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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, April 09

Egyptian Burial Unearthed in Northern Israel

TEL SHADUD, ISRAEL—An Egyptian-style burial has been discovered in Israel’s Jezreel Valley, which was under Egyptian control during the Late Bronze Age. The 3,300-year-old cylindrical clay coffin contains the remains of an adult who may have been a Canaanite employed by the Egyptian government, a wealthy person who imitated Egyptian customs, or an Egyptian who had been buried in Canaan. “An ordinary person could not afford the purchase of such a coffin. It is obvious the deceased was a member of the local elite,” excavation directors Edwin van den Brink, Dan Kirzner, and Ron Be’eri of the Israel Antiquities Authority told Haaretz. A gold signet ring with a gold-encased scarab seal bearing the name of Seti I was found near the coffin, along with food storage vessels, tableware, cultic vessels, animal bones, a bronze dagger, a bronze bowl, and the burials of two men and two women.

Peering Inside an Ancient Mummy

LONDON, ENGLAND—CT scans of the well-preserved mummy of Tamut, a woman who sang in a temple in Luxor in 900 B.C., reveal that she had short hair and clogged arteries. “There are a number of amulets lying on the front of the body. We knew that there were objects but we couldn’t see them with any clarity. Now we can see them and even work out what they are made from,” John Taylor, curator of Egyptian archaeology at the British Museum, told The Telegraph. Tamut was at least 30 years old when she died, and her organs had been removed, preserved, and placed back in her body cavity, along with beeswax figurines. “The way we investigate mummies is not by unwrapping but by looking underneath the bandages in a non-disruptive way,” added museum director Neil MacGregor. 

Tools Are Earliest Evidence of Humans in Scotland

SOUTH LANARKSHIRE, SCOTLAND—Flint tools discovered at Howburn, Scotland, have been dated to 14,000 years ago, making them the earliest evidence of humans in Scotland. The tools resemble artifacts from northern Germany and southern Denmark. The first settlers are thought to have followed wild game at the earliest part of the late-glacial period, when Scotland was accessible. “These tools represent a real connection with archaeological finds in north-west Germany, southern Denmark and north-west Holland, a connection not seen elsewhere in Britain at this time,” Alan Saville, senior curator at the National Museums of Scotland, told The Courier

Trade Network Supplied Chaco Canyon With Turquoise

WINNIPEG, CANADA—A new database of copper-to-hydrogen isotope ratios for turquoise resource areas in the western United States has shown that the more than 200,000 turquoise artifacts from Chaco Canyon originated in Colorado, Nevada, and southeastern California. It had been thought that the communities of ancestral Puebloans living in Chaco Canyon obtained all of their turquoise from a mining site in New Mexico. “People usually think of the Chaco Canyon as this big center [for turquoise]. But we show that people were bringing the turquoise back and forth between the western and eastern sites,” Sharon Hull of the University of Manitoba told Live Science

Tuesday, April 08

World War I Training Trenches Uncovered in England

NORFOLK, ENGLAND—Aerial photographs taken of Bircham Newton in 1946 show that what looked like drainage ditches from the ground were actually trenches dug by soldiers training for World War I battlefields. The complex system includes supply lines, small trenches for fighting, and a circular feature with two entrances that may have been a command center. Landowner Nigel Day, who runs a camp site, found the trenches and contacted Norfolk County Council’s archaeology department. “I want to have them dug out by professional archaeologists and then restore them to their original World War I condition,” he told BBC News.

Teeth Reflect Changes in the Late Woodland Period

TORONTO, ONTARIO—Archaeologist Bradly T. Lepper has written about the research of Susan Pfeiffer of the University of Toronto in his column for the Columbus Dispatch. Pfeiffer and her team worked with First Nations descendant communities to study DNA and isotopes from the teeth of 53 “archaeologically discovered ancestors,” who lived between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. The results indicate that the people ate mostly maize and fish, but the consumption of fish declined as their villages grew larger. The researchers also found genetic mutations that may connect some of the ancient villagers to modern tribes. “The Middle and Late Woodland periods were times of population movement, mixing, and diversification in the lower Great Lakes,” Pfeiffers’ team concluded. 

