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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, June 18

Neolithic Artifacts Discovered in Northern Vietnam

BAC KAN, VIETNAM—The Vietnam News Agency reports that tools made of stones taken from the beds of streams and rivers, as well as the bones of pigs, monkeys, hedgehogs, and deer, were discovered in Puong Cave, which is in the mountains of northern Vietnam. Oyster and snail shells, and traces of nuts were also recovered at the site, which Trinh Nang Chung of the Vietnam Archaeology Institute estimates is about 9,000 years old. The tools and food remains were left behind by members of the Neolithic Hoa Binh civilization, he added. For more on archaeology in Southeast Asia, go to “Letter from Laos: A Singular Landscape.”

Overcrowding May Have Led to Violence at Çatalhöyūk

COLUMBUS, OHIO—According to a Haaretz report, a team of researchers led by Clark Spencer Larsen of Ohio State University analyzed remains unearthed at the 9,000-year-old site of Çatalhöyūk, where as many as 8,000 people are thought to have lived in close proximity to each other in what is now south-central Turkey over a period of about 1,000 years. The scientists found that 25 of the 93 skulls that they studied showed signs of healed fractures, and 12 of those people had been beaten as many as five times with round, hard objects. A number of clay balls unearthed at the site are of about the right size to have inflicted the blows, the scientists note. “We found an increase in cranial injuries during the Middle period, when the population was largest and most dense,” Larsen said. “An argument could be made that overcrowding led to elevated stress and conflict within the community.” Infectious diseases and environmental problems, added to violence, are thought to have brought on the collapse of the town about 7,950 years ago. To read about another discovery at Çatalhöyūk, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

Study in Spain Investigates Neolithic Gender Inequality

SEVILLE, SPAIN—According to a report in Cosmos Magazine, archaeologists led by Marta Cintas-Peña and Leonardo García Sanjuán of the University of Seville reviewed more than 500 Neolithic burials at 21 archaeological sites on the Iberian Peninsula. They found that at the 198 graves where the sex of the deceased could be determined, there were 1.5 male graves for every female grave. The researchers said that children’s graves were also underrepresented in the sample. “The quantity of males cannot be natural,” Cintas-Peña said. The study indicates that men were more likely to be buried with arrowheads and other projectiles, and more likely to have signs of injury or violent death, while women were more likely to be buried with ceramics. However, the researchers added, the most elaborate graves in the cemeteries did not necessarily belong to men. They suggest gender differences, and male predominance in terms of violence, arose along with social inequalities as people accumulated private property. “If we can say that gender inequality began in the Neolithic, or in the Copper Age or in any period, it means that it's something cultural, it’s not something biologically determined,” Cintas-Peña explained. For more, go to “Neolithic FaceTime.”

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Monday, June 17

Medieval Tower Discovered at Slovakian Castle

MARKUŠOVSKÝ, SLOVAKIA—The Slovak Spectator reports that the base of a circular tower thought to date to the end of the thirteenth or beginning of the fourteenth centuries has been discovered at Markušovský Castle, which is located in eastern Slovakia. Markušovský Castle was first mentioned in historic documents dating back to A.D. 1284, when the Máriassy family was given the right to build it. Archaeologist Kamil Švaňa said the tower, which may have been residential as well as part of the castle’s defensive system, may have been part of the first phase of construction and could help confirm the identification of the site. “We found the remains of the entrance to the tower’s lower floor under the level of terrain,” Švaňa explained. The upper part of the tower may have been dismantled and reused in the construction of newer parts of the castle, he added. A bronze bell and two coins dated to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were also uncovered. To read in-depth about medieval castles, go to "Inside the Anarchy."

Nineteenth-Century Artifacts Recovered in Canada

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR, CANADA—Archaeological investigation ahead of water and sewer maintenance work in the city of St. John’s has revealed a collection of 79 human teeth and other artifacts dating back to the nineteenth century, according to a report in The Chronicle Herald. The teeth were recovered from a wooden drain in the sewer system. “There was no dentist as such in St. John’s until fairly late in the nineteenth century,” said archaeologist Blair Temple of Gerald Penney Associates. He thinks the teeth were probably pulled by a barber or pharmacist who washed them down a drain. The teeth then got caught in a drain that had been choked up with silt, he explained. A dentist confirmed most of the teeth had bad cavities and tobacco stains, and had been pulled from different people. The other items recovered during the excavation include an intact glass bottle, the copper finial from the end of an umbrella, pipe fragments, pieces of dinnerware, and a burned copper egg cup fused to pieces of mortar and glass. Temple said the egg cup had probably been in a structure that burned during one of the city’s great fires, perhaps in 1846. To read in-depth about the archaeology of nineteenth-century settlements, go to "America's Chinatowns."

