Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, May 12

Possible Medieval Kitchen Site Excavated in England

SUFFOLK, ENGLAND—Culture 24 reports that an archaeological investigation in Bury St. Edmunds, located near the southeast coast of England, has uncovered a building with a foundation made of flint and mortar that probably had timber walls and a tiled roof and floor. The building may have been a kitchen or cold storage area in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, perhaps placed at a distance from the houses in the core of the medieval market town to protect them from potential kitchen fires. The site also yielded pits where chalk was quarried between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. (Lime for making mortar would have been extracted from the chalk.) The excavation team from Suffolk Archaeology found a gaming counter with wear marks suggesting it had been worn on a string, worked bone and antler waste, pottery, a chain, a spindle whorl, and roof tile fragments among the trash and food waste in the pits. To read more on medieval England, go to "Writing on the Church Wall."

Climate Change May Have Contributed to Neanderthal Extinction

DENVER, COLORADO—Zooarchaeologist Jamie Hodgkins of the University of Colorado, Denver, thinks that climate change may have contributed to the demise of the Neanderthals some 40,000 years ago. According to a report in R&D Magazine, Hodgkins examined the remains of prey animals and found that bones of animals butchered by Neanderthals during colder periods showed higher frequencies of percussion marks. This suggests that they were processed to remove every bit of marrow. “As the climate got colder, Neanderthals had to put more into extracting nutrients from bones," Hodgkins said. "This is especially apparent in evidence that reveals Neanderthals attempted to break open even low marrow yield bones, like the small bones of the feet." For more, go to "Should We Clone Neanderthals?"

Study Suggests Arabia Was Inhabited During Ice Age

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND—It had been thought that modern humans settled in southern Arabia with the development of agriculture, but a new genetic study by Francesca Gandini of the University of Huddersfield and colleagues suggests that people lived there some 20,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. According to a report in Sci-News, the researchers focused on a rare mitochondrial DNA lineage (R0a) that is found most frequently in Arabia and the Horn of Africa. They think this lineage is older than had been previously believed, and that when the Ice Age ended some 11,000 years ago, people migrated out of Arabia and into eastern Africa, through the Middle East, and into Europe. For more, go to "New Evidence for Mankind's Earliest Migrations."

Wednesday, May 11

Volunteers Will Serve on “Petroglyph Patrol” in Utah

ST. GEORGE, UTAH—Vandalism at archaeological and rock art sites is a growing problem in southern Utah. According to a report at, the Bureau of Land Management and Conserve Southwest Utah will create a “Petroglyph Patrol” as part of their Respect and Protect campaign. In particular, volunteers will monitor the Land Hill Heritage site during peak visitor times and educate visitors about appropriate behavior at rock art sites. “Losing these sites or having them destroyed to the point where we can’t read the stories that are there, is a huge loss to our culture, to everyone. It’s like burning down libraries,” said Susan Crook, land program manager/Southwest Utah National Conservation Lands Friends director. For more, go to "North America’s Oldest Petroglyphs."

Small Egyptian Sarcophagus Receives CT Scan

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Egyptologists at the Fitzwilliam Museum reportedly expected to find the embalmed remains of an adult’s organs in a miniature cedar sarcophagus that was discovered in Giza in 1907 by the British School of Archaeology. However, a CT scan has revealed the remains of a human fetus, estimated to have been no more than 18 weeks old at the time of death, which occurred sometime between 664 and 525 B.C. “The care taken in the preparation of this burial clearly demonstrates the value placed on life even in the first weeks of its inception,” Julie Dawson, head of conservation at the museum, told The Telegraph. The small-scale coffin had been carefully decorated, and the remains inside it had been wrapped in bandages. Molten black resin was poured over the tiny mummy before the coffin was closed. To read about another recent discovery, go to "Egypt’s Immigrant Elite."

Possible Evidence of Earliest Ax Uncovered

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Peter Hiscock and his team from the University of Sydney say that one tiny piece of worked stone is evidence of the world’s oldest ax. The fragment, thought to have come from the polished edge of an ax when it was re-sharpened, was excavated in the early 1990s by Sue O’Connor of Australian National University, along with other artifacts from Carpenter’s Gap, a rock shelter in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Hiscock and his team found the basalt fragment among the materials from the oldest levels of the site, which date to 45,000 to 49,000 years ago. The scientists think the ax may have been crafted by the first people to arrive in Australia. “We know that they didn’t have axes where they came from. There’s no axes in the islands to our north. They arrived in Australia and innovated axes,” O’Connor said in a report by BBC News. To read about finds from the same area dating to much more recently, go to "What's the Point?"

Tuesday, May 10

Anglo-Saxon Cemetery Holds Community Cross-Section

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—A 1,300-year-old Anglo-Saxon cemetery of 55 burials has been unearthed in southeast Wiltshire. The cemetery dates from the late seventh to early eighth centuries, and includes the remains of men, women, and children. Another Anglo-Saxon cemetery from the same time period was found nearby on the Salisbury Plain last month. “We now have the opportunity to compare and contrast the burial practices of two communities living only a few miles apart. They would almost certainly have known each other,” project manager Bruce Eaton of Wessex Archaeology said in a Culture 24 report. The graves also contained iron knives, spears, a shield boss, bone pins, beads, coins pierced for necklaces, and combs. A large spear head and shield boss had been buried with a tall man who may have been a warrior; a high-status woman’s burial included bronze jewelry, beads, a bone comb, a chatelaine, and a bronze workbox. To read about another Anglo-Saxon discovery, go to "The Kings of Kent."

Ancient Trade Routes May Have Shaped Camel Genetics

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND—A team of scientists analyzed DNA from more than 1,000 dromedary camels living in West Africa, Pakistan, Oman, and Syria, and found that they were genetically very similar, despite the distances between them. Camels are thought to have been domesticated some 3,000 years ago. “People would travel hundreds of miles with their camels carrying all their precious goods. And when they reached the Mediterranean, the animals would be exhausted. So they would leave those animals to recover and take new animals for their return journey,” Olivier Hanotte of Nottingham University said in a BBC News report. The scientists say that this mixing up of camel populations has helped one-humped camels to maintain genetic diversity. For more on the relationship between people and animals, go to "The Story of the Horse."

Another Tannery Unearthed in Montreal

MONTREAL, CANADA—A second tannery has been uncovered in the St. Henri neighborhood of Montreal. Last summer, a village of tanneries was found, but the newly uncovered site is in better condition and will offer archaeologists more information about the industry, which was positioned outside the city limits in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The site will be completely excavated so that the Turcot Interchange—a 50-year-old freeway interchange—can be replaced. “At some point near the turn of the twentieth century, the area was paved over and turned into a rail yard. Then of course in the 1960s, they built the Turcot Interchange,” Dinu Bumbaru, policy director for Heritage Montreal, told CBC News. To read about evidence of a tannery found in England, go to "Medieval Leather, Vellum, and Fur."

Second Stretch of Corduroy Road Unearthed in Ontario

WATERLOO, CANADA—A 25-foot-long section of corduroy road was unearthed at King Street and Conestoga Road during the construction of a light rail system in Waterloo, Ontario. Corduroy roads were made by placing logs over muddy roads. Another section of log road was uncovered under King Street in March. These roads are thought to have been built by Mennonites who immigrated to Ontario from the United States in the early nineteenth century. “As per the requirements of both the project agreement and the Ontario Heritage act, GrandLinq has stopped work in this area and an investigation is underway,” Kim Moser, rapid transit community relations, said in a report in The Record. To read more about archaeology in Canada, go to "Canada Finds Erebus," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.