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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, September 21

Sunken Greek Temple Found Off the Coast of Egypt

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT—i24 News reports that a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Aphrodite was discovered at the underwater site of the city of Thonis-Heracleion in Abu Qir Bay by a team of Egyptian and French archaeologists from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology. Mostafa Waziri of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said that the temple has been dated to the fifth century B.C. Artifacts made of bronze and ceramic were found within the temple, he added. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and rising sea levels are thought to have caused much of the city of Thonis-Heracleion to sink in the second century B.C. To read about remnants of another temple discovered at Thonis-Heracleion, go to "Egypt's Temple Town."

Hominins Built Wooden Structures and Transformed Environment

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that remains of a wooden structure built by hominins has been discovered near Zambia’s Kalambo Falls by a team of researchers led by Larry Barham of the University of Liverpool. The materials have been dated to least 476,000 years ago by team members from the University of Aberystwyth with luminescence dating techniques, which reveal the last time minerals in the sands surrounding the artifacts had been exposed to sunlight. The remains of the structure include two logs bearing cutting, chopping, and scraping marks made with stone tools also found at the site. The end of one log crosses the second and is held in place with a large notch. “When I first saw it, I thought this can’t be real,” Barham said. He thinks the structure may have been part of a walkway or a foundation for a platform. “A platform could be used as a place to store things, to keep firewood or food dry, or it might have been a place to sit and make things. You could put a little shelter on top and sleep there,” he explained. The dating of the structure indicates it could have been made by Homo heidelbergensis, a hominin that lived in the region at the time. During their investigation of the Kalambo Falls area, Barham and his colleagues also recovered a wooden wedge, a split branch with a notch in it that may have been part of a trap, and a log that had been cut at both ends. For more on Homo heidelbergensis, go to "Our Tangled Ancestry."

Chemical Analysis of Viking Combs Hints at Long-Distance Trade

YORK, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of York, a new analysis of collagen extracted from Viking hair combs by researchers from the University of York, University of Stockholm, the University of Barcelona, the Center for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology, and the Leibniz Center for Archaeology suggests trade between the Viking settlement of Hedeby in Germany and northern Scandinavia may have originated earlier than previously thought. Large amounts of craft production waste, mostly comprised of red deer antler, has been recovered at Hedeby, a major antler-working center. But the study found that 85 to 90 percent of the finished antler combs unearthed in Hedeby had been made from the antlers of reindeer, which live in northern Scandinavia. The study therefore indicates that the combs unearthed at Hedeby had been manufactured elsewhere and then transported on a large scale as early as A.D. 800. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Antiquity. To read about a 3,700-year-old ivory comb unearthed in Israel, go to "L is for Lice."


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Wednesday, September 20

Iron Age Cremation Burials Uncovered in Germany

FRÖNDENBERG, GERMANY—According to a statement released by the Westphalia-Lippe Regional Association (LWL), graves containing cremated remains and ceramics were uncovered in northwestern Germany during an archaeological investigation conducted ahead of a clay mining operation. Most of the graves, which are estimated to be 2,000 years old, have been damaged by plowing, but larger pieces of pottery from several of the burials were preserved. One oval-shaped pit contained burned bone, a decorated spindle whorl, loom weights, and large pieces of ceramics decorated with finger impressions. “We know of such ceramics, for example, from well-dated settlements in Lower Hesse from the third to second centuries B.C.,” said LWL archaeologist Manuel Zeiler. Another pit contained a flint point from Neolithic Bell Beaker culture, meaning it was already 2,000 years old when the cemetery was in use. It is not clear if the point was placed in the pit on purpose or if it fell in when the pit was dug or filled. Charcoal, burned debris, and bits of pottery were also recovered from several smaller pits. To read about a 9,000-year-old grave of a woman buried with hundreds of ritual objects, go to "The Shaman's Secrets."

Two Roman Swords Unearthed in England

GLOUCESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the Cotswold District Council, two Roman cavalry swords, fittings, fragments of their wooden scabbards, and pieces of a copper alloy bowl were discovered during a metal detectorist rally in southwestern England. Simon James of Leicester University said that the swords, known as spatha, were in use from the mid-second century into the third century A.D. The length of the swords suggests that they were used on horseback. The site where the weapons were discovered will be investigated by archaeologists, who hope to learn more about why the swords were buried. The artifacts are currently housed at the Corinium Museum, and will be X-rayed and analyzed. To read about a bronze sword recently unearthed in Germany, go to "A Sword for the Ages."

Tuesday, September 19

Bronze Sculpture Repatriated to Vietnam

HÀ NỘI, VIETNAM—Vietnam News reports that a seventh-century A.D. bronze statue was handed over to Ambassador Nguyễn Hoàng Long in a ceremony in London. The sculpture, recovered after a long investigation conducted by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and London’s Metropolitan Police, was looted from central Vietnam’s Mỹ Son Sanctuary in 2008. The well-preserved statue weighs more than 500 pounds and stands some six feet tall. It may represent Durga, a Hindu goddess associated with protection, strength, motherhood, and destruction, or a queen or royal consort, based upon the depictions of clothing and jewelry. For more on the archaeology of Vietnam, go to "Around the World: Vietnam."

Second Roman “Refrigerator” Discovered in Bulgaria

SVISHTOV, BULGARIA—According to a Miami Herald report, a second “refrigerator” has been found next to a series of lead water pipes in northern Bulgaria at the Roman military camp of Novae by a research team led by Piotr Dyczek of the University of Warsaw. The camp was constructed along the lower Danube River in the first century A.D. and was occupied into the middle of the fifth century. The storage unit, made with ceramic plates, has not yet been dated. Wine drinking vessels, bowls, and animal bones were found inside it. Traces of a wooden barracks, a well, and a furnace dated to the fourth century have also been uncovered at the site. To read about another refrigerator previously found at the site, go to "Around the World: Bulgaria."

5th-Century A.D. Children’s Cemetery Found in Anatolia

KONYA, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that the graves of more than 40 children have been found in a fifth-century A.D. cemetery at the site of the ancient city of Savatra, which is located in central Anatolia. The cemetery was uncovered near the foundation of a church structure with mosaic floors. “We encountered two different burial typologies in terms of east-west orientation, consisting of chamber tombs and tile graves,” said Ilker Işik of Selçuk University. “We identified a children’s cemetery, primarily consisting of non-adult individuals, ranging from fetuses to approximately 13–14 years of age,” he explained. Some of the graves contained the remains of multiple people, he added. Coins, rings, and earrings were also found in the burials. Işik and his colleagues will continue to explore the area. To read about excavations of a Roman amphitheater in western Anatolia's ancient city of Pergamon, go to "Saving Seats."