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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, October 30

Early Christian Church Unearthed in Turkey

DENIZLI, TURKEY—A building featuring 20 columned corridors arranged around a courtyard has been discovered next to a theater in southwestern Turkey’s ancient city of Laodicea, according to a Hurriyet Daily News report. Celal Şimşek of Pamukkale University said the structure was used as a home, as a place of business, and as a Christian church. “The hall in the west was organized for men and the one in the east for women and a place of worship was made here in the east hall,” he said. The eastern hall faced north and was decorated with marble coverings on the walls, he added. “We think that the Laodicea Church was built after Christianity was made free, [in the late fourth century A.D.], and the high-ranking clergy there probably lived in this house, but we have not yet made a clear determination regarding this,” Şimşek said. The building could help researchers understand how Christianity spread throughout the region, he explained. To read about a submerged basilica discovered on the shores of Turkey's Lake Iznik, go to "Sunken Byzantine Basilica," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2014.


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Thursday, October 29

Pet Cemetery Survey Reflects Changes in Human Attitudes

NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by Newcastle University, Eric Tourigny examined more than 1,000 animal headstones in pet cemeteries in Newcastle and London in order to study changing attitudes toward pets over a period of 100 years, beginning in 1881, when the first public pet cemetery opened in London. Tourigny found that throughout the study period, mourners compared death to sleep. Yet in the Victorian era, headstone inscriptions referred to pets as companions and friends, while more recent inscriptions called the buried pets family members and expressed the hope that the animals would be reunited with their owners more frequently. After World War II, references to animals as family members rose, a change that coincided with the increase in the use of family surnames on pet gravestones. Some of the earlier references put the surname in parentheses or quotation marks. Tourigny suggests this reluctance to acknowledge pets as full members of the family may reflect a conflict between personal feelings and societal norms. To read about ancient Egyptian animal mummies, go to "Messengers to the Gods."

Iron Age Site Found in Scotland

ABERDEENSHIRE, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that researchers have discovered traces of 23 structures dated to as early as 800 B.C. on heavily plowed land in eastern Scotland, near the coast of the North Sea, ahead of a construction project. Archaeologist Ali Cameron said that more than 300 samples of charcoal had been recovered for dating purposes. It is not clear yet if the site was used as a domestic settlement or for industrial purposes. “If you get a lot of grain, you might be looking at a domestic site, for example,” she said. The samples could also indicate how individual buildings were used. “The site is higher up and you get this fantastic view over the bay,” she added. “It’s a great location and you can imagine why people wanted to settle there.” To read about new research on the Neolithic-period Maeshowe passage grave on the island of Orkney, go to "Around the World: Scotland."

Possible Slave Quarter Uncovered in Maryland

ST. MARY’S COUNTY, MARYLAND—WTOP News reports that the possible site of a 300-year-old slave quarter has been found near an eighteenth-century brick manor once inhabited by Jesuit missionaries. Julie Schablitsky, chief archaeologist for the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, and her colleagues have recovered clay pipes, ceramic cups, and nails where the cabins are thought to have stood. Schablitsky explained that although the Jesuits were prolific record keepers, very little information about the enslaved African Americans who worked their fields has survived. Historical documents do indicate that 272 enslaved people from Maryland were sold in 1838 at a site located near the manor. To read about a Union Army camp in Kentucky where enslaved men, women, and children fought to be free, go to "A Path to Freedom."

Wednesday, October 28

World War II Execution Site Investigated in Poland

CHOJNICE, POLAND—Dawid Kobiałka of the Polish Academy of Sciences, with the assistance of an 88-year-old eyewitness, has found personal belongings, bullets, and charred human bone, including fragments of skulls, teeth, femurs, and a vertebra, just under the surface of the ground in an area of northern Poland dubbed “Death Valley,” according to a report by The First News. During World War II, German death squads carried out at least two mass killings at the site, Kobiałka said. In 1945, near the end of the war, an estimated 600 people, thought to have been members of the Polish resistance and Gestapo prisoners from the prison in Bydgoszcz, were shot and killed at the site. “According to historical records, the crime was committed by the Gestapo and members of the German police,” Kobiałka said. “The bullets and shells came from the Walther PPK and P08 Parabellum pistols, suggesting the victims were executed at close range.” The remains were then burned with gasoline-fueled fires, turning most of the bones to ash. “The gasoline barrels that still lie in Death Valley confirm it,” he said. Kobiałka and his colleagues are still combing historical records for information on the site. To read about a tunnel discovered at the Nazi death camp Sobibor, go to "World Roundup: Poland."

Scientists Analyze Ancient Egyptian Ink

GRENOBLE, FRANCE—Cosmos Magazine reports that a team of chemists, physicists, and Egyptologists from the University of Copenhagen and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility used advanced X-ray microscopy equipment to analyze the chemical composition of the ink markings found on papyrus fragments from Egypt’s ancient Tebtunis temple library. The study suggests that as early as A.D. 100, the ancient Egyptians added lead to the ink to help it to dry. The lead is not thought to have been used as a pigment because only one type of lead was detected in the inks. It had been previously thought that this technique was first employed by Renaissance painters in the fifteenth century. Egyptologist Thomas Christiansen of the University of Copenhagen said that the priests in charge of the temple library probably acquired such complex ink from specialists or oversaw its production at a specialized workshop. To read about imaging technology that has helped researchers read erased papyrus texts from St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, go to "Recovering Hidden Texts."