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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
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."

Wednesday, June 22

Roman Cemetery Discovered in Lincoln

LINCOLN, ENGLAND—The Lincolnshire Echo reports that the remains of two babies and an adult have been uncovered in a Roman cemetery in Lincoln’s city center. One of the children had been buried beneath a roof tile. Cremated remains were also found in an urn. City archaeologist Alastair MacIntosh explained that evidence of Roman buildings dating back to the first century had been found in the area, but the discovery of the cemetery was a surprise. Since Roman burials were usually placed outside the city walls, the site could help researchers determine the early limits of the city of Lindum. Further excavation could also reveal the purpose of a large stone slab unearthed at the site. “What we have uncovered so far indicates that we have probably located part of a cemetery used over an extended period of time, but we can’t draw definitive conclusions at this early stage,” Gavin Glover of Allen Archaeology explained. To read about another Roman burial in England, go to "What’s in a Name?"

Megafauna Extinctions Coincide With Warming Climate

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—Humans and megafauna coexisted in South America for at least 1,000 years and for perhaps as long as 3,000 years before the animals went extinct, according to a new study led by Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide. Humans were living at the archaeological site at Monte Verde, located at the edge of Patagonia, some 14,600 years ago. It had been thought that as these hunters moved into North and South America, they killed off large animal populations. Cooper and an international team of scientists carbon-dated animal bones from caves across southern South America, and studied their DNA. They found that the megafauna all died out within a 300-year period around 12,300 years ago, a time when the climate was warming rapidly after a long cold period. Cooper says that the change in climate would have changed the vegetation in the region, producing more rainfall and forests. Only the ancestors of llama and alpaca survived the combination of habitat destruction and human hunting. “We might expect the same processes to be happening again,” he told ABC News Australia. For more, go to "America, in the Beginning."

5,000-Year-Old Wine Vessel Found in Georgia

VENICE, ITALY—Evidence of wine has been discovered in a vessel unearthed at Aradetis Orgora, a site in Georgia associated with the Kura-Araxes culture, by a team of archaeologists from Ca’Foscari University in Venice and the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi. The Mirror reports that the animal-shaped vessel, which dates to around 3000 B.C., is missing its head, but still has three small feet and a hole on its back. It was unearthed near a similar vessel and a jar on the burned floor of a building thought to have been used for cultic activities. Palynologist Eliso Kvavadze found well-preserved pollen grains of Vitis vinifera, or common grape vine, in the vessel. The team suggests that the wine was poured out as offerings to the gods or as memorials for the dead. To read about another find from Georgia, go to "Homo erectus Stands Alone."

Artifacts Suggest Roman Influence Spread to Southwest England

IPPLEPEN, ENGLAND—Coins, a road, and imported pottery vessels suggest that Roman influence stretched further into southwest Britain than had been previously thought, according to a report in The Guardian. Archaeologists from the University of Exeter, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Devon county council, and Cotswold Archaeology began searching for a Roman settlement after metal detectorists discovered 150 Roman coins in an unexpected area. They think the road was probably constructed by the Roman army in the first century A.D., and was maintained over a period of 300 years. The team also found a cemetery near the road that was in use between the sixth and eighth centuries. Handles from amphoras that held wine, oil, and fish sauce have also been found. “The presence of these kinds of vessels demonstrates that the people living here were at least influenced in some way by the Romans—they have adopted Romanized ways of eating and drinking which shows that some of the locals developed a taste for Mediterranean products such as wine and olives,” said Danielle Wootton, Devon finds liaison officer. For more on Roman finds in England, go to "A Villa under the Garden."

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