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From the Trenches

Man Meets Dog, Both Meet Death

By ROGER ATWOOD

Monday, October 17, 2016

Trenches Peru Dog BurialDogs often turn up in ancient Peruvian graves, buried to accompany their masters into the afterlife. But the recent discovery of 138 canine skeletons points to mass sacrifice on a scale never seen before in Peru. The dogs—big and small, and of various breeds—were found between 2012 and 2014 in two mounds at Parque de las Leyendas, a zoo and park complex in Lima. Some had been wrapped in textiles and woven reeds. The mounds also held the remains of 134 people, most between the ages of 20 and 40, many showing skull trauma, fractures, and other signs of violence. What does all this carnage mean? The people and the dogs were all buried around A.D. 1000, a time of cultural flux, says the park’s archaeology director, Lucenida Carrión. The Andean highland order that had dominated the area for centuries was giving way to a coastal culture known as Ychsma, a shift discerned from changing pottery styles and mortuary practices. “There was clearly trauma associated with this, and it happened at a time of great change,” says Carrión. She adds that it is still unclear whether the people died in war, with the dogs then sacrificed and buried with them.

Shifting Sands

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

Monday, October 17, 2016

Trenches Hawaii Waianae Petroglyphs

 

At least 17 petroglyphs, created more than 400 years ago by the aboriginal inhabitants of the Waianae Coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, were only briefly revealed in July 2016. The petroglyphs had been carved into a flat slab of stone on the shore, and are usually covered by sand. A shift in the sand exposed them for a few days, but archaeologists from the State Historic Preservation Division and the U.S. Army are thinking about how to protect them the next time they appear.

The Blood of the King

By DANIEL WEISS

Monday, October 17, 2016

Trenches Belgium King Albert Leaves

 

Belgium’s King Albert I was found dead at the foot of a cliff in the Ardennes region one night in February 1934. The official story holds that the avid mountaineer fell while climbing solo, but conspiracy theorists have long suspected he had been murdered or committed suicide elsewhere, and was transported there. Genetic testing of blood on leaves—taken as souvenirs by people who mobbed the site after his death—may have ruled these scenarios out.

 

In 2013, a journalist purchased some of these leaves, which had been mounted, and turned them over to researchers, who established that they were indeed stained with human blood. A team led by Maarten Larmuseau of the University of Leuven found that genetic material in the blood matches that of two of Albert’s living relatives, one from each side of his family. Researchers believe that his blood would not have gotten onto the leaves unless he had fallen, which, alongside archival evidence, undermines the conspiracy theories. “There were no witnesses, so we will never know the truth,” says Larmuseau. “But the most likely hypothesis is that he just fell.”

China’s Legendary Flood

By DANIEL WEISS

Monday, October 17, 2016

Trenches China Jishi GorgeEarly Chinese histories tell of a hero named Yu the Great who founded the Xia Dynasty, the country’s first. According to legend, the region had been plagued by floods for decades, and Yu rose to prominence for taming them. Little sign of these floods had been found until recently, when a team of researchers reported evidence of a massive deluge of the Yellow River around 4,000 years ago.

 

The researchers, led by Qinglong Wu of Peking University, found that a landslide caused by an earthquake created a natural dam some 650 feet high at the upper reaches of the river. After building up for six to nine months, water broke through, resulting in a “Great Flood,” one of the biggest of the last 10,000 years, says Darryl Granger, a geologist at Purdue University. He adds that the inundation would have extended more than 1,000 miles downstream and overwhelmed and rerouted the river’s network of tributaries, leading to years of uncontrolled annual flooding.

 

Trenches China Lajia SkeletonsTo estimate the date of the initial flood, which could also help date the dynasty, the researchers looked at Lajia, a downstream Neolithic settlement thought to have been destroyed by the same earthquake that set off the landslide. Human remains at the settlement were dated to around 1920 B.C. Solid evidence of the Xia Dynasty in the region remains to be uncovered, explains archaeologist David Cohen of National Taiwan University, but “if its founding is really tied to the control of a Great Flood, now for the first time we have a candidate for such a large flood.”

And They’re Off!

By JARRETT A. LOBELL

Monday, October 17, 2016

Trenches Cyprus Hippodrome Mosaic

 

Archaeologists at Akaki, about 20 miles from the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, have uncovered a rare mosaic depicting a horse-racing venue known as a hippodrome. The work, one of fewer than 10 extant ancient mosaics on the subject in the world, was likely part of a lavish villa from the fourth century A.D., when the Romans controlled Cyprus. The villa site so far measures more than 36 feet long and 13 feet wide, though it may well be much larger. Although horse races were some of the most important spectacles staged by the emperor, they are an especially unusual artistic subject in the eastern Mediterranean. Notably, above each four-wheeled chariot are inscribed two names, which Cyprus Department of Antiquities archaeologist Fryni Hadjichristofi believes belong to the charioteer and one of the horses.

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