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Around the World

September/October 2021

  • SO21 ATW CanadaCANADA: When archaeologists in the southern Yukon recovered a 6,000-year-old atlatl dart—a deadly projectile used by First Nations peoples—from melting alpine ice, they noticed it was coated with a mysterious orangish substance. The researchers initially suspected it was red ochre, but further examination revealed that it was actually castoreum, a secretion beavers use to mark their territory. This is the first known archaeological evidence of the substance’s use. It might have been applied to the dart as an adhesive, a preservative, or a colorant.

  • SO21 ATW MichiganMICHIGAN: Flakes from 9,000-year-old obsidian tools were recently recovered from a Paleoindian hunting site that now lies more than 100 feet under Lake Huron. Obsidian, a black volcanic glass, was a prized resource used by members of ancient cultures to make sharp tools. There is no local obsidian source. Researchers traced the origins of the obsidian used in the tools to a quarry in central Oregon, 2,500 miles away. This suggests that an extensive trade network existed toward the end of the last Ice Age.

  • SO21 ATW GuatemalaGUATEMALA: At its zenith in the 9th century A.D., the Maya city of Tikal had a population of around 60,000. It was a bustling metropolis of buildings, plazas, and roads in the middle of a rain forest. Yet, despite the urban sprawl, lush green spaces were maintained. Analysis of plant DNA found in sediments surrounding reservoirs in the city’s center indicates that even at Tikal’s height, more than 30 different species of plants, trees, and grasses lined the reservoirs’ banks, providing shady, cool urban oases.

  • SO21 ATW EnglandENGLAND: Renovations of Nottingham Castle revealed the skeletal remains of some rather surprising former residents—3 guenon monkeys. The primates, which are native to central and western Africa, seem to have died of natural causes at a relatively old age. Researchers believe they were kept as pets or as part of a menagerie by a flamboyant socialite named Miss Jane Kirkby, who lived in one of the castle’s apartments from 1791 to 1825. Miss Kirkby was known for her eccentric dinner parties.

  • SO21 ATW NetherlandsTHE NETHERLANDS: Most ancient Romans probably couldn’t swim, so they put their lives at risk whenever they needed to cross a river. Sometimes, they would entreat protective gods to provide them safe passage. A collection of more than 100 coins dating from the 1st century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. found near the town of Berlicum likely marks the spot where Roman travelers once forded the River Aa and tossed coins into the water as offerings, hoping to reach the opposite shore unharmed.

  • SO21 ATW Germany REVISEDGERMANY: The grave of a 20-year-old Bronze Age woman buried near Tübingen 2,800 years ago contained only a single artifact—a delicate gold ribbon. This is the oldest piece of gold jewelry ever found in the region. The gold itself may have come from Cornwall, England. Experts believe the woman wore the ribbon in her hair and that its presence indicates she came from a family of high social standing.

  • SO21 ATW Gabon REVISEDGABON: The scattered remains of 24 adults and 4 children were found deep within Iroungou Cave, which was used as a burial site in the 14th and 15th centuries A.D. The deceased individuals were lowered down or dropped 80 feet through a narrow opening in the cave’s ceiling. Almost all the adults had undergone a dental procedure in which the upper central and lateral incisors were deliberately removed, giving them a distinctive appearance.

  • SO21 ATW TurkeyTURKEY: Çatalhöyük is considered one of the world’s earliest proto-urban settlements. At its peak, from 7100 to 5700 B.C., its 8,000 inhabitants lived in densely packed one-room houses without doors or windows, which were entered through small openings in their roofs. A new experimental archaeology project has helped researchers determine that when fires were burning in these houses’ ovens, the lack of ventilation would have exposed residents to dangerous levels of air pollution. This likely caused respiratory illnesses and other ailments.

  • SO21 ATW JapanJAPAN: A man who was buried more than 3,000 years ago at the Tsukumo shell mound site appears to be the earliest known shark attack victim. Ever since his skeleton was discovered more than a century ago, researchers have been perplexed by the man’s cause of death, which presumably resulted from his 790 unusual wounds. New analysis has shown that his injuries were likely inflicted by the teeth of either a tiger or great white shark during an attack that also left him without his left hand and right leg.

  • SO21 ATW SingaporeSINGAPORE: Two shipwrecks dating to the period when Singapore was a key stop on the trade route connecting the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea were discovered in the waters near the outlying island of Pedra Branca. The older of the 2 ships sank in the 14th century. The other has been identified as Shah Munchah, an Indian-built ship that wrecked in 1796. It carried a huge cargo of Chinese ceramics and blue-and-white Yuan Dynasty porcelain destined for Great Britain.



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