Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, June 16

Nineteenth-Century Grave Looted in Indiana

HARRISON COUNTY, INDIANA—Archaeologists with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources assisted Indiana conservation officers with the investigation of a looted grave in rural Indiana. The grave, located on private land, belonged to Nancy Brown, who died in 1881 at the age of 47. “We teamed up with our state archaeologist and went to the site and needless to say we found a pretty disturbing scene,” conservation officer Jim Schreck said in a report by Wave 3 News. He thinks that multiple people were involved in carrying tools to the remote site and exhuming the grave. Investigators are now looking for Brown’s living relatives with the help of the Harrison County Public Library Genealogy Department. For more on archaeology of nineteenth-century America, go to "Mr. Jefferson’s Laboratory."

Possible Homo Erectus Footprints Found in East Africa

ROME, ITALY—The Local, Italy, reports that archaeologists from Sapienza University have discovered fossilized footprints in Eritrea that may have been made by Homo erectus some 800,000 years ago. The individual may have been stalking a gazelle-like animal whose footprints were also preserved in the trackway. “Their age is yet to be confirmed with certainty, but footprints will reveal a lot about the evolution of man, because they provide vital information about our ancestors’ gait and locomotion,” said lead archaeologist Alfredo Coppa. The footprints are thought to have been made along the shores of a large lake, and were probably filled with water, then eventually dried out and buried. The remains of five or six Homo erectus individuals have also been found in the area. For more on ancient footprints, go to "Proof in the Prints."

Divers Survey Greece’s Antikythera Shipwreck

ATHENS, GREECE—Greek and American archaeologists recovered some 60 artifacts, including a bronze spear that is thought to have been part of a statue, four fragments of marble statues, and a gold ring, during a recent survey of the Antikythera shipwreck. Located off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera, the first-century B.C. shipwreck was discovered by sponge divers in 1900. The Associated Press reports that the team did not recover any additional pieces of the Antikythera Mechanism, but they will continue to look for pieces of the device, whose bronze gears and plates are thought to have been used to track the position of the sun, the phases of the moon, the positions of the planets, and the timing of eclipses. For more, go to "Greece's Biggest Tomb."

Wednesday, June 15

Agents Raid Jerusalem Souvenir Store

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) agents confiscated bronze arrowheads, 2,000-year-old coins, perfume vessels, and other ancient artifacts during the raid of a souvenir store in an upscale Jerusalem mall that was lacking a proper license. The Times of Israel reports that earlier this year, the IAA mandated licensed dealers of antiquities use a digitized inventory system and upload detailed descriptions of their items for sale into an IAA database. According to the IAA, the new system should prevent licensed dealers from “laundering” artifacts acquired illegally and manipulating inventories. Eitan Klein, deputy head of the IAA's theft prevention unit, said that before the new regulations were implemented “it was abundantly clear that in order to supply the merchandise antiquities sites in Israel and around the world were being plundered and history was sold to the highest bidder.” For more on archaeology in Israel, go to "Autumn of the Master Builder."

Who Was Buried in Egypt’s KV55?

LUXOR, EGYPT—Funded with a grant from the American Research Center in Egypt Endowment Fund, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities will begin the second phase of a study to identify a sarcophagus found in tomb KV55 in the Valley of the Kings in 1906. The results of the first phase of the study suggested that a box of 500 gold sheets, found in a storage room at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, may belong to the KV55 sarcophagus. Ahram Online reports that the remains of a skull and a note written in French were found along with the box. Elham Salah, head of the ministry’s Museums Department, says the note is dated to the time of the discovery of tomb KV55, and it states that the gold sheets were discovered with a sarcophagus. For more, go to "Egypt’s Immigrant Elite."

Family Burial Plot Unearthed in Indiana Roadway

AMITY, INDIANA—The remains of two women, a man, and four children have been recovered from a family plot in the middle of a road in rural central Indiana. The Associated Press reports that a team of archaeologists from the University of Indianapolis were investigating the area ahead of the expansion of the road when they found the graves. All but one of them were thought to have been moved in the early 1900s when the road was constructed. Nancy Kerlin Barnett’s grandson is said to have defended her 1831 grave with a shotgun. “As it stands right now, it looks at least in the immediate area by where we feel like where the Nancy Kerlin Barnett grave was, nothing was removed,” said archaeologist Christopher Schmidt. The road remains closed while the investigation continues. For more on archaeology in the Midwest, go to "Mississippian Burning."

