Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, September 16

Monumental Burial Mound in Ukraine Reconstructed

POZNAŃ, POLAND—A report in Science & Scholarship in Poland describes a 5,000-year-old burial discovered and reconstructed by a team led by Danuta Żurkiewicz of Adam Mickiewicz University. Żurkiewicz said the evidence suggests the people buried in this cemetery, located on what is now the border between Ukraine and Moldova, were nomads who built monumental burial mounds. One mound in particular contained the remains of a man who stood over six feet tall. “This is not a typical height for the contemporary community. The man had to stand out with his stature,” Żurkiewicz explained. His body had been placed on a woven mat in a rectangular pit with a wooden roof that was covered with four limestone slabs. Analysis of the man’s bones suggests that he died between 35 and 50 years of age, and that he suffered from spinal degeneration, perhaps brought on by frequent horseback riding. To read about another group of nomads, go to "Rites of the Scythians."

Nineteenth-Century Boston Reflected in Privy’s Artifacts

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS— reports that an excavation in the Washington Garden at Boston’s Old North Church has recovered artifacts reflecting the lives of English, Irish, Jewish, and Italian immigrants in the nineteenth century. City archaeologist Joseph Bagley said that the artifacts, which include pottery, toys, a clay pipe emblazoned with a shamrock, wooden clothespins, animal bones, religious figurines, and medicine bottles were recovered from a tenement privy. To read about another discovery in a privy, go to "World’s Oldest Pretzels."

Lime Kiln May Have Supplied Construction of Brick Palace

CHELMSFORD, ENGLAND—Essex Live reports that the archaeological investigation of a proposed development site in eastern England has uncovered a lime kiln thought to have been used between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Lime produced in the kiln by burning limestone or chalk would have been used in mortar, concrete, and plaster. The excavation team, made up of researchers from AECOM and Oxford Archaeology East, suggests that the kiln may have provided supplies for Henry VIII’s renovation of a nearby estate, which he called the Palace of Beaulieu. The building is now known as New Hall and is occupied by a school. For more on archaeology in England, go to "The Prisoners of Richmond Castle."

Thursday, September 15

Traces of Bronze Age Cheese Production Unearthed in Denmark

SILKEBORG, DENMARK—Science Nordic reports that archaeologists found a 3,000-year-old clay pot in central Jutland that appears to have been discarded after a recipe burned. Kaj F. Rasmussen of Museum Silkeborg said that the pot, found intact in a waste pit, contained a white-yellow crust, rather than the black, burned starch that is usually found in ancient cooking pots. A sample of the residue was analyzed with mass spectrometry by Mads Chr. Christensen of the Danish National Museum. The results suggest that the crusty substance was burned bovine fat, perhaps curds from making hard cheese. “I cannot help but wonder if someone had a guilty conscience. It’s well and truly burnt and must have smelt terrible,” Rasmussen said. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to "Bronze Age Traveler."

New Dates May Push Back Settlement of Iceland

STÖðVARFJÖðDUR, ICELAND—Iceland Review reports that excavations in Iceland’s East Fjords, led by archaeologist Bjarni F. Einarsson, have uncovered a longhouse that has been dated to as early as the year 800, some 70 years earlier than Iceland’s first permanent Nordic settler was thought to have arrived. Bjarni explained that the longhouse was built in the Nordic style, and its location is near a good harbor facing Norway and the British Isles. He thinks the building may have served as an outpost occupied on a seasonal basis to harvest natural resources. For more, go to "Iceland’s Young Migrant." 

Peru’s Indigo-Dyed Fabric Dated to 6,200 Years Ago

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Live Science reports that Jeffrey Splitstoser of the George Washington University and Jan Wouters of University College London used high-performance liquid chromatography to detect indigo in pieces of multi-colored cotton fabric from Peru’s Huaca Prieta, a temple made of layers of a concrete-like material made from ash, shells, and sand. The oldest scrap of blue fabric is thought to be at least 6,200 years old. When the temple was excavated in 2007 and 2008, archaeologists Tom Dillehay and Duccio Bonavia found that as the temple was renovated between 6,200 and 4,000 years ago, pieces of woven cotton in bundles were sealed in the layers of concrete-like material along a ramp to the top of the structure. The blue color of the textiles appeared when conservators washed away the ash. The first chemical analyses of the samples did not detect any indigo, which produces almost all blue dye in nature, so Splitstoser contacted Wouters, who conducted tests with the more sensitive technique. “That’s when we realized that we had the world’s oldest indigo, by far,” Splitstoser said. To read about use of an early artificial blue pigment, go to "Hidden Blues."

Aphrodite Statues Discovered in Jordan

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA—Live Science reports that a team of researchers discovered two marble statues representing the goddess Aphrodite, or Venus, at Petra, the ancient Nabataean capital. The team is codirected by Tom Parker, of North Carolina State University, and Megan Perry, of East Carolina University. Working in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, the team has been excavating in a previously unexplored area of the city known as the North Ridge, where non-elite residents are thought to have lived. Most of the pieces of the Roman-style statues, which date to the second century A.D., have been recovered, and they still retain traces of paint. One of the statues is still attached to its base and a figure of Cupid. The statues were found in a first-century villa complete with a bath complex that may have been abandoned and later used for debris storage after an earthquake in A.D. 363. Coins and pottery helped the archaeologists determine that the statues were probably placed in the building late in the fourth century. “The statues were packed in pretty tight—I think that’s what preserved them in such extraordinary condition,” Parker said. For more, go to "Mystery Buildings at Petra."

Wednesday, September 14

Inscribed Scale Weight Unearthed in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL— reports that a scale weight dating to the Second Temple period has been found in the Old City, at the site where the nineteenth-century Tiferet Israel Synagogue was located. Oren Gutfield of Hebrew University said that the weight is carved with two lines of text in Aramaic, which have not been fully translated, but are said to include the family name of a high priest. The weight was found beneath a burned layer thought to represent the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Artifacts from the Ottoman, Mamluk, Byzantine, and First Temple periods have also been recovered. For more, go to "The Gates of Gath."

Roman Goddess Statuette Found on Croatian Beach

ZADAR, CROATIA—Total Croatia News reports that after a sunbather removed an uncomfortable rock from beneath her towel at Kolovare Beach and tossed it away from her, swimmers Dejan Filipčić, who studied archaeology, and Hrvoje Mijić, a geographer, picked it up. They saw that the "rock" was actually a statuette of the Roman goddess Diana thought to date to the second century A.D., when there was a Roman colony along the Dalmatian Coast. Filipčić said that fingerprints are still visible on the back of the figurine, likely left behind by the artist who made it. The figurine is missing its head, which may have broken off or been dissolved by the sea, he added. To read about more recently discovered Roman-era figurines, go to "Sun and Moon."

Aureus Discovered in Jerusalem

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA—Live Science reports that a gold coin bearing the image the Roman Emperor Nero has been discovered near the ruins of a first-century villa on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion. Archaeologist Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, said that the villa is in the priestly and aristocratic quarter in the Upper City of Jerusalem. His team has also uncovered the villa’s well-preserved rooms; a mikveh, or Jewish ritual pool; and a bathroom. Gibson thinks the coin, which dates to A.D. 56, may have been lost and the villa destroyed in A.D. 70, when the Romans sacked the city. To read about Nero's lavish imperial palace, go to "Golden House of an Emperor."