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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, April 21

New Thoughts on Animal Domestication

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI—Herders dating back to the Neolithic period did not isolate their domesticated charges from wild animals, according to Fiona Marshall of Washington University in St. Louis, Keith Dobney of the University of Aberdeen, Tim Denham of the Australian National University, and José Capriles of the Universidad de Tarapacá. They reviewed recent research on the domestication of large herbivores in different places and at different times. “Our findings show little control of breeding, particularly of domestic females, and indicate long-term gene flow, or interbreeding, between managed and wild animal populations,” Marshall told Science Daily. Such contact with wild animals may have been accidental or intentional, in order to produce stronger, faster animals better suited to the environment. “The boundaries between wild and domesticated animals were much more blurred for much longer than we had realized,” she added. 

Colonial Road Construction Investigated in Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—When the capital of colonial Virginia was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg in 1699, Duke of Gloucester Street, the main thoroughfare through the town, was designed to reflect the power and order of the British crown. The plan required, however, the long, straight street be constructed over ravines and gullies that had to be filled in and drained. “The most heroic work was probably done early in the century. But this was a very long campaign that started off with public projects and ended with private efforts,” Edward Chappell, director of Colonial Williamsburg’s department of architectural and archaeological research, told The Daily Press

War of 1812 Site Excavated in Baltimore

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND—The Baltimore Sun reports that an excavation in Patterson Park by the nonprofit group Baltimore Heritage has uncovered a wall that may have been part of Jacob Laudenslager’s butcher shop during the War of 1812. The butcher shop was located close to the site of the Patterson Park Pagoda, built on a strategic hill with a view of the city. Thousands of Maryland militiamen camped on the property, and built earthworks that helped repel the British in the Battle of Baltimore. Volunteers have helped the recovery of bricks, mortar, glass, nails, pottery, and a gunflint. 

England’s Wark Castle Was Larger Than Thought

NORTHUMBERLAND, ENGLAND—Excavations have shown that Wark Castle, captured by the Scottish King James IV in 1513, one month before the Battle of Flodden, was twice as large as had been thought. “This helps us to understand why the castle was considered to be so important,” Chris Burgess, Flodden 1513 archaeology manager, told The Journal. After his victory at Flodden, the English King Henry VIII turned the castle, which is located on England’s side of the boundary between the two countries, into an artillery fortification and used it to prevent the Scots from crossing the River Tweed.   

Friday, April 18

Sections of the Great Wall of China Unearthed

BEIJING, CHINA—The Global Post reports that three sections of the Great Wall thought to have been constructed during the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C. to 206 B.C.) have been discovered in northwest China. The stone wall had been placed in a valley of the Yellow River in order to prevent foreign invaders from crossing the river when it was frozen.  

Physical Impact of the Trail of Tears and the Civil War Analyzed

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA—Environmental stressors brought on by the Trail of Tears and the Civil War led to significant changes in the shape of skulls of members of the eastern and western bands of the Cherokee people, according to researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. They analyzed data collected in the late nineteenth century by anthropologist Franz Boas, who measured the length and breadth of skulls from many Native American tribes. “When times are tough, people have less access to adequate nutrition and are at greater risk of disease. This study demonstrates the impact that those difficult times had on the physical growth of the Cherokee people,” Ann Ross of North Carolina State told Phys.org

Famous Civil War Gunboat May Have Been Found

GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA—The remains of the Planter, a ship commandeered in Charleston Harbor by a 23-year-old enslaved man named Robert Smalls, may have been found buried in ten feet of silt with scanning sonar and a magnetometer. Smalls and other African-American crewmembers took control of the transport steamer, picked up Smalls’ wife and children, and headed to the Union blockade in 1862. He surrendered the vessel, which was transformed into a Union gunboat with Smalls as its captain. The Planter eventually sank off Cape Romain in 1876. “We have probed down. We know there’s wood there and we know there’s metal there, but we don’t know absolutely whether it is or is not the Planter,” Gordon Watts of Tidewater Atlantic Research Inc. told Greenville Online. Smalls went on to serve five terms in Congress. The site will be monitored and protected. 

Revolutionary War Tunnel Preserved in South Carolina

NINETY SIX, SOUTH CAROLINA—Firefighters wearing breathing equipment are assisting a team from the University of South Florida with the exploration of a siege tunnel dating to the Revolutionary War. The tunnel was dug by Americans in 1781 during the siege of Ninety Six in order to place explosives underneath the loyalist-controlled Star Fort, but they were turned back and the explosion never occurred. The unfinished tunnel will be mapped and photographed in order to create 3-D models. “We can capture whole landscapes in hours, minutes as opposed to traditional archaeology that would be out here for weeks and months,” project leader Lori Collins told WNEM. The tunnel will be stabilized and preserved, but will be closed to visitors.

Thursday, April 17

Copper Artifact Discovered in Britain at a Portal Dolmen

ANGLESEY, WALES—A copper artifact has been discovered at the ruins of a Neolithic tomb on the island of Anglesey by an international team of researchers. “The big question in archaeology at the moment is whether there was a Copper Age in Britain. Did copper come to Britain before bronze? This discovery helps to suggest that we did have a Copper Age,” George Nash of the University of Bristol explained to The Daily Post. Called Perthi Duon, the tomb is thought to have been built as a single-chambered tomb around 5,500 years ago, with a compacted-stone, kidney-shaped cairn surrounding the chamber. The tomb is known to have still been standing in the early eighteenth century, but plowing around the monument caused” a lot of disturbance,” Nash said.

Turkish Police Recover Demeter Sculpture

SIMAV, TURKEY—The body of a statue thought to represent the Greek goddess Demeter has been recovered from two men accused of conducting illegal excavations in western Turkey, according to Greek Reporter. The two men were taken into custody. The head of the statue and an altar were later recovered at another location by Turkish police. 

Ancient Corridor Unearthed at Roman Theater

FLORENCE, ITALY—According to a report in ANSA, the painted walkways used by spectators to move from the outer circle of the theater to the orchestra pit have been uncovered at the Roman theater situated beneath the Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Gondi. Well shafts that provided water and waste disposal for the theater have also been found. Originally built to seat 7,000 people, the theater was expanded to accommodate as many as 15,000 in the first and second centuries A.D.