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From the Trenches

Living the Good Afterlife

By ERIC A. POWELL

Monday, December 07, 2015

Trenches Cyprus Gold WreathArchaeologists are getting a new look at how the other half lived in Classical-era Cyprus thanks to artifacts unearthed at a 2,400-year-old necropolis on the island’s northern coast. Discovered during construction of a pipeline, the tombs were near the ancient city of Soloi, a leading supplier of copper and timber for the Athenian navy. The remains of three adults and two young girls were found in two unlooted chambers. The grave goods that accompany them suggest that the Athenian trade was prosperous. “This was a rich aristocratic family,” says Ankara University archaeologist Hazar Kaba, who analyzed the artifacts. “Even the children were adorned with elaborate funerary jewelry.”

 

Many objects discovered in the tombs, including a delicate gold wreath shaped like an ivy plant, and 16 bronze and silver vessels, were from Greece. A figurine depicting Aphrodite and her son Eros was made locally but in the Athenian style, suggesting to Kaba that artisans from Athens may have been living in Soloi. Other artifacts came from Anatolia to the north and the Achaemenid Empire to the east. “While the majority of the goods used by these aristocrats were imported from Greece, it was exciting to see that a large amount of Cypriot and Eastern goods were also present,” says Kaba. “All this evidence points to a way of living that was combining Greek, Cypriot, and Eastern customs and culture together.”

Finding Parker’s Revenge

By JASON URBANUS

Monday, December 07, 2015

Trenches Massachusetts Parker s RevengeArchaeologists working in Lexington, Massachusetts, are investigating the little-known site of Parker’s Revenge, a small yet important skirmish that took place in the opening hours of the Revolutionary War. On April 19, 1775, tensions between Massachusetts colonists and the British army finally broke out in bloodshed at Lexington Green, as a battalion of 700 British regulars fired on as many as 77 local militiamen led by Captain John Parker. The redcoats, who had marched that morning from Boston, were headed to the neighboring village of Concord to destroy a cache of colonial military supplies. As they undertook their 17-mile journey back to Boston, matters quickly turned nightmarish as thousands of colonial militia from the surrounding countryside lined the road and began to attack the retreating column. The British faced particularly heavy fire from a rocky hillside overlooking the road. This engagement is now known as Parker’s Revenge, in which the Lexington captain rallied his troops after the morning’s defeat to ambush the unsuspecting British.

 

Trenches Massachusetts Musket BallThe Parker’s Revenge Archaeological Project has been working at the 44-acre site in Minute Man National Historical Park to reconstruct the events and landscape of the eighteenth-century encounter. They have employed a number of archaeological methods, including excavation, geophysical survey, 3-D laser scanning, and metal detection. Relying on the principles associated with battlefield archaeology, researchers are using retrieved musket balls, both dropped and fired, to determine the location of the combatants and the intensity of the fighting. “What we have found to date is very significant,” says project archaeologist Meg Watters. “Due to the location and spatial patterning of the musket balls recovered, we now know the exact place where individuals were standing during the battle.” This will allow archaeologists to begin to paint a much clearer picture of what happened that day.

Denmark’s Bog Dogs

By ZACH ZORICH

Monday, December 07, 2015

Trenches Denmark Bog Dog

 

A salvage excavation at the site of a new housing development near Aarhus, Denmark, has revealed the remains of sacrificial victims, including a headless woman and eight dogs, who were dropped into a bog more than 2,000 years ago. Per Mandrup of Denmark’s Moesgaard Museum led the excavation. While the bodies of humans preserved in bogs have received a lot of scholarly attention, less is known about dogs. “It’s always surprising to find so many dogs and also find a human,” says Mandrup. “It was the jackpot.” The dogs appear to have been a breed similar to border collies that was probably used for sheep herding. Leashes were found with some of the dogs, but how they were killed is not known. Other sacrifices have been found in another nearby bog, including burned human bones, iron weapons, and 13 more dog skeletons. According to Mandrup, “We can see there was a lot of sacrifice in that area, which is not normal.”

Leftover Mammoth

By ERIC A. POWELL

Monday, December 07, 2015

Trenches Michigan MammothWhile installing a drainage pipe in his wheat field, a Michigan farmer was surprised to unearth a section of mammoth pelvis. A team led by University of Michigan paleontologist Daniel Fisher then excavated there and recovered 20 percent of the animal’s bones, including its skull and tusks. Fisher notes that the bones were arranged in the correct anatomical order, which means they likely never lay on the surface, exposed to the elements and scavengers. He thinks that’s because the mammoth was probably butchered by humans, who then stored some of the meat in a pond for future use. Boulders found near the skull might have been used to help weigh down the carcass. “Maybe something happened to the people, or maybe they didn’t need the meat,” says Fisher. “But for whatever reason, they never came back.” 

Buddha Stands Tall

By HYUNG-EUN KIM

Monday, December 07, 2015

Trenches Korea Buddha StatueKorean archaeologists have uncovered a ninth-century Buddhist statue from the Unified Silla period (A.D. 676–935) at a temple site in Yangyang County, Gangwon Province. The statue is the largest known Buddha from the era, and also one of the most intricately decorated from the entire Silla Dynasty (57 B.C.–A.D. 935). The gilt-bronze Buddha measures about 16 inches in height, but when the statue is assembled as a complete set, with the mandorla (halo) on top and pedestal on the bottom, it is taller than 20 inches, say researchers at the Hanbit Institute of Cultural Properties. Buddhist statues from this era are usually about half that size. It is also very rare to find gilt-bronze Buddhist statues in Korea that include the mandorla and pedestal.

 

Researchers say the way the figure is holding the kundika (the water vessel used in Buddhist ceremonies) is also unusual. The vessel is held by its handle, whereas in most images of Buddha, the figures are holding the vessel by its long neck or mouth. Scholars are currently studying the statue further, and given its artistic and academic value, they expect it to be designated a state treasure.

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