Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, May 10

Anglo-Saxon Cemetery Holds Community Cross-Section

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—A 1,300-year-old Anglo-Saxon cemetery of 55 burials has been unearthed in southeast Wiltshire. The cemetery dates from the late seventh to early eighth centuries, and includes the remains of men, women, and children. Another Anglo-Saxon cemetery from the same time period was found nearby on the Salisbury Plain last month. “We now have the opportunity to compare and contrast the burial practices of two communities living only a few miles apart. They would almost certainly have known each other,” project manager Bruce Eaton of Wessex Archaeology said in a Culture 24 report. The graves also contained iron knives, spears, a shield boss, bone pins, beads, coins pierced for necklaces, and combs. A large spear head and shield boss had been buried with a tall man who may have been a warrior; a high-status woman’s burial included bronze jewelry, beads, a bone comb, a chatelaine, and a bronze workbox. To read about another Anglo-Saxon discovery, go to "The Kings of Kent."

Ancient Trade Routes May Have Shaped Camel Genetics

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND—A team of scientists analyzed DNA from more than 1,000 dromedary camels living in West Africa, Pakistan, Oman, and Syria, and found that they were genetically very similar, despite the distances between them. Camels are thought to have been domesticated some 3,000 years ago. “People would travel hundreds of miles with their camels carrying all their precious goods. And when they reached the Mediterranean, the animals would be exhausted. So they would leave those animals to recover and take new animals for their return journey,” Olivier Hanotte of Nottingham University said in a BBC News report. The scientists say that this mixing up of camel populations has helped one-humped camels to maintain genetic diversity. For more on the relationship between people and animals, go to "The Story of the Horse."

Another Tannery Unearthed in Montreal

MONTREAL, CANADA—A second tannery has been uncovered in the St. Henri neighborhood of Montreal. Last summer, a village of tanneries was found, but the newly uncovered site is in better condition and will offer archaeologists more information about the industry, which was positioned outside the city limits in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The site will be completely excavated so that the Turcot Interchange—a 50-year-old freeway interchange—can be replaced. “At some point near the turn of the twentieth century, the area was paved over and turned into a rail yard. Then of course in the 1960s, they built the Turcot Interchange,” Dinu Bumbaru, policy director for Heritage Montreal, told CBC News. To read about evidence of a tannery found in England, go to "Medieval Leather, Vellum, and Fur."

Second Stretch of Corduroy Road Unearthed in Ontario

WATERLOO, CANADA—A 25-foot-long section of corduroy road was unearthed at King Street and Conestoga Road during the construction of a light rail system in Waterloo, Ontario. Corduroy roads were made by placing logs over muddy roads. Another section of log road was uncovered under King Street in March. These roads are thought to have been built by Mennonites who immigrated to Ontario from the United States in the early nineteenth century. “As per the requirements of both the project agreement and the Ontario Heritage act, GrandLinq has stopped work in this area and an investigation is underway,” Kim Moser, rapid transit community relations, said in a report in The Record. To read more about archaeology in Canada, go to "Canada Finds Erebus," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.

Monday, May 09

An Update from the Zeleny Yar Necropolis

SALEKHARD, RUSSIA—Scientists continue to study the well-preserved remains of a six- or seven-year-old boy whose medieval birch bark coffin was recovered from the Zeleny Yar necropolis. So far, they have learned that the boy had worms from eating raw or undercooked fish, which may have been a staple food fed to infants and small children. Petr Slominsky of the Institute of Molecular Genetics in Moscow told The Siberian Times that his team plans to gather DNA samples from the modern Khanty, Nenets, and Komi peoples, who live near the site of the necropolis, to compare with a sample from the remains. The task is complicated by damage to the remains caused by repeated thawing and freezing and by resin in the birch bark used to wrap the body. "The DNA we get is not very clean, and there is not very much of it," said Slominsky. "But at the moment we are working to clear the DNA and get more samples and as soon as we succeed we will start the analysis." For more on archaeology in the area, go to "Letter from Siberia: Fortress of Solitude."

