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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, July 7

Study Examines Norman Influence on English Diet

CARDIFF, WALES—The Guardian reports that analysis of cooking pot residues and animal bones recovered from archaeological sites in England suggests that the consumption of pork and chicken increased after the Norman Conquest in A.D. 1066, while cabbage remained a diet staple. Before the arrival of the Normans, beef, lamb, mutton, and goat had been more widely consumed. Researchers also found a change in the chemical composition of the pig bones over time. Before the conquest, pigs were likely allowed to forage the countryside, but after the invasion, the animals were fed more protein, suggesting that farming practices intensified and pigs were kept in sties and fed scraps. The chemical composition of the bones of 36 men and women who lived between the tenth and thirteenth centuries indicates that they consumed about the same amount of protein and carbohydrate before and after the invasion, although there was a short period of dietary stress for a few years after 1066. Rickets, scurvy, and other bone conditions brought about by poor diet were rare, however, the researchers added. To read about a cache of silver pennies dating to this period, go to "Norman Conquest Coin Hoard," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.

Ochre Mines Identified in Mexico’s Flooded Caves

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—The Associated Press reports that hearths, smoke marks, firewood, stacked mining debris, pieces of broken stalagmites, stone tools, navigational aids, and digging sites have been found in flooded caves in the Yucatan peninsula. The remains of nine individuals dating back some 13,000 years have also been found in the caves, which flooded some 8,000 years ago. The artifacts suggest that people entered the cave system to mine tons of iron-rich red ochre, which was used in decorations and rituals. “Now we know that ancient humans did not risk entering this maze of caves just to get water or flee from predators, but that they also entered them to mine,” explained Roberto Junco Sánchez of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. For more on the archaeology of the Yucatan, go to "Maya Maize God's Birth."


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Monday, July 6

Graves Confirmed at African American Cemetery Site in Florida

TAMPA, FLORIDA—Further investigation of the site of a lost cemetery in western Florida has confirmed the presence of 49 graves without disturbing the remains, according to a Tampa Bay 10 report. Founded in 1901, Zion Cemetery was part of an African American settlement known as Robles Pond. It is thought to have held about 800 graves when the cemetery fell out of use in the 1920s and the land began to be developed. White-only housing construction in the 1950s turned up three burials, but newspaper accounts at the time said the cemetery had been relocated in 1925. Rebecca O’Sullivan of the University of South Florida said researchers have recovered shells, decorative glassware, and other items at the cemetery site. “The shells especially, there are connections that go back to traditions in West Africa, of shells being associated with water and death and the kind of afterlife, and that by leaving these shells in the grave, the deceased is able to pass over the water and go back home…in the afterlife,” she explained. A memorial is being planned for the site. To read about excavations at a Union Army camp in Kentucky where African American soldiers and their families lived, go to "A Path to Freedom."

Horse Burial Discovered in Central Iran

ISFAHAN, IRAN—According to a Tehran Times report, a burial containing the remains of a horse has been discovered at the site of Tepe Ashraf in central Iran. Archaeologist Alireza Jafari-Zand said the burial dates to the Parthian era, between 247 B.C. and A.D. 224. The animal was placed next to the remains of a person thought to have been its owner. Similar burials have been uncovered in Parthian cemeteries in northern Iran, Jafari-Zand explained. “The discovery of this type of burial in Ashraf hill is of high importance for the history of Isfahan because no such phenomenon has been reported in central Iran so far,” he added. The burial was found near a giant jar burial that was unearthed last month. To read about Scythian horse warrior burials that were recently unearthed in Russia, go to "Arms and the Women."

Thursday, July 2

Clues to Australia’s Past Spotted Underwater

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—Cosmos Magazine reports that two archaeological sites have been discovered underwater off the coast of northwestern Australia through the use of aircraft, remote underwater sensing technologies, boats, and divers. As much as one-third of the continent has been flooded since the last Ice Age, explained Jonathan Benjamin of Flinders University. “So if you’re looking for the whole picture on Australia’s ancient past, you’ve got to look under water, there’s just no question,” he said. More than 260 stone artifacts from the first site, which is located in Cape Bruguieres Channel, have been dated to at least 7,000 years ago. An artifact from the second site, known as Flying Foam Passage, has been dated to 8,500 years ago. The tools differ from those found on land, Benjamin added, and may have been crafted by the people who created the Murujuga rock art in the Dampier Archipelago. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read about petroglyphs left by American whalers on the Dampier Archipelago, go to "World Roundup: Australia."

Mining Camp Found in Southeast Australia

NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA—Fires have revealed a miners’ camp in southeast Australia’s Jamison Valley, according to a report in The Blue Mountains Gazette. Researchers from Macquarie University were examining remains of industrial equipment that was used to haul shale out of the valley when New South Wales National Parks rangers alerted them to the presence of other structures and artifacts, including wall foundations, hearths, paving, corrugated iron roofing, ceramics, and glass that had been previously hidden by vegetation. Workers are thought to have lived in the camp from the 1880s until about 1914. Additional archaeological surveys, archival research, and the collection of oral histories from local community members are planned. “The aim is to give ‘flesh and voice’ to the people who lived and worked at this place,” said team member Lucy Taksa. To read about excavations at a women's mental health asylum in Tasmania, go to "Around the World: Australia."