Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, October 24

Skeletal Remains Uncovered in Pompeii

ROME, ITALY—ANSA reports that the bones of at least five people have been unearthed in a bedroom of the so-called “Garden House” at Pompeii. Massimo Osanna, director of Pompeii Archaeological Park, said the remains are thought to have belonged to two women and three children who sought refuge in an inner room of the building when volcanic rocks began to fall during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. (An inscription written in charcoal on the wall of this house has recently called the exact day of the eruption into question.) The building’s roof eventually collapsed in a pyroclastic current. Researchers have also detected tunnels at the site, which are thought to have been dug before official research began at Pompeii in 1748. The diggers left holes in the home’s walls and disrupted the human remains. To read about the archaeology of gardens at Pompeii, click here.

Ancient Human Remains Retrieved From Burned Museum

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL—Science Magazine reports that one of the oldest-known sets of human remains in the Americas has been recovered from the aftermath of the fire at Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum by scientists accompanied by construction teams, who are reinforcing the structure’s outer walls, and federal police officers, who are investigating the cause of the fire. The 11,500-year-old skull fragments and a piece of femur, from an individual researchers call Luzia, had been kept in a metal case in a metal cabinet on the museum’s ground floor, away from the rest of the museum’s anthropology collections. Archaeologist Claudia Carvalho said the damage to the skull was “less than expected,” in that the glue holding it together had melted, and some of the pieces had broken. To read in-depth about the search for evidence of the first Americans, go to “America, in the Beginning.”

Rare Mesolithic Tools Recovered in Scotland

MUIR OF ORD, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that 6,000-year-old tools made from red deer antlers have been uncovered at a site at Tarradale, located in the Scottish Highlands. The hunter-gatherers’ tools include axes and a harpoon or spear that may have been used to hunt seals and birds. Only a few such tools have been found in Scotland to date. To read in-depth about a site in Scotland where a millennium of activity began around 5,000 years ago, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

Tuesday, October 23

Underwater Bronze Age Sites Investigated in Croatia

ZAGREB, CROATIA—According to a Croatia Week report, 3,500-year-old olive pits have been recovered at underwater archaeological sites near Croatia’s Adriatic coastline, reflective of the olive groves thought to have once dotted northern Dalmatia. Researchers led by Mate Ilkic of the University of Zadar are also investigating archaeological sites on the Isle of Ricul to see if they can be linked to Bronze Age settlements that are now under water. So far, they have also recovered cherry pits, stone tools, ceramics, a rectangular piece of stone that may have been part of a fence, and part of a thick wall that may have been built as a defense. “They did not lack meat, as indicated by the discovery of many bones of various domestic animals, cattle, goats, and sheep and, judging by the millstones for grinding grains, they also had bread,” Ilkic said. The seaside dwellers probably ate fish, too, he added. To read about another discovery in Croatia, go to “Neanderthal Necklace.”

Wooden Figurines Discovered at Chan Chan

TRUJILLO, PERU—Reuters reports that 20 wooden sculptures, each standing about 27 inches tall, have been discovered in rectangular niches in an adobe wall at the site of Chan Chan, which is located in northern Peru. Some of the human figures carry staffs and shields. The wall was also decorated with high-relief drawings. Patricia Balbuena, Peru’s minister of culture, said the structure is situated at the entrance to a plaza that may have been a ceremonial center. The figures and the wall are thought to have been buried about 800 years ago. To read about early civilizations of the Peruvian Amazon, go to “Letter from Peru: Connecting Two Realms.”

Classical World Ship Found Intact in Black Sea

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND—According to a BBC News report, a shipwreck radiocarbon dated to 400 B.C. has been found at a depth of more than one mile in the Black Sea by a team of English and Bulgarian researchers, who say the vessel resembles one depicted on a Greek vase dated to 480 B.C. The team members created a 3-D map of the ship, which measures about 75 feet long, with remotely operated vehicles. Its rudder, rowing benches, and the contents of its hold remain intact, they found, due to the cold, oxygen-free waters of the Black Sea. The great depth of the wreck site is also thought to have contributed to the vessel’s remarkable condition. “It’s preserved, it’s safe,” said Helen Farr, a member of the University of Southampton’s Black Sea Maritime Archaeological Project. “It’s not deteriorating and it’s unlikely to attract hunters.” Farr added that the researchers do not yet know what is in the ship’s cargo hold. “As archaeologists we’re interested in what it can tell us about technology, trade, and movements in the area,” she said. To read in-depth about the contents of a shipwreck found in the waters off a small Dutch island, go to “Global Cargo.”

Monday, October 22

Bronze Age Dagger Discovered in Slovakia

HRIŇOVÁ, SLOVAKIA—A local man discovered a dagger on the banks of a mountain stream in central Slovakia, according to a report in The Slovak Spectator. Ján Beljak of the Archaeological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences said the artifact, estimated to be between 3,200 and 3,600 years old, is the only Bronze Age item ever found in the region. “We are assuming that in the future we will also discover a Bronze Age settlement in the same vicinity,” he said. To read about discoveries made during construction of a sewage system in Slovakia, go to “World Roundup.”

Amulet Shaped Like Thor’s Hammer Uncovered in Iceland

BERGSSTAÐIR, ICELAND—Guide to Iceland Now reports that a sandstone amulet shaped like Thor’s hammer was unearthed at a 900-year-old farmstead in southern Iceland. Archaeologist Ragnheiður Gylfadóttir of Iceland’s Institute of Archaeology said the artifact may have been worn around the neck as a pendant. The site also contained rocks that may have been the foundation of a longhouse, burned bones, ash piles, a fragment of a soapstone pot, and a whetstone of a type that was usually kept on a belt for sharpening needles and other tools. Since soapstone does not occur naturally on the island, the pot is thought to have been imported, perhaps from Norway, where soapstone is abundant. Evidence of ironworking has also been found in the area. For more on archaeology in Iceland, go to “The Blackener’s Cave.”

New Thoughts on Date of Santorini Eruption

SANTORINI, GREECE—According to The Greek Reporter, radiocarbon dates have been obtained for a piece of olive wood recently recovered from an archaeological site at the top of a hill on the Greek island of Thirasia by a team of researchers from the University of Arizona. The piece of wood was found in the stratigraphic layer just below the one containing the ash left by the volcanic eruption that separated Thirasia from the larger island of Thera and destroyed the Minoan settlement at the site of Akrotiri. The new dates suggest the disaster occurred in the early sixteenth century B.C., or a few decades later than had been previously thought. To read in-depth about the Minoans, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

1,000-Year-Old Tomb Found in Northern China

JINZHONG, CHINA—Xinhua reports that a tomb thought to date to the Great Jin Dynasty (A.D. 1115–1234) was discovered in northern China’s Shanxi Province during a road construction project. The octagonal tomb measures about 12 feet tall and contains an archway painted red. It has a floor made with black bricks, and its walls are outlined in black and decorated with poems and murals, including images of flower stands and red vases. “A total of four poems were inscribed on the surrounding walls with regular script to depict the scenery in late spring,” said Zhao Hui of the Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology. Two skeletons were also found in the tomb. Zhao said the tomb’s decorations might reflect the traditional tomb style of the period, or may have been based upon the owners’ personal preferences. To read about murals in another Chinese tomb, go to “Tomb Couture.”