Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, August 30

Roundhouse Excavated in Scotland’s Highlands

ASSYNT, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that a stone roundhouse known as Clachtoll Broch may have been abandoned after a fire some 2,000 years ago. “The fire could have been caused by an attack or caused by accidental burning of the building,” said Graeme Cavers of AOC Archaeology. Among the artifacts recovered are stone lamps, pottery, and a knocking stone filled with burned grain. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart.”

Lost Medieval Village Discovered With Aerial Laser Scanner

WROCLAW, POLAND—According to a report in The International Business Times, archaeologist Maria Legut-Pintal of Wroclaw University of Science and Technology has discovered the village of Goschwitz in southwest Poland. The small village consisted of about 20 farmhouses, constructed of timber framing on stone foundations, arranged around a central square. Scholars have been searching for the village, thought to have been founded some 700 years ago by the Duke of Löwenberg, who was also known as Bolko I the Strict, for more than 70 years. Using airborne laser-scanning technology, Legut-Pintal found the village, which was occupied for only 50 years. She has two ideas regarding the failure of Goschwitz: The village may have been destroyed during the Hussite Wars, or poor soil may have made survival impossible. “We will be able to answer this question only after excavation studies, when we establish the exact time of village abandonment,” she explained. For more on archaeology in Poland, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow.”

Skull Study Offers View of Violence in Medieval London

OXFORD, ENGLAND—Kathryn Krakowka of the University of Oxford examined hundreds of skulls recovered from six London cemeteries dating between A.D. 1050 and 1550. According to a report in New Scientist, she found that violence in medieval London may have been tied to sex and social status. Nearly seven percent of the skulls bore evidence of violent trauma, or about double the rate of trauma found in cemeteries in other parts of England. And, the rate of signs of violence was even higher in the skulls of young men aged 26 to 35, and higher in those who had been buried in free parish cemeteries rather than monastic cemeteries, usually associated with the paying upper classes. Krakowka speculates that the upper classes may have turned to officials in the developing legal system of the time to address disputes, or even resorted to formal duels while wearing armor. Historic coroners’ rolls record that most homicides occurred on Sunday nights, when Krakowka says men would have been visiting taverns, and on Monday mornings. “This, in combination with my results, possibly suggests that those of lower status resolved conflict through informal fights that may or may not have been fueled by drunkenness,” she said. For more, go to “The Curse of a Medieval English Well.”

Tuesday, August 29

Rome’s Lead Levels Analyzed Through Soil Samples

ROME, ITALY—According to a report in, a team of scientists, led by Hugo Delile of France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, analyzed and dated sediment cores from more than 170 sites in the harbors at Ostia and Portus in order to find the amount of lead in the Roman water system over time. Water carried into Rome via the aqueducts was at first distributed through terracotta or wooden pipes. But levels of lead in the sediments spiked between 200 B.C. and A.D. 250, indicating that lead pipes were likely in use during this period, which begins about 150 years earlier than had been previously thought. The study also suggests the lead levels dropped during the Imperial period, perhaps because the extensive plumbing system was not maintained during civil wars. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

Roman-Era Necklace Discovered in Bulgaria

PETRICH, BULGARIA—The Sofia Globe reports that a well-preserved gold necklace has been discovered in an ancient shop at the site of Heraclea Sintica. The city was founded in the fourth century B.C., on the site of a Thracian settlement, and was destroyed by an earthquake in the fourth century A.D. The necklace is thought to have been imported from Rome in the fourth century A.D., and perhaps lost in the panic of the earthquake. No other gold objects were found in the shop. “If we were going to find a jewelry shop,” said Lyudmil Vagalinski of Bulgaria’s National Archaeological Museum, “we would find some other jewelry and there would have to be some other tools, but in this context, we find that it is a building from the end of the fourth century.” A lack of human remains at the site suggests the owner of the necklace survived the incident. For more, go to “Thracian Treasure Chest.”

