Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, March 23

Rare, Ancient Egyptian Relief Identified in England

SWANSEA, WALES—BBC News reports that a rare image of Hatshepsut, one of five women to have ruled Egypt as pharaoh, has been found in the collections at Swansea University. The front side of the sculpted relief fragment shows the head of a figure whose face is missing, and a fan. A cobra on the figure’s forehead marks her as a pharaoh. Egyptology lecturer Ken Griffin and his students spotted the image of Hatshepsut in an old photograph while reviewing the contents of Sir Henry Wellcome’s collection, which came to the university in 1971. Griffin has contacted the researchers of the Polish Archaeological Mission to Egypt, who are excavating, recording, and restoring the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri. They may be able to find the spot where the relief was once attached to a wall. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

New Thoughts on Anatolia’s First Farmers

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND—A new study suggests that hunter-gatherers living on the Anatolian plateau some 10,000 years ago may have invented farming on their own, or learned to farm through their relationships with their neighbors, according to a Haaretz report. At the hunter-gatherer village known as Boncuklu, Douglas Baird of the University of Liverpool and his colleagues discovered stone tools, burned seeds, wheat chaff, and weeds known to have grown in early farmers’ fields. An abundance of pests also suggests the residents of Boncuklu farmed. Bones from the site suggest they kept sheep and goats. But the tools at Boncuklu and other sites in central Anatolia are unlike those found at other early farming sites in the Fertile Crescent, suggesting the Levantine farmers did not replace the Anatolians. “In addition, the ancient DNA evidence now clearly shows that there is a distinctive local gene pool in the early Neolithic at places like Boncuklu, different from the genetics of Levantine Neolithic populations,” Baird said. Anatolians who picked up farming survived to pass their genes on to later Neolithic populations in central and western Anatolia. To read about studies suggesting Europe's first farmers were also its first carpenters, go to “The Neolithic Toolkit.”

Repair Work at Pompeii Reveals Garden, Frescoes

NAPLES, ITALY—Massimo Osanna, superintendent for Pompeii, announced the discovery of public and private buildings that have not been seen since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. ANSA reports the excavations were undertaken to improve the stability and prevent collapses in the Regio V area of the ancient city. The discovery of the buildings, gardens, and porticoes was a surprise, Osanna said. “And, for the first time as academics,” he added, “we have come across objects, plasterwork, and frescoes that have never been restored, that are in their original shape and color without having been tampered with in past restoration.” The soil from an area thought to have been a garden in antiquity will be analyzed as well as the contents of amphoras recovered from its southeastern corner. For more on Pompeii, go to “Food and Wine Gardens: Pompeii, Italy.”

Medieval Settlement Unearthed in Dublin

DUBLIN, IRELAND—According to a report in The Journal a well-preserved settlement dating to the twelfth century has been found at a construction site in Dublin by archaeologists from Aisling Collins Archaeology Services. The site consists of dwellings, complete with gardens, cobbled stones, and smaller outbuildings where animals were probably housed. The excavation team recovered leather shoes, a wooden spoon and bowl, a copper alloy key, and a piece of slate inscribed with two birds and a picture of a figure riding a horse and carrying a shield and sword. They also unearthed items dating to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, including jug handles and evidence of a pit thought to have been used to tan hides. The artifacts will be housed in the National Museum of Ireland. To read about recent discoveries made in Cork, go to “Irish Vikings.”


More Headlines
Thursday, March 22

World War II Shipwreck Discovered Near the Solomon Islands

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON—Live Science reports that the wreckage of USS Juneau, a light cruiser lost on November 3, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal, has been found under more than 13,000 feet of water in the South Pacific by Vulcan, Inc., an exploration and conservation company led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Allen and his team detected the wreckage with side-scan sonar, and identified it with video taken by a remotely operated underwater vehicle. More than 680 American sailors, including five brothers, were killed when the ship was cut in half by Japanese torpedoes and sank. Although the Navy usually prohibits family members from being assigned to the same ship, Joseph, Francis, Albert, Madison, and George Sullivan had received special permission to serve together. Naval historians say the brothers’ deaths became a rallying cry for allied forces. The U.S. Navy has since named two destroyers The Sullivans after the brothers. The current ship’s motto is “We Stick Together.” To read about another recent discovery of a World War II ship, go to “Finding Indianapolis.”

