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A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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World Roundup

Jan/Feb 2018

  • World Roundup ArizonaARIZONA: Canyon Creek in eastern Arizona was one of the turquoise sources exploited by pre-Columbian indigenous groups, but it has long been considered insignificant. A new study of the area, however, has shown that the mines were actually a major supplier of the bluish-green mineral during the 13th and 14th centuries, when turquoise was exported to sites as far as 80 miles away. Lead isotope analysis of samples indicates that Canyon Creek turquoise is unique, making it distinguishable from other sources in the Southwest. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup CanadaCANADA: Nearly 60 years after it disappeared, one of the models of Canada’s most legendary jet fighter, the Avro Arrow, has been discovered by an ROV in Lake Ontario. The technologically advanced plane was developed in the 1950s, but the program was suddenly scrapped in 1959, and all existing aircraft and blueprints were destroyed. The 12-foot-long, 10-foot-wide, smallscale test model had been launched over the lake to determine its flight worthiness and improve the Arrow’s final design. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup BelizeBELIZE: Ball games were an important sociopolitical aspect of Maya society, with communities often playing one another. Two carved stone panels depicting ballplayers from the site of Tipan Chen Uitz seem to commemorate one famous competition that occurred there between A.D. 600 and 800. One of the players stands beside a large ball, wears a protective belt, and holds a stafflike object in his hand. The hieroglyphic inscription identifies him as “Waterscroll Ocelot.” He most likely competed for the home team. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup GuernseyGUERNSEY: Archaeologists are baffled by a 14th-century burial on Chapelle Dom Hue, a small islet once used as a monastic retreat. Because the grave was so well constructed, researchers initially believed it belonged to a human and were shocked when they encountered the bones of a porpoise. Although these marine mammals were eaten during medieval times, it is not known why the remains were buried in such a careful matter, suggesting perhaps that the porpoise had some kind of religious significance. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup GermanyGERMANY: One of Europe’s oldest battlefields is located in northeast Germany’s Tollense River Valley. Around 3,250 years ago, a clash involving some 2,000 warriors left a mile-long stretch of the river littered with weapons and dead bodies. Recent isotopic analysis of tooth enamel was able to narrow down the geographic origins of the combatants. While one group was local to the region, scientists determined that a second group was made up of diverse individuals who had traveled from southern Germany or central Europe to join the battle. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup SwedenSWEDEN: Several valuable objects unearthed at the Sandby Borg ringfort on the island of Öland may finally provide more clues about a massacre that occurred there 1,500 years ago. Several of the settlement’s inhabitants, including children, were slaughtered in the 5th century, but it is not known why. The recent discovery of a Roman gold coin, two gold rings, and Roman glass indicates that the islanders maintained close ties with the empire and were quite wealthy, which may have fostered resentment among rival communities. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup CreteCRETE: The Anavlochos massif in east central Crete had important religious significance for communities living around it thousands of years ago. Two areas with large deposits of votive material were recently uncovered near the summit. One of the deposits contained over 350 female figurines that were purposefully deposited in cracks in the bedrock throughout the first millennium b.c. Experts are still unsure why this particular spot was chosen, but they believe the statuettes were offerings left by women during religious festivals. 

  • World Roundup TunisiaTUNISIA: After seven years of searching, the long-lost submerged Roman city of Neapolis was discovered off the coast of Nabeul. Thanks to unexpectedly clear conditions, divers were able to explore the streets and buildings of the nearly 50-acre site. Amid the ruins, they counted nearly 100 tanks used to produce garum, a popular Roman fermented fish sauce of the time. Neapolis was partially destroyed by a tsunami in a.d. 365, an event recorded by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup RwandaRWANDA: Excavations have begun at a palace built by King Kigeli IV Rwabugiri in 1874. The royal residence, situated near the shore of Lake Kivu in Western Province, was often frequented by the king as he hosted feasts and celebrations. Archaeologists are hoping to learn more about the physical layout of the complex and gain insight into the activities that occurred there, as part of an effort to collect and preserve more of Rwanda’s cultural heritage. —Jason Urbanus

  • World Roundup IsraelISRAEL: A unique 7,000-year-old ceramic vessel from the site of Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley may have been used in early food rituals associated with grain storage. The site contains numerous silos that are believed to be the oldest large-scale storage containers that existed in the region at the time. Experts think the unusual pot, which is topped with red-painted clay balls and resembles a miniature silo, was used during ceremonies that preceded the placement or removal of grain. —Jason Urbanus

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