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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, December 11

Windmill Doodle Found on Walls of Newton’s English Manor

LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND—Live Science reports that conservator Chris Pickup of Nottingham Trent University discovered a doodle on the wall of Woolsthorpe Manor, Sir Isaac Newton’s childhood home. Pickup examined stone walls in the manor with a photographic technique called reflectance transformation imaging, which captured the faded outlines of an image of a windmill. As a boy, Newton may have drawn the windmill after observing one that had been built near the manor, Pickup says. Newton was born at the manor in 1642, and returned there from the University of Cambridge in 1665 during an outbreak of plague. He is known to have sketched and kept notes on the walls of his rooms as he experimented with splitting white light with prisms, and while developing the laws of motion and theory of universal gravitation. His friend William Stukeley wrote that Newton’s home was “full of drawings, which he [Newton] had made with charcoal. There were birds, beasts, men, ships, plants, mathematical figures, circles & triangles.” To read about excavations at the home of the English scientist Edward Jenner, the inventor of the smallpox vaccine, go to "The Scientist's Garden."

Early Nineteenth-Century Pub Uncovered in Australia

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Traces of one of Australia’s first pubs have been uncovered in Parramatta, now a suburb west of Sydney, by a team of researchers led by archaeologist Ted Higginbotham. According to an ABC News report, the pub, known as the Wheatsheaf Hotel, was built in 1801. The excavation team also found the remains of a wheelwright’s workshop, where carts and wagons were made and fixed, which had been added to an early nineteenth-century convict hut. The hut was demolished for a brick cottage in the 1820s, and the brick cottage was taken down in the 1950s. A well, a baker’s oven, dinner plates, toys, and bottles were also recovered. “The baker’s oven, the wheelwright’s workshop, the later brick cottage could all be matched with the known historical occupants of the site,” Higginbotham explained. The archaeological site has been preserved within a new apartment complex. For more on the archaeology of Australia's colonial period, go to “Final Resting Place of an Outlaw.”

12,000-Year-Old Fish Hooks Unearthed in Indonesia

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA—According to a report in The International Business Times, five fishhooks made of sea snail shell have been found in a 12,000-year-old burial on Indonesia’s Alor Island. The hooks—one in the shape of a “J,” and four crescent-shaped—had been placed around the chin and jaw of the deceased, who is thought to have been a woman. Sue O’Connor of the Australian National University explained that the hooks are the oldest known to have been found in a burial, and must have been deemed to be essential for survival in the afterlife. She also notes it had been previously thought that most fishing on the islands at the time had been carried out by men. Older fishhooks have been elsewhere in the world, but they were not associated with burial rites. To read about a pair of 23,000-year-old fishhooks found in Japan, go to “Japan's Early Anglers.”

Two New Kingdom Tombs Opened in Luxor

LUXOR, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that two tombs dating to the New Kingdom period have been opened in the Draa Abul-Naglaa necropolis. The tombs were discovered in the 1990s by German archaeologist Frederica Kampp. One of the tombs contained fragments of wooden masks, including one that had been part of a coffin, and one that had been gilded. Four wooden chair legs, and the lower part of a coffin decorated with a scene of the goddess Isis were also found. The second tomb contained a mummy. It may have belonged to Djehuty Mes, whose name is inscribed at the entrance to a long hall, where the cartouche of King Thutmose I is inscribed on the ceiling. The names of a scribe, Maati, and his wife, Mehi, were also found on half of the 100 funerary cones in the tomb. A scene of a seated man offering food to four oxen, and five people making funerary furniture, adorns a pillar in the tomb, which also contained painted wooden masks, more than 400 statues made of clay, wood, and faience, and a small box shaped like a coffin that may have been used to store an Ushabti figurine. To read more about archaeology in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

Friday, December 08

Possible Mammoth-Tusk Spear Found in Mammoth’s Ribs

YAKUTSK, RUSSIA—Newsweek reports that scientists led by Semyon Grigoriev of Russia’s Northeastern Federal University have recovered a 14-inch-long weapon from among the ribs of a woolly mammoth unearthed in northeastern Russia. Grigoriev said the weapon appears to be the end of a spear made by grinding a mammoth tusk with a stone—a technique that dates back about 12,000 years. Testing could help scientists determine the age of the artifact and if it was the weapon that killed the beast. For more, go to “Leftover Mammoth.”