Prehistoric Native American Sites Excavated in New Jersey

CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY—According to a report in The Philadelphia Inquirer, a total of some 10,000 Native American artifacts have been uncovered from two archaeological sites in Camden. Almost 1,300 artifacts were recovered at the first site, which is thought to have been a short-term camp. Among those objects, archaeologist Ilene Grossman-Bailey found a rectangular ceramic cooking vessel and a hearth containing charcola that has been dated to 1400 B.C. The second, slightly older site may have started as a temporary camp, but then it likely became a year-round settlement. It yielded ceramics; grinding and hammer stones thought to have been used to grind maize, legumes, and barley; and the burned bones of deer and other mammals, turtles, and wild fowl. A tool bearing protein residue may have been used to process the meat. Many of the artifacts at this site were recovered from a 20-foot-long ditch. “We don’t really know what it is,” said Grossman-Bailey. “There really isn’t anything else like it in New Jersey, although similar features have been found near the Chesapeake and in New England.” She thinks it may have been part of a house.

Five Additional Neanderthal Genomes Mapped

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—Seeker reports that scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have sequenced the genomes of five Neanderthals who lived between 39,000 and 47,000 years ago. The samples were obtained from the remains of male and female individuals, which were unearthed in Belgium, France, Croatia, and the Russian Caucasus. “The addition of the genome sequences of these five Neanderthals presented in this study doubles the number of genomes available,” explained Mateja Hajdinjak of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The samples were taken from bones and teeth, ground into a fine powder, and treated with a mild hypochlorite solution to remove any contaminants. Analysis of the genomes revealed that these five Neanderthals shared a common ancestor some 150,000 years ago with another Neanderthal individual whose genome was sequenced from remains found in Siberia. Researcher Svante Paabo added that the new research supports previous findings suggesting that Neanderthals and Denisovans shared an unidentified common ancestor some 400,000 years ago. To read about a new method for recovering genetic material left behind by early humans, go to “Caveman Genetics.”

Wednesday, March 21

Germany Repatriates Olmec Artifacts to Mexico

MUNICH, GERMANY—According to a Deutsche Welle report, German officials handed over two 3,000-year-old Olmec busts to Mexico in a ceremony held earlier this week. German authorities seized the two wooden sculptures, and about 1,000 other artifacts, from an antiquities dealer in 2008. The sculptures were then stored in the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection. The repatriated sculptures are thought to have been looted in the 1980s from El Manati, an archaeological site in eastern Mexico, where they are believed to have been buried along with 13 other artifacts that were excavated from the site by archaeologists. These items included axes and stone knives. “The recovery is very significant, since Olmec culture represents one of the first civilizations in ancient Mexico and only 13 pieces exist with the same characteristics,” said Maria Villarreal of Mexico’s National Institute of History and Anthropology. The Olmec busts will eventually be exhibited in Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology. To read in-depth about the Olmec, go to “Kings of Cooperation.”

Seventeenth-Century Decorations Uncovered in English Castle

NORTHUMBERLAND, ENGLAND—Wall paintings dating to the seventeenth century have been uncovered at Lindisfarne Castle, which was originally constructed as a fort in 1550 on Holy Island, off the coast of northeastern England. The Guardian reports that the images were found under layers of paint and plaster in the castle’s old kitchen and in one of the bedrooms by conservators. “They used charcoal to draw it, very simple carbon, and there are areas of red pigment so they might have been painted and colored,” said house steward Nick Lewis. “We know it was done professionally, so you didn’t just sit and do it yourself, and in those days there was a guild of wall painters who they would have used.” Lewis said the find surprised him, since the building was originally constructed for military use. And, because the decorations were found in two different parts of the structure, the entire building may have received similar treatment. The paintings will be stabilized and restored. To read in-depth about nearby Bamburgh Castle, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Two Historic Ships Discovered in Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C.—According to a WTOP report, two shipwrecks have been unearthed at a construction site in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. An eighteenth-century ship was found nearby in 2015. The three vessels are thought to have been used as landfill when the port was filled in. City archaeologist Eleanor Breen said additional evidence of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century wharves, piers, maritime vessels, and commercial industries may still be uncovered at the site. To read in-depth about shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, go to “Shipwreck Alley.”