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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, March 25

Ancient Village Discovered at Arizona Construction Site

MARANA, ARIZONA—A construction project at the edge of the Santa Cruz River floodplain in southern Arizona has unearthed traces of an ancient village, including an irrigation canal, 37 pit houses, and six burials that could be 4,000 years old. The construction of an outlet center will be delayed while the site is investigated, as required by law. Peter Steere, historic preservation officer for the Tohono O’odham Tribe, told The Arizona Daily Star that he thinks the excavation will uncover additional features and require monitors from the tribe. “We think it likely that significantly more than 18 burials will be identified,” added Mary Ellen Walsh of the State Historic Preservation Office. 

Emperor Claudius Dressed as Pharaoh in Newly Uncovered Carving

  SWANSEA, WALES—A recently uncovered carving on the western exterior wall of the Temple of Isis at Shanhur shows the Roman emperor Claudius, dressed as an Egyptian pharaoh, raising the pole of a tent to create a cult chapel for Min, a god of fertility, in what was even then an ancient ritual. Min, in return, is depicted giving Claudius control of southern lands, perhaps the mineral-rich deserts surrounding the Nile River. In another engraving on the temple, Claudius is shown giving an offering of lettuce to Min to ensure Egypt’s continued fertility. “Although we know that Claudius, as most Roman emperors, never visited Egypt, his rule over the land of the Nile and the desert regions was legitimized through cultic means,” Martina Minas-Nerpel of Swansea University and Marleen De Meyer of KU Leuven University wrote in the journal Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde. Because the image is dated, the scholars surmise that such a ritual actually took place, using a stand-in for the emperor and a statue for Min. “What we see depicted on the temple scene is the ideal scenario,” Minas-Nerpel explained in Live Science

Fourth-Century Contract Translated

CINCINNATI, OHIO—A document written in Greek on papyrus some 1,600 years ago has been deciphered by Kyle Helms of the University of Cincinnati. The partial document is a labor contract for a guard hired to protect a vineyard in Egypt, which is known to have been a difficult job from other sources that describe thieves who beat watchmen in order to obtain ripe fruit. “I agree that I have made a contract with you on the condition that I guard your property, a vineyard near the village Panoouei, from the present day until vintage and transport, so that there be no negligence, and on the condition that I receive in return pay for all of the aforementioned time…” reads Helms’ translation, according to Live Science. The amount the guard would have been paid is lost, but the contract does include the first mention of the village of Panoouei. Scholars do not know exactly where the village was located.

Government Official’s Skeleton Found in Abusir

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the skeleton of a government official named Nefer has been found in a limestone sarcophagus in his unfinished tomb in Abusir. The tomb was discovered last year by a team of Czech archaeologists led by Mirislav Barta of the Czech Institute of Egyptology. Nefer was priest of the funerary complex of the fifth-dynasty king Nefereer-Ka-Re, and supervisor of the royal document scribes. His head had been set upon a stone head rest. 

Monday, March 24

Tattoo Discovered on Ancient Egyptian Mummy

LONDON, ENGLAND—CT scans and the use of infra-red technology on the naturally mummified remains of a woman who lived in in a Christian community in the Sudan 1,300 years ago have revealed a tattoo on her inner thigh. The tattoo is a symbol of the Archangel Michael, assembled from ancient Greek letters. “She is the first evidence of a tattoo from the period. This is a very rare find,” Daniel Antoin, curator of physical anthropology at the British Museum, told The Telegraph. The woman’s remains are part of a special exhibition of eight mummies and what technology has revealed about their lives.

