Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, October 25

Early Spear Points Discovered in Texas

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS—According to a Science News report, spear points made some 15,500 years ago have been discovered at the Debra L. Friedkin archaeological site in central Texas, underneath a stratigraphic layer containing Clovis and Folsom projectile points. Long thought to have been made by the first people to have arrived in the Americas, Clovis tools, marked by their long, triangular shape, date to around 13,000 years ago. Michael Waters of Texas A&M University said the 12 spear points, found among 100,000 stone artifacts at the Friedkin site, span a 2,000-year period and suggest a progression from stemmed points, to short, triangular-shaped points, to the Clovis style. Eleven of the weapons were chipped into leaf shapes with slightly narrower stems. Points similar to these have been unearthed in other areas of the western United States and dated to the pre-Clovis period, but archaeologists had not been able to show a progression from the earlier, leaf-shaped points to Clovis-style points before now. However, the twelfth point from the Friedkin site, which dates to between 14,000 and 13,500 years ago, is short and triangular with a flat base. Waters believes that this blade could have been developed by the descendants of the earlier weapons makers, or it may have been introduced by migrants who moved inland from the Pacific coast, or through an ice-free corridor. To read in-depth about the search for evidence of the first Americans, go to “America, in the Beginning.”

Excavation of New Kingdom Shrine Completed in Cairo

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that the excavation of a shrine dedicated to Ramesses II in Cairo’s Matariya district by a mission from Ain Shams University has been completed. Ramesses II was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty, and he ruled from 1279 to 1213 B.C. Mamdouh El-Damaty, the head of the mission, said the shrine was used to celebrate the Heb Sed festival during the reign of Ramesses I and continuing through the rest of the Nineteenth and the Twentieth Dynasty. Lintels, scarabs, amulets, pots, and blocks engraved with hieroglyphics were also recovered. To read about excavation of a structure erected for a top minister of Ramesses II, go to “A Pyramid Fit for a Vizier.”

Medieval Ship Unearthed in Sweden

ENKÖPING, SWEDEN—According to a report in The Local, parts of a thirteenth-century ship have been uncovered in the town of Enköping, which is located in central Sweden. German and Danish ceramics at the site may have been part of the ship’s cargo. Archaeologist Emelie Sunding said that what is now the city center was close to the shoreline in the medieval period, making Enköping a center of trade until the outbreak of Black Plague in the fourteenth century. The excavation has also revealed houses dating to the sixteenth century and medieval gardens. Sunding said the team could find artifacts dating back to the tenth century as the dig continues. To read about recent surveys of a sixteenth-century Swedish warship that sank in the Baltic Sea, go to “Mars Explored.”

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.”