Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, September 11

Medieval Village Discovered in Denmark

AARHUS, DENMARK—Traces of a small, agricultural village dating to the medieval period have been unearthed in central Jutland, according to a report in The Copenhagen Post. Records of Hovedstrup date back to 1300, but the village is thought to have been founded even earlier. Moesgaard Museum archaeologists have uncovered a road paved with stones and three homes marked by their post holes. Hovedstrup was abandoned in the late 1600s, during a time when many landlords rearranged their holdings to create new farms or hunting grounds. To read about another discovery in Denmark, go to “Bronze Age Bride.”

Fire Management May Date Back 40,000 Years

LUNGTALANANA ISLAND, TASMANIA—According to a report in Australia's ABC News, information obtained from a sediment core taken from a lake on a remote island off the coast of Tasmania suggests that Aboriginal people were managing the land with fire at least 41,000 years ago. Researchers Simon Haberle of Australian National University, and fire ecologist David Bowman, in cooperation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, dated charcoal and pollen in the core sample, and determined that the pattern of how often the island’s vegetation caught fire over thousands of years changed over time. “What we see is that over most of the period of the record, frequent and low-intensity fires occurred on the island,” Haberle said. He thinks Aboriginal people regularly burned the landscape in order to prevent catastrophic fires in the dry, flammable environment. “When Europeans arrive there is a change in the fire regime and there are many very strong fires and in many cases catastrophic fires have occurred in the recent past,” he explained. For more, go to “Letter From California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire.”

Roman Swords Recovered at Vindolanda

HEXHAM, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that two metal swords and two wooden toy swords were unearthed at Vindolanda, a Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall in northern England. The artifacts are thought to date to around A.D. 120, when about 1,000 people lived at the site. One of the swords, found in a corner of a living room in a cavalry barrack, had a bent tip. It had probably been discarded. A second sword, with its blade and tang intact, was found in a neighboring room. Archaeologists speculate its owner may have left the fort in a hurry without it. Also recovered were two small wooden toy swords, bath clogs, leather shoes, knives, brooches, arrowheads, and ballista bolts. To read in-depth about Hadrian's Wall, go to “The Wall at the End of the Empire.”

18th-Dynasty Tomb Excavated in Egypt

LUXOR, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, Egyptian archaeologists led by Mostafa Waziri, head of the Luxor Department in Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry, have discovered a 3,500-year-old tomb in the Draa Abul Naga necropolis on Luxor’s west bank. The entrance to the New Kingdom tomb was found in the courtyard of a Middle Kingdom tomb. It led to a square chamber where the team found a niche containing a statue of seated Amenemhat, goldsmith for the god Amun, and his wife, Amenhotep, who wears a long dress and a wig. One of their sons is also shown, standing between their legs. The remains of three people were found in a shaft off the tomb’s main chamber, which also contained wooden sarcophagi and funerary masks, and 150 ushabti figurines made of faience, wood, pottery, and limestone. Osteologist Sherine Ahmed Shawqi examined the remains. She said that one female mummy showed signs of jaw abscesses and bone infection likely caused by dental cavities. The names of other officials were found on artifacts in the tomb and suggest that their graves may also be located in shafts off the courtyard. For more, go to “A Pharaoh’s Last Fleet.”

Friday, September 08

Iron Age Coins Unearthed in England

LINCOLN, ENGLAND—According to a report in The Grantham Journal, two men using metal detectors discovered a hoard of more than 280 gold and silver coins dating to the late Iron Age, and the period of the Roman Conquest, which occurred in A.D. 43. Adam Daubney, finds liaison officer for Lincolnshire County Council, said the coins are stamped with names like Dumnocoveros, Tigirseno, and Volisios, among the earliest personal names recorded in the area. They are believed to have been the names of local rulers. Fragments of a pot were found with the coins. University of Lincoln archaeologists surveyed the site and will continue their investigation into why the coins might have been buried. To read about the disassembly of an enormous Celtic coin hoard, go to “Ka-Ching!

