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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, November 27

Greek Statue Fragments Found in Southern Turkey

ADANA PROVINCE, TURKEY—According to a report in the Daily Sabah, pieces of a limestone statue of the Greek goddess Hygieia and the god Eros have been found in the ancient city of Anavarza. Nedim Dervişoğlu, director of the Adana Museum, said the statue is thought to date to the third or fourth century B.C. Hygieia, the goddess of hygiene, was one of the six daughters of Asclepius, the god of health. Dervişoğlu explained that Anavarza was known for the development of medicine and the home of Dioskurides, a pharmacologist during the Roman period. Excavators will continue to search for the statue’s missing heads. To read about another discovery in Turkey, go to “Figure of Distinction.”

Iron Age Cauldrons Uncovered in England

LEICESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND—An Iron Age ceremonial site in the England's East Midlands has yielded 11 cauldrons, a sword, dress pins, a brooch, and a cast copper-alloy horn cap, which may have been part of a ceremonial staff, according to a report in the Leicester Mercury. John Thomas of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services said that in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., the site is thought to have been a small, open settlement, but by the third century B.C., the evidence suggests later generations enclosed the individual roundhouses. Most of the cauldrons were found in a large, circular enclosure ditch surrounding a building, while others were spread across the settlement. The vessels may have been used during major feasts and large gatherings before they were buried. The excavators lifted the cauldrons from the ground in soil blocks wrapped in strips of plaster, and then examined them with computer tomography equipment before carefully removing the surrounding dirt. Thomas noted the cauldrons came in different sizes, but were comprised of iron rims and upper bands with two iron ring handles, and copper-alloy bowls. For more, go to “Letter from Wales: Hillforts of the Iron Age.”

Byzantine Mosaic Unearthed at Ashdod-Yam

ASHDOD, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that a mosaic dating to the Byzantine period has been unearthed in the ancient city of Ashdod-Yam, or Azotus in Greek. The mosaic, found on the floor of a 1,500-year-old Christian church, bears a Greek inscription recording when the church was constructed—the year 292, according to the Georgian calendar, or A.D. 539. Archaeologists led by Alexander Fantalkin of Tel Aviv University, Angelika Berlejung of Leipzig University, Balbina Bäbler of the University of Göttingen, and Sa’ar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority say the inscription is the earliest-known use of the Georgian calendar in the world, as well as the first time a Georgian church or monastery has been found on Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. The scholars suggest the mosaic supports historical sources that mention the presence of Georgian bishop and philosopher Peter the Iberian in Ashdod-Yam. The church is thought to have been part of a larger complex.

Wednesday, November 22

Medieval Village Unearthed in Denmark

TOLLERUP, DENMARK—Traces of three medieval farm buildings have been unearthed in eastern Denmark, reports Science Nordic. The structures were built between A.D. 1400 and 1600, but the site itself probably dates to at least the eleventh century. King Canute IV deeded a village in the vicinity of the excavations to a local bishop in 1085, and tax records from the period suggest there were six farms and a manor at that site. Archaeologists suspect the newly discovered village is the same one mentioned in the medieval documents. National Museum of Denmark archaeologist Nils Engberg says that merely finding any traces of buildings dating to this period is exceedingly rare. Because of a chronic timber shortage in the Middle Ages, buildings were made from stone, which was often reused in later buildings. “We have lots of excavations from earlier periods” says Engberg. “For example from the Stone Age and Bronze Age. But unfortunately not from the Middle Ages.” To read more about medieval Denmark, go to “Bluetooth’s Fortress.”

New Research on Viking Army Camp at Repton

BRISTOL, ENGLAND—Archaeologists have turned up new evidence about a ninth-century Viking overwintering camp in the Derbyshire village of Repton, according to a report from Yahoo News. The site, which was occupied by a Viking army in the winter of 873-4, was previously excavated starting in the 1970s and was thought to have been limited to a fortified D-shaped enclosure measuring just a few acres. Now, a team from the University of Bristol has found evidence of structures and activities including metalworking and ship repair in the area outside this enclosure. Among the items found there were lead gaming pieces, fragments of battle-axes and arrows, and nails with roves, which are a telltale feature of Viking ship nails. The finds show that the Viking camp was larger and host to a wider range of activities than had been previously known, said Cat Jarman of the University of Bristol. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, when the Vikings arrived in Repton in 873, they drove the Mercian king Burghred overseas. The researchers also confirmed that a mass grave at the site containing at least 264 people dates to the time of the overwintering camp and likely holds Viking war dead. For more on the Vikings in England, go to “Vengeance on the Vikings.”

