Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, July 20

World War II Tunnels Reopened in Dover

DOVER, ENGLAND—After two years of excavations conducted by volunteers, the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, constructed in just 100 days by order of Winston Churchill, has been opened to visitors. Consisting of tunnels under the White Cliffs of Dover, the bombproof shelter served as a hospital, store, and housing for officers and soldiers from the Royal Artillery. The tunnels were filled with more than 100 tons of rubble and soil in the 1970s, until they were rediscovered in 2012. The volunteers removed the debris by hand to reveal wartime graffiti, wire twisted by hand into hooks, ammunition, and a needle and thread tucked into a tunnel wall. The site also has two sound mirrors, which gave an early warning of approaching enemy aircraft during World War I. “With no public access for over 40 years, the tunnels remain much as they were when they were abandoned. We’ve preserved both the natural decay and authentic atmosphere of the space,” Jon Barker, visitor experience manager at the White Cliffs, said in a National Trust press release. To read more about how archaeologists are adding to the history of the Second World War, go to "Archaeology of World War II."

New York City Site Yields Native American Artifacts

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK—More than 100 Native American artifacts, including pottery and stone tools dating to between A.D. 200 and 1000, have been unearthed near the waterfront in Pelham Bay Park. The site may have been a meeting place where clams and other food sources could be harvested. “I’ve never seen anything like it found in New York City before,” Amanda Sutphin, director of archaeology for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, told The New York Post. The site was discovered during a project to remove a deteriorating seawall and add a walking path and an area for dogs to the Bronx park, but the construction has been put on hold and the site covered up it ensure its safety. The park may be redesigned around the archaeological site, which could be declared a landmark to protect it from future development. To read about another fascinating site in the history of New York City, go to "The Hidden History of New York's Harbor."

Software “Unwraps” Charred Ein Gedi Scroll

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—A charred scroll discovered in the 1970 excavations of the synagogue at Ein Gedi has been “virtually unwrapped” by Brent Seales of the University of Kentucky. Seales and his team used data collected from a micro-computed tomography scan for the study, leaving the scroll intact and unopened. “The text revealed today from the Ein Gedi scroll was possible only because of the collaboration of many different people and technologies. The last step of virtual unwrapping, done at the University of Kentucky through the hard work of a team of talented students, is especially satisfying because it has produced readable, identifiable, biblical text from a scroll thought to be beyond rescue,” Seales said in a press release. Part of the scroll, dated to the sixth century A.D., is from the beginning of the biblical book of Leviticus. “The page actually comes from a layer buried deep within the many wraps of the scroll body, and is possible to view it only through the remarkable results of our software, which implements the research idea of ‘virtual unwrapping,’” Seales said. To read about another project working to decipher ancient scrolls using hi-tech methods, go to "The Charred Scrolls of Herculaneum." 

Friday, July 17

Early Maori Village Unearthed

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND—A small, well-preserved Maori fishing settlement that may have been inhabited as early as A.D. 1350, just 30 years after the oldest known evidence of humans in New Zealand, has been found on the coast of a private island. “It’s filling in the picture of how those early Maoris and Polynesians were using the coast,” Louise Furey of the Auckland Museum told Moa-bone fishhooks, made from the bones of the smallest and most common moa species, were unearthed at the site, in addition to fossilized dog waste. Simon Holdaway of the University of Auckland said that early Maori fed the dogs leftover fish carcasses, used their hair in cloaks, and high-status Maori ate their meat. He and his team will continue to look for houses, pits where sweet potato crops were stored, and a waka, or Maori war canoe, before the site is lost to erosion. “It’s really, really important that we analyze the material that’s left,” Holdaway said. To read more about the settlement of the Pacific, go to "Letter From Hawaii: Inside Kauai's Past."

Nevada’s Cold War Peace Camp Surveyed

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA—The Peace Camp outside the Nevada Test Site, now known as the Nevada National Security Site, has been surveyed by a team led by archaeologist Colleen Beck of the Desert Research Institute. “This archaeological research is unique, because the Peace Camp is the only known intact Cold War protest camp in the world,” she told Western Digs. Beck and her colleagues recorded more than 700 features at the site, including tent pads, hearths, ornamental rock formations, and graffiti painted in drainage tunnels. “The features are from daily camping activities, markers for paths and places, and rock patterns on the landscape in the shape of spirals, flowers, crosses, and peace signs, a rock garden in honor of a peace activist, and people’s initials,” she said. The team also compared the graffiti in the private areas of the camp with historic photographs of signs such as “No More Nukes” and “Food Not Bombs” held by the campers at demonstrations. “The tunnel graffiti, of course, had peace symbols but had very few other symbols or slogans that were used on the placards. Instead, most of the art and writings in the tunnels are personal in nature or art especially created for this setting,” Beck explained. To read in-depth about Colleen Beck's research into Atomic Age sites in Nevada, go to "Dawn of a Thousand Suns."

