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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, January 16

Submerged Prehistoric Site Discovered in Scotland

BENBECULA, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that a prehistoric site has been discovered in a submerged, partially fossilized forest on one of Scotland’s Western Isles. Researcher Joanna Hambly of the Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion Trust said researchers had recovered a quern stone, used for grinding food, in addition to a wall and what may have been parts of circular stone structures. A piece of a quartz flake was even found in the bone it had been used to butcher. “To find the remains of a butchery site is incredibly rare,” Hambly said, “the survival of a single action in prehistory preserved in intertidal peats.” Between 10,000 and 7,000 years ago, she added, the forest consisted of birch, hazel, willow, aspen, rowan, oak, Scots pine, alder, ash, and elm trees. All of the trees were gone by about 2,500 years ago, due to human activity and rising sea levels. Radiocarbon dating will help date the artifacts. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

Painted Floor Found in 1,000-Year-Old Tomb in Northeast China

SHENYANG, CHINA—According to a Xinhua report, images of carriages and horses, flowers, dragons, and a phoenix have been found painted on the walls and floor of a tomb in a Liao Dynasty cemetery (A.D. 907-1125) in northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Si Weiwei of the Liaoning Province Archaeological Institute explained that this is the first known example of a tomb with a painted floor from the Liao Dynasty. So far, four tombs in the cemetery have been excavated. They also yielded ceramics, silk fabrics, and wooden, jade, and stone objects. The cemetery is thought to have belonged to Han Derang, who served as a prime minister during the Liao Dynasty, and his descendants, Si added. To read about a tomb dating to around the same period in China, go to “Underground Party.”

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Tuesday, January 15

Roman-Era Tombs Uncovered in Egypt’s Dakhla Oasis

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that two Roman tombs have been unearthed in Egypt’s Western Desert. Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the tombs were unfinished. One of the tombs has a 20-step staircase covered in plaster, a main hall made of mudbrick with a vaulted ceiling, and two burial chambers containing human remains, lamps, and pots. The other tomb has a vaulted chamber featuring a niche painted with a scene depicting the mummification process. Ten other pyramid-shaped tombs have also been recently found in the area. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt, go to “Mummy Workshop.”

Bronze Age Pit Possibly Linked to Medieval Assembly Site

FIFE, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Courier, a Bronze Age cremation pit has been discovered at a site in southeast Scotland where open-air councils are thought to have been held during the medieval period. Cremated bone recovered from the pit was dated to nearly 4,000 years ago. Alastair Rees of ARCHAS Archaeology said such pits are often found in clusters, so additional Bronze Age burials may be found at the site. “Prehistoric origins for early medieval places of assembly have long been postulated but to date only a couple of sites have revealed tangible evidence to support this assumption,” Rees explained.  To read about an unusual Bronze Age burial uncovered in Scotland, go to “Scottish 'Frankenstein' Mummies.”

World War I–Era Submarine Revealed in France

WISSANT, FRANCE—BBC News reports that a World War I–era German submarine is emerging from the sands on a beach in northern France. “Pieces reappear from time to time, but this is the first time we discover so much,” said local tour guide Vincent Schmitt. The submarine’s crew is known to have flooded and abandoned the vessel, named UC-61, in July 1917, after it ran aground while traveling from Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre. The ship is thought to have sunk at least 11 ships by either laying mines or firing torpedoes. The crew of UC-61 was supposed to lay more mines on its mission to the French coast. To read about a World War I military camp in Scotland whose outline was revealed by a heat wave last summer, go to “The Marks of Time: WWI Military Camp.”

