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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, March 17

Iron-Age Cemetery Discovered in Yorkshire

POCKLINGTON, ENGLAND—A cemetery in Yorkshire thought to date to between 800 B.C. and A.D. 43 has yielded 75 square barrows containing 150 skeletons; jewelry, such as amber and glass beads and brooches; and weapons, including spears, swords, and a shield. “We are hoping that these findings shed light on the ritual of Iron-Age burial—and, as we can assume from the shield and sword burials, these were significant members of society, so our understanding of culture and key figures of the time could really be enhanced,” site director Paula Ware of MAP Archaeological Practice told The Guardian. Archaeologists will attempt to determine if the population was indigenous to northern England, or if it was made up of migrants from Europe. The scientists will also study the health of the population, causes of death, and see if any of these individuals were related to one another. To read more about the Iron Age in the British Isles, go to "Letter From Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age."

Cherokee Nation May Have Cultivated Honey Locust Trees

BUFFALO, NEW YORK—Biologist Robert J. Warren of SUNY Buffalo State thinks that the honey locust tree, or Gleditsia triancanthos, may have been cultivated by the Cherokee in the southern Appalachian Mountain region. “Native Americans may have affected the concentration of plant species long before Europeans came to North America,” Warren explained in a press release. “I noticed that whenever I saw a honey locust, I could throw a rock and hit a Cherokee archaeological site. I knew that, in the late Pleistocene era, the main source of dispersal for honey locusts was megafauna such as mastodons. But mastodons disappeared more than 10,000 years ago. You’d expect plant species that relied strictly on extinct megafauna for seed dispersal would only exist in small, remnant populations,” he said. Warren identified Cherokee settlement sites with military maps, historical accounts, archaeological research, and historical markers, and verified them with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Historic Preservation Office. He then searched for honey locust trees. He found that the trees are more strongly patterned by Native American settlements than by their water, sunlight, and soil requirements, or alternative, biological methods of seed dispersal. To read more, go to "Earliest Cherokee Script?"

Scans Suggest Hidden Rooms Lie Behind Tut’s Burial Chamber

CAIRO, EGYPT—Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty announced at a press conference that the recent ground-penetrating radar survey of Tutankhamun’s tomb, conducted by Hirokatsu Watanabe, suggests that there could be two chambers behind the north and west walls of the tomb’s burial chamber. The study also suggests that there are doorways and metal and organic materials within the spaces. Additional radar scans will be conducted in collaboration with scientists from Cairo University at the end of the month. “It is a very important step in an attempt to explore these two walls and find the correct and safe methods to uncover what lies behind them,” Eldamaty told Ahram Online. He thinks the chambers could hold the remains of Tutankhamun’s sister, Merit aatun, his mother Kia, or his grandmother Tiye. To read more about Tutankhamun, go to "Warrior Tut."

Bell Recovered from Japanese Mega-Submarine

MANOA, HAWAII—A team from the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL), the University of Hawaii, California State University-Chico, Naval History and Heritage Command, and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum has located four of the five imperial Japanese submarines sunk by the United States off the coast of Oahu in 1946. The U.S. Navy captured the submarines at the end of World War II, and brought them to Pearl Harbor for inspection. They then sank the vessels rather than give the Soviet Union access to them under the terms of the treaty that ended the war. The team also used both of HURL’s human-occupied submersibles, Pisces IV and Pisces V, to recover the bronze bell from I-400, one of the “Sen-Toku” class submarines. “These historic properties in the Hawaiian Islands recall the events and innovations of World War II, a period which greatly affected both Japan and the United States and re-shaped the Pacific region. Wreck sites like the I-400 are reminders of a different time, and markers of our progress from animosity to reconciliation,” Hans Van Tilburg of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a press release. To read more, go to "The Archaeology of World War II."

