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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, April 13

Earliest Structures at Nea Paphos Unearthed

WARSAW, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team led by Henryk Meyza of the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences has found fragments of 2,400-year-old walls and floors at the site of Nea Paphos in Cyprus. These features are thought to date to the founding of the city, which was located at a convenient harbor. “The relics of the first houses erected within a residential area are not impressive in terms of craftsmanship,” Meyza said. “The floors were made of clay. Only in later houses they were replaced with stone slabs or meticulously made mosaics.” The researchers were careful to look for the city’s earliest dwellings in places where they would not disturb the well-preserved remains of later buildings. To read about another discovery at Nea Paphos, go to “Artifact: Late Roman Amulet.”

Greco-Roman Artifacts Discovered in Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, Mahmoud Afifi of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced that a collection of artifacts dating to the Hellenistic and Byzantine eras has been unearthed in the Babour El-Maya area of Alexandria. The artifacts include pots, coins, ovens, bones, and lamps. Excavators also found ruined buildings with black granite floors and plaster-covered limestone walls. The area had been slated for the construction of a residential building. To read more about Egypt, go to “Recovering Hidden Texts.”

Tools Found in Eastern Canada Older Than Previously Thought

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA—Stone tools discovered near a fire pit on the shores of an ancient lake in eastern Canada have been dated to 12,700 years ago, or 700 years older than had been previously thought. According to a report in CBC News, some of the tools, used for working animal hides, making bone tools, and decorating, originated in Maine, indicating that the people using the tools traveled over a wide area, or obtained goods through trade networks. “There’s an awful lot of use of these tools,” added Brent Suttie of the Department of Tourism, Heritage, and Culture. He explained that the tools had been reshaped multiple times until they were no longer functional. The campsite will remain undeveloped, and the artifacts, housed in the provincial archaeological collections facility, will be “returned to First Nations at the time they request them,” Suttie said. For more on archaeology in Canada, go to “Franklin’s Last Voyage.”

Artifacts From Turkik Woman’s Grave Analyzed

KHOVD CITY, MONGOLIA—Researchers from the Khovd Museum and The Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia have been analyzing and conserving the remains of a Turkik woman and her grave goods excavated last year in the Altai Mountains. The Siberian Times reports that it had been thought that the woman died of a head injury in the sixth century A.D., but experts now say she lived in the tenth century. They are awaiting the results of radiocarbon dating and DNA testing. The woman was buried with more than 50 items, including a pair of leather boots decorated with red- and black-striped embroidery, a mirror and comb, an embroidered bag containing a sewing kit, a horse that had been sacrificed, a saddle, and four changes of clothing. A tar-like substance called shilajit, applied to the body, may have helped to preserve it. The woman’s body and the horse’s remains were also covered with felt. “As the grave was buried in a cool environment, fabric and the felt did not undergo a biological reaction,” said Galbadrakh Enkhbat, director of the Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia. “They appeared as if they had been used only yesterday.”

Sandstorm Uncovered Possible Archaeological Site in Iran

TEHRAN, IRAN—According to the Tehran Times, recent sandstorms have uncovered a structure in a possible archaeological site near the historic city of Fahraj in Iran’s Kerman Province. Mohammad Vafaei, director of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Organization said that archaeologists will determine the site’s age, and whether it is a necropolis or a settlement. Law enforcement officers will protect the site while the investigation continues. For more on archaeology in Iran, go to “The Price of Plunder.”

Wednesday, April 12

Some Viking Swords May Have Been Decorative

KONGENS LYNGBY, DENMARK—Three Viking Age swords from the National Museum of Denmark have been examined with neutron scans, according to a report in Live Science. “This is the first study which allowed us to virtually ‘slice’ Viking swords, showing how different materials have been combined together,” said materials scientist Anna Fedrigo of the Technical University of Denmark. All three swords date to the ninth or tenth century A.D., and came from the Central Jutland area of Denmark. And, all three swords were crafted with the pattern-welding technique, which folds, twists, and forges together thin strips of different kinds of iron and steel. But Fedrigo said that these kinds of swords may not have been designed for combat, since an iron core edged with harder steel would have made a better weapon. The high temperatures of the pattern-welding technique could also have left the weapons vulnerable to rust. She suggests that swords may have become symbols of power and status to elite Vikings, while more affordable axes, spears, and lances may have been used by seafaring raiders. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

