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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, September 25

Possible War of 1812 Cemetery Found in Vermont

BURLINGTON, VERMONT—Vermont Public Radio reports that the possible remains of soldiers who died during the War of 1812 were found buried in rows at a construction site in northwestern Vermont. John Crock of the University of Vermont said that a hospital barracks and a large army base that housed as many as 4,000 soldiers had been located in the area, and there was likely to have been a cemetery connected to the military hospital even though there are no official records of one. Soldiers died of pneumonia, influenza, and typhus, in addition to battle wounds, he added. Many of the wooden coffins found in the cemetery had been built to size, he said, and some of the graves had already been exhumed, perhaps by University of Vermont medical students looking for anatomical specimens in the 1820s and 1830s. Crock and his team plan to analyze the soldiers’ bone chemistry to try and determine where they grew up and how old they were at the time of death. To read about the wrecks of two merchant ships that were used for military purposes during the War of 1812, go to "Mussel Mass in Lake Ontario."

Explorer's Food Cache Discovered in Antarctica

SYOWA STATION, ANTARCTICA—The Asahi Shimbun reports that Japanese researchers have found fragments of a cardboard box and a cache of emergency food dated to 1965 about five miles from Japan’s Syowa Station in Antarctica. The ration included a can of Coca-Cola, chewing gum, and a can of stewed beef and vegetables. Susumu Kokubun, a member of the 1965 expedition of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, said his team leader, Masayoshi Murayama, traveled to the area near Mukai Rocks, where the food was found, in January 1966 in a helicopter that had been loaded on their icebreaker, The Fuji. “He may have left the food on that occasion,” Kokubun said. An official from the Coca-Cola Company in Japan said this particular Coca-Cola can design was the first one introduced to Japan, and was available for only one or two years. It is labeled in katakana and had to be opened with a can opener. The best-selling chewing gum, first released in 1960, was developed for explorers to Antarctica by the Lotte Company in a “Cool Mint” flavor fortified with vitamins and minerals. Its packaging featured a penguin design. “I feel a special connection with the discovery because I was born in 1965,” said current expedition member Noriaki Obara, who discovered the emergency rations. To read about a 106-year-old fruitcake that was found in a hut at Antarctica's Cape Adare, go to "Super Fruitcake," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2017.

Italy Hands Over Stolen Ancient Artifact to Turkey

ISTANBUL, TURKEY—The Anadolu Agency reports that Italy has returned an 1,800-year-old Lydian atonement inscription to Turkey. The artifact was seized in 1997 by Italian anti-smuggling officials who raided an antiquities dealership. Officials from Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry have identified the inscription as part of the Apollon Aksyros Temple in western Turkey’s ancient city of Saitta. The inscription will be displayed in the Anatolian Civilizations Museum. To read about a bowl used for protective magic that was found at Sardis, once the capital of the Lydian Empire, go to "Artifact."

Dog Remains Found in Mesolithic Burial in Sweden

KARLSKRONA, SWEDEN—According to an Associated Press report, an 8,400-year-old burial containing the well-preserved remains of a dog and a person were uncovered at the site of a Mesolithic settlement in southern Sweden. The site was preserved in sand and mud laid down by rising seas, explained Carl Persson of the Blekinge Museum. Further study of the bones is planned, he added. The site is being excavated ahead of a construction project. To read about a sacrifice of eight dogs and a headless woman that occurred more than 2,000 years ago, go to "Denmark's Bog Dogs."


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Thursday, September 24

17th-Century English Book Found in College Library in Spain

MADRID, SPAIN—BBC News reports that John Stone of the University of Barcelona has found a 1634 printing of The Two Noble Kinsmen, a play written by William Shakespeare with John Fletcher, a house playwright for the theater group the King’s Men. The play appears in a book of English plays held at the Royal Scots College, which is now located in Salamanca, Spain. In the seventeenth century, the college was located in Madrid, and was a rare source of English literature for Spanish intellectuals. “By the 1630s English plays were increasingly associated with elite culture,” Stone explained. Based on Geoffrey Chaucer’s fourteenth-century poem The Knight’s Tale, Two Noble Kinsmen was written around 1613 or 1614, and is thought to have been one of Shakespeare’s last works before he died in 1616. “It is likely these plays arrived as part of some student’s personal library or at the request of the rector of the Royal Scots College, Hugh Semple, who was friends with the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega and had more plays in his personal library,” Stone said. The book remains in its original leather binding, he added. To read about the remains of an Elizabethan theater unearthed earlier this year in London, go to "Around the World: England."