Mound in Scotland May Contain a Viking “Thing”

ISLE OF BUTE, SCOTLAND—New radiocarbon dates for a preserved surface in the mound known as Cnoc An Rath could indicate a Viking presence at the site. Some think the archaeological monument may have been a Viking “thing,” or parliament site, based upon an analysis of long lost place names on the island. And archaeologist Paul Duffy told the Herald Scotland that a medieval Irish text mentions the island as being in the territory of the Gall-Gaidheil, Norse-Gael people who dominated much of the region around the Irish Sea. “We have got a very unusual and definite historical evidence which puts Bute in the Gall-Gaidheil territory, and possibly quite an important place in the Gall-Gaidheil territory," said Duffy. "What we have now is another brick in the evidential wall which suggests there is an assembly site on Bute." That could link the site to King Ketill Björnsson, a.k.a. Ketill Flatnose, a figure in Icelandic sagas. Icelandic tradition states that the king died on the Scottish islands. To read more, go to "Viking Trading or Raiding?"

Possible Revolutionary War Campsite Found in New Jersey

CHATHAM TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY—According to an Associated Press report, historian William Styple and his son Brad think they may have found the place where Washington and his troops stayed after crossing the Delaware River and engaging in battles in Trenton and Princeton. The Styples found an 1855 newspaper article that reportedly records the memories of people who saw the camp, and late-nineteenth-century photographs of a mansion on the site, one of which was marked with the location of the camp’s flagpole. An archaeological survey, conducted by Michigan-based Commonwealth Heritage Group, recovered several dozen artifacts at the site, including metal buckles, a knob from a desk drawer, pottery, and a partial pipe bowl. “It could be an encampment during the war, possibly ’77. But armies constantly marched through here through the entire American Revolution, and bits of armies were camping as they passed through,” commented Eric Olsen, a park ranger at Morristown National Historical Park. For more on archaeology of the American Revolution, go to "Finding Parker’s Revenge."

Neolithic Rice Paddy Found in Eastern China

NANJING, CHINA—Archaeologists from the Nanjing Museum say they have discovered traces of a rice field at the Neolithic site of Hanjing in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu. Carbonized rice from the site was dated to 8,000 years ago. The ancient rice paddy had been divided into different parts, each of which had a different shape and covered less than 100 square feet. China Daily also reports that the scientists found evidence the paddy had been repeatedly planted with rice. Lin Liugen, head of the museum’s archaeology institute, said that 10,000-year-old carbonized rice has been found elsewhere, but this is oldest rice paddy to have been uncovered in China. To read about another recent discovery, go to "The Price of Tea in China."

Friday, May 06

800-Year-Old Brick-Lined Well Discovered in Vietnam

QUANG NAM, VIETNAM—Archaeologists led by Ton That Huong, head of the province’s Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, have discovered a well thought to date to the twelfth century at a site known for its Cham steles, statues, and temples. According to a report in Vietnam News, the square-shaped well measures approximately three feet per side and is lined with bricks similar to those used in other Cham structures in central Vietnam. The well is located on the edge of the archaeological site, near an agricultural field, so a fence will be built to protect it. To read more about ancient sites in the region, go to "Letter From Cambodia: Storied Landscape."

More on 17th-C. Remains Unearthed in Durham, England

DURHAM, ENGLAND—Researchers from Durham University have examined the bones of up to 28 individuals thought to have been Scottish prisoners of war captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 by the English army. Historical sources say that at least 4,000 men were taken prisoner and marched to Durham Cathedral and castle, where they were held. The bodies in the two graves had been placed there haphazardly. Marks on the bones, perhaps made by scavenging animals, suggest that the graves were left open over a period of time. According to a report in Chronicle Live, the scientists have found many of the individuals to have been between 13 and 25 years old at the time of death. The condition of their teeth suggests that the young men had experienced malnutrition and disease in childhood, and that some of them smoked pipes, which became popular in the 1630s. Their lack of healed wounds suggests that they had not had previous battle experience. “We would like to know more about the circumstances of the battle and march south, and see if we can find any evidence for other mass graves as yet undiscovered,” said Beth Upex of the University of Durham. To read more about historical archaeology in the British Isles, go to "Letter From Scotland: Living on the Edge."