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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, October 17

Traces of Celtic Settlement Found in Switzerland

EGOLZWIL, SWITZERLAND—Swiss Info reports that Celtic artifacts dating to the first century B.C. were uncovered during construction work in the canton of Lucerne. Archaeologists say the objects are the first evidence of a Celtic settlement to have been found in the region, even though remains of sacrifices have been found in the past. The newly discovered items include a piece of a bronze pin, pottery, animal bones, and burned dwellings. For more on archaeology in the area, go to “Switzerland Everlasting.”

Document Fragment Describes Link Between Greek Colonies

SOZOPOL, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a piece of a document linking the ancient Greek colonies of Apollonia Pontica and Heraclea Pontica has been discovered on the Black Sea island of St. John. The two colonies were situated on the Black Sea coast in what are now the countries of Bulgaria and Turkey, respectively. The decree, drafted by the assembly of Apollonia Pontica and carved into a stone in the third century B.C., described the cordial ties between the two cities. “The citizens of Heraclea [Pontica] became honorary representatives of their own city in Apollonia [Pontica],” said epigraphist Nikolay Sharankov of Sofia University. “They received the right to buy real estate property there and to trade there without additional taxes and duties, not to wait their turn in judicial trials, to be given the floor with priority in the council and the assembly, to occupy the front row seats in the theater, and so on,” Sharankov explained. A copy of the document would have been sent to Heraclea Pontica, he added. The decree is thought to have been displayed in a prominent place in a shrine on the island, and then later reused as building material in the Christian monastery where it was recovered. To read in-depth about a Greek inscription found in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Ancient Gymnasium Uncovered on Greek Island of Evia

EVIA, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, researchers led by Angeliki Simosi of the Swiss Archaeological School of Greece have uncovered traces of a gymnasium dating to the fourth century B.C. at the site of Eretria. A sanctuary dedicated to Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth and midwifery, had been placed in the northwestern section of the building. Earlier excavations in the area of the sanctuary found a well containing some 100 terracotta cups dating to the third century B.C. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Bronze Age Landmark.”


More Headlines
Tuesday, October 16

Five Shipwrecks Found Near Greece’s Fourni Islands

ATHENS, GREECE—The Greek Culture Ministry announced that five additional vessels have been discovered in the ship graveyard off the coast of the Fourni Islands, bringing the total number of ships found there to 58, according to an Associated Press report. The area in the Aegean Sea, at the junction of two main shipping routes, is known for its treacherous waters, and contains wrecks dating from the fourth century B.C. through the nineteenth century A.D. The newly discovered ships rest in shallow waters and show signs of damage from fishing nets and plunderers, but the archaeological team, assisted by local fishermen, found cargoes of amphoras that carried wine, oil, and other foods, and a load of terracotta lamps dating to the second century A.D. The lamps were made in Corinthian workshops, and bear the names of the artisans who crafted them, Octavius and Lucius. To read about a discovery associated with a famous Greek shipwreck, go to “Antikythera Man.”

New Thoughts on Pompeii’s Last Day

NAPLES, ITALY—According to a BBC News report, archaeologists have found an inscription in Pompeii that calls into question the timing of the fatal eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The charcoal scrawl records a date that corresponds to October 17, A.D. 79, or about two months after August 24, the date settled upon by historians for the natural disaster. The August date is based upon copies of letters written by Pliny the Younger, a lawyer and author, to Tacitus, a Roman senator and historian, some 20 years after the fact. Alberto Bonisoli, Italy’s minister for cultural heritage and activities, and Massimo Osanna, director general of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, suggest an alternate date of October 24 for the eruption, which would support archaeological evidence uncovered in the ruined city, including the presence of autumnal fruits and heating braziers. For more on recent discoveries in Pompeii, go to “Pompeii Revisited.”

