Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, September 10

14th-Century Skeleton Unearthed in Northern Poland

BARCZEWKO, POLAND—According to a Science in Poland report, Arkadiusz Koperkiewicz of the University of Gdańsk and his colleagues from the University of Greifswald and the University of Klaipeda have uncovered the remains of a man who was killed in 1354 during the Lithuanian invasion and destruction of the city of Wartenburg. The body was found in the basement of a wooden building that had been burned down. Koperkiewicz’s team has also recovered arrowheads, crossbow bolts, silver and bronze ornaments, and fragments of a medieval Christian cross in the well-preserved city. The researchers are still looking for the site of the city’s church, however. Wartenburg’s cemetery has yielded traces of clothing, coins, and pottery. Some of the pottery had been broken, perhaps as a symbol of the fragility of human life, Koperkiewicz said. For more on archaeology in Poland, go to “Off the Grid: Krakow.”

Baby Teeth Offer Window to Health of Anglo Saxons

BRADFORD, ENGLAND—UPI reports that scientists led by Julia Beaumont of the University of Bradford analyzed the baby teeth of more than 1,000 Anglo-Saxon children who lived in the Raunds Furnells settlement, a tenth-century site in England’s East Midlands, to see whether evidence of malnourishment could be detected in the remains. They then compared the teeth of children who survived from conception to at least 1,000 days after with those who did not. The researchers found that nutritional stress slowed bone growth, but the dentine in teeth continued to grow, thus providing a more comprehensive understanding of the child’s diet and health status. Teeth will record high levels of nitrogen, indicating the child was starving, even when bone growth has stopped, Beaumont said. The study could help scientists evaluate risk factors affecting the health of living children, she added. For more on Anglo-Saxon England, go to “The Kings of Kent.”

Hundreds of Gold Imperial Coins Found in Italy

COMO, ITALY—CNN reports that at least 300 gold coins dating to the fourth or fifth century A.D., as well as a gold bar, were discovered in a buried soapstone vessel in northern Italy. The coins, which bear engravings referencing the emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonia, and Libio Severo, were found in the center of the city of Como, in an area where other Imperial-era artifacts have been uncovered. Numismatist Maria Grazia Facchinetti said the coins were found stacked in rolls similar to how coins are stored by banks today. “All of this makes us think that the owner is not a private subject, rather it could be a public bank or deposit,” she explained. For more, go to “Golden House of an Emperor.”

Friday, September 7

Paleolithic Mammoth Kill Site Found in Austria

DRASENHOFEN, AUSTRIA—Metro reports that a mammoth kill site was discovered in northeastern Austria ahead of a construction project. Martin Krenn of the Austrian Federal Monuments Office said the mammoth tusks and bones, along with the remains of other large animals, were uncovered, along with stone tools. The site is estimated to date back between 18,000 and 28,000 years. The animals are believed to have been driven over difficult terrain to the area, where they were killed with spears and butchered. To read about evidence of mammoth butchering in North America, go to “Schaefer and Hebior Kill Sites.”

Pot of Medieval Loot Discovered in Bulgaria

SOFIA, BULGARIA—A fourteenth-century A.D. pot containing nearly 1,000 gold, silver, and bronze coins and artifacts such as buckles, earrings, rings, and buttons was discovered in the medieval Kaliakra Cape Fortress, which is located on Bulgaria’s northern Black Sea coast, according to an Archaeology in Bulgaria report. Archaeologist Boni Petrunova of Bulgaria’s National Museum of History said the small, light coins reflect the decline of the Second Bulgarian Empire and Byzantium. For example, the 20 hyperpyrons, or late Byzantine gold coins, in the collection had been clipped, or made smaller by shaving metal from their circumference, to such an extent that it was difficult to identify them. Eight Venetian gold coins dating to the mid-fourteenth century were also found in the pot, along with a few coins from Wallachia, a Bulgarian ally to the north, and a single Tatar coin, all of which may have flown through local markets. The objects are thought to have been looted by a Tatar leader who quickly hid his treasure during one of the last Mongol invasions of the region, since there were still threads attached to the buttons, suggesting they had been ripped off a lavish garment in a hurry. To read about another recent discover in Bulgaria, go to “Mirror, Mirror.”

