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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, October 08

Inca Ceremonial Site Uncovered in Central Peru

LIMA, PERU—Peru’s Ministry of Culture announced that human remains have been unearthed in Hatun Xauxa, an Inca administrative and ceremonial center in the central Andean region of Junin. The burial site may be an offering related to the founding of the city. Walls bearing traces of red paint and dating to the first period of the city’s construction were also unearthed at the northern end of the ushnu, or sacred throne where liquids were poured out in offerings by the Incas. “These findings allow us to gauge the religious importance and the complex nature of activities in the ushnu of Hatun Xauxa, reflected also in the constant change in its architecture,” the ministry told The Global Post. Archaeologists will compare the well of offerings and burials at Hatun Xauxa with similar findings at the Huanuco Pampa site, an admistrative center related to the Qhapaq Ñan Inca road system. To read about an Incan ceremonial site in Ecuador, see ARCHAEOLOGY'S "The Water Temple of Inca-Caranqui." 

Wooden-Handled Flint Knife Found in Denmark

RØDBY, DENMARK—A 3,000-year-old flint knife complete with its wooden handle has been uncovered in southern Zealand. “A dagger of this type has never before been found in Denmark,” Anders Rosendahl of the Lolland-Falster Museum told The Copenhagen Post. The knife dates to the Bronze Age, but when the supply of metal could not keep up with demand, artisans crafted tools from old materials with new designs. Similar knives have been found in Germany. Further study of the rare knife could link the two regions. To read about a recently unearthed Bronze Age ceremonial site, see "4,000-Year-Old Ritual Site Discovered in Poland."  

Goddess’s Head Discovered at Arbeia Roman Fort

SOUTH SHIELDS, ENGLAND—The head of a small statue of the goddess Brigantia was uncovered by a WallQuest volunteer digging at Arbeia Roman fort, situated at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall. This area had been home to the Brigantes before the arrival of the Romans. “The Roman army was anxious to placate the goddess of what may have been seen as an inhospitable and hostile region, and these finds suggest that there may have been a shrine to Brigantia—the northern goddess—somewhere close to the present excavation site,” WallQuest project manager Nick Hodgson told Chronicle Live. The head was discovered in an aqueduct channel that was filled in when the fort was enlarged circa A.D. 208. “It looks as if the shrine got in the way of the extension to the fort and had to be demolished, and the statue was broken up then,” he added. To read about the complicated culture that grew up around Hadrian's Wall, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Artifact: Romano-British Brooch."  

Bronze Age Palace & Royal Burial Unearthed in Spain

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Science Daily reports that an audience hall has been found in the Bronze Age palace at La Almoloya, located in southeastern Spain. Archaeologists Vicente Lull, Cristina Huete, Rafael Micó, and Roberto Risch of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona suggest that the hall is the oldest-known building constructed specifically for political use in continental Europe. It features a ceremonial fireplace and a podium, and benches lining its walls would have seated 64 people. Other buildings at the site are well-constructed with eight to twelve rooms in each residence. Some of the stucco-covered walls were decorated with geometric and naturalistic motifs in what has been dubbed the Argaric style. A tomb discovered near the political hall contained the remains of a man and a woman, whose skull was encircled with a silver diadem. She had also been buried with four ear dilators, two of silver and two of gold. Rings, earrings, and bracelets made of silver were among the grave goods. Other items include a bronze dagger held together with silver nails, and a small ceramic cup decorated with silver rims.  To read about Bronze Age shipwrecks, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Cape Gelidonya and Uluburun."  

Tuesday, October 07

Young Girl’s Prone Burial Unearthed in Italy

ALBENGA, ITALY—The remains of a 13-year-old girl who suffered from anemia have been unearthed in northern Italy by a team from the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology at the Vatican. She had been buried face down in front of a church dedicated to Saint Calocero, which dates to the fifth or sixth century A.D. “The prone burial was linked to the belief that the soul left the body through the mouth. Burying the dead face-down was a way to prevent the impure soul threatening the living,” anthropologist Elena Dellù told Discovery News. Areas of spongy bone tissue on her skull are evidence of severe anemia that would have made her pale and prone to fainting. She may have experienced hematomas as well. “She could have suffered from an inherited blood disorder such as thalassemia or from hemorrhagic conditions. More simply, it could have been an iron lacking diet,” Dellù added. Excavation director Stefano Roascio says that the prone burial, suggesting that the girl had been rejected by her community, is at odds with the prestigious location of her burial, in front of the church. “A precise dating of the skeleton and further research on similar burials might help in finding more clues,” he said. To read about a strange female burial unearthed in France that dates to the same era, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Barbarian Body Modification."  

Iron Age Cooking Mound Excavated on Skomer Island

PEMBROKESHIRE, WALES—The first excavation on Skomer Island, known for its puffins and other seabirds, has examined a cooking mound containing fire-cracked stones. “This mound built up from numerous cooking episodes in the adjacent house. Our excavation discovered a cattle tooth from within the mound of stones, which has now been radiocarbon dated to the late Iron Age,” Toby Driver of the Royal Commission in Aberystwyth told Culture 24. Archaeological research on the island has focused on non-invasive techniques including aerial photography, airborne laser scanning, ground geophysics, and walkover surveys, in order to preserve the fragile landscape. “These new dates confirm pre-Roman settlement on Skomer. Even so, the burnt mound covers a substantial earlier field wall showing that the island was already well settled and farmed in previous centuries.” To read about another suprising prehistoric find in Wales, see "Neolithic Battlefield Unearthed."   