Luxurious Buildings Uncovered in Bulgaria’s Philipopolis

PLOVDIV, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that luxurious residential and public buildings dating to the Roman era have been discovered on the southern slope of three hills in the heart of the ancient city of Philipopolis, which was also known as Trimontium. The six structures include a temple dedicated to multiple deities, an inn with a tavern, residential buildings, and a brothel, according to Zheni Tankova of the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology. The temple is noted for its marble, clay, and terracotta figurines of deities worshipped by the Thracians, Romans, Greeks, Phrygians, and Persians. “In addition to the over 600 terracotta fragments, we’ve found some 300 clay lamps,” Tankova said. “It was odd that they had barely been in use but all of them had had their handles broken off.” Big ceramic storage vessels known as pithoi and vessels for cooking, eating, and storing olive oil and wine were recovered from the inn, which had been outfitted with hearths. One of the inn's rooms may have been reserved for use by women, since bone hair needles and a bronze female bust were found there. A structure near the inn resembles a brothel unearthed in Pompeii, although the one found in Pompeii is about 200 years older. To read about another recent discovery in Bulgaria dating to the Roman era, go to “Mirror, Mirror.”

Monday, January 14

Buddha Statue Head Uncovered in Northwest India

TARANGA, INDIA—The head of a Buddha statue believed to date to the fourth or fifth century A.D. has been discovered near Taranga in India’s northwestern state of Gujarat, according to a report from The Times of India. The find was made by archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India, who recently found some 50 votive stupas nearby, establishing Taranga as an important Buddhist center. The head, which was uncovered in a temple, has a round face with curly hair and long ears, arched eyebrows over half-closed eyes, and depressions at the corners of its lips. A head with similar features was found at Devni Mori, a site about 40 miles to the east. Experts believe Buddhist activity may have spread from there to the Taranga area. To read about another recent discovery in India, go to “Double Vision.”

Medieval Copper Production Settlement Found in Jordan

AMMAN, JORDAN—A medieval settlement dedicated to copper smelting has been identified in southern Jordan, reports The Jordan Times. The site, known as Khirbat Nuqayb Al Asaymir (Arabic for "Ruin of the Small Black Pass"), flourished under the Ayyubid dynasty, which was founded by the Kurdish military leader Saladin. University of San Diego archaeologist Ian Jones leads the excavation, and notes the site was only occupied for 50 or 60 years. Its rise coincided with the expansion of the sugar industry under the Ayyubids, which requires a large supply of copper to fashion boiling vessels. Jones and his team were suprised to find no locally produced pottery at the site. However, they did discover glazed ceramics known as “stonepaste" pottery, which were likely imported from Damascus, suggesting the presence of high-ranking Ayyubid administrators at the site. To read more about the archaeology of the Levant during this period, go to “Reimagining the Crusades.”

Medieval Inscription Discovered in India

AMARAVATI, INDIA—The Times of India reports that a stone slab inscribed with a thirteenth-century inscription has been found in a village in southeastern India. The slab rises two feet above ground level, and archaeologists believe it extends up to five feet into the ground. Carvings on the slab's surface depict a bull, a sun, and a moon, all characteristic of art made under the Kakatiya dynasty, which ruled what is now the state of Andhra Pradesh from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. As yet the inscription cannot be read since so much of the slab remains underground, but it likely records a donation made to a Hindu temple by a person of some means. To read about another recent discovery in India, go to “India’s Anonymous Artists.”

Nineteenth-Century Chess Pieces Found in Lincolnshire Barn

LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—A pair of chess pieces dating to the nineteenth century were uncovered during renovations of a barn in the town of Burgh le Marsh, according to a report from the Skegness Standard. The queen and bishop were found in a beam over the barn’s main entrance and are believed to have served as protective amulets, placed there to help keep the occupants and their livestock safe, according to archaeologist Adam Daubney of the Lincolnshire County Council. “We know that in the 1800s, people used to place artifacts at boundaries and thresholds of properties to help ward off evil spirits,” he said. “These tended to be things like shoes, miniature bibles, or mummified cats. We haven’t seen chess pieces before.” He adds that the pieces, which were made from plaster of Paris or crushed stone and then probably dipped in resin, were specifically chosen for their symbolic value. “It seems likely that the praying Bishop and Queen—the latter which might have served the role of Mary—were carefully selected from the chess set as pieces that might have particular spiritual power to ward off evil,” said Daubney. To read about an 800-year-old chess piece discovered in Norway, go to “Norwegian Knight.”

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