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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, January 19

18th-Century Inn Excavated in Scottish Highlands

SUTHERLAND, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that the site of an eighteenth-century inn in the Scottish Highlands has been investigated by a team of archaeologists and volunteers. The Wilkhouse Inn dates to the 1740s and is thought to have been used by travelers and drovers moving cattle to market. The excavators uncovered remains of the inn’s thick, lime mortared walls and a piece of window glazing. Fragments of wine and beer bottles were also recovered, along with pieces of porcelain, buttons, and a sheep bone. Historic accounts record that visitors were served cold meat, eggs, new cheese, and milk, by the innkeeper, Robert Gordon, and his wife. Coins found at the site include a French Louis XIII Double Tournois dating to between 1610 and 1643, suggesting that travelers may have stopped at the site before the inn was built. The inn was abandoned in 1819, when the land was cleared for sheep farming. Nick Lindsay of Clyne Heritage Society said timber rafters, slates, glass, and building stones would have been removed from the inn at that time. “It was then likely left as a ruin, which gradually collapsed over the decades and centuries to a broad pile of rubble,” he said. To read more about the archaeology of Scotland, go to "Letter From Scotland." 

11,000-Year-Old Burial Uncovered in China

GUIYANG, CHINA—Xinhua News Agency reports that the 11,000-year-old burial of a child who was under the age of two at the time of death has been found in a cave in southwest China. Zhang Xinglong of Guizhou Province’s Institute of Archaeology said tone tools, bone objects, and hunting tools dating to the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras were also found at the site. Researchers are now working to determine whether the tomb is the oldest to be recorded in the province. To read more about Neolithic and Paleolithic discoveries in China, go to "The First Pots." 

Neolithic Ritual Cave Site Discovered in Ireland

COUNTY MAYO, IRELAND—The Journal reports that human remains discovered on Ben Gorm Mountain in 2016 have been dated to as early as 3600 B.C. Upon excavating the natural boulder chamber where a hiker spotted scattered bones, researchers found the remains of at least ten adults, teens, and children that had been placed in a pit over a period of 1,200 years. Their skulls may have been ritually removed after the bodies had decomposed. “Large pieces of quartz had been placed in and around the bones,” explained Marion Dowd of the Institute of Technology, Sligo, the archaeologist in charge of the investigation. “Only a very small portion of each skeleton was found, with the majority of bones apparently deliberately removed.” Dowd added that the site indicates a highly complex practice of processing the dead during the Neolithic period. To read more about the prehistory of Ireland, go to "Samhain Revival."

Traces of Bronze Age Beer Found in Greece

THESSALONIKI, GREECE—According to the Greek Reporter, Soultana-Maria Valamoti of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and her team have uncovered evidence of beer brewing during the Bronze Age, between the third and second centuries B.C. The researchers recovered cereal residues, germinated cereal grains, and pieces of milled cereals inside two houses at the archaeological site of Archontiko, which is located in northern Greece. They suggest that the grains had been malted and charred. Similar evidence has been found in central Greece, at the site of Argissa. Valamonti said the practice of brewing beer may have spread to Greece from the eastern Mediterranean. To read more about ancient drinking, go to "Recreating Nordic Grog." 


More Headlines
Thursday, January 18

Rock-Hewn Tombs Uncovered in Northern Egypt

NEW ALAMEIN CITY, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a first- or second-century tomb containing several burial cavities has been discovered at the site of Al-Alamein on Egypt’s northern coast. Naema Sanad, director of the site, said there is a rock-cut staircase leading to the tomb’s main chamber. Its southern wall had been decorated with a Greek “welfare horn” adorned with flowers and leaves. Coins, pottery, and lamps have also been found. To read about another recent discovery in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

Ancient Cliff Tombs Discovered in Southwest China

CHENGDU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that more than 200 burial sites have been found in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, on cliffs overlooking the Jinjiang River. The tombs date from 206 B.C. to A.D. 420. Pan Shaochi of the Chengdu Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute said some of the tombs have as many as seven chambers, and tunnels measuring up to 65 feet long. Evidence suggests some of the tombs have been looted, but as many as 1,000 gold, silver, and bronze artifacts have nonetheless been recovered. “The discovery of the tomb cluster has provided rich materials for archaeological research on the Han and Wei-Jin dynasties,” Pan said. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Underground Party.”