Wednesday, March 16

Second Pleistocene Puppy Autopsied in Siberia

YAKUTSK, RUSSIA—The body of a second puppy discovered in permafrost on the banks of the Syallakh River has been autopsied by a team of scientists. The dogs are thought to have been siblings killed in a mudslide some 12,000 years ago. Butchered animal bones, traces of fire, and bone tools have been found nearby, leading researchers to believe that the dogs were pets. “The carcass is preserved really very well. And one of the most important things is that the brain is preserved,” Pavel Nikolsky of the Geological Institute in Moscow told The Siberian Times. “We can say that this is the first time we have obtained the brain of a Pleistocene canid,” he added. The team of scientists also collected soil samples from the site to look for ancient bacteria. “Later we will compare them with the bacteria from the puppy’s intestines. We hope to find ancient bacteria among them. Also we took samples to find the parasites—ticks, fleas. We hope to find the parasites which were characteristic for this exact species,” said Artemly Goncharov of North-Western State Medical University in St. Petersburg. To read more about the archaeology of dogs, go to "More Than Man's Best Friend."

Statues of Sekhmet and Amenhotep III Uncovered in Luxor

LUXOR, EGYPT—Statues of Sekhmet, the lioness goddess of war, and a partial statue of Amenhotep III, have been uncovered in Luxor at the site of Amenhotep III’s funerary temple. Three full statues of a seated Sekhmet depict her holding an ankh in her right hand. Pieces of other statues show Sekhmet holding a scepter in the shape of a papyrus plant. The figure of Amenhotep III shows him wearing his jubilee clothing. “The statues will be on display at the site of the temple after completing the cleaning, restoration and documentation of the statues. After finishing building the fence around the site of Amenhotep III to protect it, the temple will be open to the public,” Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told The Luxor Times. To read in-depth about a recent Egyptological discovery, go to "The Cult of Amun."

Reliquary May Hold Remains of Sweden’s Saint Erik

UPPSALA, SWEDEN—According to a press release, a team of scientists led by researchers from Uppsala University has analyzed the remains of Saint Erik, thought to be held in a reliquary since 1257. According to legend, Erik Jedvardsson was killed and beheaded in 1160, in the tenth year of his reign as king of Sweden, outside the church in Uppsala by a Danish claimant to the throne. The new study of the 23 bones in the reliquary has found that all but one of them belonged to the same man, who was between 35 and 40 years of age at the time of death, around A.D. 1160. He was well-nourished by a diet rich in freshwater fish, and powerfully built. Dents in the cranium suggest that he had one or two healed wounds, perhaps inflicted by weapons in battle. At least nine wounds from the time of death have been found, seven of them on the legs. The researchers think that the king may have been wearing a hauberk that protected his upper body at the time of his death. The remains from the reliquary also include neck vertebra that had been cut. DNA analysis of samples taken from the remains is underway. To read about archaeological evidence for a massacre in Sweden, go to "Öland, Sweden. Spring, A.D. 480."

Annotations Revealed in England’s 1535 Latin Bible

LONDON, ENGLAND—Hidden annotations have been revealed in a copy of England’s first printed Bible, published in 1535. The book, now housed in the Lambeth Palace Library, is one of seven surviving copies. “At first, the Lambeth copy appeared completely ‘clean.’ But upon closer inspection I noticed that heavy paper had been pasted over blank parts of the book,” historian Eyal Poleg of Queen Mary University said in a press release. Graham Davis of Queen Mary University’s School of Dentistry, a specialist in 3-D X-ray imaging, took two images of the Bible’s pages. The first, taken with a light sheet between the pages, showed the annotations scrambled with the Latin text. The second image, taken without the sheet, showed only the printed text. Davis then removed the printed text from the images of the annotations with computer software that he created. The notes had been copied from the “Great Bible” of Thomas Cromwell, sometime between 1539 and 1549, and then covered with thick paper in 1600. “This Bible is a unique witness to a time when the conservative Latin and the reformist English were used together, showing the Reformation was a slow, complex, and gradual process,” Poleg explained. To read about the archaeology of medieval English churches, go to "Writing on the Church Wall."

