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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, October 15

Britain to Repatriate Seized Artifacts to Uzbekistan

LONDON, ENGLAND—The Guardian reports that Britain will repatriate to Uzbekistan six glazed tiles seized by the UK Border Force from a traveler’s suitcase at Heathrow Airport. The tiles, which feature Koranic inscriptions and are glazed in white, turquoise, and cobalt, have been identified by an international team of experts as medieval artworks from the Shah-i-Zinda memorial complex, which is located near Samarkand. The tiles were documented in 1996 and 2000 during restoration work. Additional tiles from the site remain missing. The traveler, who claimed the tiles were replicas, arrived in London on a flight from Dubai. To read about excavations of a satellite city of Samarkand in Tajikistan that was ruled by merchant princes from the fifth to the eighth century A.D., go to "A Silk Road Renaissance."

Ancient Greek Inscription Unearthed in Iraq

ERBIL, IRAQ—Kurdistan 24 reports that an engraved tablet has been unearthed in northern Kurdistan’s Duhok province. “After careful study, we found out that the stone tablet is engraved with Hellenistic script and dates back to 165 B.C.,” said Hasan Ahmed, director of the Duhok National Museum. The inscription refers to Demetrius, who ruled the region in the second century B.C. following the death of the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great. To read about Alexander's lost resting place, go to "In Search of History's Greatest Rulers: Alexander the Great, King of Macedon."

Medieval Town Discovered in Bulgaria

SOFIA, BULGARIA—The construction of a natural gas pipeline in northeastern Bulgaria has uncovered a third satellite town outside the medieval city of Pliska, the capital of the First Bulgarian Empire from A.D. 680 to 1018, according to an Archaeology in Bulgaria report. While the other two known satellite towns were built around fortresses, this town, which dates from the eighth through tenth centuries, was a large settlement laid out like the capital on high ground overlooking two rivers. Andrey Aladzhov of the National Institute and Museum of Archaeology said that one large building, constructed with double-sided masonry walls more than three feet thick, was equipped with water pipes. Fine ceramics and pieces of gold jewelry were also found in the building. It may have served as a residence for nobles, Aladzhov explained. Servants are thought to have lived near the monumental building in dugout structures lined with stone. “During the winter, it gets really cold and windy here, and when you are ‘dug in’ the ground, that is a natural shelter, and the soil itself helps preserve the heat,” Aladzhov added. The town was abandoned in the early eleventh century, when Pliska was also abandoned. To read about an ivory icon fragment found at a Byzantine fortress in southeastern Bulgaria, go to "Iconic Discovery."

Possible Victorian Walkway Uncovered at English Castle Site

HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that a six-foot-thick stone surface uncovered near Southsea Castle may be a promenade built over the castle’s defensive tunnels in 1848. The castle was built by Henry VIII in the sixteenth century on England’s southern coast in anticipation of a French invasion attempt. The tunnels were added in the early nineteenth century to allow defenders to fire at attackers. “The discovery highlights the change in Southsea from a purely military site to a fashionable holiday resort during the nineteenth century,” explained Naomi Brennan of Wessex Archaeology. The work will help shore up the site from erosion damage. To read about a lost English royal residence that was rediscovered in London, go to "Henry VIII's Favorite Palace."

Wednesday, October 14

Traces of Historic Fort Found in the Netherlands

LEIDEN, THE NETHERLANDS—NL Times reports that traces of a Spanish fort built in the sixteenth century during the Eighty Years’ War have been uncovered in Leiden. Archaeologist Ivar Schute and his colleagues uncovered pieces of pewter eating utensils, drinking cups, pottery, fishing implements, a bead, and portions of the fort’s moat at the site. Known as “De Lammenschans,” the fort is central to a local legend surrounding Dutch hutspot, a recipe made of mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions. When the Spanish abandoned the fort at the end of the Siege of Leiden, they were said to have left the cooked dish behind, where it was found by a Dutch orphan who carried it to the city walls and shared it with beggars and pirates who fought the Spanish, and contributed their white bread and herring to the victory meal. The city continues to celebrate its liberation with the hutspot, herring, and bread every October. “De Lammenschans is found,” said Deputy for Culture and Heritage Willy de Zoete of the Province of Zuid-Holland. “Just in the month that we celebrate that ‘Leiden is no longer in trouble,’ our archaeologists find the remains of what sometimes seemed like a legend.” To read about a sixteenth-century Dutch shipwreck discovered during a modern shipping accident, go to "Spring Boards."

Sarcophagus of 26th-Dynasty Priest Found in Upper Egypt

MINYA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a sarcophagus dated to the 26th Dynasty (688–525 B.C.) and a collection of ushabti statuettes were found in a 16-foot-deep shaft at the archaeological site of Al-Ghoreifa, which is located in Upper Egypt. Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said the sarcophagus belonged to Djehuty Imhotep, a high priest of the god Djehuty who also held the position of supervisor of the thrones. Many communal tombs belonging to priests of the god Djehuty and other government officials have been found in the area, he added. Djehuty Imhotep was the son of Hersa Iset, whose sarcophagus was found there in 2018. The sarcophagus contained amulets and scarab figurines. Some of the amulets are heart-shaped, while others are shaped as the head of the goddess Hathor, and the four sons of the god Horus, Waziri explained. Another burial shaft, with a large chamber featuring three niches covered with stones, was also found. To read about a recently discovered painting of a leopard that adorned a sarcophagus lid 2,100 years ago, go to "Guardian Feline."

Thuringian Kingdom Cemetery Investigated in Germany

HALLE, GERMANY—Live Science reports that researchers are investigating the site of central Germany’s Brücken-Hackpfüffel cemetery, which is associated with the early medieval manor home of a wealthy aristocrat. Discovered during excavations in summer 2020, the cemetery was in use between A.D. 470 and 540, during the short-lived period of the Thuringian Kingdom. Among the 80 burials in the cemetery, the researchers have recovered imported glass bowls; gold jewelry including brooches, hairpins, and necklaces; and weapons such as swords, lances, spears, and shields. The wealthiest of the graves are thought to belong to those who lived in the manor, said archaeologist Arnold Muhl of the Halle State Museum of Prehistory. The researchers also discovered a pit holding the bones of four cattle, five horses, two dogs, and bronze fragments that may be the remains of a cauldron. The contents of the pit were removed from the site in a block for future study, Muhl explained. The positions of some of the graves suggests they were placed to avoid disturbing this pit, which may have been part of a burial mound holding the remains of an important person, he added. Chemical analysis of the bones that could reveal the birthplace of the cemetery occupants is also planned. To read about German archaeologists' discovery of the grave of a wealthy Roman woman who was buried with her jewelry and makeup kit, go to "Beauty Endures."

Leather Balls Found in Ancient Graves in Northwest China

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Zurich, three leather balls recovered from graves in the Yanghai ancient cemetery in northwestern China have been analyzed by an international team of researchers. Two of the balls were found in the graves of horsemen. A composite bow was also found in one of these graves. Patrick Wertmann of the University of Zurich said that the balls, which measure between about three and three and one-half inches in diameter, have been dated to between 3,200 and 2,900 years old, and are therefore about 500 years older than the previously oldest-known balls in Eurasia. Curved sticks have also been unearthed at Yanghai, but they are not as old as the leather balls, he added. The presence of the balls in the graves suggests that ball games may have been part of military training, Wertmann explained. To read about the remains of small donkeys unearthed in a Tang noblewoman's tomb, go to "Prized Polo...Donkeys?"

Tuesday, October 13

Scotland’s 17th-Century Sand-Covered Settlement Explored

INVERNESS, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Scotsman, Gerry Bigelow of Bates College and his colleagues have found evidence that someone returned to live in the Shetland island settlement of Broo after it was buried under more than six feet of sand in the late seventeenth century. The settlement is located more than a mile inland from the coast. Climate change during the Little Ice Age, a period of cooler temperatures between 1645 and 1715, may have contributed to the accumulation of sand. Scientists have also suggested that the people who lived on the island wiped out its natural protective dune system through oat farming, or that it might have been destroyed by burrowing rabbits. Bigelow and his team found that someone constructed a staircase over mounds of sand in order to create an entrance into a submerged outbuilding. “You would have to climb out of your house onto the landscape that keeps rising,” Bigelow said. “They did not abandon the house until the sand reached the eaves of the roof.” To read about a period of cooling during the Little Ice Age that may have been an effect of European colonization of the Americas, go to "Colonial Cooling."

Ice Age Footprints Found in New Mexico

ALAMOGORDO, NEW MEXICO—KRQE reports that a trackway left behind by a small adult and a toddler-aged child more than 10,000 years ago has been found at White Sands National Park, which is located in New Mexico’s northern Chihuahuan Desert. The footprints continue for almost a mile along what was the shore of ancient Lake Otero. Sometimes the child walked on its own, and sometimes it was carried by the adult, whose footprints changed in depth and shape as he or she shifted the child from one hip to the other as they traveled. Prints of mammoth, giant ground sloth, dire wolf, and American lions have also been found in the park. To read about the preserved footprints of a family in northern Italy some 14,000 years ago, go to "Upper Paleolithic Cave Life."