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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, April 19

Stone Age Well Discovered in Czech Republic

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC—According to a report in the Prague Monitor, a research team led by archaeologist Tomas Chlup has found a 7,000-year-old well at the site of a large Linear Pottery culture settlement. The team has been working at the site, located in the country’s Central Bohemian Region, since 2006. So far, they have uncovered traces of 19 wooden longhouses that stood on pillars. “We have a rare opportunity to study the everyday life of the first farmers in our country,” Chlup said. To read more about wells dating to this period, go to "The Neolithic Toolkit."

Eighteenth-Century Ship Studied in Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA—The Flagship reports that experts from the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) assisted city archaeologist Francine Bromberg with the study of timbers from an eighteenth-century ship unearthed at a construction site in Alexandria late last year. “We are recording each one of the timbers so that we can learn about the ship construction and see if there are any maker’s marks or other indications of specific construction techniques,” said UAB archaeologist George Swartz. He noted that the ship had been built by hand with thousands of trunnels, or wooden pins that connected the timbers and swelled when exposed to moisture to form a watertight seal. Schwarz thinks that parts of the ship were probably reused to make buildings and furniture, while the rest was buried in a landfill to build a port for ocean-going vessels for the growing city of Alexandria in the late eighteenth century. To read about the vessel's original discovery, go to "Ship Underground."

Stone Blocks May Date to Early Days of Hatshepsut’s Reign

CARIO, EGYPT—A joint Egyptian-German team of archaeologists has recovered an additional 30 blocks from a building on Elephantine Island that dates to the beginning of the reign of Hatshepsut. Researchers say that the images of the queen on the blocks depict her as a woman, whereas in later images, she was shown as a man. The structure was a way-station for a festival barque, or sailing vessel, dedicated to the god Khnum that was dismantled in antiquity. The reused blocks were found in the foundation of Khunum’s temple, constructed by King Nectanebo II. “Although a large amount of blocks from the barque’s way-station building were found along several archaeological seasons, the blocks found this season have clarified the meanings of the other blocks,” team leader Felix Arnold of the German Archaeological Institute told Ahram Online. To read more in-depth about a recent Egyptological discovery, go to "The Cult of Amun."

Peru’s Puquios May Have Been Part of a Nazca Water System

POTENZA, ITALY—Rosa Lasaponara of the Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis and a team of researchers used satellite images to study puquios, the spiral-shaped holes thought to have been constructed between 1000 B.C. and A.D. 750 by the same people who created the Nazca geoglyphs. The distribution of the holes across the arid region, and their positions near settlements, suggests that they were part of a sophisticated hydraulic system for retrieving water from underground aquifers. Lasaponara thinks that the spiral holes funneled wind into the Nazca aqueduct system to keep the water moving. “What is really impressive is the great efforts, organization, and cooperation required for their construction and regular maintenance,” she said in BBC News. To read in-depth about a mysterious alignment not far from the Nazca geoglyphs, go to "An Overlooked Inca Wonder."

Monday, April 18

Mummified Lung Tissue Tested

HILDESHEIM, GERMANY—Raffaella Bianucci of the University of Turin led an international team of researchers in the investigation of the preserved lung found in a stone sarcophagus in the Basilica of St. Denis, Paris, in 1959. The lung was accompanied by skeletal remains, a strand of hair, jewelry, fragments of textiles and leather, and an elaborate copper belt, according to a report in Discovery News. An inscription on the ring suggested that the remains belonged to the Merovingian Queen Arnegunde, who lived in the sixth century. Bianucci said in a meeting at the International Conference of Comparative Mummy Studies that scanning electron microscopy on the lung biopsies showed a massive concentration of copper ion on the surface of the tissue. Copper oxide was also found in the lung biopsies. Low levels of benzoic acid and related compounds were also detected. “These substances are widespread in the plant kingdom and similar profiles have been already reported in the balms of Egyptian mummified bodies,” Bianucci said. The researchers think a fluid made of spices and aromatic plants was injected into the queen’s mouth and settled in her lung. Her copper alloy belt is also thought to have contributed to the organ’s preservation. To read more about forensic analysis of mummies, go to "Heart Attack of the Mummies."

Well-Preserved Roman Fortress Wall Found in Bulgaria

RUSE, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a section of fortress wall from the ancient Roman site, Sexaginta Prista, or Port of the Sixty Ships, has been found on the Danube River in the city of Ruse in northeastern Bulgaria. The section of wall dates to the fourth century A.D. and stands some 23 feet tall and 65 feet long. Archaeologists Nikola Rusev and Varbin Varbanov of the Ruse Regional Museum of History say the wall suggests that the Sexaginta Prista Fortress was larger than had been previously thought. The fortress was part of the Roman system of fortifications along the frontier known as the Limes Moesiae. To read more, go to "Rome's Earliest Fort."