First World War Training Trench Found in Ireland

SPIKE ISLAND, IRELAND—The Irish Examiner reports that archaeologists led by Barra O’Donnabhain of University College Cork have found a trench used by the British military to train World War I–era soldiers on Spike Island, home of a nineteenth-century prison, in Cork Harbor. The prison, built in 1847 during the Great Famine and closed in 1883, was once the world’s largest. Two corroded grenades were recovered from the bottom of the chest-deep military trench, which had been carved through the convict cemetery. Soldiers who trained on Spike Island were sent into battle on the Western Front and Gallipoli. The British eventually handed the island over to the Irish state in 1938. To read in-depth about excavations of the Gallipoli battlefield, go to “Letter from Turkey: Anzac's Next Chapter.”

Thursday, September 6

Artifacts and Fossils Lost in Brazil’s Museum Fire

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that as many as 700 ancient Egyptian artifacts were destroyed in the fire that engulfed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro earlier this week. The 200-year-old building was constructed as a palace for the country’s ruling family. The Egyptian artifacts in the museum’s collection included objects collected by Pedro I, who became the first emperor of Brazil in 1822, and an ancient mummy given to his son, Pedro II, by Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt. The skull of a woman who lived in Brazil some 11,500 years ago, known as the Luzia fossil, and objects representing South America’s cultural heritage, such as items of feather work and masks, are also believed to have been lost to the flames. To read about excavations in Rio de Janeiro, go to “Off the Grid.”

DNA of Germany’s Early Medieval Warriors Studied

NIEDERSTOTZINGEN, GERMANY—Science Magazine reports that analysis of DNA samples taken from the 1,400-year-old remains of ten Germanic, noble warriors and three children discovered in southern Germany suggests that some of them had been born locally, while others may have originated in different parts of Europe. The study, led by Niall O’Sullivan, now of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, also revealed that at least 11 of the individuals were male—the test results of the remaining two were inconclusive. Overall, five of the individuals in the sample were directly related to each other, but three people who had been buried in the same grave were unrelated. One of them had DNA associated with people from northern, eastern, and central Europe, while the other two had DNA suggesting they were related to people from southern Europe. Analysis of isotopes obtained from their teeth suggests that only one of the two individuals with southern European relatives grew up in the same area as the burial. O’Sullivan and his colleagues wonder whether the Germanic warriors may have welcomed foreigners into their households, or whether it is possible they adopted child hostages for use in intertribal negotiations. To read in-depth about a Roman settlement in Germany, go to “The Road Almost Taken.”

Cache of Gold Rush–Era Coins Uncovered in Canada

DAWSON CITY, YUKON—A crew building a recreational trail in northwest Canada discovered a cache of 23 Canadian and American coins dating to the nineteenth century, according to a CBC News report. “These are coins that would have been in common circulation during the [Klondike] Gold Rush,” said archaeologist Christian Thomas of the Yukon government. The coins were buried in what was a busy part of Dawson City where day laborers, miners, and service industry workers lived. The oldest of the coins, which have a total face value of $9.50, is dated 1864. Adjusted for inflation, the amount is equivalent to about $240 today, although prices for basic goods could be extremely high. Thomas explained that a pound of butter sold for about five dollars in Dawson City at the time. “A lot of the tax records show that a lot of these properties were foreclosed on,” Thomas said, “so people would stay, they might go visit family, intending to come back [to Dawson], but just never made it back because they didn’t make their big gold strike.” To read about a recent discovery in the Yukon dating back around 900 years, go to “Time’s Arrow.”

Elite Minoan Burials Unearthed in Crete

CRETE, GREECE—Tornos News reports that several graves dated to the Minoan period were unearthed in Petras, an ancient cemetery in northeastern Crete where elites who may have lived in a nearby palace were buried. Archaeologist Metaxia Tsipopoulou said the first grave, dated to between 2100 and 2000 B.C., contained the remains of a man who was buried with a bronze short sword, and a woman accompanied by a beads made of gold, silver, crystal, carnelian, and jasper. The second grave, dated to between 2600 and 2300 B.C., also contained hundreds of small silver and gold beads thought to have been sewn onto a garment, and gold beads decorated with spirals. A third burial held the remains of two children under the age of ten, who were buried with two bracelets made from thin sheets of gold. Their tomb was lined with stone slabs. For more, go to “The Minoans of Crete.”