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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, October 1

19th-Century Elevator Revealed in Old Florida Hotel

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA—The Tampa Bay Times reports that renovation of St. Petersburg’s historic Detroit Hotel buidling has revealed a forgotten staircase and fireplace, a wooden telephone switchboard with room numbers written by hand, and an elevator estimated to be about 115 years old. The elevator and its electric motor are intact, although the cables were severed sometime in the past. According to local historian Joey Vars and Nevin Sitler of the St. Petersburg Museum of History, the 40-room hotel was built in 1888 by Russian Peter Demens and John C. Williams, the founders of the city of St. Petersburg, who also built a train station across the street. While the city was named for Demens’ homeland, the hotel was named for Williams.’ As the railroad brought rapid growth to the city, the hotel was expanded. Architectural historian Lee Gray of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte suggests that the elevator was added to the structure around 1897 or 1898. “Even in the 1890s, a lot of towns still didn’t have electricity,” he said. Electricity reached St. Petersburg in 1897. To read about recent archaeological research in Florida, go to "Around the World: Florida."   

Scythian Grave Unearthed in Southern Siberia

KHAKASSIA, RUSSIA—Live Science reports that researchers from Siberia’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography discovered the 2,500-year-old remains of a man, a woman, a newborn infant, and an older woman in a grave that also held full-sized bronze daggers, knives, axes, mirrors, and a miniature comb made of animal horn. These nomadic Scythian warriors, who may have been killed by an illness, belonged to the Tagar culture, whose members are known to have buried their dead with miniatures of everyday objects. The man and woman were placed in the grave on their backs next to large ceramic vessels. Two bronze daggers and two axes were also set by the man, while one bronze dagger, one ax, and a hatchet or long-handled ax were placed by the woman’s remains. Oleg Andreevich Mitko of Novosibirsk State University said that Tagarian women were usually buried with long-range weapons such as arrowheads. The older woman, estimated to be about 60 years old at the time of death, was placed on her side with her knees bent at the feet of the other two adults. A small ceramic vessel and a comb with broken teeth was placed next to her. DNA analysis may reveal if the grave’s occupants were related to each other. To read about recently unearthed burials of female Scythian warriors, go to "Arms and the Women."

Study Pinpoints Date of Volcanic Eruption in Maya World

OXFORD, ENGLAND—According to a Gizmodo report, an international team of scientists including Victoria Smith of the University of Oxford and Dario Pedrazzi of Geosciences Barcelona–CSIC has pinpointed the date of the Tierra Blanca Joven volcanic eruption in El Salvador to A.D. 431, through the analysis of volcanic shards recovered from ice cores in Greenland, the levels of sulphur recorded in ice cores from Antarctica, and radiocarbon dating of a charred tree recovered from a layer of volcanic ash. The researchers also mapped ash deposits and bits of volcanic debris over an area of 77,220 square miles in order to create a simulation of the eruption. The model indicates that the volcano’s plume reached 28 miles high, covered much of Central America in ash, and spread ash all the way to Greenland. Smith, Pedrazzi, and their colleagues suggest that researchers look for the impact of the eruption on world events circa A.D. 431. They noted that the archaeological record of Maya ceramic production within 50 miles of the Ilopango caldera paused about 1,500 years ago, and resumed after a period of about 100 to 150 years. To read about how the Maya conceived of their place in the cosmos, go to "The Maya Sense of Time."

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Wednesday, September 30

Viking-Era Child’s Remains Discovered in Dublin

DUBLIN, IRELAND—RTÉ reports that the remains of a child and an iron buckle or fastener were uncovered in Dubh Linn, a dark tidal pool where the River Poddle enters the River Liffey at the site of Dublin Castle, by a team of researchers led by Alan Hayden of University College Dublin. The skeleton is thought to belong to a 10- to 12-year-old who died in the early Viking period. The body may have been wrapped in a shroud and thrown into the river, Hayden said, since there was no evidence to suggest the body had been buried. Further study of the bones could reveal the child’s sex, ethnic origin, and pinpoint time of death, he added. For more on the early Viking period in Dublin, go to "The Vikings in Ireland."

