Archaeology Magazine

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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, September 18

Bronze-Age Helmets Uncovered in Slovakia

KOŠICE, SLOVAKIA—Ancient artifacts were handed over to the Eastern Slovakia Museum by a person who discovered them while picking mushrooms, according to a report in The Slovak Spectator. “This precious finding consists of two bronze helmets, partly stuck to each other,” said Róbert Pollák, who is director of the museum. “There were also two pairs of protective cheek pads and two spiral arm guards,” he added. Pollák explained that the helmets were each made from two shaped bronze plates that were connected with a central three-toothed comb equipped with a hole for a decorative plume. Holes at the sides and bottom edges of the helmets were used to attach the cheek pads. These helmets may have been obtained through trade and worn as power symbols by military chiefs, Pollák said. Similar helmets have been found in other parts of Slovakia, but they were fashioned from just one piece of bronze. To read about the recent discovery of a Corinthian helmet in southwestern Russia, go to “Hellenistic Helmet Safety.”

Well-Preserved Mummy Discovered in Aswan

ASWAN, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a sandstone sarcophagus containing a mummy was recovered from one of three tombs discovered on the western bank of the Nile River in Aswan during an archaeological survey. The linen-wrapped mummy, which dates to the Late Period (ca. 712–332 B.C.), is in good condition, but has not yet been identified. A collection of mummies was also found in the area, which may have been used as a communal tomb. One of the chambers held the head of a sandstone statue, amulets made of colored stones, a small wooden statue of the god Horus, and wall paintings depicting the gods Hathor, Isis, and Anubis. To read about another tomb discovered in the Aswan area, go to “Afterlife on the Nile.”

Bones of Two Neanderthals Found in Northern Iraq

ERBIL, IRAQ—Kurdistan 24 reports that the remains of two additional Neanderthals have been found in Shanidar Cave, where the fossils of 10 Neanderthal individuals have been unearthed since the 1950s. “What we have here is the skull of a Neanderthal adult,” said British paleoanthropologist Emma Pomeroy, who is working with an international team of scientists at the site. “It’s been quite badly squashed by the stones and all the soil on top of it, but it’s actually fairly complete.” The individual’s lower jaw, upper jaw, teeth, and eye sockets are visible on the partially excavated bone. The other individual is underneath the first, and Pomeroy added that it appears that a rock was put on top of the burials. Other burials may be found in the area. “We hope to build a strong picture of how they lived here, what their life was like, and what they did when members of their group died,” she said. For more, go to “A Traditional Neanderthal Home.”

Monday, September 17

Possible Birthplace of Henry VII Found in Wales

PEMBROKE, WALES—According to a report in The Guardian, archaeologists digging test trenches on the grounds of Pembroke Castle have uncovered stone structures that could be the remains of a mansion where Henry VII was born in 1457. Other finds indicate the building had a slate roof adorned with green-glazed ridge tiles, and a spiral staircase. It had been thought the king was born in castle’s thirteenth-century tower, but this building’s outline was spotted in the parched grass of the castle grounds from the air. “We know [from documentary evidence] that he was born in the castle, which was at that time owned by his uncle, Jasper Tudor,” said archaeologist James Meek. “It’s more likely that he was born in a modern residence, for the time, than in a guard tower on the walls.” A newly discovered cesspit could also offer information about royal medieval life. Henry VII ascended to the throne of England after he defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses. To read about the discovery of the burial place of Richard III, go to “Richard III’s Last Act.”

Sphinx Sculpture Uncovered in Egypt

ASWAN, EGYPT—BBC News reports that a sandstone sphinx measuring about 15 inches tall was discovered during work to reduce groundwater levels at the pharaonic temple of Kom Ombo, which was constructed by Ptolemy VI in honor of the twin gods Sobek and Haroeris. According to Egypt's antiquities ministry, the statue was found in the same area of the temple where two sandstone reliefs of King Ptolemy V were previously unearthed. The sphinx is thought to date to the Ptolemaic era, between 305 and 30 B.C. For more on the Ptolemaic era in Egypt, go to “In the Time of the Rosetta Stone.”

Ancient Gold and Pearls Discovered on Danish Island

HJARNØ, DENMARK—The Copenhagen Post reports that a metal detectorist discovered a collection of gold and pearl artifacts dated to about A.D. 500 on a small island off the east coast of Jutland. According to Mads Ravn of the Vejle Museum, local people probably obtained the gold from the Romans and then made it into jewelry and buried it, possibly as an offering to the gods. “They’ve probably been down there on a mission to plunder, so our little find is a reminder of a turbulent period in world history when gold spoke its own, very clear language,” he said. A volcanic eruption in El Salvador and the resulting ash cloud and climate change could have also prompted the burial of the treasure as an offering to the gods, Ravn added. For more on arcaheology in Denmark, go to “Bluetooth's Fortress.”

Friday, September 14

Dog Digs Up Bronze Age Artifacts in Czech Republic

RYCHNOV, CZECH REPUBLIC—Radio Prague reports that while being taken for a walk near the Orlické Mountains in northern Bohemia, a dog dug up a collection of 3,000-year-old bronze artifacts. The dog owner handed the 13 sickles, two spear points, three axes, and bracelets over to the local government. The objects were examined by a team of researchers including archaeologist Martina Beková of the Museum and Gallery of the Orlické Mountains, who said that the objects were in good condition, and may have been buried as an act of honor or sacrifice. The artifacts will stay in the Hradec Králové region, where they will be put on display. Archaeologists are continuing to investigate the area where the treasure was found. For more, go to “Off the Grid: Prague.”

Engravings on Maya Altar May Record Political Strategy

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA—The AFP reports that engravings on a 1,500-year-old altar discovered in a temple at the site of La Corona in northern Guatemala names a previously unknown king of the city, and sheds light on the political maneuverings undertaken by the kings of the Kaanul dynasty, or Serpent Kingdom, whose capital was the city of Dzibanche. Marcello A. Canuto of Tulane University and Tomas Barrientos of the University of the Valley of Guatemala said the images on the one-ton limestone altar depict the seated ruler of La Corona, King Chak Took Ich’aak, and two of the city’s patron gods emerging from his double-headed serpent effigy. Dates with this image correspond to May 12, 544. King Chak Took Ich’aak is known to have ruled the nearby city of El Peru-Waka about 20 years later. “Having information about what happened next, how they were plotting a political strategy here, teaches us a lot about politics in those times and the fight for territory,” Barrientos said. The researchers suggest the rulers of the Serpent Kingdom built alliances with smaller cities surrounding their rivals at Tikal, eventually defeating them in A.D. 562, and reigning over the Maya lowlands for about 200 years. To read in-depth about archaeological investigation of a Maya settlement in Guatemala, go to “The City at the Beginning of the World.”

Medieval Copper Coins Unearthed in Northern India

NEW DELHI, INDIA—The Times of India reports that more than 250 copper coins dating to the sixteenth century A.D. were discovered near the entrance to the Khirki Mosque during conservation work undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India. The oldest coins were minted during the reign of Sher Shah Suri, who is also known as Sher Khan, between 1540 and 1545. The mosque, constructed in the fourteenth century in northern India, is thought to be one of seven built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, who converted from Hinduism to Islam. The building is known for its blend of Islamic and traditional Hindu architectural styles. To read about another recent discovery in Uttar Pradesh, go to “Indian Warrior Class.”