Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, October 19

Scientists Analyze Roman “Red Dust”

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—According to a Cosmos report, a team of scientists led by Effie Photos-Jones of the University of Glasgow subjected samples of mineral powder made up mostly of iron oxide to X-ray diffraction, geochemical analysis, dynamic light scattering, DNA sequencing, and antimicrobial tests to better understand why it was used in antiquity as a pigment and a cosmetic, as well as in ship maintenance, agriculture, and medicine. Texts dating back to the third century B.C. have noted that the substance, known as miltos, was mined from specific areas on the Greek islands of Kea and Lemnos, and at Cappadocia in Turkey. Photos-Jones and her colleagues found that modern samples from the different mines each contained a specific mix of chemicals and microorganisms that made them suitable for different uses. For example, some of the samples from Kea had high levels of lead that would have been effective at preventing the growth of slime and other organisms on boat hulls. Red dust from other mines could have made effective fertilizers, and may have been used to treat tree diseases. To read about the use of scientific techniques to investigate pigments used by Egyptians, go to “Hidden Blues.”


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Thursday, October 18

DNA Study Suggests Dogs Migrated With Early Farmers

RENNES, FRANCE—BBC News reports that a genetic study of dog remains recovered across Europe and Asia indicates that dogs traveled with early farmers from the Middle East some 9,000 years ago. “Our study shows that dogs and humans have an intertwined story—dogs followed humans during this migration across Europe,” said Morgane Ollivier of the University of Rennes. The dogs are thought to have helped their human companions with the herding of sheep, goats, and pigs during the trip, and then mixed with European dogs upon their arrival. To read about new research on the origin of dogs in the Americas, go to “The American Canine Family Tree.”

Climate Fluctuations May Have Damaged Angkor’s Water System

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—According to a Science News report, computer simulations suggest that heavy monsoon rains following decades of drought triggered failures in the extensive water system at Cambodia’s medieval city of Angkor Wat. Geoscientist Dan Penny of the University of Sydney said that during periods of intense rainfall, some of the earthen channels carrying water eroded and widened, which, combined with accumulations of sediment in other areas of the network, eventually led to uneven flow throughout the system. It had been previously thought that the city's abandonment in the fifteenth century was the result of a war with a neighboring kingdom and, possibly, the rise of Buddhism over Hinduism, but Penny and his colleagues think climate-induced infrastructure collapse could be to blame for the city’s demise. For more, go to “Angkor Urban Sprawl.”

Wednesday, October 17

Traces of Celtic Settlement Found in Switzerland

EGOLZWIL, SWITZERLAND—Swiss Info reports that Celtic artifacts dating to the first century B.C. were uncovered during construction work in the canton of Lucerne. Archaeologists say the objects are the first evidence of a Celtic settlement to have been found in the region, even though remains of sacrifices have been found in the past. The newly discovered items include a piece of a bronze pin, pottery, animal bones, and burned dwellings. For more on archaeology in the area, go to “Switzerland Everlasting.”

Document Fragment Describes Link Between Greek Colonies

SOZOPOL, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a piece of a document linking the ancient Greek colonies of Apollonia Pontica and Heraclea Pontica has been discovered on the Black Sea island of St. John. The two colonies were situated on the Black Sea coast in what are now the countries of Bulgaria and Turkey, respectively. The decree, drafted by the assembly of Apollonia Pontica and carved into a stone in the third century B.C., described the cordial ties between the two cities. “The citizens of Heraclea [Pontica] became honorary representatives of their own city in Apollonia [Pontica],” said epigraphist Nikolay Sharankov of Sofia University. “They received the right to buy real estate property there and to trade there without additional taxes and duties, not to wait their turn in judicial trials, to be given the floor with priority in the council and the assembly, to occupy the front row seats in the theater, and so on,” Sharankov explained. A copy of the document would have been sent to Heraclea Pontica, he added. The decree is thought to have been displayed in a prominent place in a shrine on the island, and then later reused as building material in the Christian monastery where it was recovered. To read in-depth about a Greek inscription found in Turkey, go to “In Search of a Philosopher’s Stone.”

Ancient Gymnasium Uncovered on Greek Island of Evia

EVIA, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, researchers led by Angeliki Simosi of the Swiss Archaeological School of Greece have uncovered traces of a gymnasium dating to the fourth century B.C. at the site of Eretria. A sanctuary dedicated to Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth and midwifery, had been placed in the northwestern section of the building. Earlier excavations in the area of the sanctuary found a well containing some 100 terracotta cups dating to the third century B.C. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Bronze Age Landmark.”