Large Building Foundations Found at Ancient Greek Port

SALAMIS, GREECE—The second phase of an underwater survey of the Classical-era coastline of the island of Salamis has revealed traces of what may have been a public building near its ancient port, according to a report in Tornos News. Aggeliki Simosi of the Underwater Antiquities Ephorate and the Institute of Underwater Archaeological Research and Yiannos Lolos of Ioannina University say the stone plinths indicate the large, solid structure was about 40 feet long. A spiral column pillar, pottery, and marble fragments of columns and statues were also found. In the late nineteenth century, an inscribed marble pedestal for a statue was recovered from the site. Scholars think the structure may have served as a temple or gallery through the late Roman period. The second-century A.D. geographer Pausanias mentioned a similar structure in his writings. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “Antikythera Man.”

Cata Sands Site Yields Neolithic House, Whale Skeletons

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Scotsman, a well-preserved Neolithic house and the skeletons of 12 nineteenth-century whales in two large pits have been uncovered on the Orkney island of Sanday. An account dating to 1875 describes the practice of driving whales ashore at Cata Sands, where they were butchered for their blubber. The Neolithic house, complete with a hearth, internal partitions, and stone walls, rests on a base of rounded beach stones and a deep layer of sand and is thought to date to between 3400 and 3100 B.C. Pottery fragments, knives, a grinding stone, pieces of flint, and animal bones were also found. For more on archaeology in Scotland, go to “A Dangerous Island.

Monday, August 28

Farmers’ Softer Foods May Have Changed Skull Shape

DAVIS, CALIFORNIA—The consumption of soft foods like cheese and other dairy products contributed to changes in the shape of the human skull, according to a report in The Telegraph. David Katz of the University of Calgary, Alberta, suggests that hunter-gatherers ate crunchy foods and gnawed meat off bones, which put stress on areas of the skull during chewing. Farmers, however, ate dairy products and grain mush, which reduced these chewing stresses. Katz and his team mapped points on more than 1,000 skulls of hunter-gatherers and farmers, and found that the temporalis muscle became smaller and changed position in the farmers’ skulls, while the upper jaws became shorter and the lower jaw became smaller. “Agriculture changed not only human culture and lifeways, but human biology as well,” he said. For more on early farmers, go to “The Neolithic Toolkit.”

Shops Found Near Ancient City Center of Aspendos

ANKARA, TURKEY—The Daily Sabah reports that shops and warehouses have been discovered near the center of the ancient city of Aspendos, located on the southwestern coast of Turkey. Archaeologist Veli Köse of Haceteppe University said valuable materials may have been sold and stored at the site, which he thinks also housed offices. The excavation has also recovered Hellenistic and Roman coins, a glass amphora, perfume bottles, bronze belt buckles, bone hair pins, jewelry, and nails. For more on archaeology in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

Monumental Chamber Tombs Discovered in Greece

NEMEA, GREECE—Tornos News reports that two chamber tombs have been discovered at the Mycenaean cemetery at Aedonia by a team led by Konstantine Kissas of the Corinth Antiquities Ephory and Kim Shelton of the University of California, Berkeley. One of the tombs, which had been looted in the 1970s, has been dated to between 1350 and 1200 B.C. The other tomb is thought to be a few hundred years older. Burials were found in three pits and on the floor of the second chamber. One of the pits measured more than 12 feet long, and had been covered with large stone slabs. It contained the remains of three people. A second pit contained two more burials, copper arrows, and five knives, two of which had handles decorated with fine gold leaves. Fragments of two piers, and monumental vases decorated with flowers, were found in the third pit. The burials on the floor were accompanied by simple vases and stone buttons. For more on archaeology in Greece, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”

Ming Dynasty Playwright’s Tomb Identified in China

NANCHANG, CHINA—The tomb of sixteenth-century playwright Tang Xianzu has been identified in a cluster of Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368‒1644) tombs in east China’s Jiangxi Province, according to a Xinhua report. Tang is remembered for four plays known as the Four Dreams, and his masterpiece, a romance called Peony Pavilion. The tomb is thought to hold the remains of Tang and his third wife, Fu. His second wife is also thought to have been buried in the cemetery. Several epitaphs found in the cemetery may have been written by Tang. “The epitaphs can help us learn more about the calligraphy, art, and literature in Tang’s time,” said Xu Changqing of the Jiangxi Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute. In addition, the discovery has yielded information about Tang’s life, his family relationships, and his ancestry. A monument to the playwright is planned for the site. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Tomb Couture.”