Viking Ship Burial Discovered in Norway

OSLO, NORWAY—The Guardian reports that a buried Viking ship, traces of eight other burial mounds, and five longhouses have been detected in farmland in southeast Norway using high-resolution ground-penetrating radar. Lars Gustavsen of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) said the study suggests the area surrounding the surviving Jelle mound had been a cemetery designed to display the power and influence of Viking leaders. The mound that once covered the newly discovered ship burial was destroyed by plowing, however, and the ship rests under just 20 inches of topsoil. The radar images show the outline of the ship’s keel and floor timbers. Gustavsen and his team plan to continue their investigation of the cemetery with non-invasive methods, but they have not ruled out the possibility of a future excavation. To read in-depth about a Viking ship burial discovered on an Estonian island, go to “The First Vikings.”

Monday, October 15

Child’s Grave Unearthed in Italy’s “Cemetery of the Babies”

LUGNANO, ITALY—An unusual burial in La Necropoli dei Bambini, a cemetery placed in an abandoned Roman villa that had been thought to have been reserved for the interment of infants and toddlers, contains the remains of a ten-year-old who may have died during a malaria outbreak in the fifth century A.D., according to a report in The Washington Post. Researchers led by David Soren of the University of Arizona say the child had been positioned on his or her side in the tomb, which was fashioned from two large roof tiles propped against a wall. The child had a stone in his or her open mouth, and teeth marks on the stone’s surface indicate it was placed there purposefully. The scientists suggest the stone may have been placed there as a way to incapacitate the child, and keep it from rising from the dead and spreading disease among the living. “I really feel deeply for this community that was dealing with this epidemic when they had no understanding of it,” said bioarchaeologist Jordan Wilson of the University of Arizona. The child’s age also indicates that unexcavated sections of the cemetery may hold the remains of older children. To read about the sixth-century burial of a man in Italy who appears to have worn a prosthetic weapon in place of a missing hand, go to “Late Antique TLC.”

Song Dynasty Tomb of “Grand Lady” Excavated in China

ANHUI PROVINCE, CHINA—Live Science reports that a 900-year-old tomb holding the well-preserved remains of a woman dubbed the “Grand Lady” has been discovered in eastern China. Archaeologists from the Nanling County Cultural Relics Administration and the Anhui Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology said the skeletal remains, complete with fingernails and hair, were found in a coffin that had been placed within a second coffin. A banner on the inner coffin described the occupant as a “Grand Lady.” The researchers are still attempting to make out the rest of her name, which may read “née Jian.” Paintings on the inner coffin show her wearing different outfits. The woman’s grave goods include a model house complete with tiny furniture, ten figurines depicting women playing instruments, a silver pendant shaped as two dragons chasing pearls, silver and gold hairpins and bracelets, bronze coins minted between A.D. 713 and 1100, embroidered shoes, and traces of two sticky rice dumplings under her right hand. To read about another burial site in China, go to “Tomb Couture.”

Archaeologist Maps Former Soviet Bases in Poland

SZCZECIN, POLAND—Archaeologist Grzegorz Kiarszys of the University of Szczecin investigated the sites of three former Soviet nuclear bases in Poland, according to Science in Poland. The concrete-built weapons depots, established in 1969 and in use into the 1990s, were monumentally sized and dug deep into the ground. Kiarszys found that the bases were not well camouflaged, even though rumors through the years suggested they were perfectly hidden from American spy satellites and protected with anti-aircraft guns. “The main elements of the base, including buildings, access roads, helipads, are perfectly visible on satellite images,” he said, “although for a long time the CIA was not sure whether nuclear weapons were actually stored in the photographed facilities.” Kiarszys also created new maps of the sites with aerial laser scanning, which found no evidence of anti-aircraft guns, but did reveal ditches dug around all three of the bases, well-hidden shelters for the cars that were used to transport the warheads, and traces of the patrol paths used by Soviet guards. “It is clear that soldiers tried to avoid effort and avoided hills and elevations,” Kiarszys said. For more on archaeology of the nuclear age, go to “The Secrets of Sabotage.”