Rare Skara Brae Figurine Rediscovered in Scotland

STROMNESS, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Orcadian, a figurine unearthed on the largest of the Orkney Islands in the 1860s has been rediscovered in a box at Stromness Museum. Dubbed the “Skara Brae Buddo,” the figurine had been packed away among artifacts from Skaill House, a historic manor overlooking the Neolithic site of Skara Brae, since the 1930s. The 5,000-year-old figurine, carved from a piece of whalebone, was originally found in the remains of a house in the Neolithic village. Modern scholars only knew of the sculpture, which has eyes and a mouth cut in its face and a navel in its body, from a sketch in the nineteenth-century notebooks kept by antiquarian George Petrie. Researchers think the holes in the carving may have been used to suspend it. For more, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart."

Tuesday, June 14

SS Coast Trader Identified in Canadian Waters

VANCOUVER, CANADA—A team of researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, and Ocean Exploration Trust has confirmed that a well-preserved shipwreck in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is the SS Coast Trader, a World War II–era merchant marine vessel. The 324-foot supply ship exploded and sank off the coast of Vancouver Island in June 1942. At the time, reports indicated that an “internal explosion” caused the ship to sink. The survey, reported in The Lookout, revealed that the ship had been struck with a torpedo. “This finding brings an important part of [the Second World War] right to our doorstep and proves the fears of a full-scale attack were very real and the [Japanese] submarines were right here operating on Canada’s west coast,” said Ken Burton, executive director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The 56 people on board the freighter were rescued by the Royal Canadian Navy after 40 hours at sea. One of the sailors eventually died from injuries and exposure. To read about another underwater discovery, go to "Canada Finds Erebus."

Flint Tools From Spain May Be One Million Years Old

BARCELONA, SPAIN—An excavation led by scientists from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleo-Ecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) in the La Mina area at Barranc de la Boella has uncovered 50 flint tools estimated to be between 800,000 and one million years old. Well-preserved remains of deer, horses, cattle, rhinoceros, and hyenas were also found, in addition to hyena coprolites. IPHES researcher Josep Vallverdú told the Catalan News Agency that the site “contains the oldest files on human evolution in Catalonia and on the Iberian Peninsula." Plans are being made for the continued excavation of the site, which is located in the Francolí River Basin. 

Belgium Returns Marble Head to Italy

ROME, ITALY—Reuters reports that the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels has repatriated a sculpture of Rome’s first emperor that it purchased in 1975 from an antiquities dealer in Zurich. Art historians say the veiled head resembles another in the town of Nepi's museum, and was probably part of a statue of a young man wearing a toga. Now known as the “Augusto di Nepi,” the sculpture is thought to depict the young Octavius before he became emperor of Rome around 27 B.C. “After more than 40 years of exile in Europe, he’s finally home. Welcome back Augustus,” said Nepi mayor Pietro Soldatelli. For more on the archaeology of ancient Rome, go to "Trash Talk."

Roman Silver Hoard Discovered in Scotland

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—Researchers led by Gordon Noble of the University of Aberdeen returned to a farmer’s field in northeastern Scotland where a hand pin, chain, and spiral bangle all made of silver in the fourth or fifth centuries A.D. had been found more than 170 years ago. According to a report in Live Science, on the second day of the investigation, the team, which had the assistance of metal detectorists, found three Roman silver coins, a silver strap end, a piece of a silver bracelet, and pieces of hack silver. Over a period of 18 months, they gathered a total of 100 artifacts, now known as the Gaulcross Hoard. The pieces are thought to have been high-status objects imported from the Roman world. The research team suggests that the items in the hoard had been collect by non-Romans, such as the Picts, through looting, trade, bribes, or as military pay. Noble adds that the chunks of silver may even have served as currency. For more, go to "Seaton Down Hoard."