Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, June 09

More Roman Kilns Found in Northern Bulgaria

PAVLIKENI, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that four kilns and a well from the Roman period were discovered in northern Bulgaria during a project to upgrade the town’s water and sewer systems. The furnaces resemble the more than 50 furnaces that were uncovered at a Roman military veteran’s villa near the modern town of Pavlikeni in the 1970s. At the time, it had been thought that the modern town had been built on top of a Roman town and necropolis dating to mid-second century A.D. The ceramic factory was destroyed by the Goths at the end of the second century. To read about life and death on the Roman empire's eastern frontier, go to "Burial Customs."

Why Didn’t Neanderthals Hunt Rabbits?

DORSET, ENGLAND—An analysis of 30,000-year-old rabbit bones found in caves in the Iberian Peninsula suggests that rabbits were a crucial part of the modern human diet, but not in the diet of Neanderthals. “Rabbits originated in Iberia and they are a very special kind of resource, in that they can be found in large numbers, they are relatively easy to catch, and they are predictable. This means that they are quite a good food source to target. The fact that the Neanderthals did not appear to do so suggests that this was a resource they did not have access to in the same way as modern humans,” paleoecologist John Steward of Bournemouth University said in a press release. Neanderthals are usually thought of as hunters of large prey over short distances, but as the climate and environment changed and large game died out, Neanderthals may have been driven to extinction as well. Technological innovations could have helped modern humans adapt to catching faster, smaller prey. “If modern humans thrived when Neanderthals did not, it must mean that modern humans were better at exploiting resources than Neanderthals,” he explained. To read about the debate over whether to clone Neanderthals, go to "Should We Clone Neanderthals?" 

Rare Horse Unearthed in Colonial St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA—While excavating ahead of a construction project in St. Augustine’s historical district, city archaeologist Carl Halbirt uncovered a late eighteenth-century horse burial. “This is the only horse burial we have ever uncovered here in the colonial downtown district,” he told First Coast News. The small horse had been buried on land that had been the site of the Spanish Dragoon Barracks, so the horse was likely to have been a part of the colonial Spanish cavalry in St. Augustine. Its size suggests that it was a now rare breed called a Marsh Tacky. “There’s this subgroup of swamp ponies that are descendants of the original horses brought over from Spain,” explained Amanda LaPorta, a colonial cavalry expert. Marsh Tackies are known for being strong, fast, and able to maneuver the Florida terrain. Halbirt thinks this horse had been a dragoon’s companion. “I think there’s reverence here. They actually laid it out on its side with the legs folded in the chest area. That’s a sign of reverence,” he said. To read about the role of horses in history, go to our newest feature, "The Story of the Horse."

Monday, June 08

CERN’s Cultural Significance Studied

YORK, ENGLAND—Nuclear physicist David Jenkins and archaeologist John Schofield of the University of York traveled to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the site of the Large Hadron Collider, and investigated it as if it was an archaeological site. “It is hard to think of anywhere more significant for all of humanity,” they said in a press release. The complex was established in 1954 on the Franco-Swiss border to promote peaceful cooperation between nations, and it became the place where the existence of the Higgs Boson was established in 2012, and the World Wide Web was created in 1989 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. “This is a landscape where events ranging from the ordinary to the iconic have become heritage over a short space of time. But this is not to imply the site has in any way reached the end of its useful life—far from it. Here scientists just get on with it, as they have done to spectacular effect for the last 60 years,” said Jenkins, who is himself a CERN researcher. To read about a very ancient type of technology that also changed the world, go to "The First Toolkit." 

Traces of First Farmers Found in Jordan

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—Tobias Richter of the University of Copenhagen and his team have found the 14,000-year-old bones of a child and an adult and evidence of early farming in Jordan’s Black Desert. “It’s really startling new evidence that we didn’t expect to find in this particular part of southwest Asia. And it changes the way in which we think about these hunter-gatherer communities at the end of the last Ice Age, who were on the brink of developing these new technologies of agriculture, these new ways of life that are influencing us still today,” he told Euro News. At that time, the region received enough rain to sustain the growth of an early human settlement. “We can then identify different species of plants, which in turn will tell us what sorts of things were growing out here. It’s hard to imagine right now because it’s all desert, but back many, many years ago, it was actually really nice and very, very green, and we can tell that from these plant remains,” explained finds co-ordinator Erin Estrup. To read about a mysterious structure in Jordan that made a Top 10 Discoveries list, go to "Neolithic Community Centers."