Lioness Relief Discovered in the Galilee

  SEA OF GALILEE, ISRAEL—A well-preserved basalt relief of a lioness has been uncovered by archaeologists at El-Araj in the Galilee, according to a report from Haaretz. The 1,320-pound relief includes a three-dimensional representation of the head, including mane, fangs, and tongue, and a two-dimensional representation of the body, including a tail hanging down between the legs. The carving dates to the fourth to sixth centuries A.D., said Mordechai Aviam, director of excavations at the Kinneret Academic College in the Galilee. “This relief looks very much like other statues of lions and lionesses discovered in synagogues in the Golan Heights,” he said. However, Aviam believes the site is Julias, a Roman-era town, and the carving could have been featured on a non-Jewish public building. To read about another recent discovery in Israel, go to “Conspicuous Consumption.”

Ancient Plaque Used to Track Migrations

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA—The Atlantic reports that researchers are using plaque from the teeth of ancient Polynesians to track prehistoric human migrations in the Pacific. University of Adelaide biologists Laura Weyrich and Raphael Eisenhofer collected samples of plaque from the uncleaned teeth of skulls stored in a number of museums. The samples contained the DNA of a number of common mouth bacteria and by studying the mutations in these bacteria’s genes, the team hopes to be able to infer the timing and exact routes of several migration events. “The traditional means of looking at human migrations might be too coarse,” says Eisenhofer. “Hopefully, the rapid rate of evolution in that bacteria will allow us to answer some of the questions.” To read in-depth about ancient microbial DNA, go to “Worlds Within Us.”

Tuesday, November 21

Ancient Shipwrecks Discovered in Alexandria’s Harbor

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that three Roman shipwrecks and an ancient Egyptian barque dedicated to Osiris were discovered in ancient Alexandria’s eastern harbor in the Mediterranean Sea. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the joint team of researchers, made up of scientists from the ministry’s department of underwater archaeology and the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology, recovered a crystal head thought to represent Marc Antony, and gold coins dating to the reign of Emperor Augustus. Wooden beams and pottery may represent the site of a fourth shipwreck. To read about another discovery in Egypt, go to “World’s Oldest Port.”

Viking King’s Bones Recreated With 3-D Printer

JELLING, DENMARK—Science Nordic reports that the heavily damaged bones of a Danish Viking king, Gorm the Old, have been 3-D printed by a team led by archaeologist Adam Bak of the National Museum of Denmark. Gorm the Old died in A.D. 958, and he is thought to have been buried in at least one other location before his remains were deposited under the floor of Jelling Church, where they were recovered in 1978. Computer tomography scans were made of the bones before they were reburied in 2000. The new 3-D model has been adjusted to correct the pressure damage that occurred during the long period of the burial, according to Marie Louise Jørkov of the University of Copenhagen. “We can then re-analyze the skeleton and study the bones to look for any signs of disease, which can’t be seen at the surface,” she said. The reconstruction of the flattened skull revealed a lump on the back of the king’s head, which may have been caused by a load on the muscles and ligaments connected to the protuberance. “It can best be compared to a bunion,” concluded Carsten Reidies Bjarkam of Aarhus University. For more on the Vikings of Denmark, go to “Bluetooth's Fortress.”

Neanderthals Appear to Have Lasted Longer in Southern Spain

BARCELONA, SPAIN—Neanderthals may have survived in parts of Spain for 3,000 years longer than they did in the rest of Western Europe, according to a Newsweek report. An international team of researchers working at three newly discovered Neanderthal sites in southern Iberia recovered stone tools thought to have been used about 37,000 years ago. João Zilhão of the University of Barcelona said Neanderthals are thought to have gone extinct in northern Spain and southern France between 40,000 and 42,000 years ago. He suggests the Ebro River acted as an effective barrier to the migration of modern humans into the region. For more on Neanderthals in Spain, go to “Neanderthal Medicine Chest.”