Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, August 03

Rock Art May Be the Oldest in Siberia

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA—A joint Russian and French team is working to date petroglyphs on the Ukok Plateau in the Altai Mountains. The images are thought to be between 8,000 and 10,000 years old, but because they were drawn on horizontal planes on a windy plateau, it is difficult to date them because sediments have been blown away. “We cannot use here the classic archaeological methods [for dating] and need to find new and innovative ways,” Lidia Zotkina of Novosibirsk State University told The Siberian Times. The team is using microscopes to look at the images and trying to determine if they were inscribed with metal or stone implements on the glacier-polished rhyolite. “Of course if we established that they used metal implements, all our theories about Paleolithic era would be disproved immediately,” Zotkina explained. The team tried to recreate the drawings, and were able to do so after they removed the crust from the rock, sketched an image on it, and then engraved it. “Sooner or later Paleolithic sites will be found and we will get more information about the people who could engrave these images,” she said. To read about another site in Siberia, go to "Fortress of Solitude." 

Early Evidence of Farming Found in Southwestern Iran

BEHBAHAN, IRAN—Traces of a 9,000-year-old settlement and evidence of farming have reportedly been found at Mahtaj Hill in southwestern Iran. “The findings mostly include stone tools such as grindstone and its handle which shows that producing and processing of vegetarian food played an important role in the livelihood of Mahtaj Hill inhabitants,” archaeologist Hojjat Darabi told Mehr News. He added that the site predates the use of pottery in the region. To read about Bronze Age civilizations in Iran, go to "The World in Between."  

Steles Unearthed at Ancient Egyptian Mining Site

WADI EL-HUDI, EGYPT—Three steles dating to the Middle Kingdom period have been discovered by an American-Egyptian expedition led by Kate Liszka and Bryan Kraemer of Princeton University. The three steles may be linked to a fortified settlement located in an area mined by the ancient Egyptians for semi-precious stones. The inscriptions on the stones are faded, but RTI (reflectance transformation imaging) technology is helping scholars to read them. “The area of Wadi El-Hudi contains a number of amethyst mines and many Egyptian expeditions were sent to bring stones from there at the time of the Middle Kingdom to use for jewelry. Two of the discovered steles mentioned the year 28th of Senusret I’s reign as well as information on the expeditions [that] were sent to the site,” Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Department, told The Luxor Times. To read about another discovery in Eygpt, go to "Tomb of the Chantress." 

Old Kingdom Jars Discovered in Edfu

ASWAN, EGYPT—Human remains, pottery, and alabaster jars dating to the Old Kingdom and the Late Period were unearthed in front of the Temple of Horus at Edfu, according to an announcement made by Mamdouh El Damaty, Egypt’s Minister of antiquities. “The discovered pots are in different shapes and sizes. Some of them are pottery and other made of alabaster. Also an Old Kingdom copper mirror was found,” Nasr Salama, general director of Aswan Antiquities, told The Luxor Times. The artifacts were cleaned and restored and transferred to a storage warehouse for safe keeping. To read about recent excavations at another ancient Egyptian temple, go to "The Cult of Amun."

Friday, July 31

Fifth-Century Building Unearthed in Japan

TAKATORI, JAPAN—Kanekatsu Inokuma of Kyoto Tachibana University has uncovered an “o-kabe,” or large-wall structure dating to the late fifth century A.D. The building was constructed using a method from the Korean Peninsula, and may have been part of a Korean settlement where immigrants who served the Japanese Emperor Yuryaku lived. “I believe the structure served as part of a settlement of foreigners, who settled in Japan and introduced document administration and foreign policy” Inokuma told The Asahi Shimbun. This is one of the largest such structures in Japan. Its walls were made from poles set in ditches, covered in mud, and then painted. The building also had a Korean heating system under its floor. To read more about the legend of the kamikaze wind in Japanese history, go to "Khubilai Khan Fleet."

Artifact Update from Virginia’s James Fort

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—The excavation of the cellar of a building and a well that stood outside of the walls of James Fort has yielded Irish pennies, minted by the English between 1601 and 1602. The coins fell into disuse when the Irish rejected them, however. Mary Outlaw, curator of collections for the Jamestown Rediscovery Project, told that one of the earliest colonists, the son of an official at the Royal Mint, may have brought the coins to the colony, since more Irish pennies have been found on Jamestown Island than anywhere else in the world. The team has also recovered the matchlock firing mechanisms for two muskets. The muskets’ wooden stocks have not survived; the barrels were probably made of a higher-quality metal that was melted down and reused. Conservator Dan Gamble has cleaned a piece of wood decorated with copper tacks. Scholars are still trying to identify what it might be. To read about how archaeologists helped solved a 17th-century Jamestown mystery, go to "Jamestown Murder Solved."