Location of Columbus’ Point of Departure Found in Spain

HUELVA, SPAIN—Traces of a fifteenth-century pottery and a reef unearthed at Palos de la Frontera in southwestern Spain have led archaeologist Juan Manuel Campos of the University of Huelva to claim he has discovered the exact location of Christopher Columbus’ departure for the New World in 1492. Historical sources describe La Fontanilla port as having a shipyard, a fresh water fountain, a pottery works, and a reef. “The reef was the port’s customs area, and it was the place where Columbus negotiated and made the arrangements necessary for the success of his historic voyage,” Campos told The Latin American Herald Tribune. To read about late medieval Jewish cemeteries in Spain, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "Spain's Lost Jewish History."  

World War II Graffiti & Ancient Ritual Bath Uncovered in Israel

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—A 1,900-year-old ritual bath, or mikveh (miqwe), has been discovered at Ha-Ela Junction south of Beit Shemesh as part of the project to widen Highway 38. “We exposed a miqwe in which there are five steps; the fifth step being a bench where one could sit at the edge of the immersion pool. We found fragments of magnificent pottery vessels there dating to the second century CE, among them lamps, red burnished vessels, a jug, and cooking pots. Apparently the miqwe ceased to be used during the second century CE, perhaps in light of the Bar Kokhba revolt,” excavation director Yoav Tsur announced in an Israel Antiquities Authority press release. The team found that the water collection vat for the bath was enlarged some 1,700 years ago and may have been used to collect drinking water. In addition, graffiti left by two soldiers of the Royal Australian Engineers was found on the cistern’s ceiling. They had left their names and serial numbers in 1940. “It seems that the two were members of the Australian Sixth Division which was stationed in the country at the time of the British Mandate and was undergoing training prior to being sent into combat in France. Because France surrendered before the troops were ready they were ultimately sent to Egypt in October 1940 where they fought at the front in the Western Desert,” said archaeologist Assaf Peretz. Both men survived the war. To read about the study of other World War II-era sites, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Archaeology of WWII."  

Monday, October 06

Neolithic Settlement Discovered in Southwest England

READING, ENGLAND—A team assisted by volunteers has uncovered Neolithic pottery and evidence of a settlement in the Isles of Scilly, off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula. “We found about 30 post holes which might have been successive structures. There weren’t any coherent buildings, however, like neat rectangles, which is always a bit annoying, but is the way it is,” Duncan Garrow of the University of Reading told The Cornishman. The team also found flint, a pit that contained thick layers of charcoal with rock crystals, and a pierced pebble necklace or amulet. Nearby test pits yielded a Neolithic mace head with a hole in its middle made of Cornish greenstone. “This process would have taken hours of work, as at the time people did not have metal tools and would have had to grind out the hole using a wooden bow drill and abrasive sand from the beach,” Garrow said. To read more of ARCHAEOLOGY's coverage of Neolithic England, see "The Henge Builders."  

Early Image of Jesus Unearthed in Spain

LINARES, SPAIN—A green glass paten dated to the fourth century has been discovered at the site of a religious building in southern Spain. Etchings on the paten, a plate used during Christian religious services to hold consecrated bread, depict three beardless men identified as Jesus and the apostles Paul and Peter. Coins and pottery helped the Forum MMX team date the paten. “We know it dates back to the fourth century, in part because popes in the following centuries ordered all patens to be made out of silver,” Marcelo Castro, head of the team, told The Local. “We were wary about presenting the paten as a fourth century piece in case it clashed with previous studies into the chronology of Christianity in Spain,” he added. To read about the controversy surrounding an alleged early depiction of the Crucifixion unearthed in Spain, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "The Veleia Affair."  

Oregon’s Paisley Caves Added to National Register

PORTLAND, OREGON—Paisley Five Mile Point Caves, a network of caves that may be the oldest site of human habitation in what is now the United States, has been added to National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. Reuters reports that Dennis Jenkins of the University of Oregon and his team dated more than 200 samples of preserved human feces from the cave system and found that they had been deposited some 14,300 years ago. “As we have used increasingly sophisticated scientific techniques in recent years, our understanding of the cultural and megafaunal remains at the site has grown dramatically. Analyses by our research team provides significant new information regarding the timing and spread of the first settlers in the Americas,” Jenkins announced at the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.  To read more about Paisley Caves and other important early American sites, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "America, in the Beginning"  and "Pre-Clovis Breathrough."  

Shipwreck Near Haiti Is Not Likely to be the Santa María

CAP-HAITIEN, HAITI—According to a report from the Associated Press, experts from UNESCO are expected to announce that a shipwreck off the northern coast of Haiti is not the lost flagship of Christopher Columbus, the Santa María, as had been claimed earlier this year by an American explorer. Columbus abandoned his flagship and some two dozen crew members Christmas Day, 1492, after the vessel struck a reef. The men built a fort, named “Navidad,” but they had disappeared and the fort had been burned to the ground when Columbus returned to the site a year later. The Santa María would have had parts made from iron and wood, not copper, as was found at the shipwreck site. “We are still awaiting the final report, but so far what we have seen … tends to lead us to think it is a later ship,” said Haiti’s Culture Minister Monique Rocourt. The wreckage may date to the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. To read more about maritime discoveries, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks."