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Archaeological Headlines By JESSICA E. SARACENI
Tuesday, September 20

Late Bronze Age Tomb Opened in Israel

PALMAHIM, ISRAEL—Haaretz reports that a burial chamber estimated to be 3,300 years old was discovered on the coast of southern Israel during a construction project. The square-shaped tomb had been carved out of bedrock with a pillar to support its ceiling, perhaps for use by a single family or clan over many generations, explained Eli Yannai of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The researchers do not expect to be able to extract DNA from the poorly preserved human remains, however. He added that the tomb was intact when it was discovered, but it appears that some items have been stolen since then. Arrowheads, bronze spear tips, pottery and bronze vessels, amphoras, bowls, cooking vessels, and oil lamps remain in the tomb. Some of the vessels are tiny, and may have held precious substances imported from Cyprus, Lebanon, and Syria. The settlement where these people lived may now be underwater, Yannai concluded. To read about the abrupt end of the Bronze Age site of Tel Kabri, go to "Around the World: Israel."

19th-Century Coal Chute Uncovered in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA—An investigation ahead of a road construction project near downtown Halifax has uncovered a brick and stone structure dated to the nineteenth century, according to a CBC News report. “Basically it is a cavity that was used to store coal, so it’s called a coal chute or a coal port,” explained project manager Donna Davis of Halifax’s Cogswell District. Coal would have been dumped into the chute through a grate at road level to be used as fuel. It is not yet known if the building, which was located near the Halifax waterfront, was residential, commercial, or industrial, Davis added. The construction project has also revealed large storm sewer tunnels made of brick. To read about archaeological investigations of Nova Scotia's French colony of Acadia, go to "Paradise Lost."

New Kingdom Sarcophagus Discovered at Saqqara

CAIRO, EGYPT—Ahram Online reports that a team of researchers led by Ola El Aguizy of Cairo University has recovered a sarcophagus that belonged to a man named Ptah-M-Wia at the Egyptian necropolis of Saqqara. The tomb of Ptah-M-Wia, who was a government official during the reign of Ramesses II (r. ca. 1279–1213 B.C.), was discovered last year. It consists of a 23-foot-long entrance shaft leading to a square room, and two additional empty rooms. An opening in the floor of the main room led to stairs and the burial chamber. The lid of the sarcophagus shows the deceased with a beard and crossed arms and holding the Djed symbol of Osiris and the Tyet symbol of Isis. The goddess Nut is also depicted with spread wings, along with the four sons of Horus. “The lid of the sarcophagus was broken diagonally, and the missing part was found in the corner of the chamber,” El Aguizy said. “The sarcophagus was empty except for some residue of tar from the mummification on the bottom of the sarcophagus.” Mostafa Waziri of the Supreme Council of Antiquities added that Ptah-M-Wia’s titles included royal scribe, great overseer of cattle in the temple of Ramesses II, and head of the treasury. To read about the discovery of Ptah-M-Wia's tomb, go to "The Treasurer's Tomb."

Monday, September 19

Rock Art Discovered Near Machu Picchu

LIMA, PERU—Andina reports that partially exposed human remains and rock art have been discovered on the banks of the Vilcanota River along the railway leading to the Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu by archaeologists from the Decentralized Culture Directorate in Cusco. Archaeologist Francisco Huarcaya said the images, including camelids, the sun, and geometric shapes, were painted on different parts of a huge rock. He thinks they could be associated with guardian deities in the form of mountains, and may have a funerary context. “There are other images that cannot be identified due to geological problems and rock wear caused by long exposure to sun, wind, rain, and water filtration,” Huarcaya said. To read about a temple mural uncovered in Peru, go to "The Spider's on the Wall."

Researchers Return to Age of Exploration Shipwreck

LUND, SWEDEN—According to a statement released by Lund University, Brendan Foley and a team of researchers from Lund University, Blekinge Museum, and the Danish Viking Ship Museum have returned to the well-preserved wreckage of Gribshunden, which sank in 1495 off the coast of Ronneby, Sweden. The vessel served as the flagship of the Danish Norwegian King Hans, and is one of the first to have been built to carry artillery. The team members recovered artillery, handguns, and major components of the steering gear and sterncastle. They are also creating 3-D digital models of Gribshunden to investigate how the tightly confined spaces on board may have been used by the king and his noblemen while at sea for months at a time. Future excavations will investigate why the ship sank on a voyage to Kalmar, Sweden, where King Hans expected to be elected king of Sweden. “Medieval documents state that there was a fire and explosion, but we have not seen any signs of that,” Foley said. To read about a previous discovery from the wreck of Gribshunden, go to "Around the World: Sweden."

