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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, September 20

Possible Anglo-Saxon Palace Discovered at Rendlesham

SUFFOLK, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that traces of a large structure at the Anglo-Saxon site at Rendlesham have been detected with aerial photography and geophysical surveys. Researchers think Rendlesham may be the “king’s village” described by the Venerable Bede, an eighth-century monk, who also mentioned a palace in the village. “We have discovered what we think is a large Anglo-Saxon Hall, which could be the palace itself, if you could call it that,” said Faye Minter of Suffolk County Council’s archaeological unit. The building measures 75 feet by 30 feet. Helen Geake of the British Museum explained that Anglo-Saxon kings probably had many palaces and halls in East Anglia so that they would have places to stay when they toured the kingdom. Scholars also think that the king at Rendlesham was buried in the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, located about four miles away. To read about other discoveries in Suffolk, go to "Letter from England: Writing on the Church Wall."

New Technique Identifies Neanderthal Bone Proteins

CHÂTELPERRON, FRANCE—Science reports that bioarchaeologist Matthew Collins of the University of York analyzed ancient proteins in hominin bone fragments that were discovered in the Grotte du Renne cave in central France between 1949 and 1963. Some of the many bone fragments, which were reportedly found in the same archaeological layer as bone tools and tiny beads made of animal teeth, shells, and ivory, appeared to be Neanderthal. But some researchers argued that the delicate artifacts must have been made by modern humans, who were entering Europe at about the same time that the artifacts were produced. The new study, conducted by Collins and an international team of scientists, dated and identified proteins and mitochondrial DNA in the bone fragments from the site, and determined that they probably are the remains of a single breast-fed Neanderthal infant. In addition, the bones were dated to about 42,000 years old—the same age as the beads and tools. “You can invent all sorts of stories,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “But the simplest explanation is that this assemblage was made at least in part by Neanderthals.” For more, go to "Neanderthal Necklace."

Sunken World War I Warship Found Near Norway

THYBORON, DENMARK—Live Science reports that the wreckage of the HMS Warrior has been discovered near Norway by marine archaeologist Innes McCartney of Bournemouth University and an exploration firm sponsored by the Sea War Museum Jutland. The Warrior is the last of the 25 British and German ships sunk during the Battle of Jutland, fought in the North Sea on May 31 and June 1, 1916, to be found. “It’s completely upside down, and it sank down into an area of very soft seabed, right to the level of the upper deck—so everything inside it is completely sealed in,” McCartney said. The British armored cruiser was heavily damaged during the battle by German gunfire. A British aircraft carrier attempted to tow the Warrior, but the vessel was eventually abandoned after the crew was moved to safety. McCartney explained that shipwrecks from the Battle of Jutland, many of which are war graves, have been looted for their valuable bronze fittings. The Warrior has been protected by its partial burial and because its location, away from the site of the battle, was unknown. “It’s the only wreck left from the Battle of Jutland that we can categorically say is completely unspoiled,” McCartney added. For more, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks..."

Ottoman-Era Fisherman’s House Found in Israel

ASHKELON, ISRAEL—The Jerusalem Post reports that an Ottoman-era fisherman’s house and a lookout tower have been uncovered on the Mediterranean coastline by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority, who were assisted by boys and girls who live in the area. Excavation directors Federico Kobrin and Haim Mamliya said that the house had three rooms, and contained metal fish hooks, lead weights, a large bronze bell, and a stone anchor. Its door was placed on the north side of the building, presumably to keep wind and sea water out. The tower, situated on a hilltop, may have served as a lighthouse. To read about another recent discovery on the coast of Israel, go to "Sun and Moon."

Monday, September 19

Were Ancient Dogs Really Hunting Companions?

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—Science reports that Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology zooarchaeologist Angela Perri surveyed excavations of prehistoric sites in Japan for evidence that early dogs helped people to hunt. She focused on the hunter-gatherers of the Jōmon culture who lived off the dense forest on the east coast of the island of Honshu, and found that beginning about 9,000 years ago, the Jōmon buried their dogs in shell middens in much the same way that they buried human hunters. Some of the 110 dog burials in the literature provided evidence of broken legs and teeth, injuries that the dogs may have sustained while hunting. And some of those injuries had healed, suggesting that humans had cared for the dogs. But after the Jōmon began farming about 2,500 years ago, dog remains appeared in the archaeological record as random piles of bones, and sometimes were even butchered. Perri suggests that the Jōmon revered dogs while they served a valued purpose as hunting companions, but when they were no longer needed to flush prey out of the forest cover and protect human hunters, dogs may have become a source of food. Jōmon groups located to the north and the south of Honshu, and who lived on foods from the sea, treated dogs like food all along, she added. To read in-depth about dogs in the archaeological record, go to "More Than Man's Best Friend."

Excavation of de Luna’s 16th-Century Settlement Continues

PENSACOLA, FLORIDA— reports that a team led by archaeologist John Worth of the University of West Florida has found a large garbage pit at the site of Spanish colonist Tristan de Luna’s 1559 settlement in the western Florida Panhandle. One month after de Luna’s arrival, a hurricane destroyed most of the expedition’s ships and supplies. So far, the team members have recovered a deer antler and the remains of shellfish, conk, oysters, and scallops, which suggests the 1,500 Spaniards in the expedition hunted and fished for food. The pit also contained pieces of iron from the straps and hoops of wooden barrels. Worth thinks de Luna’s men may have recycled the iron for nails, or may have traded it for food with local Native Americans. The team has also found floor surfaces and post molds from structures, and a balance scale weight that may have been used by the expedition’s treasurer to weigh pay for the soldiers. The hurricane “may have even changed the entire history of the continent, by altering what could have been a successful Luna Expedition, and which would never have led to St. Augustine and never have led to the southeast becoming dominated by the English,” Worth said. For more, go to "Letter from Florida: People of the White Earth."

Human Remains Recovered at Greece’s Antikythera Shipwreck

ANTIKYTHERA, GREECE—Nature reports that a set of human remains has been found at the site of the Antikythera shipwreck, known for the discovery of a clockwork device thought to have been used to track the motions of celestial bodies some 2,100 years ago. The remains of at least four people were recovered at the site in the 1970s. The newly discovered bones, which are red in color due to corroded iron artifacts at the site, include a partial skull with a jaw and several teeth, long bones from the arms and legs, and ribs. They were found under about 18 inches of sand and pieces of pottery by underwater archaeologists from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Over the years, the sand and debris protected the remains from hungry fish and sea currents. Hannes Schroeder of the Natural History Museum of Denmark says that the size and condition of the bones suggest that they belonged to a young man. Schroeder also explained that both petrous bones—small, dense bones located behind the ear—have been recovered by the excavation team. “If there’s any DNA, then from what we know, it’ll be there,” he said. To read about another underwater discovery in Greek waters, go to "The City That Wasn’t."

Early Fish Hooks Unearthed in Okinawa

OKINAWA, JAPAN—CNN reports that a team of Japanese researchers led by Masaki Fujita of the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum has found 23,000-year-old fish hooks made from sea snail shells in Sakitari Cave, located on the south side of the island of Okinawa. These fish hooks are older than hooks unearthed on Timor, which are thought to be at least 16,000 years old, and hooks found in Papua New Guinea, which have been dated to at least 18,000 years ago. The team also found evidence that early inhabitants of Okinawa cooked and ate frogs, birds, small mammals, eels, and perhaps even lobster. Human skeletal remains, beads, and an artifact that may be a grindstone have also been found in the cave. "We found fish and human bones that dated back some 30,000 to 35,000 years," Fujita said. "We don't know what kind of tools were used to catch these fish, but we're hoping to find some even older fishing tools." For more on the history of fishing, go to "Off With Their Heads."

Friday, September 16

Monumental Burial Mound in Ukraine Reconstructed

POZNAŃ, POLAND—A report in Science & Scholarship in Poland describes a 5,000-year-old burial discovered and reconstructed by a team led by Danuta Żurkiewicz of Adam Mickiewicz University. Żurkiewicz said the evidence suggests the people buried in this cemetery, located on what is now the border between Ukraine and Moldova, were nomads who built monumental burial mounds. One mound in particular contained the remains of a man who stood over six feet tall. “This is not a typical height for the contemporary community. The man had to stand out with his stature,” Żurkiewicz explained. His body had been placed on a woven mat in a rectangular pit with a wooden roof that was covered with four limestone slabs. Analysis of the man’s bones suggests that he died between 35 and 50 years of age, and that he suffered from spinal degeneration, perhaps brought on by frequent horseback riding. To read about another group of nomads, go to "Rites of the Scythians."

Nineteenth-Century Boston Reflected in Privy’s Artifacts

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS— reports that an excavation in the Washington Garden at Boston’s Old North Church has recovered artifacts reflecting the lives of English, Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants in the nineteenth century. City archaeologist Joseph Bagley said that the artifacts, which include pottery, toys, a clay pipe emblazoned with a shamrock, wooden clothespins, animal bones, religious figurines, and medicine bottles were recovered from a tenement privy. To read about another discovery in a privy, go to "World’s Oldest Pretzels."

Lime Kiln May Have Supplied Construction of Brick Palace

CHELMSFORD, ENGLAND—Essex Live reports that the archaeological investigation of a proposed development site in eastern England has uncovered a lime kiln thought to have been used between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Lime produced in the kiln by burning limestone or chalk would have been used in mortar, concrete, and plaster. The excavation team, made up of researchers from AECOM and Oxford Archaeology East, suggests that the kiln may have provided supplies for Henry VIII’s renovation of a nearby estate, which he called the Palace of Beaulieu. The building is now known as New Hall and is occupied by a school. For more on archaeology in England, go to "The Prisoners of Richmond Castle."