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From the Trenches

Aftermath of War


Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Germany Gold CoinsAmong the many things that seemingly disappeared during the chaotic end of World War II were 217 gold coins recently rediscovered by a metal detectorist who alerted archaeologists to the find. The coins date to between 1831 and 1910 and had been placed in two sacks closed with official bank seals, and then hidden at least three feet underground. Archaeologist Edgar Ring of the Lüneburg Museum thinks they may have been stolen from the local branch of the Deutsche Reichsbank, the Nazi-era central bank. “So far we can only speculate how the sacks came to the site and why they weren’t picked up,” says Ring.

Mysterious Golden Sacrifice


Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Korea Gold EarringsArchaeologists excavating the Geumgwanchong (“Gold Crown”) tomb in Gyeongju in the Korean province of North Gyeongsang have discovered an extremely rare pair of gold earrings dating to the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to A.D. 935). “Although Koreans have found hundreds of Silla-era gold earrings in tombs that belonged to noblemen and noblewomen,” according to Dae-hwan Kim of the National Museum of Korea’s archaeology and history department, “the composition, forms, and patterns on these earrings have never been seen.” The Geumgwanchong tomb was constructed between the fifth and early sixth centuries, and is the site where the first Silla gold crown was uncovered when the tomb was originally excavated in 1921.


Archaeologists are also intrigued by the fact that the earrings likely belonged to a male—Silla men often wore thin earrings, while women wore thicker ones—who was a victim of human sacrifice, a common custom in ancient Korea. The identity of the Geumgwanchong tomb’s owner remains one of the most enduring mysteries in Korean archaeology. Researchers have found items, including a sword with engraved letters reading “King Yisaji,” but there is no mention of him in existing Silla records.

Lake George's Unfinished Fort


Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Lake George Fort


Archaeologists working near upstate New York’s Lake George have uncovered ruins from a partially constructed British fort that was once planned to be their largest in North America. Due to its key location along the waterways connecting New York and Canada, Lake George played a crucial role in the eighteenth-century French and Indian War and, later, the Revolutionary War. The lake and its forts, including Ticonderoga and William Henry, were the sites of pivotal clashes between French and British troops, described famously in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. In 1759, British general Jeffrey Amherst ordered the construction of a massive new fort, Fort George, on a rise overlooking the lake’s southern shore. However, after Amherst’s troops captured the French Fort Carillon (renamed Ticonderoga) later that year, work on Fort George ceased, with only one large corner bastion having been completed. Even so, both British and American soldiers used the site for more than two decades.


The current archaeological investigation, directed by David Starbuck of Plymouth State University and researchers from SUNY Adirondack, is searching beyond the old fort’s known ruins, now part of a public park. “Although the scenic ruins of Fort George are an annual attraction for hundreds of thousands of summer visitors, until recently there was no awareness of what else might have survived,” says Starbuck. The team discovered sections of a stone wall, measuring at least six feet high and five feet thick, along with the remains of underground casement rooms used for the storage of supplies and munitions. Artifacts such as tin-glazed earthenware pottery, buttons, butchered bones, and musket balls are helping to reveal what life was like for the provincial colonial-era soldier. The fort’s masonry also betrays the change in British mentality regarding fortifications in the area. “Most of these frontier forts were ephemeral and built to last only a season or two,” says Starbuck. “Only the ruins of Fort George reveal that a British garrison had built more permanent walls, perhaps hoping that they might better survive the next artillery bombardment from French attackers.”

Last Flight of a Tuskegee Airman


Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Bell Airacobra


The wreckage of a Bell P-39 Airacobra in Lake Huron—last flown on a 1944 training mission by 2nd Lt. Frank Moody—was examined recently by a team led by Wayne Lusardi, Michigan’s state maritime archaeologist. Moody, who died in the crash, was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the U.S. military’s first group of African-American aviators. This is the first archaeological documentation of the wreckage, which was found last year. Lusardi’s team included divers from the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Diving with a Purpose (DWP), a nonprofit dedicated to maritime history and archaeology involving African Americans. Five DWP members came from across the country to help with the project, and held a brief service for Moody aboard the dive boat. For more about the underwater archaeology of Lake Huron, see “Shipwreck Alley” (January/February 2015).


Trenches Airacobra Instrument Panel Running Light

Slinky Nordic Treasures


Monday, October 05, 2015

Trenches Denmark Gold Spirals


Archaeologists have excavated a cluster of unusual gold spirals at a site in the Zealand region of eastern Denmark. Researchers from the Danish National Museum found 2,000 of the delicate, spring-like artifacts in a pair of concentrated deposits, preserved under layers of plowed soil.


Flemming Kaul of the Danish National Museum says that it is not clear what the spirals meant or were used for, but that their purpose was probably ritualistic. Approximately 300 of them were found close to pitch fragments that suggest they had been placed in a wooden votive container. They date to the Nordic Late Bronze Age, between 900 and 700 B.C., when the local culture worshipped a sun god, according to Kaul.


In the nineteenth century, carved gold vessels were found at the site, and two years ago amateurs found gold bracelets nearby. The finds suggest that the region was a center of wealth. “We regard this area, the gold-richest area of Scandinavia,” Kaul says, “as a center for rituals and for religion.”