Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Monday, July 17

French and Indian War Cannonball Uncovered in Quebec

MONTRÉAL, CANADA—A cannonball fired in 1759 by the British during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was unearthed by construction workers in Old Québec. CBC News reports that archaeologist Serge Rouleau alerted the authorities after he realized the 200-pound ball still contained a charge of gunpowder. “With time, humidity got into its interior and reduced its potential for exploding, but there’s still a danger,” said Master Warrant Officer Sylvain Trudel. Such large cannonballs were used to set fire to buildings. This ball is thought to have been fired at Quebec City from Lévis, which is located on the opposite side of the St. Lawrence River. If Trudel’s team can neutralize the weapon without destroying it, it will be preserved and sent to a museum. To read about a fort built in New York during the French and Indian War, go to "Off the Grid: Roger's Island, New York."

Roman Coin Unearthed on Orkney Island

ORKNEY, SCOTLAND—A Roman coin dating to the fourth century A.D. has been found in a small roundhouse at the Knowe of Swandro on the island of Rousay, according to a report in BBC News. “The bust on the coin is clearly visible although much of the lettering isn’t at present clear,” said Steve Dockerill, co-director of the project. “The reverse contains a standing figure, possibly representing the emperor with what might be an image of Victory at the side.” The coin is one of just seven Roman coins to have been found on the Orkney Islands. To read in-depth about Roman archaeology in Britain, go to "The Wall at the End of the Empire."

Archaeologists Will Study the International Space Station

ORANGE, CALIFORNIA— reports that archaeologists Justin Walsh of Chapman University and Alice Gorman of Flinders University will study astronaut culture aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has been continuously occupied by rotating crews of scientists since 2000. Walsh and Gorman will use databases storing information on all of the objects sent to the ISS, and photographs taken on board, to create a 4-D digital model of the vessel. They will then use the virtual ISS to try to recreate patterns of life in space. The researchers think this archaeological approach could help space agency managers improve the design of the vessel’s furnishings and how the international team of astronauts shares them. The ISS is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2024. To read an interview with Alice Gorman, go to "Saving Space Junk."

Friday, July 14

Trade Silver Unearthed at Colonial Fort in Michigan

MACKINAW CITY, MICHIGAN—Michigan Live reports that a 250-year-old piece of trade silver was discovered at the site of a fur-trader’s home in Colonial Michilimackinac, which is located on an island in the straits connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The triangle-shaped piece of silver has a small hole in one corner, so it may have been worn as a pendant or an earring. Lynn Evans, curator of archaeology at Mackinac State Historic Parks, said that only one other piece of British trade silver has been recovered at Fort Michilimackinac to date. To read about the nautical archaeology of Lake Huron, go to "Shipwreck Alley."

Pictish Man’s Face Reconstructed

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—According to a report in The Daily Record, the face of a Pictish man, whose remains were discovered in a cist burial in Highland Perthshire in the 1980s, has been recreated by forensic artist Hayley Fisher and Bob Will of GUARD Archaeology. The man is thought to have lived between A.D. 340 and 615, and to have died in his 40s. Additional study of the skeletal remains could reveal information on his diet and where he lived. The scientists will also try to recover a DNA sample. To read about another facial reconstruction, go to "Neolithic FaceTime."

The Search for an Ornamental Garden in Colonial Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—The Daily Press reports that Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary are conducting a joint excavation in the unusual, terraced backyard of the Robert Carter House, which is located off the outdoor living history museum's Palace Green. Built in the early eighteenth century for his daughter by Robert “King” Carter, the colonial governor and the wealthiest man in Virginia, the property’s outbuildings are located to the sides of the main two-story building, rather than directly behind it. Additionally, the house's dining room is located in the rear— when in most houses in Williamsburg, the dining room was located in the front— prompting speculation about the importance of the house's back yard. “We think there was an ornamental garden here, but we want to know for sure,” explained teaching assistant Alexis Ohman. The team, led by Colonial Williamsburg archaeologist Mark Kostro, is looking for ephemeral garden features under the landfill dumped on the site in the early twentieth century. So far, the excavators have found a long, dark stain in the soil that could be evidence of a planting bed, and a six-foot stretch of crumbled white shell that may have been a path. To read about archaeology at nearby Jamestown, go to "Colonial Cannibalism."

Thursday, July 13

5,600-Year-Old Burial Mound Found in England

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—According to report in Live Science, a Neolithic burial mound was spotted in a farmer’s field located halfway between the Neolithic stone monuments of Avebury and Stonehenge with aerial photographs. The top soil has been removed from what is now known as the Cat’s Brain site to reveal what looks like a central building that may have been covered by a mound, and long barrow ditches. At other long barrow sites, archaeologists have found that some of the dead would have been buried in the ditches. A few would have been left on platforms until their bones had been picked clean by birds. The skeletons were then placed in structures that looked like houses, sometimes with cow skulls. “These are the very first people to have domestic cows, and they seem quite an important species to them,” said Jim Leary of the University of Reading. The discovery offers scientists a rare opportunity to investigate a long barrow site with modern archaeological techniques. To read in-depth about Neolithic Britain, go to "Neolithic Europe's Remote Heart."

Stone Tombs Studied in Jordan’s Desolate Desert

LEIDEN, THE NETHERLANDS—Live Science reports that hundreds of looted tombs marked by cairns and taller stone towers, located on the high plateaus and the summits of basalt hills in Jordan’s Jebel Qurma desert, are being surveyed by a team led by Peter Akkermans and Merel Brüning of Leiden University. Some of the stones used to construct the tower tombs, which can stand five feet tall and measure 16 feet in diameter, weigh an estimated 660 pounds. The oldest structures date back 8,000 years. The people buried in the tombs are thought to have lived nearby in valleys and on lower ground. Evidence of human occupation disappears for the period beginning about 4,000 years ago, an absence that lasted for about 1,000 years. Akkermans said it may be that the members of the Jebel Qurma Archaeological Landscape Project just haven’t found the remains of the people and their settlements for that time frame, or the people may have left the area and returned 1,000 years later, due to conditions in the region. “Research into local environmental and climatic conditions is certainly one of my aims for further research in the desert of Jebel Qurma,” Akkermans said. To read more about archaeology in the region, go to "Neolithic FaceTime."

Archaeologists Return to Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle

CORNWALL, ENGLAND—In the fifth and sixth centuries, the Cornish kings who lived at Tintagel Castle feasted on oysters, cod, beef, pork, and lamb served on red slipware bowls imported from Turkey, and drank fine wine imported from southern Turkey or Cyprus in glass goblets imported from Spain, according to a report in The Guardian. Recent excavations, conducted by the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, also uncovered structures with stone walls and slate floors and steps. “All indications to date could suggest that they are residential buildings perhaps lived in by important members of the community that lived and traded at Tintagel over 800 years ago,” said project director Jacky Nowakowski. To read about the discovery of a royal Anglo-Saxon feasting hall dating to this period, go to "The Kings of Kent."

Roman Floor Unearthed in Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT—According to a report in Ahram Online, a tiled floor similar to ones found in Roman baths and fortresses has been uncovered in the Moharam Bek district of Alexandria, where glass and pottery workshops have been found. Aymen Ashmawi of the Ministry of Antiquities said the floor, which features an opus spicatum, or herringbone design, is the first of its kind to be found in Egypt. To read about Roman-era mosaics, go to "Zeugma After the Flood."