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Digs & Discoveries

Where's the Beef?

By BENJAMIN LEONARD

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Digs England Cow JawLarge amounts of animal bone found in a ditch on the outskirts of a Romano-British settlement near Ipplepen, in southwest England, might point to the operations of a third-century A.D. butchery. Most of the bone came from the feet and heads of cattle likely butchered on-site, which suggests the prime cuts of meat were sold and consumed elsewhere. Burned limestone thrown in with the bone could be evidence of the production of lime, which was often used to process hides to make leather. This, along with butchery marks on some bones that resulted from removing the hides, may indicate that tanners also worked at the site.

 

Despite Ipplepen’s location on the western edge of the Roman Empire, explains University of Exeter archaeologist Stephen Rippon, imported tableware and amphoras, which contained olive oil and wine, unearthed at the site reveal that residents adopted at least some Roman dining and culinary practices. However, they continued living in roundhouses similar to those from the settlement’s earliest occupation in the Iron Age, centuries before. Says Rippon, “It was as if they were picking and choosing which aspects of being Roman they liked.”

City Limits

By ZACH ZORICH

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Digs Israel En Ensur AerialRoad construction in northern Israel has led to the excavation of a 5,000-year-old city called En Esur that would have been one of the region’s largest settlements at a time when the world’s first cities were taking shape. Thousands of volunteers overseen by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists have worked for more than two years to uncover 10 acres of the city and a wide array of artifacts. Archaeologist Yitzhak Paz estimates that only about a tenth of the city has thus far been excavated. En Esur may have been home to about 6,000 people living in a highly organized community with densely packed residences, grain silos, public buildings, burial caves, and a network of streets. Digs Israel Artifacts Block

Maya Total War

By ERIC A. POWELL

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Digs Guatemala Maya MuraDigs Guatemala StelaScholars have long believed that, before A.D. 800, conflict between Maya centers was largely ritualized, limited to attacks on sacred sites and the taking of noble hostages. Thereafter, they believed, growing socioeconomic tensions led to all-out warfare between states. But when U.S. Geological Survey geographer David Wahl analyzed sediment cores taken from a lake just short of a mile from the ancient city of Witzna in northern Guatemala, he uncovered evidence that a massive fire had taken place there around A.D. 700. Archaeologists then found that all major structures across the city, including the royal palace, had been destroyed by the conflagration. Stelas unearthed at Witzna record the city’s name, which was also mentioned in a hieroglyphic war statement on a stela at the nearby center of Naranjo. According to the statement, on May 21, A.D. 697, Naranjo subjected Witzna to puluuy, a term previously thought to refer to a local fire ritual. The evidence from the lake sediments and the destroyed buildings at Witzna shows that puluuy instead likely referred to an act of total war that aimed to inflict great human cost on the enemy population. The Naranjo stela describes four other cities as having been subjected to puluuy as well, suggesting that early Maya military tacticians may have frequently waged total war against their enemies.  

 

A full view 3-D model of Stela 1 from Wiztna created by University of Alabama archaeologist Alexandre Tokovinine:

 

A 3-Model of Stele 2 from Witzna:

A Seaside Journey to America

By ZACH ZORICH

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Digs Idaho Stone PointsArtifacts recovered from a 16,000-year-old site near the Columbia River in western Idaho are revealing that the first people to migrate to the Americas came from northeastern Asia. The site, called Cooper’s Ferry, is one of only a few known to pre-date the Clovis culture—hunter-gatherers who lived across North America around 12,000 years ago and were, until recently, believed to have been the first settlers of the continent. Stone tools found at Cooper’s Ferry belong to the Western Stemmed Tradition, a tool type that, according to research by an international team of scholars, resembles stone tools made by hunter-gatherers who lived in northeast Asia during the same period. This type of tool appears at Paleolithic sites along the Pacific coast of North America. The presence of the tools, combined with evidence that Cooper’s Ferry was occupied roughly 1,000 years before the two continental ice sheets that covered North America had melted sufficiently to open an inland corridor, supports the theory that the earliest Americans probably followed a coastal route after crossing the Bering Strait into North America.

Skoal!

By BENJAMIN LEONARD

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Digs Scotland Rousay OverheadDigs Scotland Comb FragmentThe Orkneyinga Saga, a thirteenth-century narrative history of the Norse earldoms of the Orkney Islands, in present-day Scotland, names Westness, a settlement along the coast of the island of Rousay, as the home of the chieftain Sigurd. Archaeologists working in the area have uncovered a Viking hall dating to sometime between the tenth and twelfth centuries at a farmstead called Skaill—the Norse word for “hall.” The stone building, which appears to be more than 40 feet long, is oriented down the sloping landscape toward the sea. Stone benches line the sides of its interior, where the team also found Norse artifacts such as steatite vessels, a bone spindle whorl, and a fragment of a carved bone comb. Skaill was likely the site of a dwelling of a chieftain or earl, says archaeologist Ingrid Mainland of the University of the Highlands and Islands, though it’s unclear whether Sigurd himself raised a cup here.

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