Prehistoric Mass Grave Excavated in China

CHANGCHUN, CHINA—At the 5,000-year-old settlement site of Hamin Mangha in northeast China, archaeologists have excavated the remains of 97 people whose bodies had been placed in a small dwelling before it burned, according to a report in Live Science. An epidemic or some sort of disaster that prevented the survivors from completing proper burials has been blamed for the deaths. “The skeletons in the northwest are relatively complete, while those in the east often [have] only skulls, with limb bones scarcely remaining. But in the south, limb bones were discovered in a mess, forming two or three layers,” the research team from Jilin University wrote in an article for the Chinese archaeological journal Kaogu, and in English in the journal Chinese Archaeology. The bodies were probably damaged when the building’s roof collapsed during the fire. To read about a mass grave from the Roman period in Macedonia, go to "Mass Grave Mystery."

Thursday, July 30

Pre-Colonial Town Excavated in Virginia

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—A team from William & Mary is excavating Kiskiack, a pre-colonial town of some 200 residents that was part of the chiefdom of Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas. Located on a bluff overlooking the York River, the mostly intact site is known to have been a center of clamshell bead production, and it had probably been occupied for hundreds of years before the arrival of the English Jamestown colonists in 1607. This season, the team has unearthed a hearth and a series of postholes that may represent a defensive palisade. “One reason this town became so big was because of its political importance. There is evidence of political authority here in the form of a chief in residence by 1607. There is also evidence of economic activity here in the form of craft production,” archaeologist Martin Gallivan said in a press release. To read about an instance of cannibalism at the Jamestown colony, go to "Chilling Discovery at Jamestown."

Artifacts Reflect Bali’s Ancient Ties to India

BALI, INDONESIA—Two-thousand-year-old pottery and beads from India unearthed in the port towns of Sembiran and Pacung in northern Bali are providing new evidence of the island’s ancient link to India. Names of places located in India, such as Nalanda, Amravati, and Varanasi, were inscribed on the pottery, and those place names were sometimes used to name the homes of officials or priests in the Balinese kingdoms. “In the early times, Indian traders came and stimulated the social structures [with Sanskrit, and Hindu and Buddhist ideology]. When Bali adopted Buddhism, the second migration from the eighth century A.D. to the eleventh century A.D. came to strengthen the Indian influence. It was the second massive contact with India,” archaeologist I. Wayan Ardika of Udayana University explained to the Indo-Asian News Service. Evidence of intermarriage has also been found in remains at burial sites in Julah. “We found Indian DNA on the human remains which indicates there was marriage; the Indian trader may have married locals,” Ardika added. To read about the discovery of the earliest known cave art in Indonesia, go to "On the Origins of Art."

New Technique May Identify Stolen Stones

LEICESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND—A technique that has been developed by scientists at Loughborough University to track stolen metals could eventually help authorities in heritage conservation and enforcement trace stones stolen from historic sites in rural areas. A chemical blueprint of the stone is extracted with a gelatin sheet usually used to lift developed fingerprints or footprints. The sample is then scanned using laser induced breakdown spectroscopy. “This technique of lifting a sample from the surface of stone and scanning it could ultimately lead to us feeding the results into a national database, providing an indication of where geographically that sample came from. This can be done by comparing stone samples with other stone located across the country and could prove to be a useful point of reference for those tackling stone theft,” researcher Paul Kelly said in a press release. To read about how lasers are being used by archaeologists in a completely different way, go to "Saving the Villa of the Mysteries."

Mosaic Floor Uncovered in Georgia

WARSAW, POLAND—A large, first-century bathhouse is being excavated at Apsarus, a Roman fort located in Georgia on the Black Sea, by a team of archaeologists from the University of Warsaw and the Gonio-Apsarus Museum and Sanctuary. They have recently discovered a mosaic featuring geometric designs that had been installed over a heated floor. “Although many floor mosaics have been discovered in the countries around the Mediterranean, the Gonio find should be regarded as exceptional. It is one of the few examples of discovery of a luxury finish flooring in a bath house built by the army for its own needs,” Radoslaw Karasiewicz-Szczypiorski told Science & Scholarship in Poland. To read about some of the ancient Roman world's most stunning mosaics, go to "Zeugma After the Flood."