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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, June 27

Tortoise and Egg Discovered at Pompeii

ROME, ITALY—BBC News reports that excavations in an area of Pompeii destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 62 have revealed the remains of a tortoise and her egg. Scientists think the tortoise had burrowed under the rubble of a shop to lay her eggs when she died in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Mark Robinson of Oxford University said it is possible that the reptile had been a pet that wandered away from home into the damaged part of the city, but it is more likely that she came from the nearby countryside. “The whole city was a construction site, and evidently some spaces were so unused that wild animals could roam, enter and try to lay their eggs,” added Gabriel Zuchtriegel, general director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. To read about a nearly intact chariot found in a villa just north of Pompeii, go to "A Ride Through the Countryside."

Possible Medieval Children’s Cemetery Found in Southern Turkey

MERSIN, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that recent excavations at the site of Kelenderis, a 2,800-year-old city located on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, have uncovered a child’s grave and an industrial furnace. Faulty roof tiles dated to the seventh century were found inside the oven and around it, according to archaeologist Mahmut Aydin. The child’s remains were discovered in an area near the city’s ancient Odeon. “We have previously uncovered nearly 150 tombs here, but none of them had burial gifts,” Aydin said. “In this one, we uncovered four glass bracelets, an inscription on a ceramic piece and a cup,” he added. The graves of other children and infants have been found in the area. Aydin estimates that these graves date to the medieval period, but the process of dating the remains has not been completed. To read about recent investigations of an ancient hilltop necropolis in Turkey, go to "Canyon of the Ancestors."

Roman Temples Unearthed in the Netherlands

GELDERLAND, THE NETHERLANDS—DW reports that a Roman temple complex has been found in the eastern Netherlands, on what was the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. The temples, situated on a small hill at the point where the Rhine and Waal rivers split, are thought to have been used by soldiers stationed in nearby fortifications between the first and fourth centuries A.D., based upon the tips of spears and lances, armor, and horse harnesses found nearby. Researchers from RAAP Archaeological Consultancy have uncovered roof tiles marked with inscriptions, colorfully painted plasterwork, cloak pins, statues of deities, pits where large fires had burned, and a large stone well with a stone staircase leading to the water. Small stone altars dedicated by high-ranking officers to Hercules Magusanus, Jupiter-Serapis, and Mercury were also unearthed. These inscriptions often gave thanks for battles won and continued survival on the frontier, the researchers explained. For more on offerings made by ancient Romans in the area, go to "Around the World: The Netherlands."


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Friday, June 24

Second Possible Seventh-Century Mosque Uncovered in Israel

RAHAT, ISRAEL—According to a Haaretz report, a second structure that may have served as an early mosque some 1,200 years ago has been found in southern Israel’s northern Negev Desert by a team of researchers led by Oren Shmueli, Elena Kogan-Zehavi, and Noe David Michael of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The first structure was uncovered in 2019 about two miles away from the second structure, which also consists of a square room with a wall facing the Kaaba in Mecca and a half-circle-shaped niche called a mihrab. It is not clear if the two mosques were in use at the same time, but they could have been used by people living on adjacent farms in the rural region. The area was abandoned after 150 to 200 years, in the ninth century A.D. To read about another early mosque unearthed in the city of Tiberias, go to "Around the World: Israel."

500-Year-Old Tomb Found in Peru

LIMA, PERU—The Guardian reports that a 500-year-old tomb thought to hold the remains of elite members of the Ruricancho society was discovered during a survey ahead of construction work at a home in Lima’s San Juan de Lurigancho neighborhood. Archaeologist Julio Abanto said that the several sets of remains were found wrapped in cloth and that the tomb also contained ceramics and ornaments. The Ruricancho society lived in the region before the rise of the Inca empire in the fifteenth century. To read about another recent archaeological discovery in Peru, go to "Around the World: Peru."

Researchers Return to Greece’s Antikythera Shipwreck

ATHENS, GREECE—According to an Ars Technica report, a bearded marble head was recovered from the Antikythera shipwreck by an international team of researchers led by Angeliki G. Simosi of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Evia after several large boulders that had been partially covering the wreck were removed. Discovered by a sponge diver in 1900, the ship sank while carrying a cargo of sculptures and other luxury goods, including the so-called Antikythera mechanism—an approximately 2,100-year-old device thought to have been used to display the movements of the five known planets, the sun, the phases of the moon, and the solar and lunar eclipses around the Earth. The newly discovered head may belong to a headless statue known as the “Herakles of Antikythera,” which was recovered from the wreckage more than 100 years ago. The researchers also recovered a marble plinth with the lower legs, two human teeth, and several pieces of ship’s equipment. Microanalysis of soil samples collected at the site could help scientists determine the ship’s dimensions. To read about human remains that were previously recovered from the wreck, go to "Antikythera Man," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2016.

Thursday, June 23

Paleolithic Site in England Dated With Infrared-Radiofluorescence

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Cambridge, new excavations at a site in Canterbury that was discovered in the 1920s have allowed an international team of researchers to date the presence of Homo heidelbergensis in southern England to between 520,000 and 620,000 years ago, a warmer period when Britain was still attached to Europe. In addition to the hand axes that were initially recovered from the ancient riverbed, the researchers, led by Alastair Key of the University of Cambridge, unearthed flint scrapers and piercing implements. Tobias Lauer of the University of Tübingen and his colleagues employed infrared-radiofluorescence dating to determine when the site’s feldspar sand grains had last been exposed to sunlight and thus when the artifacts had been buried. “The artifacts are precisely where the ancient river placed them, meaning we can say with confidence that they were made before the river moved to a different area of the valley,” Lauer explained. Homo heidelbergensis may have traveled to the region during the summer months to hunt and prepare animal hides for use as clothing or shelter, added Tomos Proffitt of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Royal Society Open Science. For more on Homo heidelbergensis, go to "Our Tangled Ancestry."

Inscriptions Reveal Details About Palmyra’s “Anonymous God”

WROCŁAW, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that Aleksandra Kubiak-Schneider of the University of Wrocław examined more than 2,500 Aramaic inscriptions on stone altars from Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra. Most of these inscriptions date from the second to third centuries A.D., and all contain phrases such as “He whose name is blessed forever,” “Lord of the Universe,” and “Merciful.” For the past 100 years, scholars have referred to this unknown deity as the “Anonymous God of Palmyra.” But Kubiak-Schneider noticed that the ways in which the Palmyra inscriptions addressed this god were the same as the ways specific deities were addressed in hymns from Mesopotamia’s temples, and could refer to the same gods. In fact, “He whose name is blessed forever,” can refer to any male deity in hymns and prayers in Babylonia and Assyria, and could have been used in the same way in Palmyra, Kubiak-Schneider explained. “There was no one Anonymous God,” she said. “Every god who listened and showed favor to requests deserved an eternal praise.” Deities could have many names and titles that could be used in different situations by different people, she added. “Each name carries a different message, showing different aspects of deities worshipped in polytheistic systems, such as the one in Palmyra or in the cities of Mesopotamia, or the Roman Empire,” Kubiak-Schneider concluded. To read about a Bronze Age merchant city in Syria, go to "The Ugarit Archives."