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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Wednesday, October 20

Possible Crusader Campsite Found in Israel

TZIPORI SPRINGS, ISRAEL—The Jerusalem Post reports that the site of a Crusader encampment has been identified in northern Israel by researchers led by Nimrod Getzov and Ianir Milevski of the Israel Antiquities Authority. While working ahead of a road construction project, the team plotted the positions of artifacts on the reconstructed medieval landscape. Rafael Lewis of Ashkelon Academic College and Haifa University said Christians and Muslims are known to have camped in the region over a period of 125 years. This site is thought to have been used by Christian Franks for about two months ahead of the battle of Hattin in A.D. 1187, he explained. In that battle, Sultan Saladin reconquered much of the area and Jerusalem. The researchers recovered horseshoe nails, some of which were made locally and some in Europe. “Changing those nails probably represented the main activity in the camp,” Lewis said. “Nobody wanted to find himself in the battle on a horse with a broken shoe.” For more on the archaeology of the Crusades, go to "Reimagining the Crusades."

Tuesday, October 19

Medieval Graves Containing Luxury Goods Unearthed in Germany

BAVARIA, GERMANY—According to a Live Science report, researchers from southern Germany’s Bavarian State Office for Monument Protection have discovered the sixth-century A.D. graves of a man and a woman in the Nördlinger Ries, an impact crater measuring about 16 miles in diameter with a rim rising about 660 feet off the crater floor. The man was between the ages of 40 and 50 when he died. His grave yielded the remains of a horse, a battle ax, a lance, a shield, a longsword, spurs, pieces of a bridle, and a carved ivory comb and a pair of scissors that may have been used to style his hair and beard. The grave of the woman, who died between 30 and 40 years of age, held jewelry, food items including preserved eggs, a weaving sword for tightening threads on a loom, and a well-preserved red bowl thought to have been imported from North Africa. Further study could reveal the meaning of the markings carved on the bowl’s rim. To read about recent excavations of a medieval stone basilica and cemetery in Helfta, Germany, go to "Otto's Church."

Traces of Transcontinental Railroad Workers’ Cabin Uncovered

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH— reports that an excavation in northern Utah at Terrace, a settlement site along the path of the transcontinental railroad, has uncovered traces of a house thought to have been built for Chinese railroad workers in 1869 or 1870. As many as 500 people once lived in the town, which featured two hotels, five saloons, and other businesses. The remains of the structure include upright wooden posts, charcoal suggesting that the structure burned, and floorboards, according to Chris Merritt of the Utah Division of State History. “This is the first fully excavated Chinese home on the transcontinental railroad regardless of state,” Merritt said. “It really helps us understand the technology they were using to build it with, the materials and also the style.” The house is thought to have been built with surplus materials from the railroad construction, he explained. A fire burned many of the town’s buildings in the early 1900s, and it was soon abandoned due to a lack of clean water and changes in the railroad route. For more on Chinese railroad workers, go to "America's Chinatowns: Labor."

Possible Crusader Sword Discovered Off Coast of Israel

HAIFA, ISRAEL—The Guardian reports that a recreational diver discovered a sword encrusted with marine organisms among stone anchors, metal anchors, and pottery in the shifting sands of a natural cove on Israel’s Carmel coast. Kobi Sharvit of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology unit said the cove was probably used as an anchorage as early as the Late Bronze Age, some 4,000 years ago. The weapon, thought to have been made of iron, may have been lost by a crusader who sailed to the region some 900 years ago, added Nir Distelfeld of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Robbery Prevention Unit. The sword will go on display after it has been cleaned and studied. To read how archaeologists identified the probable site of the Third Crusade's Battle of Arsuf, go to "Around the World: Israel."

Monday, October 18

1,800-Year-Old Rock-Cut Tombs Explored in Turkey

UŞAK, TURKEY—Live Science reports that 400 rock-cut chamber tombs have been explored at Blaundos, an 1,800-year-old city site located on a hill in a branch of western Turkey’s Uşak canyon system. “Due to the rocky nature of the slopes surrounding the city, the most preferred burial technique was the chamber-shaped tombs carved into the solid rocks,” explained archaeologist Birol Can of Uşak University. Many of the tombs, designed with vaulted ceilings and decorated with painted walls, contained multiple sarcophagi, suggesting that families used the tombs and added chambers over many generations, he added. The wall paintings depict vines, flowers, wreaths, garlands, geometric panels, mythological figures, birds, and dogs. The tombs also contained pottery and artifacts dated to between the second and fourth centuries A.D., including mirrors, diadems, rings, bracelets, hairpins, medical instruments, belts, drinking cups, and oil lamps. Can’s team has also identified two temples, a theater, a public bath, a gymnasium, a basilica, city walls and a gate, and an aqueduct at the site. To read about the 11,000-year-old stone circles at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, go to "Last Stand of the Hunter-Gatherers?"

Human Remains Unearthed at Herculaneum

ROME, ITALY—The Guardian reports that the remains of a man thought to have been between 40 and 45 years old at the time of his death during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 have been uncovered at Herculaneum. Archaeologist Francesco Sirano said the remains were found on the beach near the sea, suggesting that the man had been fleeing the disaster. The bones were surrounded by carbonized wood, including a roof beam that might have collapsed on him. “The last moments here were instantaneous, but terrible,” Sirano said. The bones, he added, are stained bright red from blood. To read about others who perished in the Vesuvius eruption, go to "More Vesuvius Victims."

Changes in the Hepatitis B Virus Mirror Human Migration

JENA, GERMANY—According to a statement released by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, an international team of scientists led by Denise Kühnert analyzed hepatitis B virus (HBV) genomes recovered from 137 Eurasians and Native Americans who lived between 400 and 10,500 years ago, and found that all nine known strains of HBV descend from an HBV lineage that infected the ancestors of people who migrated to North America and their Eurasian relatives at about the time these populations diverged. The virus also infected populations living in much of Europe as early as 10,000 years ago, added Johannes Krause of the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. It had been previously thought that HBV emerged with the rise of agriculture, he explained. Instead, strains of the virus carried by hunter-gatherers were replaced with strains spread by the first farmers who migrated into the region. To read about using DNA to identify a pathogen that plagued Mexico in the sixteenth century, go to "Conquistador Contagion."