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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, April 14

Wall Suggests Rome Is 200 Years Older Than Previously Thought

ROME, ITALY—Excavations in the Lapis Niger, a black stone shrine in the Roman Forum, have uncovered ceramics, grains, and a wall made of a type of limestone known as tufa. “Examination of the recovered ceramic material has enabled us to chronologically date the wall structure to between the ninth century B.C. and the beginning of the eighth century B.C. So it precedes what is traditionally considered the foundation of Rome,” archaeologist Patrizia Fortuni of Rome’s cultural superintendency told The Telegraph.  

An Update on the Iraq Museum

BAGHDAD, IRAQ—Work continues on the exhibition halls and the main gate at The Iraq Museum, but it may soon open to all Iraqis. “We have coordinated with Baghdad security officials to secure the museum in a better manner than before, and we hope that we will succeed in opening the museum in the first half of 2014. We are determined to reopen to the public—to families and everybody. Not like last time, when it was open only for officials and for a limited time,” museum director Qais Hussein Rashid told The Christian Science Monitor. Archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani is cataloging the museum’s collections, and examining its archives. “People probably thought these archives don’t exist. These are treasures that no one knows about,” she said. 

New Tests Planned for Bronze Age “Racton Man”

CHICHESTER, ENGLAND—A Bronze-Age dagger and jaw bone discovered in 1989 by a metal detectorist led to the excavation of a skeleton known as Racton Man. Staining on the bones suggests that the supposed man, who had been buried in a crouched position, was holding the dagger. Rivets were also found in the grave. Recently, scientists have begun to clean the bones and further investigate the remains. Osteological analysis, isoptopic analysis, and carbon dating are planned. “We’re calling him the Mystery Man because we’re waiting for all this analysis to try and find out more about him,” Amy Roberts, collections officer at The Novium, told Culture 24.

Police Recover 5,000-Year-Old Treasure in Bulgaria

SOFIA, BULGARIA—The Sophia News Agency reports that a marble relief dating to the second or third century, two guns, 100 coins, and three necklaces made up of some 15,000 gold beads have been recovered from suspected artifact smugglers by Bulgaria’s Agency for National Security. The necklaces are estimated to be 5,000 years old. “Such things don’t have a price tag, because this is not a supermarket. Those golden artifacts are 1,500 years old than the Trojan War and 2,500 years older than all Thracian treasures that we know of,” said Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of Sofia’s National History Museum.

Friday, April 11

Two Islamic-Era Settlements Unearthed in Qatar

LAMPETER, WALES—The Wales Qatar Archaeological Project, led by archaeologist Andrew Peterson of the University of Wales Trinity St David, is using an unmanned aerial vehicle to survey Islamic-period sites in Qatar. Excavations have revealed a large settlement called Rubayaqa, made up of large courtyard homes, a mosque, and two cemeteries. “Finds from the site were as diverse as iron cannon balls to wooden chess pieces and large quantities of ceramics,” Peterson told BBC News. A second town, named Ruwayda, had a mosque complex, workshops, warehouses, and a tomb, and was dominated by a large fortress. “Other finds, such as ceramics, indicate long-distance trade with nations such as China, Oman, Iran, and India,” he added. 

Archaeologists Return to Oklahoma’s Spiro Mounds

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA—Researchers will return to Spiro Mounds to investigate a prehistoric building identified with remote sensing technology last fall. The building and other formations are part of a settlement that was inhabited between 800 and 1450 A.D. and is now in danger of eroding from a creek bank. “Almost all of what we know about Spiro comes from excavation of the Craig Mound in the 1930s—both by looters and by professional archaeologists. And we know next to nothing about what’s happening in other parts of the site and around it, and so we’re just sort of shifting focus away from mounds into the rest,” Scott Hammerstedt of the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey told The Tribune

Lake Minnetonka Canoe is Much Older Than Previously Thought

LONG LAKE, MINNESOTA—Radiocarbon tests have shown that a canoe recovered from the silt of Lake Minnetonka in 1934 is 1,000 years old. Housed in a small museum run by volunteers, the canoe attracted the attention of nautical archaeologists Ann Merriman and Chris Olson, who gathered information on dugout canoes in Minnesota. It had been thought that the canoe dated to the 1750s. It is in good condition, but has been split by a crack and lost a few small pieces. “It is [the main attraction] now. We hope it will draw visitors,” Russ Ferrin, head of the Pioneer Museum, told The Star Tribune.

