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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, July 27

New Dates for Canterbury Cathedral’s Medieval Stained Glass

CANTERBURY, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that stained glass windows over the south entrance of Canterbury Cathedral, which depict the ancestors of Christ, have been re-dated to the mid-twelfth century using a new, non-destructive technique. Conservator Léonie Seliger and her colleagues used a device called a windolyser to shine a beam on the surface of the glass. Spectrometry was then used to analyze the chemical fingerprint of the glass and calculate its age. The new dates indicate that the windows may have been in place when Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was assassinated in the cathedral in 1170 by four knights who thought they were acting on the orders of King Henry II. Because the building was damaged by fire in 1174, it had been previously thought that the windows were crafted in the thirteenth century. “The scientific findings, the observations, and the chronology of the cathedral itself all fit together very nicely now,” commented art historian Madeline Caviness, who noted in the 1980s that the style of these glass panels suggested that they could be older than the cathedral’s other windows. To read about stained glass unearthed during excavations at Westminster Abbey, go to "Westminster Abbey's Hidden History."

Smuggled Old Kingdom Statue Returned to Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—According to an Ahram Online report, an Old Kingdom statue depicting the priest Nikau-Ptah has been returned to Egypt from an art gallery in the Netherlands. Nikau-Ptah is shown standing and wearing a short skirt, although the statue’s legs are missing. The priest’s name was engraved on the sculpture’s right hand. Shaaban Abdel-Gawad of Egypt’s Antiquities Repatriation Department said the statue had been illegally excavated and smuggled out of Egypt. To read about the sacred site of Heliopolis on the Nile, go to "Egypt's Eternal City."

Monday, July 26

Inscription With Image of Babylonian King Found in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA—Live Science reports that a 2,550-year-old inscription has been discovered on a piece of basalt in the Hail region of northern Saudia Arabia. Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, is shown holding a scepter at the top of the engraving, along with a snake, a flower, and the moon. These images are thought to have been used as symbols with religious meaning. The lines of cuneiform text following the images are being translated and may offer new information about the king. Nabonidus is known to have ruled the Babylonian Empire from 555 to 539 B.C. At the beginning of his reign, he conquered an area in what is now Saudi Arabia and lived there in the city of Tayma until about 543 B.C. It is not known what happened to Nabonidus when Babylon was captured by the Persians in 539 B.C. To read about ancient monuments recently recorded during an aerial survey in northwest Saudi Arabia, go to "Around the World: Saudi Arabia."

New Thoughts on Early Human Dentition

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND—According to a statement released by the University of Otago, biological anthropologist Ian Towle and dentist Carolina Loch examined more than 20,000 teeth from fossils and living primates and noted the position and size of any tooth fractures for clues to the diets of early humans. The researchers found that extreme tooth wear and high rates of tooth fractures were normal within the Homo genus, similar to the rate of tooth fracture found in living primates who eat a diet of hard foods. Paranthropus robustus, a human relative that lived about three million years ago, had been thought to eat a diet of seeds and nuts based upon its massive back teeth. But the researchers found a low rate of tooth fracture among the Paranthropus teeth studied, similar to modern primates that eat soft fruit or leaves. The tooth fractures observed in early humans may have also been caused by non-food items, the researchers explained, such as grit in the diet or stone tools. Teeth may have evolved to be smaller as other parts of the skull expanded, Towle added. To read about a two-million-year-old Paranthropus robustus skull, go to "Consider the Craniums."

Friday, July 23

Rock-Cut Chambers Unearthed in Turkey’s House of the Muses

GAZIANTEP, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that two rock-cut chambers thought to have been used as dining rooms have been discovered in the so-called “House of the Muses,” which is located in southeastern Anatolia’s ancient city of Zeugma. The building is known for its decorative mosaic floors, and named for one consisting of portraits of the nine muses. Archaeologist Kutalmiş Görkay said work to reinforce the chambers after they were emptied of earthen fill continues. “In particular, there are risky cracks on the ceilings in the chamber,” Görkay explained. For more on Zeugma, go to "Zeugma After the Flood."

Artifact Found in Germany Hints at Neanderthal Hunting Practices

TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—According to a statement released by the University of Tübingen, a leaf-shaped point dated to at least 65,000 years ago has been unearthed in southern Germany’s Hohle Fels Cave by a team led by Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen. Microscopic analysis of the Neanderthal artifact by Veerle Rots of the University of Liège revealed damage to the tip that suggests it had been mounted on a wooden shaft and used as a thrusting spear during large animal hunts. The point broke during the sharpening process, and was discarded, he added. Conard explained that this is the first time that a leaf-shaped point has been discovered during a modern excavation. It had been previously thought that such points were used by Neanderthals in central Europe between 45,000 and 55,000 years ago. To read about spears likely used by early Neanderthals, go to "Weapons of the Ancient World: Hunting Equipment."

Sonar Survey Detects Underwater Roman Structures in Venice

VENICE, ITALY—ANSA reports that possible traces of a Roman road and dock were found during a survey of Venice conducted by researchers from Italy’s National Research Center and IUAV University. “We carried out the mapping with sonar because we wanted to study the morphology of the canals in 3-D,” said geophysicist Fantina Madricardo of the National Research Center. The remains of the dock were found in an area of the lagoon known as the Treporti Channel. The Roman road, thought to have been paved with basalt, traveled along the lagoon’s now-submerged coastline to link the ancient city of Altinus and the area of the modern city of Chioggia, and perhaps a wider network of Roman roads in the Veneto region. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Scientific Reports. To read about an ancient Roman amphitheater discovered in Turkey's ancient city of Mastaura, go to "In the Anatolian Arena."