Colonial Tavern Site Uncovered in North Carolina

GREENVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA—According to a report in The Charlotte Observer, researchers led by Charles Ewen of East Carolina University were investigating the colonial-era port of Brunswick Town when they discovered a cache of artifacts under the floorboards of a tavern that is thought to have burned down in the 1760s. The building’s walls collapsed over the floors, Ewen explained, preserving pipes that had never been smoked, liquor bottles, and unidentified iron tools. Other artifacts recovered at the site include the brass tap from a wine barrel, broken mugs and goblets, an Irish half-penny dated to 1766, thimbles, straight pins, and women’s clothing fasteners. “Taverns really were one of the most important structures in a colonial town,” said Jim McKee, the site manager of Brunswick Town/Ft. Anderson State Historic Site. “You would have a group of men talking business transactions, a group of people talking law, a group of people talking gossip and, of course, leisure. You might even have had an escort service being run out of them.” The building, which measured about 25 feet long and 15 feet wide, was not recorded on any known maps of Brunswick Town. The entire town was razed by British troops in 1776 and never rebuilt. McKee said the presence of the tavern at the site suggests other buildings may have been left off known historic maps. To read more about historical archaeology in North Carolina, go to "Cotton Mill, Prison, Main Street." 

Friday, June 14

New Thoughts on Detecting Working Dogs

EDMONTON, CANADA—Science Magazine reports that Katherine Latham of the University of Alberta examined the remains of 136 pet dogs, 19 sled dogs, and 241 modern wolves to study a spinal condition zooarchaeologists have traditionally used to determine whether dogs were used by humans as draft animals. Known as spondylosis deformans, the condition is characterized by bony growths on the vertebrae. When they are large, the growths can cause back stiffness. It had previously been thought that dogs may have developed spondylosis deformans from the stress of regularly pulling or carrying heavy loads, but Latham found the growths on the spines of dogs whether or not they pulled sleds, and even among some of the wolves. Just about all of the animals that had reached the age of nine had the growths, she explained. According to Latham, the presence of spondylosis deformans in ancient canine remains simply suggests that the dogs had reached advanced age. To read about a DNA study of New World dogs, go to "The American Canine Family Tree." 

Unusual Megalithic Monument Identified in Ireland

SLIGO, IRELAND—The Leitrim Observer reports that a team of researchers led by Marion Dowd and James Bonsall of the Institute of Technology Sligo conducted geophysical surveys at the Carrowmore megalithic complex, which is located in the north of Ireland. It had been previously thought that the feature under investigation was a barrow, or circular earthen monument surrounded by a circular ditch. “Our survey revealed several features that were not visible above ground,” Bonsall said. “We discovered that the ‘barrow’ contained a central pit and a substantial circular ditch.” The circular ditch surrounded a raised area containing a circular layer of stone. A sunken area within the layer of stone contained black, charcoal-rich soil, Dowd added. Stone tools made of chert, used for working animal hides, cutting and preparing food, basket making, and bone working, were also found within and around the monument. “So far, we cannot find any parallel for it in Ireland,” Dowd said. To read about another megalithic site recently identified in Ireland, go to "Heat Wave: Late Neolithic Monument." 

Bones on Canadian Beach Likely Belonged to Irish Immigrants

MONTREAL, CANADA—According to the CBC, scientists at the University of Montreal have confirmed that 21 sets of human remains recovered from a beach on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula belonged to Irish immigrants killed when Carricks of Whitehaven sank in 1847. The ship had been traveling from Sligo to the Port of Quebec when it sank, killing 132 passengers. The bones of three children who were between the ages of seven and 12 at the time of death washed up on the beach during a storm in 2011. The rest of the remains were discovered in a mass grave during an archaeological investigation conducted in 2016. Analysis of the bones showed the dead all suffered from diseases and malnutrition likely brought on by Ireland’s Great Famine. “The tragic events of the Carricks shipwreck are a startling reminder of just how difficult the journey was for the travelers and that not everybody was lucky enough to reach their new home,” said Diane Lebouthillier, member of Parliament for the Gaspésie-Les Îsles-de-la-Madeleine region. The bones will be reburied on the beach in Cap-des-Rosiers this summer. To read in-depth about two other vessels that sank in Canadian waters in the 1840s, go to "Franklin's Last Voyage."

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