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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, May 13

Spoons Stolen from James Garfield Monument

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OHIO—The James Garfield Monument at Lake View Cemetery was broken into last week, and roughly two dozen demitasse spoons and teaspoons were stolen from a glass case, according to a report by CBS News. Police recovered cigarette butts, a t-shirt, and a whisky bottle from the scene, but no suspects have yet been identified. President Garfield was shot by an assassin and died just 200 days into his term. His casket is on display in the monument. 

What Caused the Deep Freeze of the Younger Dryas?

DALLAS, TEXAS—A team led by David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University has checked the accuracy of the dates obtained for 29 archaeological sites said to provide evidence of a cosmic collision thought to have triggered the Younger Dryas, a 1,300-year-long period of freezing temperatures that began at the end of the last Ice Age, some 12,800 years ago. Meltzer found that the dates for only three of the 29 sites, which include Clovis sites in North America, plant-cultivating hunter-gatherers in Syria, and sites in Greenland, Germany, and Belgium, fall within the onset of the Younger Dryas. “The supposed Younger Dryas impact fails on both theoretical and empirical grounds,” Melzer told Science Now

Campaign Kitchen Excavated at the Harding Home

MARION, OHIO—What is now the back porch area of President Warren G. Harding’s Ohio home is being excavated as part of a project to restore it to the way it looked in 1920, when Harding conducted his “front-porch campaign” for the White House. “When we did our research, we found evidence [the larger kitchen] was added just prior to the campaign,” Sherry Hall, site manager for the Harding Home and Museum, told the Mansfield News Journal. The larger kitchen was necessary to prepare meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings with Harding’s campaign personnel and visiting dignitaries. The kitchen was returned to its original configuration in 1978, when the whole house was opened to the public. “The Ohio Historical Society has known for a long time that the house should really reflect its most famous year, which was 1920,” Hall added.

Monday, May 12

“Mound F” Discovered at Poverty Point

EPPS, LOUISIANA—Sediment tests have shown that archaeologist Diana Greenlee has discovered another mound in a remote, wooded area at Poverty Point. “I wasn’t sure it was a mound because archaeologists have been working here for a hundred years, so what were the chances there was really a mound they haven’t found?” she told The News Star. The small mound, called Mound F, was likely to have been built after 1280 B.C. “It was probably one of the last earthwork projects here at the site by the Poverty Point people,” she added.

Bone of Extinct Great Auk Unearthed at Medieval Site

EAST LOTHIAN, SCOTLAND—A bone from a Great Auk has been unearthed at the Scottish Seabird Centre, along with bones of butchered seals, fish, and other seabirds. The bone from the flightless Great Auk has been dated to the fifth to seventh centuries, when it was a favored food source because it was easy to catch. “The discovery of the Great Auk bone at Kirk Ness is an illuminating find, as we seek to understand and document the importance of the area in the history of wildlife and human habitation in the Middle Ages,” archaeologist Tom Addyman told BBC News. The Great Auk, whose range once extended from the northeastern United States across the Atlantic to Britain, France, and northern Spain, was extinct by the middle of the nineteenth century. 

Carbon Isotope Analysis Suggests Ancient Egyptian Diet

LYON, FRANCE—Researchers from the University of Lyon measured the carbon isotopes in the bones, hair, and teeth of 45 Egyptian mummies that had been brought to France in the nineteenth century, and compared what they found with similar measurements taken from pigs that had been fed a controlled diet. They also compared the carbon isotope levels in the mummies’ hair samples with those of modern European vegetarians, and found that the results were similar, suggesting that the ancient Egyptians ate that a wheat- and barley-based vegetarian diet. “We found that the diet was constant over time; we had expected changes,” Alexandra Touzeau told Live Science. Kate Spence of the University of Cambridge explained that the farmers would have moved their crops closer to the Nile River when water levels fell in order to keep growing the same crops. Egyptian wall paintings would suggest that the people regularly ate fish, and archaeological evidence of fish consumption has been found. “All this makes it a bit surprising that the isotopes should suggest that fish was not widely consumed,” Spence added.  

Archaeologists Document Space Age Structures

TAMPA, FLORIDA—Salty ocean air is damaging the concrete and steel launch complexes from the earliest days of America’s space program at Cape Canaveral. Lori Collins and Travis Doering of the University of South Florida’s Alliance for Integrated Spacial Technologies (AIST) and their team are using laser scanners and digital photography to create 3-D images of the structures before they disintegrate. The information could be used to craft miniaturized models of the facilities for museums. “The buildings have a very important place in American history,” research assistant Bart McLeod told Fox News 13

Friday, May 09

13,500-Year-Old Tool-Making Site Found in Idaho

MOSCOW, IDAHO—In northern Idaho along the Clearwater River, a stone tool and debris from tool-making has been found in a layer of soil with charcoal radiocarbon dated to 13,740 to 13,490 years ago. Points dating to 11,000 years ago were also found at the site, which was probably used as a short-term place to rest, fashion tools, process game, and fish. These points are from the Western Stemmed Tradition, and have been found throughout the Great Basin and the Northwest. Tests show that the tools were made from materials from as far away as Montana and Oregon, and may have been obtained through travel or trade. “I think the region was an active place where people were constantly coming and going on their way to collect the next available resource, or on their way home for the winter,” Laura Longstaff of the University of Idaho told Western Digs

19th-Century Prison Block Uncovered in Australia

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—Foundations of a rare, nineteenth-century circular prison block divided into wedges have been unearthed at the site of Pentridge Prison in southern Australia. This type of prison was designed in the late eighteenth century to keep the prisoners in tiny, solitary cells under the surveillance of a guard stationed at the circle’s center. Archaeologist Adam Ford told The Age that it is “the most intact foundation of this panopticon-style building anywhere in the world.” Five areas of the site will be preserved when the land is developed. 

Caryatid Cleaning Nearly Completed

ATHENS, GREECE—In 1979, the five remaining Caryatids were moved from the Porch of the Caryatids at the Erechtheion on the Acropolis and moved indoors to protect the them from air pollution and acid rain. Now housed in the new Acropolis Museum, work to clean the 2,500-year-old figures with lasers is expected to be finished next month. “The laser beam hits the black crust formed on the surface of the statues over the years, and that absorbs energy and disintegrates. The crust has a much lower resistance threshold than the marble, which is not affected,” conservator Costas Vassiliadis told Product Design & Development

The Secrets of the Black Death

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA—Sharon DeWitte of the University of South Carolina has conducted a careful examination of the skeletal remains of more than 1,000 men, women, and children who lived before, during, and after the Black Death that struck London in 1347. “I look for the parts of the skeleton that are going to tell me about age at death and sex, and then I look for a suite of skeletal stress markers that give me a general idea of how healthy people were,” DeWitte said. She found that frail people were more likely to die when infected with the plague, and survivors went on to live long lives, perhaps because they benefited from a better diet and improved housing. “Because so many people died from the Black Death, wages increased for the people who survived. People of all social classes were eating better food, which would have had strong effects on health,” she explained.