Traces of Medieval Town Uncovered in Western Scotland

IRVINE, SCOTLAND—Archaeologists examined an area in Irvine, Scotland, ahead of a development project, to look for traces of the medieval royal burgh. They uncovered an oven, wells, and the skeletons of a pony and two cows that had been buried intact. “In each instance the whole articulated skeleton—two cows and a pony—was buried in an individual grave, with no apparent attempt to butcher or otherwise use the body—a practice that would have been common in medieval Scotland,” Claire Williamson of Rathmell Archaeology told Culture 24. The team also found pits lined with timber and stone that may have been used for soaking hides and making leather. The well-preserved wood suggests that water levels may have been higher at the site in the past. Archaeologists will attempt to date the timbers using dendrochronology. Medieval pottery imported from as far away as Germany and Spain dating back to the thirteenth century has also been recovered. To read in-depth about archaeology in Scotland, go to "Letter From Scotland: Living on the Edge."

Large, Possibly Intact Roman Villa Unearthed in England

LONDON, ENGLAND—A Roman villa said to be one of the largest in England has been discovered in a private yard in Wiltshire. Workmen were digging a trench for electric cables when they found a red, white, and blue mosaic floor, so the landowner called the local government office. The New York Times reports that experts from the Salisbury Museum and Historic England uncovered coins, jewelry, pottery, a well, heating pipes, and the shells of hundreds of oysters and whelks. The shellfish were probably imported in barrels of salt water from the coast. The main structure is thought to have been a three-story tall building with as many as 25 rooms on its ground floor. The villa’s outbuildings are also expected to be found at the site. “The site has not been touched since its collapse 1,400 years ago, and so it’s of extreme importance,” said archaeologist David Roberts of Historic England. To read in-depth about a Roman villa recently unearthed in France, go to "France's Roman Heritage."

Friday, April 15

Missing “Flying Machine” Patent Recovered

WASHINGTON, D.C.—According to a report in LiveScience, the 1903 patent paperwork for the Wright brothers’ “Flying Machine” has been recovered from a special records storage cave in Lenexa, Kansas. The file includes a diagram of the flying machine, the petition for patent approval, the patent registry form, and the brothers’ patent oath. The missing documents had been part of a 1979 exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, and had been marked returned to the National Archives in 1980, but archivists were unable to locate the file in a vault of precious documents in Washington in 2000. They have been looking for the file ever since. “Unfortunately, with billions of pieces of paper, things sometimes go where they shouldn’t be,” said National Archives and Records Administration Chief Operating Officer William J. Bonsanko said in a report in The Washington Post. The historic documents had been filed with the brothers’ other, less famous patents, and placed in the storage cave. For more on the archaeology of airplanes, go to "Last Flight of a Tuskegee Airman."

Italian Police Recover Possibly Looted Artifacts

ENNA, SICILY—Italian police officers who were searching a man’s home for arms and ammunition recovered more than 250 objects thought to be ancient Greek artifacts dating to between the fifth and second centuries B.C. The artifacts may have come from archaeological sites in central and southern Sicily, and some of the objects are encrusted with salt, suggesting that they came from the sea. “It’s likely that they were ready to be put on the black market,” Gabriele Presti, head of the investigation team, said in a report by BBC News. To read in-depth about archaeology in Sicily, go to "The Fight for Ancient Sicily."

Anglo-Saxon Cemetery, Neolithic Pits Found in England

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—An Anglo-Saxon cemetery, Neolithic pits, and what may be two Early Bronze Age round barrows have been found on land used as a place for re-shoeing warhorses during World War I and as a training ground for use of anti-tank weapons during World War II. The land, located in the village of Bulford, is currently being developed as a residential area for army personnel. A team from Wessex Archaeology has recovered spears, knives, jewelry, and bone combs from the well-organized Anglo-Saxon cemetery, dated to between A.D. 660 and 780. “It contained the graves of women, men, and children and was clearly the burial ground for a local community—perhaps that of Bulford’s earliest families. It included a number of re-used graves, a rare occurrence at this time, which may have held members of the same family,” Si Cleggett of Wessex Archaeology said in a report in Culture 24. The Neolithic pits have yielded grooved-ware pottery, stone and flint axes, a disc-shaped flint knife, a chalk bowl, and the bones of deer and extinct cattle. For more, go to "Anglo-Saxon Jewelry Box."

Ancient Mass Grave Discovered Near Athens

ATHENS, GREECE—Regional archaeological services director Stella Chryssoulaki of the Greek Ministry of Culture announced that archaeologists discovered two mass graves containing the lined-up skeletons of 80 men in an ancient cemetery at a construction site near Athens. The men are thought to have been young and healthy, due to the condition of their teeth. The hands of 36 of the men had been bound with iron. Some of them had been buried on their backs, while others were on their stomachs. Two vases found with the skeletons date to the mid seventh century B.C., “a period of great political turmoil in the region,” according to the Ministry statement reported by the AFP. Greece’s Central Archaeological Council is planning further investigations of the site. For more, go to "Greece's Biggest Tomb," which was one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.