archaeology
subscribe
Special Introductory Offer!

From the Trenches

Not So Pearly Whites

By MARLEY BROWN

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trenches Italy ToothResearchers working near Lucca in northern Italy have found the oldest example of the practice of filling dental cavities, according to Stefano Benazzi of the University of Bologna. Using microscopic techniques, Benazzi and his team determined that two 13,000-year-old front teeth that belonged to a late Pleistocene hunter-gatherer were manipulated with a handheld tool. The Ice Age dentist drilled to remove decaying material within the pulp chambers of the teeth and replaced it with a natural antiseptic paste containing bitumen, vegetal fibers, and hair. This new evidence suggests a more sophisticated technology than previous markings that Benazzi and his colleagues found in teeth from another site in Italy, dated a thousand years earlier. Those teeth are believed to be the first known evidence of human dentistry.

Tomb Couture

By DANIEL WEISS

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trenches China Tomb Mural

 

Archaeologists in the northern Chinese city of Datong have completed excavations of a circular tomb dating to the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 907–1125) believed to belong to a husband and wife. An urn with cremated human remains was found in the middle of the tomb. The tomb’s walls feature four vividly colored mural panels that depict cranes, servants, and many articles of dress. The degree of preservation has impressed researchers. In the mural on the west wall, garments colored sky-blue, beige, bluish-gray, yellowish-brown, and pink hang from two clothing stands. One item has a green diamond pattern, with a small red flower that can still be made out at the middle of each diamond.

Renaissance Melody

By ERIC A. POWELL

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trenches France Schist PlaqueSeldom, if ever, do artifacts allow us to experience what people heard in the distant past. But a team excavating at the medieval Convent of the Jacobins in Rennes, France, recently made a discovery that brings to life a short snatch of a song that was last sung by monks in the sixteenth century. Beneath the convent’s refectory, the team found a number of schist plaques inscribed with casual etchings, including caricatures of people, medieval versions of the game of hopscotch, and personal names. Among them was an etching of four lines of diamond shapes that the archaeologists quickly recognized were musical notes representing a short melody of a plainchant, or an unaccompanied sacred song. “It’s very difficult to know just what kind of song the notes record,” says Gaëtan Le Cloirec of the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research, who led the excavation. “It’s probably a short religious song that was engraved by a Dominican monk as an exercise.” Click below to hear ancient music specialist and soprano Dominique Fontaine sing the melody.

 

 

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

By JASON URBANUS

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trenches Carnuntum Digital Rendering

 

Today, urban sports arenas are often surrounded by restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops where crowds of people gather before and after an event. New research outside the amphitheater in the Roman city of Carnuntum suggests that the same was true 2,000 years ago. Located east of Vienna, Carnuntum was once one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, although much of it is unexcavated and hidden from view. Over the past several years, Austrian archaeologists have been using high-resolution magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar to analyze the ancient city’s topography. A recent investigation detected an entire “entertainment district” surrounding Carnuntum’s suburban amphitheater. The scans revealed that the street leading to the amphitheater from the city was lined with an array of inns, shops, bakeries, and Roman “fast food” restaurants (thermopolia) that would have catered to the large crowds attending gladiatorial contests.

House Rules

By MARLEY BROWN

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trenches Oaxaca PalaceThe excavations of a royal palace complex within the site of El Palenque in Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley may provide evidence for one of the earliest central governments in the Americas, according to archaeologists Elsa Redmond and Charles Spencer of the American Museum of Natural History. The complex dates to between 300 and 100 B.C. and contains a multiuse building with a sophisticated water management system, a grand private residence, dining facilities, rooms for official functions, and ritual spaces. Radiocarbon samples and ceramics confirm the dating of the palace to a time when states associated with the Zapotec civilization were emerging in the region. To guide the research, the team studied later colonial descriptions of Aztec royal palaces. “We would not expect all the architectural details of a late Postclassic or early colonial period Aztec palace in the basin of Mexico to be the same in prehistoric Zapotec palaces,” Redmond says. “But there are some common aspects of a centralized, hierarchical, and differentiated state administration that might be present in all royal palaces of different time periods.”

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement


Advertisement