Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, March 21

Imperial Palace Gate Uncovered in Central China

ZHENGZHOU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that the rammed-earth base of a fortified gate has been found in the ancient capital of Luoyang, at the site of an imperial palace dating to the Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 386–534). Liu Tao of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said historical records indicate that officials of the Northern Wei Dynasty would park their sedan chairs and carriages outside this gate before entering the palace’s main hall to see the emperor. For more on archaeology in China, go to “Tomb from a Lost Tribe.”

Bronze Age Stone Platform Found in Northwest China

URUMQI, CHINA—Xinhua reports that a large stone platform surrounded by polished stones has been discovered in northwest China at the Jartai Pass site, which dates to between 1600 and 1000 B.C. The stone platform measures nearly 1,300 square feet, and was built about one-half mile south of a 3,000-year-old residential area. Archaeologist Wang Yongqiang of the Xinjiang Uygur Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute said stone walls, pottery, animal bones, stone artifacts, and ash mixed with blocks of coal were uncovered within the structure. “The new findings are very important to [the] study [of] the history of the Kax River basin in the Bronze Age,” Wang added. For more on archaeology in China, go to “Early Signs of Empire.”

Seventeenth-Century Artifacts Unearthed in Connecticut

WETHERSFIELD, CONNECTICUT—Connecticut Magazine reports that artifacts dating to the time of the 1637 Wethersfield Indian Massacre, such as diamond-pane window glass, wampum beads, medicine and liquor bottles, ceramics, food remains, shells, nails, furniture hardware, buttons, and coins minted in the 1620s and 1630s have been unearthed in the historic town of Old Wethersfield, which is located in central Connecticut. Traces of a possible stockade wall have also been found. Sarah Sportman of the Public Archaeology Survey Team said the wall suggests the colonists were fearful of the Pequot, who lived in the area, while Charles Lyle of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum said the wampum suggests the two groups engaged in trade. By 1637, he said, the Indians were concerned about the region’s limited food supply, attacked the colonial settlement, and kidnapped two girls in an effort to convince the settlers to leave. The girls were returned, but the colonists retaliated, triggering the beginning of the Pequot War. It had been thought all evidence dating to the early seventeenth century at the site had been destroyed during later development. To read about the use of lidar to investigate the influence of humans on Connecticut's landscape, go to “Peeping through the Leaves. ”

4,000-Year-Old Burial Discovered in Northern England

NORTHUMBERLAND, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that construction workers uncovered the top stone slab of a Bronze Age cist in northern England, at the site of a hotel built in the eighteenth century. The human bones within the stone-lined burial chamber are estimated to be 4,000 years old. Archaeologist Roger Miket said a small flint knife was found by the skeleton’s legs. “It would have been a precious item at the time of the burial and was included in the grave for use in the afterlife,” he explained. To read in-depth about Northumberland's Bamburgh Castle, go to “Letter from England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”


More Headlines
Wednesday, March 20

Roman Tile Factory Unearthed in Northern England

CUMBRIA, ENGLAND—Cumbria Crack reports that a Roman tile factory and a medieval foundation and burial were discovered in the original path of a water pipeline in northwest England. Archaeologists had expected to find the remains of a medieval farm at the site. The medieval structure was built within the Roman one, perhaps as an outbuilding for the farm. The body was found within the outline of the medieval building. “Usually a grave cut can be seen during excavation, but here there was no evidence of one, suggesting the body may have been put into the rubble of the Roman building during the medieval period,” said archaeologist Phil Mann. Coins, pottery, and an oven that may have been used to make tiles for use in Roman under-floor heating systems were also uncovered. The tiles are thought to have been transported to a nearby Roman settlement and fort. The pipeline will be rerouted to preserve the site. To read about evidence of religious practice by Roman troops stationed at Hadrian's Wall found at a site in Cumbria, go to “The Ritual Landscape.”