New Thoughts on the Spread of Modern Humans

MANOA, HAWAII—The “Out of Africa” theory suggests that a wave of modern humans left Africa some 60,000 years ago to spread across Eurasia. But according to an International Business Times report, an international group of researchers suggests that humans may have started leaving Africa as early as 120,000 years ago, based upon a review of DNA evidence, and the analysis of newly discovered fossils from around the world. Among those fossils are Homo sapiens remains dating between 70,000 and 120,000 years ago found in southern and central China, and Homo sapiens remains, dated to more than 60,000 years ago, recovered in Southeast Asia and Australia. The earliest African travelers may have been small groups of foragers, explained Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, who may have eventually mixed with other species in Eurasia, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. For more, go to “Turning Back the Human Clock.”

Rock Art in Venezuela Mapped With Drones

LONDON, ENGLAND—UPI reports that scientists have used drones to map rock art in the Orinoco River basin in southern Venezuela. Low water levels throughout the river basin exposed more of the engravings, thought to have been carved as early as 2,000 years ago by the Adoles people, than are usually visible. The images may have communicated information about seasonal water levels and other natural resources in the area. Philip Riris of University College London said the images are similar to those found in Brazil, Colombia, and other sites in South America. For more, go to “The First Artists.”

Hunter-Gatherer Storytelling May Have Promoted Cooperation

LONDON, ENGLAND—Tales told by traditional storytellers often promoted cooperation and egalitarian values, according to a study conducted by Andrea Migliano of University College London and her colleagues. According to a Seeker report, Migliano and her team visited the Agta people of Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park in the Philippines, and heard Agta elders tell the tales firsthand. “We then decided to test if camps (within the Agta) with good storytellers had increased levels of cooperation, without really expecting to find anything,” Migliano said. “But the effect was still there. Camps with more storytellers were more cooperative. The stories seem to work.” Among other hunter-gatherer groups, the researchers found that 70 percent of the shared stories emphasized social norms and behaviors, and promoted large-scale cooperation. Migliano suggests such storytelling may have strengthened hunter-gatherer groups before organized religion and the fear of supernatural punishment developed in agricultural societies. For more on hunter-gatherers, go to “10,000-Year-Old Turf War.”

Thursday, December 07

Looted Tombs Investigated in Eastern Turkey

ERZURUM, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that researcher Ömer Faruk Kizilkaya is investigating a heavily looted settlement dating to the Iron Age in eastern Anatolia. Tombs carved into the rock of a cave, a water tunnel, and a temple have been found near the settlement. Kizilkaya thinks the tombs may have been reserved for the elites of the community, such as rulers of the Urartu Kingdom and religious leaders. Haldun Özkan of Atatürk University explained that similar rock tombs have been found in the region. Such tombs were often made with several smooth-walled chambers for use in the afterlife. Kizilkaya has asked Turkey’s Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism to protect the site and others in Erzurum. To read about another discovery made in Turkey, go to “Let a Turtle Be Your Psychopomp.”

Eighteenth-Century Earthworks Found in Poland

WARSAW, POLAND–Science in Poland reports that an eighteenth-century earthworks has been identified in the Bieszczady Mountains, at an altitude of nearly 3,000 feet. Krzysztof Bajrasz and Krzysztof Sojka of the Association Eagles of History conducted a georadar survey of the embankments in order to separate the 200-year-old structures from those built during World War II. The structure is thought to have been built by the Bar Confederation, a group of Polish nobles who joined together to try to disrupt growing Russian power over Poland. “The earthwork is not only the highest situated structure in Poland, it is also one of the largest in Poland,” explained Piotr Sadowski of the Podhale State Higher Vocational School. It has been suggested that several hundred troops led by Prince Martin Lubomirski were stationed at the site in 1769. The researchers plan to investigate the claim. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

Natufian Site Excavated in Jordan

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—According to a report in Seeker, researchers led by Tobias Richter of the University of Copenhagen have excavated a Natufian site in Jordan known as Shubayqa 1, which was occupied between 14,600 and 12,000 years ago. The early radiocarbon date for the site, obtained through accelerator mass spectrometry, suggests that Natufians lived across the region of the Levant earlier than had been previously thought, and adapted to a wide range of habitats. The site could also offer scientists information on the transition from hunting and gathering to farming. Richter said the people living at Shubayqa 1 domesticated dogs as early as 14,000 years ago, built one of the world’s earliest stone buildings, complete with a stone-paved floor, and produced art in the form of carved bone and stone figures. They also buried their dead. “Some have argued that this is evidence for the presence of ritual specialists—shamans—or some kind of group leaders,” Richter said. “What seems clear is that the Natufians had developed a complex symbolic cosmology and treated their dead with respect.” A stone-lined fire pit, and food remains from birds, gazelle, and tubers, vegetables, and wild cereals and legumes were also uncovered. For more, go to “Europe's First Farmers.”