Did European Traders Traverse East Africa’s Trade Routes?

NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT—According to a statement released by Yale University, European traders in pursuit of gum copal, ivory, and enslaved people may have taken advantage of established trade routes when they arrived in eastern-central Africa. Anthropologist Jessica Thompson and her colleagues found glass beads at three sites, and cowrie shells at a fourth site in northern Malawi, more than 400 miles from the coast of the Indian Ocean. The shells, which have been radiocarbon dated to between 1,150 and 1,341 years old, are thought to have originated in the Indian Ocean, while chemical analysis of the beads with laser ablation indicates that all but one of them had been manufactured in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. The last bead was likely produced in South Asia between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, and may have arrived in Africa long before the other beads. “This tells you that people were already trading through very complex routes from the Indian Ocean, over mountains and around lakes to inland communities at least 1,000 years before Europeans began documenting their experiences in the region,” Thompson said. To read about a Danish fortress in West Africa that was a hub of the transatlantic slave trade, go to "Letter from Ghana: Life Outside the Castle."

Prehistoric Stone Tools Found in Western India

MAHARASHTRA, INDIA—Stone tools discovered at the cave site of Koloshi in western India may offer information about the people who created the nearby Konkan petroglyphs, according to a BBC News report. Led by Tejas Garge, Director of Archaeology & Museums for the Government of Maharashtra, excavations at the site are the first systematic investigation of the region's prehistory. Archaeologist Parth Chauhan of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (Mohali) said any residues found on the edges of the stone artifacts will be analyzed to try to determine how they were used. “It will take several months to find out the exact time period these stone tools belong to,” Chauhan said. “But right now, we can say that these artifacts are between 5,000 to 48,000 years old.” The more than 1,700 rock carvings found at 132 separate sites in the area depict animals, birds, human figures, and geometric designs. Their age remains unclear. For more on the Konkan petroglyphs, go to "India's Anonymous Artists."  

Friday, September 16

New Dates Offer Insight Into Ice Age Occupation of the Philippines

PUERTO PRINCESA, PHILIPPINES—According to a statement released by the University of the Philippines Diliman, evidence for the human occupation of the island of Palawan has been radiocarbon dated to between 20,000 and 25,000 years ago. Archaeologist Janine Ochoa of the University of the Philippines Diliman and her colleagues, including members of the Indigenous Pala’wan community, uncovered remnants of deer hunting and freshwater shellfish foraging in Pilanduk Cave. “[The cave] has the best preserved Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) archaeological record from any site in the Philippine archipelago,” Ochoa said. “There are not many LGM sites in the Philippines because many were likely submerged underwater when the coastlines and the sea levels were much lower during the LGM,” she concluded. To read about evidence for the arrival of humans in the Philippines, go to "A Very Long Way to Eat Rhino."

CT Scans Reveal Secrets of South American Mummies

MUNICH, GERMANY—Live Science reports that Andreas Nerlich of the Munich Clinic Bogenhausen and his colleagues examined 3-D computed tomography scans taken of three sets of naturally mummified human remains from northern Chile and southwestern Peru that have been held in museums in Germany and Switzerland. Radiocarbon dating of the remains indicates that they are between 740 and 1,120 years old. The researchers found evidence that two of the bodies belonged to men who may have died violent deaths. One had been hit on the head and stabbed in the back, while the other had suffered a dislocated neck. “The types of trauma we found would not have been detectable if these human remains had been mere skeletons,” Nerlich explained. The third set of mummified remains has been identified as a woman who died of natural causes. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Frontiers in Medicine. To read about a well-preserved mummy buried at the ceremonial center of Pachacamac on the coast of Peru, go to "All Bundled Up." 

New Thoughts on Early Animal Herders

STORRS, CONNECTICUT—According to a statement released by the Public Library of Science, hunter-gatherers living at Abu Hureyra, Syria, some 12,800 to 12,300 years ago may have kept small numbers of animals near their dwellings. Alexia Smith of the University of Connecticut and her colleagues looked for dung spherulites, or tiny clumps of calcium carbonate found in animal dung, in soil samples from the site. The study suggests that these hunter-gatherers burned dung as fuel, and may have kept sheep close to home. By the Neolithic period, the residents of Abu Hureyra also used dung to prepare plaster floors for their dwellings. A drop in the levels of spherulites could indicate that animals were kept farther away from the dwellings, perhaps because the herds had grown. Read the original scholarly article about this research in PLOS ONE. To read about a study of Africa's first pastoralists, go to "Herding Genes in Africa."