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World Roundup

July/August 2017

  • World Roundup CanadaCANADA: Excavations on Triquet Island off the British Columbian coast may affirm the generations-old oral histories of the Heiltsuk Nation. Their tradition holds that tribal ancestors once sought refuge on an unfrozen strip of land along the coast to survive the last Ice Age. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal found in a hearth indicates that human settlement on the island dates back, surprisingly, some 14,000 years, when most of Canada was covered in glaciers. The site also holds evidence of stone tool manufacture and sea mammal hunting. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup IrelandIRELAND: A previously unknown early medieval ringfort measuring 130 feet in diameter was discovered near Roscommon during a road construction project. Occupied between the 6th and 11th centuries, it served a variety of purposes over that time. Initially, it was likely home to a prominent family, but was later transformed into a jewelry workshop, an animal enclosure, and a cemetery when the original inhabitants expanded their settlement into the surrounding countryside. Around 800 burials were also identified, including 470 belonging to juveniles and infants. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup PortugalPORTUGAL: A 400,000-year-old partial skull buried in the Gruta da Aroeira cave in central Portugal is the oldest human fossil ever found in Portugal and the westernmost in Europe dating to the Middle Pleistocene. The deposit in which the cranium was embedded also contains stone tools, faunal remains, and burned bones. Because the skull displays a unique combination of physical characteristics, experts are hoping it can provide important new information about human evolution in Europe and the origins of Neanderthals. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup CorsicaCORSICA: A sanctuary dedicated to the god Mithras has been excavated at the Roman site of Mariana. Within the multiroom complex archaeologists have recovered parts of the customary relief sculpture depicting the god slaying a sacred bull, as well as bronze bells, oil lamps, and other ceramics used during religious ceremonies. Mithraism was a mystery religion that was introduced to Rome from the East and gained popularity in the late first century A.D., especially with the Roman military.  —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup AlgeriaALGERIA: Nearly 2,000 years of Algerian history is being exposed during ongoing construction of a new metro station in Martyrs Square in Algiers. Although authorities knew the site was located near the Roman port of Icosium, they were overwhelmed by the trove of artifacts, mosaics, and infrastructure belonging to the Byzantine, Ottoman, and French colonial periods. The 32,000-square-foot site was deemed so significant that the government has now adapted their plans for the metro line in order to accommodate and preserve it. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup RussiaRUSSIA: An extraordinary 23,000-year-old figurine was unearthed in the Bryansk region of western Russia alongside stone tools, painted mammoth bones, and bison remains. The tiny two-inch statuette is carved from mammoth tusk and represents a possibly pregnant woman, rendered with exaggerated proportions. She is one of only a few existing small Paleolithic sculptures known as Venus figurines, thought to embody an ancient, idealized concept of femininity. Experts believe they may have served ritual or ceremonial purposes, perhaps associated with fertility. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup IsraelISRAEL: Archaeologists recently gained new insight into the leisure activities of British soldiers stationed in Israel during WWI. The construction of a highway near Ramla uncovered a former British military barracks, which contained thousands of discarded objects dating to the period. As expected, military paraphernalia and other reflections of soldierly life were found, but workers also came across hundreds of glass liquor bottles that once held wine, beer, whiskey, and gin that had been imported from Europe to supply the troops. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup TaiwanTAIWAN: Until recently, little was known about the Spanish colony of San Salvador de Isla Hermosa, which was founded on Heping Dao in 1626. However, current work is finally exposing parts of the early settlement, including the foundations of a church or convent and an adjacent cemetery. One of the burials, an adult male with his hands folded in prayer, is believed to be the earliest European Christian-style interment in the Asia-Pacific region. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup MalaysiaMALAYSIA: An area that was once part of the moat that surrounded Fort Cornwallis in George Town proved to contain an array of artifacts dating back to the colonial era, including coins, porcelain, ceramics, plates, and glasses. The fort was originally built in 1793 at the behest of the British East India Company, and the moat was added in 1804 for extra security against a possible French attack. It was filled in during the 1920s to curb mosquito breeding during a malaria outbreak. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup New ZealandNEW ZEALAND: The site of a future convention center in Christchurch is shedding light on the lives of the city’s first European settlers. Apparently, even back then, men were concerned with hair loss. Among the hundreds of artifacts found at the site in rubbish pits and deposits dating to the mid-19th century was a container of Russian Bears Grease. The quirky pharmaceutical product purportedly aided hair growth and prevented baldness—the underlying theory being that because bears were hairy, their fat could stimulate hair growth for humans. —Jason Urbanus



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