Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, July 21

Dog Domestication: The Survival of the Friendliest?

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY—Live Science reports that it may have taken just a few genetic changes to transform wolves into creatures who can communicate and interact with humans. An interdisciplinary team of researchers tested the friendliness of domesticated dogs and human-socialized wolves by measuring how much time the dogs and wolves spent around humans, and if they turned to human companions for help in solving a puzzle box. The researchers then analyzed DNA samples taken from the dogs and wolves, and found the differences in social behavior correlated with variations in three genes. “Some of these structural variants could explain a huge shift in a behavioral profile—that you go from being a wolf-like, aloof creature, to something that’s obsessed with a human,” vonHoldt said. The researchers also looked at those three genes in samples from 201 dogs from 13 different breeds, some known for their friendliness, and found similar patterns in genetic variation and friendly behavior. In humans, missing DNA in the corresponding part of the genome can produce Willilams-Beuren syndrome, which is associated with exceptional gregariousness. To read more about the history of humans and dogs, go to "More Than Man's Best Friend."

World War II-Era Secret Road Found in Papua New Guinea

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—According to a report in The Herald Sun, a team of Australian researchers is exploring an obscure road built by the Japanese army during World War II in Papua New Guinea. Archaeologist Matthew Kelly of Extent Heritage and his colleagues were investigating the battlefield of Etoa, which is located along the Kokoda Track—a 30-mile-long footpath across rugged mountain terrain from Owers Corner in Central Province to the village of Kokoda—when they found the hidden supply road. It ran parallel to the Kokoda Track, but was wider and could have been used by the Japanese army to move supplies on horseback while the Australians and Japanese fought along the Kokoda Track from July to November, 1942. “It would have changed things,” Kelly said of the secret road. “This one would have been unknown to Australian intelligence. They could strafe the Kokoda Track but they couldn’t see the Japanese moving back and forth along this one.” To read more, go to "The Archaeology of WWII."

4,000-Year-Old Tombs Discovered in Romania

CÂRLOMĂNEŞTI, ROMANIA—Romania Insider reports that nine Bronze Age tombs have been found in eastern Romania by researchers from the Buzău County Museums. Some of the tombs have been damaged by farming, but the tombs located deeper underground were found intact. “Each tomb usually has a minimum of three jugs,” said Mihai Constantinescu of the Anthropology Institute of the Bucharest Academy. One of the vessels, shaped like a dove, contained fragments of bone from the feet of pigs. Constantinescu thinks they may have been used as toys. Hair ornaments, bracelets, bronze collars, and spindles were also recovered. To read more about archaeology in Bulgaria, go to "Thracian Treasure Chest."

Thursday, July 20

Yorkshire Yields a Glimpse of Britain’s 19th-Century Industry

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that excavations have recently been conducted at two early nineteenth-century steel-making sites in Yorkshire. The region was well suited to industry because iron, coal, and water power were readily available. The excavation at Hollis Croft uncovered an early cementation furnace, which was used to convert iron into blister steel. At the Titanic Works, crucible furnaces, which were developed in Sheffield, have been well preserved in three cellars. “You can see the driving force for Britain’s industrial revolution,” said archaeologist Milica Rajic of Wessex Archaeology. To read more about the archaeology of this period in English history, go to "Haunt of the Resurrection Man."

Medieval Graffiti Found in Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—Graffiti dating to the medieval period was discovered engraved on the walls of a cave in southeastern Egypt, according to a report in Ahram Online. Mohamed Abdellatif of Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities said the cave was used as a rest stop by travelers passing through what is known as the Gold Triangle area, marked by the cities of Safaga and Quesseir at the base, and the city of Qena at the top. Some of the carvings have been damaged by erosion, but Mohamed Tuni of the Red Sea Governorate’s Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department said two of the texts have been read. The first says “There is no God except Allah,” and the second reads, “God has returned the poor slave Youssef Bin Hatem Al-Shati to his family in 755 of Hegira. May God have mercy on him and his parents and all the Muslims. Amen.” The ministry may restore the graffiti and put the cave on the official list of protected heritage sites. To read about religious medieval graffiti in England, go to "Writing on the Church Wall."

