Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, May 09

Continuously Occupied Cave Excavated in East Africa

JENA, GERMANY—Haaretz reports that evidence for 78,000 years of human occupation has been found in Kenya’s Panga ya Saidi network of caves, ranging from the Middle Stone Age to the present day. The cave’s main chamber measures more than 1,000 feet square, and could have housed hundreds of people, according to Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, although it has recently been used just for burials and rituals. Stone arrowheads, blades, and tools with a dull edge for attachment to a shaft first appeared in the cave’s layers dated to about 67,000 years ago, or some 10,000 years after the first inhabitants, who used larger stone tools, moved in. Kenya’s oldest-known bead, dated to about 65,000 years old, was also recovered. Carved bones, tusks, and worked pieces of ochre were found in layers dated between 48,000 and 25,000 years ago. Petraglia explained that the turning points in technologies were marked by mixes of tools and artifacts, rather than sudden changes. He thinks the cave’s inland location, in a transitional area between the forest and the savannah, may have provided generations of residents with a stable environment at a time when other areas of Africa experienced drought. To read about another discovery in Kenya, go to “Earliest Stone Tools.”

New Kingdom Tomb Discovered in Saqqara

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a tomb dating to the reign of Ramesses II (1279–1213 B.C.) has been discovered in Saqqara. Ola El-Aguizy of Cairo University said that inscriptions on the tomb walls indicate it belonged to General Iwrkhy, his son Yuppa, and grandson Hatiay. Iwrkhy is thought to have moved to Egypt from another land when he began his career under Seti I, and to have attained his high rank in the court of Ramesses II. Images on the walls relate to Iwrkhy’s military career, including an infantry unit and charioteers crossing a waterway dotted with crocodiles, presumed to be Egypt’s eastern border, and relationships with other countries, such as pictures of Canaanite wine jars being unloaded from boats. Other images depict daily life in the military garrison. The tomb features a forecourt, a statue room, plastered vaulted storehouses, a peristyle court, and chapels. Excavation of the tomb will continue. To read in-depth about tomb paintings in Egypt, go to “Emblems for the Afterlife.”

19th-Dynasty Priest’s Statue Unearthed in Heliopolis

CAIRO, EGYPT—Egypt Today reports that two artifacts have been discovered in northeastern Cairo, in the ancient city of Heliopolis. “The digging process uncovered a statue of a royal compartment’s priest,” said Mamdouh Eldamaty of Ain Shams University. He added that the compartment dates to the Ramesses dynasty, during the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. “The area witnessed important incidents of the ancient Egyptian history, including King Ramesses II to King Ramesses IX,” Eldamaty explained. “The royal compartment was considered as the first of its kind during that Late Dynasty of Egypt.” Eldamaty’s team also found a second, small artifact that has not yet been identified. To read about a recent reanalysis of a pair of Egyptian mummies, go to “We Are Family.”

Tuesday, May 08

Well-Preserved Ancestral Puebloan Pot Found in Arizona

ST. GEORGE, UTAH—The Spectrum reports that hiker Randy Langstraat discovered a nearly intact pot estimated to be 1,000 years old in the Arizona Strip desert. After concealing the pot in situ, he contacted the Bureau of Land Management. Archaeologist Sarah Page returned to the site with Langstraat, where they found the pot undisturbed. “While the BLM is tasked to protect these resources,” she said, “we need everyone’s help to do so.” The vessel is thought to have been crafted by the Ancestral Puebloan people who lived in the region between A.D. 1050 and 1250. It has an effigy handle that may depict a deer or bighorn sheep. Pieces that may have represented the animal’s ears or horns have broken off. To read about another discovery associated with the Ancestral Puebloan people, go to “Angry Birds.”

World War II–Era Deposit Unearthed in Poland

MASURIA, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that a 14-year-old boy on vacation with his family discovered documents and family heirlooms once owned by an aristocratic Prussian family in two milk cans buried near Lake Jeziorak in northeastern Poland. Most of the objects, including glasses, toiletries, clothing, hunting accessories, military decorations, a Wehrmacht officer uniform, banknotes, jewelry, a pocket watch, and a silver spoon, had been owned by Count Hans Joachim von Finckenstein, who lived in an estate near the lake until 1945. The cans also contained his will, marked with the family seal and coat of arms, a diary dating to World War I, letters, postcards, notes, and family photo albums. The personal items were handed over to the count’s daughter, who is now 81 years old and lives in Germany. She and a sister had been sent away from the estate before the arrival of the Red Army in 1945. Although the count eventually died in a Soviet camp, his wife was reunited with the children in Germany. Researcher Michal Mlotek thinks she may have buried the items before she left. “You can guess that these were things that could be used again after being retrieved,” he said, “most of them had a sentimental value, so in a sense they were a family treasure.” For more, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow, Poland.”