Remains from Viking Warrior’s Grave Identified as Female

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—DNA testing has revealed that a warrior’s grave discovered in the Viking-era town of Birka in the late nineteenth century contained the remains of a woman. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University told The Local that the woman stood about five feet, seven inches tall, and was over the age of 30 at the time of her death. She was buried with weapons, including a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses. She also had a board game, thought to have been used to try out battle tactics and strategies, in her lap. “She’s most likely planned, led, and taken part in battles,” Hedenstierna-Jonson said. The DNA testing of the bones was done after osteologist Anna Kjellström of Stockholm University noticed that the skull’s cheekbones were finer and thinner than usually found on a man’s skull, and that the hip bones were also feminine. “It was probably quite unusual [for a woman to be a military leader], but in this case, it probably had more to do with her role in society and the family she was from, and that carrying more importance than her gender,” speculated Hedenstierna-Johnson. For more, go to “Hoards of the Vikings.”

Recording Alberta’s Endangered Heritage Sites

  ALBERTA, CANADA—Peter Dawson of the University of Calgary has employed 3-D digital imaging to record heritage sites in Alberta, such as rock art on the Okotoks Erratic, a late-nineteenth-century Chinese laundry, and the early twentieth-century plant at the Bitumount oil sands, which is dangerous and difficult to access, according to a report in The Calgary Sun. Dawson notes that the project can record information on heritage sites recently threatened by flood, wildfires, and development. And, the digital record, updated over time, could inform the work conducted by conservationists with Alberta Culture and Tourism, and could be used to construct virtual sites for tourists to visit. “It will allow you to be teleported to any site, as if you're at the building and you can tour the inside and the outside,” Dawson explained. To read about a discovery at a buffalo jump in Alberta, go to “A Removable Feast.”

Thursday, September 07

Young Child’s Burial Unearthed in Siberia

TYUMEN, RUSSIA—The Siberian Times reports that a team of researchers led by Alexander Tkachev of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography of Tyumen State University discovered the grave of a young Sikhirtya child among nine possible burials, surrounded by a small moat, on a high point on the Tazovsky peninsula. The child is thought to have been three or four years old at the time of death, which occurred in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries. The body had been placed on pieces of birch bark that had been sewn together, and was buried with two iron knives and an arrowhead. The child wore an impressive hat made of pieces of fur lined with woolen cloth. Bronze decorations had also been sewn into it. Reindeer bones at the child’s feet suggest that a meal of roasted venison, possibly cooked on mounds in the necropolis, was also provided for the afterlife. “The burial was unusually rich for such a little child,” Tkachev said. “In fact, we were rather taken aback.” For more, go to “Siberian William Tell.”

Archaeologists Investigate Castle in Northeast Slovakia

STARÁ L’UBOVÑA, SLOVAKIA—According to a report in The Slovak Spectator, excavations at the site of the Stará L’ubovña Castle, located in northeast Slovakia, have uncovered artifacts dating from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. The items include ceramics, pieces of tiled stoves, and metal objects such as a copper button, a musket ball, and coins. On the castle’s eastern side, the researchers found remnants of walls, wooden beams, and partitions. The castle’s third courtyard was home to a military barracks, mentioned in historic documents dating to 1564. The barracks is thought to have remained in use through the second half of the eighteenth century. To read in-depth about another castle, go to “Letter From England: Stronghold of the Kings in the North.”

Ancient Coastal Settlements Found in East Yorkshire

SKEFFLING, ENGLAND—The International Business Times reports that traces of Roman and medieval-era settlements were uncovered along the Humber River, near the tip of East Yorkshire, in an investigation into the possibility of restoring saltmarsh habitats and intertidal land in the area. The villages, known from historic documents, are thought to have been abandoned due to coastal erosion and sea level rise. “We’ve known they were in this area, but they were lost,” said archaeologist Stephen Kemp of the Environment Agency. The excavation team found evidence of villages, small farms, and field systems, as well as a Benedictine priory. Kemp explained that early residents built flood defenses and moved to higher ground when necessary, but returned to the low-lying coastal areas to exploit wetland resources. The researchers have also studied the region’s environment and water levels dating back up to 8,000 years using sediment cores. To read about another discovery in the area, go to “Mesolithic Markings.”