Ancient Reservoir Unearthed in Israel

ROSH HA-AYIN, ISRAEL—According to a report in the Times of Israel, a 2,700-year-old reservoir has been unearthed in central Israel. The reservoir measures more than 60 feet long and 12 feet deep, and was found cut into the rock under a large building. Its walls had been decorated with engraved images of human figures, crosses, and vegetation. Archaeologist Gilad Itach of the Israel Antiquities Authority said the reservoir would have been filled with rain water during the winter rainy season. Itach thinks the large structure and its water system may have been an administrative center for the surrounding farmsteads. To read more about archaeology in the region, go to "Expanding the Story."

Volcanic Eruption Could Threaten Tanzania’s Trackways

  ARUSHA, TANZANIA—Two sets of hominin footprints could be lost if the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano erupts, according to a report in New Scientist. Scientists studying tremors in East Africa’s Rift Valley say the volcano, which has a widening crack on its west side, could erupt at any time. A set of 400 human footprints dating back 19,000 years is located just ten miles away from the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano at Engare Sero. The 3.7-million-year-old Laetoli hominin footprints are located a safer 70 miles away. Both sets of prints have been recorded with 3-D scans, but the prints are “not like fossilized bones that we can dig up and walk away with,” explained Kevin Hatala of Chatham Univeristy.  For more on ancient footprints, go to “Proof in the Prints.”

Wednesday, July 19

Fishing Weir in Southern England Dated to Ninth Century A.D.

HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a 500-foot-long timber fishing trap found in a tidal estuary on the southern coast of England has been radiocarbon dated to the eighth or ninth centuries. At low tide in the salt marsh, fish trapped in the weir would have been easy to catch by hand or with a net. The discovery will help scientists map changes to the shoreline over the past 1,000 years. “It has highlighted the level of erosion in Southampton Water over the last few decades,” said marine archaeologist John Cooper of the University of Exeter. “There are factors like sea level rise and dredging carried out but it shows how dynamic coastal change is.” To read about the Anglo-Saxon period in southern England, go to "The Kings of Kent."

Neolithic Rock Art Appears at the Ness of Brogdar

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—Incised “butterfly motifs” appeared in a wall at the Neolithic site of the Ness of Brogdar as sunlight hit the stone blocks at a certain angle, according to a report in BBC News. The markings are so faint they have not yet been caught in a photograph. Antonia Thomas of the University of the Highlands and Islands said the images may have appeared to move as the sunlight traveled over them during the day. The site, located near the standing stones known as the Ring of Brodgar, consists of Neolithic ritual and domestic buildings. Other stones will be examined to see if incised marks were overlooked. To read in-depth about the site, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart."

First Occupation of Australia Pushed Back 10,000 Years

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, humans first traveled to Australia at least 65,000 years ago, or about 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. An international team of scientists, including Ben Marwick of the University of Washington and Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland, excavated Madjedbebe, an ancient campsite located beneath a sandstone rock shelter in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. They found perfectly preserved stone axes with polished and sharpened edges up against the back wall of the shelter. “There was one on the surface, another further down that we dated at 10,000 years,” Clarkson said. “Then there were quite a few further down still which [we] were able to date at 35,000 to 40,000 years, and finally one at 65,000 years, surrounded by a whole bunch of stone flakes.” The layers were dated with single-grain optically-stimulated luminescence dating techniques. The team also recovered seed-grinding tools, a midden of sea shells and animal bones, and a large amount of ground ochre. The new dates also suggest that humans and megafauna such as the Diprotodon shared the environment for some 20,000 years. It had been thought that the arrival of humans in Australia triggered the extinction of the continent’s megafauna. To watch a video about Australian rock art, go to "The Rock Art of Djulirri."