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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, November 18

China’s Terra Cotta Army May Have Been Modeled on Real Soldiers

XIAN, CHINA—Were the 7,000 soldiers of the Terracotta Army modeled after individual soldiers? Archaeologists from the University College London and Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum have used imaging technology to create 3-D models of the left ears of 30 model warriors. Human ear shapes, like fingerprints, are unique enough to identify individuals. Statistical analysis of the measurements of the 3-D ears shows that no two ears in the sample group were exactly the same. “Based on this initial sample, the terra-cotta army looks like a series of portraits of real warriors,” archaeologist Marcos Martinón-Torres of the University College London told National Geographic News. The team members of the project, known as Imperial Logistics: The Making of the Terracotta Army, is now analyzing a larger sample of statue ears and other facial features.

Town Creek Indian Mound Was Once an Active Village

GREENVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA—New excavations at Town Creek Indian Mound by archaeologist Tony Boudreaux of East Carolina University challenge the idea that the site served strictly as a ceremonial center inhabited by priests and visited once a year by local people. “Early on, when the Mississippian community was first founded, there seemed to be a village of at least ten houses, maybe more. There was no mound yet. There were public buildings in the area where the mound would be built,” Boudreaux explained to The News Observer. He suggests that as the residents died, they were buried in the floors of their homes until the area became a cemetery containing the remains of more than 500 people. Eventually the mound and the temple on top of it were constructed. “That’s the place where the ancestors live, where the chief is on the mound performing ceremonial activities that will help keep the universe spinning,” he said. To read about a recent discovery near Cahokia, see "Mississippian Burning."

Ten Unfinished Vases Found in Pompeii

NAPLES, ITALY—The excavation of a pottery workshop near Pompeii’s Herculaneum gate has revealed ten vases that were dropped and abandoned at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius on August 24, 79 A.D. “They are really unique items. The potters made them with clay, embellished them with decorations, and were ready to place them into the kiln when Vesuvius erupted,” dig director Laëtitia Cavassa of the Center Jean Bérard told Discovery News. Covered and sealed in a layer of ash, the workshop had at least three rooms outfitted with tools and pottery wheels and two kilns. To read about recent work at one of the most iconic sites in Pompeii, see "Saving the Villa of the Mysteries."

Moccasins Shed Light on Utah’s Promontory Culture

EDMONTON, ALBERTA—Jack Ives of the University of Alberta has led a study of the hundreds of well-preserved moccasins recovered from Utah’s Promontory Caves, on the shore of Great Salt Lake. The moccasins were unearthed during excavations in the 1930s, and more recently by Ives and his colleagues. The soles of the footwear are made from a single piece of bison leather, lined with fur, and sewn together at the heel. This style is typical of the Canadian Subarctic, which is “decidedly out of place in the eastern Great Basin,” Ives told Western Digs. His team measured 207 moccasins, worn over a period of one or two generations some 850 years ago, and estimated the age and stature of their owners, based on known anatomical ratios. They found that more than 80 percent of the moccasins were worn by children aged 12 and under. “These numerous moccasins are telling us about the structure of the population, not necessarily specific numbers. But you can see that children and sub-adults are a very big part of the population,” he explained. The number of children suggests that this population was “thriving,” in spite of the drying climate and shifting social landscapes. For more on the migration of people from the Canadia Subarctic to the Southwest, see "Who Were the Anasazi?"

Monday, November 17

Amphipolis Research Will Take Months

AMPHIPOLIS, GREECE—Lina Mendoni of the Greek Culture Ministry announced that most of the field work at the Amphipolis tomb has been completed, but archaeologists have plenty of work to do to analyze what they have found. For example, it could take more than eight months to complete tests on the human remains. According to a report in eKathimerini, the research has not yet been assigned to a university or other organization. To read about the search for Alexander the Great's tomb, see "In Search of History's Lost Rulers."

Turkish & Italian Archaeologists Dig at Karkemish

BOLOGNA, ITALY—Nicolo Marchetti of the University of Bologna is project director of the excavation at Karkemish, a 5,000-year-old city located along the Turkey-Syria border. About one-third of the site lies inside Syria and is off-limits. The site is also very close to Jarablous, a Syrian city that is now ISIS-controlled territory. “Still, we have had no problem at all.…We work in a military area. It is very well protected,” Marchetti told the Associated Press. This year his team has recovered sculptures from the palace of King Katuwa that date to 900 B.C., and a 700 B.C. mosaic floor in the palace of Sargon II. They also examined the ruins of the expedition house used by Lawrence of Arabia between 1911 and 1914. Karkemish could open to tourists next spring.

Anglo-Saxon Cemetery Unearthed in Suffolk

EXNING, ENGLAND—Twenty-one skeletons have been recovered from 20 burials found in eastern England. The Anglo-Saxon burials also contained a spear, a glass bowl, gold-plated brooches, a cloak pin, and a dagger. “We were very lucky they had survived because they were less than a foot down and the land had been plowed very recently,” Andrew Peachey of Archaeological Solutions told The Cambridge News. Additional testing will attempt to determine the age and sex of the skeletons. The site is slated for development. To read more about Anglo-Saxons, see "The Kings of Kent."

Friday, November 14

A 7,000-Year-Old Story in Turkey

MISIS, TURKEY—An enduring history is being revealed in southern Turkey at the ancient site of Misis, reports Hurriet Daily News. Located on the Silk Road, Misis was first settled some time in the fifth millennium B.C. during the Neolithic period, and, according to Giovanni Salmeri of Pisa University, who is leading the excavations, has been host to various civilizations including Chalcolithic, Hittite, Roman, and Byzantine settlements over its millennia-long history. Thus far Salmeri’s team has uncovered innumerable artifacts and impressive examples of monumental architecture—including a stone bridge, aqueduct, a city bath, tombs, and a Byzantine caravanserai—some of which were decorated with mosaics. The excavated material from Misis will be housed in the Misis Mosaic Museum along with a large mosaic that was discovered when the first digs were undertaken by German archaeologists on the 1950s. To read more about Turkey's fantastic Roman mosaics, go to "Zeugma After the Flood." 

Bronze Age Razor Unearthed in Siberia

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA—Excavations at a 4,000-year-old site in Siberia have revealed a thin bronze plate that could have been used as a shaving implement, reports the Siberian Times. Expedition leader Vyacheslav Molodin of the Siberian Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography says that while his team has provisionally identified the artifact as a razor, it was probably also used as a knife. The practice of shaving likely dates far back in prehistory, but appears to have become particularly popular in the Bronze Age, as evidenced by the fact that many graves of the period contain what are believed to be razor knives. To read about another Bronze Age discovery in Siberia, see "Elite Warrior's Bone Armor Unearthed."