Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, January 10

Moche Ceremonial Rooms Unearthed in Peru

LIMA, PERU—Reuters reports that two chambers thought to have been used for elite Moche political ceremonies some 1,500 years ago have been found at the Limon archaeological complex in Lambayeque. Archaeologist Walter Alva said similar rooms have only been seen in illustrations made by the Moche. In one room, thought to have been used for feasting, Alva and his team uncovered two thrones. A circular podium, perhaps used for making announcements, was found in the second room. The walls were decorated with pictures of fish and sea lions. “These scenes had been depicted in the iconography of the Moche world but we had never been lucky enough to physically find where they took place,” Alva said. “It’s a very important finding.” To read in-depth about the Moche, go to “Painted Worlds.”

Genomes of Early Scandinavians Analyzed

UPPSALA, SWEDEN—According to a report in the Copenhagen Post, a new genetic study supports the idea that Scandinavia was settled by hunter-gatherers from central Europe and what is now Russia. Geneticist Mattias Jakobsson of Uppsala University and an international team of researchers sequenced the genomes of seven hunter-gatherers who lived in Scandinavia between 6,000 and 9,500 years ago. They found evidence of a migration from central Europe, and a later migration from what is now Russia. These hunter-gathers from the east are thought to have brought advanced hunting tools to Scandinavia. The data suggests when the two groups mixed, they produced a population whose genetic variants could have helped them adapt to limited sunlight and cold weather. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Two Shipwrecks Discovered Off the Coast of Mexico

SISAL, MEXICO—Two shipwrecks, a total of 12 cannons, and a sunken nineteenth-century lighthouse have been discovered off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, according to a report in the Live Science. Helena Barba Meinecke of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said the first ship is a Dutch warship dating to the eighteenth century. A letter written in 1722 by Antonio de Cortaire, who was then Yucatan governor, blames north winds for the sinking of two Dutch ships in 1722. The newly discovered shipwreck may be one of these two lost vessels. The lighthouse is thought to have been destroyed by a tropical storm. The second newly discovered shipwreck is a nineteenth-century British steamboat, thought to have been built sometime between 1807 and 1870. Porcelain, stoneware, and cutlery have been recovered from the wreck site. To read about another recent discovery in the Yucatan, go to “Where There’s Coal…

18th-Century Kitchen Features Uncovered at Monticello

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA—Live Science reports that the clean-out areas for four brick stoves in a cellar at Monticello’s South Pavilion have been linked to James Hemings, an enslaved chef who cooked for Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson and his wife, Martha, lived on the upper floors of the South Pavilion while the main house was under construction. In the early nineteenth century, the cellar was converted into a washhouse, and in the twentieth century, it was repurposed as visitor bathrooms. It has only recently been investigated by archaeologists, who recovered animal bones, toothbrushes, ceramics, glass bottles, and beads in the fill. Field research manager Crystal Ptacek said that in the eighteenth century, the stoves would have stood about waist high, and could have accommodated multiple pans cooking over low heat. Hemings is thought to have learned to use such stoves in France, in order to cook the multicourse meals favored by the wealthy, while Jefferson was U.S. minister to France from 1784 to 1789. The kitchen is one of the “really rare instances where we can associate a workspace and artifact with a particular enslaved individual whose name we know,” explained Fraser Neiman, director of archaeology at Monticello. For more on archaeology at Monticello, go to “Close Quarters.”

Tuesday, January 09

1,000-Year-Old Summer Palace Uncovered in China

DUOLUN COUNTY, CHINA—Xinhua News Agency reports that a 1,000-year-old palace has been found in the mountains of northern China. Ge Zhiyong of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Institute of Archaeology said the foundations of 12 buildings have been found at the site, which is thought to have been a summer residence for the imperial family during the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 916–1125). Archaeologists excavated one of the buildings, which covered an area of 2,500 square feet, and recovered glazed tiles, pottery, copper nails, and iron building components. To read about another recent discovery in China, go to “Underground Party.”

