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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, June 27

Viking Tomb Studied in Denmark

SILKEBORG, DENMARK—Study of a wooden Viking tomb dating to A.D. 950 shows it held the remains of a man and a woman who were likely nobles who had international connections. ScienceNordic reports that the man was buried with Baltic ceramics and coins from what is now Afghanistan, along with a battle-ax. “It’s a very large ax and would have been a formidable weapon," said archaeologist Kirsten Nelleman Nielsen, who led the excavation. "People across Europe feared this type of ax, which at the time was known as the Dane Ax—something like the ‘machine gun’ of the Viking Age.” The woman was buried in a wagon, as was typical for female nobility of the period, and went to her death carrying two keys, one of which fits a small shrine that was also buried with her. To read more about the archaeology of Vikings, go to "The First Vikings."

Ancient Boat Discovered in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA—The Associated Press reports that tests show a boat found in Cambodia earlier this year near the Angkor Wat temple complex was made in the early thirteenth century A.D. Measuring 42 feet long, the boat was found in a riverbed by a farmer digging for mud and is the oldest to be discovered in Cambodia. Until it is ready for public viewing, the boat is being kept underwater in a pond at Angkor Wat. To read more about the archaeology of Angkor Wat, go to "Remapping the Khmer Empire." 

Friday, June 24

Fortified Village Unearthed in Illinois

BEARDSTON, ILLINOIS—Archaeologists are excavating at the Lawrenz Gun Club site, one of the largest known fortified Mississippian Period villages in the Illinois River Valley, reports the Journal Courier. The site's defensive palisade was built around A.D. 1150, but a team led by Indiana University archaeologist Jeremy Wilson has unearthed another structure dating to A.D. 1100, which was part of an earlier and smaller settlement of some 100 people. The later fortified village could have housed up to 600 people and covered some 50 acres. The team has also unearthed a number of pot sherds as well as stone tools. “What we’re seeing here is ceramics that are either traded up or crafted in a very similar fashion to what was being made down near modern day St. Louis at that time," said Wilson. "The stone is also non-local. They’re getting a lot of this material from other parts of the lower Midwest.” To read about another site dating to the same period, go to “Mississippian Burning.”

Skeletons and Gold Coins Found in Pompeii Shop

ROME, ITALY—Archaeologists excavating a shop on the outskirts of Pompeii have found four skeletons, several gold coins, and a necklace pendant, according to an Associated Press report. The skeletons belonged to young people who died in the back of the shop when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. There was an oven in the shop that the archaeologists believe may have been used to make bronze objects. There is evidence that the shop was targeted by looters seeking treasure after the eruption, but they apparently missed the gold coins and the gold-leaf-foil, flower-shaped pendant. Archaeologists have been excavating a second shop as well, though they are unsure what its purpose was. The dig has also turned up a fourth-century B.C. tomb containing an adult skeleton surrounded by six black vases. For more on the archaeology of Pompeii, go to "Family History."

Ancient Canaanites Imported Animals from Egypt

RAMAT-GAN, ISRAEL—Archaeologists have found evidence that ancient Canaanites imported and sacrificed animals from Egypt around 5,000 years ago. Isotopic analysis of donkey, sheep, and goat remains found in Early Bronze Age levels at Gath shows that the animals were born and raised in the Nile River valley and arrived in Canaan shortly before their deaths. “That there were trade connections between Egypt and Canaan in the Early Bronze Age is not new,” said Aren Maeir, head of the excavations in Gath, told Haaretz. “The fact that animals were a part of the trade—and that they went from Egypt to Canaan—is very interesting.” Among the imported animal remains was a complete skeleton of a donkey that was found under the foundations of a residential building. The donkey was apparently sacrificed and then put in place before the start of construction, a practice known from other Early Bronze Age sites in Israel. For more, go to “The Gates of Gath.”

Early Rice Paddies Discovered in Japan

NARA, JAPAN—In the south of Japan’s largest island of Honshu, archaeologists digging at the site of a future hotel have discovered remnants of 2,500-year-old rice paddies, reports the Asahi Shimbun. The paddies were planted during the Yayoi period, which lasted from 300 B.C. to A.D. 300. Traces of small rice paddies dating to this period had been found in the area, but the newly discovered paddies number around 500, and some measure up to 530 square feet. The discovery shows rice cultivation existed on a massive scale in Japan earlier than previously believed. To read more about archaeology in Japan, go to "Khubilai Khan Fleet." 

Thursday, June 23

East African Bone Technology Analyzed

ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA—Sci-News reports that seven bone tools from East Africa’s Kuumbi Cave, including five projectile points, a bone awl, and a notched bone tube, were examined by a team led by Michelle Langley of Australian National University. The researchers suggest the 13,000-year-old projectile points, which are slender and short, may have been too small to bring down the zebra, buffalo, waterbuck, common reedbuck, bushbuck, and bush pig whose bones were also found in Kuumbi Cave. Langley suggests that the projectiles were used in conjunction with poison, perhaps made from the poisonous fruit of the Mkunazi plant. (Charcoal from the Mkunazi plant was found during a previous investigation.) For more on archaeology in this area, go to "Stone Towns of the Swahili Coast."

12,000-Year-Old Campsite Unearthed in Canada

FREDERICTON, CANADA—A campsite estimated to be around 12,000 years old has been unearthed near a highway in the province of New Brunswick. Provincial archaeologist Brent Suttie said in a CBC News report that an intact campfire and 600 artifacts, mostly stone tools and flakes, have been recovered. Additional evidence suggests that the campsite was situated on the shores of a large glacial lake. The site’s age is within 500 years of the oldest evidence of human occupation found in the region. For more, go to "Canada Finds Erebus."

Possible Mosque Ruins Could Mark Ottoman Shrine

SZIGETVAR, HUNGARY—Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, died in 1566 in Hungary during the siege of Szigetvar Castle. Last year, Norbert Pap of the University of Pecs announced he had found the shrine where the sultan’s organs were interred before his remains were transported to Istanbul. Now, according to a report by the Anadolu Agency, Pap claims to have uncovered the mosque built next to the shrine by Suleiman’s son, Sultan Selim II. “According to archives, in the very same area there must also be a 1570 [era] dervish lodge used by the dervishes coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Pap said. He and his team are continuing to look for the dervish lodge. The complex was destroyed by Austrian Habsburg soldiers in 1692. For more on Ottoman archaeology, go to "Seventeenth-Century Camel Unearthed in Austria."