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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, September 21

England Returns Ancient Egyptian Artwork

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to an Ahram Online report, a limestone relief bearing the cartouche of King Amenhotep I that had been offered for sale in a London auction house has been handed over to Egyptian authorities. An archaeologist who spotted the relief in London and realized it had been stolen in from the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor in 1988 alerted Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. Shabaan Abdel Gawad of the ministry’s Repatriation Department said ministry officials intervened to stop the sale. To read about a recent discovery at Luxor, go to "Honoring Osiris." 

Medieval Bishop’s Seal Found in Sweden

BISKOPS ARNÖ, SWEDEN—The Local reports that a small fragment of a medieval stamp was recovered on an island in central Sweden during archaeological investigations ahead of the construction of a new pipeline. Archaeologist Maria Lingström found the object with a metal detector in a three-foot wide trench. It is thought to have belonged to Christian archbishop Petrus Philippi, who died in A.D. 1341. “Only about 50 seal stamps that belonged to the clergy have been found so far in Sweden,” Lingström said. “This particular stamp was personal and the archbishop carried it with him at all times.” His signature seal stamp was likely destroyed upon the bishop’s death. To read about a recently rediscovered depiction of a  medieval abbott, go to "He's No Stone Face."

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Thursday, September 20

Technique Estimates Ancient Population Size With Biomarkers

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA—Scientists are developing a technique to estimate ancient populations based on biomarkers found in the feces of humans and other some animals, according to a Smithsonian report. A.J. White of the University of California, Berkeley, explained that coprostanol, a molecule produced in the human gut through the digestion of cholesterol, can be found in sediments and measured. The technique was tested at Cahokia, a site in southern Illinois occupied between A.D. 1050 and 1350 and known for its earthen structures. The researchers found that the levels of coprostanol and other by-products of digestion in samples taken from Cahokia’s Horseshoe Lake correspond with population estimates over time, based on the ancient city’s archaeological record. “I don’t see this as something which will replace former methods of estimating population, but rather can supplement our knowledge in a new way where traditional methods can’t,” White said. The technique could also help archaeologists estimate the size of ancient hunter-gatherer groups and early domesticated animal herds. To read more about Cahokia, go to "Breaking Cahokia's Glass Ceiling."

Iron Age Grinding Stone Found in Turkey

VAN, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that a 2,700-year-old grinding stone has been unearthed at the fortified site of Çavuştepe, which is located in eastern Turkey. Çavuştepe was built in approximately 750 B.C. by the Urartian king Sardur II. Rafet Cavusoglu of Yuzuncu Yil University said the well-worn stone is the fourth one found at the site. “This is a stone people used to grind some grains like barley and wheat after adopting a settled life,” he said. The excavation team has also recovered some 120 pots that may have been used to store grain. To read about an Iron Age battle that involved Urartrian soldiers, go to "The Price of Plunder." 

Wednesday, September 19

Archaeologists Look for Evidence of Past Child Labor Practices

VIENNA, AUSTRIA—According to a report in Nature, scientists have been looking for evidence of child labor in the archaeological record. Hans Reschreiter of the Natural History Museum of Vienna said that a child-sized leather cap dated to between 1000 and 1300 B.C. and very small mining picks have been found in salt mines in Hallstatt, Austria. This pushes back the known presence of children in the mines by at least 200 years. Reschreiter and his colleagues will test human excrement found in the mine for hormones that younger children would lack for further evidence of their presence in the mines. In France, archaeologist Mélie Le Roy of the Mediterranean Laboratory of Prehistory–UMR 7269 has found three human baby teeth from two children who were younger than ten at the time of death sometime between 2100 and 3500 B.C. The teeth are marked with grooves usually formed by repeatedly using them as tools for holding plant or animal materials while softening them. Small fingerprints from eight through 13-year-olds have been found on more than ten percent the bricks and tiles of a medieval Lithuanian castle by archaeologist Povilas Blaževičius of the National Museum of the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in Vilnius. Archaeologist Steven Dorland of the University of Toronto has found child-sized fingernail marks in fifteenth-century pottery fragments in southern Canada. Even their misshapen pots had been fired, he said. “It shows children in those societies had a certain level of social value.” For more on evidence of children in the archaeological record, go to “Childhood Rediscovered.”

Roman Cemetery Unearthed in England

NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a 2,000-year-old Roman cemetery has been found at the site of a housing development in England’s North Lincolnshire. More than 60 skeletons, pottery, and other grave goods have been recovered, according to Natasha Powers of Allen Archaeology. The cemetery is thought to have served a town situated near Ermine Street, which connected the cities of London and York. A second-century villa complete with a mosaic floor was uncovered in the town. “We knew there was a Roman settlement but we didn’t know about the cemetery,” Powers said. For more on Roman England, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

Neolithic Human Remains Discovered in Central Vietnam

HÀ NÔI, VIETNAM—Viet Nam News reports that additional 7,000-year-old human remains were discovered in the Krông Nô volcanic cave system in Vietnam’s central highlands. The bones of two adults and one child, who was about four years old at the time of death, had been surrounded by bones from ten other bodies. Pieces of ceramics, stone tools, and animal bones were also recovered. “This finding is the first of its kind in the area,” said Nguyên Trung Minh of Vietnam’s National Museum of Nature. According to Nguyên Lân Cu’ò’ng of the Viet Nam Archaeology Association, human remains are not well preserved in the region’s red basalt soil. “It seems the early people who lived in this cave system ate snails and mussels, the shells of which contain a lot of calcium that has changed the makeup of the environment inside the caves,” he explained. For more on archaeology in Southeast Asia, go to “Angkor Urban Sprawl.”

Maritime Archaeologists Seek HMS Endeavour Near Rhode Island

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND—Marine archaeologists investigating shipwrecks off the coast of Rhode Island say they may have found HMS Endeavour, according to a report in The Guardian. Known as the ship in which Captain James Cook traveled to Australia in 1770, Endeavour later served as a prison ship for Americans captured by the British during the War of Independence, and was eventually scuttled with 12 other vessels in 1778 to build a blockade before the Battle of Rhode Island. Kevin Sumption, director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, said divers are gathering samples of timber from five shipwrecks at one site in the Atlantic. At least one of the wrecks is said to be the size of Endeavour’s hull. “Most of the ships that were scuttled in Newport in August 1778 were built of American or Indian timbers [but] the Endeavour was built in the north of England of predominately oak,” Sumption added. If the tests show that one of the vessels was constructed in England, excavation around the wreckage site could produce further evidence of the ships’ identities, such as materials known to have been used on a prison ship. To read in-depth about the excavation of a 17th-century ship off a small Dutch island, go to “Global Cargo.”

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