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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Friday, July 23

Rock-Cut Chambers Unearthed in Turkey’s House of the Muses

GAZIANTEP, TURKEY—Hurriyet Daily News reports that two rock-cut chambers thought to have been used as dining rooms have been discovered in the so-called “House of the Muses,” which is located in southeastern Anatolia’s ancient city of Zeugma. The building is known for its decorative mosaic floors, and named for one consisting of portraits of the nine muses. Archaeologist Kutalmiş Görkay said work to reinforce the chambers after they were emptied of earthen fill continues. “In particular, there are risky cracks on the ceilings in the chamber,” Görkay explained. For more on Zeugma, go to "Zeugma After the Flood."

Artifact Found in Germany Hints at Neanderthal Hunting Practices

TÜBINGEN, GERMANY—According to a statement released by the University of Tübingen, a leaf-shaped point dated to at least 65,000 years ago has been unearthed in southern Germany’s Hohle Fels Cave by a team led by Nicholas Conard of the University of Tübingen. Microscopic analysis of the Neanderthal artifact by Veerle Rots of the University of Liège revealed damage to the tip that suggests it had been mounted on a wooden shaft and used as a thrusting spear during large animal hunts. The point broke during the sharpening process, and was discarded, he added. Conard explained that this is the first time that a leaf-shaped point has been discovered during a modern excavation. It had been previously thought that such points were used by Neanderthals in central Europe between 45,000 and 55,000 years ago. To read about spears likely used by early Neanderthals, go to "Weapons of the Ancient World: Hunting Equipment."

Sonar Survey Detects Underwater Roman Structures in Venice

VENICE, ITALY—ANSA reports that possible traces of a Roman road and dock were found during a survey of Venice conducted by researchers from Italy’s National Research Center and IUAV University. “We carried out the mapping with sonar because we wanted to study the morphology of the canals in 3-D,” said geophysicist Fantina Madricardo of the National Research Center. The remains of the dock were found in an area of the lagoon known as the Treporti Channel. The Roman road, thought to have been paved with basalt, traveled along the lagoon’s now-submerged coastline to link the ancient city of Altinus and the area of the modern city of Chioggia, and perhaps a wider network of Roman roads in the Veneto region. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Scientific Reports. To read about an ancient Roman amphitheater discovered in Turkey's ancient city of Mastaura, go to "In the Anatolian Arena."

Thursday, July 22

Tollund Man’s Last Meal Re-Examined

SILKEBORG, DENMARK—NBC News reports that Nina Nielsen of Silkeborg Museum and her colleagues have re-examined the intestinal contents of Tollund Man, whose 2,400-year-old, naturally preserved remains were recovered from a bog in central Denmark in the 1950s. Previous research has shown that Tolland Man was killed by hanging—a noose of braided animal hide remains around his neck. Yet his body was placed on one side with closed eyes and a faint smile, as if asleep. The new study found traces of a last meal of fish and a porridge made of barley, flax, and pale persicaria, which grows wild among barley crops. Nielsen said persicaria was usually removed from the barley harvest by Iron Age farmers during the threshing process, and she wonders if Tollund Man was fed threshing waste as part of a ritual before human sacrifice. Nielsen and her team members also detected bits of crust likely to have formed if the porridge had been overcooked in a clay pot. Parasites in his intestines include tapeworms likely acquired through a diet of undercooked meat and contaminated water, she added. To read about another bog find, go to "Denmark's Bog Dogs."

Wednesday, July 21

New Thoughts on Early Fire Builders

LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS—According to a statement released by Leiden University, a new study of fire-building techniques employed by hominins in Israel, Africa, Europe, and China claims that early humans exchanged knowledge and skills via social networks some 400,000 years ago. Team member Katharine MacDonald explained that similar combinations of charcoal, carbonized bones, and stones subjected to heat were found at the various sites, and suggested that hominins may have transferred fire-building techniques and knowledge of raw materials when different groups came in contact with one another. The same sort of spread has been observed in the presence of Levallois-style tools at Old World archaeological sites, she added, just as genetic studies also indicate that hominin populations came into contact with one another. It had been previously thought that modern humans first shared information through cultural diffusion just 70,000 years ago. To read about how North American hunter-gatherers used fire to manage the landscape, go to "Letter from California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire."

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