A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
FLORIDA: Artifacts from a 19th-century African-American community were exposed when Hurricane Michael uprooted dozens of trees at the site of a fort located on the Apalachicola River. The fort was originally built by the British during the War of 1812, and became a place of refuge for thousands of freed and escaped slaves who joined the British side. Shortly after the war’s end, the U.S. Navy attacked the fort, blowing up a munitions cache inside and killing hundreds of people.
CONNECTICUT: Coins, wampum beads, and other colonial-era objects found near the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield may be associated with the earliest settlers of Connecticut’s oldest English town. Archaeologists hope that these objects, along with the remains of a 17th-century wooden palisade, will provide vital information on one of the most infamous events in the state’s history—a 1637 raid by Pequot Indians that killed several colonists and helped fuel the deadly conflict known as the Pequot War.
MEXICO: After a villager notified authorities about a cave hidden beneath the Maya site of Chichen Itza, archaeologists crawled hundreds of feet through passages that were only 16 inches high in places. In the cave, they encountered hundreds of undisturbed ritual artifacts, including incense burners depicting the rain god Tlaloc. The region experienced a severe drought toward the end of the first millennium A.D., which may have compelled the Maya to descend into the cave and entreat the gods for rain.
PERU: An archaeology student walking through the site of Castillo de Huarmey fell into a hole, accidentally discovering the tomb of a Wari metallurgist dating to around A.D. 800. The craftsman, who was approximately 20 years old when he died, was buried in a sitting position with his hands placed around a fabric bundle containing what appears to be an assortment of his favorite tools of the trade. The collection includes bronze knives, an ax, a saw, and bone-handled chisels.
ENGLAND: During the 3rd millennium B.C., Neolithic Britons held annual celebrations at sacred monuments such as Stonehenge. New research reveals that people from all over the island attended these BYOP—Bring Your Own Pig—feasts. Isotope analysis of porcine bones from several henge sites in southwestern England indicates that the pigs eaten there were not raised locally. Not only did festivalgoers travel from as far away as Scotland, northeastern England, and western Wales, they transported their own pigs with them.
FRANCE: Around 120,000 years ago, for a group of Neanderthals living in southeastern France, drastic times called for drastic measures. During a period of rapid warming, food became scarce, and, on at least one occasion, they were forced to eat their own. New insight into the Moula-Guercy Cave, where the dismembered and butchered remains of 6 individuals were found, suggests that, in the sudden absence of large mammals such as mammoth and reindeer, the meat-reliant Neanderthals were driven to cannibalism.
ISRAEL: A difficult-to-read inscription on a Roman mile marker in the Golan Heights has finally been deciphered. The inscription was found to bear the name and titles of the Roman emperor Maximinus Thrax, who ruled from A.D. 235 to 238. Among several distance markers that have been located along the Roman road outside ancient Hippos, this is the only one with any writing. Since the road was built long before the 3rd century A.D., it must have undergone substantial renovations during the emperor’s reign.
LEBANON: Between the 11th and 13th centuries, hundreds of thousands of Europeans ventured to the Near East in a campaign to reconquer the Holy Land. A new study suggests that the Crusader army may have been more diverse than originally thought. DNA sequencing of 9 soldiers who were buried together in a mass grave near Sidon in the 13th century revealed, to the researchers’ surprise, that 3 were European, 4 were Near Eastern, and 2 had a mixture of European and Near Eastern ancestry.
IRAN: The necropolis in Shahr-i-Sokhta (“Burnt City”) in southeastern Iran contains burials of as many as 37,000 humans—and at least one rhesus macaque. The animal was likely kept as the pet of a wealthy family. When it died more than 4,500 years ago, it was interred in the cemetery in the same style as a human infant. The monkey species, which was seen as a symbol of wealth, power, and prestige, is not native to Iran and may have been imported from the Indus Valley.
CHINA: One of the most remarkable aspects of the Terracotta Army is the pristine state of the soldiers’ bronze weapons after 2,000 years underground. Because trace amounts of chromium have been detected on the blades, scientists have long presumed that ancient Chinese craftsmen invented a type of anti-rust coating. However, researchers have learned that the chromium is actually contamination from lacquer applied to the weapons’ handles and shafts, and is not responsible for the metal’s preservation. It is now thought that the chemical composition of the surrounding soil helped prevent corrosion.
Crusader genetics, Neanderthal cannibalism, Terracotta Army weapons, and Connecticut’s oldest English town
Bronze Age costume jewelry