“Neolithic” Long Barrow Under Construction in England

ALL CANNINGS, ENGLAND—Developer Tim Daw of Wiltshire is building a “Neolithic” long barrow on his farmland and selling space in it for housing urns containing cremated ashes. “It’s turning out so much better than I could possible imagine. A lot of that is down to the stonemason, coming up with the idea of how to build it and insisting on doing it the proper way, using real traditional materials and methods. That’s paying off in spades, with the quality of it and the feel of the place,” Daw told BBC News

Two Colossal Statues Unveiled in Luxor

LUXOR, EGYPT—Two additional colossal statues of Amenhotep III were unveiled in Luxor yesterday, along with a carved alabaster head from another Amenhotep III statue. Archaeologists say that the severely damaged statues, carved from red quartzite, are now situated on their original sites at the pharaoh’s funerary temple. The first depicts Amenhotep III in a seated position, wearing a royal pleated kilt held at the waist by a decorated belt. The second shows the king standing and has been placed at the north gate of the temple. “The statues had lain in pieces for centuries in the fields, damaged by destructive forces of nature like earthquakes, and later by irrigation water, salt, encroachment and vandalism,” archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian told the Sydney Morning Herald. The alabaster head shows signs of restoration work. 

Surface Crystals Removed From Egyptian Coffin

WARRINGTON, ENGLAND—White crystals have been removed from a 4,000-year-old Egyptian mummy case at the Warrington Museum and Art Gallery by Tracey Seddon of National Museums Liverpool. The wooden coffin had been reused for a man named Pa-ikh-mennu, who worked at the Temple of Amun in Luxor. “The crystals were developing on areas of restoration carried out 30-40 years ago. They were causing the paint to crumble and lift,” Seddon told Culture 24. She secured the loose paint with conservation-grade adhesive, or removed it if it was too crumbled to save. The Egypt Exploration Society donated the artifact to the museum in 1905.

Friday, March 21

First Nation Clam Gardens Boost Harvests

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA—Amy Groesbeck has led a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Simon Fraser University and the University of Washington in an investigation of ancient clam gardens in the Pacific Northwest. Constructed by coastal First Nations peoples over the past several thousand years, the gardens consist of a flattened tidal slope enriched with ground clam shell and pebbles that is protected by stone walls. The team also collaborated with indigenous knowledge holders from the Tla’amin First Nationan and Laich-kwil-tach Treaty Society to learn how the gardens were used. They placed baby clams in the clam gardens and in unprotected beaches and found that clam gardens dramatically increase the survival, growth rate, and size of butter clams and littlenecks. “One of the reasons this study is so compelling is that it combines First Nations knowledge with the tools of archaeology and ecology,” archaeologist Dana Lepofsky of Simon Fraser University told SFU News Online.  

Early Roman Irrigation System Uncovered in England

CAMBRIDGESHIRE, ENGLAND—Construction work at Cambridge University has uncovered a Roman irrigation system dating between 70 and 120 A.D., in addition to traces of settlements from the later Neolithic period, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. The irrigation system may have watered grapevines or asparagus plants in an inland area that was away from the main river valleys. “There has been evidence of gardens and wells, but the extent to which there are planting beds arranged in parallel and along a slope, connecting directly to a water source, is new territory,” archaeologist Chris Evans told BBC News

Spanish Potsherds Are Evidence of Great Plains Battle

OMAHA, NEBRASKA—Archaeologists John R. Bozell and Gayle F. Carlson of the Nebraska State Historical Society joined David Hill of Metro State University of Denver in the excavation of a village site at Eagle Ridge that was inhabited by either the Oto, or perhaps the Ioway nation in the eighteenth century. Surprisingly, they recovered sherds of European olive jars from underground storage pits. They claim that the sherds could be the first physical evidence of the well-documented 1720 battle between Spanish soldiers, New Mexican settlers, and their Pueblo and Apache allies against the Pawnee and Oto nations, who were perhaps joined by some French traders. The Pawnee and the Oto killed the Spanish commander Don Pedro de Villasur, 35 soldiers, and 10 Pueblo scouts, stopping the eastward expansion of the Spanish conquest. “The olive jar sherds recovered from the Eagle Ridge site are the only physical evidence of the battle, so one or more of the Oto or Ioway village residents of the site may have been participants in the battle against Villasur. The sherds may have been one or more complete vessels and were thus loot from the engagement,” Hill told Western Digs.