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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, December 28

Excavation of Magarsus Continues in Turkey

ADANA, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a team of archaeologists will continue to uncover the theater in the ancient city of Magarsus in south-central Anatolia. The team, made up of researchers from the Adana Museum Directorate, the Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism, and Çukurova University has so far uncovered seating for 4,000 people. “The excavations in Magarsus will continue in the orchestra pit of the theater and the stadium of the ancient city,” said Nedim Dervişoğlu, deputy director of the Adana Museum. “Following the stadium excavations, archaeologists will also focus on unearthing the temple.” Restoration and conservation of the theater is scheduled as well. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “Zeugma After the Flood.”

Ancient Wall Collapsed After Heavy Rains in Northern Israel

GALILEE, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a section of stone wall dating to the First Temple period has collapsed after heavy rains. The wall is located at the Tel Dan archaeological site, which was identified as the ancient city of Dan by the discovery of an inscription in Greek and Aramaic. The wall stood next to an entrance known as Abraham’s Gate, based upon the biblical story of Abraham’s rescue of his nephew Lot from the city of Dan. Five ancient gravestones at the base of the wall were covered with fallen debris. For more on archaeology in Israel, go to “Mask Metamorphosis.”

Tuesday, December 27

Chinchorro Mummies Receive CT Scans

SANTIAGO, CHILE—The AFP reports that 15 Chinchorro mummies were taken from Chile’s National Museum of Natural History to the Los Condes clinic for computerized tomography scans. “We want to see what they physically looked like, to reconstruct them and bring to life someone who died thousands of years ago,” said chief radiologist Marcelo Galvez. The Chinchorro used wood, plants, and clay to create the mummies, which date back some 7,400 years. The mummies, which are the oldest known in the world, preserved newborns and fetuses, and are thought to have been made by their families. The researchers also collected skin and hair samples from the mummies to try to obtain DNA for study. “We want to better understand their way of life—from their diet to whether we Chileans still carry their genes,” added Veronica Silva of the National Museum of Natural History. For more, go to “Peruvian Woman of Means.”

Colombia Hands Over Artifacts to Peru’s Ambassador

LIMA, PERU—According to a report in Peru This Week, the government of Colombia handed over eight artifacts from the Nazca, Huari, and Chimú cultures to the Peruvian ambassador, Ignacio Higueras Hare. The artifacts will return to Peru’s Institute of Anthropology and History. Argentina and Germany have also repatriated artifacts to Peru this year. To read about a recent discovery, go to “Blue Collar in Ancient Peru.”

Ancient Wetland Garden Found in the Pacific Northwest

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA—Live Science reports that a prehistoric garden has been found on Katzie First Nation territory, located to the east of Vancouver. Archaeologist Tanja Hoffmann of the Katzie Development Limited Partnership and Simon Fraser University led the excavation of the 3,800-year-old waterlogged site. It yielded more than 3,700 whole and fragmented wapato plants, which grow in wetlands and produce starchy roots similar to potatoes. The plants were not domesticated, but Hoffmann said they were grown in a plot set over a pavement of tightly packed, uniformly sized rocks, which would have made it easier to harvest the tubers. Some 150 wooden harvesting tools were also recovered. To read more about archaeology in Canada, go to “A Removable Feast.”

Friday, December 23

5,000-Year-Old Rock Art Depicts Parents and Baby

PRATO, ITALY—Seeker reports that geologist Marco Morelli, director of the Museum of Planetary Sciences in Prato, led a team of researchers that found 5,000-year-old rock art on the ceiling of a small cavity in the Egyptian Sahara desert in 2005. The image, drawn in reddish-brown ochre, appears to depict a man and a woman with a baby floating above them. The woman’s head is missing due to damage to the painting. Morelli suggests that the position of the baby could indicate a birth or pregnancy. “As death was associated to Earth in contemporary rock art from the same area,” he said, “it is likely that birth was linked to the sky.” There are two animals in the scene: a headless lion, which has been found in other drawings in the region, and a baboon. There’s also a small circular mark to the side of the figures, which has been likened to a star. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Interbreeding May Have Helped Modern Humans Adapt to Cold

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—The New York Times reports that an international team of scientists led by Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley, compared the genomes of nearly 200 Inuit living in Greenland with the genomes of living populations around the world, Neanderthals, and the one known Denisovan genome. The team members focused on a region of the Inuit genome that may affect the levels of brown fat in the body, which generates heat, and found that nearly all the Inuit in the study carried the same genetic variants in this region. The same region in Neanderthals and modern populations showed a partial match to the Inuit genome, but the Denisovan genome “was almost a complete match,” according to Nielsen. He suggests that interbreeding with archaic human species may have helped migrating modern humans adapt to new environments some 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. “We do see these variants in other populations, like in South America and East Asia, but nowhere do we see the same frequency that we see in Greenland,” Nielsen said. To read in-depth about an excavation near a Yup'ik village in Alaska, go to “Cultural Revival.”

16th-Century Turkey Bones Uncovered at English Monastery

CHESHIRE, ENGLAND—According to a report in Runcorn and Widnes World, researchers at the University of Sheffield found turkey bones among the thousands of bone fragments of sheep, pig, and cattle unearthed at Norton Priory between 1970 and 1987. Located in northwest England, Norton Priory was an abbey complex inhabited from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries. The turkey is thought to have been introduced to England from the New World in the early sixteenth century, and it became popular with Henry VIII and the wealthy, who until then had dined on swan, goose, peacock, and boar's head. For more on archaeology in England, go to “A Villa under the Garden.”

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