Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, July 16

Roman Dwelling and Burial Found in Bulgaria

PLOVDIV, BULGARIA—Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that a grave dated to the third or fourth century A.D. and an early Roman dwelling were found by utility workers in the city of Plovdiv. The city was occupied by the Thracians and known as Philipopolis, after King Philip II of Macedon, until the first century A.D., when the Romans conquered the region and renamed the city Trimontium. Archaeologist Maya Martinova of the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology said the dwelling was in a neighborhood left outside a fortress wall built around the city by the Romans in A.D. 172. The land eventually became the city’s southern necropolis. The remains in the grave belonged to a woman who died at about 30 years of age. A roof made of tiles was placed over her burial, Martinova added. To read about another discovery in Bulgaria dating to the Roman period, go to “Mirror, Mirror.”

Neolithic Settlement Discovered in Israel

MOTZA, ISRAEL—Reuters reports that a 9,000-year-old settlement estimated to have covered dozens of acres of land has been discovered near Jerusalem. As many as 2,000 to 3,000 people once lived at the site, according to researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority. Large buildings, alleyways, and storage sheds full of legumes and seeds have been uncovered. Bones from the site suggest the residents kept sheep in addition to planting lentils and other crops. Arrowheads, axes, sickle blades, and knives have also been uncovered. For more on archaeology in the region, go to “Letter from the Dead Sea: Life on a Busy Oasis.”

Monday, July 15

Hominin Tooth Analysis Offers Breastfeeding Clues

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—According to a Cosmos report, Renaud Joannes-Boyau of Southern Cross University and his colleagues analyzed levels of different elements in the growth rings of Australopithecus africanus teeth to investigate the hominin’s breastfeeding patterns. The four teeth, recovered from South Africa’s Sterkfontein Cave, belonged to two individuals who lived between 2.6 and 2.1 million years ago. The levels of barium, which is absorbed by growing teeth more readily on a diet of milk, suggest that Australopithecus africanus breastfed exclusively for the first six to nine months of life, and then added other foods, which can be tracked by levels of strontium in the teeth. The scientists suggest breastfeeding dropped off at the first birthday, but ramped up again periodically over a period of four or five years, perhaps during times of food scarcity. “When it’s the off season then the mother will supplement a lot of the calorie deficiency with breast milk,” Joannes-Boyau said. He also noted that levels of lithium rose right before the period of breastfeeding began each year, perhaps because Australopithecus africanus relied on a particular food during the off-season. The relative absence of predators in the area may have made living in such a harsh environment worth the effort, Joannes-Boyau explained. For more on hominins including Australopithecus africanus, go to “Hungry Minds.”

Medieval Fortification Wall Found in Czech Republic

MORAVIA, CZECH REPUBLIC—Radio Praha reports that foundations of a fortification wall have been uncovered at the site of Břeclav Castle, which is located near the southern border of the Czech Republic, and radiocarbon dated to A.D. 1041. “This leads us to conclude that it was most likely built by Břetislav, duke of Bohemia,” said Miroslav Dejmal of Archaia Brno. “When Moravia came under Břetislav’s administration, he invested in its castles and forts, pacified the country, and eventually Moravia was incorporated into the Bohemian duchy.” The wall is thought to have stood about 26 feet tall before the upper section was destroyed by fire. The lower section was preserved under a thick layer of clay, Dejmal added. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Prague, Czech Republic.”

New Thoughts on Moving Stonehenge Megaliths

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—Science Magazine reports that large quantities of pig fat may have been used to transport megaliths to the site of Stonehenge. Lisa-Marie Shillito of Newcastle University and her colleagues suggest such grease would have made it easier to slide wooden sleds, used to carry the two-ton stones, over logs placed on the ground. It had been previously thought that pig fat detected in pieces of bucket-sized pots at Durrington Walls, a village site located near the Neolithic monument, was left over from meals eaten by hundreds of builders. But Shillito and her colleagues note that if the bucket-sized vessels had been used for cooking, pig bones unearthed at Durrington Walls would have been chopped into pieces. Instead, the condition of pig bones at the site indicates the animal carcasses were roasted whole on spits. The researchers think fat may have been collected in the pots as the pigs cooked and reserved for later transportation use. To read about new research on the measurements of Stonehenge and how they may relate to those of other Neolithic artifacts, go to “Epic Proportions.”

Column Bases Unearthed at Site of Great Synagogue of Vilna

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA—According to a report in The Baltic Times, the bases of two columns have been uncovered at the site of the Great Synagogue of Vilna, which was built in 1633 and burned down by the Nazis during World War II. It was formerly one of the most important centers for Jewish worship in Eastern Europe. Lead archaeologist Jon Seligman said the columns, which originally stood about 30 feet tall, were part of the bimah, a raised central platform where the rabbi stood to read the Torah. Inscriptions placed on the walls near the bimah were also uncovered. The inscriptions reference scriptures including the Book of Genesis and the Psalms. To read about previous excavations at the synagogue and the discovery of the ritual baths there, go to "World Roundup: Lithuania."

Friday, July 12

6,000-Year-Old Dart Tip Uncovered in Canada

SASKATOON, CANADA—The Star Phoenix reports that archaeology student Kristina Chomyshen of the University of Saskatchewan uncovered a 6,000-year-old dart tip at the Wolf Willow site in south-central Canada’s Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The point would have been propelled by hunters with a device called a throwing board. “The Gowen cultural period wasn’t known to be at the Wolf Willow site and very [little] has been found at other sites in Wanuskewin,” Chomyshen said. “So it’s an incredibly exciting find.” To read about a barbed arrow point that was discovered in the southern Yukon, go to “Time’s Arrow.”

Ancient Amphoras Found Near Albania

DURRES, ALBANIA—The Associated Press reports that members of the RPM Nautical Foundation discovered 22 amphoras in the Ionian Sea, off the coast of Albania’s Karaburun peninsula. The vessels are thought to have held wine or oil and to be at least 2,500 years old. If the remains of the ship that carried the amphoras were to be found, said archaeologist Mateusz Polakowski, it would be the earliest ship known to have sailed along the Albanian coast. The ship may have been traveling to the ancient coastal cities of Dyrrachium or Apolonia, added Auron Tare of UNESCO. From there, goods could have been carried east along the Via Egnatia. Remains of similar amphoras have been found inland. For more, go to “Letter from Albania: A Road Trip Through Time.”

Inscription Honoring Dionysus Found in Bulgaria

PLOVDIV, BULGARIA—According to a report in The Sofia Globe, a third-century Greek inscription honoring the god Dionysus has been found on a slab that was reused in the floor of a fifth-century Christian basilica at the site of Philippopolis. The dedication, which is followed by the names of 44 members of a mystical society, thanks Dionysus for their rescue from the invasion of the Goths and asks for protection for the new Roman emperors Valerian and Gallien. “What is interesting is that the position of members in the organization are also listed, and they are very diverse,” said epigraphist Nikolai Sharankov. “There are several heads of mysteries, different kinds of priests, people who have an obligation to wear specific sacred objects.” The inscription is only the third one to be found at the site that can be dated to the period after the invasion, Sharankov explained. To read about the discovery of a Greek inscription containing an excerpt of the Odyssey, go to “Epic Find.”