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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, August 6

Middle Paleolithic Site Discovered in Southern Israel

DIMONA, ISRAEL—According to a statement released by The Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Talia Abulafia and Maya Oron of the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered a small flint-knapping site in southern Israel’s Negev Desert that was occupied between 250,000 and 50,000 years ago. The artifacts and tool-making debris reflect technology first employed by people in East Africa between 150,000 and 100,000 years ago. Similar tools have been found on the Arabian Peninsula, suggesting that a path traveled by modern humans migrating out of Africa may have extended north to the Negev. For more, go to "Gimme Middle Paleolithic Shelter."

World War I–Era Sub Investigated in North Sea

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND—The Independent reports that researchers led by Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton investigated the wreckage of UC-47, a German submarine sunk off the coast of northern England by the Royal Navy in 1917. Sonar 3-D images and video collected with two remotely-operated unmanned submarines reveal the damage sustained by the submarine when it was rammed by Patrol Boat HMS P-57, which had been fitted with a strengthened bow. The Royal Navy vessel then dropped depth charges on the sunken submarine over a period of several days. Both technologies were developed to fight German U-boats and the plan to prevent the British from transporting coal, steel, timber, and cement by sea. German naval officials suggested after the war that Royal Navy divers had entered the UC-47 to retrieve intelligence documents, including a map of German mines laid against British shipping, but Pacheco-Ruiz said the wreckage rests under more than 150 feet of water, making such an operation unlikely. He thinks the crew of P-57 may have dropped the multiple depth charges in an effort to create holes in the wreckage so that documents could float to the surface. Scholars will search German naval archives for more information on how German officials learned about British intelligence gathering. To read about the wreck of a World War II U-boat, go to "Nazi Sub Discovered."

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Wednesday, August 5

Neolithic “Woodhenge” Discovered in Portugal

ÉVORA, PORTUGAL—Archaeologist António Valera announced the discovery of a monumental wooden structure at the prehistoric site of Perdigões, which is located in south-central Portugal, according to a report in The Portugal News. The circular structure measured more than 60 feet in diameter, and was situated in the center of a complex of ditch enclosures, he added. “A possible access to the interior of this structure is oriented towards the summer solstice, reinforcing its cosmological character,” Valera said. The circle thus links Perdigões to similar Neolithic henge sites found elsewhere in Europe, he added. To read about gatherings at henge sites throughout southwest England, go to "Neolithic Henge Feasts," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.

Medieval Place Names Offer Clues to Viking Waterway

INVERNESS, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that a new study of Old Norse place names with nautical themes, combined with an investigation of infilled channels with remote sensing technology and sediment analysis, suggests a waterway connected the farms around the Loch of Harray, in the center of the Orkney mainland, to the estates of nobles living at the Brough of Birsay, a tidal island off its northwest coast. The shallow route would have allowed the Vikings to move boats and heavy goods, and collect taxes and rents, according to Alexandra Sanmark of the University of the Highlands and Islands. From the Brough of Birsay, the route continued on to the North Atlantic, she explained. To read about a Viking hall unearthed on the Orkney island of Rousay, go to "Skoal!"  

Intact Inca Stone Box Recovered from Lake Titicaca

STATE COLLEGE, PENNSYLVANIA—Science News reports that divers have recovered an intact stone box containing a llama or alpaca figurine and a gold artifact at K’akaya reef, which is located near the eastern shore of Lake Titicaca. The lake, which is situated in the Andes Mountains between Bolivia and Peru, measures more than 115 miles long and 50 miles wide, and reaches a maximum depth of more than 900 feet. The animal figurine in the box was carved from a spiny oyster shell that may have been imported from the coast of Ecuador, while the piece of gold foil rolled into a cylinder measures about an inch long. Similar objects have been recovered some 18 miles to the south at the lake’s Khoa reef and the Island of the Sun, where the Inca built a ceremonial center. José Capriles of Penn State suggests that the entire lake may have served as a pilgrimage center for the Inca, and as a place where they could form alliances with local groups. Capriles and his colleague Christophe Delaere of the University of Oxford added that the meaning of such ritual objects to the Inca is unclear, but similar stone boxes holding figurines and gold artifacts have also been found in the Andes at sites associated with Inca child sacrifice. For more on the objects that have been found around the Island of the Sun, go to "World Roundup: Bolivia."

Tuesday, August 4

Revolutionary War Battlefield Found in South Carolina

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA—According to a report in The Post and Courier, archaeologist Mike Yianopoulos of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust and his colleagues have pinpointed the site of the Battle of Tar Bluff, fought in August of 1782. The battle is remembered today as the place where John Laurens, an aide-de-camp to George Washington, and friend of Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette, was killed. Laurens, 140 infantrymen, and artillery soldiers equipped with a howitzer attempted to secure a section of the Combahee River in order to prevent British soldiers stationed in Charles Towne from looting nearby farms. But the British learned of the plan and ambushed the Americans. General Mordecai Gist and his reinforcements were too late to save Laurens, but they caught up with the British, leading to a draw between the two sides. Yianopoulos and his team members used GPS technology and metal detectors to map the locations of dropped and fired musket balls and other artifacts, including an Irish halfpenny dated to 1775, a bayonet, and British grapeshot. They then compared this information to a map of the battle drawn by a British officer, and a lidar image of the surface of the ground, which revealed the locations of two small creeks recorded on the map. The battlefield, which is located on private property, is one of 72 identified by the Trust. To read about a fortified American post during the Revolutionary War, go to "Off the Grid: Colonial Dorchester, South Carolina."

Possible Cave and Tunnels Detected Under Castle in Poland

OLSZTYN, POLAND—The First News reports that a large cave and a network of tunnels have been discovered in the limestone crags underneath Castle Olsztyn, which was built in the fourteenth century in southern Poland. Archaeologist Mikołaj Urbanowski and his colleagues were investigating what is known as the Lower Castle Cave, where they recovered a medieval tile depicting a falconer, when they realized its floor surface was made of hardened sediment. “The initial results are very promising and indicate the existence of a network of voids and crevices under the floor of the already known cave,” explained Adrian Marciszak of Wrocław University. The study suggests the cave is about 23 feet deep. For more on Polish archaeology, go to "Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland."

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