Chromium Detected in Iran’s 1,000-Year-Old Crucible Steel

LONDON, ENGLAND—Gizmodo reports that evidence unearthed at Chahak, an archaeological site in southern Iran, suggests that ancient Persians added a chromium mineral to their alloys to produce low-chromium steel in the eleventh century A.D. It had been previously thought that chromium steel, also known as stainless steel, was first produced in the twentieth century. Steel was produced at the site by placing a mixture of iron and other minerals, including about one to two percent chromium and two percent phosphorus, in long, tubular crucibles, which were sealed and warmed in a furnace. After the metal and crucible had cooled, the crucible was broken open and the ingot removed. The addition of chromium made the strong and hard metal, which was probably used to produce swords, daggers, and armor, according to Rahil Alipour of University College London. The phosphorus, however, added to reduce the melting point of the mixture, made it fragile. “Chahak chromium crucible steel would have been similar in terms of its properties to modern tools steel,” Alipour said. Documents from the period noted that blades made in Chahak sold for a high price, but could be brittle. The presence of chromium could be used to identify items produced at Chahak, he added. To read about traces of chromium detected on the bronze weapons of China's Terracotta Warriors, go to "World Roundup: China."

Wednesday, September 23

Medieval Monastery Excavated in Ireland’s County Meath

COUNTY MEATH, IRELAND—The Irish Independent reports that archaeologists led by Geraldine Stout have uncovered pottery; the bones of cows, sheep, cats, and dogs; seeds; nuts; a key; a timber dash-urn with a paddle for churning butter; and a bakery at the site of a thirteenth-century monastery in eastern Ireland. The monastery was equipped with a communal latrine, a water system, and a cellar to support between 30 and 50 monks. Previous investigation of the site revealed French jugs and ceramic roof tiles, suggesting the site was inhabited by French Cistercians from Normandy known as De Bello Becco. The monastery also had a gatehouse. “We were lucky to find waterlogged deposits which preserved a lot of timber and seeds for us so we can tell by the flat oats and cereal that the monks made and ate sourdough bread,” Stout said. The site functioned as a monastery into the sixteenth century, she added. To read about a forgotten entrance to a monastery in Ireland's County Galway, go to "The Marks of Time: Monastery Doorway."

Mosaics Revealed in Fourth-Century Church in Turkey

MARDIN, TURKEY—Abdulgani Tarkan of the Mardin Museum told the Anadolu Agency that a team of excavators has uncovered the mosaic floors in a 1,600-year-old Christian church discovered last year in southeastern Turkey. The images on the floors include a nine-line inscription written in the ancient Syriac alphabet. “The mosaics are also decorated with animal depictions, geometric ornaments, and human figures, including scenes depicting people…hunting,” Tarkan explained. Some of the images also reveal how public religious worship was performed. To read about the remains of a fifth-century basilica found underwater in Lake Iznik, Turkey, go to "Sunken Byzantine Basilica," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.

Early 20th-Century Artifacts Unearthed at Estate Site in Scotland

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—The Edinburgh Evening News reports that excavations at the ruins of Cammo House, a structure first built in the late seventeenth century, have uncovered objects thought to belong Margaret Wright, who was the housekeeper at the mansion in the years leading up to World War I. Volunteers working with the Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society found the cache of objects, which includes tonic and perfume bottles, false teeth, and cooking equipment, in the servants’ area known as the Cottages. Historical research revealed that Wright was the only person on the estate in 1911 while the landowners were on a world tour. She retired after their return and died in 1915. To read about another find from Edinburgh, go to "World Roundup: Scotland."