Dried Flower May Be Linked to President Lincoln

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS—The Illinois News Network reports that a dried rose discovered in a box of artifacts at the Will County Historical Society may have adorned the funeral bier of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., in April 1865. Sandy Vasko, director of the historical society, said she thinks the flower had been given to General Isham Haynie of Illinois, who was a friend of Lincoln’s and may have been by his bedside when he died of a gunshot wound. General Haynie is thought to have given the rose to Mrs. James G. Elwood, whose husband was mayor of Joliet, Illinois. Elwood’s possessions were given to the historical society and stored away after it moved to its current building in 1971. The delicate dried flower will be put on limited display. Vasko added that the only other known flowers from Lincoln’s funeral are held in the Library of Congress. For more, go to “A Bold Civil War Steamer.”

Early Bronze Age Architecture and Technology Studied in Greece

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Guardian, an international team of researchers has uncovered drainage tunnels and metal workshops on the small island of Dhaskalio, which was first modified by people more than 4,000 years ago. Back then, the island was a heavily populated promontory connected to the Cycladic island of Keros—and its prehistoric sanctuary—by a narrow causeway. A network of terraces and stairways was carved into the surface of the pyramid-shaped promontory, which was then covered with white stone imported from Naxos. “What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanization,” explained Michael Boyd of the University of Cambridge. Colin Renfrew, also of the University of Cambridge, suggests the development of the site may have been spurred by its expansive views of the Aegean Sea and by the fact that it had the best harbor on Keros. Traces of grains, grapes, olives, figs, almonds, and pulses have been found in the soil on Dhaskalio. Much of the food is thought to have been imported. The drainage system may have been used to pipe in fresh water or to carry away sewage. To read about another recent discovery in Greece, go to “A Monumental Find.”

Wednesday, January 17

Stele Fragment Unearthed in Northern Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a section of a 19th-Dynasty stele has been discovered at the San Al-Hagar archaeological site in northern Egypt. Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the red-granite stele is carved with images of King Ramesses II presenting offerings to an as-yet-unidentified Egyptian deity. San Al-Hagar is known for its temples dedicated to the goddess Mut and the gods Horus and Amun, as well as for its monumental sculptures. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

Norway’s Stone Age Houses Studied

TRONDHEIM, NORWAY—Silje Fretheim of Norwegian University of Science and Technology analyzed the excavation of 150 well-preserved Stone Age dwellings in Norway and found that some Mesolithic hunter-gatherers built pit houses that were maintained for 1,000 years. According to a report in Science Nordic, the earliest traces of homes are small rings of stones that secured tent flaps made of animal skins, and cleared surfaces with areas of debris from stone tool construction. Fretheim thinks hunter-gatherers traveled with these small tents. Then, some 9,500 years ago, as the ice retreated and sea levels along the coast stabilized, people began to build pit houses with frameworks of wood and turf that were slightly larger than the tents. These larger dwellings may have been shared by larger family groups. Some of the pit houses were abandoned for a time and then reused over a period of more than 1,000 years. Fretheim suggests people placed the houses in areas supported by good fishing and hunting conditions because they recognized good places to live. To read about another archaeological project in Norway, focusing on much more recent history, go to “The Secrets of Sabotage.”

Explorers Find Underwater Route Connecting Maya Cenotes

TULUM, MEXICO—Telesur reports that researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered a route through underwater limestone caves connecting the Sac Actun cenote and the Dos Ojos cenote. Maya pottery, human bones, and the bones of elephant-like creatures, giant sloths, bears, tigers, and extinct species of horses have been found in the tunnel-like caves, which range in width from 400 feet to just three feet. “This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” said Guillermo de Anda, director of the study. It is not yet clear how the Maya artifacts came to rest in the caves. To read about another recent discovery in Mexico's cenotes, go to “Where There’s Coal….”