Tuesday, March 15

Vasco da Gama Shipwreck Discovered Near Oman

MUSCAT, OMAN—One of Vasco da Gama’s ships has been identified in the waters off the coast of Al Hallaniyah Island. The nau Esmeralda, a Portuguese East Indiaman, was commanded by Vicente Sodré, Vasco da Gama’s uncle, and was part of the Armada to India. It sank in 1503. More than 2,800 artifacts have been recovered, including a copper-alloy disc marked with the Portuguese royal coat of arms and the personal emblem of King Dom Manuel I; a bronze bell with an inscription that suggests the ship was built in 1498; gold cruzado coins minted in Lisbon between 1494 and 1501; and an Indio, an extremely rare silver coin commissioned by Dom Manuel in 1499 specifically for trade with India. Most of the artifacts are lead, iron, and stone shot; bronze breech chambers, and firearms. “This project differs from the majority of maritime archaeology projects in that we set out to specifically find the wreck site of the Sodré ships, using a survivor’s and other historical accounts, because of their very early age and the potential they held for new discoveries,” project director David L. Mearns of Blue Water Recoveries said in a press release. To read more about nautical archaeology, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks."

Evidence of Corn Beer Found in the Greater Southwest

PROVO, UTAH—Anne Katzenberg of the University of Calgary is examining the remains of people who lived at Casas Grandes, a trade center located in what is now the Mexican state of Chihuahua. As part of the study, graduate student Daniel King of Brigham Young University has analyzed dental calculus on the teeth of 110 people who were buried in the ancient city or in the Casas Grandes River Valley between A.D. 700 and 1450. Fermented starch granules were found on teeth dating from the site’s Medio Period, about 1200 to 1450. “The results of this study offer some of the first hard evidence for the production of corn beer, consumption of corn smut, and food processing methods” in the Greater Southwest, he told Western Digs. But the use of corn beer, or chicha, has been recorded in Central and South America as long as 5,000 years ago. “Turning maize into beer during the Medio period, however, could suggest an influx of new ideas—or perhaps even people—during that time, which might indicate outside influence—either foreigners coming to Casas Grandes, or locals traveling and coming back with new ideas,” King explained. To read in-depth about another ancient Southwestern culture, go to "On the Trail of the Mimbres."

Historic Limestone Blocks Surface at Nebraska’s Capitol

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA—Workers installing fountains in the northwest courtyard of the Capitol building in Lincoln uncovered blocks of limestone that were probably part of the façade of the city’s previous capitol building. “Most people don’t even know what the previous building looked like, so to be able to put your hands on it is kind of fun,” Matt Hansen, Capitol Commission architect, told the Lincoln Journal Star. Lincoln’s first Capitol building was constructed in 1867, but its stone soon crumbled, and construction on the second building began in 1881. Upon its completion in 1888, a crack was found in the south wall of the east wing, and the building soon proved to be too small. In 1915, construction of the present building began around the second one, which was eventually torn down. Only one of its limestone blocks had been saved. The newly unearthed blocks will be kept in the Capitol Commission’s masonry shop. To read in-depth about historical archaeology in the United States, go to "Letter From Philadelphia: City Garden."

Scientists Study Nuclear DNA From Sima de los Huesos Fossils

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—An international team of researchers has analyzed nuclear DNA obtained from 430,000-year-old bones from the Sima de los Huesos, or “Pit of Bones” in northern Spain. Recent analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the bones indicated that these Middle Pleistocene hominins were distantly related to the Denisovans, who lived in Asia, despite their Neanderthal-derived features. But the information gleaned from the short fragments of nuclear DNA suggests that the Sima de los Huesos hominins were more closely related to Neanderthals than Denisovans after all. “We have hoped for many years that advances in molecular analysis techniques would one day aid our investigation of this unique assembly of fossils,” Juan-Luis Arsuaga of the Complutense University in Madrid said in a press release. The findings also suggest that Denisovans and Neanderthals had already diverged by the Middle Pleistocene. Neanderthals living in the Late Pleistocene may have acquired their mitochondrial DNA through gene flow from Africa. “These results provide important anchor points in the timeline of human evolution. They are consistent with a rather early divergence of 550,000 to 750,000 years ago of the modern human lineage from archaic humans,” added Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. To read more about the bones found at Sima de los Huesos, go to "A Place to Hide the Bodies."