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World Roundup

January/February 2014

  • California-pot-farmsCALIFORNIA: Southern exposure, warm weather, and access to water made for a great site to establish a village in Humboldt County 1,000 years ago. Unfortunately, they are also the attributes of successful marijuana farms today—last year, the county sheriff’s office found more than 4,000. One, near Bridgeville, disrupted a Native American site that could be more than a millennium old, and the same may be the case with other farms. Officers are looking to tribes and archaeologists to learn what they should keep an eye out for on future busts. —Samir S. Patel

  • Chile-Rapa-Nui-Easter-IslandCHILE: To many, island cuisine means seafood—but not for Rapa Nui (Easter Island). According to a new study of isotopes in teeth excavated there, early people there never made significant use of the fish, shellfish, and marine mammals. Rather, their diet consisted heavily of rats, chickens, and plants such as tubers and bananas. In fact, the rats that are thought to have contributed to the island’s deforestation may have been brought by settlers as a source of food. —Samir S. Patel

  • Mexico-Uxul-jade-teethMEXICO: At the site of Uxul, excavators have uncovered the remains of 24 war captives dismembered 1,400 years ago. The remains had been placed in an artificial well and then sealed up, resulting in excellent preservation. They were not buried with offerings, though jade ornaments embedded in the teeth of five of them suggest they were of high status, perhaps soldiers or nobles from local kingdoms. Only part of the well has been excavated—many more bodies may still be found. —Samir S. Patel

  • Kentucky-Pepper-Crow-bourbonKENTUCKY: Elijah Pepper, his son Oscar, and James Crow are credited by historians with perfecting Kentucky bourbon in the 19th century. Bourbon is still made in some of their buildings today, and archaeologists are excavating some of the others, including what might have been a kitchen and slave quarters. Among the finds are toys such as marbles and doll parts, kitchen and dining ware, and a copper condensing coil and metal gauge used in the distillation process. —Samir S. Patel

  • Peru-Huaca-Pucllana-Wari-tombPERU: At the ceremonial complex of Huaca Pucllana in the heart of Lima, archaeologists have discovered an intact tomb containing two mummy bundles wrapped inside tightly coiled lantana-leaf rope. After decades of excavation, more than 65 burials have been found at the site, but only a handful were undisturbed. The mummies, an adult and a child, belong to the Wari culture that dominated the area between A.D. 450 and 1000. Archaeologists believe the child was sacrificed as a ritual offering. —Samir S. Patel

  • England-frogs-legs-Blick-MeadENGLAND: Frogs’ legs have long been associated with the French, but new excavations at the Mesolithic site of Blick Mead, near Stonehenge, show that the English partook of the amphibian delicacy long before there was such a thing as French cuisine. A burned toad’s or frog’s leg—found among bones of eel, salmon, trout, aurochs, boar, and deer—is the oldest known evidence of a cooked frog’s leg, dating to between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. —Samir S. Patel

  • Germany-chain-mail-Battle-of-HarzhornGERMANY: Fragments of rusted chain mail are providing insight into a great battle between Roman and Germanic forces in the 3rd century. The pieces of armor, which were uncovered near the edge of the site of the Battle at the Harzhorn, would have been worn by a Roman soldier. Scientists speculate that fellow soldiers may have removed the mail to tend to a fallen warrior’s wounds, or that Germanic warriors left the armor to commemorate an event during the pitched battle. —Samir S. Patel

  • Norway-Melsvik-chert-quarry-bonfiresNORWAY: It can be hard to mine stone for making tools when your mining implements are also made of stone. At the Melsvik chert quarry, early Mesolithic people likely used a more efficient technique for extracting stone from the dense deposit—small bonfires to create temperature differentials high enough to crack the rock. Archaeologists conducted experiments that confirm that the method works—the cracking rock sounded like popping corn—and makes extraction features similar to ones observed elsewhere at the site. —Samir S. Patel

  • Lebanon-shell-beads-AfricaLEBANON: New dating of shell beads casts doubt on the traditional theory that humans first made their way out of Africa and into Europe by going through the Near East. The beads come from a site where human remains were excavated decades ago and then were subsequently lost. They date to around 42,000 years ago, roughly the same time that modern humans appear in Europe. The fact that there appears to be no lag between humans arriving in different places suggests there might have been more than one route out of Africa. —Samir S. Patel

  • Indonesia-Samalas-volcano-Lombok-IslandINDONESIA: Medieval chronicles cite 1258 as a bad year, when a cold, rainy summer led to flooding and terrible harvests. Ice core data point to a volcanic eruption as the cause, but despite decades of looking, volcanologists have yet to finger a culprit. New radiocarbon dates and geological data now point to Samalas volcano on Lombok Island. Samalas, whose eruption might have buried Pamalas, capital of the Lombok kingdom, now stands beside Toba (around 70,000 years ago), Tambora (1815), and Krakatau (1883) as Indonesian volcanoes that disrupted climate worldwide. —Samir S. Patel



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