Replica of Tutankhamun’s Tomb Nearly Finished

LUXOR, EGYPT—A full-sized replica of Tutankhamun’s tomb, crafted with the help of new technology that recorded every inch of the original in its present state, will soon open at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. Built by Madrid’s Factum Foundation and Zurich’s Society of Friends of the Royal Tombs of Egypt, the replica gives visitors the ability to view the tomb without threatening its conservation. Brown spots on the original tomb’s wall paintings are thought to have been caused by the increased warmth and moisture brought into the tomb by breathing humans. New exhibits will also inform visitors about the challenges of preserving ancient tombs. “The aim is to create a relationship between the visitors and the long-term management of the archaeological sites,” Adam Lowe, founder of Factum, told Ahram Online. Replicas of the tombs of Queen Nefertari and Seti I are in the works. 

Thursday, April 10

English Coin May Have Been Lost After Battle of Bannockburn

STIRLING, SCOTLAND—A 700-year-old English coin was found at Cambuskenneth Abbey during a metal detector survey of the area by investigators from GUARD Archaeology, the Center for Battlefield Archaeology Glasgow University, and local volunteers. The silver coin, which would have been in circulation at the time of the Battle of Bannockburn, may have been a month’s wages for a defeated English soldier. “Cambuskenneth Abbey was where the Scots’ baggage train was held before the battle and where they returned to immediately afterwards. It was where the booty was taken from the battlefield, so it could potentially have been dropped booty,” battlefield archaeologist Warren Bailie of GUARD Archaeology told The Scotsman. The coin was one of 36 discovered during the survey. 

Durham Cathedral’s Great Kitchen Excavated

DURHAM, ENGLAND—Excavation of the Great Kitchen at Durham Cathedral has uncovered “a vast amount of food waste,” according to Norman Emery, the cathedral archaeologist. The kitchen was used from the fourteenth century until World War II in the twentieth century. Food was prepared for the monks, pilgrims, and patients in the cathedral infirmary. North Sea cod, herring, sole, turbot, and salmon and trout from the River Wear, calves, and domestic and wild birds were served. “The kitchen would have been a very busy place, with people milling about,” Emery told The Journal.  

Iron Age Mint Discovered in England

LEICESTER, ENGLAND—An Iron Age mint where some of the 5,000 silver and gold coins of the Hallaton Treasure may have been produced by the Corieltauvi tribe has been unearthed. “We’ve got over 20 coin molds, which at an urban site like this is quite significant—a lot of them would have been damaged over time,” project manager Nick Daffern told The Leicester Mercury. The outer walls, floors, and a line of columns that enclosed a courtyard or garden of a Roman townhouse were also uncovered, along with roof or floor tiles bearing dog paw prints and sheep or goat prints. “It looks as if the function of it changed over time, from residential to industrial, before the masonry was taken during medieval times to construct new buildings,” Daffern explained.  

New Thoughts on Neanderthal Childhood

YORK, ENGLAND—It had been assumed that Neanderthals experienced harsh and dangerous childhoods, but a new study of the elaborate burials of Neanderthal children by researchers from the University of York and the Center for Human Palaeoecology and Evolutionary Origins indicates that they had strong emotional attachments within their social groups and played significant roles in society. Sick and injured children may have been cared for over long periods of time. “Interpretations of high activity levels and frequent periods of scarcity form part of the basis for this perceived harsh upbringing. However, such challenges in childhood may not be distinctive from the normal experience of early Palaeolithic human children, or contemporary hunter-gatherers in particularly cold environments. There is a critical distinction to be made between a harsh childhood and a childhood lived in a harsh environment,” team leader Penny Spikins told Red Orbit

Historic Boats Discovered in Irish Lake

CONNACHT, IRELAND—A survey of Lough Corrib in the west of Ireland has found 12 boats from the early Bronze Age, Iron Age, and medieval period, including the Annaghkeen boat, which was carved from a large log 4,500 years ago. It resembles the Lurgan log boat discovered nearby in 1902, and the Carrowneden boat found in County Mayo in 1996. “The fact that all three boats were located within 30 miles of each other would suggest that they were made by one builder, or that there was a vogue for early Bronze Age boats of this type,” archaeologist Karl Brady of Ireland’s underwater archaeology unit told The Irish Times. Three Viking-style battle axes, bronze spearheads, and a wooden spear were also recovered. The boats are protected by law and will remain in the lake due to the high cost of raising and preserving them.