New Dates for Mongolia’s Nomadic Horse Culture

MUNICH, GERMANY—According to a report in The International Business Times, William Taylor of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and colleagues have pushed back the date for the development of skilled horseback riding in Mongolia by several hundred years. The researchers radiocarbon dated the bones of domesticated horses that had been individually buried at monuments constructed by the Deer Stone-Khirigsuur Complex in eastern Eurasia. The monuments include carved standing “deer stones,” and stone burial mounds known as khirigsuurs, where the heads, hooves, and upper neck bones of hundreds or even thousands of horses have been found near human remains. The team then produced a high-precision chronology model for the horse burials. The dates suggest that a horse-centered culture developed across the Mongol Steppe around 1200 B.C., at a time when a wetter climate may have offered better pastures for raising horses. “This really suggests a change in people’s relationship to horses,” Taylor explained. For more, go to “In Search of History's Greatest Rulers: Genghis Khan, Founder of the Mongol Empire.”

Tuesday, April 11

Traces of Roman City Uncovered in Southern England

HERTFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND—The St. Albans Review reports that construction work in southern England has uncovered traces of the Roman town of Verulamium. One area of the excavation uncovered a corner of the ancient city wall. “However, there is no evidence of a corner tower—this is significant as it suggests that the wall was built for show as well as for defense purposes,” said Simon West, archaeologist for St. Albans city and the District Council’s museum service. Another area of excavation revealed the interior of a Roman town house with an opus signinum floor, a cement-like surface made of pieces of broken tiles and mortar flattened with a rammer. For more on Roman England, go to “A Villa under the Garden.”

Herders May Have Arrived in the High Alps 7,000 Years Ago

BERN, SWITZERLAND—Swiss Info reports that shepherds may have been grazing their herds in pastures some 9,000 feet above sea level as early as 5000 B.C. Scientists from the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research at Bern University say that artifacts revealed by retreating ice indicates that the herders took their grazing animals from the dry slopes of the Lower Valais and hiked for two days to better pastures at the Bernese Oberland, located below the Schnidejoch Pass. The herders may have carried food in the wooden containers recently revealed by the melting ice. The scientists also analyzed sediment cores taken from nearby Lake Iffig, and found pollen dating back 7,000 years from plants that grow well in ground covered with dung. Spores from a fungus that grows on cattle dung were also detected. When ice returned to the Schnidejoch Pass some 1,000 years later, the pastures were no longer used. For more, go to “Switzerland Everlasting.”

Ancient Silk Road Riches Discovered in Inner Mongolia

HOHHOT, CHINA—Live Science reports that the excavation of six tombs in a 1,500-year-old, looted cemetery in Inner Mongolia has yielded a coffin containing a body covered in silk, and a silver bowl decorated with images of the Greek gods Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena. Chen Yongzhi of the Inner Mongolia Museum, Song Guodong of the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and Ma Yan of Inner Mongolia University think five of the tombs might have belonged to an aristocratic family, perhaps of the Gaoche people, who were ruled by the Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 386 to 534). The sixth tomb dates to the Liao Dynasty, and is about 1,000 years old. The yellow silk has not yet been removed from the body, which was also adorned with a gold headband, necklace, belt, rings, and leather boots. The artifacts are thought to have been obtained through trade along ancient Silk Road routes. The body’s coffin was painted with an image of a blue-roofed house with red pillars. The tomb’s occupant was shown at the center of the house, surrounded by attendants wearing hoods. For more, go to “Letter from China: Tomb Raider ChroniclesTomb Raider Chronicles.”

Ancient Relatives of Bed Bugs Found in Oregon

EUGENE, OREGON—According to a report by ABC News, traces of cimicid insects, the ancient relatives of today’s bedbugs, have been found in Oregon’s Paisley Five Mile Point Cave, where humans lived intermittently over a period of 11,000 years, up to 13,500 years ago. The species of bugs found in the cave, estimated to be 5,100 to 11,000 years old, were bat parasites, but researchers think they may have bitten humans when they had the chance. Why didn’t these cimicids adapt to human hosts? Martin E. Adams of Paleoinsect Research thinks the human occupants of the cave may have moved too often for the bugs to come to rely on a diet of human blood while bats were also living in the cave. And, the occasional bed bug that did dine on a human host may not have survived the trip outside. Until this discovery, the oldest known example of a bed bug species was 3,550 years old, and had been found in Egypt. To read more about Oregon's Paisley Caves, go to “America, In the Beginning: Paisley Caves.”