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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, May 30

Constantine’s Bronze Finger Found in France

PARIS, FRANCE—According to a report in The Art Newspaper, researcher Aurelia Azema has identified a piece of a bronze sculpture in the collections at the Louvre as a bronze index finger from the colossal bronze statue of Emperor Constantine housed in Rome’s Capitoline Museum. All that survives of the fourth-century statue in Rome is the head, the left forearm, the left hand missing part of its middle finger and most of its index finger, and a sphere that rested in the palm of the statue’s left hand. The missing digit arrived at the Louvre in the 1860s with items from the collection of the Italian Marquis Giampietro Campana. It was eventually cataloged as a toe in 1913. Azema, joined by specialist in ancient metallurgy Benoît Mille and archaeologist Nicolas Melard, created a 3-D model of the finger which they took to Rome earlier this month. The finger turned out to be an exact fit with Constantine’s colossal hand. To read about another Roman statue, go to “Artifact: Roman Dog Statue.”

Ötzi Receives Cardiovascular Check-Up

BOLZANO, ITALY—Scientists have examined a full-body computed tomography scan of Ötzi the Iceman for evidence of his heart health, according to a report in Live Science. Ötzi is the name given to the man whose naturally mummified, 5,300-year-old remains were discovered frozen in the Alps by hikers in 1991. Previous studies have determined that Ötzi may have suffered from bad teeth and knees, propensity to ulcers, and perhaps even Lyme disease, before he likely died around the age of 46 from a blow to the head and an arrow wound in his shoulder. The new study has revealed three calcifications in the region of his heart. Scientists say these hardened plaques put him at an increased risk of a heart attack. He also had calcifications around his carotid artery, and in the arteries at the base of his skull, which could have increased his risk of stroke. An earlier study had found that Ötzi carried a genetic predisposition for atherosclerosis, or a narrowing of the arteries from fatty deposits. Patrizia Pernter, a radiologist at the Central Hospital in Bozen-Bolzano and a member of the research team, said this was probably the most important factor in Ötzi’s heart disease, since he was fit and didn’t smoke tobacco. For more, go to “Ötzi’s Sartorial Splendor.”

Possible Early Maori Village Found in New Zealand

EASTLAND PORT, NEW ZEALAND—The Gisborne Herald reports that fourteenth-century artifacts found in northeastern New Zealand suggest a Maori village could be in the area. Moa bones and other food remains, fish hooks made of moa bone, and tools made of obsidian and chert have been recovered. Richard Walter of the University of Otago said Maori canoes, or waka, are thought to have first landed in the region, so an early village site could help fill in gaps in knowledge about the first Maori settlers. The team of researchers also found evidence of trade with the South Island, including artifacts from Cook Strait, the body of water separating New Zealand’s two islands, and Nelson, a city on the South Island’s northern coast. To read about another recent discovery of remains of a Maori village, go to “World Roundup: New Zealand.”

Pictish Trash Pit Yields Artifacts in Scotland

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that Pictish artifacts have been recovered from the remains of a fort at Burghead, which is located on the coast of northeast Scotland. The fort is thought to have been burned during a tenth-century Viking invasion. The fire preserved a layer of oak planks that had been part of a wall in the fort, which otherwise would not have survived. Excavation of a trash pit has also yielded jewelry, including hair and dress pins, and animal bones, which do not usually survive in Scotland’s acidic soil. Gordon Noble of the University of Aberdeen said the artifacts will provide more information about the daily lives of the Picts. To read about the study of a Pictish artifact, go to “Game of Stones.”

Tuesday, May 29

Janus Augustus Arch Unearthed in Spain

JAÉN, SPAIN—El País reports that the bases of the Janus Augustus Arch, which marked the beginning of the more than 900-mile-long Hispania Baetica, have been unearthed in southern Spain. “Thanks to this find, you can pinpoint down to the last centimeter where you are on the Via Augusta,” said Juan Pedro Bellón of Jaén University, “the main road through Baetica Hispania that leads to Rome in one direction and to the Atlantic in Cádiz in the other.” Bellón also explained that the monument would have marked the border and served as a symbol of Roman power and influence. He thinks blocks from the arch may have been reused in the thirteenth century to build the Mengibar Tower, which was part of an Arabic fort, but is hopeful that additional pieces from the arch will be found. He is also looking for a possible temple in the area. “So far, we have found ornamental remains and decorative vegetable molds,” he said. For more on Spain's connection with Rome, go to “Spain’s Silver Boom.”

