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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, February 05

Traces of Medieval Church Grounds Found in Wales

ANGLESEY, WALES—A medieval wall constructed with local stones has been unearthed at the site of St Ffinan’s Church on an island off the northwest coast of Wales. A newspaper article from 1840 indicates that the present church on the site was built on top of the remains of an old church. “It’s very exciting. It was a very big surprise really. It definitely goes back to the twelfth century. There is a twelfth century font in the church,” archaeologist Matt Jones of CR Archaeology told The Daily Post. His team also uncovered human remains that had been disturbed by the Victorian construction crew, iron cleats from their work boots, and a tin button.

4,000-Year-Old Seal & Weight Unearthed in India

RAJASTHAN, INDIA—A seal and a weight were unearthed at a Harappan-period site in northwestern India. “The seal consists of two Harappan characters, with a typical unicorn as the motif and a pipal leaf depicted in front of an animal. There is a knob behind the seal,” Archaeological Survey of India archaeologist VN Prabhaka told the Hindustan Times. Prabhaka added that the presence of the seal and the weight, which date to the peak of the Harappan civilization (2600 B.C. to 1900 B.C.), indicate that commercial transactions were taking place at the site.

Shipwreck May Offer Clues to Ancient East-West Trade

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS—An international team of underwater archaeologists, led by Deborah Carlson of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, will soon survey and investigate a 2,000-year-old shipwreck off the southern coast of Sri Lanka. All that remains of the wreck is a concreted mound containing timber fragments, pieces of glass ingots, corroded ingots of iron and copper, grinding stones, and pottery that have been damaged by the strong currents of the Indian Ocean. These are goods that may have been produced locally for shipment to Rome, and in fact, in the 1990s, German archaeologists discovered a second-century A.D. port near the Sri Lankan fishing village of Godavaya that served as a stop along the maritime Silk Road. This ship may have been part of the trade that brought goods from Asia to Rome.

Tuesday, February 04

“The Birthplace of Miami”

MIAMI, FLORIDA—Over the past six months, archaeologist Bob Carr and his team have uncovered a 2,000-year-old Tequesta village site consisting of eight large circles of postholes carved into the limestone, and lines of postholes that may represent boardwalks connecting the dwellings, across the Miami River from the so-called Miami Circle, another set of postholes thought to have been a Tequesta council house or ceremonial structure. A Tequesta burial ground has also been found nearby. “It’s one of the earliest urban plans in eastern North America. You can actually see this extraordinary configuration of these buildings and structures,” Carr said. Preservationists argue that the site, which is located in a known archaeological zone, could earn National Historic Landmark status, or even qualify as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

New Dates for Israel’s Domesticated Camels

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—Radiocarbon dates for the oldest-known domesticated camel remains in Israel indicate that the pack animals did not arrive there until the ninth century B.C., or 300 years later than had been thought. “The introduction of the camel to our region was a very important economic and social development. By analyzing archaeological evidence from the copper production sites of the Aravah Valley, we were able to estimate the date of this event in terms of decades rather than centuries,” said Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University. He and colleague Lidar Sapir-Hen speculate that the Egyptians, who had conquered the region at this time, may have imported the domesticated camels from the Arabian Peninsula for use in copper mining operations. 

16th-Century Burials Unearthed at Mexico’s Las Ventanas

ZACATECAS, MEXICO—Seven burials of people who may have been among the last of the sixteenth-century Caxcan residents at the site of Las Ventanas have been uncovered. “Five of the burials belong to children approximately between one and five years of age,” said Marco Antonio Santos Ramirez of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. Written sources indicate that women, children, and the elderly remained at the site, which features a large plaza with two altars, while the young men fought the Spanish and their allies in the Mixtón War. 

Christian Pilgrimage Station Found in Ireland

COUNTY MAYO, IRELAND—A survey of the rocky island of Caher has identified an outer arc of altars or “leachts” that marked a station on a medieval maritime pilgrimage circuit. According to archaeologist Michael Gibbons, the circuit “represents a now rare example of a form of religious devotion stretching back at least a millennium on Ireland’s Atlantic coast.” The island is home to a monastery with a late medieval chapel; a series of stone crosses and small stone altars; a holy well; and a wall chamber where pilgrims or monks confined themselves in solitude.  The island was abandoned in the early nineteenth century. 

Monday, February 03

Remains of England’s Ancient Iron Industry Discovered

EAST SUSSEX, ENGLAND—Archaeologists working ahead of road construction in southeastern England have found evidence of the region’s high-quality iron industry. “There are only a small number of really high quality iron resources in Northern Europe. The ones here around Hastings are some of the best, and certainly in Britain they are the best,” said county archaeologist Casper Johnson. He thinks that the quality of iron produced at these sites would have drawn the attention of the Roman Empire. “Iron was the key technology, a key resource—this is 2,000 years ago, for weapons through to nails and the fittings for wagons and horses,” he explained.

Step Pyramid Uncovered in Southern Egypt

TORONTO, ONTARIO—A step pyramid dated to 4,600 years ago has been uncovered in southern Egypt, at the ancient settlement of Edfu, by a team led by Gregory Marouard of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. One of seven “provincial” pyramids constructed before the Great Pyramid of Giza was built, the Edfu pyramid was made of local sandstone blocks and clay mortar, had no internal chambers, and may have been dedicated to the royal cult of the king. “The construction itself reflects a certain care and a real expertise in the mastery of stone construction, especially for the adjustment of the most important blocks,” Marouard said at a recent meeting of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities. But less than 50 years after its construction, offerings were no longer made at the Edfu pyramid. Scholars think that the provincial pyramids were abandoned when Khufu began work on the Great Pyramid.

Rabbits Unearth Artifacts at Land’s End

LAND’S END, ENGLAND—Burrowing rabbits have reportedly led archaeologists to 8,000-year-old Neolithic tools, a Bronze Age burial mound, and an Iron Age hill fort near the tip of Cornwall known as Land’s End by bringing artifacts to the surface. “They dug two little burrows right next to each other and all these treasures were thrown out of the earth,” said archaeologist Dean Paton. “It seems important people have been buried here for thousands of years—probably because of the stunning views,” he added.