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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, July 28

Copper Coins Unearthed at Greek City Site in Russia

KRASNODAR KRAI, RUSSIA—According to an ArtNet News report, researchers led by Vladimir Kuznetsov of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Archaeology uncovered the broken neck of an amphora holding 80 copper staters in Phanagoria, an ancient Greek city located in southwestern Russia. The coins are thought to have been hidden before an attack by the Huns or the Turks, who burned large sections of the city and left the coins covered in ash and fire-damaged wooden floors. A broken baptismal font suggests that an early Christian basilica stood on the site where the coins were found. The copper staters are thought to have been minted in the late third or early fourth century and circulated through the sixth century. To read about another coin cache found at Phanagoria, go to "Palace of Mithradates," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2009.

Rock Art Sites Push Back Settlement of Northern India

HARYANA, INDIA—The Print reports that Paleolithic paintings and artifacts have been found in multiple rock shelters and open-air sites near Mangar Bani forest in northwestern India’s Aravalli Mountains. The newly found rock art is estimated to date back some 20,000 to 40,000 years. “Some are line drawings, which are the oldest, when humans hadn’t really figured out how to draw complex patterns,” said Banani Bhattacharya of the Haryana Department of Archaeology and Museums. “Then we can see drawings of different geometric shapes, foliage, animals, and human figures. Most of the drawings were made with ochre, although some are white and thus belong to the historic era,” she added. Bhattacharya and her colleagues plan to complete an extensive survey of the remote area soon and develop a plan to protect the sites from mining and tourists. To read about rock paintings discovered at sites across Madhya Pradesh, go to "Around the World: India."


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Tuesday, July 27

New Dates for Canterbury Cathedral’s Medieval Stained Glass

CANTERBURY, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that stained glass windows over the south entrance of Canterbury Cathedral, which depict the ancestors of Christ, have been re-dated to the mid-twelfth century using a new, non-destructive technique. Conservator Léonie Seliger and her colleagues used a device called a windolyser to shine a beam on the surface of the glass. Spectrometry was then used to analyze the chemical fingerprint of the glass and calculate its age. The new dates indicate that the windows may have been in place when Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was assassinated in the cathedral in 1170 by four knights who thought they were acting on the orders of King Henry II. Because the building was damaged by fire in 1174, it had been previously thought that the windows were crafted in the thirteenth century. “The scientific findings, the observations, and the chronology of the cathedral itself all fit together very nicely now,” commented art historian Madeline Caviness, who noted in the 1980s that the style of these glass panels suggested that they could be older than the cathedral’s other windows. To read about stained glass unearthed during excavations at Westminster Abbey, go to "Westminster Abbey's Hidden History."

Smuggled Old Kingdom Statue Returned to Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to an Ahram Online report, an Old Kingdom statue depicting the priest Nikau-Ptah has been returned to Egypt from an art gallery in the Netherlands. Nikau-Ptah is shown standing and wearing a short skirt, although the statue’s legs are missing. The priest’s name was engraved on the sculpture’s right hand. Shaaban Abdel-Gawad of Egypt’s Antiquities Repatriation Department said the statue had been illegally excavated and smuggled out of Egypt. To read about the sacred site of Heliopolis on the Nile, go to "Egypt's Eternal City."

Monday, July 26

Inscription With Image of Babylonian King Found in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA—Live Science reports that a 2,550-year-old inscription has been discovered on a piece of basalt in the Hail region of northern Saudia Arabia. Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, is shown holding a scepter at the top of the engraving, along with a snake, a flower, and the moon. These images are thought to have been used as symbols with religious meaning. The lines of cuneiform text following the images are being translated and may offer new information about the king. Nabonidus is known to have ruled the Babylonian Empire from 555 to 539 B.C. At the beginning of his reign, he conquered an area in what is now Saudi Arabia and lived there in the city of Tayma until about 543 B.C. It is not known what happened to Nabonidus when Babylon was captured by the Persians in 539 B.C. To read about ancient monuments recently recorded during an aerial survey in northwest Saudi Arabia, go to "Around the World: Saudi Arabia."

New Thoughts on Early Human Dentition

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND—According to a statement released by the University of Otago, biological anthropologist Ian Towle and dentist Carolina Loch examined more than 20,000 teeth from fossils and living primates and noted the position and size of any tooth fractures for clues to the diets of early humans. The researchers found that extreme tooth wear and high rates of tooth fractures were normal within the Homo genus, similar to the rate of tooth fracture found in living primates who eat a diet of hard foods. Paranthropus robustus, a human relative that lived about three million years ago, had been thought to eat a diet of seeds and nuts based upon its massive back teeth. But the researchers found a low rate of tooth fracture among the Paranthropus teeth studied, similar to modern primates that eat soft fruit or leaves. The tooth fractures observed in early humans may have also been caused by non-food items, the researchers explained, such as grit in the diet or stone tools. Teeth may have evolved to be smaller as other parts of the skull expanded, Towle added. To read about a two-million-year-old Paranthropus robustus skull, go to "Consider the Craniums."