Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, June 17

Stone Fragment May Be Piece of Mycenaean Throne

ATHENS, GREECE—Archaeologist Christofilis Maggidis of Dickinson College claims that a piece of worked limestone unearthed at an archaeological site in southern Greece two years ago could be a fragment of the throne of the rulers of Mycenae. The stone in question was recovered from a streambed under the remains of a hilltop Mycenaean palace that collapsed during an earthquake around 1200 B.C. The Greek Ministry of Culture agrees with a study suggesting that the artifact was part of a stone basin. Maggidis says, however, that the porous stone, which has not been found anywhere else in the palace, could not have held liquids, and was shaped for sitting. A similar type of stone was used in the citadel’s defensive walls, and in beehive tombs. “In our opinion, this is one of the most emblematic and significant finds from the Mycenaean era,” he said at a press conference reported by the Associated Press. For more, go to "The Minoans of Crete."

Archaeologists Sign Petition in Support of Utah Monument

SAN JUAN COUNTY, UTAH—Utah Public Radio reports that the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Uintah and Ouray Ute, and Zuni tribal nations have proposed a 1.9 million acre national monument to protect the Bears Ears region of southeastern Utah, where the Basketmaker Culture was discovered. More than 700 archaeologists have signed a letter from Friends of Cedar Mesa to President Obama in support of the proposal. The letter also expresses concern about looting and vandalism at sensitive archaeological sites in the area. Josh Ewing, executive director of Friends of Cedar Mesa, says the San Juan County area is home to more than 100,000 archaeological sites, including cliff dwellings, rock art panels, and burials. “Archaeologists have been advocating for the protection of these cultural resources for 113 years now,” he said. For more on archaeology in this area, go to "Archaeology, Off-Road Vehicles, and the BLM."

Ancient Technique Produces Highly Fertile Soil

SUSSEX, ENGLAND—An international team of researchers led by James Fairhead of the University of Sussex found that an ancient West African method of improving poor soils could help today’s farmers boost crop production in the age of climate change. UPI reports that for a period of at least 700 years, West African farmers enriched rain forest soils with ash, bone, and kitchen waste to produce what the team calls “African Dark Earths.” They detected 200 to 300 percent more organic carbon in the samples of African Dark Earths collected in Ghana and Liberia than in untreated soil. “Mimicking this ancient method has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of people living in some of the most poverty- and hunger-stricken regions in Africa,” Fairhead said. For more on archaeology in West Africa, go to "The Nok of Nigeria."

Thursday, June 16

Nineteenth-Century Grave Looted in Indiana

HARRISON COUNTY, INDIANA—Archaeologists with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources assisted Indiana conservation officers with the investigation of a looted grave in rural Indiana. The grave, located on private land, belonged to Nancy Brown, who died in 1881 at the age of 47. “We teamed up with our state archaeologist and went to the site and needless to say we found a pretty disturbing scene,” conservation officer Jim Schreck said in a report by Wave 3 News. He thinks that multiple people were involved in carrying tools to the remote site and exhuming the grave. Investigators are now looking for Brown’s living relatives with the help of the Harrison County Public Library Genealogy Department. For more on archaeology of nineteenth-century America, go to "Mr. Jefferson’s Laboratory."

Possible Homo Erectus Footprints Found in East Africa

ROME, ITALY—The Local, Italy, reports that archaeologists from Sapienza University have discovered fossilized footprints in Eritrea that may have been made by Homo erectus some 800,000 years ago. The individual may have been stalking a gazelle-like animal whose footprints were also preserved in the trackway. “Their age is yet to be confirmed with certainty, but footprints will reveal a lot about the evolution of man, because they provide vital information about our ancestors’ gait and locomotion,” said lead archaeologist Alfredo Coppa. The footprints are thought to have been made along the shores of a large lake, and were probably filled with water, then eventually dried out and buried. The remains of five or six Homo erectus individuals have also been found in the area. For more on ancient footprints, go to "Proof in the Prints."

Divers Survey Greece’s Antikythera Shipwreck

ATHENS, GREECE—Greek and American archaeologists recovered some 60 artifacts, including a bronze spear that is thought to have been part of a statue, four fragments of marble statues, and a gold ring, during a recent survey of the Antikythera shipwreck. Located off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera, the first-century B.C. shipwreck was discovered by sponge divers in 1900. The Associated Press reports that the team did not recover any additional pieces of the Antikythera Mechanism, but they will continue to look for pieces of the device, whose bronze gears and plates are thought to have been used to track the position of the sun, the phases of the moon, the positions of the planets, and the timing of eclipses. For more, go to "Greece's Biggest Tomb."

Wednesday, June 15

Agents Raid Jerusalem Souvenir Store

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL—Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) agents confiscated bronze arrowheads, 2,000-year-old coins, perfume vessels, and other ancient artifacts during the raid of a souvenir store in an upscale Jerusalem mall that was lacking a proper license. The Times of Israel reports that earlier this year, the IAA mandated licensed dealers of antiquities use a digitized inventory system and upload detailed descriptions of their items for sale into an IAA database. According to the IAA, the new system should prevent licensed dealers from “laundering” artifacts acquired illegally and manipulating inventories. Eitan Klein, deputy head of the IAA's theft prevention unit, said that before the new regulations were implemented “it was abundantly clear that in order to supply the merchandise antiquities sites in Israel and around the world were being plundered and history was sold to the highest bidder.” For more on archaeology in Israel, go to "Autumn of the Master Builder."

Who Was Buried in Egypt’s KV55?

LUXOR, EGYPT—Funded with a grant from the American Research Center in Egypt Endowment Fund, Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities will begin the second phase of a study to identify a sarcophagus found in tomb KV55 in the Valley of the Kings in 1906. The results of the first phase of the study suggested that a box of 500 gold sheets, found in a storage room at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, may belong to the KV55 sarcophagus. Ahram Online reports that the remains of a skull and a note written in French were found along with the box. Elham Salah, head of the ministry’s Museums Department, says the note is dated to the time of the discovery of tomb KV55, and it states that the gold sheets were discovered with a sarcophagus. For more, go to "Egypt’s Immigrant Elite."

Family Burial Plot Unearthed in Indiana Roadway

AMITY, INDIANA—The remains of two women, a man, and four children have been recovered from a family plot in the middle of a road in rural central Indiana. The Associated Press reports that a team of archaeologists from the University of Indianapolis were investigating the area ahead of the expansion of the road when they found the graves. All but one of them were thought to have been moved in the early 1900s when the road was constructed. Nancy Kerlin Barnett’s grandson is said to have defended her 1831 grave with a shotgun. “As it stands right now, it looks at least in the immediate area by where we feel like where the Nancy Kerlin Barnett grave was, nothing was removed,” said archaeologist Christopher Schmidt. The road remains closed while the investigation continues. For more on archaeology in the Midwest, go to "Mississippian Burning."

Rare Skara Brae Figurine Rediscovered in Scotland

STROMNESS, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Orcadian, a figurine unearthed on the largest of the Orkney Islands in the 1860s has been rediscovered in a box at Stromness Museum. Dubbed the “Skara Brae Buddo,” the figurine had been packed away among artifacts from Skaill House, a historic manor overlooking the Neolithic site of Skara Brae, since the 1930s. The 5,000-year-old figurine, carved from a piece of whalebone, was originally found in the remains of a house in the Neolithic village. Modern scholars only knew of the sculpture, which has eyes and a mouth cut in its face and a navel in its body, from a sketch in the nineteenth-century notebooks kept by antiquarian George Petrie. Researchers think the holes in the carving may have been used to suspend it. For more, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart."