Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, September 29

Three Sarcophagi Found in Northwestern Turkey

ÇANAKKALE, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that workers repairing broken water pipes on private land in northwestern Turkey discovered three sarcophagi dating to the eighth century B.C. The burials are thought to be an extension of the ancient cemetery for the Greek trade center of Parium, which had two harbors and was located about a mile away from the burial site. Archaeologists have opened two of the sarcophagi and found gold beads, a ring, three pieces of gold, two brooches, and a mirror. To read more about archaeology in Turkey, go to "Zeugma After the Flood."

Fossilized Bee Nest May Offer Environmental Clues

LONDON, ENGLAND—Cosmos Magazine reports that scientists led by Jennifer Parker of University College London created 3-D digital models of a fossilized bee nest found in South Africa near the 2.8-million-year-old remains of the “Taung Child,” in order to learn more about the environment in which it lived. Discovered in a limestone quarry in 1924, the Taung Child represents a young individual of the Australopithecus africanus species. The study suggests that the nest was built by an extinct type of bee that lived in the ground and built solitary nests. Parker and her team noted that these bees preferred bare, dry soil with good sun exposure, located near a reliable pollen source, supporting the idea that the Taung Child lived in a dry savannah environment, rather than in a cave. “It is not impossible that bees can nest in the ground, but underneath an overhang for example or in a shallow cave,” commented entomologist Michael Batley of the Australian Museum in Sydney. “Finding nests in the ground doesn’t mean it has to be right out in the open, but it wouldn’t be deep inside a cave,” he said. To read more about paleoanthropology in South Africa, go to "A New Human Relative."

17th-Century Equine Skeleton Unearthed in St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA—First Coast News reports that an equine skeleton was discovered at the site of a hotel in downtown St. Augustine during the construction of a swimming pool. City archaeologist Carl Halbirt said that the animal stood approximately 40 inches tall from its hooves to its shoulder, and may have been a donkey, or one of the small horse breeds the Spanish brought with them to the New World. The skeleton is estimated to be about 330 years old, making it one of the oldest horse burials in the United States. “The burial is next to the church hospital of La Soledad,” Halbirt said. “So it’s quite possible this animal may have been used by one of the people who managed or ministered the church hospital of La Soledad in the seventeenth century.” The archaeology team will leave the remains in the ground. To read more about Spanish Florida, go to "Off the Grid: Mission San Luis."

Etruscan Tombs Discovered in Italy

MONTALTO DI CASTRO, ITALY— reports that 17 additional tombs dating from the ninth to third centuries B.C. have been found in the Poggetto Mengarelli necropolis at the Etruscan site of Vulci. This part of the park has been looted recently. “The number of tombs present in this small area is impressive,” said Alfonsina Russo, Archaeology Superintendent for Rome. One man’s tomb contained silver rings and bronze ornaments and vases. A young girl in another tomb had been buried with gold earrings and two siren statues. A bronze mirror was also recovered. To read in-depth about Vulci, go to "The Tomb of the Silver Hands."

Wednesday, September 28

Scattered Bones Found Under Church Floor in Wales

ANGLESEY, WALES—BBC News reports that the remains of at least six people have been found beneath the floor of a church on an island off the northwest coast of Wales. Conservationists were cleaning the alabaster tomb where Goronwy Tudur was buried in 1382, and replacing rotten wooden floor beams at St. Gredifael’s Church, when they found the scattered remains. Spencer Smith of the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust said repairs and care of the tomb, paid for by Queen Victoria in the 1850s, probably disturbed the burials under the church floor. Goronwy Tudur was the uncle of Owain Tudur, who was grandfather of Henry Tudor, or Henry VIII. The tomb was moved from Llanfaes Friary to St. Gredifael’s Church after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. To read more about archaeology in Britain, go to "The Many Lives of an English Manor House." 

19th-Century Pub Unearthed in Manchester

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND—The Manchester Evening News reports that an excavation ahead of a construction project in the city center has uncovered the remains of a 200-year-old pub and several houses. Artifacts from the site include unopened bottles of brandy and crockery personalized with the name of Thomas Evans, owner of the Astley Arms pub in 1821. “It’s brilliant because you can suddenly connect it to the local people in the area,” said senior archaeologist Aidan Turner. “We looked online about his family history and one of his descendants now lives in Texas.” The team also recovered keys, pots for quills, and pipes. The pub was renamed the Paganini Tavern in 1840, when it was owned by Thomas Inglesent, but the property reverted to the Astley Arms by the 1850s. The pub remained open until 1928. To read more about urban archaeology in England, go to "Haunt of the Resurrection Men." 