Headless Statue of Sacred Bull Found in Java

SUKOHARJO, INDONESIA—A village resident in Central Java province uncovered a statue of a bull while digging holes to plant banana trees, according to a Jakarta Post report. The statue, which is missing its head, is thought to date to the Mataram Kingdom, or from the eighth to tenth century. It is thought to depict Lembu Andini, a sacred animal said to have carried the Hindu god Shiva. Bimo Kokor Wijanarko, Sukoharjo cultural heritage analyst, suspects the statue’s head was stolen and the rest of it reburied by looters. “A lot of animal-shaped ancient relics were found headless,” he said. “Maybe this is because the heads of statues are very valuable.” To read about another discovery in Indonesia, go to “The First Artists.”

Ancient Musical Instruments Discovered in Siberia

NOVOSIBIRSK, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that mouth harps made between 1,580 and 1,740 years ago from splintered cow or horse ribs have been unearthed at two archaeological sites in the Altai Republic by Andrey Borodovsky of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Three of the musical instruments were unfinished. The other two were complete, and one of them is still able to produce a tune. It measures about four inches long and three inches wide. Borodovsky said mouth harps made from long animal bones, rather than splintered portions of ribs, have been found in the Tuva region of Siberia and in Mongolia. To read about another recent discovery in Siberia, go to “Arctic Ice Maiden.”

Painted Tombstone Unearthed in Egypt

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a team of archaeologists has uncovered several Hellenistic tombs, offering vessels, lamps, and an unusual tombstone at the Al-Abd archaeological site, located within the eastern cemetery of the ancient city of Alexandria. The tombstone is thought to have been installed as a false tomb door in order to mislead thieves, according to Ayman Ashmawy of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The outer surface of the tombstone was decorated to look like the façade of an Egyptian temple, complete with a staircase and a set of double doors. The poorly preserved stone will be restored. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

Monday, January 08

Fragment of 18th-Dynasty Statue Found in Egypt

SOHAG, EGYPT—According to an Egypt Independent report, a fragment of an ancient statue was discovered during construction work in Sohag, a city located on the west bank of the Nile River. Carved from black granite, the fragment shows a pharaoh’s left foot stepping forward and includes hieroglyphs recording the coronation and birth names of Amenhotep III near his right foot. The sculpture was moved to Sohag Museum for restoration. For more, go to “Dawn of Egyptian Writing.”

Storm Eleanor Damages Iron Age Fort in Ireland

COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND—According to a report in the Irish Examiner, a 2,500-year-old stone fort on Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula has partially collapsed and fallen into Dingle Bay as result of damage inflicted by rough weather last week. A stone doorway and a 30-foot section of a rampart of the Dún Beag fort were lost. The fort is one of 17 dry stone structures on the peninsula. It enjoyed spectacular views of Dingle Bay, which would have made it extremely useful in its time, explained archaeologist Micheál O’Coileáin. For more, go to “The Vikings in Ireland.”

Medieval Site May Mark Lost Monastery

ABERDEENSHIRE, SCOTLAND—BBC News reports that archaeologists have uncovered traces of what may have been a circular building as well as medieval pottery, a stone hearth, and charcoal while looking for the site of the monastery where the Book of Deer is thought to have been written in the tenth century. “The date for the charcoal is 1147 to 1260 and is extremely exciting because it is potentially the monastic period, so it is dating to the early medieval period when we know the monastery was in the area,” said archaeologist Alison Cameron. The site is located in a field near the ruins of Deer Abbey, which was founded in A.D. 1219. Later notes written in Scots Gaelic in the margins of the Book of Deer, which is thought to be the oldest surviving Scottish manuscript, suggest the monks of Deer Abbey had a view of the abandoned monastery. The Book of Deer is now housed at the University of Cambridge. To read about another recent discovery in Scotland, go to “A Dangerous Island.”

Prehistoric Hand Axes Recovered in Israel

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—The Guardian reports that hundreds of well-preserved Acheulian axes and other artifacts have been discovered at a site in central Israel that dates back around 500,000 years. Researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University noted that the site had been located near a stream, offered a ready supply of flint, and had plenty of vegetation and animals, making it an ideal seasonal camp for Homo erectus hunter-gatherers. For more, go to “Homo erectus Stands Alone.”