Traces of York’s First Railway Station Uncovered

YORK, ENGLAND—Minster FM reports that traces of York’s first railroad station, which was built in 1840 for George Hudson’s York and North Midland Railway, have been uncovered in the city’s historic center during construction work. The structure, designed by architect George Townsend Andrews, was the terminus of a line that traveled to London. The station fell out of use in 1877 when a new station, which is still used today, opened nearby. A recently excavated train turntable that belonged to the original station will be included in the new construction plans. To read about remains of nineteenth-century train facilities unearthed in London, go to “A Tale of Two Railroads.”

Song Dynasty Shipwreck In South China Sea Conserved

GUANGZHOU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that more than 140,000 artifacts have been recovered from a Song Dynasty (A.D. 960–1279) shipwreck discovered in the South China Sea in 2007. Cui Yong of the Guangdong Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology said the merchant ship measured about 72 feet long and about 30 feet wide. It carried a cargo of porcelain, gold, silver, copper, iron, bamboo, and lacquered wood items, as well as copper coins. The remains of plants and animals have also been found. The vessel itself has been moved to the Maritime Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang, where it is being conserved. To read about an informative item recovered from a different Song Dynasty shipwreck, go to “Artifact.”

Tuesday, March 19

Descendants of Great Moravian Noblemen Identified

BRNO, CZECH REPUBLIC—Czech Radio reports that a study of Y-chromosome markers has identified 18 men who are descended from Great Moravian noblemen who lived in what is now the Czech Republic some 1,000 years ago. A team of researchers led by Ludĕk Galuška of the Moravian Museum compared samples of DNA obtained from 340 living men whose surnames appeared in historic registry records with samples of 75 men buried in high-status graves near the town of Uherské Hradište between the ninth and thirteenth centuries A.D. The large town is thought to have been a center of the Holy Moravian Empire, featuring a large church and baptistery, and inhabited by dukes, noblemen, craftsmen, tradesmen, farmers, and probably slaves. Galuška was surprised to find so many descendants still living in the area. “You have to realize East Moravia used to be a very restless area bordering Hungary,” he explained. “It was affected by a number of wars, such as the Thirty Years War, so the local inhabitants suffered a great deal and were greatly affected by all the conflicts.” For more, go to “Off the Grid: Prague, Czech Republic.”

Study of Hepatitis B Virus Tracks Australia's Ancient Migrations

NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA—According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report, a new study has found that the hepatitis B virus affecting between 10 and 20 percent of the Aboriginal people living in northern Australia today is a unique strain named HBV/C4. Margaret Littlejohn of the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory noted that there are also differences in the virus among the 30 communities that offered samples for testing, which allowed the scientists to study its possible transmission routes, and determine when the virus may have first appeared in Australia. The analysis suggests that HBV/C4 entered Australia some 51,000 years ago through the continent’s “Top End,” in either the East Arnhem region or the Tiwi Islands, then separated into two groups following roughly the same geographic distribution as the two main Aboriginal language groups: the Pama-Nyungan language area in East Arnhem and most of the rest of Australia, and the non-Pama-Nyungan languages spoken in Tiwi, Kimberley, West Arnhem, and the Daly River regions. “The other important thing that we’ve been able to do with this is raise the profile of hepatitis B virus in these communities,” Littlejohn said. For more, go to “Diagnosis of Ancient Illness.”

New Project Focuses on Colonial Garden in Virginia

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—The Virginia Gazette reports that archaeologists led by Jack Gary of Colonial Williamsburg are investigating pastureland where the eighteenth-century home of John Custis IV once stood. Enslaved Africans are also known to have lived on the property, called Custis Square, and tended its house and elaborate gardens. The foundations of the house were uncovered in the 1960s. Now Gary and his team members want to find out how the landscaping, thought to feature topiary, gravel paths, statues, and plants imported from England, was laid out. Pollen analysis could confirm what sort of plants and herbs Custis grew for the medicines he blended as an amateur physician. The researchers will also look for outbuildings where enslaved people are thought to have lived and worked. Martha Washington may have resided on the property as well, since she inherited Custis Square from her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis, who died in 1757. She went on to marry George Washington in 1759. To read about the use of 3-D printing in investigating a Virginia plantation, go to “Fairfield's Rebirth in 3-D.”