Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, March 13

Ancient Egyptian Red-Granite Column Relocated

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the 17-ton Column of King Meneptah has been transported from the Salaheddin Citadel, where it had been conserved and stored, to the atrium of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza. King Meneptah, a son of Ramesses II, ruled from 1213 to 1203 B.C. His red-granite column, which stands more than 18 feet tall, was discovered in 1970 in the remains of the Meneptah Temple in a waterlogged residential neighborhood in Cairo. Engravings on the column include a list of the king’s titles, scenes depicting his victories over Libyan tribes, and his cartouche. Osama Abulkheir, director general of the GEM’s restoration department, said work on the column will be completed at the new museum, where it will share the atrium of the museum's main entrance with the colossus of Ramesses II. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

Sites in South Africa Linked to Era of Super Volcano

TEMPE, ARIZONA—According to a BBC News report, an international team of researchers has found evidence of human activity on the southern coast of South Africa, both before and after the cataclysmic eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Toba some 74,000 years ago. Both sites, one at a rock shelter and one in the open air on a beach, yielded shards of volcanic glass chemically fingerprinted to Mount Toba, which is located nearly 5,600 miles away. The scientists also found deposits of seashells from food preparation and stone flakes from toolmaking, and say the population of the groups that used these sites may have actually increased after the volcanic event, since they found an increase in the number of shells and stone flakes. It has been suggested that the eruption would have wiped out much of the global human population, but these coastal populations may have thrived after the ecological devastation, since they relied upon the sea for food. “We’re the first ones to really address the question of the Toba hypothesis in Africa,” said Curtis W. Marean of Arizona State University. “It’s in Africa that it really counts, because that’s the source location of modern humans.” To read about another discovery in South Africa, go to “The First Spears.”

Archaeologist Examines Shipwreck Exposed on Maine Beach

YORK BEACH, MAINE—Last week, marine archaeologist Stefan Claesson examined the remains of a wooden ship’s hull that was exposed after up to eight feet of sand eroded from Maine’s Short Sands Beach during a storm. According to a report in Seacoast Online, the wreckage was first exposed in 1958, and was seen again in 2007 and 2103. During the latter two appearances, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission took the opportunity to map the hull, and learned it had been a 60-foot, flat-bottomed vessel, likely to have been built between 1750 and 1850. Such boats had narrow sterns and were used to carry goods along the coast from port to port. The researchers also learned that balsam fir, yellow birch, beech, and red pine had been used in the construction of the ship. In this most recent encounter with the wreckage, Claesson collected samples to send to a dendrochronology lab. A study of the tree rings could “hopefully shed some light on this, because no one knows the history of the ship for certain,” Claesson said. “This will be the first time that this kind of work has been done.” Claesson also brought a drone to the site to collect additional data and create a 3-D model of the wreckage. To read about another shipwreck, go to “Is it Esmeralda?”

Monday, March 12

Kiln Found at Japan’s Toshadaiji Temple

NARA, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that archaeologists have uncovered a kiln on the grounds of the Toshadaiji temple complex, which was founded in A.D. 759 by a Buddhist monk and built over a period of about 50 years. The kiln is thought to have been used to produce tiles for the roof of the kondo, or main hall, and other structures of the UNESCO World Heritage site. “The tile kiln was likely set up on the temple grounds during the final stage of construction of the kondo, east pagoda, and other buildings,” said Michio Maezono of the Nara College of Arts. For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

Possible Cemetery Found at Belvoir Plantation

CROWNSVILLE, MARYLAND—According to a report in The Washington Post, Maryland Department of Transportation archaeologists investigated oral history reports of a slave cemetery at Belvoir, a plantation owned by the grandmother of “Star Spangled Banner” composer Francis Scott Key. Traces of slave quarters were found at Belvoir in 2014, including pottery, buttons, and other artifacts, just a short walk away from the prospective cemetery site, where cadaver dogs have indicated the presence of human remains. Chief archaeologist Julie Schablitsky explained that the location of the site on an uneven hillock, which would not have been suitable for farming, and the regular pattern of fieldstones, which were often used to mark the graves of enslaved people, both suggest the presence of burials. Further research will attempt to identify who may have been buried there between 1736 and 1864, when slaves in Maryland were emancipated, but there are no plans to excavate. To read in-depth about the site, go to “Letter From Maryland: Belvoir's Legacy.”

Roman Mirror Frames Unearthed in Bulgaria

PAVLIKENI, BULGARIA—According to an Archaeology in Bulgaria report, five small lead frames that once held glass mirrors have been discovered in a building at a Roman villa and ceramic factory in northern Bulgaria. Archaeologist Kalin Chakarov of the Pavlikeni Museum of History said three of the mirrors had been decorated with an image of a krater, or large wine vessel, and leafy vines. They also were inscribed with the words “a good soul” in Greek. Mirrors are usually found in temples, but this building is thought to have been residential quarters for people who worked in the villa on the estate, thought to have been owned by a military veteran between the second and third centuries A.D. The site was abandoned after A.D. 235, perhaps due to barbarian invasion. For more on archaeology in Bulgaria, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

Archaeologists Investigate Roman Reservoir in Bulgaria

MUSINA, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a team of researchers led by archaeologist Kalin Chakarov of the Pavlikeni Museum of History has investigated a water catchment reservoir at a spring inside Musina Cave, a water source that supplied the ancient city of Nicopolis ad Istrum. The city was founded by Emperor Trajan in the early second century A.D. in what is now northern Bulgaria to celebrate his victories over the Dacian tribes north of the Danube River. The Romans also built the reservoir and a 12-mile-long aqueduct to transport the water to the city’s western fortress wall. Chakarov said the octagonal-shaped reservoir was constructed of large stone blocks each weighing more than 1,000 pounds and held together with iron bars covered in lead. Four rows of those blocks have survived. “The water catchment reservoir has two openings—one in its northern end and one in its western end, giving the start to two canals,” Chakarov added. “The first one is the one sending water to Nicopolis ad Istrum, while the other one is a spillway sending the excess water to the main canal.” To read about another discovery in Bulgaria, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

Friday, March 09

Prehistoric Projectile Point Found in Southern Canada

ONTARIO, CANADA—A small projectile point dating back to 7500 B.C. has been discovered in Windsor, Canada’s southernmost city, according to a CBC News report. Jim Molnar of Fisher Archaeological Consulting said the point, which was unearthed during an archaeological investigation ahead of road construction, was dated by its style. Pottery, buttons, and dishware were also recovered. Members of the Walpole Island First Nation, who have been monitoring the dig, suggest the site could be a large one and would like it to be fully excavated. “We need to give it voice,” said consulting manager Dean Jacobs, “we need to celebrate the artifacts and give it life because it has so much history to tell us.” For more, go to “Mussel Mass in Lake Ontario.”

Dancing Shiva Sculpture Unearthed in Eastern India

SAMBALPUR, INDIA—According to a report in The New Indian Express, a four-foot-tall sculpture bearing an image of Lord Shiva as Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer, has been found on the banks of the Devi River in eastern India. Archaeologists from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) say the sculpture dates to the seventh or eighth century A.D., and may have stood on the top of a temple’s main tower. The team of researchers is examining other artifacts collected by locals for additional clues. Further excavation of the site could reveal traces of the temple, which may have been damaged in antiquity by invaders. For more, go to “Letter From India: Living Heritage at Risk.”