Medieval Birch Bark Coffin Opened

SALEKHARD, RUSSIA—Scientists conducted an MRI scan of the birch-bark coffin discovered several weeks ago in the Zeleny Yar necropolis, located near the Siberian Arctic, and then opened it. “The remains belong to a boy, six to seven years old. We suppose it was a boy because we have found a small bronze ax with the body, and some sharp tool, which we cannot identify yet,” Alexander Gusev of the Center for the Study of the Arctic told The Siberian Times. Like other burials in the Zeleny Yar necropolis, the body was naturally mummified by the permafrost and the copper or bronze plates that had been fastened to the face, chest, and abdomen with leather straps. “The body was wrapped in two layers of fur, one layer is reindeer hide, with long and stiff hair. The other layer is softer, we will be able to say more clearly which animal it was after the analysis in Ekaterinburg,” he added. The child had also been buried with a bronze bear-shaped pendant and bronze temple rings. To read more about archaeology in Siberia, go to "Fortress of Solitude."

Shipwreck Discovered Off Coast of North Carolina

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA—A shipwreck that could date to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century has been detected by a research expedition made up of scientists from Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Oregon aboard the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ship Atlantis. The team was looking for a mooring that had been lost on a previous expedition with a robotic autonomous underwater vehicle and a manned submersible when they found an iron chain, ship timbers, red bricks that may have formed a cooking hearth, glass bottles, an unglazed pottery jug, a metal compass, and an instrument that might be an octant or a sextant. “Lying more than a mile down in near-freezing temperatures, the site is undisturbed and well preserved,” Bruce Terrell, chief archaeologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Heritage Program, said in a press release. “We discovered a shipwreck but, ironically, the lost mooring was never found,” added expedition leader Cindy Van Dover, director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory. To read more about underwater discoveries, go to "History's 10 Greatest Wrecks."

Thursday, July 16

Electron Microscope Detects 14,000-Year-Old Dental Treatment

BOLOGNA, ITALY—Stefano Benazzi of the University of Bologna and Marco Peresani of the University of Ferrara found microscopic markings on the surface of a large cavity in a 14,000-year-old molar that “were the result of a variety of gestures and movements associated with slicing a microlithic point in different directions,” Benazzi told Discovery News. They then conducted tests on the enamel of three molars with wood, bone, and microlithic points to confirm that the infected tissue in the ancient cavity had been picked away from the tooth with a small, sharp stone tool. “This shows that Later Upper Paleolithic humans were aware about the deleterious effects of caries, and the need to intervene with an invasive treatment to clean a deep dental cavity,” Benazzi said. Wear on the tooth shows that the treatment had been conducted long before the man died at the age of 25. His remains were discovered in 1988 in a rock shelter in northern Italy. “The treatment went unnoticed for all these years. The cavity was described as a simple carious lesion,” Benazzi said. For more on prehistoric dentistry, go to "Fixing Ancient Toothaches."

Traces of a Port That May Have Served Old Goa Found

PANAJI, INDIA—Researchers from India’s National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) have uncovered an ancient wall along the Zuari River that could be the remains of a port on the country’s central west coast. It is estimated to be between 1,000 and 3,500 years old. “This area was earlier known as Gopakapattinam. The exploration work on the site is done and scientists have found the steps going in the water. It is imminent that existence of such a big wall parallel to the river indicates that it is remnant of a port,” Rajiv Nigam, head of the Marine Archaeology unit of the NIO, told NDTV. The researchers plan to date the sediments with radiocarbon and thermo-luminance techniques, and conduct a survey of the area with ground-penetrating radar. Nigam thinks the port may have served the ancient capital of Goa. “If the project comes through it will be a big discovery for the central west coast of India. This was a very flourishing harbor of ancient time,” he explained. To read more about archaeology in India, go to "Oceans of Dharma."

Accused Vandal Could Be Assigned Research Paper

ADAMS COUNTY, OHIO—A 19-year-old man who has confessed to taking a joy ride over an ancient earthwork near Serpent Mound could face prison time, more than $3,000 in damages, community service, and a research paper. “He has been cooperative, so we’re working with him. But I don’t think he appreciates the significance of the site, the gravity of what he’s done,” Adams County Assistant Prosecutor Ken Armstrong told The young man allegedly jumped the curb of the parking lot at the monument and drove his pick-up truck over a 2,000-year-old Adena mound. Park Manager Tim Goodwin says the tire marks will be repaired by replacing the sod. Acts of vandalism at the site are rare, but Goodwin explained that additional security cameras will be installed. Serpent Mound has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. “It deserves the respect of the world,” said archaeologist Brad Lepper. For more on the site, go to "Who Built the Great Serpent Mound?"