the damage is “significant” and that it removed part of the surface of the wall, “compromising the conservation and image” of the monument. The man was the fifth foreign tourist caught damaging the Colosseum this year. 

Bone Analysis Shows Gravettian People Ate Mammoth

TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—Science Daily reports that the analysis of human and animal fossil bones from a prehistoric site in the Czech Republic shows that the people consumed large quantities of mammoth meat, in addition to using their bones to build structures and carve ivory sculptures. Large numbers of dog remains have also been recovered, but the chemical composition of their bones suggest that they ate mostly reindeer meat, even though other carnivores, such as brown bears, wolves, and wolverines, had access to mammoth meat. According to University of Tübingen researcher Hervé Bocherens, traditional populations in northern regions often feed their dogs with food that they do not like. The dogs from Předmostí, which may have served as transportation helpers, were probably restrained to keep them from feasting on tasty mammoth. The other carnivores probably scavenged the carcasses. To read about art made by Paleolithic people living in what is now Germany, see "New Life For Lion Man."