Farming and Technology Eased Stress on Human Bones

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—An analysis of the lower leg bones of Central European farmers who lived between 7,300 and 1,150 years ago by Alison Macintosh of Cambridge University suggests that men carried out less physically demanding tasks over time. Their work load was probably lightened by the specialization of labor, the production of metal goods, and the development of trade networks. Macintosh found that the changes in women’s bones were not as consistent, however, indicating that they may have been performing a wide variety of tasks that did not require traveling long distances or carrying heavy loads. In fact, women’s skeletons from two of the earliest cemeteries in the study showed signs of tooth wear from processing activities. “As more and more people began doing a wider variety of crafts and behaviors, fewer people needed to be highly mobile, and with technological innovation, physically strenuous tasks were likely made easier. The overall result is a reduction in mobility of the population as a whole, accompanied by a reduction in the strength of the lower limb bones,” Macintosh told the University of Cambridge news service.

Monday, April 07

Infrared Sensors Detect Desert Ruins in New Mexico

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA—A small, remote-controlled drone carrying a heat-sensing camera has helped archaeologists to get a sense of the Blue J community—an eleventh-century, ancient Puebloan settlement of nearly 60 households situated around open plazas in New Mexico’s desert. The settlement is just south of Chaco Canyon, but archaeologists had not found a monumental great house, nor a great kiva, that are typical of Chaco architecture. The heat-sensing camera, however, detected the sun-warmed masonry of a large, circular structure that may be a ceremonial kiva hidden beneath the earth. “The drone work was able to show us that at least some of the sites are much larger below the surface than can be seen on the surface,” archaeologist John Kantner of the University of North Florida told Western Digs. He had thought that the people who lived at Blue J may have resisted the influence of Chaco Canyon. “If it is indeed a great kiva, I’ll have to change my interpretation of how villages like Blue J interacted with Chaco Canyon,” he added.

Pompeii Will Receive High-Tech Tools

ROME, ITALY—The Italian aerospace and defense company Finmeccanica will donate ground sensors and satellites to the project “Pompeii: Give it a Future.” The technology will be used for three years to assess the instability of the site and set up an early warning system for possible collapses. The company will also supply security guards with radio equipment and smartphone apps to improve their communication and pinpoint their position on the site. “We are offering our technology for the service of the country and its heritage,” Finmeccanica’s chief executive Alessandro Pansa told Phys.org

CT Scans Show Plaques Beneath Mummy’s Wrappings

HAMILTON, ONTARIO—Live Science reports that a team of researchers led by Andrew Wade of McMaster University has examined the CT scans of a 1,700-year-old Egyptian mummy. The images revealed that the woman’s intestines, stomach, liver, and heart had been removed through her perineum by embalmers, who then packed the hole with linen and resin. “We don’t really know what’s happening to the hearts that are removed,” Wade said. The embalmers also put two thin plaques on the woman’s skin above her sternum and abdomen. Spices and lichen were probably placed on her abdomen as well, since they had been placed on her head, which was unwrapped in the nineteenth century. The woman’s brain had been left intact.

Heart Disease is an Ancient Ailment

DURHAM, ENGLAND—Three men and two women who were buried 3,000 years ago at Amara West, located in present-day Sudan, had atherosclerosis, or a thickening of the artery walls. The tiny calcified plaques were found among their skeletons by bioarchaeologist Michaela Binder and palaeopathologist Charlotte Roberts of Durham University, who think that smoke from fires for cooking, firing pottery, and metalwork may have been a factor in the development of this condition. The individuals were all between ages 35 and 50 at death, had poor dental health, and were of high and low social status. “The main relevance of these findings is that it shows us that the factors leading to these diseases are not products of modern life but that there are other factors in the environment which may have been around for many thousands of years,” Binder told The Journal.