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Around the World

March/April 2022

  • MA22 ATW Washington DCWASHINGTON, D.C.: The National Archives holds a famous letter dated April 14, 1865, in which Abraham Lincoln pardons Private Patrick Murphy on a charge of desertion. The document is noteworthy because Lincoln was assassinated later that very day, suggesting that one of his last official deeds was saving a condemned man from death. New examination of the letter has confirmed that the number 4 in the year was erased and replaced with a 5. The letter was actually written in 1864, a year before Lincoln’s death.

  • MA22 ATW Argentina REVISEDARGENTINA: Archaeologists are able to extract DNA from human bones and teeth, but the process is destructive. A new, less-invasive method involves recovering genetic material from the scalps of people who suffered from head lice. DNA sequencing was carried out on 2,000-year-old mummies entombed in the Calingasta Caves using skin cells trapped in the glue-like substance excreted by lice on their hair. The results revealed that some of the local population migrated to the Andes from the Amazon rain forest region.

  • MA22 ATW FalklandsFALKLAND ISLANDS: Scholars including Charles Darwin have long debated how the archipelago’s only native terrestrial mammal—the rather tame and now-extinct Falkland Islands wolf—got there. They rejected human introduction because the animal, also known as a warrah, was already present when Europeans landed on the islands’ uninhabited shores in 1690. However, new evidence suggests that the Indigenous South American Yaghan people periodically visited the isles centuries earlier. It is possible these early seafarers, who are known for their close human-canid relationships, brought the first warrahs with them.

  • MA22 ATW Ireland REVISEDIRELAND: A pen discovered at the 11th-century ringfort of Caherconnell Cashel is believed to be the oldest such object ever found in Ireland. It was made from a hollowed-out bone and has a copper-alloy nib, which would have been dipped into an inkwell. Given that religious settings were more closely associated with literacy at the time, it is surprising that this writing implement was discovered in a secular setting.

  • MA22 ATW EnglandENGLAND: Size, it seems, doesn’t always matter. Despite the popular portrayal of medieval warhorses as massive, powerful beasts that tore across battlefields, they were actually much smaller than today’s horses, and even than horses from the Roman era or Iron Age. A study of 2,000 horse bones from 171 different sites ranging from the 4th through 17th centuries A.D. indicates the animals were in fact pony-sized. It’s possible that traits such as speed, maneuverability, and temperament were more important factors than size during the breeding process.

  • MA22 ATW ItalyITALY: A baby girl who died 10,000 years ago was very young when she perished, but she was buried with great care. Dental analysis suggests the girl only lived about 40 or 50 days before being laid to rest in a shallow pit in Arma Veirana Cave in Liguria. She was wrapped in a garment adorned with more than 60 shell beads and pendants. This rare Mesolithic female infant burial is believed to be the earliest of its kind found in Europe.

  • MA22 ATW TurkeyTURKEY: A teenager and a dog buried in destruction layers at the settlement of Çesme-Baglararası are believed to be the first victims of the eruption of Thera, which occurred 3,600 years ago, ever discovered. The catastrophic explosion on the present-day island of Santorini, 140 miles away, triggered tsunamis that destroyed the coastal Bronze Age settlement. Evidence shows that survivors attempted to dig through the rubble to rescue those trapped—they only missed locating the young man and canine by about 3 feet.

  • MA22 ATW OmanOMAN: An ancient game board was unearthed in the ruins of a 4,000-year-old site near the village of Ayn Bani Saidah in the Qumayrah Valley. The rectangular stone slab is marked with spatial divisions and small depressions or cup holes and resembles other games known from sites across the ancient Near East and India. Evidence of copper smelting and the settlement’s strategic location along major trade routes suggest that it may have been an important commercial center during the Umm an-Nar period.

  • MA22 ATW EthiopiaETHIOPIA: The Gedeo Zone in southern Ethiopia is home to Africa’s largest concentration of megalithic stone stelas. Some of the 10,000 carved monuments reach heights of 20 feet. New dating of the monoliths found at the site of Sakaro Sodo indicates that they were created around the 1st century A.D., more than 1,000 years earlier than previously thought. Experts believe the stelas may have served as burial markers or to commemorate the transfer of power from one generation to the next.

  • MA22 ATW Tasmania REVISEDTASMANIA: In the 1850s, a convict serving time at the Port Arthur penal colony surreptitiously buried a stash of silver shillings in a clay floor. He was never able to retrieve his treasure, which was recently found during excavations in one of the prison complex’s metal-casting workshops. At the time, prisoners were strictly prohibited from carrying money, but one crafty inmate seems to have managed to dispossess an unsuspecting guard of his cash, which was equal to about a week’s pay.



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