Greek Helmet Found North of Black Sea

TAMAN PENINSULA, RUSSIA—A grave in southwest Russia dating to the fifth century B.C. has yielded an ancient Corinthian helmet, according to The Greek Reporter. Roman Mimohod of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences said this is the first Greek helmet of its kind to be found north of the Black Sea, in the Greek Kingdom of the Bosporus. The bronze helmet, of a type worn by foot soldiers, has slits for the eyes, and a padded interior that would have covered the entire head and neck. When a warrior died, his helmet was buried next to him. To read about another recent discovery in Russia, go to “Nomadic Chic.”

Ammonite Fossil Discovered at First Nations Site

SASKATOON, CANADA—The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that Lauren Rooney, an archaeology student at the University of Saskatchewan, discovered a fossil at the Wolf Willow dig site in Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The ammonite fossil is estimated to be 65 million years old. This fossil had not been carved, but the Blackfoot people are known to have carved ammonite fossils into buffalo figures called Iniskim some 800 years ago for use in medicine bundles and in stories relating to the origin of the bison. “If you use your imagination, it looks like two hind legs, two front legs, and then the fifth one is where the head should be,” explained Ernie Walker of the University of Saskatchewan. He thinks the newly discovered fossil may have been brought to Wanuskewin from southern Alberta, where ammonite fossils and Iniskim are more commonly found. For more on the relationship between native peoples and bison, go to “Bison Bone Mystery.”

Man Crushed by Fallen Stone Uncovered at Pompeii

NAPLES, ITALY—According to an Associated Press report, the skeleton of a man who was crushed by a fallen stone has been unearthed at Pompeii. The block of stone, thought to have been a doorjamb that fell during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, rests on the man’s upper body. Officials said that an infection in the man's tibia may have impeded his ability to walk. This would have made escape difficult for the man, who was at least 30 years old. To read more about life at Pompeii, go to “Food and Wine Gardens: Pompeii, Italy.”

Friday, May 25

Hawaiian Artifact Returned to Islands

HONOLULU, HAWAII—KHON2 News reports that a Hawaiian wooden carving thought to date to the eighteenth or nineteenth century will be handed over to the Bishop Museum. Known as a ki’i, or image, the 20-inch-tall carving represents the Hawaiian god Ku, who is depicted as a human figure wearing a headdress and standing in a warrior pose, with knees bent, calves flexed, and hands clenched at the back of the thighs. “It’s representative of the classic Kona style of ki’i that was carved most typically in the Kona region during the reign of Kamehameha I,” said Melanie Ide, president of the Bishop Museum. The ki’i is known to have been in a private collection in Europe since at least 1940. For more, go to “In Search of History's Great Rulers: Kamehameha I, King of Hawaii.”

Industrial Site Excavated on the Isle of Wight

ISLE OF WIGHT, ENGLAND—Volunteer diggers led by archaeologist Ruth Waller unearthed traces of chamber and bottle kiln floors at the site of the West Medina Mills, according to a report in the Isle of Wight County Press. In 1851, Charles Francis and Sons won the prize medal at the Great Exhibition for the Medina Cement created at the site, which is located near the River Medina on the Isle of Wight, off England’s southern coast. Portland cement was later made there. After 1944, the mill was used for cement storage and distribution. To read about a giant coin hoard discovered on Jersey, across the English Channel from the Isle of Wight, go to “Ka-Ching!

3,500-Year-Old Inscriptions Documented in Egypt

WARSAW, POLAND—According to a Science in Poland report, inscriptions on the rocks near the temple of Hathor at Gebelein, located in southern Egypt, have been documented and translated by researchers led by Wojciech Ejsmond of the University of Warsaw. Temples dedicated to Anubis and Sobek have also been located in the region. Many of the hieroglyphs, which were engraved into the rock, or engraved and then painted, are prayers that were written by scribes and, in some cases, signed. “We know Egyptian beliefs primarily from official texts from monumental temples and tombs, made for royals and elite members,” Ejsmond explained. These inscriptions, however, offer a glimpse into the popular religious beliefs of priests and pilgrims. The inscriptions have been difficult to see and study because the shape of the hill where they are located has changed over the years, putting the faded texts out of easy reach. To read in-depth about Egyptian tomb paintings, go to “Emblems for the Afterlife.”

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