Severed Heads Found in 2,500-Year-Old Burial in Siberia

GORNO-ALTAISK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that a 2,500-year-old grave from the Pazyryk culture has been found in the Altai Mountains. The grave was looted in antiquity, but still contained the remains of an adult and a child or teenager, who had been buried with two small bronze mirrors, ceramics, gold foil, and wearing fur garments. Their heads, however, had been removed and placed at their knees. Nikita Konstantinov of Gorno-Altaisk State University said the Pazyryks often buried defeated enemies without their heads, since they made the skulls into bowls. “But this is obviously a different case,” he said. It is possible that the heads were detached when the grave was looted, but the rest of the skeletons remained undisturbed. Konstantinov and his team will try to determine the age and sex of the skeletons, and study the cervical vertebrae to try to learn more about how the heads were removed. “We have no similar cases, so we need to investigate this one very thoroughly,” he said. To read more about the Pazyryk culture, go to "Iron Age Mummy."

Tuesday, September 27

Bath Discovered in Roman Barracks in Bulgaria

WARSAW, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team of archaeologists from the Center for the Study of Antiquity of Southeastern Europe at the University of Warsaw excavated a Roman barracks at the site of Novae in Bulgaria. Although the buildings had been constructed with wood, the floor of one large room had been made from hydraulic mortar, suggesting that the room had been used as a bath. “Until now, throughout the empire only two baths in wooden buildings have been discovered, but never and nowhere in the barracks of legionnaires,” said archaeologist Piotr Dyczek. The team also uncovered terracotta and lead pipes, water channels lined with stone and bricks, and a collection of 48 coins dating from the beginning of the second century A.D. to the mid-third century A.D. Dyczek thinks the coins may have been hidden during the invasion of the Goths. To read more about archaeology in Bulgaria, go to "Thracian Treasure Chest."

Archaeologists Confirm Shipwreck is Franklin’s HMS Terror

NUNAVUT, CANADA—Radio Canada International reports that Parks Canada underwater archaeologists have confirmed that the shipwreck discovered earlier this month by a team from the Arctic Research Foundation is the HMS Terror. The team conducted a side-scan sonar survey of the site and dove three times on the wreckage, which features three masts, iron bow sheathings, and a double-wheeled helm. “The dives took place during difficult weather conditions and through poor visibility,” said Marc-André Bernier, head of Underwater Archaeology at Parks Canada. “The wreck’s upper deck is heavily covered in silt and marine life.” The ship was found in uncharted waters in Terror Bay about 60 miles north of the site where the HMS Erebus was discovered in 2014. The two ships were abandoned in sea ice in 1848 by the polar explorers of Sir John Franklin’s Expedition. All 129 crew members were lost along with the ships. To read in-depth about the discovery of Erebus, go to "Franklin’s Last Voyage."

Engraved Blocks May Be From Ramses II Temple

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the Egyptian-German Archaeological Mission has found a group of large blocks at the site of Matariya in northern Cairo, where the ancient city of Heliopolis was located. The blocks are thought to have been part of a temple built by Ramses II. Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector of the Ministry of Antiquities, said that the engravings on the blocks show Ramses II anointing a divinity. According to Aymen Ashmawi, co-director of the mission, the blocks would have come from the temple’s innermost rooms. “It confirms the hypothesis that Ramses II showed special interest in Heliopolis in the later decades of his long reign of almost 70 years,” Ashmawi said. For more on ancient Egypt, go to "The Great Parallelogram."

Could Neanderthals Hear & Speak Like Modern Humans?

MUNICH, GERMANY—The Christian Science Monitor reports that scientists led by Alexander Stoessel of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology examined the tiny bones of the Neanderthal middle ear. They found that although the bones look very different from the ossicles of modern humans, they amplified the vibrations received from the eardrum in a way similar to the modern human ear. This suggests that Neanderthals were capable of hearing the same range of frequencies as modern humans, and probably heard speech as modern humans did. Previous research has found that Neanderthals and modern humans also had similar hyoid bones, a horseshoe-shaped structure that supports the tongue and the ability to speak. Unfortunately, a larynx, or voice box, which is formed from soft tissue, has not been found in the Neanderthal fossil record. “As humans, we always try to point out the differences between modern humans and Neanderthals to show that these are the different ones,” Stoessel said. “But now our research shows actually how similar they were to us.” For more on Neanderthals' abilities, go to "Gimme Middle Paleolithic Shelter."