Subscribe to Archaeology
Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, September 24

800-Year-Old Tomb Discovered in Peru

LIMA, PERU—The remains of eight people estimated to be 800 years old were discovered by workers laying gas pipes near Lima, according to an AFP report. The bodies, which included adults and children thought to have lived in the nearby ancient town of Chilca, had been wrapped in bundles of plant material before being placed in the mass grave. Archaeologist Cecilia Camargo said that shells had been placed on some of their heads, and some of them had bags for holding coca leaves, which can be chewed as a stimulant. Corn, dishes, and wind instruments such as flutes were also recovered. “It is an important find that gives us more information about the pre-Hispanic history of Chilca,” Camargo commented. To read about mass sacrifices of llamas and children at the site of Pampa la Cruz, go to "Peruvian Mass Sacrifice," one of ARCHAEOLOGY's Top 10 Discoveries of 2019.

600-Year-Old Muisca Jars Recovered in Colombia

BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA—Live Science reports that archaeologist Francisco Correa and his colleagues discovered eight ceramic jars containing metal figurines and emeralds in a temple at a Muisca site in central Colombia during an investigation ahead of a road construction project. Many of the Muisca died when the Spanish conquered the region between 1537 and 1540. The jars, known as ofrendatarios, are estimated to be 600 years old. The figurines resemble snakes, other animals, and people wearing headdresses and carrying staffs and weapons. Correa said he thinks the temple may have been dedicated to a cult of the ancestors, or worship of gods associated with the moon and the sun. Ofrendatarios containing metal figurines and emeralds are often found at Muisca sites, he added. To read more about prehispanic Colombian metallurgy, go to "The Pink Standard." 

Human Footprints in North America Dated to 23,000 Years Ago

TUCSON, ARIZONA—According to a statement released by the University of Arizona, human footprints found in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park have been dated to 23,000 years ago. Jeff Pigati and Kathleen Springer of the U.S. Geological Survey radiocarbon dated seeds found above and below multiple layers of footprints left behind in stream beds at White Sands National Park over a 2,000-year period. The size of the footprints suggest they were made mainly by playing teenagers and younger children, but an occasional adult did visit the stream, said Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University. It had been previously thought that migrants waited to enter North America until the melting of the ice sheets opened up overland migration routes, but these new dates for the site’s oldest tracks show that people had arrived in North America during the Last Glacial Maximum. The prints of mammoths, giant sloths, and other extinct animals were also found, indicating that they shared the landscape with humans. To read about pre-Clovis peoples in the Americas, go to "America, in the Beginning."


More Headlines
Thursday, September 23

Long-Distance Trade Detected in Genomes of Siberian Dogs

MUNICH, GERMANY—According to a statement released by Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), a team of researchers led by Laurent Frantz of LMU and Tatiana Feuerborn of the University of Copenhagen has analyzed the genomes of 49 dogs whose remains were unearthed at archaeological sites in Siberia and Eurasia. The study found an increase of genetic material from dogs from the Eurasian steppes and Europe in Siberian dogs between the Iron Age and the medieval period. Archaeologist Robert Losey of the University of Alberta explained that dogs, like other goods uncovered at Siberian archaeological sites, could have been traded as a means of transport, as hunting partners, and even as sources of food. In contrast, human genomes in Arctic Siberia during this period remained stable, with little input from non-Arctic populations. The mixing of Siberian dogs with imported dogs may have helped the animals make the transition from serving primarily as sledding dogs to herding reindeer as Siberian populations turned to pastoralism, explained Frantz. Eventually, modern Siberian dog lineages, such as the Samoyed, emerged from this population. To read more about the archaeology of dogs, go to "More than Man's Best Friend."

Composition of Stone Tools From Roman Morocco Analyzed

AUSTIN, TEXAS—According to a statement released by the University of Texas at Austin, a team of archaeologists and geoscientists analyzed a collection of stone fragments from mixing vats and millstones unearthed at Morocco’s ancient Roman city of Volubilis. The researchers discovered that specific types of rock had been chosen to improve the function of these tools. For example: grain millstones were made of volcanic basalt with sharp-edged pores, olive mills were made from limestone containing fragments of other rocks and small fossil shells, and dough mixers were made from limestone without such rough fragments. Jared Benton of Old Dominion University said the craftspeople who made the tools may have consulted with the workers who used them in order to make them more effective. The study also found that each rock type came from sources near Volubilis, when it had been previously thought that the basalt was imported from Italy. Benton thinks a single supplier may have been meeting the city’s industrial stone needs. To read about the archaeology of a once-bustling medieval city in Morocco, go to "Letter from Morocco: Splendor at the Edge of the Sahara." 

New Thoughts on Maya Pyramid in El Salvador

BOULDER, COLORADO—According to a Live Science report, the Campana structure, a Maya pyramid in El Salvador’s Zapotitán Valley, was built with cut stone, earth, and tephra ejected by the Tierra Blanca Joven eruption of the Ilopango caldera, which is located about 25 miles away. Recent radiocarbon dating of tree trunks in El Salvador indicates that the eruption occurred around A.D. 539. It had been previously thought that the Maya abandoned their settlements in the ash-covered region for centuries after the eruption, but archaeologist Akira Ichikawa of the University of Colorado Boulder said that the dating of carbon samples from the pyramid’s building materials suggests construction occurred between A.D. 545 and 570. Ichikawa thinks the inclusion of tephra in the pyramid could reflect the spiritual significance of volcanoes in Maya culture. To read about the only Maya city with an urban grid, go to "The City at the Beginning of the World."

Wednesday, September 22

DNA Analysis Identifies Japanese Ancestors

DUBLIN, IRELAND—According to a Live Science report, analysis of DNA samples obtained from ancient bones unearthed at various sites across Japan has detected a previously unidentified genetic group that migrated to Japan during the Kofun period, between A.D. 300 and 700, when Japan transitioned into an imperial state. This group is thought to be one of three populations ancestral to modern Japanese people. The other two groups have been identified as Jomon-period hunter gatherers who arrived in Japan as early as 20,000 years ago, and Yayoi-period farmers who migrated to Japan from East Asia between 900 B.C. and A.D. 300. Were the political changes that took place during the Kofun period brought about by this newly detected influx of new people? “Cultural transitions could have happened without involving genetic changes,” said Shigeki Nakagome of Trinity College Dublin. But the Kofun-period migrants came from East Asia and may have been Han people from China, he added. “To see if this East Asian ancestry played a key role in the transition, we need to sequence people with a higher rank,” he said. For more, go to "Japan's Early Anglers." 

Ritual Objects Discovered in Northern Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that researchers from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities have uncovered artifacts used in rituals honoring the goddess Hathor in the Temple of the Pharaohs at the site of the ancient city of Buto, which is located in the Nile Delta. The instruments, which date to the 26th Dynasty (688-525 B.C.), include a limestone pillar shaped like the goddess; faience incense burners, one of which is decorated with the head of the god Horus; pottery; statuettes of the deities Tawart and Djehuty; a maternity chair; an offering holder; a gold Udjat eye; and golden scales thought to have been used in the gilding of other objects. The researchers also found ivory carved with scenes of women carrying offerings and pictures of plants, birds, and animals; a limestone lintel carved with hieroglyphic texts; and part of a painting of a king performing a ritual in the temple. To read about the sacred site of Heliopolis on the Nile, go to "Egypt's Eternal City."