New Dates for Modern Human Arrival in Westernmost Europe

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY—According to a Cosmos Magazine report, an international team of researchers working in the Lapa do Picareiro, a cave near central Portugal’s Atlantic coastline, has uncovered thousands of butchered animal bones and tools made by modern humans between 41,000 and 38,000 years ago, pushing back the arrival of modern humans in westernmost Europe by some 5,000 years. Previous research has suggested that Neanderthals inhabited the same region between 45,000 and 42,000 years ago. “Neanderthal populations were probably not very dense and therefore unable to prevent moderns from invading their territory,” said Jonathan Haws of the University of Louisville. “It also raises the possibility that the two groups were contemporary and interacted with one another, ultimately leading to the assimilation of the Neanderthals.” It is still not known if modern humans traveled across Europe on inland rivers, or if they followed the coastline, Haws explained. To read about the domestic spaces of some of Europe's earliest modent humans, go to "Letter from France: Structural Integrity."

Tuesday, September 29

Neolithic Settlement Discovered Near Turkey’s Black Sea Coast

KASTAMONU, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that a team of researchers led by Nurperi Ayengin of Düzce University are excavating a pre-pottery Neolithic settlement at Kahin Tepe, which is located on northern Turkey’s Black Sea coast. “We think that this is a sacred area where people came at certain times of the year to hunt, share their knowledge, worship, and make statues of animals,” Ayengin said. Many of the objects found at the site, which has been dated to between 9,000 and 14,000 years old, are similar to those found at the Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe, which is located in southeastern Anatolia. For more on religious activity at that site, go to "Skull Cult at Göbekli Tepe," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

Ancient Cistern Fully Excavated in Croatia

LUMBARDA, CROATIA—Croatia Week reports that an ancient cistern measuring about 30 feet wide by 55 feet long and surviving to a depth of about 12 feet has been fully excavated on the southern Croatian island of Korčula. “That’s a huge amount of water,” said archaeologist Hrvoje Potrebica. In 1877, Božo Kršinić discovered the Lumbarda Psephisma, an inscription describing the founding of a Greek settlement on the island some 2,200 years ago, in the cistern, which also dates to about the beginning of the third century B.C. Conservator Krešimir Bosnić said the cistern is coated with high-quality plaster that had been expertly applied. Potrebica added that the research team created a highly detailed 3-D scan of the structure to help them monitor its condition. To read about early evidence of cheese making that was identified on pottery from Croatia's Dalmatian coast, go to "When Things Got Cheesy."

Scientists Search for the Neanderthal Y Chromosome

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—According to a Science Magazine report, Martin Petr and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and their colleagues analyzed the Y chromosomes of three Neanderthal men who lived between 38,000 and 53,000 years ago, and whose remains were recovered in Belgium, Spain, and Russia, and the Y chromosomes of two male Denisovans who lived in Siberia between 46,000 and 130,000 years ago. The researchers determined that the genetic material on the Neanderthal Y more closely resembles a modern human Y chromosome than that of their close Denisovan cousins. Computational models based upon this information indicate the modern human Y chromosome spread rapidly from father to son through the small Neanderthal populations in Europe and Asia between 100,000 and 370,000 years ago. However, the researchers note, this Y chromosome came from a modern human population that migrated out of Africa and then went extinct. Kelso explained that the modern human Y chromosome may have offered Neanderthals a genetic advantage, especially after modern human mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from mother to child, entered Neanderthal populations some 220,000 years ago. The team members will now try to obtain samples of older Neanderthal Y chromosomes to see if they more closely resemble Denisovan DNA. To read more about Neanderthal DNA sequencing, go to "Neanderthal Epigenome."

Iron Age Sacrifice Site Found in Slovakia

BREZINA, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that excavation near Trenčín Castle in eastern Slovakia revealed a moat that had been cut through a Celtic site dated to the Iron Age. Archaeologist Juraj Malec said 2,200-year-old ceramics, small bones, and pieces of glass and metal ingots were recovered. Two of the items were the heads of small figurines. “As it is a sacrificial place, all objects went through some kind of heat,” Malec said. Bodies were also likely burned at the site, added Tomás Michalík of Trenčín Museum. Researchers will continue to investigate the area surrounding the castle. To read about a cache of high-status artifacts uncovered outside Bratislava, go to "World Roundup: Slovakia."

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