Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Thursday, May 24

Mound Builder Land Use Analyzed in Louisiana

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS—Fox News reports that Jayur Mehta of the University of Illinois and Elizabeth Chamberlain of Vanderbilt University examined Grand Caillou, a mound builder site in coastal Louisiana, through sediment coring, radiocarbon dating, optically stimulated luminescence dating, and analysis of ceramics in order to investigate how and why mound builders chose building locations. The study suggests the mound was built on a natural levee on a major lobe of the Mississippi River Delta that was a few feet higher than the surrounding landscape. Distinct layers, including clay placed at the bottom, looser sediments in the middle, and a clay cap placed on top of the mound increased its durability. Pottery at the site dates to between A.D. 1000 and 1400. The village, which supported about 500 people, had been established by about A.D. 1200. Ratios of carbon isotopes indicated saltwater incursion of the area could have led to the abandonment of the village by A.D. 1400. Many of Louisiana’s coastal mounds are now being lost to erosion. For more on mound builder sites, go to “Off the Grid: Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, Texas.”

Ancient Kangaroo Feast Found in Australia

PILBARA REGION, AUSTRALIA—According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report, a cave in northwestern Australia has yielded evidence of a campfire and kangaroo feast that may date back 20,000 years. Charcoal from the fire pit will be radiocarbon dated to confirm its age. Stone tools and flakes found near the charcoal may have been used to butcher the kangaroo. “We’ll have to have a look at them under the microscope, but they are the pieces that people were using at the site,” said Michael Slack of Scarp Archaeology. Traditional land owner Garren Smith said stories about the cave have been passed down through the generations. “It’s good that they are doing this and getting the records, having a look at how old things are,” he said. For more on archaeology in Australia, go to “Death by Boomerang.”

Wednesday, May 23

Neolithic Site Found in Cyprus

THESSALONIKI, GREECE—According to a Cyprus Mail report, a team of researchers led by Nikolaos Efstratiou of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki has found a Neolithic site in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, which are located in the center of the island of Cyprus. A hunter-gatherer site, found nearby, has been under excavation as well. The scientists are waiting for dating test results, but they think the region had long been in use by mobile groups of people, perhaps as a stop between the coast and the mountains, until they eventually built a permanent settlement in the Neolithic period. To read about a mosaic found on Cyprus, go to “And They’re Off!

Greco-Roman Bath Site Unearthed in Egypt

GHARBEYA, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that sections of a large red-brick building have been unearthed at the San El-Hagar archaeological site in northern Egypt by a team of researchers led by Saeed El-Asal of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The building is thought to have been part of a Greco-Roman bath complex. Pottery, terracotta statues, bronze tools and coins, a stone engraved with hieroglyphs, and a small statue of a lamb have been recovered, in addition to a gold coin minted during the reign of King Ptolemy IV (244-204 B.C.) in honor of his father, Ptolemy III, whose portrait appears on one side.  A horn of plenty and the king's name adorn the obverse. To read in-depth about tomb paintings in Egypt, go to “Emblems for the Afterlife.”

Spanish Galleon Wreckage Discovered Off Coast of Colombia

CAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS—CBS News reports that the wreckage of San José has been discovered under 2,000 feet of water off the coast of Colombia by a team of researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Maritime Archaeology Consultants, Switzerland AG, and the Colombian government. The ship, a three-masted Spanish galleon carrying 62 guns and a cargo of ceramics, gold, silver, and emeralds, sank in 1708 during a battle with British ships that was part of the War of Spanish Succession. The ship was identified by its engraved bronze cannons, which were first spotted on the sea floor by research engineer Jeff Kaeli of WHOI using the REMUS 6000, a remotely operated vehicle carrying cameras and sensors. “I’m not a marine archaeologist, but ... I know what a cannon looks like,” he said. “So in that moment, I guess I was the only person in the world who knew we’d found the shipwreck.” The government of Colombia plans to build a museum and conservation lab to preserve and display San Jose’s artifacts. To read about pages of a book found in a shipwreck, go to “The Pirate Book Club.”

Tuesday, May 22

17th-Century Clan Lands Surveyed in Scotland

ARROCHAR, SCOTLAND—The Scotsman reports that a team led by Heather James of Calluna Archaeology found more than 80 archaeological sites dating to the seventeenth century during a survey of the western shores of Loch Lomond, which is located in west-central Scotland. The sites include farmsteads, bridges, sheepfolds, earthen banks, quarries, cairns, and almshouses for travelers. The territory has long been associated with Clan MacFarlane, whose castle was located on the loch’s island of Elanvow. A possible watchtower site, discovered on Tarbet Island, may have been used by the MacFarlanes to monitor the area. “They were a clan who struggled to keep their head above water, but they eventually made peace with their rivals, the Campbells, which helped them for a while,” James said. The lands were eventually sold in the eighteenth century to pay off debts at a time when many of the clan’s men moved to other parts of Scotland, Ireland, or America. The land is now part of a national park. To read about another site in Scotland associated with clan warfare, go to “A Dangerous Island.”

Thousands of 2,000-Year-Old Bones Unearthed in Denmark

AARHUS, DENMARK—AFP reports that the 2,000-year-old bones of more than 80 boys and men have been recovered from a bog in Denmark that could hold the remains of as many as 380 people. Mette Løvschal of Aarhus University said many of the well-preserved bones bear fresh cut marks from sharp weapons. She thinks the boys and men were killed in battle by Roman soldiers who raided Germania, or by warriors from a rival tribe. “They do not seem to have a lot of healed trauma, from experience with previous battles,” she said. Most of the wounds are on the right sides of the warriors’ bodies, which suggests they had been holding shields with their left arms. Gnaw marks on the bones suggest the bodies lay on the battlefield before they were stripped of personal belongings and deposited in the bog. Four of the pelvises found in the bog had been strung on a stick. “It seems to have aggressive undertones to it as well,” Løvschal said. For more, go to “Denmark’s Bog Dogs.”

30,000-Year-Old Modern Human Bones Found in Siberia

IRKUTSK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that bones unearthed in eastern Siberia during road construction could represent the oldest modern humans outside Africa and the Middle East. Some of the recovered bones have been dated to about 50,000 years ago, and are undergoing tests to identify them, while others have been dated to about 30,000 years ago, and identified as Homo sapiens. Tools made of topaz and rock crystal, bone knives thought to have been used for hunting, an amulet made of a cave lion tooth, and other animal bones were also found at the site, which is located in the Tunkinskaya Valley. “The most important question now is when Homo sapiens appeared in Siberia, and the Tunka valley finds will allow scientists to shed light on it,” said researcher Mikhail Shunkov of the Russian Academy of Sciences. To read about another recent discovery in Siberia, go to “Nomadic Chic.”