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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, August 12

17th-Century Coin Unearthed at a Castle in Slovakia

PRIEVIDZA, SLOVAKIA—According to a report in The Slovak Spectator, a seventeenth-century coin, pottery, and a knife were uncovered in the area where the gates once stood at Sivý Kameň, a castle on the Nitra River in west-central Slovakia. Archaeologist Dominika Andreánska said that the castle was built in the fourteenth century, but by the late seventeenth century was being used as a prison. Her team, she added, identified the gate area from old photographs of the castle ruins. The coin, a denarius, was minted in 1679 in central Slovakia during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. “It is interesting that it [the coin] dates from the end of the seventeenth century, when Sivý Kameň castle functioned only as an occasional prison, or was a ruin, because it was burnt down during the anti-Habsburg uprisings,” Andreánska concluded. To read about a basilica unearthed in Germany that was commissioned by Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great, go to "Otto's Church."

Rock Crystals Recovered from Neolithic Burial Mound in England

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Manchester, transparent rock crystals have been recovered from Neolithic burial mounds at Dorstone Hill in England’s West Midlands. Researchers including Nick Overton of the University of Manchester and his colleagues from the University of Cardiff and Herefordshire County Council found that the rock crystal had been knapped in the same manner as flint recovered from the site, but it had not been used as tools, such as arrowheads or scrapers. Rather, the worked rock crystal was deposited in the mounds over a period of about 300 years, along with pottery, stone tools, and cremated bone. Such large pieces of rare rock crystal were likely imported from Snowdonia in north Wales or St. David’s Head in southwestern Wales. Overton explained. The team members plan to analyze the chemical composition of the crystals in order to track down their source. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Cambridge Archaeological Journal. To read about a rock crystal jar that was discovered as part of a large cache of artifacts, go to "Secrets of Scotland's Viking Age Hoard."

Pathogens Detected in Bronze Age Remains in Greece

JENA, GERMANY— reports that a study of genetic material recovered from the teeth of people buried in the Hagios Charalambos cave on the Greek island of Crete between about 2290 and 1909 B.C. detected the presence of extinct strains of two pathogens. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the British School at Athens, and Temple University suggest that epidemics brought about by Y. pestis, which causes plague, and S. enterica, which causes typhoid fever, could have contributed to the collapse of Egypt’s Old Kingdom and the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. It had been previously suggested that climate change may have triggered these Bronze Age population declines. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Current Biology. To read about DNA sequencing of Y. pestis recovered from two skeletons in southwestern Russia, go to "Bronze Age Plague," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2018.


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Thursday, August 11

Sleeve Buttons Unearthed at Colonial Michilimackinac

MACKINAC ISLAND, MICHIGAN—WXYZ Detroit reports that a set of sleeve buttons have been discovered at Colonial Michilimackinac, the site of an eighteenth-century fortified trading post situated on the Straits of Mackinac. Archaeologist Lynn Evans said the joined sleeve buttons, made of green glass paste “stones” set in brass, would have functioned like a modern cufflink. The sleeve buttons, she added, were recovered from a layer of demolition rubble in a rowhouse dated to 1781. To read about sunken ships off Michigan's northeastern coast, go to "Shipwreck Alley."

Roman Coins and Votive Offerings Recovered from Hot Springs

TUSCANY, ITALY—CNN reports that excavators working in central Italy near the village of San Casciano dei Bagni discovered statuettes and coins thought to have been left behind by Roman visitors to an ancient Etruscan pool fed by hot springs. The objects may have been offered to the gods believed to have provided the hot water in thanks for relief from respiratory problems and aches and pains, according to Jacopo Tabolli of Siena’s University for Foreigners. Some 700 of the 3,000 coins are still shiny, he added, and may have been thrown into the baths in the third century A.D. by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Carus to honor the gods who watched over his health. The statuettes include objects shaped like a phallus, a rare womb made of bronze, a pair of breasts, legs, and arms. Such objects are thought to have been offered in thanks for healing of those body parts, while bronze ears are thought to have been thrown into the pool to call the gods’ attention to prayers. Remnants of fountains, statues, and altars dedicated to Apollo, the god of prophecy and medicine; Isis, the goddess of fertility; and Fortuna Primigenia, the goddess of the first born, were also uncovered at the site. To read about a 3,500-year-old ritual pool unearthed in northern Italy, go to "Italian Master Builders."

Gold Jewelry Found in Ancient Burial Urn in Southern India

TAMIL NADU, INDIA—According to a New Indian Express report, researchers led by VP Yathees Kumar of the Archaeological Survey of India discovered a gold diadem, bronze and iron objects, and pottery in a burial urn at Adichanallur, an archaeological site in southern India occupied between 1000 and 600 B.C. “The diadem is yet to be measured accurately as it is folded on both edges, and also its weight is yet to be ascertained,” Kumar said. The bronze objects include a circular sieve, a cup with a stand, and two bowls. Outside the urn, the excavators recovered 11 arrowheads, two spearheads, a hanger, an iron plate, a chisel, and a long spear with a decorated handle. To read about another discovery in the area, go to "Tamil Royal Palace."

Wednesday, August 10

U.S. Repatriates Looted Artifacts to Cambodia

NEW YORK, NEW YORK—Reuters reports that the United States repatriated 30 looted artifacts to Cambodia in a ceremony attended by Cambodia’s U.S. ambassador Keo Chhea. Federal prosecutor Damian Williams explained that all of the items had been sold to U.S. museums and private collectors by an antiquities dealer who created false provenances for them in order to conceal their illegal origins. The artifacts include a tenth-century sandstone sculpture of Skanda, the Hindu god of war, riding on a peacock, and other ancient bronze and stone statues. To read about Khmer fire shrines built across Cambodia's Angkor Empire, go to "The Pursuit of Wellness: Rest."

600-Year-Old Kitchen Discovered in Czech Republic

NOVY JIČĺN, CZECH REPUBLIC—Radio Prague International reports that a well-preserved kitchen thought to date to the early fifteenth century has been found near the historic town walls of Nový Jičín, which is located in the Moravian-Silesian region of the eastern Czech Republic. Based upon this location, Pavel Stabrava of the Novojičín Museum suggests the site may have been the home of a burgher family, although wealthier members of the same class were likely to have lived around the town square. The kitchen was part of a house built of logs on a stone foundation, he added, and was equipped with a brick oven and a hearth. Archaeologists also uncovered intact ceramic pots with their lids and a wooden cooking spoon. Burn marks suggest the house’s inhabitants may have been forced to leave, perhaps during an attack by the Hussites in 1427. To read about a Neolithic well unearthed in East Bohemia, go to "Around the World: Czech Republic."

Medieval Artifacts Uncovered in Iceland

SEYðISFJÖRðUR, ICELAND—Traces of a farmstead dated to the earliest settlement of Iceland have been uncovered in the East Fjords of the island by a team of researchers led by archaeologist Ragnheiður Traustadóttir, according to Iceland Review. The site is situated in a valley where landslides from the high slopes and tephra from volcanic eruptions have protected archaeological materials and provided a means of dating them. So far, researchers have found human remains; the bones of a horse; a spear; a boat; and jewelry, including a red, white, and blue bead dated to between A.D. 940 and 1100. To read about a Viking Age site in Iceland's lava fields, go to "The Blackener's Cave."