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Around the World

July/August 2020

  • ATW FloridaFLORIDA: The Calusa Indians, who ruled much of southern Florida in the pre-Columbian era, are known for their sophisticated engineering projects. These included artificial islands and canals at their capital of Mound Key. They also created large lagoons called watercourts out of shells and sediments. These enclosures, which date to the 14th century, acted as holding tanks, allowing the Calusa to trap and store large numbers of fish in the subtropical climate.

  • ATW MexicoMEXICO: An inscribed stone tablet unearthed by a cattle rancher in Lacanja Tzeltal, Chiapas, has led to the discovery of a long-lost Maya city that was founded around 750 B.C. The existence of an important regional capital called Sak Tz’i’ was known from previously discovered inscriptions, but its exact location had eluded archaeologists for decades. When researchers explored the rancher’s property, they found a trove of monuments, including pyramids and a palace complex, and were able to identify the inscribed text that confirmed the site’s name.

  • ATW BoliviaBOLIVIA: Various ancient civilizations in places such as China and the Near East are known to have independently developed agriculture thousands of years ago. New research within the Llanos de Moxos has revealed that people living in Amazonia some 10,850 years ago were also among the earliest in the world to domesticate and cultivate crops. Sediment analysis showed that the region’s inhabitants created thousands of forest islands within the otherwise treeless savannah by dumping food waste, creating fertile patches on which they were able to grow manioc, squash, maize, and other edible plants.

  • ATW EnglandENGLAND: There were no roast chickens or rabbit stews on the tables of Iron Age Britons. Chickens and brown hares, which are not native to the British Isles, only arrived sometime between the 5th and 3rd centuries B.C. Carefully buried intact bird and small mammal skeletal remains found in Hampshire and Hertfordshire suggest that when chickens and hares did appear, they were not viewed as a food source, but instead as exotic species. They may even have been revered and associated with deities. It was not until hundreds of years later, under Roman rule, that chickens and hares began to be farm-raised and eaten.

  • ATW SpainSPAIN: Before the Carthaginian general Hannibal crossed the Alps with his elephants, he defeated a group of Iberian tribes in a pivotal 220 B.C. battle fought somewhere along the Tagus River. Ancient writers record that Hannibal’s 25,000 soldiers overwhelmed an army of 100,000, but scholars have long argued over exactly where the clash took place. A new study using archaeological, historical, and geomorphological data has finally narrowed down the location to a stretch of river between the towns of Driebes and Illana in the province of Guadalajara.

  • ATW GreeceGREECE:  An experienced surgeon treating a soldier on the island of Thasos tried everything to alleviate his patient’s debilitating infection, even performing a complex procedure that entailed boring holes in his skull. The man, who was buried at the site of Palaiokastro between the 4th and 7th centuries A.D., was probably a mounted archer in the Roman army. His severe infection may have been caused by a ruptured eardrum or possibly a tumor. The procedure was ultimately unsuccessful despite the doctor’s skill.

  • ATW IsraelISRAEL: Hand-size stone balls have been found at numerous early Paleolithic sites around the world, but their exact purpose has baffled experts. Microscopic analysis of wear patterns and bone residues on the surface of examples found in Qesem Cave has indicated the spheres may have been shaped and used by humans between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago to crack open animal bones. Experimental trials using replicas demonstrated just how efficient these tools would have been at accessing bone marrow, which was nutrient-rich and much sought-after.

  • ATW IndiaINDIA: Nearly 300 never-before-documented rock paintings were discovered across 11 sites in Madhya Pradesh. The scenes include 67 human and 80 animal figures, among them depictions of deer, rhinoceros, wild boar, and Indian bison. While animal scenes are a common motif in ancient Indian rock art, which dates back as far as 30,000 years, one of the newly documented paintings depicts a rare post-hunt scene of a deer being butchered. A human figure seems to be pulling an arrow from the fallen animal while in the process of disemboweling it.

  • ATW Indonesia 2INDONESIA: The ability to create figurative and portable objects of art is a characteristic that researchers believe separates Homo sapiens from our ancestors. Until recently though, little evidence had been found showing that early humans who settled Southeast Asia displayed these capabilities. But 2 tiny incised stone artifacts created between 26,000 and 14,000 years ago found in Leang Bulu Bettue Cave on Sulawesi are filling in this gap. One of the objects depicts an anoa—a local miniature buffalo—and the other displays a sunburst pattern.

  • ATW AustraliaAUSTRALIA: While excavating the Ladies’ Cottage, a former women’s mental health asylum in Tasmania, archaeologists learned about one inmate’s curious behavior through a surprising discovery. More than 1,000 objects were found hidden beneath the veranda, including bundles of newspaper, food wrappers, articles of clothing, and other personal objects. Researchers believe an unidentified woman may have entered the crawl space through a trapdoor and discreetly stashed the items between the 1920s and 1940s as a way of creating her own private space apart from asylum life.

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