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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, October 21

Main Gate Discovered at Harran Palace

SANLIURFA, TURKEY—The Anadolu Agency reports that Mehmet Önal of Harran University and his colleagues have unearthed the main gate at Harran Palace, which was built in southeastern Turkey in the ninth century A.D. First occupied around 6000 B.C., the city of Harran was situated along trade routes to cities such as Nineveh, Iskenderun, and Antioch. “The gate, around 23 feet high, is made of basalt stones,” Önal said. “Star motifs were also unearthed in our excavations near the ground.” Some of the basalt stones bear inscriptions written in Arabic, he added. A three-domed bathhouse dating to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries has also been found among the hundreds of rooms at the medieval palace. To read about a first-century A.D. urban park at Aphrodisias in southwestern Turkey, go to "The Archaeology of Gardens: Urban Gardens."

Possible Medieval Graffiti Found at Church Site in England

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE, ENGLAND—The Belfast Telegraph reports that investigators working ahead of the construction of a high-speed train line found graffiti on two rocks at the site of the medieval church of St. Mary in southeastern England. Archaeologist Michael Court and his colleagues suggest the images could have been used as sundials, or may have been intended to ward off evil spirits. The so-called witches' marks, which include incised lines radiating from a drilled hole, may have been believed to trap the spirits in an endless line or maze. What remains of the church building will be dismantled and the site excavated, including the exhumation of graves from the church’s cemetery for reburial elsewhere, he added. To read about a seventeenth-century English family convicted of witchcraft, go to "Searching for the Witches' Tower."

Snake Altar Unearthed in Turkey

ANTALYA, TURKEY—Yeni Şafak reports that a marble altar encircled with a coiled snake carved in relief has been unearthed at the ancient city of Patara in southern Turkey. Estimated to be more than 2,000 years old, the altar was found near the city walls and a public bath. “Similar discoveries were made in some ancient cities in Muğla but this is the first time such a discovery has been made in Patara,” said Mustafa Koçak of Antalya Bilim University. “This altar depicts the relations of people in Patara with the outside world,” he added. To read about a Bronze Age settlement in southeastern Turkey that was suddenly destroyed more than 3,500 years ago, go to "The Wrath of the Hittites."

Tuesday, October 20

2,500-Year-Old Bronze Bridle Unearthed in Poland

TORUŃ, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that some 150 decorative bronze pieces of a 2,500-year-old horse’s bridle were discovered in north-central Poland. The pieces, which resemble those made by the Scythians, who lived to the north, had been wrapped in leaves and placed in a leather bag. “This secured deposit had been buried on a sandy hill near the bank of the Vistula,” said Jacek Gackowski of the Nicolaus Copernicus University. “It can be assumed that someone who hid these valuable items planned their subsequent extraction.” The only thing missing from the bridle is the bit, the piece that rests in the horse’s mouth, he added. The leather bag also contained a locally made ax. Gackowski thinks the person who buried the bridle and the ax may have intended to melt them down. “Samples will be taken and their analysis will allow, among other things, to determine the exact time when the treasure was buried,” he said. To read about burials of female Scythian warriors buried with horse tack and weapons, go to "Arms and the Women."

Dairy Production in India Dated to 2500 B.C.

ONTARIO, CANADA—According to a statement released by the University of Toronto Mississauga, Kalyan Sekhar Chakraborty analyzed residues in pottery from the site of Kotada Bhadli, which is located near India’s western coast, and found that dairy products may have been produced by members of the Indus Valley civilization on a large scale as early as 2500 B.C. The chemical analysis also indicates that the dairy animals were fed millet. Chakraborty suggests that the animal protein provided by dairy products may have helped to sustain the large population that lived in the Indus Valley, and perhaps provided a surplus for trade, without affecting the number of animals in a herd. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Scientific Reports. To read more about the diet of the Indus civilization, go to "World Roundup: India."

New Study Redates Two Lower Paleolithic Sites in France

BURGOS, SPAIN—According to a statement released by Spain’s National Research Center on Human Evolution (CENIEH), scientists have used electron spin resonance (ESR), luminescence, and paleomagnetism to obtain new dates for two Lower Paleolithic sites in France. Team leader Mathieu Duval said previous research had only used one method to date the sites. The site of Lunery-la Terre-des-Sablons had been dated to about 1.1 million years old, but the new study suggests tools found there were made about 710,000 years ago. These Oldowan tools are similar in style to those found in Spain at Atapuerca Gran Dolina, Sima del Elefante, and Barranco León, and Duente Nueva-3. The Acheulean tools at Brinay-la Noira were dated to about 650,000 years ago, in agreement with previous studies of the site. Team member Josep M. Parés said that this new chronology will help researchers to understand the timing of the settlement of Western Europe. To read about the earliest known stone tools that were discovered in Kenya, go to "The First Toolkit."

Monday, October 19

Scientists Revisit Medieval Gravesite in Highland Scotland

PORTMAHOMACK, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that DNA analysis has determined the relationships shared by multiple people whose remains were found in a church yard in Highland Scotland in 1997. Known as the “Six-Headed Chief” burial, the grave included the bones of a man with a fatal sword wound to the skull; four additional skulls; and the skeleton of a second man thought to have been added to the grave at a later date. The bones of a third man buried in a nearby grave were also analyzed. The study suggests that the grave occupants belonged to members of the same family who lived between the late thirteenth and the early fifteenth centuries, except for one of the skulls, dated to sometime between the eighth and tenth centuries, which might have been kept by the family as the treasured relic of a Pictish monk. The two complete men’s skeletons from the grave are thought to have belonged to first cousins once removed. One of the skulls belonged to a woman who was the mother of the second man whose remains were placed in the grave. The remaining two skulls belonged to a father and son, who were grandfather and father to this same man, while the separate grave is thought to hold the remains of his son. To read about new research on a 4,800-year-old passage grave on the Scottish island of Orkney, go to "Around the World: Scotland."

Feline Geoglyph Discovered in Peru

LIMA, PERU—According to a report in The Guardian, a cat-like figure measuring more than 120 feet long was discovered etched into a hillside during work to improve access to a Nazca Lines viewing area in southern coastal Peru. Archaeologist Johny Isla explained that this geoglyph had grown faint due to the natural effects of erosion on the hillside’s steep slope. The image has been cleaned and conserved, and dated stylistically to the Paracas era, between 500 B.C. and A.D. 200, making it older than the animal and geometric images created by the Nazca culture between A.D. 200 and 700. The use of drones has led to the discovery of between 80 and 100 Paracas geoglyphs on hillsides that were not visible in previous aerial photographs, Isla added. Textiles from this period also feature images of birds, cats, and people in a similar style to that of the Paracas-era geoglyphs. “It’s quite striking that we’re still finding new figures, but we also know that there are more to be found,” he concluded. To read about bird species represented in 16 Nazca geoglyphs, go to "Partially Identified Flying Objects."