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World Roundup

November/December 2019

  • WRU Canada REVISEDCANADA: Remnants of a forgotten early 20th-century Japanese village were uncovered deep in the forest outside Vancouver. They include 14 houses, a possible shrine, and a bathhouse, along with an assortment of Japanese ceramics. The small settlement likely began as a logging camp, but community members may have chosen to remain even after logging ceased in order to avoid widespread anti-Japanese sentiment. The village’s sudden abandonment was, perhaps, the result of Canada’s establishment of Japanese internment camps in early 1942.

  • WRU MexicoMEXICO: A millennium ago in Chichen Itza, the Maya practiced ritual human sacrifice. Scholars have long debated whether locals or outsiders were subjected to this grim fate. Using the results of isotope analysis of tooth enamel from sacrificial victims thrown into the site’s Sacred Cenote, researchers have concluded that some grew up locally, while others hailed from the Gulf Coast, the Central Highlands, and as far away as Central America. It is unknown whether those born farther away were slaves, prisoners of war, or immigrants to the city.

  • WRU IrelandIRELAND: A farmer in County Meath who long suspected something curious existed beneath his field was proved right—a recent investigation revealed clues about his land’s surprising medieval occupants. French pottery, a grain-drying oven, and other artifacts are evidence of an unusual community of French Cistercian monks who moved to Ireland around the 13th century. Instead of founding a typical monastery, though, the monks established a grange, raising sheep and growing crops that they sent back to their home monastery of De Bello Becco in Normandy.

  • WRU EnglandENGLAND: Nearly 100 military objects were retrieved from the site of the Battle of Worcester, the pivotal and final episode of the English Civil War. The artifacts left strewn across the field include musket balls, pistol shot, gun parts, and belt buckles. Almost 45,000 soldiers clashed in the 1651 engagement, during which Oliver Cromwell and his Parliamentarian New Model Army routed the Royalist forces, causing King Charles II to flee and temporarily interrupting the rule of the English monarchy.

  • WRU BulgariaBULGARIA: Part of a Roman soldier’s military diploma was found during excavations in the ancient city of Deultum near the Black Sea. These documents were issued to auxiliary troops upon completion of 25 years of military service, at which point they were, finally, awarded Roman citizenship. The small bronze fragment contains an excerpt of a decree issued by the emperor Hadrian in A.D. 122 ordering soldiers in the province of Dacia Inferior (modern Romania) to be discharged from their service.

  • WRU IsraelISRAEL: Having been buried in caves for almost 2,000 years, the Dead Sea Scrolls have survived in various states of preservation. One of them, called the Temple Scroll, is particularly notable for its fine condition. New chemical analysis of the scroll has revealed that it was made differently from the others. During the parchment’s manufacture, the surface was covered with a mixture of sulfate salts, which has helped the scroll and its text survive.

  • WRU EthiopiaETHIOPIA: Given the harsh conditions, it’s notoriously difficult for humans to live at extreme altitudes. This did not deter some of our ancient ancestors. Evidence shows that humans were living at least 11,000 feet above sea level in the Bale Mountains some 40,000 years ago. Hearths, stone tools, animal bones, and human feces from the Fincha Habera rock shelter comprise the earliest-known evidence of a high-altitude residential site. It is believed that humans survived there by eating giant mole rats and drinking water from glacial runoffs.

  • WRU IranIRAN: It turns out that a fossilized tooth found decades ago in the Zagros Mountains did not belong to a modern human as previously thought, but rather to a Neanderthal child who lived between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago. A recent reexamination using modern techniques established the new dating and identification. The researchers say it is the first evidence that Neanderthals once lived in this area of present-day Iran. The species roamed across much of Europe and Western Asia before going extinct 40,000 years ago.

  • WRU ChinaCHINA: Obscure engravings on animal bones from the site of Lingjing in Henan Province suggest that early hominins who lived there 125,000 years ago may have had more advanced cognitive abilities than once believed. The mysterious markings proved to have been etched into the bone, which was then rubbed with red ochre powder to make the markings more visible. Experts do not yet know why early humans made these abstract designs, nor what they represent.

  • WRU IndonesiaINDONESIA: The first modern humans in Australia may have migrated there from Southeast Asia via the islands of Indonesia. Two new skull fragments from Alor Island, dating to between 17,000 and 12,000 years ago, hint that the Wallacean Islands may have been a stop on this migration route. One peculiar aspect of these skulls is their small size. This may be due to the “island effect.” This theory posits that when humans and other mammals live on islands lacking sufficient nutrition, they gradually become smaller.

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