2,000-Year-Old Roman Artifacts Unearthed in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA—Eleven graves in the ancient city of Aksum have yielded what British archaeologist Louise Schofield called “extraordinary” 2,000-year-old artifacts in The Ethiopia Observer and The Guardian. Some of the graves contained the remains of male warriors who had been buried wearing large iron bangles, and one of them contained the remains of a woman Schofield dubbed “Sleeping Beauty.” The high-status woman had been wearing a necklace of thousands of beads and a beaded belt, and had been buried with two Roman glass drinking beakers and a glass flask for catching tears. “She was curled up on her side, with her chin resting on her hand, wearing a beautiful bronze ring. She was buried gazing into an extraordinary Roman bronze mirror. She had next to her a beautiful and incredibly ornate bronze cosmetics spoon with a lump of kohl eyeliner,” Schofield said. Analysis of pottery from the grave could reveal what food and drink had been provided for the woman in the afterlife. The Roman artifacts in the graves indicate that the Aksumite kingdom had been trading with Rome hundreds of years earlier than had previously been thought. In return, the Romans obtained ivory tusks, frankincense, and metals from Ethiopia. To read about the extraordinary monuments left behind in Ehtiopia by one of the ancient world's great empires, go to "Of Obelisks and Empire."

Late Period Tombs Discovered in Aswan’s Ancient Cemetery

CAIRO, EGYPT—The Cairo Post reports that six tombs dating to Egypt’s Late Period (664–332 B.C.) have been discovered in the ancient cemetery west of Aswan. Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh el-Damaty announced in a press conference that mummies had been found within stone and wooden coffins, along with statues of the god Horus, his four sons, and amulets. “This discovery is extremely unique because it is the first Late Period discovery at the ancient cemetery in Aswan. The previously discovered tombs at this area date back to the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms,” Damaty said. The new tombs were accessed through a flight of steps that lead to a main entrance. “Each tomb is divided into three to four rooms with no inscriptions as the technique used in digging the newly discovered tombs is completely different from the tombs of the same area,” added Nasr Salama, director of the Aswan and Nubia archaeological areas. To read about the tomb of a famous ancient Egyptian singer, go to "Tomb of the Chantress." 

Friday, June 05

Looters Attack Thracian Mound in Bulgaria

TATAREVO, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that looters have struck an ancient Thracian burial mound in southern Bulgaria. There are three Thracian tumuli, known as the Tatarevo Mounds, at the site. Archaeologists led by Kostadin Kisyov from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology had been making plans for emergency excavations of the Great Tatarevo Mound, which is the largest tumulus in the region. Two lines of smaller mounds appear to radiate from it. To read about the discovery of a rich Thracian burial, go to "Royal Thracian Tomb."

Aboriginal Artifacts Unearthed in Australian Park

PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA—Excavations ahead of the construction of a new playground at a park in suburban Sydney uncovered Aboriginal spear barbs, back blades, and flakes left over from tool making. The site, once home to the Burramatta clan, is also thought to have been a spot where clans came together for trading. “It was important in that it was a great food area. They kept this land open with fire stick farming, because kangaroos liked open land,” archaeologist Jillian Comber told The Daily Telegraph. In all, more than 400 artifacts were recovered. To watch a video about the remarkable art of the Aborigines, go to "Aboriginal Rock Art."

“Exotic” Gold Preferred in Ireland’s Prehistory

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND—Scientists from the University of Southampton and the University of Bristol measured the chemical composition of some of Ireland’s earliest gold artifacts with laser ablation mass spectrometry and compared the results with the composition of gold deposits in Ireland and in a variety of other locations. They found that the objects, including basket ornaments, discs, and necklaces, had been made with imported gold—most likely gold that originated in southern England. “Perhaps what is most interesting is that during this time, compared to Ireland, there appears to be much less gold circulating in Cornwall and southern Britain. This implies gold was leaving the region because those who found it felt it was of more value to trade it in for other ‘desirable’ goods—rather than keep it,” Chris Standish of the University of Southampton said in a press release. Standish and team member Alistair Pike, also of the University of Southampton, think that the value of gold may have varied from region to region. “Prehistoric economies were driven by factors more complex than the trade of commodities—belief systems clearly played a major role,” Pike said. To read more about the recovery of several rare prehistoric gold artifacts, go to "Irish Gold."