China’s Oldest Bone Tools

ZHENGZHOU, CHINA—Xinhua reports that seven bone hammers estimated to be 115,000 years old have been found in central China, at a Paleolithic site in Xuchang City. Li Zhanyang of the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology said the tools had been made from the long leg bones of herbivores, and are thought to have been used to retouch stone tools. Before this discovery, China’s oldest known bone tools, unearthed in southwest China, dated to 35,000 years ago. For more on archaeology in China, go to “Tomb Couture.”

Monday, May 07

Doctor Offers Possible Diagnosis for 12th-Century Sultan

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—According to a Live Science report, Stephen Gluckman of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine suggests that Saladin may have been killed by typhoid. Born in what is now Tikrit, Iraq, Saladin fought against the Egyptian Fatimid Caliphate, and eventually became commander of Syrian troops in Egypt. In 1187, his army conquered Jerusalem, which led to the Third Crusade, from 1189 to 1192. Saladin died in 1193, at the age of 55 or 56, after a two-week-long illness with fever. Gluckman analyzed historical documents that recorded the sultan’s symptoms, and ruled out plague or smallpox, which kill people quickly, and tuberculosis, because there was no mention of coughing or breathing problems. Malaria, Gluckman added, is likely to have caused chills, which were not listed in the records. However, Gluckman explained, typhoid is contracted through the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella typhi, and causes high fever, weakness, stomach pain, headache, and loss of appetite. For more on archaeology in Iraq, go to “Assyrian Archivists.”

Two 19th-Century Ships Discovered Off Coast of Australia

WELSHPOOL, AUSTRALIA—According to a report in The Guardian, the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the Indian Ocean has revealed two nineteenth-century ships, about 20 miles apart, some 1,400 miles off the southwest coast of Australia. Tests of samples of coal recovered from both wreck sites suggest the vessels had traveled from Britain. The first ship was found in splinters, in a debris field of coal, as if it sank after an explosion. A large, rectangular metal object at the site has been identified as a water tank. Records of coal ships lost during the nineteenth century are incomplete, but researchers suggest the wooden ship may be the brig W Gordon, which had been traveling to Australia from Scotland when it disappeared in 1877, or the barque Magdala, which was lost in 1882 while sailing from Wales to Indonesia. The second wreck, found sitting upright on the seabed, is thought to have been made of iron and to have had at least two decks. This ship may be the barque West Ridge, which sank in 1883. “These are the deepest wrecks so far located in the Indian Ocean, they’re some of the most remote shipwrecks in the world,” said Ross Anderson of the Western Australian Museum. To read about the investigation of another shipwreck, go to “Is it Esmeralda?”

DNA Tests Suggest Family Relationships in Roman Cemetery

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND—According to a report in the Daily Gazette, scientists have detected a family relationship among individuals whose remains were found in a fourth-century A.D. burial site in southeast England. Earlier burials in the cemetery, which date to the era of Roman paganism, were laid out north-south, while later Christian burials, associated with traces of a church building, were oriented east-west. The configuration of the graves also suggested to researchers that the Christian cemetery had been arranged in family plots. Scientists led by Nelson Fernández of Essex University analyzed mitochondrial DNA and human leukocyte antigen from bone samples of 29 individuals in the Christian-era cemetery. “It means we have been able to for the first time scientifically prove the long-held theory there were family burial areas at the Butt Road Roman cemetery by showing they shared the same inherited genetic markers,” Fernández said. For more on Roman England, go to “London’s Earliest Writing.”

Third Radar Study of Tutankhamun’s Tomb Completed

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a third radar survey of Tutankhamun’s tomb has found no evidence of any hidden chambers. Francesco Porcelli of the Polytechnic University of Turin led the team that conducted ground-penetrating radar (GPR) studies of the tomb, which is located in the Valley of the Kings. Porcelli said the GPR found no evidence of walls, voids, or doorjambs or lintels in the natural rock adjacent to the tomb. To read in-depth about tomb paintings in Egypt, go to “Emblems for the Afterlife.”